Sex talk
Speaking of Shame

Simon Sheppard,

Conflicted about cock? If the Bible is to be believed, the very beginnings of human culture were rooted in sexual shame, when those disobedient scamps Adam and Eve first noticed they were naked. And – some would say – things haven't much improved since then. For all the flaunting of sexuality prevalent in some parts of the world, many of us still harbor the nagging feeling that we should be embarrassed about what's up below the belt.

As one cultural commentator argues, "Sure, restraint and consideration are good things. But sexual shame is just a thoroughly useless emotion."

Most of us have had to grow up navigating the shoals of mixed messages regarding sexuality. Our commentator continues, "Though contemporary liberal civilization says it approves of sexual expression, it's usually only OK within the bounds of something or other, and what somebody's supposedly permitted to feel is constantly shifting. Modern parents may tell their children that genitals are nothing to be ashamed of, but the kids are also told to keep their pee-pees properly hidden."

Things get even more dick-deflatingly confounding when homophobia is added to the mix. Many queers don't just feel fucked up about sex, but about their sexual orientation as well. Though things in great swaths of the world are improving, the legacy of internalized homophobia still has the power to shame, even if it's at a subconscious level. "There's nothing worse than being told your deepest desires are wrong," says one gay guy. "It can distort your entire life."

Some aspects of archetypal "gay life" can cause sex-related shame, too. Many of us are ashamed of our bodies. We feel we are not hunky enough, are too hairy, have a too-small dick, or whatever. And self-consciousness over other things – less-than-fashionable clothes, social awkwardness, or sexual inexperience – can turn cruising into an embarrassing mess. As our gay observer points out, "Yes, we came out in order to overcome our negative feelings about ourselves. But many of us landed in gay communities that are unnecessarily competitive and judgmental, and so we ended up with a whole new set of perceived inadequacies."

Then, too, a bunch of us harbor fantasies that make us at least a teensy bit uneasy. But rest assured: Whatever perversion may be near and dear to you, somebody else has had that desire before. A whole bunch of somebodies, in fact. And if you choose to act upon your yen, as long as it's done safely and consensually, it's nothing to be ashamed of. Deliciously, though, some kinky scenes, such as verbal abuse or humiliation play, transform those negative feelings into sex toys. "Sometimes a nonjudgmental, anything-goes attitude can take the fun out of down-and-dirty sex," grouses one kink fan. "If I dress a guy up in panties and bra, I want to insult him and tell him he should feel ashamed of himself. It's part of the pleasure...for both of us."

Of course, there are sexual misbehaviors one might justifiably regret. Though many of us aren't hung up about nonmonogamy, there's still plenty of bed-based misconduct with the power to wound. It's bad to lie to your boyfriend, and anyone who knowingly gives someone an STD should certainly hang his head. Wanting to fuck another guy shouldn't be a cause for regret, but being willing to harm him is quite another matter.

Sure, conflicts over sex run deep. But hey, are you feeling ashamed just because you want to suck cock? Dude, drop the guilt and open your gullet wide.

Simon Sheppard is the author of Kinkorama: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Perversion

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