Shame & Sexuality: Not Good Bedfellows!

Can you remember something that felt really amazing to you when you were young, a movement or an activity that connected you to so much pleasure that you wanted to do it over and over and over again?

Hold onto that memory for a moment.

Really let yourself feel it, move it, breathe it if you’re willing.

Or notice if that’s edgy or downright impossible for you to do.

Now, memory of pleasure in mind, think back to why you ever stopped making that move or doing that activity in the first place.

Chances are you were shamed out of it. Maybe subtly. Maybe overtly. Could have been with the best of intentions or from a place of malice. Yet shame is shame is shame.

Far too often, we are shamed out of embracing and embodying our deepest pleasure, as if it weren’t as natural an experience as breathing.

i had a really confronting encounter last week that brought the intersection of shame and sexuality to the forefront of mind, though living in the dominant culture that I [we] do, sadly it’s never very far.

I was in the woods near my home engaging in something that I find highly pleasurable, one of my favorite ecoerotic practices actually. I call it “slothing”. Slothing requires me to find a sturdy tree limb or trunk that hangs more or less parallel to the earth so I can lay lengthwise and belly down across it. Then I let me arms and legs dangle, just like a sloth!

I love this practice because it calms my nervous system tremendously, gives me a visceral sensation of being held and invites me to awaken all my senses and windows of perception to the intimacy so readily available to me with the more than human world.

Though not overtly sexual in anyway, it can be highly erotic and to certain eyes it can look very sexual, or so I learned.

A man walking through the woods happened to come upon me slothing and clearly he found the sight to be both sexual and shameful and he let me know it, loudly.

“NOT APPRECIATED! THAT’S F%*KING DISGUSTING!” he snarled amidst the peaceful forest sounds and my moment of serenity.

There I was, experiencing such deep pleasure, intimacy and communion in such an innocent and natural way and someone saw fit to dump a pile of their shame on me as if it were his right and duty to do so.

We all have stories like this. Some of them happen very young. Some of them continue well into our adulthood. Many of them are not just perpetrated by strangers or societal influences but come from within some of our closest relationships.

Shame over how we look, sound, smell, taste. Shame over what we do, wear, say. Shame over who and how we love. The list goes on and is sadly far too long.

So what to do about it?

That evening in the woods, I could have very easily internalized this man’s shame and made myself wrong for doing something pleasurable. In fact, there were moments when that wave of response moved through my body, causing me to change the position of my legs and turn over onto my back at one point.

But other waves moved through too.

I came to clarity within myself that my deep truth and my deep knowing are unwavering: so long as it is consensual and not causing unwanted harm to anyone, pleasure is to be celebrated.

I came to compassion for this man and all he represents, no doubt a product of so much conditioned repression and shaming himself, disconnected from the innocence and beauty of Eros that is the birthright of us all.

I came to conviction, renewed and reaffirmed, that deshamifying (a fabulous word one of my mentors loves to use) pleasure is something I will forever and always be a stand for.

When we strip the shame that has been taught to us, because make no mistake – shame is taught and inherited and is bound up in systems of oppression and power dynamics with deep roots – we have access to an incredible amount of vitality that we never knew was possible.

Free from shame we get to explore the potential of our bodies and our relationships in keeping with what our instincts and impulses desire. Our boundaries become clearer and easier to respect. Our preferences become simpler to advocate for and fulfill.

When we are unashamed of who we are, what we want and how we want it, life is suddenly full of so much more possibility and so much more pleasure.

And THIS is the life I want to be living! How about you?


Erotic Wholeness Guide

I believe that each of us tending to our personal erotic liberation is an essential contribution to our collective liberation.

My journey began as a precocious child who loved to dance, move, touch and speak her mind boldly. I once thought I’d become a lawyer and spent more than a decade building a successful corporate career early in my adult life only to find my heart calling for something radically different. That call led me to blaze a path across the terrain of sexuality, somatics, social justice and soul.

Inspiration and guidance have come to me from many sources, including the potent voices of the Black intersectional feminist movement, the pancultural wisdom of many earth-based traditions and powerful modalities such as Somatic Experiencing and Sexological Bodywork.

I’m deeply honored to serve and inspire in the ways I do.

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