I woke up this morning thinking about how female sexuality is consistently shamed or exploited (yes, I think about these issues night and day). Girls and women generally aren’t allowed to enjoy or embrace our sexual power, pleasure, and/or play. Female sexuality is commodified and used to sell everything from toothpaste to cars to vacations, but it isn’t allowed to freely and openly stand on its own. Real life versus media life is such a bizarre dichotomy we all (mostly) put up with or endure. Fairly strong social expectations and strictures keep most of us “in our place.”
For many, even any of the words that point toward being a sexual being feel shaming and threatening. Even the word “sexuality” used openly, publicly, makes many people feel a little edgy or nervous, self-conscious, or even like running away. Why are these words so charged? Why is such a normal, healthy, beautiful part of our lives heaped with so much secrecy, hiding, and shame? Honestly, why is it okay to show violence in all of its gory detail, but showing intimate pleasure gets an X-rating and general social disapproval? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Our concept of obscenity is itself obscene, not to mention immensely harmful.
One day, years ago, my friend and I were commenting back and forth on Facebook (so basically having a public conversation) about National Masturbation Month. I don’t remember what we were saying, but I was laughing out loud so hard and frequently that my (then) husband came to find out what was so funny. When I read the conversation out loud to him, he blanched, absolutely horrified. “But our friends will see that,” he whined aghast, demanding that I delete it all immediately. The fun and hilarity and unbounded joy came to a sudden stop as buckets of shame were thrown on our pleasure fire.
One of the things I cherish the most about being single is having the freedom to live my life on my own terms – to be able to say what I want to say without censoring myself for what might make a partner feel embarrassed or ashamed, and to make my own choices without someone else’s undue influence/judgment on how I get to spend my time and/or create my life. Yes, I have my own internal censor that I have to deal with, but that’s something I can work on and make my own choices about. And I mean, yeah, I’m sure other people judge me, but it’s not the same as someone you’re living with and “in love” with judging you, pulling their “love” away – and besides, almost half of this country voted for Trump, so if I were hard-pressed before to care about what other people think, now it’s come down to how could I possibly give a shit what they think? Seriously.
You want to talk about obscene? Let’s talk about this country pulling babies and little children out of their parents’ arms – kidnapping them with no way/intention of reuniting these little ones with their families. It is incomprehensible in the magnitude of its cruelty and depravity. There is seemingly no end to the atrocities committed by this current administration. Hundreds of thousands of people dead, millions of people infected, hatred, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia all fomented – and we go on living our lives as if our country weren’t (literally) on fire. Before I digress further down this rabbit hole, allow me to return to the topic at hand.
Let’s talk about sex. Let’s talk about sexual power. Let’s talk about sexual pleasure. Let’s talk about pleasure in general. Let’s talk about new ways of being – in our sexuality, in our relationships, in the choices we are able to make in our lives. Let’s talk about how to create safe space for everyone to live their authentic, joyful, happy lives. Let’s talk about safe space for healing, for personal and/or spiritual growth, and for honoring ourselves and the pain and shame we have all experienced. Let’s talk about respect for all bodies, for diversity, for our own uniqueness. Let’s talk about how society (government, churches, schools, media, etc.) tries to control us through shame and ignorance – and how we are complicit accomplices in accepting and spreading shame, particularly sexual shame.
Not me? Have you ever called another woman a slut or some other derogatory name for how she dressed or behaved? You. Have you ever gossiped about the relationship choices someone else made? You. Have you ever criticized another woman’s body (even if just in your own mind)? You. Have you ever criticized your own body? Hidden parts of you that you were taught to believe were embarrassing? Body parts, thoughts, feelings, desires, pleasures? How about anger, disappointment, depression, sadness, or anything that made you feel at all vulnerable and/or imperfect? We are all complicit in this stranglehold that limits our own life force – not because we necessarily want it or choose it, but because we allow it.
Stepping out of shame is literally a step toward healing ourselves and the world. Consciously thinking and talking with others about how our values are formed, about what it true and what is just harmful social programming, is essential toward not only our own healing, but also healing many of the social ills which plague us today. Actually, which have plagued us for many centuries as humanity has endured “dominator” political and religious systems (as Riane Eisler calls them). We desperately need to move toward partnership systems, where people are respected, valued, and embraced rather than controlled, shamed, and discarded. By the way, Eisler’s book Sacred Pleasure is a must-read. This woman is beyond brilliant. She has a new book out called Nurturing Our Humanity. I can’t wait to read it!
I desperately want women to realize that sexual shame, body shame, lifestyle choice shame – all of the shame that society tries so hard to serve us, to keep us buried in – is how they take our power away. It is time – and it is necessary – for us to refuse shame and to take our power back. There is actually nothing shameful, embarrassing, or obscene in sexuality or in our natural bodies and desires. Those feelings have been taught to us – we can unlearn them and teach ourselves and each other something better, something more honoring and sacred.
I continue this conversation in my book, The Sexuality Reclamation Project for Women. It contains some of my thoughts on a variety of related topics. It’s just the beginning of the conversation. I’m not asking anyone to agree with my viewpoints or perspectives. I’m simply asking you to deeply consider what is true for you. If there were no fear or shame, who would you be, how would you feel/act, what choices would you make? If you were safe, how would you express yourself? What relationship/s would you have? What relationship/s would you end? If you were centered in your own power, how would your life look? There is a companion workbook that invites you to consider questions like this and more. There is a journal that invites you to assess your current relationship/s. Are there red flags? Are they about you, the other person, or the relationship dynamics? What do you want to do about them?
Let’s think about these things and keep these important conversations going! Let’s make it safe for each other to allow our authentic selves to rise and be expressed. It is essential to creating a better world and to healing ourselves and the planet. Feel free to comment below.