How To Overcome Sexual Shame

This post is by Chris Maxwell Rose

There is an invisible force that affects all of us, in and out of the bedroom. It can disrupt your pleasure, limit your ideas of what is possible and hold you back from pursuing your true desires. This force goes by a deceptively simple name: shame.

Leading shame research Brené Brown makes a distinction between shame and guilt: “Based on my research and the research of other shame researchers, I believe that there is a profound difference between shame and guilt. I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort. I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”

If shame is about the fear of losing your worthiness and social connections, sexual shame is all about being deemed unlovable, unworthy of partnership and being branded abnormal. Sexual shame shows up in many different ways:

  • body shame (“I am too fat, too thin, too ugly to be loved”)
  • shame about being sexual (“good girls don’t want sex, I’ll seem slutty, I’ll seem cheap”)
  • shame about specific desires (“if I ask for what I really desire my partner will think I’m weird, only perverts do that, it is abnormal”)
  • shame about sex being sinful (“this desire or action makes me bad and dirty in the eyes of God”)

Sexual shame is a cultural force, rooted in thousands of years of sexual oppression. For generations, sexuality has been repressed by the church and state. The only permissible form of sex was reproductive intercourse. Women who were deemed too sexual were punished and locked up. Children were brutally punished for masturbating. Getting pregnant out of wedlock would mean being cast out of your family and social network. All of this is just one generation behind us, and in some parts of the world, sexual oppression is still so insidious that women are killed for being accused of adultery. It is important not to underestimate the power of this history. We are all affected by this cultural legacy, no matter how liberated we believe ourselves to be.

The good news is that it is possible to free yourself from the invisible web of sexual shame that holds you back. (to continue reading this article, please go to


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