Sexuality and shame
It’s no secret how much shame we carry collectively around sexuality. Up until recently, this felt like just the way things are and I didn’t pay much attention to it. It’s sure there in the collective, but that doesn’t have anything to do with me. Not my problem. I am fine. I’ve met so many people with blockages and issues around that. I am not one of them.
Well, it seems the ego and its need to feel strong and empowered had managed to hide some important things. If you, like me, have felt like sexual shame doesn’t apply to you, I’d like to invite you to check in again as you read along. If you know it applies to you, I hope what I share brings another perspective in your journey of reclaiming your human wholeness and clearing up your sexual energy.
The roots of sexual shame for the individual
We all know, in theory, about the role religion has played in suppressing and shaming sexuality in the Western world over the last two millenia. No surprises there. However, there’s another layer to the story that has to do with how childhood sexuality is treated that is not often spoken about. Childhood and sexuality are not even supposed to belong in the same sentence! Yet if we really think about it, it is in our childhood that our sexuality begins to unfold. It is there that the seeds of our relationship with it are formed!
It is an organic natural process, just like the development of our nervous system or our ability to navigate the social complexity of being a human. When left without support, it still happens! As children we still wonder what these sexual organs are, how they work, how they are supposed to relate with them. We seek to explore and engage with ourselves and one another around it. And here comes the big hit:
Whatever we do as children with our sexuality, we do it from the energy of SHAME!
Like this is something we are not supposed to be doing, something bad that needs to be done in hiding. It’s that way because grownups feel it’s not OK and we might be shamed and punished if found out.
What this leads to are different degrees and types of sexual trauma that we carry into our future as adults. For some, that trauma goes much deeper, getting in the way of our ability to experience sexual pleasure or even engage sexually at all. For others, it expresses as a kind of split personality. “There’s the normal me and then there’s the sexual me, we want different things and disagree with one another on potential partners and ways we’d like to experience sex”.
Still others will integrate it in their sexual expression. “Yes I can enjoy sex, as long as there’s something ‘dirty’ going on in my imagination or intimacy with my partner’. That ‘dirty’ something is a way in which the psyche deals with shame so it doesn’t block sexual expression — we not only feel our shame, it gives us pleasure! Weird, but works. If you feel into it, you will see the entire porn industry is built around it. Watching people do ‘shameful things’ and enjoying it, because it feels more OK for us to imagine and do shameful things.
This wasn’t always like this…
A quick check back in human history reveals this. What we know today as Easter was once a celebration of sexuality and fertility as nature and our hormones start flourishing in the spring. It was done in honour of the goddess Ishtar (hence Easter). It is why we still associate eggs and bunnies with that holiday, as symbols of fertility. They got rebranded as something something about Christ rising from the dead (we could ask what exactly is rising, but that’s a whole another topic).
So basically, some time ago we decided sexuality is bad and should be shamed and put an end to this way of relating with sexuality collectively. As I was sitting feeling my rage about the way this has affected me and so many of my close friends who have dared to discuss their issues openly with me, I was struck by a curiosity. Why is this the way it is?
If shame was the social solution we came up with, what problem were we trying to solve?
I sincerely don’t know the answer. But I’ll bring a hypothesis, maybe you can help with other perspectives too. It seems it had something to do with the goal of building a more complex society. Instinctual drives and desires were getting in the way of the creation of a more safe, more comfortable, more progressive way of being together. It was something we thought we were doing in service to the social/collective. The individual had to give up a part of our natural expression in order for the collective to ‘fare better’ by its values at that time.
It could be that our level of awareness at that time actually did mean we had more conflicts and troubles arising from unrestrained sexuality. As our awareness grows, however, one can easily see that the suppression of our natural drives is not the answer either, neither for the individual, nor for the collective. It puts our sexuality in the shadows, so whatever we do will come from the energy of shame. Thus, it will generate even more suffering for ourselves and those around us.
Welcoming back sexuality in relating with ourselves and one another
In order to step into greater wholeness as individuals and society, it is time to welcome back sexuality as part of our natural expression. And it seems that feeling this shame is the way to get there — seeing it and acknowledging the way it affects our sexuality, both in our relationship with ourselves and in that with one another. We can’t have our sexuality come back online unless we allow ourselves to feel the shame that is blocking it and stop identifying with it. “Shame, I can see you are there, but you are not me! I can choose to cultivate different energies around sexuality — love, compassion, respect, passion… I trust that as I do, my sexual expression will come back into a healthy balance.”
An example of this came for me today, in an authentic relating circle I was holding online. At some point I could feel my sexual energy moving without any clear explanation. I had felt it before offline in this meditative relating setting with men and women I’d normally not think I was attracted to. This was even more weird, because it was online and not even pointed at anyone in particular. But it was there! So I allowed myself to say this to them, to allow my sexuality to be there without meaning that I am into someone and want to engage sexually with them. Without meaning something needs to happen now that I’ve named it. I felt a sense of deep liberation, because what this meant instead was that sexuality was welcome in me and in the space as part of our natural expression and relating with one another. Can that be OK? Can it be OK to name it and feel it? It left us feeling much more connected with one another.
Where to begin?
When working with sexuality, we usually go straight for that and bump into shame on the way. How about we begin with the shame instead? Allow yourself to explore if there some shame around sexuality for you. Not as a way to fix it, but as a way to understand it. Trust the power of your attention, that as you direct it there from a space of curiosity, things will start opening. As your capacity to feel both your shame and your sexuality grows, you step into greater wholeness and fuller expression of yourself. It’s literally ‘two birds with one stone’! It’s only by befriending the beast inside that we can establish healthier relationships with the human and non-human beasts we share this planet with and sexuality is a key part of that. So by doing this, we serve not only ourselves, but the evolution of consciousness that is currently underway, allowing for healthier relations with ourselves, one another and nature.
About Lessons in Paradise
I believe we already are in paradise, regardless of where we are and what’s going on in our lives. I believe life is a journey towards becoming aware of this and enjoying as much of it as we can in the limited amount of time we have here. The Lessons in Paradise vlog is the space where I share my process of shedding patterns and beliefs that obstruct our view in order to replace them with presence, joy and wonder. It’s also my invitation to you — an invitation to connect and journey together in creative ways, as we help each other see through to the greatest expression of ourselves. I also love creating spaces for growth-oriented people to align to their purpose. I do that in the form of coaching, shamanic work and group sessions in the Connection Playground community.