Is shame hurting your sex life?
Sexual shame is common for women, and there are few women who have not felt sexual shame of some sort. This is even truer for women in the church, and especially for those raised in the more legalistic corners of Christianity. Many still feel sexual shame, while others are doing and not doing things to avoid sexual shame.
The church has used shame as a tool to ensure virginity. Aside from the fact that it has a poor success record at keeping people pure, even when it does work it saddles women with the feeling that sex is inherently dirty and shameful. My bride has heard more than one soon to be wed woman express concern that she would be “losing her purity” on the wedding night.
Men are not immune to sexual shame. The most common one for us comes from porn use – especially if we moved past the more common stuff and into uncommon, bizarre, or extreme porn. Once a man masturbates to something, it becomes tied to his sense of sexuality, and it tends to come to mind when he is aroused. Shame is an understandable response to suddenly thinking of teenage girls, animals, or mutilation while trying to have sex with your wife!
Sexual shame comes in at least three flavours – fact based, lie based, and victim based
Lie-based: If a woman feels shame at being naked with her husband, or at touching his penis, she is suffering from lie-based shame. There is no reason for her to feel shame, her actions are not just allowed, they are right, good, and holy before God. The solution here is to understand the truth – to know that God is not opposed to all sex, and in fact intended husband and wife to have and enjoy sex a great deal.
Fact-based: If a man or woman feels shame over past sex that was wrong (including porn), that is based on fact, on something that should not have happened. The solution here is confession, repentance, and grace. The confession must include confessing to one’s spouse – even if the sin occurred before marriage. Sexual sin is against the one who sins, against God, and against the person’s future spouse. All three of these must be dealt with.
Victim-based: Sadly, it is common for men and women to feel shame about being molested, raped, or coerced into sex. This is a mix of fact and lie – the sex was wrong, but it’s a lie that the victim is to blame in any way. This one is difficult, and often requires third-party help.
Shame is a difficult thing to deal with, and it usually takes time to peel away all the layers and become free. A head understanding is good, but only a heart understanding will end shame. Be patient with yourself, and/or your bride, as you work through shame.
A couple of resources: (aff links)
Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage is a good book for a couple. While not directly about shame, the book deals with many of the roots of shame, and offers truth that can end the shame.
Intimate Issues: 21 Questions Christian Women Ask About Sex is an excellent book for women,. The authors explore many issues, including those that lead to shame.