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Sexual Shame

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Dr. Tina Sellers, author of Sex, God, and the Conservative Church, defines sexual shame as “a visceral feeling of humiliation and disgust toward one’s own body and identity as a sexual being, and a belief of being abnormal, inferior, and unworthy.”

Most of us grew up in a culture where parents didn’t often talk openly with their kids about bodies and sex, and a good number of us still don’t really know what to say to our own kids about the topic. In schools, many sex-education courses focuses on abstinence and skirt around topics deemed more appropriate for home discussions. Combined with our distorted, sex-saturated media, it’s no wonder so many individuals grow up with feelings of shame or inadequacy surrounding their bodies and their sexuality.

These feelings interfere with the development of our most important relationships, but they don’t have to.

Dr. Sellers suggests four steps for overcoming sexual shame:

The first step is to Frame. Framing means gaining accurate information on sexuality. Some of my favorite books on bodies, sex, and intimacy are:

For kids: “Sex is a Funny Word” by Cory Silverberg

For girls: “The Care and Keeping of You” by Valorie Schaefer

For boys: “Dating and Sex: A Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy” by Andrew Smiler

For parents of teens: “For Goodness Sex” by Al Vernacchio

On female sexuality: “Come as You Are” by Emily Nagoski

On male sexuality: “The New Male Sexuality, Revised Edition” by Bernie Zilbergeld

For LDS couples: “What Your Parents Didn’t Tell You About Sex” by Anthony Hughs

There are many more great resources out there. Having accurate and open information about your body and what “normal” looks like can help dispel the sexual myths you may have picked up growing up or through media. Education can calm anxiety and help lay out a plan for gaining the approach to sexuality that you’d like to have in your life.

Dr. Sellers’ second step is to Name.  This means finding a group you feel safe in, where you can tell your story and feel heard.  This could be a therapy group, it could be a book group (using any of the above suggestions!), it could be an online support group.  The important thing is to find a place where people can really hear and understand you so that you can name, or verbalize your own story.

The third step is Claim: Where sex is used so commonly to sell products (either by sexualizing our lunch or pointing out our flaws in order to get us to buy the product that will “fix” everything), media and marketing can throw a real punch to our sense of self worth. We need to claim our right to be okay just the way we are. If this is an area you struggle with, reading books and sharing your story can help, but sometimes you might find you need extra help learning to heal internalized shame. Find a therapist to talk to. Practice challenging negative self-talk.  Claim the amazing things that make you who you are.

The last step is Aim. Aim means to write a new story for yourself. We all have stories or narratives that we tell ourselves, and if the old one hasn’t been helpful, begin writing a new story. Learning to look at your past in new ways can help open up potential for growth and new discoveries in your future. Let the keyword for your new narrative be “hope.”

If you have struggled with shame in connection with your body or sexuality and it’s holding you back from creating the connection and pleasure you hope for in your relationships, call and schedule an appointment today at 801-944-4555.

 

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Sex, Baseball and Pizza

canstockphoto9858582If you haven’t seen this ted talk, check it out:
https://www.youtube.com/embed/xF-CX9mAHPo
It’s all about the language we use, and how that language impacts our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors when it comes to sex.
We’ve heard the baseball metaphors.  First, second, and third base.  Home run.  Striking out.  Playing for the other team.  Al Vernacchio, who gave this ted talk points out that in baseball, you have two teams, one wins and one loses.  You have specific rules to follow, and you have very little control over the season schedule.  When there’s a game, players are expected to play.  In sex this creates an unhealthy dynamic.  Sexual relationships shouldn’t be about winning or losing, or about competition.  Sex shouldn’t occur due to pressure to “play”.  Sexual relationships should be about enjoying the activity together.  He suggests a new metaphor.
Getting pizza.   When you want pizza, it’s based on an inner desire rather than competition.  When you’re eating pizza, there are no winners or losers.  It’s about enjoying the experience.  In baseball there are rules.  The right ways and the wrong ways to play.  In pizza, there are no rules, you can eat it if you want to, if it satisfies your hunger, and it’s okay to enjoy some toppings, and not others.
By changing our metaphor, as Mr. Vernacchio explains, “we could…invite people to think about their own desires and make deliberate decisions about what they want, and talk about it with their partners…to look not at some external outcome, but for what feels satisfying”.
Who wants pizza?
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