Before I became a sex and intimacy coach, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about shame. I understood the feeling of embarrassment, like when I said or did something stupid, but shame was not really on my radar screen. And there’s a reason why… my shame was so deeply repressed that I couldn’t even access it.
The shame memories I had of being caught playing doctor with my best friend in first grade and several other powerful childhood memories around sexual pleasure, were simply not available to me. Of course it didn’t help that no one was asking me about my experiences of shame. But truth be told, had the question ever been asked, I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to talk about it.
Therein lies the problem…because shame is something that we don’t talk about. It’s so shameful, so insidious that we can’t even bring it up except in therapy. And yet shame drives so much of our behavior, especially around our sexuality.
Understand Your Sexual Blueprint
In my coaching I like to help my clients understand their own sexual blueprint. Our sexual blueprint is developed very early in our life, typically in our early childhood years. Our sexual blueprint consists of the early messages and experiences that we had around sex and shame always plays a huge role in that blueprint. Everyone’s shame experience is different but we have all experienced shame… that is a part of human existence.
So let me give you an example of how this plays out. I met a woman who had an early sexual experience with one of her pets… He liked to lick her pussy and she experienced pleasure from it. However, she knew from earlier shame experiences that what she was doing was bad and that if she was caught she was going to be punished and experience a lot of shame. So the pleasure that she felt was mixed with fear and shame.
Twenty years later this woman was extremely uncomfortable with oral sex and could never relax enough to experience any pleasure. It wasn’t until she was able to bring this shame memory to consciousness in her 40’s and then share it with a group of people in a workshop, that she was finally able to heal this shame experience and begin enjoying oral sex again.
Normalize Shame by Talking About it.
That woman was me. And this is part of the way in which we banish shame. We presence it, we talk about it, we share it with others, we normalize it. We quickly learn that we are not alone! There are other people in this world that also had the same type of experience we did and suddenly we’re not feeling the same charge around it. An enormous, huge weight has been lifted from our shoulders.
Those of us who have experienced deep sexual trauma and abuse have our own version of shame, and those feelings can be even more intense and insidious. But being able to release the feelings of shame in a whole and healthy way without experiencing re-traumatization is one of the keys to having a positive sexual relationship with ourselves and our partners.
How Body Shame Holds Us Back from Pleasure
Body shame is experienced by almost every woman and many men. How many of us are unsatisfied with the way we look, how much we weigh, the size of our breasts, cocks, thighs etc. The list can go on forever. The fact that both men and women are constantly inundated with unrealistic images of perfect bodies and body parts continues to play a huge role in our own body image issues.
Body shame often makes us feel like we’re not loveable, and we’re not sexy and we’re not worthy of someone’s attention. It causes us to do things such as have sex under the covers or always have sex with the lights off. And we can’t fully be in our pleasure or in our bodies when we’re worried about what our partner thinks.
Understanding how shame shows up in our body is a really important tool for being able to have more pleasure in your life. Typically when we experience shame, we feel ourselves contracting in some way. And when our body is feeling constricted, it is impossible for us to relax so that we can feel pleasure.
Learning how to banish shame is an important step in experiencing better sex and more pleasure. Let’s practice normalizing shame by playing the Shame Game. Find a trusted friend or partner that you can share some of your shame experiences with. All that person needs to do is to listen to your story without judgment and without trying to console you. If you do the same for them, you will be on the road to banishing shame.