For Mormons, It’s Masturbation, Sexual Repression – or the Third Option

For Mormons, maybe--just maybe--there's another option besides masturbation and sexual repression.

For Mormons, maybe–just maybe–there’s another option besides masturbation and sexual repression.

Every once in a while, an exchange happens down in the comments that really ought to be its own post. Recently, a reader (Matt S) took issue with an essay from back in January 2013 entitled “The Single Most Important Secret About Sex that Every Mormon Needs to Know Now,” and I responded vigorously and with emotion. (If you haven’t read the post, the “secret” is that sex is optional and you won’t die if you don’t get it.) In case it isn’t clear from what I say below, sexual addiction is a life-and-death struggle for me. The “life of masturbation” that the reader insists upon will kill me, so it’s not an option–even if it were in the least bit appealing, which it’s not.

Infinite atonement = infinite recovery

Infinite atonement = infinite recovery

This isn’t merely an interesting intellectual exercise for me. I don’t have time to sit around and wait for the rest of the world to realize that the Great Porn Experiment that started in the 1950s and continues to this day is destroying individuals, families and societies. My family and I are NOT going down with that ship! And we’re going to help as many people climb into the lifeboat with us as care to join us. The beauty of Christ’s atonement is that it’s infinite, which means that the beauty of addiction recovery is that it’s also infinite.

So Here’s What Matt S Had to Say:

[Note: The spelling, grammar, statistics and opinions are all his. The paragraph headings and images are mine.]

I’m sorry, but I completely disagree [with your post about sex being optional]. Sex is hard wired into our brains so much, that repressing our sexuality causes it’s own problems. My first marriage completely failed because of my wife’s extreme sexual repression because of the church.

A Priestly Problem?

priestly-problemThe problem with pedophilia in the Catholic church is caused by the sexual repression that priests experience when they are told that they shouldn’t have ANY sexual relations with anyone. The brain starts to obsess on sex, even if it isn’t something that shows outwardly. The pressure builds up until all but the very strongest and most disciplined crack under the strain, and now we have an entire church who’s extreme sexual repression has led to at least 10% (and counting) of all Catholic priests being pedophiles.

Sexual repression is serious business, and trying to just ignore the body’s needs is a sure fire way to psychological dysfunction. At best this is uneducated and bad advice, and at worst you are setting people up for extreme psychological issues by not addressing needs properly.

Everyone Else Is Doing It So How Bad Can It Be?

Um, not if I'm dead it's not!90% of all males masturbate. It provides a way to clean up the pipes and get rid of old non-viable sperm so your body can make newer fresh sperm. Masturbation has been shown to help fertility. The need (and yes, I use that word on purpose) to follow our programming is so strong that almost no one refrains, not even in the church. If masturbation really is so bad, then I guess that 90% of all men in the church will be going to hell, because it is going on far more than people realize. Deal with sexual issues, don’t just ignore them or try to pretend you don’t need sex.

Telling Fat People to Stop Eating Causes Anorexia?

This article is like telling fat people that they need to stop eating so much. It might work for some people, but it’s going to contribute to anorexia and bulimia if not handled properly. In the same light, not dealing with sexuality properly leads to repression and more problems.

If you don’t believe me, spend a little time researching psychological studies on sexual repression, and if you want to really get into it, find the ones that specifically target religion and show the harm done by religious sexual repression. Educate yourself so you aren’t suggesting courses of action that will harm others.

***End of Matt S’s Comment***

And Here’s My Response:

This Website Is Not For Everyone

fiery dart lds addiction recoveryOuch, my friend, those are some fiery darts. I’ll make you a deal: I’ll educate myself some more about sexual repression and you educate yourself some more about sexual addiction and maybe we can meet back here in a couple months and have a meaningful conversation.

In the meantime, I’ll tell you what I’ve told many others: This website is not for everyone. It is for people whose sexual behavior is out of control and is leading to chaos and insanity. It’s also for their spouses and priesthood leaders. If you just have a little “periodic masturbation issue” that doesn’t really bug you too much, then move on!

If, on the other hand, your sexual behavior is progressively escalating to more and more shocking and dangerous behavior that is destroying your sanity and your wife’s, too, then we’ve got some things to talk about. And to be clear, it’s not about repressing sexual urges.

Masturbation or Sexual Repression? That’s It?

So you’re saying that masturbation is a need and that I’ll be unhealthy if I don’t engage in it–because my only other option is sexual repression? Are you serious? Those are my only two options? Masturbation or sexual repression? That’s it? That’s how God made me? To masturbate or to bury and desperately try to ignore the “flames of lust”?

The Third Option

not-1-not-2-but-3Matt, I’d like to introduce you to the Third Option: Arrive at a real understanding of lust and how it impairs my life, thoughts and behavior, and then–with God’s help and the help of a therapist and a bunch of guys in Sexaholics Anonymous–eliminate lust and my obsession with it from my life. Guess what? Happy life, happy wife, no more masturbation, no more porn, no more guilt, a return of feelings of integrity, able to look people straight in the eye, able to connect in healthy ways with the people around me. And that’s not sexual repression, my friend. That’s what happens when a son of God removes an obsession with lust from his life.

I don’t want what you’re pitching, Matt. I don’t want a life of masturbation. It never made me happy. NEVER! I don’t want to have to do mental gymnastics to justify my fantasies and masturbation just so I don’t feel bad whenever I read Christ’s admonition about lust in the heart equating with adultery (Matthew 5:28). He said it. That ends the debate for me.

I Am a Lust Addict


Broken brain – a reversible condition for Mormon addicts who become willing to do whatever it takes to find recovery.

See, Matt, I’m addicted to lust. For years, my behavior spiraled downward into darker and more dangerous depths. I nearly died as a result of my compulsions and obsessions. Then one day, another LDS man said, “Andrew, your brain is broken. You’re addicted to sex and you can’t get over it on your own. It can’t be done–on your own–so quit trying!” He was speaking from experience, one addict sharing with another about his experience, strength and hope. He introduced me to Sexaholics Anonymous and he saved my life. I am happy now. No sexual repression here! Just a guy who continues to learn how to eliminate lust from his life.

Rejecting a Life of Masturbation–For Something So Much Better

The life of masturbation that you want me to accept and embrace, Matt, will amount to a death sentence for me. Like the alcoholic, one drink is too many and ten thousand isn’t enough. I don’t want to die. Instead I prefer to live a life of serenity, integrity and connection with Heavenly Father and the people around me. I prefer to live a life of meaning. Masturbation does not provide me with meaning, just more insatiable lust.

Like I said, Matt, I don’t want what you seem to have. If someone is struggling like I was and losing the battle to compulsive sexual behavior as his life spirals out of control, I pray to God that he runs into me before he runs into you. I have something to offer him–and it ain’t masturbation. You might do well to listen to your own advice: “Educate yourself so you aren’t suggesting courses of action that will harm others.”

[Brain sketch based on image by Dgg32 at zh.wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons.]

About Andrew+

Latter-day Saint, sex and pornography addict in recovery, dealing with depression, returned missionary, father of a bunch of kids, graduate degree, self-employed, Book of Mormon reader, writer and thinker. Working on understanding and overcoming resentment, the number one killer of addicts.


For Mormons, It’s Masturbation, Sexual Repression – or the Third Option — 7 Comments

  1. wooooooo!

    andrew, this is sooooo very true.
    amazing points.
    i really appreciate your response and your thought put into it. its a great perspective that sooo many people need to be educated on. because it IS truth.
    its unfortunate how satan truly does work so hard on each of us and has such a huge population believing it is “just natural”.

    you are a great missionary and you are fulfilling God’s great work here on earth.
    thank you.

  2. Okay, so that’s fine and dandy for the married man, who has a viable, respectable, church approved way of dealing with sexual feelings, and desires…. find the alternative till, your wife and you come to a agreement of when to share in the “healthy” sexual interaction… to bad that healthy sexual release isn’t available for the single man, or many of the single male/ female adults in the church… All you singles out there, good luck with that. To bad there isn’t a better alternative, it feels like an all or nothing alternative.

    Andrew, are you saying that without lust, men will have no desire to masterbate?

    • S: I don’t have any idea if other men will stop masturbating if they eliminate lust from their lives. Apparently “normal” men can function just fine with lust and masturbation in their lives. Maybe those two things make “normal” men happy. Maybe lust and masturbation help “normal” men love their wives more and draw closer to them mental, emotionally, spiritually and physically. “Normal” men sure make a lot of noise about how important lust and masturbation are to their health and normalcy. Maybe they’re right. I have no idea.

      What I do know is that since I am a sex and lust addict, lust and masturbation leave me impaired and absolutely miserable. They wreck my life. Bummer that I can’t lust and masturbate like “normal” men. Clearly something is wrong with me. If I was “normal,” I’d be laughing and carefree about lust and porn and masturbation. It would all be one giant joke. Oh well.

      I’ve actually found that I’m much, much happier on all levels when I eliminate those two items from my life. Based on the experiences of LDS and non-LDS men I’ve met in Sexaholics Anonymous, many of them are also miserable and impaired by lust and masturbation. They’re happier without those two things in their lives, too. Like me, there’s clearly something wrong with them. They just don’t seem to be able to enjoy lust and masturbation like “normal” people.

      Also, I know a number of married people in Sexaholics Anonymous who were separated for a time from their spouse as they worked on addiction recovery. Guess what? They stayed sexually sober–or learned to stay sexually sober!

      I think we all need to get away from this idea that we’re going to explode or get really stupid if we don’t have some kind of sex, either with ourselves or someone else. I think somebody needs to take a stand for single (and separated) people and say that it’s OK to do without masturbation. And it’s OK for single (and separated) people NOT TO WANT to masturbate. It’s OK for single (and separated) people to choose NOT to engage in masturbation. It’s OK for single (and separated) people to admit that they might have a problem with lust and masturbation and to look for help rather than to suffer in shame and silence. It’s OK for single (and separated) people to be happy and fulfilled in their lives without lust and masturbation.

      Single (and separated) people can be happy without sex! They’re not living half a life! A sex-free life is not a life of misery. Sex is not the highest form of love!

      Sex really is optional! I have discovered that I won’t die without it. I can live a happy and fulfilling life without it. I am learning not to be obsessed with lust and sex. I am learning not to objectify the women around me. I am learning to eliminate the lust-driven behaviors from my life. I am confident that single (and separated) people can be completely happy–without sex! Married people can be completely happy–without sex! I can also be happy in my marriage with sex–if I get rid of the lust-driven behavior. If, on the other hand, the sex in my life is broken, I can stop engaging in it until I get it repaired. If I don’t get it repaired, then I don’t need to have it.

      When I talk about recovery, this what I mean: Through my willingness to attend therapy, work with my priesthood leaders on repentance, work with my wife on our marriage, and exercise my faith in the Savior’s atonement, Heavenly Father has changed me on the inside. He has given me the ability to run from lust like Joseph in Egypt instead of just basking in and getting drunk on it like King David. He has given me the ability to choose NOT to lust and to enjoy the peace and serenity that follow.

      • Thanks A…. I too have suffered the parody masturbation brings: when i engaged in it i become disconnected from true connection and Love; Masturbation and the Lust train that followed prevents me for enjoying Sex for its intended Divine purposes: Union with my wife…if i wasnt married: union with a girlfriend….if i didnt have a girlfriend: union with everyone else : )

  3. Andrew, thank you for this wonderful website and articles you have written. My husband is a sex addict. We have been trying to overcome this problem for about a year now. He has been attending the church PASG group weekly and working with the bishop. I feel very inspired by the things you have said. I’ve talked with my husband and we plan to check out SA and S-Anon. We also are thinking about getting some professional counseling.
    I believe that there are many people who struggle with sex addiction in the church. I agree with this article that masturbation and porn are not ok and can be completely destructive to a marriage. My husband was exposed to porn through his own father. We recently spoke with his dad about this and although he has looked at porn for over 40 years now, he still thinks that it’s just a little problem he can handle on his own. I am referring him and his wife to your website and hope he feels just as inspired by the things he reads here as I did. Thank you again!

  4. Maybe the best advice could come from those who are married and see effects of masturbation first hand.

    I am married, and I am addicted to lust. Obviously I have been single before, and I have to admit, I didn’t have the courage or strength to overcome my addiction when I was single either. I thought that as soon as I got married, my addiction would disappear because I would be guilt free. I wondered why masturbation was such a big deal. I even resented my leaders for “condemning” my obsessions that the rest of the world saw as 100% “normal”.

    Long story short: I met the love of my life, and we got married. Problem solved? No. I’m ashamed to say that because of my addiction, I viewed my intimate relationship with my wife as simply an “acceptable” alternative to masturbation. After only 2 months of marriage I turned right back to porn and masturbation like a dog to his own vomit. Why? I’m thoroughly convinced that masturbation robbed me of my ability to see my wife as a daughter of God. She became an object of lust.

    Single members of the church, please listen! Masturbation will do you no good! It is not an outlet for lust! It is the manifestation of the obsession over lust, and it will only destroy your future marriage. Do your future eternal companion a favor and show the faith and courage that I never had…. Because I wish I had.

  5. I was thinking about fantasy awhile ago, and I realized that fantasy is anything that isn’t real. I used to think it was just sexual stuff. But if I’m even thinking of how my wife is going to react to something, or what we are going to do next week, or whatever, it’s fantasy. It hasn’t happened, it’s not happening, so it’s not real.
    Lust to me is fantasy. And Lust to me is always bad. I’ve gotten into conversations with plenty of guys who think masturbation is okay because they are married and “thinking about” their wife.
    But in all honesty, they aren’t. That doesn’t happen. They are fantasizing about a stimulating circumstance that ISN’T happening in reality. Which means they are controlling how the fantasy goes, which means they aren’t fantasizing about their wife. Our wives have brains, they have intelligence and CHOICE, and feelings and they are so unique and individual that no one will ever be exactly like them. So there is no way someone can “think” about their spouse and it be just fine as if they are being sexually intimate in real life, because it ISN’T real life. It’s a fantasy, which means it isn’t true, which means I’m not thinking about my wife at all.