Sexual Shame

by – Kai, lead somatic sexologist

It’s OK to explore vulnerabilities as sexual beings. In-fact this is essential in having a state of sexual wellness and awareness.

I recently listened to vulnerability researcher Brene Brown talk about vulnerability and shame and I was inspired so much by her research that I had to take pen to paper and write this blog.

Brown defines vulnerability as an “emotional risk, exposure and uncertainty, which can fill our daily lives”. According to Brown, vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage. She believes vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. Her research is an essential component to my work as a somatic sexologist and sex educator. People who come and see me are often at their most vulnerable and for many people there is a lot of uncertainty attached to the exploration of their sexual beings.

Brown states “to create is to make something that has never existed before”. This is true when exploring your sexual wellbeing. One of my functions as a somatic sexologist is to help guide and educate you to create new sexual experiences and spaces that may have not existed for you, or may have existed, but over time have become dormant, troublesome, or even shameful.

When it comes to our sexual wellbeing it’s important to be able to adapt and change.
This change however, like any kind of change can be daunting. As human beings we often fear what we don’t know and often prefer to stay in those comfort zones even if we aren’t happy within them.

Creating this change starts simply with a dialogue around shame. How many people have had their sexual beings shamed? I would estimate that most of human society has at one time or another experienced sexual shame. Generally, shame starts in childhood and as a result the plasticity of the brain becomes wired in such a way that it flows through to adulthood. Essentially this wiring can remain with a person for life, or until a time comes that they are aware of the sexual shame and do something to break the cycle. Shame doesn’t discriminate and can occur at any stage of a person’s life.

There are many forms of sexual shame, I will mention just a few:

  • Being told your genitals are not normal looking, maybe your labia or clitoris are larger than some? may be you are intersex?
  • Being told that having a foreskin is dirty and not natural.
  • Using infant/childhood circumcision to recreate a clean penis or diminish the natural sensations of penis or clitoris.
  • Being told off by your caregiver for touching your genitals as a child.
  • Being told off for masturbating or feeling that masturbation is sinful and dirty.

Even expressing nudity, the purest form of the human body is often shamed. I will give you the simple example of mothers breastfeeding in public. Are you someone who feels disgusted when you see a woman breastfeeding? If so, why is that? Is it because breasts are sexually erotic? Why should we shame breasts? Breasts are natures way of nurturing,  providing nutrition and yes sexual pleasure.

Humans are naturally curious about their sexual exploration. Generally, I don’t like using the term normal but when it comes to sexual shame nothing is abnormal about being a sexually embodied human.

As Brown points out, “shame is a feeling of I am bad”, a “focus on self”/ “I am a mistake”. I want to bring your awareness to Browns correlations of shame. Shame is highly associated with “addictions, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide”.

This thing we call shame has a deep effect on our sexual well being. We as sexual beings we need to break the sexual shame cycle. I want people to think about how they look at themselves and others around them, talk about the positive and negative sexual experiences they have.

Browns antidote to shame is to “douse it with empathy, so it can’t survive”. If that is the solution next time you feel yourself being sex negative towards some challenging sexual taboo I challenge you to put yourself in the taboos position. Ask yourself questions. Recognise the shame you have built or are building around the taboo. Know that you are cementing this within your brain.

If you have ever considered working with Polysoma and have doubts as to why you can’t, you should ask yourself why you can instead.

At Polysoma we too have the same vulnerabilities as everyone else, the only difference is we have the courage to put ourselves out there. So what are you waiting for? Get in touch today, we can help you explore sexual shame that you might be experiencing.