Durex conducted a survey to determine how happy Americans are with their sex lives. The results were disturbing, showing that over half of sexually active Americans are dissatisfied with the duration of their intimate activities. That’s a lot of unhappy people. Your reaction to that information might be, “Well, why don’t they just talk to their partners about how they can satisfy them better?” If that is your reaction, that means you see open communication about sexual pleasure as a normal and healthy part of an intimate relationship. Unfortunately, one of the reasons so many Americans are unhappy with their sex lives is probably that they don’t feel comfortable talking about them. There certainly are many simple things a couple can do to help both parties be happier with their sex life, so if those things aren’t happening, it’s reasonable to guess a lack of communication is what stands in their way. Clamming up when it’s time to talk about such issues can come about from sexual shame.
Any issues happening outside of the bedroom – issues of not feeling safe, or loved, or whole – will likely present themselves during sex, or in conversations about sex. To get a better understanding of sexual shame, we spoke with sexuality doula and sex educator Ev’Yan Whitney. She is one of the finalists in the Lovers’ Ultimate Sex Educators Awards, a grant program awarding $15,000 to sex educators working to further sex education and end sexual violence. Here’s what Whitney shared with us.
What are some behavioral indicators of shame?
We asked Whitney what some behaviors are that a person might display that can be indicative of unexplored sexual shame. It’s possible a person can live with these for years without realizing life doesn’t need to be this way. When it comes to one’s actual sex life, Whitney explained, “Sexual shame can show up in many ways. It can look like having anxiety, fear, or general discomfort about sex—not just the physical act but even the topic of sex. It can look like avoiding sex with a loving partner because there’s something about sex itself that just feels wrong or inaccessible. It can look like feeling imposter syndrome around sex or your sexuality.”