How do I get rid of sex shame?

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Herstory
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How do I get rid of sex shame?

Unread postby Herstory » Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:43 am

Hello. So, I decided after the last time we talked to just be by myself. I deleted all my dating apps, I stopped talking to love interests, and I just focused on myself with no desire to initiate anything with anyone. The moment I did that was the moment my current partner came into my life, out of nowhere, and he’s honestly everything I have been looking for in a partner. He’s bisexual like me, so he understands a lot about myself that previous partners didn’t get because they didn’t care about that side of me. He’s extremely respectful of me and my family, which is something I still have to get used to as previous partners were not. And the best part, which is something I honestly never in a million years thought I would find, is that he could care less that I don’t like intercourse and, in fact, prefers it that way because it makes our sex so much more interesting and fun since we’re focusing on each other’s pleasure spots and not on the actual act. I’ve never been sexually compatible with someone as I am with him and I’ve never not been pressured to have penetration. It’s become kind of the normal for me to have my partners idolize intercourse like it’s the holy grail of sex, when it’s just another act for me, and one I didn’t enjoy. I always felt, and still feel, like it’s something I owe my partners. I’m still in shock that he isn’t interested in it like me and that we’re able to have such amazing, healthy sex because we don’t focus on those arbitrary things people so often focus on for validation. And even with a partner that respects me in this way, has similar preferences as me, and thinks about sex in the same way, I STILL feel so much shame about not liking or having intercourse. I don’t know how to get rid of this shame and it honestly eats me alive. I’ve talked about it in therapy many times and have gotten past some of it, but it’s still there. Is it just always going to be there? Am I just never going to get rid of this horrible shame I feel about my preferences? I guess it’s because I’m just so used to being discredited and having my body used and my preferences ignored that it’s hard for me to even believe I deserve to have a partner like the one I do now. How can I undo this shame I feel about my preferences?

Heather
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Re: How do I get rid of sex shame?

Unread postby Heather » Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:50 pm

It's kind of amazing how sometimes finding what we're looking for is helped by not looking, isn't it? :)

I'm so glad to hear this news: this is such a great thing for you.

In terms of the shame, the thing is that that's something that can take a really long time to dump fully, if it can be dumped at all. What's more realistic is to figure that as you work on it in therapy, and as you do your own work to ditch it -- and, I'd say, as you live your life in ways that say screw you to the whole thing! -- it's something that will have less and less of an impact, and show up less and less, over time. I'd also say that it sounds like this experience has you at the start of a process and way of feeling and experiencing sex with someone else that it didn't sound like you've been at before. That's a powerful thing in a bunch of ways, obviously, but alas, nothing has the power to just rid a person of long-learned and internalized guilt or shame. :(

This isn't something where you have to worry about never being rid of it, though. It's more something where you need to figure out ways of managing how it makes you feel while it's still there, on top of doing all the things you are to gradually dump its hold on you.

So, what do you think you can do to help yourself...well, be more patient with yourself and your process? Too, can you identify some specific things that seem to trigger, for lack of a better word, these feelings of shame for you? Like, at what times, specifically, are they coming up? Is there anything that seems to be bringing them on when they happen (like certain media, social circles, etc.)? If you can do that -- as your therapist may have also mentioned -- you can probably work out 1) some stuff you can just get out of your life or avoid because it doesn't benefit you anyway, it is avoidable and it makes you feel this way, or 2) some ways you can deal with those feelings in those situations when they happen so they don't feel so debilitating and soul-crushing.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Herstory
not a newbie
Posts: 62
Joined: Wed Aug 01, 2018 10:17 pm
My Awesomeness Quotient: Scientist and Artist at work
My primary language: English
My pronouns: She/her
My sexual identity and orientation: Bisexual
Location: Florida

Re: How do I get rid of sex shame?

Unread postby Herstory » Tue Mar 12, 2019 3:18 pm

I have a lot of triggers honestly. I don’t really watch movies or TV shows anymore because I’m scared I’ll be triggered. Everytime I see a woman get raped on TV, or be pressured in any way to have sex (especially intercourse) it throws me back. I also get uncomfortable at the way sex is portrayed in youth, so I just stay away from that completely because it brings out a lot of shame for me since they constantly emphasize intercourse as the epitomy of sex and sexuality and it makes me feel horrible about myself. I just stay away from TV in general which is sad, but true. A lot of people come up to me asking if I’ve seen this show and this movie and I lie to them saying that I just don’t have time to see it, but the truth is that it’s because I know for a fact I’ll get triggered and go into this horrible spiral downward. I get triggered whenever someone suggests that intercourse is better than everything, especially when they tell me that it should be that way for me too. I get triggered when people say that what I have isn’t real sex because I don’t have intercourse. And the ironic part is that the best sex I have is when it doesn’t involve intercourse. I get scared to be triggered because so much already does trigger me. At least now I don’t have a partner who pressures me or who invalidates me. It helps a lot. But the shame doesn’t go away. I feel inadequate and like a sexual failure.

Heather
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Re: How do I get rid of sex shame?

Unread postby Heather » Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:32 am

I'm going to say something blunt, in the hopes it might help you out, and just because it is something that has been feeling very true to me, but I have been reluctant to say, but it just feels like maybe I'm not helping by not saying it. I'm a pretty direct person per my own nature, and I'm also someone who tends to appreciate and respond best to directness, especially with hard things, so who knows, maybe that's you, too. Worth a shot, I figure.

So.

It has sounded to me like you are very attached to these feelings of shame and the other painful feelings around all of this. You also have sounded very attached, to me, throughout, to having this be something that makes you feel bad. In a word, I think that the biggest barrier here with all this probably is you.

I was thinking about you last night after work, after I interacted with the first post in the thread, and I was thinking that you're actually the only user I can think of that we have had in weeks, if not months, in any of our services, who has talked and talked about how good/essential/apparently everyone's favorite thing/etc. intercourse apparently is. What I'm saying is that for as much as I hear you say so often that you can't avoid these messages, I work in sex and people talking about sex all day, and the only person I feel like I'm encountering those messages from on the regular is you.

I feel like when I have tried for angles of discussion that lean towards actually getting past this, you tend to avoid them (like not saying anything per my questions about being patient with yourself, as an example), but you dig all the way into continuing to talk about the negative parts of this; about being deep in it.

Now, maybe that's just because you still are SO deep in it you literally cannot think about anything else or think past it. If that's the case -- and it might be -- then I'm afraid that's probably not something we're going to be able to help you with much, if at all. That, then, is obsessive thinking or some branch of it, and that's a mental health issue we're just not qualified or able to give the kind of help with that's likely to help. Heck, in a semi-public medium, we're just in the wrong environment for that kind of work altogether because we can't even talk to you about this stuff the way we would behind closed doors, you know? If this feels like the case, then probably the best we can do for you is to support you in whatever your therapist suggests/does to start helping you with that issue.

But that might not be the case. I might be saying things you already know, so forgive me if I'm being obvious, but we all can absolutely stay in bad headspaces or ways of thinking that make us feel terrible because, even though we feel terrible, we are finding some kind of benefit in that shittiness. For example, let's say that I think I'm the most horrible person, and I keep latching on to things that validate that way of thinking, even when I'm provided opportunities to think I am wonderful, not horrible. Why would I do that? What's the benefit to me in that? Could be a lot of them: an allowance for me to be horrible, for instance, or a thing that keeps my self-esteem low enough to keep me in only situations that feel comfortable for me, instead of taking positive risks, a way to excuse someone else's abuse of me so I don't have to do the hard thing of acknowledging someone I love is an abuser, or even a way to protect myself in something abusive.

The good news, btw, if the biggest barrier here is you is that it's actually a LOT easier to improve or even fix than if the biggest barriers are external, and thus, more or even totally outside your control. Personally, however else I may feel about it, I'm usually pretty relieved to find out I'm the big problem in something because I can work on me and usually have more success than when I have to try on work on someone else, you know? You're still going to have to figure out how to be patient, mind, because like I said, this is not going to be instant or fast, no matter what. It's clearly super deep-seated in you, as you know, so no matter how you slice it, this is just going to take some time.

What do you think? Is this about obsessive thinking, for one, do you think? If not, what about the option that you are actually yourself very attached to this way of thinking and feeling, and that's at least one big reason why you're finding it so hard to shake?
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Herstory
not a newbie
Posts: 62
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My pronouns: She/her
My sexual identity and orientation: Bisexual
Location: Florida

Re: How do I get rid of sex shame?

Unread postby Herstory » Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:17 am

I think I agree with you that it’s something I’m very attached to and is hard to shake off. I don’t think I think this way on my own. Unfortunately, I was raised in a very abusive household and have had a lot of abusive relationships (both romantic and platonic) that have warped my perceptions on sex. Unfortunately, I still live with my parents, so I’m still getting that constant stimuli of sex negativity and shame, but when it comes to friends and relationships, I can now finally say I have people who share my views. I think i obssess over it because I have to deal with my family and their constant invalidation of my sexuality and my preferences every day. When I’m not with my family, let’s say, for a trip or for school, I’m free. But when I’m constantly fed that environment, I feel stuck and forced inside that sort of thinking. It’s really hard to break free when I’m still living in this environment. I wish I could move out, but I don’t have the money for it. I wish my family would change, but there’s nothing I can do to change then. Believe me, I’ve tried. I just feel so stuck. I’ve been conditioned from a very young age to believe that my body isn’t mine, that my preferences don’t matter, and that I’m not valid in feeling the way I do. How do I get rid of this thinking? I don’t know. It’s something I’ve been trying to do for such a long time. I feel like I’ve been in this horrible vacuum my whole life of sex negativity that when I do get out of it, I’m so used to being in that negative loop that I put myself in that cage. It’s learned helplessness. How do I escape? I have no clue. I’m trying therapy. I’m trying to surround myself with people who actually share my views. I’m trying to only involucrate myself with sex positivity. But no matter what I try, I’m still stuck. I guess it’s not something you can help me with. I appreciate you trying to help, but I think it’s probably a lost cause.

Heather
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Re: How do I get rid of sex shame?

Unread postby Heather » Wed Mar 13, 2019 12:58 pm

I feel certain that you, and this, are not a lost cause. Truly. I also want to say, again, that I think one big thing that would really benefit you is figuring out how to cultivate more patience with this, and with yourself. Any and all of this is going to take time and work: that isn't fair, because this mostly isn't about anything you're choosing or doing to yourself, but it is just how it is. And likely this will take more time than you'd like, and not be something with any kind of massive change any time soon. I would be glad to try and help you with some strategies for that, if you'd like.

It does sound to me like this is obsessive thinking (and also that it's pretty clear why this particular thing is a place it keeps playing out, for all the reasons/background you said). So, if you have never talked to a (good) therapist about that, or they don't even know how this plays out for you, I'd be sure to talk to the one you're seeing about that. It just may not be something as apparent as you'd think, but more something that, like I've done, someone is only really going to get the extent of by interacting with you over time, you know? The point is that it might well be that one of the missing pieces here is treatment for obsessive thinking. Changing how THAT works for you could provide a lot of relief, all by itself, I think. And it's certainly an easier haul than dealing with all of heteronormative culture and all the places it plays out (ugh). It also sounds like that might be more within your reach than a move right now, which would obviously also help.

That said, I'd talk to your therapist about that, too. It sounds like you have to soak in stuff that is super toxic for you every day at home, and even someone who isn't struggling with obsessive thinking is going to be having major and constant fallout from that. It doesn't sound like you feel at all able yet to try and shut this stuff down with them -- which isn't to say you'd necessarily be successful at it even if you did, mind, changing how a whole family thinks or even just getting all of them to respect a boundary is long, hard work that often doesn't end well) -- so doing whatever you can to get to a move as soon as you can seems like the only real option here, and like something that's just going to have to happen at some point for you to have an environment to be in that is supportive, not traumatic. Especially since if this isn't a family where you can even do things like set boundaries around things that hurt you, this is no doubt not the only toxic part of living there for you. :(

Too, if you want any help with logistical/financial strategies to move out, that's something I'm generally pretty good at, and I'm certainly happy to help anyone as I can with that. Our living environment, our home, is such a big player in our mental health, no matter what our situation.

How does all of that sound?
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Herstory
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Posts: 62
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My pronouns: She/her
My sexual identity and orientation: Bisexual
Location: Florida

Re: How do I get rid of sex shame?

Unread postby Herstory » Sat Mar 16, 2019 8:00 am

I will talk to my therapist about this next week. We have been trying different strategies to get me out of this hole, like habituation, but it doesn’t feel like it’s doing much. Just making me numb to the abuse I’ve been through, not really helping my thought process. Maybe it’s because I haven’t spent enough time in therapy. I don’t know.

In regards to my family, it is very difficult to live with them. I have tried many, many, many times to set boundaries with them, especially when it comes to my sexuality, and they trash them all. My sister especially is very toxic. She forces me into conversations I don’t want to have. For example, she talked to me about my virginity and how I only lost it when a penis entered my vagina and I kept telling her that i don’t consider that virginity loss at all. I consider my virginity loss to be when I first had sex, aka was fingered by my ex. And she completely invalidates it and says that no matter what I say, the truth is that I lost my virginity when a penis entered me and there’s nothing I can say that will change that. I tried very hard to change her mind and to accept me, but she simply doesn’t. Period. And it’s like that with the rest of my family too. And it’s a thing that happens almost on a daily basis, the constant invalidation of my sex, sexuality, and sexual experiences. I’ve never felt safe in my home, for many reasons, and constantly being exposed to that makes me feel crazy. I really do want to move out, but I just simply can’t. I have to wait a whole other year when I leave to grad school to get away from them and the constant invalidation I face every day with them. It makes me feel insane.

Sam W
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Re: How do I get rid of sex shame?

Unread postby Sam W » Sat Mar 16, 2019 8:22 am

Hi Herstory, I hope you don't mind my stepping in since Heather's off for a few days.

Talking with your therapist about what's going on at home sounds like an excellent plan. It may be the two of you can figure out some ways to buffer yourself against how your family is behaving.

Speaking of which, their behavior sounds so stress and awful, and it sucks that you're having to deal with it. Unfortunately, if they're making the choice to smash past your boundaries, there's only so much you can do to address what's going on. Still, there may be one or two strategies that, while they might not make them stop or change their minds, may at least mean you're exposed to their invalidation and unpleasantness as little as possible. Can you give me a sense of what happens if you try to just leave the conversation (like, literally not engage with it or leave the room)? Are there any places in the house where you can go to get away, or at least put a locked door between you and them? Too, are there ways you can endeavor to be out of the house as much as humanly possible (we can help you brainstorm some if you need to)?

You're going to have a far better sense of the viability of moving than we do, so if you say it's not on the table right now, I'll take your word for it. With that in mind, what do you see as the largest barrier to moving out? Is it financial? Or is it to do with other concerns, like not knowing where you'd even go or who you could share a living space with? I ask because we might be able to help you figure out ways to bring that move out date a little closer.


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