Marty Romero

Discovering my masturbation myths

Something to Hide

I remember the summer when I discovered masturbation. It was an incredible three months that came to an end in September at the start of a new school year. I recall the anxiety vividly that I felt over not being able to enjoy quiet mornings romancing myself while mom and my sister were at work. I must have been eleven or twelve that summer. At that age, I hadn’t heard the term “masturbation”, and if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to associate it with the beautifully raw gesture that left me numb with joy when I was finished.

I grew up in a household that was NOT sex-friendly. By that, I mean that sex was a topic not to be spoken of openly. We ignored the “sexy” scenes in R rated movies and pretended that we didn’t understand the innuendos of TV commercials. No one ever told me that sex or masturbation was wrong, but it’s a lesson that I learned regardless. I learned that it was NOT ok to talk about sex, and to hide my natural curiosity about it.

My Story

I was raised in the Mormon Church. My mother is a beautiful traditional Mexican mom. Single that she was, she raised my sister and I as best she knew how. What that meant in practical terms is that others imparted a lot of our ethical and moral lessons. Hence, many of those lessons came from the Mormon Church or it’s members. Mormonism teaches implicitly and explicitly that masturbation is not only wrong but sinful. I grew up listening to leaders of the Mormon Church say things like:

…If you are tempted to masturbate, think of having to bathe in a tub of worms, and eat several of them as you do the act.

About a year after I discovered my personal joys. The bishop in the Mormon Church congregation that we attended took it upon himself to gather all the young men twelve to fifteen years old, and graphically describe what masturbation was and how it made young boys “evil.” He described something very different from my experience.

This “man of God” was telling me that what I was doing was a “sexual sin” and that “sexual sins” ranked next to murder in the eyes of God. To me, the pleasure that I derived during my quiet mornings at home were special. The sad thing about this experience is that it encapsulated the attitude towards sex and masturbation by everyone who was raising me, and it changed me.

I was taught that my bishop was Jesus Christs’ mouthpiece. And he was telling me that I was “evil.” So, some of my very first lies were to myself. I must have somehow convinced myself that I wasn’t “evil” and only a lie to myself could accomplish that.

Looking back, I wish that I had someone assure me then that:

  • The LDS Church leaders were wrong.
  • That like anything, masturbation could become an unhealthy behavior, but that it is neither evil nor sinful.
  • That being highly sexual and sensitive was not something that I needed to hide.

It seems clear in retrospect that a lot of my challenges, and hangups with sex and intimacy today go back to those early lessons. I am just now beginning to understand how damaging it was for me not to have a space where I could be open about sex. And by that, I don’t mean that I wish I could have been more promiscuous or sexual, just more open.

What I wish, is that my mother and my Church leaders would have sat through this beautiful TED talk. Thank you Dr. Teesha Morgan.