marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Solo Masturbation: A "Sexual" Relationship?

A reader raised an interesting question:

Can solo masturbation be considered a "sexual" relation? Can a person have "sex" with themself?

 I was curious to hear what you had to say on this.

When presenting your arguments, please try to state them as fact and show your sources. Feel free to use scripture, church resources, scientific data, quotes from professionals...

I also ask that we be respectful in how we present our arguments. Attack the idea, not the person. Hateful words or angry rantings will not be accepted.  Think in terms of "help others to heal" "help others to know where to go."

I'm looking forward to your responses.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Response to Reader Comment - The Purpose of my Blog

Anonymous Aug 5 said... 

"Dear Sam,
Please be careful using the word "worthy". That is a Mormon culture word and carries with it the connotation that God finds some people of lesser worth than others. Being "worthy" is as relative as being "nice" or "smart".

Also, is it not possible that the reason this man may be feeling guilty about masturbation is that he has been conditioned by his culture countless times over many years that it is sinful and he is now "unworthy?"

I also respectfully disagree with your statement that "I didn't make that rule up...that's natural law. That's the Lord's rules". Please show me where in scripture or in modern day revelation that sexual behavior agreed upon by spouses and within the bounds the Lord has set (granted those bounds are fairly undefined)is separating. I'll wait... Absolutist statements that fabricate doctrine are a hallmark of Mormon culture that desperately needs to end for the health of its members and to institute a sorely needed change in the sexual education of its members.

Although I appreciate a forum for people to privately discuss sexuality without reprisal and in anonymity, I find it saddening that counsel given to young people to abstain from masturbation is considered legitimate and binding for a married couple who have come to an agreement as to what is acceptable between them. I tell my kids not to talk to strangers. I would hope however that as adults they would know when talking to strangers is not only appropriate but part of a healthy psyche and considered normal human behavior.

You're welcome to not post this comment. I have no intention of visiting your blog again. I would be interested however to see how your views soften and/or change as you both finish your studies, and begin to see the damage done to people by well intentioned but misinformed church leadership and cultural conditioning in your practice as a therapist. In your posts you come across as eager to reinforce dogma and less eager to truly advise what is healthiest for your readers. I suggest a quick surfing of Natasha's site "Mormon therapist" for thoughtful, insightful, and healing advice. Good luck to you in your journey to serve the members of the church!"

Dear Anonymous Aug 5,

Thank you for your comments. I'm sorry it took me so long to get back to you. Somehow your comment ended up in my spam folder, and I just recently found it, so I apologize for that.
As a matter of fact, I have visited Natasha’s “Mormon Therapist” site many time, and I also enjoy her articles and podcasts. She is very helpful and informative.

I suppose a lot of people may feel as you do…that the directive towards youth and single adults against masturbation in the Church should be restricted only to those who are single, just as we tell our young children to stay away from the stove when they’re little, but to fire it up when they’re older; that it should only be a matter of preparedness, and that this should be canonized as being good and right in marriage in all circumstances.

I believe it’s wise that the General Authorities of the Church do not say this, because we’re very unable to make such blanket statements that cover everyone when it comes to sex in marriage. There remain statements such as this one from modern-day prophets, and from other Christian leaders. I hope this quote will satisfy your desire for doctrine on this point:

“Even in marriage there can be some excesses and distortions. No amount of rationalization to the contrary can satisfy a disappointed Father in heaven. In this connection, we quote a paragraph from a popular evangelist, Billy Graham: ‘…The Bible makes plain that evil, when related to sex means not the use of something inherently corrupt but the misuse of something pure and good.” 

This quote is in an older version of the Eternal Marriage Handbook called “Achieving a Celestial Marriage” put out by the Church. It is unfortunately out of print, but part of the above quote is still available in the new Student Manual called “Eternal Marriage”. You may be able to find a copy in your ward library, or this quote may also be available from President Kimball’s Conference talk in May of 1974, at

There are other quotes like this as well, that lead me to believe that we can’t just give a blanket “ok” or “not ok” to any sexual practice in marriage, even if both partners are all right with it. 

We know, for instance, that married couples should not engage in pornography under any circumstances, which is different from how the secular world counsels married couples. We are only now becoming aware of scientific evidence that demonstrates how pornography affects the brain at a very deep, fundamental level, and how it can create a dysfunction in our relationships with others.

I believe there are some circumstances where masturbation is appropriate as a tool in the marital intimacy repertoire, to help strengthen the bonds between a husband and wife. I do not find evidence that solo masturbation in secret in marriage has proven to improve marital bonding and provide complete sexual satisfaction. In fact, I find secret solo masturbation to be mostly a selfish and separating activity, which are two attributes that can potentially kill a marriage. John Gray touches on this in his book, "Mars and Venus in the Bedroom". Mark Gungor talks in great depth in his "Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage" DVD.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the reference you mentioned where I said the word ‘worthy’ in this article, so I’m not certain of the context in which you’re talking about the word. Perhaps you were referring to a different article I wrote...? If you do happen to come back (and you are certainly welcome to do so if you choose), you could point out to me what article you were referring to.

It is my belief that the dogma of the Church is true and correct, and will help my readers to have a better sex life and obtain a stronger, eternal marital relationship if they follow the commandments. I don’t know that any amount of secular education or experience will change my belief in the basic doctrines of the Church. 

I do know that misinformation about sex has damaged many in the Church, which is what I am working to correct. I have seen lots of this damage firsthand, and I myself have been a victim of this misinformation in the past. However, it was not the doctrines of the Church that was at fault, but the fallacies of individuals in the Church, teaching their cultural superstitions as truth.

I’m not interested in pandering to the secular world of the Gentiles (non-Mormons). There are many in the secular world who share some of our beliefs, or who are interested in learning about our beliefs. It would be a disservice to ourselves and to them to bend LDS doctrine to conform with the secular world. My goal is to do just the opposite - to show where secular teachings about sexuality and marriage harmonize with LDS doctrine.

The audience I’m writing for is one that has a belief in God the Father, in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer, and in the truthfulness of the words of the living prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 

It is to that community that I write this blog…to provide a resource for obtaining correct principles and learning how to apply them in a married, sexual context that will bring the fulfillment that I feel God intended. 

I realize that not everyone will agree with me, and that’s fine. I find disagreement to be a good opportunity for me to review what I believe and decide whether or not my beliefs come from a gospel basis, or from a cultural myth. 

When I've studied whether or not the wrongness of masturbation in marriage is a gospel principle or whether it's a cultural myth, the answer is that it depends. Solo masturbation may not disqualify a married person from going to the temple, but in most cases, it does not serve the purposes of marriage progression and growth. Mutual masturbation is much more useful in that regard.

The definition of abnormal behavior in psychology refers to behavior that cripples your functionality in society. If masturbation keeps you from communicating clearly with your spouse, or causes resentment, or if porn is involved, or if you prefer masturbation to sexual relations with your spouse, this is when abnormal behavior begin. 

Occasional solo masturbation done in marriage with full knowledge, mutual consent of the spouse and good feelings about the exercise of it from both spouses does not fall under this abnormal definition, in my opinion. This is because you are expressing your sexuality as a couple and not as an individual.

"Nevertheless, neither is the man without the women, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 11:11-12)

I feel this idea is in keeping with this scriptural statement.

I am still in the midst of my studies, as you mentioned. I’ve been an active member of the Church for 40 years now, and spent the last twelve years as an educator in the Church in various capacities. I’ve been happily married to my wife for almost 20 years, and I have over 20 years of research (institutional and otherwise) in sociology, biology, anthropology, sexuality and marital relationships. This blog is where I share my findings, and I learn from all of my readers' experiences, and the couples I have coached as well.

I can’t claim to be a licensed professional…only a continuing student of sexology and sociology. I quote a lot of either professional resources or gospel authorities for this very reason – because I can claim very few institutional credentials myself at this point. 

I don't mind letting them be the experts - there are some amazing experts that we as LDS couples can learn from, both in and out of the Church. I think even after I get my Ph.D., I couldn't comfortably claim to know everything there is to know about the gospel and sexuality and life and the world. It would be presumptuous of me to say so. I hope I always stay a student.

Thank you for your good wishes. It will be interesting for both of us to see my progression over time in helping people’s marriages.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Is Withholding Sex From Your Spouse Breaking The Law Of Chastity?

Here's an interesting question for everyone, and something you may want to make a point of discussion with your spouse.

Is denying, withholding, or rejecting married sexual relations with your spouse a violation of the Law of  Chastity? Could a spouse be committing a sin of omission in this regard?

 What evidence can you find that would support your argument?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Is Masturbation Justified In A Sexless Marriage?

 Anon56 asked:

"I married my wife in the temple over 30 years ago, but most of which has been without regular sex. She has basically decided, unilaterally, that she does not want to "do it" any more. On those rare occasions when we do, it's ALWAYS me who initiates it and for her, she's just doing her duty. I can't keep this up, it's killing me. I have resorted to masturbation on a few occasions but refrain mostly for all the usual LDS reasons. It is, my choice of last resort. I do not involve pornography believe it or not, but instead I will concentrate thinking about my wife when I engage in masturbation. There is most often a sense of relief and the hormones released seem to help my general well being, in other words, my mood improves. That having been said, I'm really looking for counsel as to whether I should abstain from masturbation altogether even though and this is not an exaggeration, my wife and I may never again have intercourse. I love her very much and none other. What's in her heart is anyone's guess. I have sexual needs that are not being met by my wife and I refuse to fulfill that need with any other woman. Occasional "solo" masturbation seems to be my only outlet. (And yes, we're been to several of our bishops and marriage counselors over the years with no improvements in our relationship.)"

Dear Anonymous56,

Thank you for reading and your question. I have to let you know that it is difficult to know the correct course of action based upon the information that you gave. In all fairness, I don’t know your wife’s side of the story. I will base my reply upon how I understand the situation from your side of the story and how it affects your relationship with your wife and our Savior Jesus Christ.

The presidents of the Church have taught us that sex in marriage has a two-fold purpose. One is to create bodies for our Heavenly Father’s spirit children. The second is to strengthen the eternal bonds of a husband and wife through physical intimacy.

You have been though the temple and made sacred covenants. To obtain the blessings of the temple, you must keep your covenants – including those pertaining to the law of chastity. That law of chastity also excludes sex with ourselves.  I also want you to notice that this same law of chastity doesn’t exclude any sexual activity we have with our spouse. Manual stimulation of the genitals does have its place, but only if used between a husband and wife as a means of strengthening their intimate bonds.

Solo masturbation is a separating and selfish activity, both of which are two of the four marriage killers I write about in my blog. If  you are not communicating with your wife and keeping your masturbation habit secret from your wife, then you’ve added a third marriage killer to your relationship.

I’m sorry to be so painfully frank with you Anon56, but because of your plan of action to remedy the situation, your masturbation is creating a sexual addiction in you, just in the same manner as a profane erotica addict would. This is true even though there is no profane erotica involved. In some sense, there is profane erotica involved, since you are visualizing a fantasy version of your wife who wants to have sex with you while you masturbate.
I know that you have seen bishops and therapists already, but I must suggest seeing an LDS Marriage and Family counselor (preferably with your wife) to help you reprogram your sex life. If your only option at this point is to either masturbate or not have sex at all, you don’t have a marriage, you're roommates. In addition, your marriage is not likely to last. You are in a sexless marriage, which will not build you a relationship that will want to be together for eternity. You can reference my blog to the condition of sexless marriage here:

May I suggest focusing on your relationship with your wife. You’re going crazy not because of a lack of sex, but because of a lack of intimacy with your wife. To use a metaphor, you’re emotionally thirsty, but you are trying to slake that thirst by eating more food (orgasm through masturbation).

People can go a lifetime without ejaculating or having an orgasm. No one has ever died from failing to ejaculate, but people have suffered from severe depression, insanity and even death from lack of intimacy.

I find it hard to believe that you love her with all your heart. In one breath you say you do, but in the next you confess that you know nothing about her.  That suggests to me that a major communication breakdown has happened somewhere between your and your wife.

You expressed that you have to be the initiator all the time.  Men are biologically designed and given the duty to be the initiator, or at minimum the spouse with the higher desire has claim to that role.We don’t have to be ashamed or frustrated by that. In most marriages, if no one initiated, sex just wouldn't happen. It is your God-given right. You are “THE INITIATOR”. Wear it proudly.

Not all females are given the same strong sexual drive as men, and therefore often rely on the men to initiate sex. The universal question for all men is “How do I do this effectively so she wants sex too”?

The answer goes back to communication. Each gender communicates differently. What men define as sex or romance is very different from a woman’s definition.

A misconception many men have is that a woman’s vagina fills her with the same drive and gives her the same sensations sexually as a man’s penis does.

Most men communicate love through their penis and feel loved when their wives give attention to their penis and husbands consider it the ultimate expression of love when she allows them into her vagina.

Unfortunately, we follow that emotional logic to think “Oh, she must feel the same, and if she doesn’t she is frigid.” This is not true. Women by and large do NOT feel the same.

If we want our wife to willingly and joyfully accept us into her vagina, we have to stimulate what she associates love and sex with - her heart. Touch her heart.

Here is how to touch her heart:

  1. Be kind to her. Constant criticism kills love and your sex life.

  1. Honor your priesthood. LDS women find this to be very sexy; a woman is turned on by a man she feels can lead her to the Celestial Kingdom and inspires her to submit herself to him sexually. This may sound goofy, but we’re not talking about communicating to men. We’re talking here about what turns an LDS woman on.

This means you should attend your regular Church meetings, lead your family in scripture readings and prayer, have regular Family Home Evenings, give your wife and children priesthood blessings, and attend the temple regularly. Cast evil spirits of contention and anger from your home when you feel them. This will work wonders for your sexual relationship. As unrelated as that may sound, it will help her feel loved, cared for and safe, and allow the Lord to open her heart  (and vagina) towards you in many ways you can’t even imagine now.

  1. Talk to her, and more important – listen to her. Let her know what your sexual needs are. She has a responsibility to be considerate of your feelings and needs too. But, also ask her what she needs to feel loved and safe.

  1. Be kind to her children (this probably should be number one – it’s very potent for getting her to want to connect to you sexually).

  1. When you hold her, put your hand over her heart and hold it there. Ask her how it makes her feel.  Don’t get upset or weirded out if she weeps. Crying is a good sign – it means that she is accessing her emotional center, which can sometimes lead to feeling sexual toward you. 

  1. Sex starts for a woman in the brain, not in her genitals. A woman can get turned on with a story, or a scenario. Get her dreaming. Talk with her about what she would find romantic – what and where. A story involves a place, or a situation. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to involve sex; it could involve cuddling or kissing. This sort of talk begins to channel her constant thoughts from the cares of the day into her primitive sexual brain, and helps her to connect emotionally to her desires.

  1. Make life more fun together. If sex seems like a duty to her, that should be a warning sign to you that you have just become another task on her list to check off. This is not using sex to build an eternal relationship. Take her on dates every week, romance her, bring her flowers weekly by surprise, or write her little notes. These sorts of things can touch her heart, and are different for every woman. You’ll need to experiment to see what works for your wife in particular. Pray for inspiration in this regard – you are entitled to it. The Lord is very interested in the success of your sex life.

  1. For couples with severe sexual troubles, a good start might be to read Laura Brotherson’s book, And They Were Not Ashamed. You could invite your wife to read this alone, or with you if she chooses. Laura Brotherson is very good for helping sisters to understand the importance of sex in a married relationship, and  in terms that women understand. She also has some exercises that you both will need to do together in order to rebuild your sexual relationship.

  1. If your wife finds it difficult to talk about her feelings, you can encourage her to write them. She may find it easier to express herself in a different way than talking. When she does express herself, never, ever criticize what she says, no matter what your reaction. If you want her to accept you eagerly into her vagina, you have to develop a relationship of trust. She has to know she can trust you with her deepest feelings.

Many men make the mistake of forgetting the reason she wanted to marry them and have sex with them in the first place. She wants to be romanced – her whole life. This is why we have been counseled by our Church leaders to continue the courtship after marriage.

If you’d like to try something new sexually, she may be adverse at first, but that doesn’t mean she’s totally against it. She just may need some time to warm up to the idea. Touch her heart, talk about it with her and try to understand her feelings.Restate what she say's to make sure you understand.

In order for sex to be an eternal bonding experience, it must be a “sharing” activity. If she’s just laying there and “thinking of the Red, White and Blue” (doing her duty), you’re just using her body to masturbate on. Don’t get me wrong, quickies have their place, but the majority of the time, when we men have sex with our wives, we should be looking in her eyes, talking to her, holding her hands, and learning how she is feeling or how she wants to be touched.

When she tells you how she wants to be touched, do it (no matter how dumb or un-erotic it sounds to you). What’s dumb to you may be very erotic to her (and vice versa).

Thirty years is way too long to go without regular, loving, intimate sex, but that doesn’t mean your marriage is automatically doomed. If you’re willing to try again, and your wife is willing to try again, there’s hope. Building an eternal relationship takes longer than a lifetime.

Marriages also get into trouble when we start depending on our spouse to make us happy, and using them to justify our selfish reactions. Masturbation in your situation is nothing more than an escape valve from your troubles. Instead, I would challenge you to do the hard thing, and go after the root of the problem instead – your lack of intimacy with your wife.

Don’t just go masturbate and give up on your wife, your marriage or your eternal salvation.  Try something new, until something works, or until you’ve exhausted every possible way of getting through to her. Take 100% responsibility for your sex life and you won’t regret the results.