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Cultural Shame Around Sex: We Didn’t Start Out That Way

Cultural Shame Around Sex: We Didn’t Start Out That Way

It’s no secret that one of our fave topics, sex, is also packed with a ton of taboo, cultural rules, and stigma. When it comes to sex in modern society, there can be a huge amount of negative connotation and even discomfort for simply indulging in a healthy conversation on the subject.

I mean we’ve all heard the old saying  of what not to talk about at a gathering, “Sex, religion, and politics”, but how did something that is so natural and paramount to human existence become so high on the “taboo topics list”? After all, sex is arguably the most ancient and natural human function that we have.

With all of this negativity around the subject floating around, it’s understandable that we live in a world heavily dominated by what I often refer to as “the nastiest five-letter word in the universe,” – shame. There is no doubt that no matter how we choose to go about our sexual lives, we are undoubtedly doing it “wrong” and being judged by someone.

Whether it be due to religious beliefs, family or cultural values, the conditioning we receive as children, or what’s considered the norm within our social circles, it’s inevitable that at some point we will develop a way of viewing certain sexual experiences as “right and wrong.”  

When we feel like we are doing something wrong, or outside of what is socially accepted, we end up feeling shame. And shame can cripple your ability to experience pleasure and be intimate with your partner!

Studies show that when shame is present, it decreases your  ability to experience pleasure. What a downer! This means that if in your mind, you are partaking in something that triggers your shame response, you will not be able to physically experience pleasure in the same way that you would if there was no shame.

We were not born with shame. In fact humans were created to experience pleasure and joy.  Female mammals are the only animals who possess a clitoris- with the primary function of providing physical pleasure and positive body sensation.

Our bodies are not only capable of experiencing pleasure, but it’s a priority for our physical system. As infants, we live in a near constant state of pleasure or discomfort and the freedom to express it.

Newborn babies coo when they’re nursing, giggle at the feeling of their toes in the air and touch their genitals with no sense of shame whatsoever. It is only after they begin to get older, that they learn to tame their outward expression of joy and pleasure, to match the behaviors of adults around them.  

But where did all of this shame come from, anyway? How did we as human beings, develop a modern culture that has widely shamed our sexuality; a fundamental human behavior and one of our greatest expressions of connection and pleasure?

Let’s take a look back at history.

In ancient history, many religions had sex-positive outlooks and teachings. Ancient Greeks celebrated the known connection between love and sex and paired it with the creation of the earth and cosmos.

Goddess worship was also a major part of ancient Egyptian culture. They embraced the belief that life comes from a woman which is expressed through her pleasure.

Other ancient religions, such as Hinduism, adorned their temples with statues depicting powerful sexual Gods and Goddesses. All over the world, we find statues of Lingams (penises) and Yonis (vulvas) worshipping the God Shiva and Goddess Parvati to celebrate the importance of both!

Then, in walks Judeo-Christianity, which largely vilified sex, and began what many refer to as the downward spiral of sex as shameful. Adam and Eve were depicted in “original sin” and then became ashamed of their nakedness, their sexual desires , and their “wrongdoing”. From there on out, humanity has largely battled over appropriate behavior when it comes to sex.

As we now know, where shame is present, pleasure is not. As you begin to dive deeper into your own understanding of your sexuality, explore your own beliefs about what is “right” and “wrong” for you as an individual.

If you need help, I have a whole exercise on belief systems in my new book Living an Orgasmic Life.

As you begin to uncover layers of conscious and unconscious beliefs about sexuality, consider checking in with yourself and asking “is this belief something that I truly understand and take as mine, or is it simply what I once thought I had to hold as the truth?”

You will likely uncover false beliefs that you have held that can now be released.   This will in turn free you of some sexual shame, and allow you to experience human pleasure to its fullest capacity, in its most basic and natural form.


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