How’s that for a provocative title? A secret about sex for Mormons. Almost sounds like a headline on one of those trashy women’s magazines that we all have to suffer through at the supermarket checkout. The weird thing about this little tidbit is that it’s only a secret because very few human beings (Latter-day Saints included) want to utter the words. We’re scared. We’re scared of what it means and we’re scared of its implications for us personally. We’re scared that it’s going to require that we make some changes that we’ve tried to make before repeatedly and failed.
The Secret About Sex Is Just Three Small Words
The secret about sex consists of three small words, only five syllables. In the year 2013, this secret is bold, even revolutionary. It flies in the face of conventional wisdom and current social mores. Make yourself a nice steaming cup of mint tea to help you stay calm, sit down and get ready for a huge shock. Ready? Here it is:
Sex is optional.
OK, pick yourself up off the floor and let’s talk about it. So why is it such a secret? Somehow, somewhere, somebody uttered a lie and humankind seized on the lie as if it came from the mouth of God. The lie smothered the truth because people wanted to believe the lie. The lie was also a mere four words–and only four syllables. A universe, however, gapes between the lie and the truth. The lie is this: Sex is a need.
Now I’m talking about sex as it concerns individuals, not the human race for which sex is a need. The race can only survive if it procreates. But as for you and me and everyone we will ever know: at any given moment, sex is optional.
Difference Between Wants and Needs
To add a little muscle to the statement, I’ll say this: “Sex is optional. I won’t die if I don’t get it.” By the raise of hands, how many of you know of someone who died from not having sex? I note that the room is entirely silent. Not one hand is raised. Nobody knows of anyone who died from not having sex because it has never happened. Sex is not a need.
If something is needful, you will die if you don’t get it. Food is a need. Water is a need. Shelter is a need. I argue that a healthy relationship with God and other human beings is a need. If you were shipwrecked on a deserted island, you would die within a few days without water. You would die within a few weeks without food. You would die within a few years without that healthy companionship with God and others human beings. But you would not die on your deserted island without sex.
The Source of the Big Lie
Want to guess who suggested that sex was a need? Hint: Starts with an S and rhymes with Layton (I had to get my Utah reference in there). Why? Because he knew that once something changes from being viewed as optional to being seen as needful, people quickly become willing to cross moral boundaries to get that needful thing.
Would you steal food and water to feed your starving children? I would. Would you break down the door of a cabin in the mountains you didn’t own to save your children from freezing to death in a blizzard? I would. I think everyone would. Morality shifts when it comes to needful things. We do what is necessary to stay alive.
Would you go to any lengths, cross any boundaries, tell any lies–to get sex? I used to be willing to do that. Why? Because I’m a sex addict and addiction tells the addict’s brain that he’ll die without his drug. Almost from the time I was old enough to understand what sex was, my mind told me it was a needful thing. I would die if I didn’t get it. It wasn’t a twenty-four-hour-a-day obsession, but when life got hard or painful, my addicted brain self-medicated and checked out into a fantasy world where I went in search of my drug, lust.
Dying Without Sex…Has Never Happened
Sex and pornography addicts really do believe that they’ll die without sex. If they’re not in recovery, they won’t admit this to anyone else or even to themselves. But deep down in their hearts, a single statement is lavishly embroidered with gold thread in an elaborate tapestry which has been hermetically sealed against the elements and placed in a high-security fire- and water-proof vault. That statement is this: “I will die if I don’t have sex!” For addicts, sex is a needful thing and without the freeing truth that comes in recovery, we continue to believe this lie until the day we do die–but never from lack of sex.
Since we addicts view sex as a needful thing, that view skews our perception of reality. Since we are desperate to stay alive, we are also willing to tell lies. Collectively, we have been telling lies for so many centuries now that the rest of society has come to accept our lies as truth. One of the biggest lies is that “men have needs.” Big, strong, healthy heterosexual men have needs and it is the duty of women (who apparently don’t have the same needs) to service those needs. Really? Big, strong heterosexual men (BSHM) will die if women don’t give them sex?
Now the BSHM would, or course, never actually die if the women let them down. This is because BSHM can always resort to self-sex to keep themselves alive until a woman can be located and compelled to perform her function of keeping men alive. Thank goodness for self-sex or men would have perished a long time ago. After all, sex is a need; men have needs.
I am saddened when I hear of bishops counseling women to “be there to take care of your husband’s needs.” Our bishop told my wife that very thing in 1995. He didn’t know any better, but it nearly drove my poor wife insane when this bishop suggested that my porn consumption had something to do with her failure to give me enough sex. Apparently she wasn’t taking care of my needs. After all, I wouldn’t have been looking at porn and masturbating if she had, right? I had no choice! I had to do it to stay alive. Sex is a need.
Please Educate Yourselves About Addiction!
Fast forward eighteen years to 2013. We received an email last night from a woman whose bishop told her just yesterday that she needed to “be there” to service the needs of her poor porn-addicted husband.
Bishops! Stop! Stop! Stop saying this to women! Stop! No man has ever stopped looking at porn and masturbating just because his wife started having more sex with him! Stop! Stop! Stop! No more! Educate yourselves about the nature of addiction!
There is too much clear information available to you today for you to be saying that kind of thing to women. Do you have any idea how that makes women feel? Do you realize that you are setting them both up for failure? Do you think that in the hereafter, women are going to have to continue “servicing the lustful needs” of their husbands so their husbands don’t get kicked out of the celestial kingdom for engaging telestial behavior?
Stop! Stop! Stop! Educate yourselves! We need more from you, bishops! We rely on you too much for you to be giving this kind of advice in 2013! Read something! Read anything about addiction! Talk to an addict in recovery. Talk to the wife or husband of an addict in recovery! Quit buying into the lie!
I no longer buy into the lie. Neither does my wife. Many of our friends no longer buy into the lie. Most of these friends learned to reject the lie from attending meetings of Sexaholics Anonymous and S-Anon.
We now embrace that simple but godly truth: Sex is optional. We know we won’t die if we don’t get it. Do you have any idea how much peace and serenity distills on the hearts and minds of those who come to believe that sex is optional? It feels great!
There are some important corollaries to this truth. They are going to anger a lot of LDS porn addicts but they are also going to save a lot of Mormon women from the insanity inflicted on LDS wives of addicts in past generations.
Truths: Sex is optional. If a man is addicted to porn consumption or some other lust-driven behavior, no amount of sex with his wife will ever fix his problem. Never has. Never will. Sex addicts objectify their wives, basically treating them like sex tools to satisfy their lust. Objectification makes women go crazy. It destroys their confidence and self-esteem. It makes them miserable. It wrecks marriages.
It’s OK to Say No
So, if you are the wife of a sex addict, here’s what you now know: You know that engaging in lust-driven sex with your husband won’t stop him from acting out with himself or others. Never has. Never will. In fact, it is making him even sicker in his addiction. More importantly, you know that this lust-driven sex with him is also destroying you. Lust-driven sex is devouring you and him and your marriage.
And now you know secret about sex: that sex is optional. Neither of you will die without it. This means you can and should (!) stop having sex with the sex addict! It’s OK! He won’t die! I promise! If you stop having sex with him, you will stop contributing to the lust obsession that is destroying his health and sanity and you will stop engaging in behavior that wrecks your self-esteem. And no one will die!
Lots of LDS women are now doing this very thing. They are looking their addict husband’s straight in the eye and they are saying, “No more! You will never treat me like a piece of meat ever again! I am taking a stand to protect myself from your sexual train wreck! You have an addiction. Your brain is broken. Only God and a recovery program can fix you–and that will only happen if you become willing to do whatever it takes.
“I Want Lust-Free Intimacy or Nothing at All!”
“I am done with sex with you. It was always lust-driven anyways. I have learned from others who know a lot more about addiction recovery than you or I and they assure me that lust-free intimacy kicks the stuffing out of lust-driven sex. I wouldn’t know. You brought your addiction into our marriage with you. Lust-driven sex is the only kind of sex we’ve ever known. Now I know there’s something way more satisfying–that’s what I want.
“Even though you love me, your addiction to lust has always dominated our sex together and your sex with yourself (or others) when we’re not together. Your addiction to lust has made sex with you impossible for me right now and maybe forever.
“I love you but I will not allow your addiction to destroy me. Get help. The recovering addicts and the spouses of addicts I know have all told me that not one single LDS man has ever overcome addiction on his own. Not a single one! In contrast, a lot of LDS men are finding real recovery with the careful help of other addicts further along in recovery. They all go to a lot of meetings and they work hard at recovery.
“I want that for you and I want that for me. Deep inside we both know recovery is possible. And we both know lust-driven sex isn’t going to get us there. No more!”
This is a scary prospect for a woman who has spent years repeatedly trying and failing to control her husband’s behavior–with sex. Sex (lust, really) was so important to him that it seemed only logical for her to try to get her own “needful things” by alternately giving and withholding sex.
Getting Off the Crazy Train
Gratefully she now knows the secret about sex: that she can get off the crazy train and her husband won’t die. He will likely cry and whine like a baby because addicts are wounded and self-absorbed (and deep down inside believe they’ll die without sex). Hopefully, however, he will begin to associate with other recovering addicts. They will tell him, “Stand up and be a man! We’ll show you how.”
In time, God will change both of them. Christ’s atonement will heal them in the necessary ways. Maybe their marriage will survive. Maybe it won’t. Regardless, Christ will still be there as a balm in Gilead, healing the truly needful things as Heavenly Father sees them. Their desperate and fearful pleas for God’s help and forgiveness will gradually transform to joyful prayers of gratitude for His having helped and forgiven them.
All of this becomes possible when addicts and spouses and priesthood leaders embrace the simple truth that sex is optional.
Image credit: By Tatyana (originally posted to Flickr as Secret Tunnel…) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons