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Do you have an unhealthy relationship with sex?

Do you feel shame about sex? Do you think sex is dirty? Our sex therapist discusses why many of have these feelings and how to get over them

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A famous country singer once wrote; “Life has taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you’re going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love.”

While we may chuckle at this dichotomy, Butch Hancock has highlighted one of the greatest disunions within our society. The duality of obtaining the sexual fulfillment of our choice, while still maintaining a moralistic ‘family centered’ approach to our erotic self. So how did sex come to be thought of as dirty in the first place, and what is it doing to our sexual expression? Is the cause our repressed Victorian upbringing? Our religiously bound roots? Or is God simply a Republican?

The answer seems to be one steeped in the profound disconnect between what we’re ‘allowed’ to have, and what we’re urged to want. The result? One in which Puritanism and hedonism collide.

First of all, the notion that we live in a time of unprecedented sexual freedom is – in my opinion – a fallacy, and often stems from our overexposure to sexual imagery. We promote abstinence-only learning (leading our politically correct “Health Ed” – Not Sex Ed – programs with fear-based tactics), fight laws against same-sex equal rights, impeach morally straying politicians, and tear away at a woman’s right to choose; yet porn sites multiply and flourish on the internet, The Maury Show makes millions on “Who’s the Baby’s Daddy?”, and billboards for perfume adds show more skin then Europe’s top five nude beaches.

So, where has all of this cultural-based sexual duality gotten us? North American teenagers engage in sexual activity an average of two years earlier, and give birth at a staggering rate of eight times greater, then our European counterparts. Jump up a generation, and I’m swamped with an influx of men and woman who want nothing more than to address the shame, guilt, and anxiety that surrounds their sexuality.

So what do you do if you are among the countless men and women that struggle with this sexual shame? I won’t tell you that by following a few simple suggestions you will be able to unearth the secrets that have accompanied your sexual upbringing and confront the societal and familial messages that block your erotic expression. However, a few points may head you in the right direction.

Where do you believe your sexual guilt stems from? A religious upbringing? A cultural view that the genitals are dirty? Or the idea that ‘good girls’ don’t get horny or simply a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ home policy? Trying to find a counter point for every negative connotation may seem simplistic, but it can be beneficial, as although emotions are powerful, intelligence is a pathway worthy of travel. For example; the clitoris’ only known biological function is to give you pleasure. Would God have given you this if he didn’t want you to use it?

Staying connected to your body’s erotic self is also important. Being present to feel your own sexual energy (embracing the feeling of your sexual hunger and how your body responds sexually) can be a truly enlightening experience. Recognizing these feelings and learning to embrace them as natural humanistic responses for a behaviour that is essential to humanity, can be a powerful thing. Also, taking the first step to truly open up and share a piece of your sexual mind with your partner (such as a sexual fantasy) can not only be liberating, but also form a connection that is deeper than ever previously experienced. True erotic intimacy occurs when our innermost sexual desires are revealed – and met by our partner with acceptance and validation – instead of shame or condemning perversion.

Dr. Teesha Morgan is a sex therapist based in Vancouver.