Shame is Lame

September 3, 2010

Shame about sex is what keeps sexy people hidden. When we reveal our distinctively sexy selves, and outrageously flaunt our sexuality, we are rebelling against shame.

Rebellion is an integral step on the road to freedom but it doesn’t exorcize all the ghosts. We must also understand how shame works and how to unravel it from our nervous systems. Shame is an affect; we have a physical reaction before it ever hits our conscious minds. When we experience shame, tripping over our platform shoes or being mocked by our lover, our head and shoulders drop, our upper body flushes, and we strongly desire to be anywhere else. A secondary reaction to shame is to cover it up, becoming silent and shrinking away or overcompensating with anger or bluster. If you find yourself lashing out or shutting down along with the other physical cues, inquire whether you are having a shame response. Shame is so pervasive we are often ashamed of being ashamed. To heal from shame, look it in the eye and acknowledge it. You can then choose whether shame is the appropriate response to your minor mistake, sexual proclivity, or the personality quirk that is uniquely you.

But don’t assume that we can and should aspire to be shameless. Shame serves a useful social function. It creates norms that allow us to live harmoniously in groups. That’s why it’s so easy to be shamed. Most people would agree that rape and pedophilia are morally repugnant and appropriately shameful. But excessive shame, can interfere with people’s consensual sexual expression.

If you are new to sex-positive community, you can beat shame by seeing what people actually do behind closed doors, as Kinsey did in the 1950’s, to realize you are not alone. The Bay Area offers communities affirming all kinds of sex positivity: Kinky Salon, where people can explore communal sexiness and costumes; The Citadel for BDSM and all things kink; and many hookup groups, circle jerks, and other playful forms of sexual expression that might be right up your alley.

Shame is the core form of social control that tells us we must only have sex in prescribed ways, and must not enjoy sex too much or with too many. Even among us who embrace sex positivity, old shame can creep up and scold us, if only in our heads. Because many of us have been inundated with shame, it has become incorporated into our psyches. Through recognizing it, admitting it, and changing what we believe is appropriate now, we can overcome the lameness of shame and reclaim our right to sexiness.



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