The Root Of Sexual Shame - CherryDTV
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The Root Of Sexual Shame

I consider myself very lucky to have grown up in a family who were very open about discussing sex. Even though the discussions of sex were laughable and rarely serious. I’m grateful to have felt safe to talk about it. Others weren’t so lucky. I’ve been in the adult industry for 7 years now and during my time I have met hundreds of people who feel a deep sense of shame when it comes to their sexuality and sexual desires. Sexual shame is prevalent throughout the Western Culture and it’s lead me to ask the question WHY!?

It’s estimated that humans have around 70,000 thoughts per day and 30% of those thoughts are based around sex! That’s 21,000 sexual thoughts per day! So why the hell are we so ashamed of this pleasurable and most fundamental human experience?

What Is Sexual Shame?

Sexual shame refers to the feeling of profound responsibility and deep remorse associated with participation in and/or thoughts and fantasies about sexual activity.  A high level of sexual shame can place an individual at risk for sexual dysfunction, impaired relationships, and risky sex. 

Many of us may have encountered this shame for the first time as children. We were taught from a very early age not to touch our genitals, the implication being it was bad to do so. We were often given silly names to refer to our penis or vagina. As if to use the correct name was somehow offensive. And if we were caught masturbating or exploring our bodies while playing childhood games, we were told off and made to feel ashamed and guilty. There are very few parents who would explain that masturbation is a normal and healthy activity and let them just enjoy it.

It’s Not Totally Our Parents Fault

The negative impact of shameful sexuality on sexual pleasure comes from shameful sexual socialisation. Enforced by the tabooed macro and micro cultural systems of the Western World today. This includes religious influence, governmental policies involving censorship, and abstinence-only- education programs, and parental upbringing. Such influences synthesise to create a conservative, sexually repressive mentality for many individuals. This suppression of sexuality is evident in the low rates of female pleasure and the prevalence of female orgasmic disorders. 

Types Of Sexual Shame

  • Statements like, “My body isn’t reacting as it should”. (e.g., ‘My penis won’t get hard’ or ‘There is pain with penetration’) and therefore I am broken.”
  • Engaging in sexual fantasies and/or behaviour that is not consistent with one’s personal values or moral character.
  • Internalised Homophobia – You are forcing your same-sex partner to stay in the closet with you.  Or feel contempt/disgust towards LGBTQ individuals who “don’t blend in.”  You don’t feel like you can come out, even in safe communities and settings.  You have tried to change your sexual orientation.  You are unable to have emotionally intimate or romantic relationships.
  • Sexual abuse survivors often articulate a variety of shame-based feelings. Particularly if their body reacted in confusing ways during the assault (e.g., getting turned on).
  • Slut-Shaming – “If I tell my partner the truth about my sexual history or what I want in the bedroom, they won’t accept me and will think that I’m a total slut.”  “I have always been told that I need to be a good girl.”
  • Underlying questions of: Am I okay? or Is this okay? about sexual behaviours- for example, “I get turned on by this particular kink (scat play, age play, watersports, cuckholding etc.) and I am worried this is not normal.”

Origins Of Sexual Shame

Religious- Religious individuals or those who grew up in a religious household are at increased risk of developing sexual disorders. These individuals are often told that sex should be restricted to the confines of marriage and that masturbation is sinful.  When these individuals seek help for their sexual concerns within their religious community, they are often told that their sexual desires are a form of sickness. And instructed to suppress their sexuality or sent off for treatment at sex/porn addiction programs.  Shame creates a feedback loop of dysfunction, fear, pain, and self-hatred, which is often the true root of many sexual problems.

Familial- Kid’s touch themselves.  So do babies.  Once a child discovers their genitals they also discover pleasure.  How parents or teachers react when they discover a child touching themselves is incredibly important and likely to shape the future of a child’s relationship with their sexual self.  Family also influences how we see our bodies, self, and sexuality through implicit and explicit messages.

Parents refusing to properly educate on the topic, prevents their children from becoming sexually healthy. Parents are harming youth by failing to provide open, honest, clear, and comprehensive information about human sexuality. Thus parents and schools fail to provide them with a set of essential tools necessary for their survival while simultaneously shaming the large majority who choose to sexually engage before marriage. Children integrate the shame based thinking that their parent is enforcing.

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Social/Cultural- Most sex education programs in private schools, influenced by religious and moral forces, teach abstinence-only education.  Students are taught that abstinence, and choosing not be sexual, is the best and safest option. Abstinence-only education has proven ineffective at delaying sexual initiation or reducing teen pregnancy. Some schools are starting the shift towards comprehensive sexual education which includes accurate, unbiased, and age-appropriate information on contraception, sexuality, relationships, decision-making, and disease prevention.  A few schools are going above-and-beyond and teaching the importance of sexual pleasure as part of sexual health, overall wellbeing, and healthy relationships. But let’s face it, when we were growing up the majority of us weren’t encouraged to discuss sexual pleasure with our partners, friends, parents, or doctors.  In addition, women in particular often grow up with the myth that “good girls don’t enjoy sex” and are often “slut shamed” if they embrace and celebrate their sexual selves. 

Media- Media creates unrealistic expectations about how our bodies should look and what “real” sex looks like. Porn, in particular, provides an “idealised” version of sexual encounters. If we don’t feel the urge to rip off our clothes in lust, orgasm every time we have penetrative sex, and unleash our primal selves during sex. We may conclude that there is something wrong with ourselves or our relationship.

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Trauma- Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted).  1 out of every 33 American men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.  Sexual trauma can impact sexuality.  This occurs when an individual begins to associate sex with power, fear, shame, confusion, secrecy and/or pain.  This in turn makes these individuals more vulnerable to struggles with intimate relationships and sexuality.

How To Curb Shame

Acknowledging the root and effects of oppression lead to a better understanding of the impact of shameful sexual socialisation. Carrying sexual shame inhibits the ability for individuals to enjoy sexual pleasure. The way in which people view sexual censorship creates the difference between sexual aliveness and sexual deadness. Shame causes a person to hide their “flawed” sexual self from any intimate encounters in fear that their inadequacy will be exposed, therefore leading to further rejection and re-shaming. 

The Root Of Sexual Shame In The Modern World

Greek dualistic thought divided the world into two opposing forces; the spiritual and the material, or the higher and lower, or the soul and the body. Man was punished by imprisonment in a human body. To receive salvation men had to escape the domination of the flesh. Sex was an activity of the flesh, an assertion of the bodily needs over spiritual, and therefore bad. Even under other Greek theological developments where sex was an approved source of pleasure. – it was discriminated as “less than” or inferior to the pleasure achieved through a spiritual connection with god. Many Greek philosophical mystical writers had great influence. And large followings in which some sects denounced all forms of sexual intercourse as either a lowly flesh act, or an inferior source of pleasure. 

The development of Judeo-Christian sexual ideology stems from this Greek Theology. It is powerfully influential in the modern sexual mentality. Whether or not one is Christian, the Judeo-Christian sexual ideology is perptuated in the Western governments, education system, homes, and parenting styles. Illuminating the historical influences regarding sex increase the understanding of cultural hostility toward sex. Addressing the macro sociopolitical influence and the personal micro influence of conservative Western culture can bring hope for healthy sexuality no matter the race, religion, or creed of the person. 

How To Heal Your Shame With Professional Intervention

The ability to battle with shame-ridden aspects of ourselves is a developmental achievement that benefits one’s entire nature. Not to mention one’s sex life. Exploring the development of sexual shame leads to insight and understanding. The core of shame is feeling unacceptable and flawed. Leading to a sense of unworthiness and therefore to an experience of feeling unloved, unaccepted, and scorned. Shame is an interpersonal experience in which the external shame message can become internalised through intensity or repetition.

Seeing a professional psychologist or mindset coach can help a person let go of shameful sexual feelings. And help a person to build new and positive strategies for self-love, acceptance and worthiness.

self affirm to fight internalised shame

Psychotherapy:

Psychotherapy can help an individual explore sexual shame by figuring out what it is, where it comes from, and how it is impacting the individual’s life and sexuality.Treatment is geared towards education, understanding, and self-acceptance.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy:

CBT is a type of psychotherapy that teaches individuals different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to unhelpful thoughts. Individuals with sexual shame often have constructed disruptive narratives. Cognitive restructuring helps the individual learn how to identify, challenge, and neutralise these maladaptive thoughts.

Mindfulness:

Mindfulness-based approaches have been shown to be useful with helping individuals accept themselves for who they are and detach from toxic shame, as well as negative emotions.

Final Thought

Sex is fun, normal and natural. It is the most fundamental human experience that exists. We literally all exist because of sex. Sex is the reason we are alive today and why all sentient beings are alive today. The censorship and vilification of sex just doesn’t make sense considering these factors. After all, our sexual energy is the catalyst of our creative energy. Our creative aspects are what make us human and seperate us from animals. When we can look at sex as healthy and good for us, with the understanding that all kinks are okay, then I think we can truly begin love ourselves. Happy fucking!

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