Continuing our sex and shame series.
I am very fond of this story, not only because the author’s “never minds” gave me a bit of a giggle, but also because I think sharing this simple story is just as brave and important as sharing any other. Thank you to this author for your honesty.
With our first child, I was ashamed to tell friends and family about the pregnancy. Proud and excited, yes, but also very embarrassed: here it was, actual proof that we’d “done it.”
Never mind that we’d been together for more than a decade. Never mind that our bedroom has only ever had one bed, and that sex in married life is sort of a given. Never mind that I actually loved doing it. I still felt so traumatized by sex jokes I heard in elementary school, and sexism in the media, and sex scenes in movies I wasn’t ready for – all the awful, too-graphic-for-me stuff coming from my school and culture and society – I still felt so disturbed, that evidence that I’d “done it” myself was somehow deeply mortifying. Just as being childless allowed room for the *possibility* of virginity, this baby left no room for doubt. Our physical intimacy was public knowledge.
To be clear, I never judged myself as indecent – I just didn’t want anyone else to know that we…did that sort of thing. I think my sister really did feel a bit scandalized when she heard our news.
Why should I be so bashful about others knowing I have sex with my husband? (Or *had*, once — Baby’s really only proof of that one time after all, right?!) Why wasn’t the truth of my own years of (totally positive) experience enough to over-write, even partially, the idea that sex is generally “disgusting and naughty”?
I don’t know.
When I was pregnant with our second child, there was less shame in the announcement. Everyone already knew. But even now, I still hate any references to sex in songs, books, movies. I still feel embarrassed at the idea or suggestion of anyone else having sex. I can only imagine these feelings were formed when I was a small child, and that’s why they are unshakably strong.
One of the things that strikes me about this story is that it illustrates how we can know (or choose to believe) one thing, but still be controlled by the voice of shame shouting otherwise.
Have you ever felt shame about doing (or saying or being) something that you actually thought was perfectly acceptable?
What family and cultural factors influence our decisions about what is public and what is private about sex and our sex lives?
Why does joy so often get lost in all the other associations we make about sex?