How To Overcome Sexual Shame (And Finally Love Sex)

Sexual shame is the silent killer of sex lives. And it is a worldwide epidemic. 

Whether you came upon sexual shame via religious programming, sexual abuse, manipulative ex-lovers who damaged your self-esteem, or any other reason, sexual shame is a common and unfortunate byproduct of being raised in a world with a lot of harmful and unproductive views on sexuality.

Whatever the root cause of your sexual shame, know that it can be overcome.

Sexual shame (or shame of any kind) is not our natural state. It is not in our nature to feel ashamed of who we are as human beings. We are not born ashamed of ourselves. Sexual shame is a learned behaviour.

In a moment, I will go into the exact steps of how you can overcome your sexual shame. But first, I’d like to show you a quick visual model that illustrates the overall journey that you’re going to be embarking on.

We are born as beautiful, innocent little blank slates. And hardwired into our bodies is the fact that we are a sexual species… because nature wants us to connect and keep the species moving forwards.

sexual shame, overcoming sexual shame

At a certain point in our upbringings, we start to receive unhelpful messages about sexuality, and how we should feel about sex.

Messages such as:

– Good girls don’t like sex

– Little boys shouldn’t touch their penises

– Men only want one thing

– If you have sex with too many men, you’ll be a slut

– If you masturbate you’ll go to hell and burn for all eternity

– God won’t love you if you (fill in the blank)

– You won’t be sexually attractive if you are the way you are (too short/tall/fat/skinny/old/wrinkly/oily/whatever)

I could go on, but you get the point. 

What these messages do is they start to have us doubt ourselves, and feel guilty, or ashamed of our sexuality. 

We hear the messages of, “Sexuality is wrong”, and we are sexual beings, so we, ourselves, feel wrong. Unlovable. Disgusting. Evil. Et cetera.

This wraps a layer of shame around our sexuality.

sexual shame, overcoming sexual shame

At this stage, the dissonance of our sexual shame hurts us. 

Maybe we have been told that being sexually aroused is wrong/evil/bad and yet we still feel sexual urges (because that’s simply what bodies do), and so we feel wrong/evil/bad.

Sexual shame can be a vicious cycle. 

Ultimately (because the opposite of shame is innocence), the only way out of this cycle is to overpower our sexual shame with love and acceptance.

sexual shame, overcoming sexual shame

Nothing heals without love. This might sound like some hippy dippy bullshit, but hear me out.

We must drown out the sexual shame and guilt with love and acceptance, until it dwindles to nothing

This is the epicentre of any talk-based therapy or healing program for overcoming any fear, trauma, or shame.

You slowly, step by step, re-experience the old stimulus that once caused you the negative emotion, and you consciously re-experience it in a safer context, until the negative emotional charge no longer associates with the core issue.

It is often said that “neurons that fire together, wire together.”

And so because your sexual response wired to something that is less than desirable, the way to move past this stage is to attach it to something that you want it to be associated with (i.e. love, ease, and acceptance, instead of shame, guilt, fear, or anxiety). 

With patience, persistence, and self-compassion, the love will eventually drown out the sexual shame, and replace it.

sexual shame, overcoming sexual shame

If you’re less of a visual learner and my chicken scratch drawings don’t particularly do it for you, have no fear! I’ve got you covered. 

1. Identify the root issue

While you don’t want to spend too much time on this point (because setting up shop in the swamp lands can lead to enabling the shame cycle), becoming aware of and directly naming the source of the majority of your sexual shame is beneficial step to go through. 

Maybe it was a religious upbringing, a shaming lover, or one of your parents who did the majority of the damage to your relationship to your sexuality. Who or what ever it was, remember what brought you to this point of sexual shame in the first place. Then, either name it out loud (to a close, trustworthy friend, or a therapist), or journal about it to yourself.

2. Feel the associated feelings

In naming the root issue of your sexual shame directly, it’s not uncommon for there to be some emotional residue attached to your shame sources. 

You might feel sad and want to mourn the lost years of your sex life. You might feel angry, or personally victimized. You may feel hurt. Whatever is there to feel, feel it fully.

3. Heal your sexual relationship to yourself first

Regardless of whether or not you currently have a sexual partner, it’s good to reclaim your sexual relationship to your own body.

Regularly set aside some time to practice conscious masturbation. Put the porn away, don’t engage in fantasy… simply practice being in your body fully, while giving yourself whatever form of pleasure you desire.

This is the way that you wrap up your old sexual shame response with love and acceptance. 

As you practice conscious masturbation, you will progressively begin to feel safer in your body.

This might not happen overnight (especially if the roots of your trauma or sexual shame run deep), but it will happen with patience, love, and persistence.

4. Find a safe, loving, non-shaming partner to help you move to the next layer of love and self-acceptance

sexual shame,

I’ve mentioned this in other articles on related topics, but there’s only so much healing we can do on our own.

If our wounding was born of a relationship, then it must also be healed in relationship.

After earning a solid foundation of safety within our own bodies by doing the above practices, it’s time that we graduate to doing our work with a partner. Ideally this partner should be someone we are committed to, or at least someone who we feel deeply safe with. This is not the kind of thing that your nervous system/old wounding wants to try to casually heal with one night stands.

As always, communication is key. Let your partner in on your process. Tell them what you’re working through, and be explicit in telling them how they can best help you through it.

It can be as simple as saying, “I’m working on feeling safe in my body during sex, so I would love if you could give me extra reassurance and tenderness when we’re making love. Look me in the eyes a lot. Be present with me. Tell me you love me and that I’m safe. Stuff like that. Can you do that for me? It would help a lot.”

Now, depending on who your partner is and how long you’ve been together as a couple, all of that might go without saying. But, as a rule of thumb, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Oversharing will help you to heal your sexual shame faster than trying to engage in vague, mind-reading sex.

5. Carry on with patience, self-compassion, and a sense of humour

Sexual shame doesn’t shift 100% overnight. Like anything worth having in life, this process will take time.

Make sure that you remain kind to yourself in your inner dialogue as you’re chipping away at your sexual shame. You’re overcoming years (or decades… or generations) of negative sexual programming, and you are allowed to not get to a place of healing in one or two experiences.

Remember that you are also allowed to experience an array of emotional content as you’re working through your sexual shame. You might cry (you’ll probably cry). You might get angry (and scream ‘Fuck you!’ in your partner’s face during sex). You may laugh (I hope you laugh).

It’s all welcome. All of it. Let the energy move through you. It hasn’t had a voice for so long, and it wants to heal through your expressiveness.

Healing The Root Of Sexual Shame

Remember, the opposite of shame is innocence.

Your sexual desires are entirely natural.

Feeling sexual desire is as natural as breathing… or feeling hungry. And so is not feeling sexual desire (in the same way that your body isn’t always hungry).

Whatever messages you received about sex (from society, your past lovers, your church, your family, etc.), it isn’t your fault that you received those messages. But it is your responsibility to step up to the plate and do your own individual healing work. As it is for all of us.

I wish you the absolute best of luck, courage, and tenacity in your healing journey. Others have been where you are, and they have made progress.

You will get there in time. There is no rush. The world wants you to succeed. You’ve got this.

Dedicated to your success,

Jordan

Ps. If you enjoyed reading this article, you will also love checking out:

How To Fall In Love With Masturbation

– Help Your Partner Work Through Past Sexual Abuse In 3 Steps

5 Ways To Heal Your Childhood Trauma

How To Heal Your Most Debilitating Core Wounds

How I Overcame Sexual Addiction

The Spoiling Session: The Best Sexual Exercise For Couples

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