In a recent survey I conducted, 40% of married women said they feel guilt and shame about sex. In this episode, we are addressing where this guilt and shame are coming from and why it is isn’t necessary.
I recently conducted a sexual satisfaction survey. All participants were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and all were married and all were women.
One of the questions I asked was if they had any guilt or shame as a married woman around sex and if they did, why and where did they think it came from. 40% of those who answered the survey said that yes, they did have guilt and shame around sex as a married woman.
Here are some of the answers of why they said they feel guilt and shame:
- I feel guilt and shame when I don’t keep my thoughts clean while trying to get aroused.
- I feel guilt and shame for wanting more. Wanting to experiment with different positions and self pleasure.
- I feel guilt and shame for not having a higher desire for sex and needing my imagination to be able to orgasm.
- I feel guilt and shame for trying to figure out orgasms
- I feel guilt and shame because I feel like I’m not supposed to want it or like it.
- I feel guilt and shame because I’m really never interested in sex.
- I feel guilt and shame when we have sex for fun.
- I am a mom and I don’t feel like I am supposed to be sexy so I feel guilt and shame about that.
- I feel guilt and shame because I am self-conscious about my body and how my genitals looks.
And the reasons why they listed that these things make them feel guilt and shame:
- Growing up believing that you’re not allowed to talk about sex, not allowed to think about sex. That you’re not allowed to touch yourself ever.
- How much my husband wants sex (every day if not more) and I don’t
- Never talking about sex in a positive way
- Chastity lessons
- Myself and teachings as a young woman growing up in the church.
- I had sexual relations before marriage and my partner didn’t
- Sexual abuse
- Parents not teaching me.
After hearing these answers, my heart aches and I was overcome with sadness for these women. They are feeling guilt and shame for things that are normal and good. It also reinforces why I am doing what I am doing. To try and help educate and empower women to embrace their sexuality and love their sex life.
Unfortunately, many women didn’t get that message growing up and still aren’t get that message today. That is why it is so helpful for you to be sharing this podcast with your friends and family – so that more women don’t have to suffer like these women are. And this survey was a very small sampling. I’m sure there are many many other women out there feeling the same way and suffering in silence. You may know them and not know they are suffering. Maybe you are one of them. I know that sharing this podcast can seem a little scary. You don’t want people to think there is something wrong with you because you are listening to a podcast about sex. But you don’t even have to say that when you share. This is first and foremost a podcast on marriage and how to improve yourself in all aspects so that you can make your marriage great. I’m here to offer hope and joy and happiness. That is what you can share. What they decide to get out of it, is really none of your business. But this podcast may be exactly what someone you know needs.
So where should sex be taught? At school? At home? At Church? All of it?
Sex education in the United States is fairly limited in the school systems. A couple of hours in elementary school about changing bodies, wearing deodorant, and a little bit about periods. Not much on anatomy. Nothing on the clitoris. Nothing on female orgasm.
A few years later, in junior high and high school the message was very much pro-abstinence and preventing pregnancy. Information was shared on male arousal. We were taught how to put a condom on a banana. But any talk of female pleasure and arousal was similarly absent.
Education on the female anatomy, arousal, and orgasm seems to be pretty absent on most home fronts as well. Nearly 75% of the women I surveyed felt their parents inadequately prepared them for a sexual relationship.
Do you remember that scene from the movie Fried Green Tomatoes where she was at a women’s empowerment meeting and they were all asked to pull down their panties and look at their vagina’s (which is actually the wrong terminology, but we’ll get to that in a minute), but she was horrified at the idea and ran out. She couldn’t look at her own genitalia. Most women have no idea what their genitalia actually look like.
There’s a joke that if you cut off the genitalia of everyone, men would be able to pick out their own penis easily. They see it all the time. They handle it. They know what it looks like. Most women have no idea what their vulva’s look like. And the fact is, everyone’s looks different. There’s no such thing as as “normal” looking vulva. They all have the same parts, but everyone’s looks a little different. So there is no reason to be ashamed of yours and what it looks like.
So it seems that most education, whether at home or at school, centered on penetrative sex culminating in male climax. Pleasure was something you give to men, not something you strive for on your own or with a partner. That message was reinforced in pop culture. A girl’s desire didn’t matter; it was all about desirability.
This message was also reinforced at church. Young Women lessons on chewed up gum reinforced that to be desired you needed to be pure. That anything less that sexual repression was a sin and made you un-virtuous and unworthy in the sight of God. This is WRONG.
It’s no wonder so many women feel guilt, shame, unfulfilled in their sex lives.
Guilt and Shame
In a post from Psychology Today it says: “Although many people use the two words “guilt” and “shame” interchangeably, from a psychological perspective, they actually refer to different experiences.
Guilt: a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong-doing, etc., whether real or imagined.
Shame: the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.
According to [the definitions], then, guilt involves the awareness of having done something wrong and it arises from our actions (even if it might be one that occurs in fantasy). Shame may result from the awareness of guilt but is not the same thing as guilt. It’s a painful feeling about how we appear to others (and to ourselves) and doesn’t necessarily depend on our having done anything.”
So let me just summarize this a little bit clearer.
Guilt says “I have done something wrong.”
Shame says “There is something wrong with me.”
So why are we feeling guilt and shame around sex? Well, it often depends on what we are feeling guilt and shame about, so I’m going to address some of the different reasons that women expressed in the survey.
Guilt & Shame Around Making Sex Fun & Pleasurable For Us
We are taught in the Proclamation To The Family that it is our primary role as women to be nurturers. That it is our eternal responsibility to take care of our husbands and children. And unfortunately, many women have felt pressure to sacrifice themselves, their wants, their needs, and their happiness for the sake of their husbands and families. This includes in the bedroom.
But I don’t believe that we are supposed to be self-sacrificing. Are we to serve and nurture our husbands and children? Yes. Are we to do that at the expense of our own well-being and happiness? No. We are much more able to serve and nurture our families when we nurture ourselves first. When we make sure that our physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual needs are met, we are much more able and willing to serve and nurture those around us.
But because of the way some things are taught, by well-intentioned leaders and parents, we put internal pressure on ourselves to make sure we are meeting the needs of others and not meeting our own needs. So when it comes time for our own needs to be met we often feel guilty and sometimes shame for thinking of ourselves.
Do you see how it gets mixed up in our brains? Often when we think about things logically it makes sense, but deep inside our brains is the thought that it’s wrong to have our own needs met because we are supposed to serve and nurture others. That somehow we are offending God by taking care of ourselves.
I personally don’t believe that this is how it should be or how our Heavenly Father wants us to feel. He created us to be sexual beings. When we were created he gave us an entire organ, our clitoris, that’s only function is for pleasure. He wants us to enjoy ourselves. He wants us to have fun. He wants us to have orgasms. He understands that sex is an important part of our divine being. That it is important for us as individuals as well as a way to bring us closer to our spouse. Sex is not meant for us to service our spouse and make sure their needs are taken care of and our own are not.
I love this quote by Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife. She says:
“We believe the body is necessary for our spiritual progression and development. So, sexuality by extension is not an impediment to spirituality but a fundamental part of it.”
Isn’t that fantastic? Sexuality is a fundamental part of our spiritual progression and development.
When we were teenagers, it was the time for us to learn to manage ourselves and our wants and needs. We were learning independence and how to take care of our physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual needs and manage them. It was not wrong to feel aroused and sexual as a teenager. It was just important to learn how to manage it, just as we have to continue to manage those desires as adults. But teaching our youth that their sexuality is something to be feared and repressed until they are married doesn’t serve them. Just as it didn’t serve you.
Sex is supposed to be fun. It is supposed to be arousing. It is supposed to be erotic. Which brings up my next point.
Many women expressed feeling guilt and shame because of their thoughts or what they needed to think in order to get aroused or have an orgasm.
Because of what we’ve been taught, that sexual feelings are dangerous and anything that causes sexual feelings are dangerous, it is normal for women to have anxiety (or guilt) about wanting or needing to do something (other than looking at their husband) in order to be aroused. We have been conditioned to be scared of eroticism. But, our brain NEEDS things to take it out of the normal, mundane, day to day routine and into the erotic. For most people, even good members of The Church, it is almost impossible to be aroused and achieve orgasm while just focusing on what is right in front of you. And this is true for men and women.
It is NORMAL to need fantasy, to need things that are “dirty” or things that are just outside of your normal day to day thoughts and routines in order to get aroused. This is why vacation sex tends to be better…it’s outside of your normal routine. That’s why introducing new positions, roleplaying and novelty can be so much fun. It’s outside of your norm.
I get questions from clients all the time asking if it’s ok to think about such and such, to think or say dirty words, to think about threesomes, to think about a celebrity crush during sex with their husband. The truth is, it’s totally normal and ok. This is how Heavenly Father designed your brain to work. The problem comes when we act out on fantasies (like having sex with someone else). Not the fact that we have them.
What it comes down to, is what do those thoughts and fantasies create in the process? Does it create a beautiful, passionate, enjoyable experience for both of you? Does it create goodness in your sexual relationship? If yes, then keep on keeping on. If it doesn’t…if it’s creating something demeaning or harmful then stop. But only you can decide that.
It is my hope to help enlighten and educate you on different ways of thinking about things so that you can create an amazing sexual relationship with yourself and your spouse. I want to help you open up your mind to new possibilities. To see that what you have been taught or what you have personally interpreted might not be serving you. And you, as a choice daughter of Heavenly Parents, you were given the agency to CHOOSE how you want to think about anything. That you don’t have to believe or go along with ANYTHING you were taught. You can take those thoughts and beliefs and examine them one by one and DECIDE for yourself what you WANT to believe about sex, about your relationship, about yourself, about anything. This is what we do in coaching. Help you uncover those beliefs, examine them, decide if they are serving you, and then choose on purpose what you want to think and believe instead of being on default. I truly believe that as you do so it will help you in every area of your life. It will help you in your relationship with yourself, your spouse, your children, your family, your friends, your coworkers, and your relationship with your Heavenly Parents.
Let’s “Say Yes to the Sex!” and I promise…your husbands will thank me and so will you! Join our 30-Day Challenge!