I’m female, newly married and struggle with masturbation

“I am so greatful to have some good, sound, and frank information on these topics.  I feel like I need some help and am not sure where else to turn.  I have struggled with masurbation since I was a kid and have tried for years to overcome it.  I have talked with many different bishops, been to two different councelors, and attended the addiction recovery program a couple of times.  I got married about 9 months ago and hoped that would help quell some of the sexual frustraion that I felt.  Although there has been some improvement and I only slip up every 2-3 months, I am still feeling like I am in the clutches of this stupid sin.  I feel so guilty when I think of my sweet loving husband and how it hurts him and our relationship.  He is so compassionate and understanding, but really strongly encourages me to go to the addiction recovery program because it’s the only thing that helped him recover from pornography and he feels it will help me.  I’ve been a few times and feel so out of place with all these males talking about there porn addiction and all the wives who talk about how hurt they are.  I don’t feel like there is any other female out there who is struggling like me, or at least not in an organized group.  My bishop said he didn’t think I needed to go to them anyway, but I want to be humble enough to do whatever it takes.
It is really hard not to give in because sex is not all that I thought it would be.  I struggle to feel any arousal at all and have tried all sorts of tricks, lingerie, and positive thinking.  My husband and I are very open and honest about everything and I try to tell him what feels good to me or show him how to get me going.  He is so patient and what he is doing should work, but it only does occasionally. I hope I haven’t conditioned my brain to only respond to my touch, have I ruined myself forever?  Every once in a while I can orgasim, but it takes so long for me to get there and feel more exhausted and raw by the time it happens it’s not as enjoyable as I’d hoped.  It is even more frustrating lately because I’m pregnant and for some reason sex hurts.  I feel raw and itchy for days after attemping sex and I can’t focus on anything else which chases away any chance of orgasim.  I don’t have a yeast infection, my gyno just says that I’m more sensitive in that area now that I’m pregnant and to use a good lubricant (which I already was).  So, after many frustrating attempts at sex and orgasims, I am left feeling edgey and unfulfilled and end up masturbating to releive some of that tension, which leaves me feeling guilty, ashamed, and have a low self esteem.
I am still reading the book and am sure there is some good advice on all of this, but I am just feeling really bad right now and needed to vent.  Maybe there is someone else out there like me?
Thanks for listening and for any advice you might have.”

Dear Reader,

First of all, thank you for honoring us by sharing your struggles and frustrations.  Second, I apologize for the length, but there is a lot to say.  This topic is especially difficult to discuss — especially within the church — and especially for women.  There seems to be a general misconception that only teenage boys and men are masturbating, but that just isn’t the case.  There is also the idea that masturbation only happens with pornography which isn’t necessarily true either.  Although you may feel like you are the only one experiencing this, you are not alone, there just aren’t too many forums to talk about masturbation.

There are few things we are curious about.  1) Do you remember how old you were when you began masturbating to deliberately achieve orgasm?  Many children masturbate simply because of the pleasurable and comforting feelings they experience as a result and is part of normal human development.  The fact that you discovered masturbation isn’t unusual at all and probably provided you way to cope with the general fears, anxieties, and uncertainties of childhood.

2)  At what point did you begin to feel shame and/or embarrassment regarding your sexuality?  Again, small children discovering the joys of their own bodies generally experience just that — joy and pleasure.  At some point masturbation became something you felt you had to “get rid of” and “sin.”  Was there a talk?  A lesson? A moment when a parent “caught” you?  Unfortunately our culture hasn’t handled sexuality in general, female sexuality, and masturbation very well.  The message is pretty much, “Don’t do it and if you do, you’re bad.”  Messages like that cause feelings of deep shame and embarrassment and do nothing to promote healthy feelings of simple exploration.  And then it becomes something like this, “Every time you think about doing it, sing a hymn.”  Pretty soon you’re singing hymns all the time because you’re so focused on “not thinking about it” that all you’re able to do IS think about it — especially when those same hymns get sung in church!

3)  Do you find it difficult to be emotionally, mentally and spiritually intimate with your husband as well?  You mentioned that it seems to be affecting your sexual relationship with your husband — which it definitely can.  If someone has masturbated consistently during their lifetime, it can be a challenging transition to go from being intimate with yourself, to being intimate with another person.  There is a lack of control, vulnerability, and trust that sometimes feels uncomfortable.  It actually becomes easier to have sex with yourself because that relationship is more controlled, predictable and safe. You know what you like and how you like it.  If you’ve masturbated in a way that makes it difficult for your husband to re-create the same action, that can also make things harder.   And you’re right, your brain has been trained to respond to your touch, to a possible time limit, and the anxiety surrounding it.  All those things are difficult to re-create.

4)  You mentioned you’ve tried to show your husband how to “get you going” but would you ever consider just taking control of your sexual experience and masturbating yourself during sex with your husband?  It’s one thing to show him and then have him try, but it can also be helpful to actually masturbate yourself so he can truly understand what you want and need.  Remember, you have a right to sexual pleasure. Period.

On the other hand, it’s not “wrong” to not achieve orgasm every time you have sex either.  One aspect of masturbation is an element of “guaranteed outcomes” which shifts when you move your solo sexuality to another person.  There is a learning curve which may result in non-orgasming sexual experiences.  As a culture, we often mark a good sexual experience with an orgasmic outcome.  Shifting your expectations can help and treating this as an opportunity for someone else to get to know your body as intimately as you do.  There is also a reprogramming of the brain, the body, your responses, etc.

If you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself to orgasm because you feel like your husband expects you to or you feel like you should, that can lead to difficulty.  Orgasm is about relaxing, giving in, and responding.

5)  Have you ever felt the Spirit — either in a meeting, during prayer, at the temple, etc… — even though you have masturbated your whole life?  Please pay attention to that.  I’m not saying that God is telling you to just go for it, but I am suggesting that God loves you in all your forms — all of them — including your sexual form and that resolving some of the shame surrounding your masturbation can actually begin to help you control it in a meaningful way for you.  Take it to God and talk with Him about it.  Let Him soothe some of the raw feelings in your soul surrounding this issue.

6)  Pregnancy and postpartum are another animal altogether.  Sex during pregnancy varies from woman to woman and changes almost daily as your body undergoes drastic physical, hormonal, and emotional changes.  Your vulva becomes more swollen as your blood volume increases throughout your body which can make your clitoris extremely sensitive.  The pain could also be coming from the head of your husband’s penis banging against your cervix.  As the baby positions itself in your pelvis you could either be carrying it lower or have some varicose veins inside your vagina that are now swollen and painful.  You mentioned your husband is supportive and patient.  Hopefully he will understand what your body is doing right now and allow the two of you to explore other ways of connecting physically.  Again, masturbating yourself, or mutual masturbation could be an option.

7) Keep talking!  One element that can often be overlooked is the direct and indirect communication that happens in the bedroom.  It can seem “unsexy” to talk about what is working and what is not for you both. Nerves and anxiety will inevitably be a part of this growing process with you and your spouse!  That is an element that makes it exciting, rich and real.

8)  Are you frustrated with the fact that you are looking for help to overcome masturbation and we keep leading you toward it?  Masturbation has been a part of your life for a long time.  It has provided you comfort, pleasure, and has acted as a coping mechanism.  Like any other coping mechanisms — drugs, food, alcohol — they can become disruptive at some point and need to be reigned in.  However, the shame you feel surrounding this issue can act as a block.  Working with someone to help resolve your shame can help you look at this side of yourself from a non-judgemental lens and really see what it is about for you.  We often quickly judge ourselves and think “This is bad. I am bad” and feel scared and hesitant to simply look at with a spirit of curiosity to get information so you can then act instead of react.  This can enhance your self-esteem, sense of worth and increase your sexual power as well.

Wishing you luck, courage and growth –

Alisha and Kristin

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