Let’s Talk About Sex Part II – Trust, Coercion, Porn Addiction and Marriage

Let’s Talk About Sex Part II – Trust, Coercion, Porn Addiction and Marriage

Welcome back readers to Part II of our “Let’s Talk About Sex” series. In Part I we talked about the confusing and conflicting messages that you

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Welcome back readers to Part II of our “Let’s Talk About Sex” series. In Part I we talked about the confusing and conflicting messages that youth and teens get about sex, and introduced the ideal and not ideal contexts for sex.

In part II we are going to talk more about the non ideal context and in part III we will talk about the ideal context. As with part I, when I say “sex” I am using that as a blanket term for anything on the spectrum of the sex continuum. Starting with holding hands all the way up to sexual intercourse.

As a quick review, the non ideal context for sex comprises 3 parts:

1. You do not have commitment or trust in your relationship.

2. You are being pressured or coerced into sex.

3. You are using sex to get someone to like you, to be accepted, or for your own personal gratification.

1. Trust and Commitment

The myth that everyone loves and is happy about having casual sex is dangerous. It can lead you to believe that if you do not want to have casual sex, something is wrong with you. In reality, What they don’t show you on TV is how broken up you can feel if you get physical with someone and then they abandon you or treat you poorly, or ignore
you afterwards.

In my profession as a therapist I often talk to religious, and non religious men and women who decide for themselves that they are not going to have casual sex. Many came to this conclusion based on their own experience that casual sex isn’t healthy emotionally, doesn’t respect boundaries, and can cause so much unnecessary emotional damage.

Your level of intimacy with someone should match your level of trust. If you have sex (or do sexual things) with someone you don’t know well or don’t really trust, you are leaving yourself open for betrayal, loss and hurt. You are sharing a very vulnerable part of yourself without knowing if the other person will be with you for life, if they will continue to love and respect you, or sometimes even if they will call you back the next day.

Trust takes a long time to build. Trust means watching how someone acts with you and others and gauging how emotionally safe you feel with a person. Sometimes we trust too easily or too soon. Pay close attention to a potential partners words and actions, do they line up? Is he or she the same person around their family, friends, and you? Do they talk down to you or other people? Can they take “No” for an answer?

Sex can be powerful factor in either destroying or cementing relationships. If you get physical with someone too fast, before you trust them, you leave a gap in the relationship. This does not set relationships up to be safe and healthy, or to last.

2. Consent and Coercion

In a recent survey, 61% of all teenage girls say they are pressured to have sex. Love never demands someone to do something that would violate another. There are subtle ways that people can be coerced into having sex or doing sexual things. This is of course, not an ideal context.

Lets review what consent and coercion look like:

When we talk about sex and consent, we are talking about you giving permission or agreeing to do something physical. The consent I am referring to with you all applies to holding hands, kissing, cuddling, etc.. Ideally you will not be giving consent to any sexual acts until after marriage. I do know that as an LDS youth you may still experience pressure to participate in sexual things you do not agree with. The reason I am outlining consent so specifically is so that you don’t end up in a situation where someone has pressured you and then tell you it was your fault, or that you wanted it or liked it.

Understanding what real consent means will help to empower you to say no to ANYTHING that you do not feel comfortable with, even if “everyone is doing it”. Consent is an ENTHUSIASTIC yes! And a continued ENTHUSIASTIC yes! It is a mutual verbal, physical, and emotional agreement that happens without manipulation, threats, or mind games. Consent is a whole body experience. It is not just a verbal “yes” or “no” – it involves paying attention to and checking in with physical and emotional cues.

For example, if someone wants to hold your hand, consent would mean you putyour hand down next to theirs, and lean in when they grab your hand. You may not have verbally said, “yes I want to hold hands,” but your actions were very clear. If you started out saying yes, and at any point indicated that you did not want to continue, that is not consent. Drinking and any other kind of drug abuse (prescription drugs included) are forbidden in the LDS church. I believe this principle exists, in part, to keep each and every one of you safe, however, if you do choose to go to a party or drink and are sexually assaulted, this is still not your fault. You can not give an enthusiastic yes
if you are drunk or otherwise incapacitated.

It is NOT consent if you dress a certain way, act “flirty” go on a date with someone, like someone, or are silent. These things DO NOT count as consenting, only YES means YES.

Coercion means, “the practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats.” I want you to know what coercion looks like ahead of time, so you can spot it and act accordingly. Coercion happens anytime someone will not take no as an answer.

It can sound like any of these:

“I can’t help myself ”

“You shouldn’t have worn that outfit”

“This is the way I can show you my love”

“I won’t love you anymore if you don’t let me”

“Everyone is doing it”

“Nothing bad will happen” or “I won’t tell”

“If I don’t get sex from you I will get it from somewhere else”

“I need it”

“You owe me, I bought you a nice dinner”

“Please send me a pic, I won’t tell and I will delete it right away”

Coercion can also take the form of pouting, or getting really sad or angry if you do not agree do to something, or being resentful when told no. The more obvious forms of coercion are threats, physical violence or aggression, or trying to get someone to drink or do drugs to “loosen them up”.

Coercion in any of its forms is NOT OK. If someone is not willing to wait for you to feel comfortable with holding hands, kissing, or anything else, this is a sign that they do not respect your body, your boundaries or your opinions. This is a huge red flag, and this is likely not a safe person to trust. I know a lot of you are pressured to send pics, remember that it is unsafe and dangerous to send pictures of yourself, as you immediately lose control of what happens to those pictures once they are sent.

While talking about consent and coercion, we should cover also how to say no to unwanted advances. As they say in Harry Potter, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies but just as much to stand up to our friends” and I may add to our girlfriends and boyfriends.

Know that you always have permission to say no. If you started out wanting to hold hands or kiss and changed your mind it is absolutely ok to stop what is going on and to say no. Have the courage and bravery to say no, if you do your confidence in yourself will grow and your relationships will be more authentic. There are levels to saying no,
depending on how persistent the other person is being. Here are the levels starting at the lower pressure situation. Saying these kinds of things to a potential date or partner and watching how they respond is a good way to learn if they are a safe and trustworthy person.

1. “No, I care about you and I want to get to know you better.”

2. “No, and if you really care about me then you should be willing to wait.”

3. If you have tried 1 and 2 and they don’t take the hint, push them away (if possible) until their body is no longer touching yours and clearly say “stop” in a loud, clear tone.

4. If the above answers are not respected, and if possible, GET OUT of the situation. Leave, and call a friend, leader, or parent to come pick you up.

5. Then continue to say no by creating clear boundaries, such as not talking to this person again, and definitely not “giving them another chance” or going out with them again.

The ultimate worst context for sex is sexual assault. It is NEVER your fault if you are raped or if someone forces you into doing something you did not feel comfortable with. People DO have the ability to control their sexual desires and it is on THEM if they take away your ability to choose your boundaries with your body.

Please tell a trusted parent or adult if you have been sexually assaulted. Make sure that if you talk with your bishop, you make it explicitly clear that you did not consent to what was happening. You are not dirty, broken, or irreparable if you have been sexually assaulted. You are a survivor of a traumatic experience. Your value to the people around you and to God has not changed. If you are healing from sexual abuse, or sexual assault, please reach out and ask for help, so that the healing process can begin. This healing process can be long and painful, but is doable through the help of loved ones, a qualified therapist, and of course the healing power of the atonement.

3. Acceptance or Personal Gratification

Love yourself and respect yourself enough to not use your body as a way to get attention or to get love. I know that sex can feel like true attachment, but without the foundation of trust and commitment, you are settling for a counterfeit and unsafe kind of attachment. I know feeling lonely sucks, and you may worry that if you have standards you wont be able to find someone or that you wont fit in. The reality is that you cannot have a great attachment and love with someone until you learn to have that same love and respect for yourself. So if you are alone, work on loving yourself. Work on respecting your body and yourself. Healthy attachment with another person will follow.

Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book Eat Pray Love, ““When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”

Using another person’s body as a scratching post is one kind of self gratification, but we can also use our own bodies as a scratching post for self gratification. It is not ideal to be having sex with your computer screen. Your computer screen cannot love you back. You are setting yourself up for empty sexual gratification if you are looking at porn.

Please do not get caught up in the misconception that once you are able to have sex, a porn problem will go away. Compulsive porn use numbs out feelings and is an escape from reality. The need to escape or numb out will not go away once you are married and can have sex, in fact in my experience the opposite can be true. Compulsive porn problems can cause difficulty connecting with a spouse or partner, leading you to feel lonely and back to porn use.

I have seen instances where a porn problem has become worse after marriage because previous porn use has made it difficult to remember how to truly connect with your spouse. Don’t fall in to the trap of thinking that this problem will not go away once you can have sex.

If you have a porn problem, you are NOT disgusting and terrible!! Remember that GOD made us sexual beings. It is up to us to take our sexual desires and our bodies and use them in a healthy way, in the way God intended. Focus on directing sexual energy towards emotionally connecting with a person. Then once you are married you can use that to physically connect with your spouse.

The first step out of a dark place is opening the door and letting someone in. If you are in a dark place, tell someone that you are struggling, someone you trust. The shame and lies that come with compulsive sexual porn use compound the problem. Get it out in the light, and get help. The time to address a porn problem is now.

I want to say to those of you that are LGBTQ that my thoughts, love and prayers are with you. Love is the most important and universal principle taught in the Gospel and I am sorry if you have been treated unkindly or bullied by people, either inside or outside of the church. If you are LDS, LGBTQ please reach out, even if a qualified therapist is the only person you feel you can confide in.

Phew! That was a lot of ground to cover and a lot of heavy stuff. If you felt triggered or upset by anything you read here, be sure to reach out to a trusted loved one, bishop, friend or professional. To sum up everything said above I will use this great quote by Boyd K. Packer, ““True love requires reserving until after marriage the sharing of that affection which unlocks those sacred powers in the fountain of life. It means avoiding situations where physical desires may take control. Pure love presupposes that only after a pledge of eternal fidelity, a legal and lawful ceremony, and ideally after the sealing ordinances of the temple are those procreative powers released in God’s Eye, for the full expression of love.”

Stay tuned for part III the ideal context for doing sexual things, and how to communicate and build trust in a relationship.

Jessica Allred

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