Shame is endemic in our society, yet nobody talks about it. Which is strange, because it is the silent killer of sexual love. The heart isn’t cut to pieces in battle. It unknowingly dies, like a sleeping person in a room gradually filling with carbon monoxide.
Shame reveals – and hence conceals – itself differently. For each person, and for each gender.
With due regard for generalisation, for heterosexual men, it works something like
- you won’t be able to get an erection. You’re useless
- Ok, you’ve got an erection, but you’ll lose it. You’re useless.
- Ok, you won’t lose it but you’ll come too quickly. You’re useless
- Anyway, she’s not had an orgasm, or at least not the one you were looking for, so you’re completely useless, saddo
And because it’s shameful, it can’t be talked about. So if you’re a woman, trying to make sense of this behaviour, you might think your partner is selfish, inconsiderate, disconnected and performance focused.
Shame explains something weird about male behaviour: it’s really important that you like the sex, but if you helpfully propose something to make it better, generally, he doesn’t want to know. Why? Shame again. Change is a confession of past uselessness, which is hard to bear.
As a woman, how does shame affect you? Well, you might think that you’re to blame if there’s any erection issues, because you’re not sufficiently attractive, or arousing, or sexy, hence there’s something wrong with you, or you didn’t have an orgasm, or at least, not the right kind of orgasm, which means there’s something wrong with you, and so on. Shame again, but slightly different in its location.
A person, finding the shame hard to bear, might attempt to displace it onto their partner, through blame. Silence, shame, blame. They don’t come bearing weapons, but they don’t have to.
Between the sexes, shame is intractable if we don’t understand that both genders have it, but in slightly different positions, meaning that the shame of each gender is invisible to the other, unless we communicate.
Shame is kept in place by the false notion that sex is about performance rather than about connection, but it’s difficult to be inoculated against it whilst we have such an impoverished idea of what heterosexual sex is, namely that it’s about intercourse leading to orgasm.
So, a first step is to broaden our idea. In my recent blog ‘ Sexual Empathy’, I gave an example of another form of sexual encounter which wasn’t orgasmic, but was connecting and heartfully intimate, not just sensation based, but deeply feeling. And part of my work is to elaborate and expand upon The Wheel Of Sexuality taught to me by my tantra teacher Hilly Spenceley in such a way that it cumulatively engages all our erotic and connecting potential. My intention is to initially develop this with individuals and couples and then, perhaps later this year, start to offer it in a workshop format. Watch this space.