We are sex. We are sweat. We are pleasure. We are desire. We are lust. We are longing. We are taboo. We are anticipation. We are nervousness. We are excitement. We are anxiety. We are confidence. We are love.
We are all of the above and so, so, very, much more. But at the core of our being — we are sex. From the very beginning of our existence — we are sex.
The acceptable narrative commonly told in our society is this: A man and a woman, after professing their love for each other, will have mad, passionate sex and bear a child. Together they decide this child is a beautiful reflection of the love they physically expressed to one another.
Then, that child becomes old enough to ask about sex, and the man and the woman are quick to say “We don’t talk about that. Don’t ever do those things. It’s dirty. Don’t touch yourself and especially do not touch others.” All the actions that created this child have suddenly become shameful.
With those messages neatly packed in a pocket in the brain, that child becomes old enough to meet someone they feel all horny and/or romantic about but the messages are on repeat in their head: unless we’re gonna make a baby we really shouldn’t be doing this. So they sneak to explore their sexual self with another and are filled with shame.
The child continues to grow older until one day they meet The One and, surprise! For some reason not understood, the attempt to explore their sexuality is filled with shame. And boom, they’re in my office working to undo years of sexual trauma that was completely induced by … shame. Needless shame. Shame that is usually first introduced at a very young age by someone they love, in an act of love, to protect them from sex. To protect them from themselves.
Shame is the ultimate anti-sex movement if there ever was one. Shame prevents us from pleasure, from loving relationships, from freedom of expression. Especially when our sexual expression is outside the lines of the heteronormative example that society keeps feeding us — an example that very few people, actually and fully adhere to. The human race is quite literally sexually transmitted. So if our very being got its start from sex … Why is there so much shame around it? Why are so many of us afraid, shy, ashamed, to engage in the act of sex? The very act that created us.
Shame doesn’t leave room for pleasure, excitement, curiosity, or exploration.
Shame doesn’t allow room for choice.
When we are in a place of shame we are often lead to going about our day to day lives how we ought to rather than how we desire to. When we are focused on any shame we’re feeling we forget that we have choices to live differently, authentically and that we are capable of creating a blueprint for ourselves that aligns with the core of who we are as a being — not how others expect us to be.
This blueprint may include sexual expression in the form of BDSM, same-sex desire and/or exploration, group play, sharing partners, masturbation, watching others — either virtually or in real-time. Whatever it is, despite the actions of others procreating to get us here, making babies is not the only form of sexual expression that is okay to practice. Even for those who go on to procreate, most have done some so-called “shameful” exploration in the process.
So if we are to truly be free of shame, how do we know when what we’re doing is okay? The answer is easier than many realize. If the sex you are having (or desire to have) is consensual (consenting age and coherence included) and pleasurable between you and your partner(s). If all parties involved feel their pleasure needs are being met and respected; if all parties want to be engaging in the activity taking place; regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or relationship configuration — then take a deep breath, release any shame, and enjoy.
We are each such beautiful, unique beings. Let’s be honest, sex can be pretty spectacular and many times results in some pretty spectacular people — like the human that looks at you from across a parking lot, or while waiting for a table, or while caring for a pet, or while looking into another’s eyes, or when looking in the mirror. You get the idea.
The point is, we are sex. Sex is not shameful. We are not shamed.
Dr. Laurie Bennett-Cook is a Clinical Sexologist with private practice counseling clients in Salt Lake City. She can be reached at [email protected]