Ditch your hookup hang-ups: a religious background
There are so many barriers that can hold us back from expressing our sexuality in the way that is most true to our desire and that prevents us from having the kind of sexual relationship(s) we would like to be having – luckily we have the power to change them. I’ll be doing Ditch your hookup hang-ups columns intermittently as a way to discuss common issues that can hold you back from fulfilling your wildest (or tamest!) sexy dreams.
When I was 16, my bookshelves were lined with books with titles such as Every Young Woman’s Battle and How I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I had taken the “True Love Waits” pledge to remain a virgin until marriage – I was right in the thick of purity culture. There was even a point where I had a pastor’s wife as a “masturbation accountability partner” because even thinking about having sex was a sin.
If there is anyone who should have sexual shame or guilt, it’s me – so when asked to cover the topic of sexual guilt, I felt compelled to. The views that are impressed onto us as children can haunt us our whole lives, and when preparing to enter into sexual relationships we must be willing to do the legwork to shed any damaging values.
One of the important things to remember is that there is a difference between shame and guilt. Essentially, shame is “I am bad” and guilt is “I have done something bad.” Both are natural feelings when it comes to having sex outside of the way you were raised to believe sexuality should look like. However, dwelling on these feelings can be damaging to yourself and your sex life. It’s important to recognize that humans have sexual urges and desires – it is normal and there is nothing wrong with you, so long as they do not hurt or harm anyone.
Next, you need to determine what your sexual values are. This can consist of sitting down alone and writing down the sex acts/sexual thoughts and fantasies that you are comfortable with and those you are not. Spend as long as you need, going through each scenario and asking yourself why you feel comfortable or uncomfortable with it. Try to determine whether that feeling reflects what you believe to be true about your sexuality or if it reflects values that someone else impressed on you. No one’s values are wrong or right – the only time they are wrong is when we impress them on someone else. The only way to break down this wall is piece by piece.
Have patience with yourself and find a partner who will as well – and then practice! Do things alone or with a partner that make you feel good sexually, that you can reconcile with your newly-discovered sexual values. Whenever you are feeling guilty or shameful, try and deconstruct why you are feeling that way and who taught you to feel that way. Talk to your partner(s) about the views you grew up with and how they make you feel – be honest and ask them to help navigate your way out of sexual shame.
Sex can be a positive part of a healthy life, but if it is causing you mental or emotional anguish you need to seek professional help. Dr. Reece Malone is Manitoba’s only certified sexologist and an expert sex therapist, but there are also plenty of free or low cost counseling services available at places like Klinic or Women’s Health Clinic.
Whatever you do, don’t give up or blame yourself. Keep pushing through and be kind to yourself and find partners who will be too.