Lds Eros: Dear Anonymous


A while back, I think the year or two after Lady Steed and I were married (read: c. 2001), I wrote a few paragraphs outlining my plans for a sex book for teenagers. I never got very far (for several reasons), but I suppose those efforts have informed the LDS Eros posts I wrote last year. I intended the book to be straight-talking, respectful, probably LDScentric, heavy on the modesty (without confusing modesty with refusing to be direct), and applicable to the lives of the target audience.

Here, I thought I'd done okay on all those goals, though my target audience had certainly changed. But then, on my most recent post, a heartfelt comment from someone whose demographic I was missing entirely. And I realized how much I've strayed from my original goal of applicability, usefulness, relevance, and into the sort of annoying philosophizing that is useless to people still in a survey course. In other words, I've been writing about sex from a silly gradschool perspective. That is, on many levels, utterly useless. And I apologize for anyone who, like my dear Anonymous, stopped by looking for good information and found nothing.

I recently read a post about the nation's perspective on Mormon sexuality (in brief, originally we were mad horndogs and now we are madly repressed). Like any simplification, this is too simple. Something we as humans are quick to forget is that groups are composed of disparate individuals. Groups are not homogeneous. And with something as intensely personal as sexuality, we should assume heterogeneity.

(On the other hand, there are many similarities between individuals and couples as well. Necessarily. There are only so many organs and so many possible positions. We all have the same minibrain in our spinal cord telling us what to do. But to reduce sexuality to animilistic physical responses misses the point, don't you agree?)

I think the best way for me to proceed here is to just hold a discussion with Anonymous. So let's frame things that way:

Anonymous: this may be bad place to be bearing my soul i dont know but i have read your blog since you started these erotic posts and this on is to me the most distressing because it makes me to afraid of what is ahead of me

Theric: I don't know if it needs to be said, but this distressed me to read. I never wanted to do harm. I hope that we can do some correction here, now.

An: i am your original good mormon boy who served a mission and came home and is going to byu and wanting to get married and not having iny luck that way but not giving up. the words to GOD SPEED THE RIGHT take a special meening to desperate byu singles haha

Th: :)

An: but seriously i am scared of the idea of sex. sometimes i am happy that i have never been in a serious relationship because i know they sometimes lead to marry and i just don't know that i'm up to it. i read posts like this and i think what good is sex if i'm the only one enjoying it.

Th: This may sound like an empty platitude, but if this alone were your concern, I would say stop worrying. J. Reuben Clark (molaq) quote? "Remember by If you fear, fear not. If you fear not, fear." The fact that you "think what good is sex if i'm the only one enjoying it" suggests you will be generous and selfless as a lover. Not to speed things up or put pressure on you, but if that sentiment is honest, I would say you';; be fine --- at least in the realm of marital giveandtake.

An: no one ever gave me the sex talk and i started masturbating before i even knew what sex was.

Th: At the risk of sounding too much like the article I already liked / disliked here, I suspect your experience here is common. The body has a will and it takes knowledge to cope properly, balancing the different needs. I would tend to argue you are blameless on this front.

An: i had no idea what my body was doing and i was scared to ask. i was addicted hardcore for very long time. still am sometimes. hard to shake it. but masterbation sucks because its just frustrating and leaves me feeling sick and lonely and dirty and sinful. i have confessed to four different bishops and my mission president and evey time i say i think i'm done it turns out i'm not. sexuality is to me a plague. i think of sex in marriage and if i can't pleasure my own woman i could just stay single and masturbate and feel like trash and go to hell.

i don't feel really that way but it seems like why not.

Th:: Interesting facts like how porn is in many ways a chemical addiction and all that suggests aren't helpful, huh? It doesn't change anything. You don't want excuses, you want solutions. And what do I have to offer? Not much, not much. In ten years your sex drive will diminish and habits will be easier to kick? Not helpful. God sees your desire to leave it all behind? Not helpful. Your ****in faith isn't ***in strong enough? The opposite of helpful.

Any situation where you're left feeling helpless and stripped of agency is going to be depressing and engender hopelessness and fear and selfloathing. The opportunities to hate oneself are legion. The odds of breaking through to that greener grass seem slim. And if misery if my lot, why not do it alone? Why bring my miserable state unto another, spreading it through years which, for her, could have been happy.

(Incidentally, have you ever read Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground? I recommend it.)

But you know what, Anonymous? You're wrong. No matter how much this beam is obstructing your sight, you are still a worthy human being, a child of God, an heir of salvation, a god in embryo. You may be on rough terrain, but if you stick to the path, you will still arrive, loved and beloved, saved and exalted. Never tell yourself it's too late. That's a load of crap and you need to know that.

The way he stares at the camera can be unnerving, but no one believes more fully or teaches better that you, Anonymous, that you are still welcomed in the arms of Christ than Richard G Scott. Go read what he has to say.

I don't feel obliged to tell you that a series of prayers will make all your problems disappear forever. You know as well as anyone how grossly that oversimplifies things. The Primary-taught formulas that we still read every month in the Friend of prayer-comma-miracle-exclamation-point are charming but not always reflective of true spiritual progression. Mortality is a time of hardship, purposefully so. If we never suffered, we would never know joy (cfd Redoubt).

Wallowing, however, doesn't do much good. Me telling you to think positive does less. So I can't force you, but please believe me that there is always hope, there is always forgiveness, there is always progression. Don't get stuck in the down, but look over the coming decades and believe that in your longterm, things improve.

And you'd better believe it. Hope had better underlie any momentary darkness.

And it does. That's the nature of being human and a descendant of deity.

An: give me your thoughts. speak to us singles. what is it we ought to know. i took a marriage prep class and was told that if i read books about sex before i was engaged it was the same as looking at pornography. well i know all about porn and don't want any of that.

Th: Eh, yes and no. There are lots of obvious responses to this kind of overstatement, but really what it comes down to is how an individual work affects the individual reader. Honesty is the key here.

Honesty doesn't mean self-accusation, it means moderation. Admitting faults and weaknesses but not condemning thyself to hell for said faults and weaknesses.

I'm not talking about lvove-the-sinner-hate-the-sin either. The problem with that plan is that sins are, at present, part of us. We can't hate our sins without starting to hate ourselves. I'm not suggesting we embrace our sins, but if we spend all our time hating we get stuck in the quagmire and there's nothing to do but sink deeper.

Because at least the hate is real. At least when I hate myself, I feel.

Not healthy.

Remember you are good and worthy of love. Let the problems fit into the framework of love. Then we can progress. Then we can progress. Then we will progress.

An: i bet this post makes you uncomfortable to read. i bet you'd like to just ignore it. but you can't. you can't any of you who subscribe to the comments on this blog. you all talk but you never say anything for me. just each other. just say yeah i wish we had known.

Th: This is the accusation that hurts the most. But I want to assure you first that no, it did not make me uncomfortable---not in the way I think you mean. And I never had a desire to ignore it: just fear that when I addressed it I wouldn't say anything worthwhile; maybe I haven't.

So what was distressing was that we all talk but only for each other. Which was exactly 100%ly true. I had completely forgotten my original, long-ago plan of writing a book for those who are still awaiting the application. Ie, the unmarried. Instead I was writing to people more or less in my same station of life. And while not bad, probably not the greatest good. I stand here justly upbraided and I assure you I will try, in any future posts, not to forget again.

An: i dont ask my family cuz they all think i'm dirty anway. i ask you because you dont know me and i don't know who you are so we're all just anonymous friends here.


Th: I can't speak about your family, but I would encourage you to secondguess yourself about them. Please: never assume that in your dark moments that anyone else feels the same. There may be a few, it's that kind of world, but generally this is not true.

I don't know how well I've addressed your concerns, but I will say a few things I know without even knowing you:

1. You are not irretrievably lost. Just forget about that. Email me if you ever feel that way (my address is up and to your left if you're on my blog) and I will correct you.

2. For all your uncertainty, your subtext reveals that you are a good human being and have the potential of loving and serving a spouse. You wouldn't have the concerns and worries and stresses you have if your core wasn't striving to succeed and to make the world more beautiful.

3. Don't let today's errors dictate tomorrow's trajectory. Hitting bird poop --- or even a cat --- or even a road sign --- doesn't mean your car is going to crash. You'll still make it to Mt Rushmore, no worries.

4. The themes of this life are hope, love and salvation. Sometimes the cacophony seems to overwhelm them, but when the storm passes, these themes remain. Pure, soft, quite, eternal. And if sex is an instrument, it can play these themes or it can play in discord. Ultimately that is our choice. But it's a choice we get to make and remake until we finally get it right.


  1. I'm single, and I've enjoyed your lds-eros posts. I just mentally transpose "if I were married" onto it all. I've read a few lds-centric books about marriage, and mostly found them to be bland, dull, nonspecific and basically not helpful at all. (Just for Newlyweds--sucked.) Your posts have been better than that, imo.

    Mostly I'm just fascinated by this sexuality/society/religion thing. I'm fortunate that I think I've been able to figure things out in a healthy way for myself. That's taken a fair bit of seeing what other people have to say.

  2. I think that, in general, you've done a fine job in how you've addressed things.

    If you don't mind, though, I'll throw my hat into the ring with some of the nitty gritty. And you, anonymous, should bear in mind that my views on sex and sexuality are, well, a bit more liberal than your bishop's. Just sayin'.

    In regards to masturbation, I remember feeling beat up about it all the time with all the chastity talks and sermons and Packer's You're Going to Hell If You Do It and all. (I had the double whammy of homosexuality thrown on top of it. Joy.) But my experience and the anecdotal experience of friends (both gay and straight) is that masturbation generally tapers off to if-not-nonexistent-at-least-pretty-close once you've started having actual sex. Don't take this as license to go out and start having sex willy nilly, but take it as a hope that yes, it'd be good to curb the behavior and exercise some self-control now, but you should not be "afflicted" with it forever and ever.

    Sex is a good thing. A beautiful thing. But it's best when you know what you're getting out of it physically, emotionally, and even spiritually.

  3. Anonymous,

    I remember your post and I remember being very disturbed by it, because I suspect you are representative of a far larger population than anybody suspects.

    One thing that bothered me is that your post read as if it were written by a 14-year-old, not an RM at BYU. I think that's telling. Your thinking about sex should have matured with time, but instead, you're still stuck in FOR THE STRENGTH OF YOUTH et al. What it says to me is that you haven't had the resources to mature past that, either in print or in person.

    However, what bothered me the most was that you think your masturbation is an addiction.

    First, physiologically, celibacy (especially at your age) is not normal. We're built to procreate and to do it early. That's not going to go away.

    Second, your physiological responses to A) hormones and B) stimuli aren't going to go away just because you're not having sex.

    Third, I'm going to infer that because you're trying so hard not to feel dirty, etc., that you perhaps don't masturbate that much. I could be entirely off base, but I don't think I am.

    What your post said to me was that somebody in the church isn't getting the job done. Chastity is difficult enough, but without some real information other than "you're going to hell" (and yeah, that's the subtext, let's be real), it's its own hell.

    Get this book:

    Multiple and Replenish: Mormon Essays on Sex and Family

    And...I'm sorry for your situation. Wasn't so long ago I was in your situation that I can't remember and hurt along with you.

  4. .

    Thanks for your comments.

    I don't have much to add to what you've said, but although I don't dismiss masturbation as a sinless activity, I do think we need to rethink our discourse about it. It is, in one form or another, universal. And yes it can become a controlling habit. But we shouldn't stop loving ourselves over it. Something's not right if that's the result.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Wow. I just deleted my comment because it was HUGE! I am going to write my own sex post and link it so I don't hijack Th.'s post and comments.

  7. .

    Not a concern here, Celia. I hope you'll repost it when you link to your own post.

  8. Ok, here is my lengthy response that I turned into a post. If you want, Th., you can copy and paste the original response that got emailed to you. But the post I made was a little more complete.

  9. This was a great post, including the comments.

    As I think about changing how sex is talked about in a church context, that seems overwhelming to me. How do you change a culture? It was my experience that it was especially dense at BYU. Moving north helped a lot, even though it's not that great a distance. Very different culture, though.

    The Franchise and I were lucky to have a bishop who was about teaching the gospel and helping the ward understand the gospel, not trying to make sure that we were following the Good Mormon Checklist that I've felt from so many other bishops. It was nice to have a bishop who encouraged us, as an engaged couple, to talk about sex among other issues that married couples deal with on a regular basis.

  10. Well. I don't really know how comfortable I am representing all single, male, BYU RMs, but it is my demographic, so, for what it's worth--I approve this post.

    I don't really have anything to say particularly, but I thought that, ya know, as your younger brother and a patron of your blog I'd, ya know, tell you that you didn't completely miss your mark....

  11. .

    Well, thank you, Schmett.

  12. .

    Now that you've read all this and Celia's post too, go read the comments her post garnered.

  13. I must admit I have not been following the lds-eros posts, honestly, this is the first one I have read. But I feel for anonymous and wonder if the church is aware of the self-destructive path so many members are on. I do not blame the church, at least not directly, but I do blame over zealous members who try to impose their own interpretations on others, eg the teacher who said sex books were equal to porn, FOR REAL! What kind of marriage prep class is that? mormon culture is destroying the church from the inside, mormon sexuality is only one faucet of a huge problem, I hope the Brotheren are aware.

    Anonymous, stop beating yourself up and stop listening to prudes like that teacher. If you want my advice, go buy a sex book right now and start reading (understanding will chase away fear)!! Here is a link that should beg some thought. I don't know if he is right or wrong but it is a point of view you never here.

  14. .

    Now that was an interesting link. He makes some compelling arguments. I can't agree with him completely, but I do think we need some middle ground somewhere. Obviously, when we have self-loathing, we are not being fully Christian. I wonder if all this explains Utah's porn problems?

  15. Hahahahahaha. I just tried to follow your link, Pallas, and the BYU internet filter blocked me.

    That's beautiful.

    I'll have to check it out when I get back to my apartment.

  16. .

    The site also has articles about how couples couldn't have good sex until they ditched their garments and church membership etc, so I can't say I'm surprised.

  17. .

    Actually, looking closer at the site, it's for "recovering" Mormons---lots of personal experiences, anti-stuff couched in very polite wordings, made up explanations for symbols, etc. That said, the article linked to seems sincere and does make good points. I do wonder if the author a) is what he says he is b) wrote it for this site (and if not, how did they get it?) and if so c) why didn't he choose another forum?

  18. I did not vouch for the rest of the site...I only said it was an article that should beg some thought.

    I think the articles Th. mentioned of the couples who couldn't have sex until they ditched their garments are laughable, unless they are true, then they are quite sad. They show a phenomenal lack of understanding in the gospel and such insecurity in members that even when other members aren't around they still do what they think the others think they should do, regardless of whether or not the others actually think that way. Does that make sense? Anyway, that is not the point...or may be it is...

  19. .

    Oh, I didn't accuse you of that. It just makes me wonder about the provenance of the article under question.

    And I agree with your assessment of the other article. And what bugs me most about it is how they treat their experience as universal. This is common in people who leave the church. They are upset because they felt "everyone" felt they should behave a certain way and now they feel that everyone should behave as they do. In other words, they assume everyone has the same hangups. Which is ridiculous.

    I've talked with people about sleeping (not sex, but sleeping) many times and there are plenty of people who refuse to touch their spouse when they sleep, or like to cuddle but can't do it naked because it makes them sweat, etc etc etc. False universalism --- assuming everyone is the same as you --- leads to a loss of agency. Ever'body's differ'nt, folks.