Sexual Shame: What It Is And How To Overcome It

By Charlotte Ahrens, Erotic Embodiment Coach

Sex can be extremely powerful, inspiring confidence and positivity in people’s inner worlds and in relationships, which then ripples out into everyday life.

Sadly, sex negativity – which leads to sexual shame – is the prevailing norm in many people’s lives.  With increased awareness and practical interventions it can be overcome.

How often have you worried about how you look or smell or taste during sex?  Maybe you’ve been caught masturbating or looking at porn. Maybe someone has made comments about how you orgasm, if or when you orgasm, or maybe you feel guilty when you do.

Do you feel comfortable asking for what you really want during sex? Do you feel empowered to say no when you don’t want to? Maybe you feel disapproval of who you are attracted to, the gender or sexuality you identify with? Are you comfortable with the things that really turn you on? Do you even feel free to engage in sex at all?

These kinds of fears and experiences can block us to the immense pleasure of sex and intimacy.

Moral values, role expectations, gender inequality, minority oppression, unrealistic media presentations and body image pressures are just some of the bigger societal reasons you might be feeling the way you do – but do you want to let these external factors control your body-mind and how you experience pleasure?

So, how do you activate more pleasure and less shame?

Firstly, you have to be able to identify that you are feeling shame.

Shame is an important emotional response in the development of moral values. If you do something that may have a negative impact, it’s important to know that you shouldn’t do that thing again to avoid causing harm or being harmed. However, when that shaming is misplaced or happens repeatedly – or sometimes just one extreme shaming episode is enough – it’s easy to turn against yourself and believe you are inherently bad or something is wrong with you. In order to cope with these feelings, everyone responds in different ways.

Shame can look like withdrawal, dissociation, shutting down, negative self-talk, feeling guilty or bad about yourself. It can also look like blame, anger and frustration. These emotional responses come from a fear of rejection and can block you from engaging, inhibiting the flow of pleasure and connection.

If you find yourself in a pleasurable moment, but then something happens and you notice a shift in your mood or attention…

NOTICE it. Pause and check in with yourself. What just triggered this feeling? Try to name the feeling you’re having – without judgement (and that’s the hard part). You don’t need to go back into the story from the past about why you are feeling that way in that moment but it may be useful to flag and reflect on later.

ALLOW that feeling to be there – again without judgement. Don’t ignore it or override it; it has important information for you to learn from!  Is this warning signal useful or harmful?

You can then CHOOSE to refocus your attention – perhaps you need to talk about it with your partner/s so they understand you better. Open communication is hands down one the best tools for better sex. You can also change activities if it helps you out of that habituated response.

If you want to enable the pleasure to flow again, breathe slowly and COME BACK TO FEELING – fully feeling – what you’re experiencing in your body.

Focusing on sensations is a fantastic way to redirect your thoughts and get into your body. Given your body is your pleasure source it is vital to listen to it and honour it. Even if sometimes it sends confusing and outdated signals. It’s possible to start retraining your body and mind to work together. Congruence with the body-mind is the pathway out of shame and into pleasure.

It will take time to notice when shame pops up. It will also take time to know how to effectively respond to it. You may need to develop a few practical tools to keep in your sexy tool-kit to pull out as required. It may feel clunky and awkward activating the practices that will help you overcome sexual shame. But it’s worth it! Be patient and be kind to yourself.

Shame thrives on negativity – which is a total passion killer (for most people – some kinky inclinations thrive on it but that’s a whole other topic ;)).

Start out noticing your thoughts and reframing them into positive self-talk. It will make you feel a whole lot more sexy. Because when you feel authentically sexy, pleasure is so much more pleasurable.

Charlotte is The Eroticurean – a sexologist specialising in embodied practices and tools to improve a diverse range of sexual interests. You can check out her website www.eroticurean.com and make a booking with her here.