Health

Good Sex With Emily Jamea: The Burden of Sexual Shame



Emily James, Ph.D. is a sex therapist, author, and podcast host. You can find her here every month sharing her latest thoughts on sex.

Jessie and her husband sat across from me, holding hands. “I don’t know what happened,” she said. “Everything was great in the beginning. We can’t keep our hands off each other.” She looked at him, and he squeezed her hand gently, encouraging her to keep going. “I don’t know what has changed, but I have no desire anymore.”

“Many people say they have no desire, but often the story is much more than that. Tell me more about your experience making love to your husband,” I replied.

“I love my husband. He’s amazing. He’s a great dad. We have a great time together. We enjoy a good night. We come home, and I want to stay. by his side”.

I stopped her. “Here is it. Friend would like be with him. So this is not necessarily a desirable issue. What happens next?”

“I know he wants to have sex. And a part of me wanted to, but I froze. Tears started streaming down her face. He reached for a tissue and handed it to her, rubbing her back. I could see that this wasn’t about relationship conflict. Something deeper. , more personal is affecting her.“Sometimes I still do it, hoping I can get in the mood, but only if I have a few glasses of wine. But of course, I have to stop. Or I’ll move on sometimes, but it annoys me.”

“The last thing I want is for her to do something she’s not comfortable with,” he said. “But we tried everything. If I hadn’t started, it would never have happened, but now it’s not good for either of us. ”

I asked her husband to step out of the room so she had a chance to discuss her history with me privately. I asked her a few questions, including whether she had ever had unwanted sex. She admitted that once in college, a friend had sex with her while she was drunk.

“I take responsibility for that. I should have been more aware of my surroundings. I shouldn’t have been drinking that much,” she said. I explained to her that it was not her fault and that what she experienced was sexual assault, a form of violence, and the shame and trauma she had to go through afterwards. could have been trapped in her body as a result of that event.

“But what didn’t make sense to me,” she wondered, “is that I enjoyed sex with my husband at the beginning of our relationship. If what I’m feeling is a result of what happened in my past, didn’t I feel the same way about him from the start? ”

What she describes is very common for people who have experienced trauma or are trying to shame their sexuality. The feel-good chemicals that make us giddy during the honeymoon phase of a relationship mask the painful emotions that lurk beneath the surface. Usually it’s not until 6 to 18 months of sex, when those chemicals start to return to normal, that those dark feelings appear.

What is sexual shame?

Sexual shame is perhaps best described as a visceral negative reaction to your sexuality, to an aspect of sexual behavior, or even to the idea of ​​any anything sexual. A negative reaction can be perceived as a bodily sensation (such as a constriction in the throat) as an emotion (such as disgust) or as a negative thought (such as “I did the wrong thing.” this”).

Shame is a stronger response than mere sexual preference. It’s normal to dislike or dislike certain components of sex, but the response in that case is “Thanks, but no thanks.” On the other hand, feelings of sexual shame are felt all over the place and can lead to withdrawal, low self-esteem, and feelings of isolation.

How do you know if you have experienced sexual shame?

According to Stephanie Buehler, a sex therapist certified by the American Association of Sex Counselors, Counselors, and Educators (AASECT) based in Orange County, Calif. [sexual shame] present and causing problems in a person’s relationship with their own sexuality and with others. The most common is the feeling in a person’s stomach that something is ‘wrong’. “

According to Talli Rosenbaum, also an AASECT-certified sex therapist, “You may feel sexually embarrassed if you find it difficult to communicate about sex or feel surrounded or guilty about sex during the process. sexual experience with self or others”.

In Jessie’s case, she felt an intense emotion – a feeling of disgust that made her want to withdraw. Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected, so when we identified Jessie’s feelings, I asked her to pay attention to the related thoughts and behaviors. they. In her case, the automatic thought was, Sex is horrible, leading to sexual withdrawal and avoidance behaviors.

People have very different reactions to sexual shaming. While avoidance is the most common, others engage in high-risk sexual behaviors. These people may seem sexually liberated, but they actually feel liberated and unworthy.

What causes sexual shame?

Letting go of the shame starts by defining what your core values ​​are. We often internalize family, religious or cultural values ​​without giving much thought to whether they really mean anything to us. Part of releasing shame is accepting the fact that the desire to connect sexually is natural. It’s part of what makes us who we are.

This is the approach I took with Jessie. After we identified the triad of negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, I helped her come up with other thoughts that align with her personal values ​​about sex.

She proudly writes: “Sex is an opportunity for me to connect emotionally, physically and mentally with my husband.”

“How do you feel when you look at that statement?” I ask. “I feel calmer. I feel warm,” she replied.

“And how can you change your behavior?” I ask. “I think I could start by taking some time to practice.” Both of them blushed as they looked at each other. “That sounds great to me,” her husband replied.

“I think it’s a great idea. Take your time. Go slow, constantly monitoring your thoughts and feelings. If it starts to feel overwhelming or you notice that the nausea is coming back, stop, take a deep breath, and replay the thoughts and feelings. “

Therapists use a variety of methods to help people eliminate sexual shame, depending on the nature and source of the shame. And maybe let go of sexual shame.

Remember, at the end of the day, sexual pleasure is everyone’s innate right.

You may be interested

What really happens in sex therapy?

Why some women don’t orgasm?

The Science Behind Orgasms: What Happens When You Start Acting

Amnesia after being sexually assaulted is real

I recovered from obesity and bulimia from sexual abuse once. And I can do it again.

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