I was raised Mormon. And that meant that from the very young age of 12, I had yearly and sometimes more frequent closed door meetings
with middle aged men to discuss my sex life, or sexual sin if you believe in Mormonism and it's tenets of no premarital sex. It's meant to be a spiritual practice of staying "pure", etc. But my experience of it was more about shame and in hindsight, a very innapropriate and unsafe dynamic. Please sign my petition to ask the LDS church to end this practice of children confessing their sexual sins to middle aged men behind closed doors.
I'm fortunate in that my parents were super clear with me that although the man interviewing me was a spiritual leader, he was also just a man, not a god himself. So most of the time I felt empowered to dodge questions that felt invasive. But I don't think a 12-year-old should be put in a position to gauge what is and is not appropriate, particularly not when the power differential is framed in such a way that that 12-year-old believe if they don't spill it all, they're not going to the best heaven.
Because I was raised Mormon, I do understand the importance of a spiritual leader in that religion. But I think there is a way to help guide young people within the Mormon framework that doesn't put children and adults at risk. Bishops who have not crossed any lines could also be questioned because they were alone behind closed doors with a young girl talking about her sexual behaviors. So it's in everyone's best interest to make a change here.
I personally had two types of experiences in what I then saw as "repenting". The bishop is always a man because women are not allowed the sacred power of the priesthood, even though many feel they should
be. Sometimes this man seemed a bit uncomfortable talking to me about sex, so he would just ask the required broad questions and keep it brief. Other times, the man seemed way too interested in what I was saying and asked for many details. There were times where I described at length my masturbatory habits and things I had done with other young boys. I am horrified now that I was made to do that.
"Girls are warned that how they dress, hug and talk with boys could trigger sexual responses from the males. So if a bishop seems weirdly turned on by an interviewee's answers, she might wonder what she did wrong to elicit it." -SLC Tribune
This brand of victim blaming and the harm of purity culture starts young and as someone who has spent the last decade recovering from it, I can speak to the problem quite personally.
Please sign my petition to urge the church to make a change in the way they conduct these interviews, to protect both the children and the leaders. There has to be a better way to do this that keeps everyone safe.