Overcoming Sexual Shame – Free Ebook

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.

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