Why Is Sexual Shame So Personal?

blog Feb 23, 2021

At the beginning of this year, I asked my readers to ask me all their questions about sexual shame. 

I was very surprised by the responses. Therapists usually ask me questions about their clients; this time it was different. Most of the questions that came my way were personal. 

This tells me two things. First of all, sexual shame is incredibly pervasive. Second of all, we’re definitely lacking in opportunities to discuss it, learn about it, and heal from it. It made me wonder: Are most people carrying a burden of shame about some (or many) aspects of their sexuality? The idea is heartbreaking. 

I became even more determined to offer something useful to therapists about working with sexual shame—both our clients’ shame, and our own. Obviously, it is needed. And I am strengthening my commitment to help therapists become confident and competent discussing sex issues, so that everyone can find someone to cast some light into the darkness of their shame. 

Over the next two weeks, I’m going to sharing a series of in-depth articles in which I’ll explore the roots of sexual shame—from sex-negative religious messages, to body image anxiety, to a performative view of sex that leaves pleasure out of the picture. In each installment, I’ll share a practical tool that you can bring to your therapy room, or put into practice in your own life. 

Sexual shame starts as a belief system. Changing a belief system can be exciting, empowering, or it can be a huge, terrifying leap. Sometimes it comes with real losses. In the second installment in this series, I’ll discuss sexual shame and religiosity, and dig into the process of changing a belief system. I’ll also share a tool you can use to help your clients reflect on their belief system, and decide if they want to change it. 

But getting outside of sexual shame requires more than deciding to change your beliefs. Sexual shame can linger long after you consciously leave a particular belief system behind. In the third installment, I’ll discuss body image and sexual shame, and share a mindfulness practice your clients can use to get outside of the shame-spiral by building the habit of consciously inhabiting their bodies. 

Sexual shame flourishes in the climate of constant misinformation that swirls around all things sex-related. Our culture holds people to unrealistic standards of sexual performance, and then shames them when they can’t meet those expectations. In the fourth installment of the series, I’ll discuss how anxieties about sexual performance create sexual shame, and share some quick and easy pieces of psychoeducation to stop that kind of shame in its tracks. 

Finally, there’s a surprising way that our culture creates sexual shame: a negative attitude towards pleasure so deep and ingrained that even the most sex-positive people may not be aware of its insidious effects. In the final installment, I’ll explore this under-discussed source of sexual shame, and share strategies for combating it. 

If you want the rest of the series, be sure to sign up here, if you haven’t already; I’ll send the articles directly to your inbox. Plus, you’ll get an invite to my free webinar on working with sexual shame on Friday, March 5th, at 1 pm CST! If you can’t make it in person, don’t worry; there will be a replay. But mark your calendar now to save the date!

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