Moving From Abstinence to Sexual Intimacy Not Easy for Mormon Couples, New Study Shows

Researchers from Utah Valley University conducted a pilot study among Mormon couples who had practiced abstinence before marriage, and found that a majority of them had not talked about sex with their future spouse before their marriage night.

While 87 percent of the individuals polled had talked about family planning and 83 percent about birth control, only 43 percent had spoken about their marriage night, shows the pilot study about their transition to marital intimacy.

More than 90 percent of the nearly 600 anonymous participants in the study were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who had been married on average for 12.3 years, according to KSL TV.

As many as 73 percent of those polled said they were taught abstinence-only sex education, while only 28 percent were taught about human sexual response, showed the study conducted by the university's Department of Behavioral Science.

"People talked about that they just didn't have enough sexual knowledge going into the relationship. They didn't know what they were doing. They had this inadequate knowledge," study author Jeremy Boden, full-time faculty of family studies, was quoted as saying. "One person said, it was like two blind people discussing a painting. They didn't have any knowledge to pull from."

The study also found that less than 32 percent had talked about specifics of sex, including individual sexual boundaries, frequency, or turning down sex, with their future spouse.

"A lot of people said we just didn't know how to talk about it because all we really received from school and parents was about contraception (sexually transmitted infections), pregnancy and not having sex," Boden said. "Transitioning in, they had insufficient communication about sexual needs and specifically they had unclear, unknown and untrue expectations."

Boden added that couples approaching marriage must get an education and communicate to make the transition from "'no, no, no' to 'go, go, go.'" He advised that parents, rather than schools, should become the primary provider of sex education to a child or an adult.

Boden said he thought of the pilot study after learning about his students' and patients' challenges with the transition from abstinence to sexual intimacy. "Especially for people who have never had sex before, sex is one of the most vulnerable experiences that we'll have in our life. ... And 56 percent of the sample didn't talk about it," he noted.

"The real key is: does this create a trajectory of, perhaps, dysfunction? We don't know yet. But we say it might because we're seeing some of the results. People talk about, 'our first experience wasn't that great and it's really hurt our sexual relationship and our marital relationship. I wish we would have talked about it more. I wish we would have had these conversations.'"

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