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"Soaking" Has Become A Viral Conversation Because It's Apparently How Mormons Avoid Penetrative Sex Before Marriage

"I used to believe that a spirit would literally leave my body if I were to engage in sexual activity."

Unless you grew up within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or are obsessed with trending TikTok discourse, you probably haven't heard of "soaking."

StudioCanal Working / Via giphy.com

Allow me to explain: “Soaking,” as it's been coined, is used to describe the act of someone inserting a penis into a vagina and then just letting it sit there and "soak" without thrusting. This method has apparently been a way for those within the Mormon church to avoid having sex (by definition of the church) before marriage.

the BYU virginity club weighed in on soaking

@morgan_sung / Via Twitter: @morgan_sung

"If you put it in and then you just sit there and don't move, it doesn't count," said Lexi McDonald (@exmolex) — an ex-Mormon and content creator based in Idaho — in her viral video.

Lexi said that Mormon teachings about sex and sexuality were a big part of her decision to leave the church: "Mormons are taught in the past that sexual sin is the sin next to murder," Lexi told BuzzFeed. "So within the church, teens and young people have a lot of shame and guilt about having any sort of sexual thoughts at all. Basically, they've been taught since the very beginning of the church that sexual purity is super important and to have anyone else partake in your body is a sin."

Lexi says "Obviously they're not allowed to touch themselves, they're not allowed to look at anything sexual"
@exmolex / Via tiktok.com

Lexi left her Mormon faith behind when she was 25, but not before she and her husband tried "soaking" before marriage. "This is probably the same for all people who've participated in soaking — it's not like we are dumb enough to believe soaking isn't sex," she explained.

Lexi saying "Soaking is 100% real"
@exmolex / Via tiktok.com

She went on to add that she believes a lot of the church's teachings around sex and sexuality are really "damaging" for people's self-esteem. "I feel like the church is really damaging for people in the way it teaches about sex," she said. "I’ve been talking about it online and I still have trouble talking about some things, like even saying the word 'masturbation' is hard for me because it’s been so engrained in me [that it's sinful]."

@exmolex / Via tiktok.com

She added that she thinks a lot of the teachings about outward expressions of sexuality are particularly damaging to women. "Personally for me, even something as simple as the way you dress in the church — you have to dress very modestly, you have to cover your shoulders, and you have to cover your legs all the way down to your knees. And that's encouraged from, like, a really young age," she said. "So for young women, there's a lot of shame around their body. And there's prophets that have said if you don't wear modest clothing, you are walking pornography for young men."

Mormon faith teaches the "law of chastity," which says that "sexual relations are reserved only for a man and a woman who are legally married," Patrick Mason, chair of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University, told BuzzFeed. "The church does teach that sexuality is beautiful, but it’s only supposed to be exercised within these bounds [the confines of marriage], because the church doesn’t want it to be turned into lust or objectification. So, seeing someone and being attracted to them sexually is fine, but those thoughts have to be disciplined."

A row of men in matching robes playing wind instrument on a platform with a statue in the background
Bettmann / Bettmann Archive / Getty

Professor Mason said he believes that many within the Mormon community, including religious leaders, are starting to realize that they need to reframe the way they teach young Mormons about sex. "Even the word 'sex' won’t be used, a lot of times it will be 'chastity' or 'virtue,'" he said. "There's just not a lot of healthy teaching around sexual development."

A Mormon church
John Coletti / Getty Images

In terms of why young Mormons feel the need to go to such extremes as "soaking," sex as a sin is "second to murder," because according to Professor Mason, "the theology there is that god gives humans the power to create and destroy life — these are godly powers."

A gloved hand soaked in some type of liquid
Kristo74 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Although “soaking” isn’t necessarily a widely used term, even within the Mormon community, Mormons have used it and other methods to partake in sexual activity without ~technically~ breaking the rules. "There were so many teens in my high school that were trying to find ways to get out of doing it [penetrative sex]," Carah Burrell (@nuancehoe), an ex-Mormon and host of Mormon Stories Podcast, told BuzzFeed. "My knowledge was that [soaking] was always a joke, but I have since been proven very wrong."

@nuancehoe / Via tiktok.com

Carah said she's heard plenty of other stories of Mormons finding ways to navigate their strict laws of abstinence. "I would venture a guess that plenty of BYU students are up for anal sex under the pretense that they want to save their taking of a vaginal virginity — I don't know what to call it — from their temple-wed future wife."

A person on the phone with the caption: "Mormons be like..."
@nuancehoe / Via tiktok.com

Videos like Lexi's and Cara's have spurred an entire conversation on TikTok around "soaking."

@nuancehoe / Via tiktok.com

"Anything that is scandalous, that's confusing, that needs a lot of follow-up questions and answers, and that walks the fine line between urban legend and myth, but is something that’s actually practiced — it’s fascinating," Cara said.