Friday, December 2, 2011

Getting Through Shame Over Your Sexuality

I probably could write an encyclopedia on the subject of shame from just the personal experience I have with it, so I’d like to keep this short by limiting this blog to the subject of shame and sexuality.

Society places the most shame on women and gay men based on their sexuality/sex life. Women are stuck with the virgin/whore complex and gay men are told that even their feelings are evil. In certain contexts straight men are shamed as well. A man who chooses to refrain from sex is commonly put down by his fellow males (the exception to this would be in devote religious circles). While the intent of the insults is often benign and playful the damage to the male’s self-esteem can be equally great. What’s even harder to face is when women put down men for abstaining from sex or lack of sexual experience. The feeling of shame in these contexts can be likened to being kicked in the gut (or someplace much lower). Straight males are often made to feel shame by their religious upbringings which hold, in the case of Catholicism, that even thinking about women and sex is a sin for having “unclean thoughts”. Granted that these religious upbringings are greater in the case of a gay male or woman, the shame felt can still be overwhelming. In my case the shame brought on by religion has (mostly) faded away with my religious beliefs, but those feelings of shame have been reinforced (in many cases) by women in my life. They have often treated my sexuality as though it were some dirty (and perhaps sinful) thing while flaunting their own sexuality freely and unashamed.

Provided that your sex life does not include rape, sexual assault, nor deception one should NEVER be ashamed of their sexuality. Who you love and desire is part of who you are. It is not, nor has it ever been, a matter of your choice just as one cannot choose which foods or colors they will like the best (I have a special place in my heart for the color crimson). The mater of your sex life is a choice, but it is a private choice that only involves you and who you share a bed with. It does not involve anyone else in any way. People who object to who you choose to sleep with (whether it be 1, 1000, or none) are forcing their own sexuality problems on you. I deeply empathize with those who struggle with their sexuality and the emotional whirlwind that comes with it; however, struggling with your sexuality does not give you the right to harm others over their sexuality.

It is my personal opinion and educated guess that a large part of the homophobia expressed today is deeply seeded with men (and occasionally women) who are secretly gay themselves. They have come to hate themselves through shame and thus think it’s only fair to hoist that shame on others. I’ve noticed that a similar phenomenon happens when women feel undesirable or sexually repressed (often by religion) in that these women tend to be the ones who try to shame and repress the sexuality of other women. Again I empathize with all people who struggle emotionally, but they should be seeking a hand to lift them up out of their despair rather than pulling everyone else down to their level.

The best tool in dealing with shame is to remind yourself that you have the right as a human being to feel whatever you feel. The desire to have sex is as natural as sleeping, eating and breathing and the desire to repress it will only bring pain. Realize that you are not alone in feeling the way you do. You also have the right to sleep (consensually) with whomever you want and your value does not deteriorate one bit. If you were a good/likeable person before you had sex you will still be that good/likeable person after. It is important for you to surround yourself with the people who will feel the same way about this. A friend who shames you about your sex life is not a friend worth having. Realize that those who try to shame you on your sexuality are probably struggling with shame about their own sexuality. Their hurtful words are not an accurate reflection of you but of their own injured and troubled emotions. Be whoever you want to be, make mistakes, learn and be happy.