Sexual shame is defined as a “visceral feeling of humiliation and disgust towards one’s own body and identity as a sexual being, and a belief of being abnormal, inferior and unworthy” (by Dr Noel Clark of Seattle Pacific University). Although our culture often appears to be sexually liberated, sexual shame is so normalised and woven into the fabric of our culture to such an extent that we may not even notice it.
Have you experienced it?
All of us have picked up at least some negative messages about sexuality at some point in your lives. You may be experiencing, or have experienced, sexual shame to some degree if you feel, or have felt discomfort about:
- Your body
- Your bodily fluids
- The sounds and movements you make to express pleasure
- Being naked in front of others
- Having sex
- Talking about your sexual desires, preferences, thoughts, fantasies, fetishes, kinks and sex in general
- Using sexual language
- Your sexual performance
- Your sexual orientation, gender or relating style
- Asking for what you want
- Saying no to something you don’t want
Where does it come from?
We grow up picking up thousands of messages about ourselves and others as sexual beings, and sexuality in general. Some of these are direct, others we pick up from the environment around us. These help us to form the views that we hold.
Most messages children receive from infancy to adolescence about sex are negative. Often, we are taught that bodily functions are dirty, that masturbation is sinful, that nudity is something to cover up, that sex is not something to ever talk about. Our parents, sex educators, doctors, peers and ministers often give us the message that sex is unpleasant, dangerous, or for procreation purposes only.
For example, the sex education at school may focus only on unwanted things happening, such as unplanned pregnancy or STIs. Sometimes only heterosexual, monogamous and married relationships are promoted by religious groups and other members of society as “normal”, putting anyone else that relates in a different way outside of that box. Fun, pleasure, enjoyment are often never mentioned, and neither are we taught good communications skills around talking about our sexuality.
The consequences of suffering sexual shame
These can range from mild to serious. When sexual shame is experienced cumulatively over a long time, it can lead to sexual repression and even trauma. This can manifest as feeling anxiety and fear around thinking, talking about, or engaging in sexual activities, to varying degrees. In turn, this can be linked with experiencing such problems as:
How can tantric therapy help?
Shame can be both easy and difficult to overcome at the same time. By its nature, sexual shame is silent, because it can be too challenging to overcome the embarrassment and talk openly about those things which we feel ashamed about. However, once this is overcome, shame can often quickly dissipate when we share with people who are loving, accepting and non-judgmental of us.
A tantric therapy session can help to provide a space where you can start to explore your sexuality with acceptance and without judgment from the therapist. This process involves the invitation to start becoming more mindful of your mind and body, both noticing and accepting what is happening within. The therapist is then able to help you to explore anything which you may discover, from physical tension to difficult emotions or memories coming up.
Over time, you will be able to start to let go of those things you do not want, and open up to feeling more pleasure in the mind and body. Through practicing tools such as the Wheel of Consent, you would be invited to start to feel into your desires and boundaries, and to practice communicating them in a safe way. This can help to increase the feelings of empowerment and sexual confidence, and to further reduce any shame.
I offer sessions to individuals and couples in Teesside and London.