The Boca Raton ward once hosted a stake Relief Society conference. One of the popular classes was “How To Keep the Romance Alive in Your Marriage.” Fun! Exciting! Romantic!

Sex Bad - Married Good

In my late 20s with two kids, I settled in toward the back and began listening. At one point the teacher explained her method. It went something like this:

I light a candle in a special candle holder that makes a butterfly shadow on the wall. Sometimes I put rose petals on the sheets. That's how I let him know I'm in the mood.

From the back row a friend of mine muttered, “Why would you want to?” Much giggling and head nodding ensued.

I went home confused on two counts:

  1. Was I supposed to have a signal? Should there be a coordinated plan of attack? Could I afford that many flowers?
  2. “Why would you want to?”? What???????

When I got home, I asked Sam if he would rather that I orchestrate things more. I said, “Is there something wrong with just saying, ‘Hey, baby. Let's go!'?” I also asked him it I was too, um, interested.

“Honey, you're every man's dream.” 

Now, I'm not under any delusion that his statement was (or is) true. But his assurance that what I was doing was perfect for him — was what I needed to hear. Once secure in the knowledge that I didn't need to change all my “tactics,” I thought a great deal about the why-would-you-want-to-have-sex-with-your-husband “joke” and all the affirmation it received.

Often this perceived lack of sexual desire in LDS women is attributed to being told it's a “no no” during all the formative years.

A pretty common issue in LDS marriages is problems in the bedroom – we are told “sex is bad sex is bad sex is bad” for the first 20-odd years of our life, and then we get married in the temple and it’s supposed to be like a switch has flipped. And it’s not. LDS women, in particular, struggle a LOT with this and many of us have extremely unsatisfying sex lives (and it’s supposed to be the purest expression of love between a husband and wife).

I have heard this, but I'm not sure it bears out in reality. Do LDS women (or other women who are taught abstinence before marriage) generally dislike sex?

If they actually do, were they really told sex was “bad”? I'm pretty old and although, yes, I was warned pretty strongly (and sometimes fallaciously) in church to stay away from sex (or anything like unto it) until I was married, I don't recall ever being told it (meaning the sex itself) was bad, icky, yucky, nasty, awful, or otherwise horrific.

We teach kids that sex is powerful because the intimacy binds people together and has the power to procreate. Because of that power, it is best used within the confines of a loving, committed, exclusive relationship. For the purposes of LDS doctrine, that relationship is a sanctioned marriage between a man and a woman.

And, yes, we teach them that outside these boundaries, it's apt to cause you a host of problems, but afterward, go right ahead.

I don't  have a problem teaching people the “light switch mentality” because we teach similar things all the time in other areas of life and we don't claim the same damage to the psyche.

We teach children that they can't:

  • Get baptized until old enough to be accountable, but anytime after that, it's a go.
  • Drive until they are of legal age and have learned the associated laws and skills to drive safely, after that we encourage them to be transportationally independent.
  • Date until they meet a minimum age standard, should be mature enough, know proper dating etiquette, and keep relationships within appropriate bounds, then push them to get out there in the game.
  • Leave home until they are mature enough to care for themselves and make sound decisions, then we nudge them toward adulthood.
  • Brush their own teeth until they are able to do a thorough job and we make it clear that day can't come soon enough.
  • Choose their meals until they have the capacity (if not the will!) to understand the health impact, then we assign them to cook for the family.
  • Have access to (even earned) funds until of an accountable age
  • Take prescription meds for recreation, only for proper medical use.
  • Pick flowers in their neighbors garden, but once they grow their own flowers in their own garden, they can pick to their heart's content.
  • Etc.

Given the power of sex for both good and harm, it seems logically consistent to have guidelines about its use whether you are religious or not. And given our belief that God has put these guidelines in place, furthers the argument. It seems that counseling kids (and adults) to reserve something so consequential for times/situations when it is most reasonable is a good thing all around.

Do you think we, as LDS youth leaders and adult teachers/counselors, generally teach chastity in problematic ways? Solutions? Ideas?