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  • It could seem odd, nowadays, to feel shame about one's interest in, or feelings about,

  • sex. As modern enlightened people, we're all meant to be extremely confident, well-adjusted

  • and enthusiastic around the topic of sex.

  • But far from it. Sexual shame has, in truth, never remotely gone away, for many of us be it is primarily

  • a psychological, not some sort of political or religious problem.

  • Our capacity to express our sexual selves confidently and happily, our ability to say

  • what we want, to ask for it without embarrassment and quickly to leave situations where we are

  • unfulfilled or humiliated, all these are enormous psychological achievements.

  • They are also generally only available spontaneously to those who enjoyed highly supportive and

  • emotionally evolved early environments. For us to be naturally sexually untroubled adults

  • requires that, way back, others (who were relaxed in their own selves) will have left

  • us feeling acceptable to ourselves: enjoying a sense that our bodies and their functions

  • were natural and fine things, that we were not naughty or sinful for expressing curiosity

  • about our bodily pleasures, that it was OK to make mess every now and then - and that

  • it was, for example, more than a good idea to be, at the age of two, properly delighted

  • by the strange and wondrous existence of one's own bottom.

  • Sexual desire is one of the most personal and vulnerable things that we are ever called

  • upon to express - and it exposes one to potentially momentous degrees of ridicule. As bullies

  • of all kinds have always known, if you want to destroy someone fast, shame them about

  • their sexuality; they'll never have the self-confidence to challenge you again.

  • There are few things more deeply 'us' than our longing for sexual connection and

  • therefore any feelings of unworthiness - any worries about how nice we are, how deserving

  • we may be or how legitimate it is that we exist - have a sure habit of cropping up in

  • the bedroom and of destroying our ability to be straightforward and unconflicted sexual

  • beings. To generalise crudely, if there is any danger of us feeling bad about ourselves,

  • we're going - by a psychological inevitability - to feel bad about ourselves and sex. What

  • get called sexual problems - impotence, vaginismus, lack of desire, harmful addictions or a general

  • fear of intimacy - are, first and foremost, always problems of self-hatred. As a rule

  • one can't both hate oneself and be having a terrific time in bed.

  • Beginning to repair the problem of sexual shame relies on a basic acceptance that the

  • problem exists and that it has probably been playing havoc with our lives. We need to learn

  • to name and track the matter, to say to ourselves and then a few loved ones: I feel debilitating

  • shame around sex and that's OK. A commitment to change is what counts; despite all the

  • cheery suggestions to the contrary, a lot of us, women and men, are right now (as in

  • the heyday of the Spanish Inquisition) walking the earth intensely ashamed of ourselves sexually

  • - not because what we want sexually is in any objective way 'bad' (that is, willingly

  • hurtful to someone else) but because our histories have predisposed us to feel so negatively

  • about our own selfhood.

  • A central effect of sexual shame is to silence us. We are so embarrassed that we cannot even

  • speak of our embarrassment. It is of huge importance therefore to dare to put our feelings

  • into words and to seek out warm-hearted, broad-minded people with whom we can, in safety, finally

  • admit to our inhibitions - and learn to see ourselves through more unbiased, non-judgemental

  • and caring eyes. Through their love, we can hope to find a way to express what we desire

  • and who we are with a little less terror.

  • It's even a massive advance to stop imagining that sex can be uncomplicated for us - and

  • simply to own up to the huge difficulties we have with it. Acknowledging that we can't

  • feel about sex what we're mean to feel is the beginning of progress and liberation.

  • To take a measure of how much shame we are carrying within us, we might along the way

  • ask ourselves a few poignant questions to which we might not have pleasant answers:

  • How do you feel about your own body? How sorry do you have to feel for a person

  • having sex with you? Could someone know you sexually, properly

  • know you, and still like you?

  • We - the ashamed ones - deserve to rediscover sex not as a zone of guilt and fear but as

  • an intensely fulfilling, innocent and in the profound sense 'fun' pastime, something

  • we truly deserve to enjoy in the same way that, despite early intimations to the contrary,

  • we truly deserve

  • to exist.

It could seem odd, nowadays, to feel shame about one's interest in, or feelings about,

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B1 sexual shame sexually psychological embarrassment desire

Overcoming Sexual Shame

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    Summer posted on 2021/04/14
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