I received an inquiry to participate in an anonymous article on sexual shame and I thought I would share both the prompt and my response.
The subject of the feature is sex and shame—not shame about how your body looks in bed, but rather feeling ashamed of wanting sex too much or not wanting it enough, feeling embarrassed about having too little experience (or too much), etc. Think you have something interesting to say on the topic? We want to hear it!! Again, your information will be completely confidential and we’ll respect your privacy from start to finish.
I’ve had two experiences of sexual shame:
1) I am extremely sexually open and comfortable with my body, yet I have difficulty orgasming with guys. Sometimes sex is sexually frustrating, sometimes I get bored or worn out, and sometimes I feel comfortable finishing myself off in front of a guy. In any case, no matter how nice the guy is about it, I am left feeling sexually inadequate because my body cannot function as smoothly as I would like it to and because I feel as if I am disappointing the guy. I dislike guys who are into sex to pads their egos, rather than sex to please women, but I am ashamed to say that upon each “failed” sexual experience (and I have only been able to orgasm with one guy, so failures abound), I incur a decrement to my self-esteem. I feel like I will never be able to truly please a guy if he isn’t convinced that he satisfies me, and guys need concrete feedback. With the one guy who was successful, among other factors like attraction, trust, and skill, I feel like what ultimately made the difference was the assurance that he knew I appreciated and desired him despite my body’s lack of cooperation. His patience paid off, but it he had an expectation for me—if he placed orgasm pressure upon me—I do not think I would have ever been able to let myself go and perform for him. I am ashamed because I know that female pleasure should be about a woman’s enjoyment, but I find it difficult to enjoy my body if I feel like I am somehow disappointing or slighting a willing, effortful, and empathetic partner. Women are taught to be people-pleasers and if I were able to commend a worthy partner, I would feel more gratified, myself.
2) Along the same lines of my primary experience of shame, I have been very promiscuous and I am concerned that I will never be able to make a guy feel special. My last boyfriend was the first guy to whom I was ever sexually attached. I loved other guys with whom I’ve had sex, but he was the first one with whom I felt like the sex increased the intimacy. Yet, when we broke up, as a lame excuse to externalize the blame, he questioned my fidelity. I’ve had other guys, whom I legitimately liked, who were concerned about being yet another number. Don’t get me wrong: It isn’t the number I am embarrassed by. Contrary to this, I have had many negative or insignificant sexual experiences and if a guy cannot get past comparisons to such experiences, I am afraid he is not for me because he is taking his insecurities out in such a way that calls our trust into question. What I am ashamed by is the fact that I want a guy who sees me for how I am with him, not how I have been with other people—a guy who is looking for a sexual partner, not an ego-padder for his emotional deficiencies—but I am not immune to societal standards and now and then I wish I could lower my number to make a guy feel as if I am selective and, therefore, he is special to me. Of course, guys have trouble understanding that different partners have/have had different meanings to me—some have been special and some have been fleeting, but if a guy valued me as a person, he would trust my judgment and the veracity of my feelings for him.
In both situations, I am embarrassed because I feel good about my body, my judgment, and my intentions towards guys, but I am not impervious to societal standards—albeit ones I do not agree with; Instead, I allow the implicit and inescapable desire to comply with such standards affect both my sexual self-concept and my actions meant to maintain a healthy and consistent sexual self-concept
The worst part of my shame: I am ashamed to be ashamed.
Sexual openness is in the fore, yet insecurities abound.
I am a slave to societal standards–a victim of internalization–despite my intellectual mastery of the phenomenon.