Sexual shame is the feeling that you are wrong for having sexual desires or fantasies or for engaging in sexual acts. Many men struggle with some degree of sexual shame. And it’s no wonder.
Those of us with sexual shame weren’t born this way. Somewhere along the line, we developed our shame.
Do you remember your first sexual experience? I don’t mean the first time you had sex. I mean your first sexual experience of any kind.
Maybe you saw your mom’s Victoria Secret catalog and it gave you your first erection. Maybe you played a game of Spin the Bottle in junior high. Maybe you walked in on your older brother getting a blow job from his cheerleader girlfriend.
Whatever your first sexual experience was, think back on it.
Did it happen out in the open? Was it openly discussed and celebrated? Or was it shrouded in secrecy? Did you do whatever you could to keep it hidden?
For most of us, our first sexual experiences were shrouded in secrecy.
WHERE SEXUAL SHAME COMES FROM
Because our first sexual experiences were shrouded in secrecy, it becomes instilled in us at a very early age that sex is bad, or taboo, or supposed to be hidden. Again, it’s no wonder that so many of us have at least some degree of sexual shame.
“What happens is that sex, which is the most amazing gift to the human race, gets cross-wired with things like shame, guilt, secrecy, clumsiness, anxiety, and fear,” explains Dr. Glover, the author of No More Mr. Nice Guy and Dating Essentials for Men.
“So, sex only feels normal if it’s hidden and shame-filled. That’s how most of us grow into adulthood. And yet, we think we’re going to have normal, healthy sex lives. This is why probably 80 percent of men have a porn habit or other sexual issues.”
It’s difficult to grow up in this culture and develop a healthy relationship with sex.
We receive so many conflicting messages about sex from society, from religion, from our parents, and from our teachers. Usually these messages are that sex is bad and dirty so you better save it for the one you love.
And then there’s the other side of it. What if you’re not having sex? What if you’re a virgin?
Consider all the mixed cultural messages around virginity. Many men feel shame for being a virgin, especially if they’re of a certain age.
And yet, some feel shame for not being a virgin, perhaps because of religious beliefs.
This is why it’s so difficult to grow up in certain cultures – particularly in American culture – and have a healthy relationship with sex. American culture is maddeningly schizophrenic when it comes to sex and sexuality.
Incidentally, traditional sex education doesn’t exactly help. Think back to your Human Growth & Development (or Sex Ed) class, if you had one. Your teacher likely set a tone of shame and secrecy.
Did your teacher ever talk about sex as a way to give pleasure or receive pleasure? Or did your teacher focus on sex merely as a way to reproduce? It was probably the latter.
Chances are your Sex Ed teacher also focused much of the class on sexually transmitted diseases while perpetuating the idea that only unethical or promiscuous people contract these diseases. Additionally, there are many experts and coaches who are trying to use social media platforms to share more accurate information around sex. Often, they have to censor themselves out of fear that their content will be banned.
Parenting can also play a significant role in developing sexual shame. Parents often punish their children for masturbating or engaging in other normal sexual behavior.
NICE GUYS AND SEXUAL SHAME
As Dr. Glover discusses in No More Mr. Nice Guy, Nice Guys in particular have a lot of issues around sex. They have sexual guilt, sexual anxiety, and yes, plenty of sexual shame.
Nice Guys often find creative and unconscious ways to avoid sex. They dont approach women. They dont have much sex at all. Or they find women who don’t like sex or don’t want to have sex.
For Nice Guys, sex is basically like magnifying glass for their fears and insecurities.
Almost every Nice Guy seems to have some problem around sex.
The most common problems are: not getting enough sex, settling for bad sex, suffering from sexual dysfunction, being sexually repressed, and engaging in sexually compulsive behavior.
Generally, these things can all be linked back to some form of sexual shame.
In No More Mr. Nice Guy, Dr. Glover points out that if you were to look inside a Nice Guy’s head and find the part of the unconscious mind that controls sex, this is what you are likely to find:
- Memories of childhood experiences that made him feel unlovable
- Residual effects from growing up with sexually wounded parents
- Illusions from living in a society that perpetuates conflicting messages around sex
- Guilt from years of religious influence
- Trauma from any sexual violation
- Memories of early, highly secretive sexual experiences
- Unrealistic ideas of sex from watching porn
- Memories of previous sexual failures and/or rejection
If you’re a Nice Guy with sexual shame, it’s well…nothing to be ashamed of. And you aren’t alone.
But we are alive today because every one of our ancestors had sex with another human. We are wired to have sex. As Dr. Glover likes to say, “not having sex is evolutionary sin.”
HOW TO OVERCOME SEXUAL SHAME
If healing your sexual shame is important to you, don’t put off your healing journey. Here are a number of things you can start doing immediately.
- Identify the root cause. Where does your shame come from? Is it from messages you received from your parents? Religion? Figure out the root cause of your sexual shame. Journal about it and reveal it to a safe person or safe people.
- Work on your sexual relationship with yourself. Even if you have a partner, it’s important to reclaim your relationship with your own body. Practice healthy masturbation, which Dr. Glover describes in No More Mr. Nice Guy. You can also learn more about overcoming your sexual shame and practicing healthy masturbation inside Integrated Man University.
- Find a loving, non-shaming partner. Tell your partner what you are trying to work through and ask them if they can help you work through it. Communication is key. If you’re not actively dating, there’s nothing wrong with re-kindling things with an old sexual partner or even hiring an escort. Professional sex workers often love doing this sort of thing.
- Be patient and compassionate with yourself. This isn’t going to happen overnight. Be kind to yourself. Feel any emotions that come up. Let the energy move through you. It’s all welcome and it’s all okay.
- Work with a coach or therapist. Plenty of coaches and therapists specialize in helping their clients overcome sexual shame. Apply for one-on-one coaching here.
Again, don’t put off your healing journey. Sex can be an incredible way to challenge yourself to grow. It can allow you to connect intimately with another person. And it can be a hell of a lot of fun.
Tony Endelman is an author, blogger, entrepreneur, certified transformational life coach, certified No More Mr. Nice Guy Coach and the founder of The Integrated Man Cave.