Sex and Shame

  • What is the fuel for your sexual drive and passion?
  • What would sex without shame feel like?
  • How does shame get mixed up with sexual feelings?

Shame: that physical/emotion sensation of being bad, evil, broken, wrong. It generally starts in the center of the body and radiates out like a wave, encompassing the entire body and self.

Generally, people work very hard to avoid feeling shame. When feeling shame, we pull back, both physically and emotionally, afraid we are being exposed, or seen as being bad. We lower or close our eyes. Perhaps we flush, tense up, withdraw, or go inside, just wanting, trying to disappear.

There is both good and bad shame. Shame is a basic emotion. Children are taught to feel shame from an early age. When used properly, it is a useful self-regulating mechanism for behavior. This is the good side of shame. It keeps us from doing things that if we did them, would make us feel bad about ourselves.

Unfortunately, shame is often eroticized for many people, usually in childhood. It is frequently a result of being sexually abused as a child. The pleasurable feelings of being touched and stimulated in some abuse processes are combined with the shame and humiliation of being objectified and used. Children do their best to make sense of the experience and combining these feelings is logical based upon their experience. If it is their first sexual experience, then this becomes the foundation of what sexual feelings and experiences should be like.

Young children found in normal, age appropriate sex play are shamed and told they are bad and wrong. Adults finding children touching their genitals or boys masturbating are often use this experience to shame children about their sexual feelings and sexual expression. Mindless religious bigotry against sexual feelings and expression can end up making a man feel bad about his most basic self care and self pleasuring. A child’s process of self-exploration of their body and senses is crucial to understanding what feels good and what does not, so that it can be communicated to a partner. Parents who are not comfortable with their own sexual feelings and expression often pass their shame on to their children’s sexual feelings. It is very important that child be supported in their self-discovery process and not be shamed.

For many men, shame and sex shows up in a whore-Madonna complex. Sex is dirty, and so sex with an “unclean” or “dirty” partner (i.e., prostitute) is exciting. Sex with his wife or partner minus the dirtiness is less appealing or exciting if not impossible. If sex is something that you feel bad about or feel that it tarnishes you and the other, then it makes it difficult to have real intimacy with the primary partner. This also happens to gay men and lesbians as well. Sex minus the shame is missing that certain charge for many people.

The combining of shame and sexual feelings is potent and for many, consuming and addictive. It allows the shame feelings to be expressed or felt in a tolerable way. Unfortunately, it precludes a healthy deepening of sexual feelings and emotional growth. Learning to combine these feelings early in life stunts the psycho-sexual developmental process. Sexual energy is part of the life force. As the body matures and emotions develop, the body is more capable of building and sustaining an erotic charge.

Underdeveloped sexuality means the buildup and discharge are quick. The body and emotions are not capable of holding or sustaining the erotic charge. Building and sustaining the erotic charge is the basis of Taoist Tantric practices. It leads to an opening of the heart and a greater availability to the partner, especially emotionally, resulting in deeper contact and greater satisfaction. Tantric is only one way to develop the ability to sustain and hold a sexual charge.

Is being bad or dirty an important part of your sexual excitement? If so you may be combining sex and shame. Sorting out the origins of these feelings is a big step toward separating the sexual feelings from the shame and developing a healthier and more satisfying sexual experience.