Fear and shame in the intimate sphere often derive from twisted, mistaken notions about sex – psychology and sociology can help us understand why.
The origins of repressed sexuality
Sexual freedom is not that easy to achieve.
How many times we blame ourselves for having a particular sexual fantasy or desire, we keep an erotic dream secret from our partner, we don't talk about what we'd like to do by ourselves or together?
On the one hand, it might seem bizarre that something as spontaneous as sex could be so full of taboos; then again, it's true that we live in a sexophobic society that doesn't approve of sexual education and with strong moral bias on how our bodies should be used.
Taboos are a socio-cultural phenomenon, deriving from the notion of what is “forbidden” that we learn since childhood, passed on by the people who surround us: this is why it's so difficult to realise that we might have internalised them, and to then deconstruct them.
How do they take so much root that people end up repressing their sexuality?
From social shame to sexual repression
Human beings fear all that they don't know or don't understand. Often, they learn about what's disgraceful and shameful, what shouldn't be asked or be curious about, from their peers.
This not only leads to repression, but also to judging other people when they don't comply with this “standards of ignorance”. It's a moral judgement, that is, it arbitrarily defines as right or wrong certain behaviours or attitudes, and thus feeds widespread shame on the subject of sex, leading to a kind of vicious circle.
From a social standpoint, this is how “scandalous” or obscene notions are born, i.e. things that should remain “out of sight” and that, according to public opinion, are not fit for all to see.
Living in such a climate inevitably leads people to badly judge themselves, too, and so repress their sexuality; sometimes, without even knowing why, as it clearly transpires from the words of the people interviewed in Comizi d’Amore (Love talk) by Pier Paolo Pasolini, an investigative documentary from 1964 that still feels incredibly current!
The consequences of repressed sexuality
What we consider normal is nothing more than something statistically common, to which sometimes people conform only out of necessity.
Rebelling against the norms means becoming a “deviant”, being weird and transgressive, and this can lead to losing the respect of the group one belongs to.
Often, we're not even aware of this kind of ‘social coercion’ that we experience since birth, but when we become conscious of it we realise how sexual repression can cause some serious damage:
- psychosomatic issues and sexual hang-ups at an individual level;
- relationship issues at an interpersonal level;
- frustration and dissatisfaction taken out on others, implementation of social policies based on outdated and untrue convictions at a social level.
What isn't necessarily indicative of a repressed sexuality
We should be aware that a distinction should be made between what can be considered sexual repression and what has nothing to do with it:
- Being asexual, that is, a complete lack of sexual attraction to others, doesn't equate to sexual repression;
- Low libido, due to hormonal issues for example, doesn't necessarily correlate to sexual blocks of a psychological nature.
How do you know whether you're sexually repressed, and how can you overcome it?
In the light of what we said above, it should now be clear that all of us have internalised a certain amount of sexual repression.
Moreover, an inclination for sex, or just having sex, doesn't necessarily mean that we're knowledgeable about it.
This means that each one of us carries one's own load of questions, doubts and taboos; of course, living in an age of social media and internet allows us to access much more information in a way that was previously unthinkable, though we can't always be sure that such information really is useful or reliable.
Due to this, if you feel that you have unresolved issues concerning your sexuality, you can always consider approaching a sexual therapist or seek out associations that offer sexual education events run by professionals.
Don't be afraid to ask: it's the first step towards gaining awareness and understanding if what society taught you really is for you, or whether there's something else beyond what you've learned that you'd like to explore more freely, and without any judgement.
Article by Dania Piras – Specialised in typical and atypical sexuality