Friday, February 27, 2009

Let's talk about sex

Well, I wasn't sure if I'd attempt to tackle such a thing on my blog. My brother-in-law has had a series of lds-eros posts on his blog about how Mormonism and sexual thought/experience/discussion/doctrine intersect (or fail to in some instances); on a recent post I began to leave a comment, but it turned out to be an epistle, so I deleted it and decided I'd just write a post here and link it. So here we go. If you're squeamish about such subjects, please don't feel obligated to continue reading.

First off, a little background. I never once have felt like the LDS church teaches sex as dirty, bad, or wrong, but that it is something precious and sacred to be reserved for marriage and marriage only. So, I am glad I never had the "sex is bad" notion floating in my brain. However, beyond that it was all a mystery.

By Jr. High I knew it was sperm from men and eggs from women that created babies, but I couldn't figure out how the sperm got into the woman. All I knew about penises was that they were kind of floppy and that boys peed with them, so I didn't understand how it physically worked. I didn't know about erections or ejaculation. Even in High School I was a little hazy on the subject. Clear up through college I felt ignorant and embarrassed at my ignorance about sex. I found, however, that many of my LDS friends were in the same boat.

Some of my best learning experiences came from TAing for Child Development in college. We didn't discuss sex in that class, per se, but I did have to explain menstruation to many men over the course of 4 years, and I realized that other people were just as clueless as I about some things. I also learned to talk openly and unashamedly of "taboo topics". I'm very much an advocate for talking about sex openly because I felt the dark. I resolved that once I knew something from my own experience, I would answer any questions ever asked me in a straightforward manner without shame, hush hush, or embarrassment. I'd give as much information as I could give without delving into too personal or sacred information.

So, on Th.'s blog, an anonymous commenter (Male, RM, BYUer, single) voiced a lot of legitimate concerns about sex, personal cleanliness, etc. His comment ended up being the meat of the most recent lds-eros post on Theric's blog. It was to some of his concerns that I was responding in my epistle of a response. His comments I am addressing are in italics.

I'm not an "expert". I was a virgin when I was married. I've only been married 6 years. However, I do feel like I have a satisfying and healthy love life. This is just my take on the subject. Feel free to ask questions, disagree, etc., but please do your best to do so without venom. I'm directing this to an LDS audience as well as those who believe in chastity before and after marriage.

"...what good is sex if i'm the only one enjoying it. "

It is a common and sad generalization that all women hate sex. It almost seems expected of women. I think some virgin women fear sex just because they've heard others complain about how it's all about the man. I just want to publicly state that not all women hate sex or only participate because it is their "duty" or merely to reproduce. While I know women who kind of dread sex, I also know plenty o' Mormon (and otherwise) women who enjoy it. It is a gift from God to help unite (literally and figuratively) a couple. It was instituted for both people, not just one. Does it sometimes take work, love, understanding, forgiveness, compassion, and time to enjoy? OF COURSE!

Is sex always as comfortable, as satisfying, or as enjoyable for both partners? No. Shared experiences rarely are. Sometimes I enjoy it more; sometimes he enjoys it more. But even if it's occasionally uncomfortable physically (for what ever reason), it can bring closeness and completeness to our relationship.

"if i can't pleasure my own woman i could just stay single and masturbate and feel like trash and go to hell."

Don't place your worth on the amount of pleasure she has during sex. Good heavens, each time we have intercourse is such a different experience with different feelings. Sometimes I don't feel like gettin' it on, but do anyway because I want to do what it takes to help him feel appreciated, loved and pleasured. I'm totally ok with that. He doesn't always feel like giving me back rubs or snuggling with me, but does it when I need that from him.

Masturbation will never leave a person feeling satisfied, content or happy. Pleasured, sure, but I don't know if anyone could convince me it was satisfying or that it makes them feel "whole" or "complete". It takes two people to achieve that feeling of wholeness. There will be ups and downs and happy moments and sad moments, but in the end if you both try to help make the other person happy, you'll end up achieving unity and love.

"give me your thoughts. speak to us singles. what is it we ought to know."
For singles not engaged nor close to engaged:
I'd just suggest being very direct and asking someone (or multiple someones since everyone has a different perspective and outlook on it) unruffled by such topics the specific questions that concern or mystify you. It's good to not feel ignorant. There are lots of people who have questions and are too embarrassed to ask. It's not just you. And just know, there are things you honestly can't know without experiencing, so you'll just have to be patient for some answers. Also, I strongly suggest not pushing the purity line (i.e. how close can you get to sex without actually having sex). I was somewhat of a temptress and was darn lucky I had a strong man who held boundaries.

For people engaged (even some marrieds need to do this):
Before you get married, talk with each other openly and honestly about your idea of what sex will/should be like. Talk about what makes you feel uncomfortable to imagine, scared or unsure. Talk about what you imagine is ok/not bedroom behavior (are you ok with oral sex? etc.) and foreplay. (I didn't really understand foreplay, so I was really glad we talked about it before we were married. I'd never really considered that touching and rubbing genitals could be kosher. I guess because I always thought that was "petting" and thus wrong. I was glad to get that notion out of my head.) Talk about your expectations for "the first time" so there is nothing majorly shocking. Talk about your feelings on lingerie. A sexual relationship is so personal that each couple has to know what their partner is thinking, worrying about, etc. Everyone has their own opinions and worries connected to sex.

Once you're married:
My advice here is this: do what is pleasurable for her and not what you think should be pleasurable (and hopefully she will do the same). That means to ask sincerely, listen, love, reassure, compliment, and then do what she finds pleasurable, even if it's something other than sex. Trust me, the way a woman is treated outside of intercourse can have a big influence on how she feels during intercourse.

While I can't speak for all women, I would have to say that sex is a lot more of an emotional experience for me than my husband, and when I feel appreciated and wanted, I enjoy sex a whole lot more. I think a lot of people's displeasure during sex stems from feeling inadequate, unloved, uncomfortable with their own bodies, etc. Be sensitive and loving and help your spouse overcome personal issues and it will eventually spill into that area of your relationship.

Specific things I want to address:
  1. The first time a woman has sex it can be bloody. Very bloody. In the book The Act of Marriage it addressed this, but they said that there was like 2 Tbsp of blood or something. I didn't find that to be an accurate or adequate warning. Have a towel or two underneath so you don't stain the sheets or bed. It's not like that for everyone, but it doesn't hurt to be prepared.
  2. Have a wash cloth or Kleenex close so you can easily wipe your hands after using lubricant.
  3. Sex can be fairly awkward for two virgins who don't know what they're doing. It can take a little while to get used to each other's movements, bodies, etc., so don't feel like you're failing. Just take it as a chance to experiment and experience.
  4. You can read books about sex/intimacy together if you feel you need some direction. There are some LDS books, but there are other books as well. My sister gave us an explicit book called The Magic of Sex that talked about (and had pictures of) different positions. It was helpful to have some reference in the beginning. I wouldn't, however, recommend reading a book like that (especially illustrated) until after you're married because of the possible porn and arousal factor. Read those books together as a learning tool.


Th. said...


Well said, Celia.

FoxyJ said...

I've been enjoying the posts too--it's good to think about how I want to raise my kids too. I think that what is said in the home is the most important thing in determining the attitude of kids about sex. My parents were almost a little too open in some ways, I think, but at least I never grew up feeling like it was wrong or evil (my mom calls lingerie "recreational underwear").

We also learned a lot during our first few months of marriage--books can be a big help, but I would also recommend waiting to read them until after you've been married for a bit. I think another thing we have to be careful about is building up the honeymoon like it's going to be some sort of grand event. Your first time might not go well, it will probably hurt, and you'll probably feel a little let down. And if you're like us, you'll probably be exhausted from a very long day of wedding and reception. Things definitely got better after the honeymoon.

Like everything else when you're married, it all comes down to communication. And I think it's something that should be more or less worked out between the couple if you can. Books or advice can help, but I feel like it's best to figure out what is good for you and not worry about what other people do (like how often, what to wear/not to wear, where to do it, etc). It should be a special experience for you to figure out together, and I think that's one thing about sex that I like. It's something private and special that only the two of us can share.

I had a friend tell me she keeps baby wipes by her bed; we have a special towel that we keep in the nightstand for a variety of uses. I hope our kids don't ever find it and want to play with it...

My sister just bought my daughter (she's 5 1/2) a hilarious book about conception called "Where Willy Went". (Willy is the name of a sperm, not something else). She loves it and now goes around telling everyone about how you need a sperm and an egg to make a baby. So far she hasn't asked how exactly the sperm gets in there (it's not clear in the book either), but when she does ask I plan to be fairly honest and neutral in describing it. I think it's important to use simple terms and keep building information as kids get older. It's not like a conversation you can have just once. But that's a subject for another post and I've already said way too much already...

Carrie LaHaie said...

Celia I want to applaud you!! Sex, in marriage, should not be a taboo subject. Coming from a different religious background I also experienced sex as something you don't talk about. And my parents, although they taught me the basics, didn't really go into it either. Leaving me to learn from classmates, the bus, etc what things were. I hadn't even heard the term orgasm until ASU. Let me tell you what living at a dorm at ASU will teach you. (needless to say I am looking at other options for my daughter)

The other point I enjoyed is that you need to have dialog with your spouse. Don't assume! And don't be ashamed. Sex is a gift that God gave us to enjoy, in the sacrament of marriage! Enjoy it, have fun with it, and talk to your spouse about what you like (or don't)!

I took a biblically based marriage class that was AMAZING: Following God: Enhancing Your Marriage: A Women's Bible Study and had the pleasure of being taught by the author Judy. And this point in time I had just had 2 babies in 2 years and had NO INTEREST! But through her class I realized the importance of being one with my husband (even when I didn't feel like that). To take away that closeness was damaging to my marriage and since taking the class all aspects of my marriage our satisfying - All of it!!

Ok I rambled long enough. Thanks for a informative & honest post!

MoJo said...

Awesome post.

do what is pleasurable for her and not what you think should be pleasurable (and hopefully she will do the same). That means to ask sincerely, listen, love, reassure, compliment, and then do what she finds pleasurable, even if it's something other than sex.

The best advice I ever got was, "Do to him what you'd like done to you."

And also? For the girl virgins out there, pee after sex. Really. It took an ER visit after I got married to get told this.

Anonymous said...

I think that it is up to parents to properly educate their child where sex is concerned but like so many other areas, a lot of parents fail to do so.

Sexual attitudes can be reflective of the parents. I came from a family that discussing sex was taboo. It was no one else's business. My husband's family was a little more open about the subject. My older sister--not my mother-- is actually the one that taught me about monthly cycles, sex, etc. because she didn't want me to be as naieve as she was. (My mom had a way of making such topics a matter of national security) But curiosity still killed the cat.

I like all the suggestions that you gave. Even if one partner is more "experienced" than the other, it still might be a good idea to read that type of material together.

Erin said...

Thank you for this.

I too never felt that sex was dirty or bad but I also felt like it was not discussed to the degree it should have been. Knowledge is power.

Open and honest communication around all aspects of sex is the key to healthy relationships and I believe also, morality.

I do have one suggestion for engaged women: Go to the doctor! I know some people don't think it necessary but I personally feel it an important step. Women need to be more aware of their bodies and understand what goes on down there.

Celia Marie (W.) B. said...

Foxy, I agree that parents need to speak age appropriately and not give too much info. too soon. Also, I like the baby wipes idea. Never thought of that. Though, I do think kleenex or a rag would be more effective afterward (especially if you don't use a condom) to stop leakage before you go to the bathroom.

Carrie! Thanks so much for your comment. I love hearing your perspective, and thanks for that web address. I can only imagine what a shocker it would be to go to a college that didn't have a religious/strict moral code. Also, I think you made a good note that sex education and discussion shouldn't just be for unmarried/inexperienced folks.

Mojo, I'm not sure about that advice, but I'm glad it's worked for you! The only way I can make it work in my mind is if you're doing to them what you want done in order to educate your spouse. My main point is that every person has their own way of feeling aroused, loved, etc. so figure out what that is for your spouse and then try and do it! Don't just stick with things you hear or read in magazines.

And Emergency Room visit! Ack! I didn't include the peeing advice because I was told all about that in my pre-marital exam. (I just assumed that all doctors would mention it and that all people have an exam before getting married. But it's always wrong to assume!)

My doc. even gave me pills for a bladder infection "just in case". I don't think she did a good job of explaining the symptoms of a bladder infection, so that would have been helpful. But yes, if you're never told it by a doctor, pee afterward! And if you start to feel like you have to pee every few seconds but don't really need to, or it burns, or anything out of the ordinary, go to the doctor and get antibiotics because you probably do have a bladder infection!

Anon, I think it's getting more common for parents (including LDS parents) to talk about sex with their kids. I think the social construct and worldly accepted teenage sexual experimentation requires parents to bring down the taboo barriers.

It's really hard for some people to talk about such things, though. If it's hard for a parent, I suggest saying everything you want to say out loud in the shower when no one's listening so you can hear yourself say things like penis, sperm, testicles, vagina, intercourse, erection, etc. out loud.

Celia Marie (W.) B. said...

Oh, and thanks Th. I've appreciated your posts on the subject. You always have good stuff to say.

And Anon., I agree that even if one or both partners have had previous sexual experience, it's good to get on the same page and know what the other wants, needs, etc. Having a good sexual relationship does not hinge on how experienced a person is, but on how the couple works together as a unit. Books and open discussions can definitely help with that.

-Laura- said...

Well said, Celia! I agree with everything you say...and third the advice about peeing afterwards for girls. If you have no idea what a bladder infection is, come talk to the expert. Ha ha!

Ballard said...

I am so glad to see that we can all be adults and talkk about things that can really shape your life. Sex is something that most people will have in their lifes. To be open and share about it helps not only your partner, but others around you. When I see a happy married couple I want to ask them what fun things have you tried in bed and liked. I like to try and keep things fun and not the same thing over and over. So if you have any suggestions let me know.

Thanks for opening the subject up and letting it get out.

Ali Seaman said...

Ok I don't have time to read all the comments, but I think it should be some kind of prerequisite for a guy and a girl to read The Act of Marriage. Especially for a guy, whose enjoyment can come far more quickly and easily than a girls. Read it on the honeymoon, or in a public place when engaged. (and then stay in that public place!) Don't read it before then, though. It's just not appropriate until then, as it is pretty descriptive. I agree about openness, honesty, and also a sense of humor is needed!

Brian & Veronica said...

um. you're amazing. great post celia and I agree with everything you say. :)

Him, Her & The Wee One said...

You are so wise! And brave! I think the majority of our parent's generation kept topics like this on the hush hush. When I was in the Singles Ward, my bishop gave a fireside and the title was "Sex is great". You can imagine the audience's reaction... but it was great. I loved how he talked about how it's a beautiful thing, when saved for marriage. It made me realize that it's not only okay, but good, to be open about it (obviously in a respected and sacred manner).

For what it's worth: I think a women's enjoyment has a lot to do with if her husband's attitude (like you said, how he treats her all the time and also, if he's just looking for pleasure or if he's hoping to create a lovely moment with the two of them).

Oh, and I couldn't help but laugh at your understanding of a guy's part (sorry, can't bare to type that word) in Jr. High. Ha!

Celia Marie (W.) B. said...

Him & Her, that sounds like a FABULOUS fireside. I don't mind that you laughed at my Jr. High understanding. It is pretty comical.

Thanks for all the nice compliments people. It makes me feel better about posting something somewhat taboo. I'm glad that people could get something out of it even though I won't know if the person I was responding to ever reads it.

Celia Marie (W.) B. said...

I just can't stop talking!

Ali, I agree that The Act of Marriage has a lot of good stuff in it. After marriage, though, I remember feeling like some of the information was not completely accurate. At least it wasn't a good representation of my experience. But overall it has a great message and a lot of good information. At least a lot of stuff to discuss. We read it before we were married (separately and then we talked about it) and I didn't feel bad about it one bit. I was glad we had done it that way.

I also think that there is WAY too much emphasis on the need for a woman to reach orgasm every time. An orgasm, for women or men, is such a small part of a beautiful process. Enjoy the ride! Honestly, the overall experience is often more pleasing emotionally than a specific moment of intense pleasure. Plus it's so hard for a women to "be sure" she reached orgasm, especially since she can have multiple in one session. Sure it was enjoyable, but was it orgasm? In my opinion, it's not that important.

Th. said...


Lady Steed and I didn't have kids right after marriage and I always secretly hoped my parents would complain so I could whine and tell them we didn't know how our parents had never told us.

Fast forward a few years when we are in the same ward as my parents and the bishop calls all the priesthood and Relief Society together for the third hour and tells us to give our kids sex talks now and regularly. Awkward. (I'm still waiting for one, incidentally.)

Jacqui said...

Daring post. I agree. I hope your single audience reads this, as I think that must be who you're writing to. Although I was shocked while a newlywed in college to find that a few of my married friends were totally CLUELESS.

I think we have an absolute obligation to speak to our kids about sex. I don't think we need to be as totally discriptive as your post, but there needs to be an ongoing, open conversation where it's a comfortable subject to chat about at any time. It will be SHOVED in our precious children's faces much sooner than we realize (and already is at younger and younger ages).

We had an initial sex talk with our oldest at 8-years. How to Talk to your Kids About Sex is a great book. Excellent. And Where Did I Come From is a children's book that is darn funny, but very open. I would recommend both.

I remember finding out about how my body parts worked while in college and coming home to spill it all to my sister and her best friend. I felt totally gypped that I never knew how certain parts worked, and I realized that you never heard about girls pleasure in HS, only guys (or what guys think girl's pleasure is...which is always off-base).

I will add one more thing: sex changes over the years. We've been married twice as long as you have, and it's quite different than it was six years ago. Focus changes, priorities change, time available is a huge factor. I'm sure this happens throughout life, so we need to be willing to adjust, accept change and find more ways to stay close sexually until we drop dead.

The end.

Celia Marie (W.) B. said...

This post is definitely not intended for small children or teenagers. I do think that everything in this post could be discussed with your child before getting married, however. I think sex ed. should start at a very, very young age with teaching children correct names for body parts. As they get older you give more information. I think they need to know the mechanics of sex from parents before school or friends. And all questions should be answered with honest and adequate responses.

FoxyJ said...

One last thing--before I was married I had no idea about the role of the Spirit in sex. That sounds weird, but there have been a few times when we've decided to try new things and they just didn't feel right. We didn't feel good and uplifted after we were done--so we didn't do them again. I imagine that is different for each couple, but you really can tell when something is uplifting for your marriage and when something isn't. Elder Holland's talk about the spiritual nature of sex is right--it can be a very wonderful, uplifting thing for a couple to do together.

Megan said...

You forgot a REALLY important thing.

Men (newlywed esp.) need to realize that while they go from cold to burning hot in about a minute, a woman warms up much slower.

I'm enjoying this discussion because as a kid things like your period and sex and how things worked were very hard for my parents to talk about. It was uncomfortable for them to talk about, so we were uncomfortable as well. But I guess they did better than some, because we did get the sex talk.

I'm hoping for a more open and natural ongoing conversation with my girls. I don't want them to turn red every time someone mentions a period!

Another thing I wanted to say was that the poster who said that sex evolves is right.

It evolves as your kids get older, and it evolves as you get better at it and as your relationship with your spouse deepens.

I think the longer you are married, sex gets better.

And after you think you've experienced/ tried it all (that you are willing to try anyway), even after 7 years you can have milestones.

Celia Marie (W.) B. said...

I guess I don't think of that one because I have a husband who understood it from the beginning. So it was a non-issue for me.

Jacqui said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristeee said...

I think that many LDS parents do their children a disservice by not being open and honest about sex with their kids. Mine weren't very forthcoming, and neither were my husband's, so we both learned about it in other ways. I learned the basics on the school bus in 5th grade, thanks to a crude hand- gestured explanation when I didn't understand a joke. I went home and demanded my mom teach me about the birds and the bees so that I could ask her questions.

After one of my bridal showers, my soon to be sister and mother-in-law took me aside and warned me that honeymoon sex is basically a joke. I was polite, but thought to myself that no, I would be a natural sex kitten, and it would be a fantastic thing right from the get-go. Heh. Looking back, they were right. We've figured a lot of things out since that first night, thank goodness. :)

Gary Smalley put it well when he said that men are like microwaves and women like crockpots in how we warm up to intimacy.

Cranberry juice is also a great idea for a honeymoon drink - it helps to stave off UTIs. Another important factor in preventing infections is to make sure that the man washes his hands before things start.

So at what point do you think that teaching a child about birth control becomes an appropriate topic? There are plenty of good LDS kids who end up in situations that get out of hand, or who just decide to go for it before they're married. And, given the ability for girls as young as FIVE to get pregnant, when do you bring it up (or do you not)?

Kristeee said...

I'm going to admit that I giggled at your comment of "An orgasm, for women or men, is such a small part of a beautiful process. (here comes the giggle) Enjoy the ride!"

And I'm assuming you TA'd for 210? It was the class that made me switch to MFHD from MusicEd. I loved Scoresby.

Thanks for posting this. I read all through Th's series and had a very interesting, multi-faceted discussion thereafter.

Celia Marie (W.) B. said...

Jacq, I when I said it was a non-issue for me I was referring to Megan's comment "Men (newlywed esp.) need to realize that while they go from cold to burning hot in about a minute, a woman warms up much slower." I didn't include it in my original post because it wasn't an issue for us. I think I warm up quicker than your average girl and Matt's always been aware of me and my needs.

Kristeee, I'm glad you read Th.'s posts. I'm still unsure of how/when I"ll discuss birth control. Yes, I was a TA for Scoresby by 4 years. LOVED it. His class was what made me decide to go the MFHD route.

Celia Marie (W.) B. said...

oh, and kristeee, some of my most exciting and enjoyable sex was within that first day and first week of marriage. (I guess I really was a natural sex kitten. hehe. always figured I would be.) It was just so new and fun.

C & A said...

Well, I am a day late on this discussion, and at the risk of having everyone who has previously posted jump all over me, I am going to take a stance on the side of "less is more" when it comes to talking about sex with kids. I think that it needs to be around 1% mechanics (just enough to not have to learn on the bus) and about 99% about how it is SACRED and PRIVATE and if you have questions about it you DON'T EVER talk about it with siblings, cousins, friends, etc., but you always feel free to talk with mom and dad about it. Then when they are teenagers you can talk more if they need it, but seriously, I think that being TOO open about it makes them think about it more than they should. I will make sure to tell my kids when they are engaged that I will buy them the Act of Marriage book so they don't have to be embarrassed going into Borders to get it, and they can ask me questions if they have any, because seriously, I am glad that my mom didn't sit me down and give me any embarrassing instructions. Also, I think that if you view sex as something that is sacred and private (and not just embarrassing), there really isn't a need to discuss it much unless it is between parents and children, husbands and wives, and when asked to do so as a church assignment (mandatory bishops' chastity talks). So here's to the last generation and their silence!

Celia Marie (W.) B. said...

C&A, I think you have to take your and your child's personalities into consideration. While I agree with you that you shouldn't give too much too soon, I personally did not want the very minimum info. I would have felt just as gypped if I was told the very min. and then "the rest is sacred and you'll just have to figure it out when the time comes". I wanted answers. Not knowing made me think about it more. But you and I have very different personalities and you're much more reserved than I am.

I think there's a way to do the pre-marriage sex talk without it being awkward, and I think it depends a lot on your personality and how you've approached it leading up to that point. If you're having open discussions regarding body and such from the time they're little, hopefully they'll not feel awkward and uncomfortable and will come ask questions when they have them.

Anonymous said...

I am just very thankful for my student teaching experience. I now know 1st hand how early and how in-depth children learn about sex from peers. I student taught in 3rd grade. These kids learn EVERYTHING on the playground! Yes, you need to go into detail when they are very young if you want them to learn it is a wonderful thing and not something that your parents frown upon (they will use it as a way to get back at parents if not taught to them properly the 1st time).

Growing up, sex was always a dinner-table conversation (much to the dismay of my dad). This made it a comfortable topic to talk about. Obviously you would only discuss what was appropriate for all family members at the table, but it opened up that line of communication so that the kids are not afraid to talk to you about it in more detail on their own time. It's not a taboo topic-it's life and it's very beautiful when used properly.

Kids should be given enough information that they are not going out to search for their own sources of information.