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The secrets and shame we keep about sex

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As a therapist dealing with people, I see how their beliefs about sex and their sexuality create a huge shame for the individual. This shame, which is quite real and often painful belief their is something wrong with the person, is painful. It leads them to keep secrets from their partner. It makes them unable to to about their feelings, curiosity and impulses. This denial can lead to acting out without thinking about what the individual is choosing. 

(Note: When the behavior involves sex, this may be mistaken as “addiction.” Nonsense.)

Sex is the area that most people feel the most shame about. They are often given unhealthy and wrong messages about their sexuality, impulses and deisres.  Predictably, that leads to sexual secrets, sexual violence, sexual acting out, and dramatic sexual inhibitions.

This shame and stigma is combined with sexual exceptionalism—the idea that sex is different than everything else, and needs special rules to govern it. For example:

You go to Anne’s house for lunch, you tell her how you like your chicken cooked. You go to bed with Anne, you don’t tell her you’d like to have your neck kissed.

You go bicyling with Bill and you tell him to speed up a bit. You go to bed with Bill and you don’t tell him you wish he’d speed up a bit.

You’ve seen the musical Les Miserable a dozen times—which you know other people think is odd, but that’s OK with you. You like a finger in your butt during sex—which you imagine other people think is odd, and that’s definitely not OK with you.

Then when you add the internet to the issue, many other factors get pulled in to increase the sex exceptionalism.

On the Internet, we can be anyone we want to be. In fact we even may choose to be ourselves! Because its anonymous! Many people find these adventures to be liberating.

But there are games the legal system won’t allow you to play, even within the relative safety of the Internet. Adults are not allowed to talk about sex with unrelated minors (it can look like grooming for abuse). Adults are not allowed to photoshop children’s heads on nude adult bodies. Adults are not allowed to go to chatrooms where other adults pretend to be minors and talk with them about having pretend sex together.

You better not do that last one—what participants call erotic age-play or age role-play—because the government has planted detectives in these chatrooms to pose as adults pretending to be minors. If the adult you’re involved with in age-play turns out to be a cop, you’ll be accused of believing that the adult you’ve been playing with is an actual minor, and your life will be ruined.

Yes, it’s that simple.

Sex sits in our old brain, the limbic system. It is often animalistic and doesn't follow the normal rules of society. Sex is a form of adult play where adults can PRETEND to be someone else, a different age or even a different gender for a short bit. This is all part of play like we did when we were kids. Now as adults, the ability to play is limited and "normal gets inposed". Making people ashamed of what they find fun in sex.

If people weren’t ashamed of their idiosyncratic eroticism, if we all had a more accurate sense of human sexual desire, fantasy, imagination, and curiosity, we’d each realize just how gloriously ordinary our sexuality is. We wouldn’t have to hide in the anonymous bulrushes of the internet, wouldn’t have to suffer silently through others’ irritating sexual techniques, wouldn’t need special sexual etiquette. As in other things, paying attention, being respectful, and keeping a sense of humor would cover most situations.

I've listen to clients discuss with painful shame their fantasies. They are terrified to tell me and definitely their partner. This shame and inability to discuss leads them to choose to avoid sex...and move away from their partner.

If people weren’t ashamed of their idiosyncratic eroticism, if we all had a more accurate sense of human sexual desire, fantasy, imagination, and curiosity, we’d each realize just how gloriously ordinary our sexuality is. We wouldn’t have to hide in the anonymous bulrushes of the internet, wouldn’t have to suffer silently through others’ irritating sexual techniques, wouldn’t need special sexual etiquette. As in other things, paying attention, being respectful, and keeping a sense of humor would cover most situations.

The more people can feel free to talk about their sexuality, understand and be comfortable with the better they can connect with their partner. Acceptance of one's self is the most important thing. 

 

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