Ever since I was old enough to understand what sex and intimacy was, I always felt uncomfortable whenever I saw some sort of physically intimate scene in a movie. In my early dating years, I went to see a movie on a date. The movie—which I wouldn’t have thought was inappropriate in this way—started out really funny and full of action, but suddenly and surprisingly, it was showing a sex scene. All I could think to do was cover my eyes and look away. I felt trapped and frozen with embarrassment. Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience.
I’ve since discovered that I felt so uncomfortable because I knew what I was watching wasn’t real and didn’t align with the way the Lord teaches us to approach sexual intimacy.
In today’s world full of expertly crafted Instagram posts, vibrant ads, and a thriving pornography industry, sex and sexuality are painted from so many different angles and platforms. And being exposed to thousands of conflicting voices about sex can make us feel confused, frustrated, and unsure of what’s real and what’s not.
President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, “Most of the sitcoms, dramas, and reality shows [today] contain immorality … and subtle ridicule of traditional values and traditional families. Each year the new shows seem to get worse, pushing the envelope of what the public will accept.”1 President Ballard said that nearly 17 years ago, and things have only gotten worse since then.
The media tries to worm its way into our thoughts and actions and tell us what sexual intimacy “should” look like, but the media is almost always wrong, especially when it comes to matters of morality! The media can cause us to question the Lord’s standards and gives us false expectations of sexual intimacy. And most of what is portrayed about sexuality is not even true to reality and also contrary to a gospel perspective of sexual intimacy. Here are just a few examples of how the Lord’s way teaches us to approach sexuality on a different, more spiritual perspective.
Some people would think I’m crazy for planning on only ever being sexually intimate with one man—my husband—throughout my life. When looking at the rest of the world, there aren’t many who believe in waiting until after marriage to have sex. Being casual and spontaneous about sex is usually portrayed as the norm in movies and TV shows.
But these casual attitudes can actually damage our happiness and progression toward exaltation. The Lord’s plan is designed to bring us everlasting joy, so the adversary is doing everything he can to confuse us and make us “miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27). He wants us to believe that commitment is too hard and long when compared to experiencing temporary satisfaction with someone we aren’t committed to.
But committing ourselves completely to one person literally bonds us emotionally, physically, and, spiritually because “the spirit and the body are the soul of man” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:15).
We are commanded to become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24) with our spouse. So how could we become “one” if we’re being casual with many? Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles put it this way: “[The] symbolism of ‘one flesh’ cannot be preserved, if we hastily … share intimacy in a darkened corner of a darkened hour, then just as hastily … retreat to our separate worlds—not to eat or live or cry or laugh together, not to do the laundry and the dishes and the homework, not to manage a budget and pay the bills and tend the children and plan together for the future. No, we cannot do that until we are truly one—united, bound, linked, tied, welded, sealed, married.”2
At first, commitment is an action—we are volunteering to fully offer ourselves, our time, and our energy to one person throughout eternity. But eventually, commitment evolves into an almost tangible promise and covenant that we make to always choose to love that person, no matter what. And that is the kind of romantic stuff that should be in a movie.
Let’s be real: being physically intimate—cuddling, kissing, hugging, holding hands, and yes, being sexually intimate—can be fun, exciting, passionate, and completely enjoyable. The Lord doesn’t want us to feel guilty for experiencing pleasure with our spouse. But He does want us to also express compassion, respect, kindness, and care during physically or sexually intimate moments together. After all, we are all children of God.
Unfortunately, we aren’t always told in popular media that being meek and gentle is the most enjoyable and best way to be intimate. Oftentimes we’re told to do different things as men and women—things that not only separate us but also make us resent each other. In media, men are often shown to be domineering, controlling, and callous, while women are seductive, silent, and objectified. Ultimately, sex is portrayed as a means of selfish fulfillment. This can make us believe that we need to act in certain ways to find fulfillment. But we shouldn’t believe everything we see!
Part of our Heavenly Father’s plan to bring us joy is to guide us home to Him with resurrected, exalted bodies. We can receive these bodies by treating them with compassion and respect—both our own and others’. Elder Holland said, “One toying with the God-given—and satanically coveted—body of another, toys with the very soul of that individual, toys with the central purpose and product of life. … Exploitation of the body (please include the word soul there) is … an exploitation of him who is the Light and the Life of the world.”3
The media also teaches that things like sexting, pornography, and “mature” content are OK, when they are all just part of Satan’s plan to lure us away from Heavenly Father and tempt us to use our bodies inappropriately and selfishly. Instead, we can literally amplify our joy when we prioritize our spouse’s feelings as much as our own and are compassionate and loving in our intimate relationship.
The adversary uses the media to trick us into thinking that choosing to be chaste now won’t be worth it. People in media are often portrayed to be more relaxed and comfortable with sex after they’ve experienced it with different people.
We can additionally fall into a state of disillusionment when we realize that sexual intimacy isn’t something we will instantly understand right when we get married. But being sexually active before marriage is not the Lord’s way of becoming comfortable with sexual intimacy. We can continually learn about and understand Heavenly Father’s purpose for sexuality through gospel teachings after, and, in some ways, even before, we’re married (see the digital-only article “Conversations about Intimacy and Sex That Can Prepare You for Marriage”).
Becoming comfortable with sexual intimacy and creating a mindset that aligns with the Lord’s teachings is a lifelong journey. We can embrace that journey independently and with our spouse as we have conversations about sexual intimacy and its spiritual significance. We can trust in God and know that our choice to stay chaste and avoid inappropriate media will be worth it.
I have been married for two and a half years now and while I still have a lot to learn, I know that sexual intimacy does not usually come easily or quickly for a lot of couples. Sexual intimacy within marriage can be beautiful, wonderful, and fulfilling, but it is a long and sometimes uncomfortable process of discovering how you and your spouse’s bodies work together. And it’s an intimate journey you both get the privilege of taking and learning from together as you both progress toward exaltation.
As weird as it sounds, when we focus on Christ, we will be able to experience sexual intimacy in a greater, more spiritual way. The gospel teaches us that sexual intimacy “is ordained of God … for the expression of love between husband and wife.”4 So not only is it meant to cultivate a loving relationship between spouses, but also between ourselves and God.
When I first got married, I expected my first night with my husband to immediately be romantic , with no awkward or uncomfortable moments. Not surprisingly, we definitely experienced some unfamiliarity. But we realized what a blessing it was that figuring out the realities of sexual intimacy is something we can do together—and we have eternity to do so. Since then, we have fully committed to each other and each other’s happiness when it comes to intimacy. We’ve also learned to embrace our sexuality, instead of shying away from it. We have grown closer to each other and to the Savior as we have focused on Him and navigated this part of our eternal relationship.
In marriage, sexual intimacy can be a beautiful and bonding experience. The adversary will do everything to make you believe that sex before marriage is necessary and more fulfilling, but by choosing now to be committed, compassionate, patient, and centered on Christ, you are choosing a happier future and healthier sexual relationship between you and your eternal companion.
By holding fast to the Lord’s standards and being mindful of the effect media can have on you, you are doing more than just covering your eyes and looking away—you are opening the door to experiencing eternal and unified joy. And that outshines and outlasts anything the media has to offer.