marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Friday, May 6, 2011

From A Distance - Masturbation in the LDS Marriage

WARNING: This post contains a topic of a sacred sexual nature and is intended for married couples only. Reader discretion is advised.

Hello everyone.

I’m still hammering out all the details for the next blog on the four marriage killers, but in the meantime, I wanted to share with you this interesting reader question I recently received:
My wife and I are currently apart because I am out of town for school and business.  Is phone/Internet sex okay?  Why or why not? 

We discussed the issue on a chat site, and the reason she didn't want to try it was because she feels masturbation is wrong at any time.

I believe that masturbation is wrong before marriage as it is best for one to "bridle" their passions.  Now that we are married, and as you express on the blog many times, it is very confusing trying to do right by the LDS Church standards when there are no specifics when it comes to marriage. 

We have a fulfilling sex life together and we are very open and communicate with each other about everything.  So... if you have any suggestions or help as to how we can be intimate with each other over such a long distance, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your help and I look forward to your reply! 
-        Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for reading my blog and I’m grateful you have found it helpful. I can appreciate your concern as to how to keep the sexual spark strong between you and your wife when you are apart. I am sure there are many members of the Church faced with your same dilemma – especially those serving in the armed forces.

The best decision for your circumstance will ultimately come from you, your wife and the Lord. As you discuss with your wife what is acceptable for the both of you and make it a matter of prayer, the Spirit will guide you as to what you should do. What I can offer you are some suggestions to consider, with pros and cons for each.

The first aspect of your question I’d like to address is the concern about masturbation in marriage you mentioned. You said that your wife doesn’t want to engage in phone sex because masturbation is “wrong at any time.”

Masturbation outside of marriage is certainly out of the bounds the Lord has set; there are numerous references to this in Church doctrine. When it comes to masturbating in marriage, solo masturbation is not the best tool for keeping a healthy marriage and here is why.

Solo masturbation in marriage away from your spouse would be discouraged because it is a separating activity – not a bonding one. Biologically, neurons that fire together, wire together. This means that if solo masturbation is done over a long period of time the brain will re-program itself to associate sex with masturbation. It then becomes more difficult for a husband or wife to mentally or physically respond sexually with their spouse without it.  In addition, masturbating to porn to “keep the peace” will also create the same result and is definitely not a bonding activity.

When dealing with masturbation between married people, however, the rules shift slightly sometimes. It is sometimes appropriate for a married couple to use masturbation on a temporary basis as a learning tool, if the wife is unfamiliar with how her body will respond sexually. She can use it to show her husband how she likes to be touched, or he can demonstrate to his wife how he would like her to handle his genitals during sex. This use of masturbation is not sinful or separating in any way.

Mutual masturbation, which means to allow your spouse to manually stimulate you to orgasm with their hands or mouth or by using sex toys, is not forbidden in marriage, and often utilized as an acceptable form of foreplay between a married couple. There is nothing unrighteous or unholy or impure about a husband stimulating his wife, or the wife masturbating her husband, or both, if they both enjoy it. 

From the teachings of the prophets and other Church leaders and the scriptures, I have found no reference to any sexual practice in marriage being forbidden unless it’s done to prevent having any children, or involving people we’re not married to.

What you’re talking about – which is essentially mutual masturbation using long-distance forms of communication – can be done, but carries some inherent risk, which you must decide for yourselves according to your situation how serious that risk is.  It is also more difficult to do if you are not already comfortable with masturbating together.

Since your wife seems to object to masturbation under any circumstances, this could be a source of friction. However, since you also say that your sex life is healthy and your communication is good, she may be able to let go of her reservations if it’s approached with some sensitivity to her feelings on the matter and with some further education. 

Reading my blog posts could help with that. Purchasing the “Eternal Marriage” textbook from the Church Distribution Center at  (very cheap) could also be very helpful. It has a lot of material on intimacy from a gospel perspective.

It would also be good to keep in mind the inherent limits of what you’re attempting to do. Phone sex could be overheard or recorded by others on the same line, especially over cell phones or wireless connections; there is a slight risk of this. 

Using Skype or a video camera would add a visual element, but can leave the woman feeling particularly vulnerable, especially since such video could be (and has been) recorded and put on the Internet without the woman's knowledge or consent. 

Your trust level with your spouse would have to be relatively high for her to feel comfortable with expressing her sexuality with you this way, and you wouldn’t want to do anything that could potentially violate that trust. If you’re communicating over a Wi-Fi connection that’s not heavily encrypted, my understanding is that anyone with a computer in close vicinity could possibly tap into your conversation.

There are physical limits to what you can do over the phone or online as well. When we are physically together with our spouse and having sex, there are physiological functions other than just penis-in-vagina happening.

When you make physical contact with your spouse, there is an electrical current that flows and circulates between you. Positive and negative ions are being exchanged through skin contact. Visual, aural, olfactory, taste and mental connections are made. Our spirits are connecting. We are literally having sex with our whole being. It is a complete experience. A husband and wife become one.

If we masturbate to phone sex, we will have a partial release of sexual tension, but the rest of the experience – the electrical exchange through skin, the other senses other than auditory and maybe visual – are deprived. Chances are you may still be left will a feeling of “something is missing.” Many other parts of you and your spouse will still be sexually frustrated. Over long periods, this frustration can build and make you both vulnerable to sexual temptations.

If you are away from your spouse for a short time on a business trip or an internship of a short duration (say, three months or less) and you are engaging in phone sex or cyber-sex with your spouse, I don’t see this as creating an insurmountable problem. If you are doing it together and both enjoying it, it is a bonding activity and is fine.

The problem is more likely to present itself if we practice married phone or cyber-sex over an extended period (months, years). The brain will re-wire itself if this is practiced over a long period of time, making it more difficult to connect with our spouse sexually when we return.

It may not be noticed at first, but over time you may begin to find it difficult to be aroused by your spouse. You may find yourself craving phone or cyber-sex as the preferred method of arousal. At this stage, it’s gone from a fun/bonding experience to a separating sexual habit.

When it comes to being apart for long periods of time, I feel the apostle Paul gave some sound advice.  In I Corinthians 7: 2 – 5 (the Joseph Smith Translation) he said,

“Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband…

…Depart ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.”

I understand this to mean that our spouse is supposed to be there for us sexually so we are not tempted to fornicate or commit adultery. If we have to be apart from our spouse for a long time:

1. The length of time has to be with their consent and,
2.  We are to "fast" from sex until we can be with our spouse and have sex with them again.

The spouses of our military service men and women don’t have the luxury of consent. Before marriage, it must be (and usually is) understood that they mentally have to prepare themselves to accept the lifestyle of having their military spouse gone for extended periods of time. Sexual discipline must come with the territory if a Church member in the military is to keep the law of chastity under these circumstances.

Those who travel frequently such as executives, or people who put in long hours of work, such as doctors, will be away from their spouse for long periods of time. This needs to be understood before entering into the relationship. Both spouses have the responsibility to be there sexually for their spouse as much as possible in order to keep the relationship healthy.

In my blog post, “The Four Marriage Killers”, separation is listed as a marriage killer. Any physical separations that happen in a marriage should be kept to the bare minimum. As Paul stressed in the scripture above, the temptations are just too strong, as you have also undoubtedly experienced.

Many good marriages get killed simply by being apart too much. Many intimacy-starved marriage partners in these circumstances find themselves in the arms of someone closer and more available and wonder how they got there.

As I talk about in many of my posts, the purpose of marriage (and sex in marriage) is to build eternal family units and strengthen the relationship bonds between a husband and wife. As members of Christ’s church, we are taught to follow the Spirit of the law.

A good way to do this is to ask ourselves, “Is this sexual activity bringing us closer together or separating us?” That is the rule of thumb; that is what I mean when I say use the Spirit of the law. If you find that you cannot successfully bond through phone sex or cyber-sex, may I suggest “fasting” sexually until you can be together again…and get together again as quickly and as often as possible.

Good luck to you and your wife in whatever you decide to do. Hopefully you will be back together again soon, having healthy, unifying sex. 

- Coach Sam