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Building Shame Resilience with Sex Positivity

On our podcast we recently sat down with writer and activist Zachary Zane and it got me thinking more about internalized shame and how it has no place in sex positivity.

Learning sex in a sex-shameful culture

So much of our culture seems to rely on internalized shame. Consumer culture depends on us not feeling good about ourselves and our bodies. “Buy this and you’ll be hot! Change your body and someone will finally love you!” It’s TERRIBLE. This kind of culture tries to dictate so much about us, from what clothes we wear (or should not wear) to how we should perform our gender expression. And ultimately, how much we should or shouldn’t enjoy sex, and with whom.

Some people are fortunate enough to grow up in households that are sex positive. Many of us, like me, weren’t so lucky. For those of us who haven’t had sex positive ideals instilled in easy from an early age, we must work hard to battle internalized shame.

Working through this shame and embracing sex positivity can help you more fully enjoy your relationship with your own sexuality and desires.

Shame Resilience Theory & Sex

If you’re interested in reading more about shame and vulnerability, I highly suggest you read any of Brené Brown’s work. You can also watch her incredibly popular discussion on vulnerability below. She has the ability to report and synthesize data about shame and shame resilience with authority and clarity that most researchers don’t develop. 

Generally, Brown’s Shame Resilience Theory premise is that in order to be our best selves we have to battle through shame and wholeheartedly embrace vulnerability. This is, of course, the hardest thing to do when you feel shame. It’s hard to embrace your own queerness when society tells you it’s not “normal”. It’s hard to embrace your desire or joy from sex when society tells you that you shouldn’t because of your gender.

But Brown proposes ways to work through shame, I think that we all would do well by trying to apply those tenets to our sexual lives.

Brown’s steps to living wholeheartedly and battling shame (Shame Resilience Theory) are:

  • Recognize what shame feels like for you & what your triggers are
  • Think critically about where that shame might come from and who benefits from it (such as cultural pressures, etc.)
  • Be radically vulnerable and open about said shame with empathic others (take the risk!)
  • Discussing and deconstructing shame by increasing knowledge about how shame differs from other emotions such as anger, hurt, jealousy, etc.

If you’ve ever experienced shame because of a desire you had or pleasure you received from sex, consider these steps to practice shame resilience.  Allow yourself to honor the parts of you that aren’t often rewarded by the culture or society at large. Odds are you’ll be happier with yourself and more fully enjoy your sexuality, no matter what it is.

Author: Jor-El

Jor-El is Co-founder of Viva Wellness and a foodie and film buff. He most often writes about mental health, relationships, food and mindfulness. When he’s not busy working, he typically can be found lounging or walking around NYC with his pup Nomi.

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