Shame: “ a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.”
We know that there is nothing wrong or foolish about having sex, or with wanting to have sex, but we still feel ashamed. Or at least embarrassed.
This has got to stop.
Most of us grew up in a culture that kept sex out of our lives.
It was wrong to touch our private parts. They were given silly or obscure names.
We learned to cover those private parts and make sure no one ever sees them.
Some of us had a “birds and bees” talk with our parents and others were taught in biology class or sex-ed what happens to our bodies.
Few of us have seen our parents kiss, and fewer even, a passionate one.
And we would not dare to imagine that our parents were still having sex. Not to mention our grandparents…
And then, at one stage or another, we wanted to have sex.
When I first wanted to have sex.
I was a late bloomer.
I was interested in boys and had a few crushes throughout my teenage years, but no one seemed interested in me. I was a bit awkward, somewhat insecure, and definitely shy. I was 20 by the time I had my first kiss. It was my first date ever, with a guy that I was so completely infatuated with, and it felt horrible. I was excited by the fact that we had a date, and I was craving to be touched — but for some reason, when he did touch me, it felt bad. I definitely did not enjoy it.
I think I was probably 22 when I had my first boyfriend. I wasn’t too interested in him, but I really did want a boyfriend. He was very nice to me, very kind and loving, and I thought to myself that I simply need to learn to love him. Tell you the truth, I was not even attracted to him.
I just wanted to have sex already! To tick that box.
That guy was super-nice and super-gentle. He was very experienced than me when it came to sex and he did all those things I read about, that suppose to feel really amazing, but they didn’t feel amazing to me.
And I just wanted to have sex already!
I broke up with him soon after. Now that I ticked that box, I officially wasn’t a virgin anymore, and I could move on.
Being turned on does not equal pleasure.
The thought of having sex, of being touched, really turned me on. Also, when I touched myself, I loved how it feels.
But when it came to someone else touching me, it wasn’t that great.
In my article Arousal vs Pleasure, I explained this phenomenon in more details.
I felt pleasure only through one type of touch, very very specific, but I was feeling uncomfortable to say out loud that that’s what I want. I was feeling embarrassed to ask, and ashamed to talk about what I enjoyed. The truth is, I didn’t even realize that I’m allowed to ask for what I enjoy until years later, when I finally faced my shame and started removing it from where it wasn’t belonged to: my sex life.
It’s time to move on from shame and embarrassment.
When we feel unwell — let’s say we have a persistent headache — we go to see a health professional. Or we ask our friends for advice. There is no shame in that.
How about when we need some support to handle difficult situations in our life? We most probably get our friends to help out, and we might see a psychotherapist. Merely a few decades ago, admitting to a friend that we don’t know how to deal with something, or seeking the help of a psychotherapist were unthinkable, but those days are gone. Today, there is no shame in asking for help.
However, when it comes to our sexuality and sex lives, we still hold that shame. We have internalized the message so well: sex is something we do not talk about. We do not admit it is something we’re engaged in (unless we’re somehow making a joke), and we certainly do not let anyone know if it’s anything less-than-perfect. Although I do believe that right now, we are riding the wave of change, and that in a few years from now, no one will feel uncomfortable telling their friends they’re seeing a sexologist.
Currently, sex is something that is kept outside of our lives, packed in a little neat container. For most people, that container is locked, and they have no clue where the key might be. And I would dare to say that a lot of people don’t even realize that the container is actually locked. So why would they even bother searching for a key?
What we do when we’re embarrassed about sex:
If we are lucky enough to understand that something is not right, we start looking for answers. The issue is, the answers that are most easily accessible — those that we can find with a brief look through our shame-colored spectacles — are usually the wrong answers. It’s what we read in popular magazines. Or what we hear from a friend without getting into too many details.
These are the answers that focus on enhancing our skills as a lover, or they might be the answers that tell you what is wrong with you and what needs to be fixed.
Although these answers can be helpful, at times they actually do more harm than good.
Because no matter how skillful you become as a lover, or which fix you have found to your ailment, the most important thing has not been dealt with yet.
What we actually should be doing when we’re embarrassed about sex:
We need to fucking get over it. Pun intended. Kind-of.
What I really mean is, that we need to stop compartmentalize sex and integrate it into our everyday lives.
We need to find the courage and start a conversation.
It can start really small and safe. Start with someone you truly trust.
It depends on your situation and your preference.
It could be your partner. Your best friend. Maybe your therapist.
Tell them that you’re embarrassed and that you want to snap out of it at some stage but for now you need them to simply accept the fact that you’re embarrassed.
You could also listen to some real-life conversations about sex.
Not the perfect-looking magazine articles. The actual people that have been where you are. The ones that actually understand what you’re going through.
If listening to real-life discussions about sexuality sounds interesting to you, you might like the Women’s Sexuality Online Conference.
It’s a free event, and the only thing you need to do is listen.
This is as real as it gets.
A lot of the experts there were where you are right now. Some of them did not have an orgasm until their 40’s. Some were in a sexless marriage that lasted for decades before they found their true sexual selves. Some experienced horrific sexual trauma.
They are real people, that learned how to reconnect their sexuality with every other aspect of their lives. Start by listening to their story and their real-life advice. And when you’re ready — think about how you, too, can make your sexuality a shame-free zone.
A revolution has begun, and a few decades from now, people will not be embarrassed to seek professional help around their sexuality if they need to.
Our sexuality is such an important aspect of our lives.
It’s time to integrate it, embrace it, celebrate it.