Shame, let alone sexual shame, is a topic that does not get much discussion but I’ve been thinking about shame often these days as I review what’s working and what’s next in my life. “Shame on you for doing xyz,” is something most of us hear from our parents. Most of the topic of shame seems to revolve around sexual shame once you get to adulthood. But what is shame and why wish it on someone?
Shame is not an emotion. To me, shame – especially sexual shame, is a social control mechanism. Usually it is applied to girls and women, but it is not an exclusive feminine domain. Sexual shame is dictated by society based on judgments about “good vs bad” and “wrong vs right.” That’s probably why is it so often applied to women. It’s been an effective social control device for most of our history. Our sexual shame is a learned behavior.
Sexual Shame and Ashley Madison
Now the Ashley Madison hack has exposed hundred of thousands of married people willing to cheat on their spouses. Only three tiny towns in the U.S. were immune from the allure of Ashley Madison. Yet, when names became public, sexual shame rose up like a giant nuclear mushroom cloud. Tearful television confessions, even suicides, have followed in the wake of the hack of the website Ashley Madison. And it all stems from our shame about our bodies and sex. Such a sad commentary on our society.
With all the high-def televisions and the emphasis that our culture places on youth, most middle age women have convinced themselves that they are not beautiful or sexy or worthy of being adored. The amount of body shame is enormous. We cannot believe that anyone would desire us now that ____ (fill in the blank – scars, flab, moles, impotence, wrinkles). Again, body shame is not the exclusive province of women. Men are concerned about impotence as well as the amount of hair and where it is, their skinny legs or whatever.
So we flaunt sexual images to sell products and services, but we can’t talk to partners about what we like, our limitations, or our body shame. Instead we open accounts seeking anonymous physical intimacy and when our desires are exposed we cry and even kill ourselves. There is something very wrong with us.
So let’s start healing this sexual shame. Let it begin with you. Have an honest dialogue with your partner. Look in the mirror and see how beautiful you are. When shame, especially sexual shame, comes up, take a look at it. Where’s it coming from? Do you really believe its underlying premise? Examine it and discard the crap that is no longer true for you. In the same way that Louise Hay believes that healing your emotions can heal your body, radical honesty can heal our sexual shame.