Are we conditioned to feel shameful about sex?

Posted by Akila, 07 Mar

We like to throw around the joke "walk of shame" when our friends show up in the same clothes they were in the morning after hooking up with someone at some lame party. Apparently, that "walk of shame" reflects more of our reality about sex. Many people carry around a significant amount of sexual shame. It is more common than what you are imagining as you read this.

Let us look at where it all begins. As children, we are brought up to believe that sex is wrong. This affects how we look at sexuality as adults and even how we experience sex. For most of us, no information is given as to why this 'evil' should be avoided. That is why when we had that first Sex Ed session in school, most of us felt uncomfortable.

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I am an adult, and to be honest, I still feel uncomfortable talking about it, especially with my partner. Considering he sees me naked every time we do it (gosh! I am even calling it "it'), I always wonder why I can't discuss sex with him. Some people are even ashamed of exploring their own sexuality and their bodies. All this is because of the negative conditioning about sex that we carry around since childhood.

According to most psychologists, sexual guilt and shame are 99 percent rooted in nurture through the verbal and non-verbal messages we received as children.

Much as these feelings of shame and guilt towards sex that were drilled in us since childhood might feel permanent, they can be unlearned. But first, you need to acknowledge those feelings of shame and how you developed them in the first place.

Once you understand why you are carrying around this baggage, you will learn how to overcome sexual shame, reclaim control of your sexuality, and make sexual choices that will bring you so much pleasure without shame and guilt attached to that pleasure.

How we develop shameful feelings about sex

We have all experienced shame from time to time. Sometimes it is even beneficial. But when associated with self-criticism, it can become toxic. The feelings of shame after having sex, expressing ourselves sexually, or even thinking about sex can stem from various sources.

If you were brought up in a home where sex only happens in marriage or masturbation was viewed as a sin, that is one of the sources. If you feel sexually undesirable embracing sex can be a challenge. A traumatic sexual experience is also a cause. Sometimes it's just because of a general lack of communication about sex and human sexuality.

According to research, parents, and teachers also play a role in instilling shame in children, consciously or subconsciously. They significantly impact the decisions we make down the line about sex because they are usually the first people to have "the talk" with. When a parent treats the subject of sex awkwardly, that also induces shame on the child. Those who avoid open physical affection also send the wrong message about love and physical touch. If sex is not discussed at all, it's perceived as taboo, leaving a shameful impression.

Parent also has the habit of not calling genitalia by their names. Associate professor of psychology and certified sex educator Karen Beale explains, "For example, you don't talk in hushed voices about your elbows and call them 'bendy-bends,' but you do that for genitalia — kitty, pee-pee, flower, down-there. Kids learn quickly that these [body parts] are shameful." (lol)

Body image plays a role, especially with the media perpetuating a singular and pervasive ideal of beauty to which most people don't even come close. If you feel your breasts are not firm enough, it becomes hard to feel sexy. One might feel they don't deserve sexual attention.

Then there is religion and culture. The more conservative, the higher the shame. If there is a laid down way on how sexual acts should occur, it limits exploring sexual identities, behavior, or even things like seeking contraception.

Why you still feel shame about sex in adulthood

These shameful feelings about sex do affect our sexual relationships as adults. It brings lower sexual satisfaction and efficacy. Internalized shame around sex makes some people hate or feel disgusted about the idea of having sex, as well as have conflicting feelings about their sexual desires. Such people avoid sex altogether, find it hard communicating to their partners about what pleasures them, don't get orgasms or don't even bother trying out new stuff to get there, and even have to deal with the feelings of shame after sex.

How to overcome shame around sex

Luckily there are ways of overcoming sexual shame. Shame can be unlearned to reclaim power in the sexual realm. Here is how to change those negative beliefs about sex and replace them with empowering ones.

Acknowledge the shame around sex

The journey to overcoming anything starts with acceptance and recognizing the source of your shame towards sex. Confront the demons of shame head-on! Shame makes one hide. Examine your shame. You will end up asking yourself why you ever gave in to those feelings of shame.

Seek therapy

Therapy has never hurt anyone, mainly if your shame stems from abuse. Therapy will also help you uncover the triggers and the root causes of the shame and help you devise ways to cope. A trained professional will help you trace those limiting, shaming beliefs that you have been carrying around since childhood and assist in coming up with new thoughts about sex. Sometimes, confiding in friends who are bolder about sex can also help give you the confidence to override the shaming sexual beliefs.

Allow yourself to indulge in self-pleasure

Reclaim control over your body through masturbation. It might not be easy, but if you have done the first two steps, then it means you have acknowledged that the shame is messing up with your sex life and that it's time for a change! Start this journey of overcoming these shameful feelings about sex by being in total control and making your enjoyment a priority. This will also assist in overcoming the shame you have around your genitalia and how much pleasure, joy and orgasms you can get. Plus, masturbation has health benefits. (wink)

Nancy B. Irwin, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist and therapeutic hypnotist, says, "We are all sexual beings and, uninterrupted will seek pleasure. Of course, boundaries must be enforced, but with love, not shame and blame." So while overcoming your shame, make it a point not to shame those kids and young adults seeking sexual advice.

8 responses to "Are we conditioned to feel shameful about sex?"

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  1.   1zi28 says:
    Posted: 01 Apr

    sex is not a taboo if you're engaging in it with the right person. For some people sex is means nothing,they just want to have fun most especially men while for most women sex is a way of bonding with their supposed partners. In as much as sex is a way of bonding I don't believe we should have it with every random person because it's not easy to break free when Sex is Involve my opinion though.

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    • lifisgud31 says:
      Posted: 16 Apr

      I absolutely agree with your opinion on this. Sex is a form a expression but a conscious and wholesome bond that should be shared only with the right person and enjoyed multiple times between you both.

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  2.   Mutlap says:
    Posted: 01 Apr

    As an older adult, I only have sex when I enter a committed long term relationship. Intimacy helps to create a stronger bond. When I was in my 30s I didn't care about commitments just the gratification of sex. In my current relationship, I didn't have sexual relations for six months. My girlfriend asked me to be intimate.

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  3.   Verny123 says:
    Posted: 01 Apr

    I'm surprised here to get a email sex is a expression of the love we have for our partner. It comes naturally and beautifully

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  4.   Ravenlulu says:
    Posted: 31 Mar

    It is fun when you have sex with someone you love. Discussing sex with your partner whether in the kitchen, dinning, restroom, even after sex, it enhances you couple. Asking your partner whether he/she has had enough is also healthy. Enjoy your sex by discussing it when necessary, mostly women are shy to discussing sex, but read her body language and bring it on.

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  5.   Nife6 says:
    Posted: 31 Mar

    In my own opinion sex is nothing it's just for fun so both women and men we just enjoyed their self in relationship me I like to explain and talk about sex so that we will know it in our mind that some days we are going to have sex together so as for me sex is nothing

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  6.   Ladyfavo49 says:
    Posted: 31 Mar

    Well... If your question is " is sex a taboo ?" My answer is no and here's my reasons , Sex , is a spiritual something that's why it's better to be married before having sex cos , you become one flesh , sharing the same course and the same blessings , as a man or a woman , we came to this world with a gift There things that can cut that gift short , which includes sex .

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  7.   Barbiepear says:
    Posted: 31 Mar

    No it’s not a taboo, it’s a bond between two opposite sex and also bind relationship

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