Human Sexuality Religious Panel

I was recently invited to attend an undergraduate human sexuality class as part of a religious panel where students would be able to ask representatives certain questions regarding sexuality.  I thought the questions the students came up with were well thought out and interesting.  They knew there would be representatives present from the following faiths: Judaism, Mormonism, Episcopalian, Non-denominational Christian and Catholic.

What are your thoughts about these questions?  Are you aware of our church’s stance on the questions asked?  Do you find your personal stances similar to or different from the stances the church takes?  The students who came up with these questions were largely in their late teens/early twenties.  Are these topics you include in your sexual education/conversation with your teen/adult children?

Human Sexuality Religious Panel Questions

Appropriateness of sexual behaviors before marriage:

  1. Is masturbation seen as wrong or sinful in your faith tradition? What about the use of pornography along with masturbation? What about pornography or strip clubs as a form of entertainment?
  2. Does your religion believe that pre-marital sex is wrong or sinful? If so, what constitutes sex? Is kissing before marriage okay? Heavy petting? Manual stimulation of the genitals? Oral sex? Anal sex? Where do you draw the line, and why is the line drawn there?
  3. Why is pre-marital sex considered wrong?
  4. Does the age of the people involved affect the appropriateness of pre-marital sex?
  5. Is it okay to have sexual thoughts or fantasies at a young age in your religion? (unclear what is meant by young age)
  6. (Applicable to those religions who perform baptisms) What sexual purity requirements are necessary to become baptized? Do people have to take abstinence oaths? What about those who have already had sex?
  7. How do you feel about sex education for young people?
  8. What about watching rated R movies or movies involving sexual content—is it okay to watch them? If so, at what age?

Appropriateness of sexual behaviors within marriage:

  1. Are open marriages or polygamous marriages recognized in your church? Why or why not?
  2. Is having a threesome or foursome okay if both partners consent to it?
  3. What if a person’s spouse has an accident or a medical condition rendering them incapable of having sex? If both spouse agree, would it be okay for the capable spouse to have a sexual relationship with someone else?
  4. Would your religious institution consider cybersex infidelity?
  5. How does your religion view pornography if used as a sex aid between two happily married people?
  6. Within your faith tradition, is forced sex within the confines of marriage okay? Does a wife give her body to her husband upon marriage and have sex with him whenever he wants regardless of her own desires?

Anatomical wonderings:

  1. How would your religion explain individuals who have chromosomal or hormonal abnormalities making them neither clearly male nor female? If a person is male with an XY chromosomal make up but his genitalia look feminine in appearance, would it be okay for him to engage in sex with a female? A male?
  2. What is the significance of circumcision (or not circumcising) in your religious tradition?
  3. Does your religion endorse sex change operations for transgendered individuals? How does your religion view transgendered people in the first place?

Sexual orientation:

  1. How does your religion view homosexuality? Would gay, lesbian, and bisexual people be restricted in their religious participation? Could they be leaders in your church?
  2. Does your church differentiate between a homosexual orientation and homosexual behavior? If a person has a homosexual orientation but remains celibate for his or her entire life, are they “off the hook?”
  3. Does your religion support gay/lesbian marriages? Civil unions?
  4. Do you think that laws regulating private sexual behavior (i.e. sodomy) are appropriate?

Gender issues:

  1. What does your religion see as the primary roles of men and women within the family?
  2. Does your religion allow women to lead entire congregations, or are they limited in what leadership roles they can assume?
  3. Does your religion endorse having separate standards for sexual purity for men and women? Is it more okay for a man to have sexual experiences outside of marriage than women?
  4. How does your religion view the use of contraception within marriage? Outside of marriage?
  5. What stance does your faith tradition take on the issue of abortion? What about the morning after pill?
  6. Why do most Mormon families send their boys off on missions?
  7. Are men who dress as women looked down on in your religion?

This and that:

  1. Does a woman have to be a virgin to become a nun? What if a man wants to become a priest but has had sex already? Why can’t Catholic [priests] marry?
  2. Does your religion have a minimum age for marriage? Why is it common in some faith traditions for people to get married at a much younger age than “average Americans?”
  3. Is it common for Mormon families to have a lot of kids? Why?
  4. When a woman is giving birth, is it okay for her to use pain medication?
  5. Is marrying someone within your own faith tradition a must?
  6. How does your religion view the hyper-sexuality of current American culture?
  7. At what point does your religion consider a fetish morally wrong?
  8. What is the purpose of sex from your faith tradition? Is its role solely to reproduce? Is it okay to have sex for reasons other than reproduction?
  9. How does your religion view artificial reproductive techniques, such as artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization?
  10. How does your religion view marriage after divorce?
  11. Have you seen an increase in the number of people having problems related to pornography or so called sex addiction?

  • Andrew

    One stance I disagree with the church on, or at least what seems to be communicated to me is about pornography. Succinctly I think that there is nothing inherrantly evil with most sexual acts depicted in pornography. In other words the physical mechanics of sex, even in pornography is a beautifull thing. Now the people involved may be breaking the law of chastity, they may be disrespecting each others bodies by not doing things out of love respect and within the bonds of marriage, but the physical acts? Unless it is acts that cause permanent harm to the body, I think none of the physical actions are evil. In the right place and time I think would be considered beautifull between two married individuals.

    What I am getting at is I don’t think pornography is evil because it depicts sex. I think there is a place for the appropriate depiction of sex to aid individuals in upholding the law of chastity. I think it is appropriate for researchers to study the physical sexual responses of the human body by using live subjects, and I think there is an appropriate place for nudity in media. Many would consider some of these situations as evil, and pornographic.

    Church members dont seem to have a problem with me taking my shirt off and running around in boxer short like swim trunks for swimming. Yet where walking through the house to get to my bedroom in a towel if seen by the same people would be scandelous for many. Nor do they seem to think it innappropriate for gymnasts to wear skin tight uniforms that would be in any other place considered sexual and immodest. Nor is it innappropriate for a doctor to examine genitalia to help heal a person, or prepare them for child birth. Yet throw sexual arousal into the mix and you have porn, and it becomes evil. To me nudity, nor sexual arrousal is evil when depicted in media to the right audience, in the right situation, for the appropriate purposes.

    I am trying to say I think there is an appropriate place for sex and nudity to be used in media to benefit our learning about our sexuality in a righteous and appropriate way. Wether that be for medical purposes, or to help prepare and aid individuals in exercising the beautifull and sacred gift of sexuality. And I don’t think this be restricted to married adults. However I find it inappropriate to use it as a way to prostitute the human body for the sole purpose of financial gain, or when done to inflict abuse, encourage disrespectfull relationships.

    Then again I am leaning towards Natasha’s view of masturbation being a beautifull tool from God to express and learn about sexuality in a safe and appropriate environment. I guess what I am getting at is I think we have misinterpreted the problem with depicting sex. That is not the problem. It is when people use it to abuse sacred gifts such as spouses, become addicted and unable to function without, or share it with people and in places that are innappropriate. Eg not appropriate as just a trivial form of entertainment.

    I know there are many parts of this that may seem unclear, and sound like I am endorsing the porn industry. I am not. I am saying that depicting sex, sexuality, and nudity is not always evil. And in my opinion until we can understand the problem of pornography is fueled more by a very disfunctional understanding of our sexuallity as children of God, then it is by evil people depicting sexual acts in innappropriate time and places we will probably see miniscule progress as a people with sexual indiscretions. Sex doesn’t make porn evil, abusing the sacred gift of sexuality makes the porn industry evil. But I think there is an appropriate time and place to depict sex for the appropriate purposes, or to study it medically, or for better sexual understanding.

    • M

      Interesting views – IMO there is a lot of validity in what you say, although of course despite your assurance at the end of your post, some will inevitably interpret it as endorsing pornography

      • Andrew

        Yeah, agreed. And that is one of the reasons I think they need voiced. Too much stigma around all depictions of sex being evil. I think one of the best tools to combat the abuse of sex in the media is to fight back with appropriate and righteous media on the topic.

  • Gail K

    Although this is a great set of questions to use to have discussions with our children. I am interested in hearing the answers you gave to those students that reflected the teachings of the Mormon Church. So curious.

  • Christine

    Is there any where on the web that we can here this discussion?

  • Phyllis

    I have sporadically tuned into this blog over the last year or so. As a queer transwoman and a social worker who was raised Mormon, I’ll admit that at first I expected the views expressed here would be overly prudish and unrealistic, narrow-minded and unaware. I was mostly just curious. However, while I don’t agree with some of the perspective offered (I haven’t been LDS for many years), I have found this blog to be relatively progressive and incredibly useful to my personal need to understand other perspectives and avoid nourishing simplistic views of what “LDS” can mean. I’m glad you don’t avoid some of the conflicts and hurt that arise for many believers that read your blog.

    That being said, I wonder if you are aware of the LDS policy and practice toward trans* current and prospective members? Sexuality (especially lesbian, gay, and bisexual) has been getting a lot of press within the church lately, but gender (trans*, intersex, and non-binary gender) often get ignored. I’m so glad to see that some of the students in this class were asking these questions of the religious panelists.

    Anyway, thanks for adding your voice to the community. I’ve come to respect you and what you do.

  • Natasha Helfer Parker

    I had an anonymous poster post the following:
    I hate wearing garments. I hate picturing the way I look underneath my clothing. I find them unattractive, unfeminine, uncomfortable, unhygenic, inconvenient and, therefore, entirely unsuited to their stated purpose of drawing me closer to God. I have no desire to dress in what people would call immodest clothing or to draw “inappropriate” attention to my body in times and places that don’t make sense. But I hate the way I feel when I wear them. This is not being driven by my husband, who is fine with them. This idea that I should just put on lingerie when I want to feel attractive is COMPLETELY MISSING THE POINT. I think I should always be able to feel attractive, even when fully clothed, and garments make it impossible for me. The stigma and judgment, to say nothing of the withholding of a temple recommend, make not wearing them a costly decision.

    • Andrew

      My wife and I have had the exact same discussion. But of course the ability to change anything about it is super limited. So we file it under things we don’t understand category…. Not helpfull of course, but I get what you are saying. Seems like they could still be sacred, and enhance femininity instead of detract. My wife has a large chest relative to her body size, and she couldn’t even buy garments in the right size because for a really long time they didn’t make any that were cut for large chests woman, so her garments have nev fit comfortably. Seems a bit sad and ironic considering we’re pretty sure large chested woman have existd for quite some time, and it’s not THAT much of an anomaly… Oh we’ll, not so much of a criticism of our leaders as much as it is just being hopefull someday we’ll be a bit more sensitive to allowing woman to wear sacred undergarments that fit their form, especially since in general as a guy I have never experienced that problem since the garments are now pretty much like wearing boxer briefs and an undershirt….

  • Chet

    I felt the same way when I first started wearing them, especially since that was when all we had were the one-piece garments. But, I got over that. I learned that it wasn’t all about me… it was about obedience, sacrafice and commitments.

  • Anonymous

    I am asking this question anonymously because you know who we are personally and have had many interactions together. I know if my husband found out I asked this question, he would feel hurt and would not be happy why I asked you. We have been to counseling in the past together and have found it to be a useful experience for physical intamacy issues. I know he would not feel comfortable being around you after knowing such private personal issues in our marriage even though you honor confidentially and are professional. That disclaimer being said, here’s my question.
    After 15 years of marriage and 4 kids, I am not attracted to my husband any more. He is not over weight, or physically ugly. People actually comment on how handsome they think he is, but I’m struggling with it which is naturally leading to no physical intimacy. For me personally, I don’t really focus or think about physical intamacy a lot and there are little things about him that gross me out. Such as smelly sweaty clothes left in the laundry room floor for me to wash after exercising and skid marks in his under wear. I know to many these things are petty but they really make it hard for me to have a desire to be physically intimate with him. His teeth are crooked and we can afford orthodontics but he won’t even consider getting orthodontic work done. I have zero desire for sex and it’s nots because I’m gay or have never had an orgasim. Sex feels good but it can be so involved and I find it hard to get into if I feel turned off by smells and his personal habits. I don’t think I can tell him these things because it will devastate him. He has had a few hard years professionally where he has been removed from company management because he doesn’t always work well with people. He can be very positional and passionate and because he is analytical and over analyses everything he thinks he knows what’s best. Change is very hard for him and is seen professionally as uncaring and not a team player with poor political savvy. He is great with vision and does contribute to the company so he has kept his job but he been struggling with feeling like a failure and forgiving those who he felt set him up for failure because they didn’t like his personality. He has really been through a lot. His mother died a year ago aft a long battle with cancer and it has made him question the core belifs he has always held. I feel bad that i struggle to be there physically for him because I know men associate sex with love so I know he feels very little connection from me, no matter how much we talk and spend time together. So my question is, how do I deal with my lack of attraction and desire for sex with my husband? I can only control myself and am responsible for my choices. I was sexually abused by an oldr brother when I was 6 years old but I feel like I have dealt with all of that and have a great relationship with my brother now and have forgiven him. So I don’t think that’s a relevant issue. Is it selfish for me to ask my husband to fix his teeth (he’s been told to do this by other professionals while in college) wipe his bum better and let his sweaty exercise clothes air out before he puts them in the hamper or am I just completely selfish for being bothered by such trivial things. He’s a good father, works hard at his job daily and helps take care of things around the house. I told him I support him in finding a new job where he isn’t seen as tainted goods and can make a fresh new start but he doesn’t really do anything but stew and complain and continues to apply to internal openings that he is qualified for with in the same company even though he feels he’ll get rejected and he does. Are my feelings normal? I love my husband but I’m not really attracted to him.
    A friend

  • Strong Man

    Friend–It’s unfortunate Natasha hasn’t answered your question here.

    From my perspective, I find it truly hard to believe those little issues are actually the ones that lead you to be overall unattracted to your husband. You might want to do some personal digging and make sure those are really the fundamental issues. My suspicion is that his challenges at work have lessened your respect for him in important ways.

    My wife stinks like crazy after a workout–really, it is super-stinky when she gets home from the gym–but the fact that she’s working out makes me more attracted to her.

    Your little issues like wiping better-or letting him do his own laundry–and his crooked teeth are actually quite easy to fix, and I would encourage you to tell him–while at the same time emphasizing how much you like him.

    I suspect if he were highly successful in his job, and he had greater confidence, and you respected him for that, those minor issues wouldn’t be issues. From a man’s perspective, the best thing you can do to enhance his self-respect, is to show him respect at home–show you trust him, that you know he can make good decisions, and do your part to improve the finances without hinting at all that he’s not a capable provider. And make sure you don’t complain about things you can’t have because you don’t have enough money.

  • Charity

    Pornography is a beautiful thing?
    Just wow.

    • Andrew

      Yes the physical act of sex is beautifull. That is what I was referring to. Obviously in the evil world of pornograp production there is going to be plenty of abusive, evil elements thrown in the mix. But the human body is designed to function quite beautifully during the sexual act. I think you didn’t vaunted understand what I meant.

  • Andrew

    “In other words the physical mechanics of sex, even in pornography is a beautifull thing. ” what I actually said from above, notice I did not say pornography is beautiful. I said the the physical acts (i.e. sex) is beautiful. I would rather not be depicted as endorsing pornography. Thanks. Don’t think the solicitation of sex, or the adult industry is appropriate at all.