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Thursday, February 3, 2011

What Are Sexual Perversions In Marriage?

  WARNING: This post contains a topic of a sacred sexual nature and is intended for married readers only. Those who are currently unmarried are advised to keep to the standards of the Church and refrain from reading the married sexual instruction that follows.

“Decency is as important for married people as for the unmarried. Perversions are perversion whenever indulged in, and the marriage ceremony cannot take away their stain.”[i]

What “perversions” is Mark E. Peterson referring to?

I have yet to find a list of definitions from the General Authorities (past or present) to spell out what specifically they mean by sexual perversions, and I felt this may be a question for many of my readers. The word is so loosely defined that anything sexual could be placed under the umbrella of “perversion”, rightly or wrongly, even in marriage.

Therefore, in an effort to give some clarity, I have gathered some definitions for you to think about and pray about in your own marital relationship.

According to the Free Medical Dictionary[ii], a sexual “perversion” is as follows:

“Sexual perversions are conditions in which sexual excitement or orgasm is associated with acts or imagery that are considered unusual within the culture. To avoid problems associated with the stigmatization of labels, the neutral term paraphilia, derived from Greek roots meaning "alongside of" and "love," is used to describe what used to be called sexual perversions. A paraphilia is a condition in which a person's sexual arousal and gratification depend on a fantasy theme of an unusual situation or object that becomes the principal focus of sexual behavior.”

In other words, a perversion of sexuality is when a person can only be sexually aroused when they’re thinking about something or someone other than their spouse. Their minds have been programmed away from their spouse and towards another person or object.

The same dictionary lists these as some examples of what is deemed as paraphilia, or sexual perversions:

“Paraphilias include fantasies, behaviors, and/or urges which:
  • involve nonhuman sexual objects, such as shoes or undergarments
  • require the suffering or humiliation of oneself or partner
  • involve children or other non-consenting partners
The most common paraphilia are:
  • exhibitionism - exposure of the genitals, or engaging in sexual activity in public or in front of other individuals
  • fetishism - the use of nonliving objects
  • frotteurism - touching and rubbing against a non-consenting person
  • pedophilia - the focus on prepubescent children
  • sexual masochism - the receiving of humiliation or suffering
  • sexual sadism - the inflicting of humiliation or suffering
  • transvestic fetishism – the wearing of articles of clothing or full outfits that are usually worn by the opposite sex
  • voyeurism, or watching others engage in undressing or sexual activity” 
This last item, voyeurism, translates to all forms of profane erotica, in male form (watching videos, reading magazines) or female form (reading explicit erotica, creating images in the mind of people undressing and engaging in sex acts)” I would also add sexual coercion and rape to this list.

Sexual Fantasies in Marriage
In my blog series “My Porn is Okay Your Porn is Not Okay – Avoiding The Double Standard”, I discussed how women’s porn is different from men’s porn and that use of this profane erotica can be detrimental to a marriage relationship. Women use written porn to help create fantasies in their mind that allow them to become aroused and ready physically for sex. For women, the desire for sex starts in the brain. 

I was asked once by a reader if sexual fantasies can play a role in an LDS marriage. My research tells me that sexual fantasy does play an important part in our marital intimacy. Typically this is more for the wife than the husband, but fantasy does play an important part and can be done in a way that doesn’t violate the sanctity of the relationship or the sacredness of sex. 

The first thing we need to understand is that our primitive brain (the limbic system) controls our sexual desire. Because men’s brains function in a more compartmentalized fashion than women's, it is easier for men to shift gears and stay in sexual mode. This is important to the procreative process. It allows men to always be ready for sex and perform their biological roles as initiator of sex. 

Women’s brains are so connected that it is often difficult for them to move out of their thinking brain and into their primitive sexual brain. In order for women to get into their primitive brain, a channel must be created. This channel is created through fantasy, or what I prefer to call “intimacy visualization.” This is one of the reasons why it may take a woman longer to be ready for sex. She has to think of a romantic scenario first, let it play out in her mind, allow it to connect to the primitive sexual brain and then connect to her husband. Some women refer to it as their "lizard brain."

A husband can help her more quickly connect to her primitive brain by talking to her, learning what scenarios she likes (for example, she’s aroused by  thinking about walking on the beach in Hawaii and kissing.) and then build a intimate visualization with her that involves both of you. Doing things that touch her heart will also go a long way toward preparing her mentally to receive her husband sexually.

Paraphilia in Sexual Fantasies

“…if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds…even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.”[iii]
I don’t believe it’s possible to monitor every thought that goes through your head. The average human being has tens of thousands of thoughts a day. 

While we cannot control the thoughts that enter, we do have some measure of control of the ones we allow to stay in our minds. 

There is no temple recommend question that asks you about your thoughts. Thoughts or fantasies involving adultery or paraphilia will not, of themselves, make you unworthy to attend the temple. Be aware, however, that no action was ever done without first originating as a thought in the mind.

I believe sexual fantasies enter into the perversion realm when they involve paraphilia like the ones mentioned above. Building sexual visualizations in your mind or the mind of your spouse that involve these perversions and then reinforcing them with sex and orgasm programs the primitive brain to respond sexually to these perversions. 

My understanding is that this can be prevented or reversed by building in your mind or telling your spouse sexual fantasies that don’t involve paraphilia, and do involve your spouse exclusively. In essence, you would be creating a kind of sacred erotica instead. You then would reinforce that programming with intercourse and orgasm. Neurons that fire together, wire together. 

“Yea, and [God] looketh down upon all the children of men, and he knows all the thoughts and intents of the heart, for by his hand were they all created from the beginning.”[iv]
 If your mind has become programmed to get sexually excited along the lines of perversions, you can take deliberate steps to reprogram yourself in a more positive direction.

“I feel like I should have an orgasm even though I don’t need one. In order to get aroused enough to reach orgasm, I can’t think about my spouse every single time. I have to think about other things or other people or situations that don’t always involve my spouse.”

It’s important to recognize that it’s okay for women NOT to have an orgasm every single time they have sex. A husband should understand this as well. This is one of those fundamental differences between men and women.

She may be perfectly okay, and feel perfectly satisfied, simply to bring him to orgasm. Sometimes it’s okay to just have a quickie, so that the man is satiated and feels loved, and the woman can get on with her day. This doesn't mean she doesn't like sex or doesn't love her husband. On the contrary.

If a woman’s having trouble getting aroused or coming to orgasm, her body may just need a break. Sexual fasting once a month, or just having a quickie without giving her an orgasm is okay, and will allow her body and her libido to rebuild.

Later, when her libido comes back and she feels ready for an orgasm, and can fantasize about her husband and feel aroused, she can let him know this. Ladies, it’s important to let him know; otherwise, he’ll go on having quickies and never reciprocate for you.

It’s okay to ask for an orgasm if you want one. It doesn’t make you a loose woman to enjoy sex with your husband. Good girls do this, when they’re married!

President Spencer W. Kimball (I felt) made it very clear about how God feels about sex in marriage when he said:

“In the context of lawful marriage, the intimacy of sexual relations is right and divinely approved. There is nothing unholy or degrading about sexuality in itself, for by that means men and women join in a process of creation and in an expression of love”[v]

On the flip side, husbands – it’s important to be considerate of your wife and her needs, and ask her if she wants an orgasm. Don’t just assume she wants one like you want one. If she doesn’t want one, ask her if it’s okay to have a quickie. Good boys do this, when they’re married!

“I can only get aroused by thinking about sexual perversions (or paraphilia, as you say), and things other than my husband. I’m concerned, but when I try to talk to my husband about these things, he refuses to talk about it. So in order to keep the peace, I just keep fantasizing. Everything else is all right on the outside, so it’s okay as long as I don’t act on my fantasies in real life, right?”

Let’s consider this situation on the flip side, from a male point of view. A wife refuses to have sex with him, or discuss their sexuality. So in order to “keep the peace”, the husband doesn’t bother her with sex, but finds alternative outlets elsewhere, such as watching porn, maybe even without masturbating to it.

It’s a thought. There’s no action involved, and everything’s okay…right?


Both of these are separating activities, that shape our spirits and desires in frustrating ways . Communication, compromise, sharing, selflessness, self-sacrifice, patience, unconditional love…these are the attributes that build a successful marriage. If a spouse or both spouses are exercising the opposite of these, they don’t have a marriage. They’re friends with benefits. They’re roommates. They’re not married…not truly, and they’re not building a loving, trusting relationship that will last into the eternities.

The solution is that there must be communication. If a spouse is able to communicate, but refuses to, the hard reality is that this is abuse, and a marriage cannot survive on abuse.

If there are secrets being held back from a spouse, tell them. Secrets may destroy your marriage if they aren’t told. They also have a way of coming out eventually anyway. It may take some courage to risk changing the status quo, but you must try, or the situation won’t change, and then eventually it will be too late.

If there’s selfishness, then start to share and compromise. We can take the emotional energy we’re spending on perversions, and turn that energy back towards our spouse. If a couple is spending too much time apart, find ways to spend more time together. If a couple isn’t talking, get talking about anything and everything. Communicate.

I don’t believe we as Saints need harder and harder fantasies, filled with all manner of perversions, to fully enjoy our sexuality. Instead, we need to look towards our spouses with love, appreciation, patience and trust.

“Marriage brings greater possibilities for happiness than does any other human relationship. Yet some married couples fall short of their full potential. They let their romance become rusty, take each other for granted, allow other interests or clouds of neglect to obscure the vision of what their marriage really could be. Marriages would be happier if nurtured more carefully.”[vi]

[i] Elder Mark E. Peterson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Marriage and Common Sense, pg.94-95
[ii] Copyright © 2011 Farlex, Inc.<>
[iii] Mosiah 4:30, paraphrased
[iv] Alma 18:32
[v] The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 311)
[vi] Russell M. Nelson, “Nurturing Marriage”, Ensign, May 2006


Anonymous said...

I recently found a book written by sex therapist Wendy Maltz, and Suzie Boss, about female fantasies called Private Thoughts. She talks about how some fantasies can be helpful, and how you can change your fantasies if you are troubled by them.
We can't always help where our fantasies come from. Many women have been physically and/or emotionally abused. But, we can accept ourselves and move toward healing.

CoachSam said...

Thanks for that comment. It's very positive, and I believe very true. If women have to have unhealthy fantasies to become aroused, it is usually a symptom of repressed emotional conflict. Once that conflict is identified and addressed, yes, an individual can move towards healing and toward healthier sexual fantasies.

Anonymous said...

Hey Sam, thanks for your posting. I love your website. I have found so many useful down to earth, yet still spiritual suggestions. I appreciate that you broach the subjects that many LDS people would gasp and throw a fit about.
I have so many questions about the list you posted of most common paraphilia. For instance, voyeurism. That one is hard for me to see as a perversion. I agree 100% with the pornography side of that. But what about seeing men or women changing in a locker room. Or what about photographers who are doing fitness modeling, or modeling portfolio where some degree of nudity is involved. I guess I am just surprised some of them are on the list. Please don't misunderstand me, I am not trying to come off as I'm right, you are wrong, but I am just surprised and disagree with some of them.
What about the couple who talks about their fantasy together, both are fully aware of them, and in fact even play in to the fantasies for each other. Is that still considered a perversion by "gospel standards".
Thanks for taking the time to read this, and I will look forward to reading your reply.

CoachSam said...

Thank you so much for reading and I’m pleased that you find this blog helpful. I appreciate your question and I will try to address this a piece at a time.

“…voyeurism. That one is hard for me to see as a perversion… what about seeing men or women changing in a locker room. or what about photographers who are doing fitness modeling, or modeling portfolio where some degree of nudity is involved.”

As the medical dictionary defined, “Sexual perversions are conditions in which sexual excitement or orgasm is associated with acts or imagery that are considered unusual.”

When it comes to looking at people changing in a locker room, or at models in various states of nudity, I see a line that would have to be crossed before it would become voyeurism.

Like thoughts, there are circumstances and images that cross our paths everyday as we live our lives. Do we let them pass by, or do we sit and entertain them and dwell on them and lust after them and fantasize about them during sex?

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland elaborated on this in his talk “Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul” in the April 2010 Conference:

“True love we are absolutely giddy about—as I am about Sister Holland; we shout it from the housetops. But lust is characterized by shame and stealth and is almost pathologically clandestine—the later and darker the hour the better, with a double-bolted door just in case. Love makes us instinctively reach out to God and other people. Lust, on the other hand, is anything but godly and celebrates self-indulgence. Love comes with open hands and open heart; lust comes with only an open appetite.”

I believe that all God’s creations are beautiful. If we are passing a locker room and see someone who is physically attractive, are we thinking “Wow, that person looks great” or are we fantasizing about having sex with that person? This crosses over into voyeurism when it’s done in secret and you feel you need to do it to become aroused. It becomes a perversion in marriage when you need these thoughts in order to be able to have sex and an orgasm with your spouse.

If a spouse feels they must perform or fantasize about a sexual perversion to become aroused, there may be deeper issues (either in the individual or relationship) that need to be addressed. It could be something as simple as your body just needs a break from having orgasms so the libido has a chance to refresh itself - to something as extreme as abuse and trust issues that need to be treated by a professional.

Creating fantasies that involve sex with people or things other than your spouse is akin to watching porn and thinking about the porn scene to be able to reach orgasm. It is a separating activity. Healthy marital intercourse is intended to unite a couple on every level. That is the spirit of the law, if you will. If the activity or thought separates you mentally, physically or spiritually - it is not uniting you.

“What about the couple who talks about their fantasy together, both are fully aware of them, and in fact even play in to the fantasies for each other. Is that still considered a perversion by "gospel standards"?

This is good and not a perversion at all! Talking about your fantasies is not only uniting, but arousing for both of you. Sexual communication between spouses is what the Lord wants us to do. :0) (see D&C 38:27)

Talk, talk, talk and talk some more! If our fantasies are about other people or things (no matter how strange), it may take some courage, but I would suggest telling the spouse and then discussing with each other why this particular thing arouses you. If it is not our spouse we’re fantasizing about, there may be a need or trust issue that is not being fulfilled.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any more questions or concerns, or if this didn’t answer the question.

Anonymous said...

Sam, thank you so much. I appreciate your time in answering this question. I didn't think that voyeurism would be considered a perversion, but after what you said about having to have that thought or experience before sex or orgasm, then that now makes more sense.
I am a photographer, and I deal with nudity of all kinds. However, it is not something that I have to think of or view before I am able to have sex or orgasm. Again, thank you for the clarification.

CoachSam said...

You're welcome. I'm glad I could give you some clarification.
I felt I should make one more mention here about the spirit of the law vs. the letter of the law.
It can be very easy to go into gray areas which, when embraced, can lead to rationalizing darker explorations.
You suggested that you worked as a photographer, and your work sometimes involves various stages of undress.
When it comes to such activities that range into gray areas, like photographing nude models, again, consider the spirit of the law. What is the intended use of your work? What is the intent of the people who are paying you to produce your work? Are they using it to produce images that titillate, or are they trying to convey an artistic message without disrespecting the sacredness of the body or sex?
Like drugs, there's a difference between producing them for pharmaceutical use vs. for a drug cartel. Same activity, but much different intent. Same principle applies to our sexuality.
I wish you good fortune in your work, and please guard your spirituality with care.

Anonymous said...

Good points Sam. I am very careful when choosing what projects to take on and what to pass by. I approach most everything on a "spirit of the law" attitude. If a model comes to me and says, "I want to do nude photos to send to Playboy" I will turn the project down. However, I just had a nude maternity photo shoot last weekend. I took that on because it was a husband and wife, and they wanted to celebrate the pregnancy and the changes in the wife's body. I have done fitness modeling where the model was in a thong, etc to show off her muscles and tonality to submit her work to get into a woman's health magazine. At the end of the day, what it comes down to for me is, if I feel like this will impede my ability to answer the chastity question on the temple recommend interview, then I do not take the project. Bottom line, I feel worthy to have my temple recommend and do not take that lightly.
What you said is always a good reminder however...

CoachSam said...

Excellent Sister! :0)
Thank you again for reading and for commenting.

Anonymous said...

I think that when they are refering to voyeurism as a perversion, they are primarily talking about those who spy on others, peeping Toms, etc.. Am I wrong?

If we define pornography as voyeurism, then I think we need to clarify that it is those who NEED pornography to get aroused, and can not get aroused in an otherwise healthy relationship without using the pornography or the images in their mind. Again, am I wrong in my definition?

CoachSam said...

First of all, thank you for reading and commenting.

To help me supply you with the best answer possible, please let me know which "they" you are referring to.
Are you referring to the General Authorities definition of Voyeurism or the Medical Dictionary I used for my article?
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines Voyeurism as:
"one obtaining sexual gratification from observing unsuspecting individuals who are partly undressed, naked, or engaged in sexual acts; broadly : one who habitually seeks sexual stimulation by visual means. "
This also is the definition I use.

Whatever definition we use, there is no righteous use of pornography. Dallan H Oaks in his talk "Pornography" gave a good description of where the church stands on pornography. His statement that had the most potency for me was that watching porn is an impure practice and therefore a violation of our temple covenants. As I understand, whatever classification we put pornography under, there is no justification for viewing it.
There is a spirit of the law here as well and I believe Elder Oaks made that distinction when he described it as anything that titillates.
Part of my education involves the study of anatomy in great detail. I do not find titillation in this, but rather greater understanding, empathy and compassion for people and the physical and psychological ailments many endure.

A good question we can ask ourselves is does this bring me closer to God and Christ and does this help me and my spouse feel closer or is what I'm doing creating a wedge between me and God or me and my spouse?

Please let me know what you had in mind. :0)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sam. I was not condoning pornography, just thinking that it didn't fall under the definition of voyuerism. People get arrested for voyuerism - peeping, filming, photographing unsuspecting people, in locker rooms, changing areas, bedroom windows, etc..

One does not, generally, get arrested for looking at pornography (unless it is kiddy porn, or some other illegal activity).

Stake Pres. said...

As a stake president I would have to say that any sexual relations that are not in harmony with the temple or that are unholy and impure should be avoided.

Anonymous said...

I just want to say, I am a woman who wants an orgasm every time my husband and I have sex. I feel frustrated physically and emotionally, and feel as if I am missing out on the best part. It used to be hard for me to achieve orgasm, but I wanted it and so we worked on it and now I always do.
I can't orgasm solely through penetration. Is that what you mean by saying women won't always have an orgasm? If I waited until I had an orgasm through penetration alone I would NEVER have one.

CoachSam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


The guy who posted as a "Stake President" is NOT a Stake President. His blog is intended to make Church doctrine and beliefs look "over the top" - to poke fun of the Church. He talks as if he is a Stake President, but he doesn't adher to the General Handbook's instructions on personal websites and blogs. He quotes from the Handbook, but doesn't live it. I would delete his comment, since he is only trying to lure people to his blog.

CoachSam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CoachSam said...

Interesting, and thank you for the tip. I took a closer look at his blog, and learned that you are right. This man is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He is not a stake president, but he created a blog posing as a stake president in order to take the teachings of the church and make them into a twisted perversion of what the gospel teaches in order to mock the church. Doctrine such as “husbands should correct their wives during prayer” and “leaders of the church should spend all their time in meetings” or “previously married women who marry again are committing adultery” constitute heinous counsel in my opinion, and directly contradict what our leaders have taught us.
Since I don't know who this person really is, I will leave the comment and allow others to judge. I certainly do not endorse any of his views.
Anyone who gets their information about the Church from any other source than the scriptures and the words of the prophets are taking their chances. There are many such people online who would post misleading information. I hope you will take even what I say with that same grain of salt, and test the credibility of everything by the scriptures,, and prayer. One of the blessings of being a member of the Church means we have access to the spiritual tools we need to not be fooled.
Thank you again.

CoachSam said...

To the sister asking about orgasms, what I was trying to explain was that some women achieve orgasm more easily than others, and may become saturated with sensation and need a break. After a while of always being satiated, they may feel that they’ve lost that “spark” in their relationship and feel like something is wrong with them or their attraction to their husband.

This is also true from the husband’s perspective for himself. The spark is not gone, it just needs a break and it will come back in full force if given a chance.

To those in your circumstance, more power to you. A few women many never experience an orgasm. Your situation is not uncommon or abnormal and if you desire your husband to give you an orgasm every time you have sex, that is a perfectly healthy desire.

What you don’t say in your question is how you achieve your orgasms. If you’re using porn or erotica or say, intense fantasizing of other men or immoral situations in order to achieve orgasm, then I would recommend discussing that need with your spouse as I mentioned in this article and see if you can’t find other methods of arousal that will not separate you mentally and emotionally from your husband.

If you haven’t tried vibrators for orgasms, I recommend that you and your husband experiment in that direction. You may live near a shop that sells them (pay cash if you can, to avoid mailings). There are some Christian outlets for couples online that will not send you mailings of sex products or package the vibrators in offensive packaging, like

Vibrators can help women who have difficulty getting to orgasm, as a lot of women do from time to time. If they’re not used in a way that excludes your husband, vibrators can be a very helpful tool in a healthy married sexual relationship.

If you do buy some to try, please be sure to keep them in a locked box or some other place where children can’t access them, and wash them with soap and water after each use to maintain cleanliness. Be careful about leaving batteries inside them, since batteries can leak if left in for too long and destroy the device.

While penetration is a method of achieving an orgasm in women, it is not the only or the best way to achieve one. There are positions you can do that will allow him to penetrate you and stimulate your clitoris with his penis at the same time.

There is also manual stimulation of your G-Spot and clitoris. Oral stimulation of your clitoris is a developed skill that takes lots of trial and error. In fact, all of these methods are learned and developed skills.

I believe that when a couple realizes that a great sex life with your spouse is a journey and not a destination is when a couple truly begin to become unified sexually.

Anonymous said...

As the sister with the orgasm question, I want to clarify or answer your question about how my orgasms are achieved. NEVER with porn or erotica or improper fantasizing. My husband is a very attentive lover and we work together to achieve great sex!
I'll rephrase my comment a little:
I used to read that women didn't need or get an orgasm every time. So when I found that I didn't really want sex without the happy ending, I thought there might be something wrong with me. I have come to know that I'm fine, I just like orgasms and can always have them (not through penetration, though). I personally would not want sex without the orgasm, unless I'm blessing my husband with a quickie, to be followed up later with the real deal (kind of like extended foreplay for me!). I'm sure there are women who don't care if they do or don't, but *I* think they are missing out.
Thank you for recommending vibrators. That is what my husband and I used very early on in our marriage to help us learn my body and my response. We haven't needed them for years and years. But they have their purpose and are great!
Thank you for this great blog. I wish all married and soon to be married LDS people could find this spot!
(Sorry to derail the original topic of this blog post.)

CoachSam said...

Again, to the sister with the orgasm sounds to me like you and your husband have a very successful and healthy sexual relationship.
God bless you both, and thank you again for reading and your comments. :0)

Anonymous said...

My husband has transvestic fetishism. we have four beautiful children and are very active in the church, this has been building in our relationship, and I have tried to be understanding and work with him. We are trying to set limits. He is afraid if anyone finds out he will be excommunicated or disfellowshipped, but the urges continue and grow. Can you offer any advice? We have let our recommends lapse and I haven't pushed them being renewed because I am afraid and worried. He really wants to go out to a city away from our home all dressed up and have dinner. I don't want to do this, and am trying to help him in other ways, but he is depressed. This has really made his testimony waiver.

CoachSam said...

Dear Anon Feb 23,2012,

Thank you for your question and for reading my articles.
Unfortunately, my suggestions would be too long. This question warrants it's own article.

Please keep an eye out for it.

Coach Sam

Anonymous said...

In your comments above you list certain paraphilias, considering these to be sinful. DO you consider all paraphilias to be sinful, or is it rather the criteria of behaviour that a) involves other individuals than the couple b)hurts one or both spouses or c) involves inanimate objects?
Some paraphilia could seem fairly harmless (nasophilia - being turned on by noses), while others seem clearly dangerous.
I think the hardest definition might be in the question of what is demeaning or not. Obviously, if your spouse feels demeaned by something, you should not do it (understanding that if your spouse feels demeaned by all sex, you need to work together on that). Is there behaviour which does not include others or inanimate objects, and which neither spouse feels demeaned by that you would consider sinful nonetheless?

Anonymous said...

What about consensual spanking?