Shame and Sexual Dysfunction

Shame and Sexual Dysfunction

In almost every case of sexual dysfunction, shame is not far behind. We are taught that sex should just work. If you love someone and you’re attracted to them, your body should just do what you want it to do, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Our bodies can respond to the past and present, and sometimes it’s shame that is the source of the problem.

Shame can reflect poor self-esteem. It might be related to unrealistic sexual expectations. This often comes from a lack of sexual education that emphasized sexual pleasure, instead of only focusing on contraception and reproduction.

Many are also taught that sex is a selfless, connective act. For some, this is how they would describe their sexual experiences. However, for many others, some level of selfishness is part of their desired experience. This isn’t just true of men either, but many women desire a more “selfish” experience as well.

These are just a couple of examples of what can cause shame. However, there are other endless situations where this could happen. Shame can help you identify the root cause of your sexual dysfunction. It may be related to past abuse, lessons about sex, parental attachment issues, and painful, early sexual experiences.

Shame can be a precursor or it can be a consequence

People are taught all kinds of lessons about sex. In those situations where they “break the rules,” they can respond with guilt or shame. When we react to shame, we are questioning ourselves. We start to question our worth.

Examples of shameful self-thought that can lead to sexual dysfunction:

  • Am I attractive enough?
  • I must be defective.
  • Sex is easy for “real men.”
  • My penis is too small.
  • I’m a failure.
  • I should want sex more than I do.
  • I’m a pervert.

What are the things that you have said to yourself that impact your sexual dysfunction? How do these things impact your sexual desire and sexual behavior?

When looking at these things, look at the emotional impacts of your answers. Ask yourself where these emotions began. This will give you a chance to untangle these knots. This can give you an understanding and awareness, which is really the beginning to making a change. Being aware will allow you to intervene.

When you identify shame, you can counter it. Shame can attack you with some of the most critical voices imaginable. The primary treatment for this is self-acceptance and empathy. Empathy will come from others, so you want to identify who will offer you non-judgmental support. However, self-acceptance is something you have to offer to yourself.

Finding self-acceptance means that you need to bust myths.

So much of our shame, especially around sex, can be based on myths, more than reality. One of the most common ways that this will happen is through comparison. You’ll compare yourself to other people. Sometimes, they’re not even real people. They might be actors in a film. Sometimes, they’re actors in porn.

There are other myths that are more about relationships as sex as well. They can include:

  • If you love your partner, sex should be easy.
  • This should be mind over matter.
  • Sexual dysfunction means that you’re gay or lesbian.

There are obviously many other myths about “stamina” and worthiness that are out there. Cisgender men and women are conditioned to have their own biases and expectations as well. What makes it worse is that most of us have had terrible sex education. I recommend you talk with someone to ensure that your myths are based in reality. Many times learning about facts surrounding sex and sexual dysfunction can help to alleviate some of the shame and anxiety surrounding this.

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