Sexual Shame

Sexual Shame

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Note: This article was originally written for my men’s site, so it is directed at hetero men. Despite that, people of different genders and orientations have found value in it as well. Just flip the gender/situations to whatever suits you.

Our culture is saturated with sexual shame. Some of it is overt and obvious (religion, gay jokes, slut shaming) but much of it is implied and subtle. Sexual shame occurs any time we feel uncomfortable, unworthy, or immoral about our sexual thoughts, feelings or actions.

So if telling your date that you think she looks sexy in such a nice dress feels inappropriate; if a woman wanting to have sex on the first date feels forward or “slutty;” if wanting to kiss a someone you just met even though you don’t really know them feels wrong or undeserved; then chances are you are suffering from some level of sexual shame.

Sexual shame inhibits us. It slows us down in our romantic interactions. It causes us to hesitate when we want to kiss or touch someone. It makes us feel like we need to earn sex or deserve it from someone. It makes us feel guilty about expressing our sexual desires. It causes us to repress our sexual urges and to experience them vicariously through pornography or strippers. It keeps us in our room, on the internet, in front of video games, instead of out sharing a warm and beautiful moment with a someone else.

If you’re a man who has struggled in the past with the “friend zone,” who has had women lose interest in him after one or two dates, or who can’t ever seem to “take things anywhere,” it’s because you’re not making the interaction sexual enough and are therefore not expressing your sexuality freely or clearly. Chances are you are suffering from some degree of sexual shame and may not even realize it.

Women suffer from sexual shame in our culture the most. Almost every woman has a constant gnawing fear of being too “slutty” or not being inhibited enough to have a man respect her. These expectations reinforce the idea that a woman’s sexuality is somehow bad or gross or dangerous or distrustful. As a result, many women live with an excess of anxiety around their anxieties and are untrusting of men and their intentions.

Some men and women with a lot of sexual shame become sexually compulsive and continuously act out on their desires even though it’s unhealthy or not in their best interests.

Where Sexual Shame Comes From

Like most of our sexual and emotional hang ups in dating, sexual shame is instilled in us throughout our lives, particularly our early lives. Sexual shame can be pushed upon us by our family, our community, pop culture and by society at large. Negative experiences in adolescence with members of the opposite sex can also trigger a lot of sexual shame and self image issues as we enter adulthood.

Some examples of sources of sexual shame:

  • As a child, Mom or dad punishing you for touching or acknowledging your genitals, telling you not to experience or explore your body.
  • Religious upbringing where sex is demonized and taught as immoral or wrong.
  • Boys who are raised with a radical feminist influence who are taught that expressing their sexual desires openly are offensive and disrespectful to women.
  • Women who are raised to believe that expressing their sexuality too much makes them a slut and that they will not be respected if they give their sexuality away too easily.
  • An emotionally absent or smothering mother reinforces into the boy’s subconscious that he’s done nothing to deserve love and affection from women, that he’s unworthy. This often transfers into a shame about expressing the desire for sex and affection. Similar can be said for father’s and girls.
  • Television shows or cartoons where men are shamed for hitting on women or expressing their sexuality openly. Pop culture where women are shamed for being too forward about their desires. This could be anything from Roger Rabbit drooling around Jessica Rabbit or Vince Vaughn being laughed at and shamed for pursuing a girl in a movie. These are small but can add up quite a bit over time.
  • Consistent or brutal rejection from boys/girls growing up, particularly in adolescence. Teasing and bullying. Can cause self-image issues which lead to sexual shame, or a feeling the one doesn’t deserve or needs to earn affection.
  • Traumatic experiences, sexual abuse as a child, sexual assault, rape, both of yourself or loved ones close to you.
  • Etc.

The list goes on and on.

Like most shame, sexual shame is usually not experienced consciously or at least it’s not consciously recognized. Instead, it’s experienced through anxiety, avoidance, anger and guilt. When you’re on a date and are terrified to kiss your date even though they’re been giving you the big doe eyes for hours now, you’re not consciously thinking “Oh, I’m so ashamed of what I want to do, kissing them is bad and I don’t deserve it.” No, instead, it feels like there’s a brick in your stomach. You start rationalizing excuses about the “right moment” or whatever, and believe that you haven’t “earned” enough of a connection or enough affection from them to warrant kissing her yet.

These bizarre feelings seem logical to those who have them. I can’t tell you how many men I’ve talked to who were adamant that they didn’t know how to kiss a woman because they couldn’t spot the “right moment.” I always suggest to them that perhaps the “right moment” is not a moment, but actually something that’s always happening, you just have to create it together. Or that the belief that they need to have a “right moment” or that they need to know “how to kiss” a woman implies that they believe their sexual desire is not sufficient in and of itself — that despite having strong feelings for a woman, they still must find a way to “earn” getting physical with her.

This is sexual shame. A feeling of unworthiness. A belief that affection is something you pay for through effort and struggle. An assumption that mere mutual sexual desire in and of itself is not enough.

How to Get Rid of Sexual Shame

The way to rid yourself of shame is to expose it. You expose shame by expressing it and experiencing it. So if you’re ashamed of your body, the way you overcome that shame is by exposing your body — hence those fat people at the beach in thongs.

The way you overcome your sexual shame is by getting in touch with your sexuality and then expressing that sexuality openly. Simple, right? Not really. As with many of these things, it’s a matter of doing, not rationalizing or learning.

The best way to do this is through a process of progressive desensitization. You can start by expressing your sexuality in the confidence of close friends. If you’re always the quiet one when your buddies are talking about which women they want to sleep with, maybe it’s time to speak up. Tell your next date she’s beautiful and go to hold her hand. Start simple and slowly work your way up.

As time goes on, you will become more and more comfortable sharing your sexuality and expressing it openly. The anxiety will dissipate. The desire for “right moments” or “green lights” or “signals” or the feeling that you must “earn” sex or affection will disappear and you’ll feel foolish for spending so much time and effort looking for them.

For men, overcoming sexual shame is a cornerstone of my Sexual Confidence Program. I’ve created 18 interactive lessons to help you get in touch with your sexuality and begin expressing it to women. Learn more here.

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60 Comments

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  • Reply

    JT Styles

    4 months ago

    Getting sexual isn’t something a man does, it’s a reflex of who he is. It’s being shame-less, because there is no “shame” in seduction.

  • Reply

    James

    4 months ago

    Fitting that you use a picture from the movie Shame.

  • Reply

    seele

    4 months ago

    You don’t get friendzoned because you are not sexual. You get friendzoned, when girl has better options and wants to keep you around for favors or just in case. I was sexual with girls, kissing them and pushing to sex and got “let’s be friends, I am not ready for relationship, two weeks later have a boyfriend”.

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      4 months ago

      Sounds like you came off as too desperate.

      Not getting sexual is the #1 reason most guys get friend zoned.

      • Reply

        Nicholas

        4 months ago

        Mark, I think that’s right. But doesn’t it start from the start? That is, I have to be a sexual possibility from the first meeting rather than getting sexual at some random point in the course of the relationship.

        • Reply

          Mark Manson

          4 months ago

          Yes, this is assuming you meet a girl who there’s a possibility with (i.e., she flirts with you, gives you her number, goes on a date with you, etc.) but it goes no where or just asks to be friends.

      • Reply

        sheldonly

        4 months ago

        No, the #1 reason is that the woman finds the guy physically unattractive- just like it is when a girl gets friend zoned. You simply don’t want him/her.

        :/

        • Reply

          Magnus

          3 months ago

          Which reason is no #1 might vary from person to person. If someone really doesn’t look well, then being unattractive might be reason #1. But if you look like most men do, then not getting sexual could be reason #1.

      • Reply

        Bella

        1 month ago

        Hi Mark, I read this entry, and your sex-ed blog with interest, I have a few quibbles with your automatically defensive attitude toward feminists – we’re not all deniers of innate biological difference, and your comments on the friend zone.

        Your response here that perhaps this gentleman was ‘ coming off as too desperate’, and your earlier comments about the ‘friend zone,’ being the consequence of not expressing your sexuality well enough strikes me as a self-defeating point in an article about sexual shame. Firstly, it’s possible that sometimes, women just want to be friends, and have no sexual desire for particular male friends. Unfortunately no amount of declarations of sexual intent will change this. Sometimes, women try to be polite or spare your feelings, when they say they don’t want a relationship in general.

        Secondly the comment itself could be interpreted as shaming this man for not behaving within the narrow lines you are ironically prescribing for sexual behaviour. ‘Coming off as too desperate’ is just as much a shaming comment as ‘she was asking for it’. Perhaps some more delicate phrasing could have been used.

      • Reply

        laura

        5 weeks ago

        as a woman, this is simply not true. when I “friend-zone” a guy, it’s because, pure and simple, I’m not attracted to him like that. it’s not a personal attack, it just IS that way. there is nothing he can do to change that, except of course if he starts acting MORE sexual, at which point he wouldn’t be staying in my life even as a friend. that simply isn’t respectful, and I require the men in my life (friends and partners alike) to respect that I may or may not feel about them the way they’d like.

  • Reply

    Rakeshchander

    4 months ago

    Gwalior

  • Reply

    Jack

    4 months ago

    “Television shows or cartoons where men are shamed for hitting on women or expressing their sexuality openly. This could be anything from Roger Rabbit drooling around Jessica Rabbit or Vince Vaughn being laughed at and shamed for pursuing a girl in a movie. These are small but can add up quite a bit over time.”

    This really resonated with me. Not so much the television shows bit but I live in a culture (Scottish) where most men are so pussified and won’t hit on girls and guys that do are labelled “sleazy” and “creepy”. And if a guy gets rejected its a HUGE deal and other dudes love to make fun of him. As you can imagine this doesn’t encourage a lot of hitting on women.

    In fact, I remember my friend “J” used to go around and try and dance with EVERY pretty girl when we were 15-16 (and he ended up making out with more than a few) and I remember we were in a big group and one of the girls was like “j, you may pull a lot but you get rejected a TONNE!” and everyone laughed.

    Looking back it was their thought process which was laughable. My friend was making out with multiple hot women every night and all the other guys were too scared to even try! And this girl was probably just jealous of all the action he was getting.

    • Reply

      dlhsax

      4 months ago

      This is exactly what I hate about Britain (I think it’s fair to say that this attitude is true for the whole island). If you approach or escalate and get rejected, the attitude from your ‘mates’ isn’t “well, at least you had the balls to go and try” it’s “you’re a worthless piece of shit, totally low-status”. Growing up here can fuck with you real bad. It’s taken me so long to unwire from that stuff, still not fully rid of the shame or anxiety yet. Can you imagine the kind of headspace the average guy who doesn’t even know about PostMasculine etc. is in? Terrifying.

      • Reply

        Le Mack

        3 days ago

        It takes so much guts to approach a girl, so respect for you all. I’m a girl who dates girls, so I get where you’re coming from. It’s not only fear of being rejected by the girl in an embarrassing way, but it’s also fear of how your friends will react. Altogether it makes you feel crap. A suggestion is that rather than (a) not hitting on a girl you like or (b) being super flirty, just approach a girl as if she could be a potential friend. Hell, even when we make friends we’re actually mildly flirting. It’s just not so obvious. But you talk to them, listen to them, respect them, and if they say ‘hey I gotta go’ then you let them. No harm no foul. If a girl’s not interested, at least you could have a friend. And then there are the girls who just become mean if you approach them, and they’re not worth a second of your time. Just imagine if you manage to land someone like that, how high-maintenance are they going to be if you’re actually dating? Yeesh.

  • Reply

    Octavian

    4 months ago

    This is a good article but I have the opposite problem. I need to know how to hang out with an attractive woman without putting the moves on her, when all I want is to be friends. I start out the night with a firm conviction that nothing is going to happen, but my true intention loses out to the spur of the moment desire, my base instinct.

    This may not sound like a much of a problem, but 1) it ruins friendships or potential friendships. And I need friends more than anything right now, not lovers. I feel like I can only love one woman, someone I dated in the past and am trying to get back. 2) Sex is extremely emotional for me and after sleeping with a girl I don’t love I’m left feeling profoundly depressed, whereas sex with a girl I love leaves me feeling warm and happy. I get too much of the former and not enough of the latter. Most importantly, 3) It makes me feel like a douchebag and a user in that I can’t control myself enough to not hurt another human being for a brief urge, something I KNOW I will regret later but do anyway. That’s the worst part. I feel like a monster and when I get confronted by the girl about why I did such a thing, I have no answer.

    Anyway, that was a tangent. Sorry. But I could use some of that sexual shame. No that’s not right. I wish I could act in a way that keeps me in the friendzone when I want to stay in the friendzone. That’s more accurate.

    • Reply

      Nicholas

      4 months ago

      Sir, You sound to me like you have lots of sexual shame. Like you have freighted it with a lot of emotional stuff from other parts of your life. If you are up front and honest about your intentions (and believe the girl understands) then why should you feel regret later? I have in the past assigned too much Meaning to sex, and it was my effed up relationship with my mother (now dead) that lurked beneath the radar of consciousness.

      • Reply

        Octavian

        4 months ago

        Nicholas – I disagree. I probably do have some issues going on, but I don’t think shame is one of them. I feel like I have very few sexual hangups.

        It sounds like you and I are on opposite trajectories. I used to be someone who assigned very little meaning to sex, and I had a lot of it. But then I found a girl that I truly love, and I found out how incredibly moving and important sex can be. For the first time in my life I had mind-blowing, life altering orgasms. The afterglow was indescribable – like there was peace in the world and all I wanted to do is hold this girl. I used to be the guy who would dash away home after I have sex, but not anymore. I don’t want to cheapen it by spreading myself around. That depression I feel after sex now is because I know how good it can be with the right girl.

        And I do make my intentions clear, that I just want to be friends, but sometimes a girl’s attractiveness gets to me, even if I know I don’t want to pursue anything further I find myself doing things and manipulating the situation to get alone time with someone I’ve told “let’s just be friends”. A lot of times alcohol plays a role. I think Jack has it right – I need better self control. It’s like an out of body experience where I see myself doing things and I wish I could reach out stop myself, but I can’t.

        And here’s the nuclear revelation at the end – I was sexually abused as a little boy, although it didn’t feel like abuse. It was with a couple of females babysitters, two different teenage girls on two different occassions. It didn’t feel like abuse because even at that young age I was totally in love with girls, their bodies and I loved the opportunity to touch them. One happened in Thailand where I was born and the other happened after we moved to NYC. These weren’t isolated instances. It was an ongoing thing with both.

        The Thai girl actually let me touch her and I loved it. I don’t know how old she was but she was old enough to have pubic hair. I was around 4. The Puerto Rican babysitter in NYC was around 14 when it started and she wouldn’t let me touch her at all. I think she was just curious about boys and she used me as her personal anatomy doll to see how things worked. I was always trying to get her to let me touch her and she never let me. It became an obsession for my little boy mind to see how far I could get with her, and the farthest was letting me watch her get undressed. This started when I was 6 and went on for a while, but when she got a boyfriend she stopped.

        That was the extent of the contact. No intercourse of course since I was too young, and no oral contact. So I think that’s where my disfunction comes from. I was introduced to sexual touching at WAY too young an age and that drive to pursue it is strong, even when I know I shouldn’t.

        So obviously some issues going on, but I don’t think shame is one of them. I wasn’t ashamed then and I’m not now.

        • Reply

          Shusha

          1 month ago

          I have the exact same problem and a similar history. The only difference being that I am a female.

          It seems to me that it takes way more than simply self control. With effort, I may control my actions, but the ‘predator instinct’ is just always there, gnawing at my bones.

    • Reply

      Jack

      4 months ago

      You can act in that way Octavian, you just have to exercise more self-control.

  • Reply

    Nicholas

    4 months ago

    I think there is both too much and too little sexual shame in America. We are awash in sexual imagery and the sexualization of most everything, but we fetishize actual sex. (By holding that something is “taboo” and then transgressing that taboo.)

    I think there is “inappropriate” sex; that which recruits the genitals into service where a heart and sould are called for. But that has nothing to do with the first date or the fifteenth.

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      4 months ago

      I would say that fixation Americans have on sex is a result of the shame. If you remove shame from the equation (as some other cultures do), you don’t have the same obsession and taboo around sex that we have.

      • Reply

        Nicholas

        4 months ago

        Yeah, that’s right. I am typing faster than thinking, but there is a ton of stuff on my mind on that subject.

  • Reply

    josh

    4 months ago

    Alot of my sexual shame comes from the points that you mentioned this article. Others include a Christian upbringing(I condsider myself agnostic now), parents showing very little affection towards each other in front of me and my brother growing up(I think I’ve seen them kiss about twice, hardly ever hug and never hold hands). I can also remember never talking to my brother about girls or sex at all. Sex was like the main topic that was never spoken about in my house growing up. Even something as stupid as my parents changing the channel when there would be a passionate kiss/makeout scene in a movie we where watching. Like you wrote Mark, these are all tiny things but they certainly do add up. Ever so slowy the shame builds subconscious’y. But probably the biggest incident that screwed me up was when I was 12 and they found porn(that I had searched for) on the family computer. That night my mom came into my room crying and asked me if was responsible for it which I shamefully denied. Then she goes on to tell me how sex happens between people who love each other and that her and my father are the only sex parnters that each other has had. This was really tramatic for me especially at that 12 years old. It has caused me so much sexual shame that I am still trying to overcome it even at 26. My logical thoughts on sex have vastly changed over the past few years to a more healthy view of sex. But I think that my shame still dominates my emotions and these are probably the main reason why I fear creeping women out for just talking to them and have always feared showing any kind interest in them. Even the girls/women that have showed interest in me in the past where just met by me being cold to them even though I secretly liked them too. Thank you for the insights. I badly want to put my sexual shame behind me and the method you have prescribed seems like a great tool. The hardest part for me seems to be that first step in taking action though. Love the new site and the new atricles/posts are great.

    • Reply

      Halo Effect

      4 months ago

      I actually came from a fairly similar place. Parents didn’t show much affection towards each other. Even though they love each other, there’s barely any physical affection. Got told off harshly for watching porn around the age of 12. Felt shame around my sexuality for many years.

      I completely agree with Mark in that the way to overcome the shame is by sharing and opening up. This might be the scariest thing you ever do, but if a girl likes you, in stead of closing off, tell her your story. You don’t have to tell everything the first time, but if you could say to her that you like her, but that you usually push girls away becuase of your past… You may prevent actually pushing her away and you open the door to sharing more of your story, which will help a great deal in the healing process.

      If you have close friends (whether male or female), tell them about it. Say that it’s important to you and that you need to talk. They will listen if they are good friends. They will support you.

      If that’s all still too scary, do it with a therapist. They’re paid to listen, and they can’t tell other people. The Sexual Confidence program is probably a good option too, since it’s much cheaper than therapy and it’s designed to help you with your sexual shame, and you can share your whole story and all your hang-ups anonymously, while reading other guys’ stories as well. I know it seems intimidating now, but I promise you that the more you deal with this, the happier you will be.

      • Reply

        Tim

        4 months ago

        I also had similar experiences growing up. Parents were never affectionate or romantic with each other. Also got caught watching porn around 13 or 14, denied it even though it was clear I had.

        Interesting to see we had such similar experiences. There were other things too, but I think the porn thing was a big deal.

    • Reply

      Sigh

      10 weeks ago

      Your post could have been written by my brother and me. (I guess you could be my brother… same age, different name – unless it is fake)

  • Reply

    Kwjibo

    4 months ago

    I’d be interested to know of any TV/Film examples where there is no sexual shame/desperation from the male characters. Californication springs to mind, but thats all I can really think of…

    • Reply

      FPT

      4 months ago

      Perhaps all 007 with Sean Connery

    • Reply

      T. AKA Ricky Raw

      4 months ago

      Californication is one of the worst shows for men in my opinion. I think the show is full of sexual shame from male characters, but it’s even worse because it’s disguised as the opposite.

      One of the key hallmarks of shame is that a person views themselves as either superhuman or less than human with little middle ground. That’s why even though narcissists and codependents both seem to be opposites, they are actually both shame-driven and are just coping with the shame differently. It’s also why a narcissist can suddenly behave like a codependent and vice versa. Ever know a guy who was a doormat with no game or a girl who was a fattie who improved their sexual market value and suddenly became a raging asshole or bitch? Or someone who was stuck up and fell from grace and suddenly become a abject loser? Again, it’s because both are shame-based.

      Shame-based people not only view themselves as either superhuman or less than human, they apply that same view to how they see others. Other people are either all good or all perfect, someone to idealize and worship or someone to shit on and judge. If you look at Californication, it is filled to the brim with shame. The main character is incredibly superhuman and narcissistic. He’s the stereotypical mythical super alpha so many guys online aspire to be. His best friend is incredibly subhuman and sniveling. He’s the stereotypical mythical super beta so many guys are afraid to be. He gets all the shit dumped on him so that the audience and the main character can project their shame issues onto him and feel instantly superior. The women are all either Madonnas or Whores. Very little middle ground. If the woman is a Madonna, like Hank’s baby mama, you will never see her tits and the sex scenes are discrete. If she’s a whore, like 99% of the other women on the show, you will see her tits like crazy, and she will always be on top doing all the work while Hank just lays back doing nothing, because she is after all a whore so she should have all the psychological burden of being dirty. It’s obsessed with sex, but in the way that shame-based people fetishize it.

      Also, while much of Hank’s personality is narcissistic, he’s also very subtly codependent as well. Note what a constant white knight he is to women, no matter how depraved or selfish their behavior is. He is always responsible for their feelings, protecting them even when they don’t deserve it, etc. How he portrays Mia as a victim and wants to “save” her from herself when she’s an obvious sociopath. The multiple times he’s gotten into fistfights to protect prostitutes, including one who had him beat up. The excuses he made for a married groupie who was cuckolding her husband with celebrities.

      I could go on and on, but you get the point. It’s an awful, awful show when it comes to shame. It has some of the most sexual shame out there.

      • Reply

        Zac

        4 months ago

        I’d love to hear you drop a break down of Mcnulty from The Wire if you haven’t already Ricky.

    • Reply

      Magnus

      3 months ago

      The movie “The Departed” (2006) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0407887/ has a villain (Matt Damon as Colin Sullivan, a somewhat sympathetic villain actually) that has no “shame/desperation”. In fact he rather acts like a pickup artist :-) A good movie by the way.

  • Reply

    S.e.

    4 months ago

    You probably didn’t mean it this way, but the way you phrased your thoughts about boys who are brought up in “radical feminist” households was a little disconcerting. While I understand that growing up in a house where, say, porn is frowned upon could result in a whole lot of sexual shame, I don’t think growing up in a house where you are taught “that women should always be respected, no matter what” is exactly the same. Women SHOULD always be respected, ESPECIALLY during sexual encounters. Obviously, this does not mean that showing interest in a woman is disrespectful to her, though I know first hand that there are people who espouse that idea, and I’m sure this was what you meant.

    On that note, I would absolutely argue that women feel far more sexual shame than men do. Although I will give you that Vince Vaughn gets made fun of in some of his movies, is he not basically a hero in Wedding Crashers? There are endless examples of male characters who are made to be cool through their sexual attitudes/success with women. Take Barney Stinson from HIMYM, or Joey from Friends, or Damon from the Vampire Diaries, or Jason from True Blood. The list goes on. And for the record, I LOVE these characters. I think sex positivity is fantastic. My only complaint is that there are almost no female counterparts. Maybe Samantha from Sex and the City, but that’s literally the only one I can think of, and she gets demonized a fair amount. There were more than a few episodes that centered on the other girls’ discomfort with her sexual freedom.

    Practically every female friend I’ve ever known has had a problem with sex, and they were severe. More than a few of them had so much sexual shame they literally could not enjoy the act of sex itself. I’ve had a large number of close male friends, as well, and none of them have shared this same level of sexual shame. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist; maybe they just didn’t tell me about it. But I have a feeling that if they had it on the level my female friends have had, I would have heard about it. If a guy can’t have an orgasm because of his shame, it’s like the end of the world. If a girl can’t have one because of hers, it’s a Tuesday.

    So I appreciate this article. But I think you targeted an audience that needs it a little less.

  • Reply

    Ed

    4 months ago

    Keep in mind, too, that not getting sexual with women and being out in the friend zone could mean that you’re a homosexual in denial. That’s also common when being brought up in a religious zealot household (remember, you got your gayness from someone in your family, so you are not the only gay in the family). Many people can’t deal with being gay and overcompensate by becoming über religious.

    Anyway, I’m not trying to disparage gays or gays-in-denial, as I am the former and was the latter.

  • Reply

    tami

    4 months ago

    This blot is so fascinating especially since most blots are about the feminine mind which is nice as a woman to read and empathize but to know the mind of a man is even that much more interesting. I do have some thoughts.

    When I was in China last year (I ended up bust humming around) I made some European male friends who shocked me with their reverence to the beauty of sexuality. When I told them how in the south west (the Bible belt) how woman are supposed to be sect but not sexual how many men callcwomen slugs and shores for being sexual and then the men turn around and masturbate to a lorn video my friends were so confused. They told me sex was the most beautiful thing ever etc etc. I was mind blown. I had never heard men my age say such things about sexuality. My parents raised me to revere sexuality as well though only btw a marked couple so that wasn’t too new. But hearing it from my own peer group was refreshing.

    I think the problem with the America in terms of sexuality is that it’s not treated as this beautiful emotional experience. Its a selfish culture really. I don’t think its the shame either because so many men here are proud that they “banged that how’s. Its probably multiple reasons. One I think women have lost a sense if classiness and use sexuality to cure their emotional issues and thus behave in a manner that speaks little respect. Men may respond with a distaste for this so uses sexuality to fulfilled their needs but they hate themselves maybe and even the women. Or its just so many multi-faceted reasons that its like chicken or the egg in five dimensions. Either way I think if men and women didn’t treat sex as a hand shake but an emotional humanly bond then more people will atleast respect their natural desires and treat their peers with the same respect.

  • Reply

    tami

    4 months ago

    And I also have issues with pornography strip clubs etc not because Irs sexual but because it has skewed the real beauty sexuality is. If you ever go down Bourbon st. In new Orleans its like a sexual zoo. The most beautiful and lively act on earth is sec but it can also be the dirtiest and disgusting act. Men should not be ashamed of their sexuality women shouldn’t either but there’s no reason to over compensate that by treating such beauty as a walk in the park. Why would you show case michaelangelos David in a dirty grundgy room where people pollute it? Same thing with sexuality….

  • Reply

    tami

    4 months ago

    Oh I’m on my kindle. I apologize for some typos. Auto correct…..

  • Reply

    mike

    3 months ago

    the ultimate and most effective way to get over sexual shame is to go to a NUDE BEACH and get NAKED…..there you are confronted with real, naked, imperfect, sexual human bodies…..you won’t know where to look, you won’t know how to to act…I am sure you have had a dream of the deadly embarassment of turning up somewhere and everyone laughing at you…..at a nude beach you confront this fear HEAD ON….there is nowhere to hide….it is the most liberating thing for the psyche…you see people as people, it will change and eliminate MUCH sexual shame

    • Reply

      Bonnie

      1 month ago

      I agree that communal nudity is a wonderful thing to experience, especially for Americans, but for me it is very much a non-sexual thing.

  • Reply

    votsvoboda

    2 months ago

    regarding.”doing” for getting over shame. I normally DO everything in bed and express my desires to her. still I feel wrong at times and cant really enjoy it, it feels like.acting. how can overcome the shame I alrealrdy take action but it s the feeling holding me back?

  • Reply

    Lily

    2 months ago

    What if a person’s sexual desires should be something one’s should be ashamed of?

    I mean, look at Jerry Sandusky!!! He still claims his innocents, but he was convicted of molesting boys. Suppose that you have an older uncle who finds young boys attractive. Would you shame him, or would you encourage him?

    Suppose that a middle age man finds his daughter’s friends attractive. Would you shame him or encourage him make a move on them?

    • Reply

      Mark Manson

      2 months ago

      You shame the behavior, not the person. Finding those things attractive is not healthy and likely represents some deeper psychological problems. I would encourage them to confront those desires and work through them to resolve them.

      So no, I would not shame them for those feelings. I would absolutely shame (and punish) them for acting on them though.

  • Reply

    Mark David Fourman

    1 month ago

    Hey Mark,

    As you know I recently put together a guided meditation on how to transform shame into self-expression. I bunch of my readers have been using it successfully to get rid of sexual shame. Thought I’d share it for your readers too: http://theotherenlightenment.com/transform-shame-into-self-expression/

  • Reply

    Tina

    1 month ago

    I am just now reading article #2 in my experience of your writing. I love your attitude and tone and your POINTs so far…but. When you write about feminism I feel a little squiggle of revulsion. A true feminist is all about empowering women and not at all about disempowing or disenfranchising men. Yes, we women need respect and we need to be able to honor our sexuality (brains, physical prowess, etc) without feeling shame or fear BUT strong women do not require weak men, powerless men. We need for men to be strong and powerful, too. Just not overpowering.

  • Reply

    Rick

    1 month ago

    what if I am able and normally DO all the nornal.actions.for.expression of sexual desire (kissing touching, sex) but I still feel some guilt throughout for “disrespecting her” / shame for “just wanting that”, and feel I am GETTING/earning it, or that she’s doing me a favour?
    how do I take care of the cognitive part of this?

    Thank you

  • Reply

    Mike Hawk

    1 month ago

    I wonder if someone can shed some light in this and help me. I have lots of sexual, approach and social anxiety in that i literally cant say hi to the person next to me because they’re so much better and well adjusted than i am. I cannot even begin to tell you how many opportunities I’ve missed in the past and i’m only 22. I failed University because of my anxiety issues which didn’t go away even after vising the school counsellor on multiple occasions and also being on medication for a whole year which is something i wish i’d never done.

    I have a lot of negative voices, so much that i just push everyone away including family and i don’t even give them a chance. I just reject them before they do it to me so they can know what it feels like. Last year this girl kept asking me out but i didn’t believe her at all because i just thought that she was making fun of me and wanted to humiliate me just like what happened in high school and college. Whilst at University, i joined clubs and talked to loads of people, but none of them even wanted to be my friend. They’d add me on Facebook and then just end up deleting me later.

    I just feel like everyone else is better than me and their lives are so much easier and they never have any problems at all. Should i pay for a hooker for my first time? I feel as if i have no sexuality whatsoever as a man and i feel really dirty, worthless and disgusting whenever i look at hot women and get the feeling of wanting to fuck them.

    • Reply

      Dennis

      1 month ago

      Hi Mike,
      I know what you’re talking about. When I feel a nice girl I got stuck in my head. I think why on earth would she want to be with me. Probably it is not just sexual shame that you carry. I’d suggest to watch some video on youtube: john bradshaw healing the shame that binds you. It really helped me a lot recently.

      • Reply

        Mike Hawk

        30 weeks ago

        Yeah i’ve read the book and watched the videos but they didn’t do much good to me; he just keeps repeating himself over and over again. I still can’t get over the intense shame i feel about myself and i sometimes feel like just killing myself because i know i will never amount to a damn thing.

        • Reply

          Dennis

          21 weeks ago

          I only know what I feel. On thing that really helped me when I wrote a letter to my young self. I got really into heavy weeping. After that for a couple of days I really really loved myself. Like in a way that I’d never been loved before. The other thing what I feel, is that I hate when people are trying to give me a piece of advice about how to be more open or if I meet more women the bad feeling will just pass away. I don’t believe it won’t pass away this way. It was always there in me while growing up. I just want someone to listen and acknowledge my feelings, my sadness, my hurt. Someone that doesn’t give advice, neither sympathetic he/she is. Just with pure empathy listening to me and I would know it is ok, I can tell anything, I can tell how I feel and I won’t get teased or shamed. That would make me peaceful and it would calm my mind.

          • hi

            11 weeks ago

            As a woman I completely disagree. Some of the stuff you write is interesting but there’s alot I don’t agree with. It takes me a while to establish a connection with someone and if some guy I’d known a couple of days confidently expressed he wanted to be intimate THEN he would be friendzoned. The only meaningful relationships i’ve had are with people I was very close to or had known a while. Ironically, this page is like a guide to getting teased! Mark Manson sounds like a complete ahole I would never go out with. Ever. However some of the guys in the comments, (e.g Dennis) make me want to meet them instantly, I want to know why he feels like that and see his letter and I don’t even know why. You (mark) don’t sound genuine at all.

            After all your ranting, it seems clear to me through your writing that you only see ‘hot girls’ and one night stands as the goal for people on here. Sexual shame, as you put it, could be broken into so many categories, you can’t just generalise the whole of sexuality! You could say religious = shame of sex, abused = guilt over sex, healthy = happy sex life and DISCRETION, but you could have confusion, miseducation, irrational fear, you are teaching that the so called ‘sexual shame’ is an unconcious process responsible for all failings and so people should just trust that whatever it is the reason must be sexual shame.

            Guys, why don’t you open a new tab and actually go ask women what they want.
            Atleast you made some money though, eh mark?

    • Reply

      Zak

      3 weeks ago

      This article hit a lot of chords with me, especially the points about how television and media can have an impact.

      I think that the way television portrays men had a lot to with it. A lot of you don’t believe this, thinking that the oversexed man is a hero in our culture. Not to everyone. And not all men are portrayed as smooth and suave. In cartoons, many men are depicted as GOING TOTALLY INSANE over the appearance of an attractive woman. Eyes bulging, tongue hanging out, howling…Imagine the impact that has on a male child who was raised with the totally correct view that women are not to be seen only as sex objects. He would think, “Oh, those men are disgusting, disrespectful and stupid!” And he would be right. But then he starts to feel attracted to girls and women. And he starts to hear some of the other kids at school talking about which girls they find attractive, and wishing they could kiss etc. The cartoons start becoming real and, even worse, he’s one of those creepy disgusting men! He likes looking at women, likes thinking about being with them. So he begins to hate this part of men, and himself for carrying it. Denial doesn’t work (I mean REALLY doesn’t work, I’ve tried extensively).

      Then the boy discovers pornography (it almost always seems to come down to this) and is caught, but not before learning of this secret internet land of beautiful women and sex. The boy feels shameful about it, but possessing no healthy outlet for his desires, continues to use porn. The real danger with porn (ok, there are lots of dangers, but for this context…) is that it makes sexual desires something to be expressed in secret -alone – and in a way that is viewed popularly as shameful. It becomes something to be endured and hidden away. He hates that he feels them, but he feels them nonetheless.

      Relationships are very problematic with this baggage in tow, believe me. Sex (if it ever happens) is all about her. Waiting for her to make the first move. Waiting for her to escalate things. And when I say this, I mean beyond reason – she has already expressed her desire about the issue, but I become too afraid to initiate. Too afraid of being like all those other guys. Porn is still there, because how can you be fulfilled sexually if you won’t admit that you desire your partner, or that sometimes you just want sex (which in my experiences she would have been happy to give). So now that’s a phantom lurking about, making you feel like shit because you feel like a creep and know she deserves better than you, though you are so suspicious of other men you’re not sure there’s someone better out there. You lower yourself in the relationship, and raise her up on a pedestal. Eventually you feel so unworthy you let the relationship fall apart and she leaves for someone with more life in them. Or you confess that you look at porn and she gets hurt, thinking that she’s not enough for you or that she’s not pretty enough. It’s really not that. In a grand display of twisted logic, it’s because you care about her that you turn to porn. You feel so unworthy, and your sexual desires have become such a demon in your mind that you want to keep her away from it.

      Funnily enough, my quasi-relationship with a man may have been the one where I was most comfortable sexually even though we never had sex. It seemed as though I could express myself without (dramatic voice) fear of sullying virtuous maidens. It wasn’t healthy in any other respects, however.

      I’m 27, and am just now realizing the full extent of my problems. This is real for the men that experience it. I must say I find issue with the comment that “women feel far more sexual shame than men do”. As an entire sex, maybe. MAYBE. But to each individual, man or woman, their personal shame is huge. To say that a woman feels more shame than I do is just odd. Or that out of any two people who experience sexual shame, one feels more of it than the other. Sounds like a competition.

      Sorry for the rant, but I’ve been coming to terms with this after my last relationship ended because of this issue and have been needing to vent.

  • Reply

    nimbus

    21 weeks ago

    Reading this article made me feel ashamed and grimy, and I have no real reason to–it was the way that it was written. Hilarious that the auther pushed shame onto one of the commenters by saying he was too desperate.

  • Reply

    Jake

    12 weeks ago

    Sexual shame is not a problem in our culture. A much bigger problem is too much sexual openness. We could use a little more “sexual shame”. When you have songs on the top 40 radio saying “suck my penis” and a show where three year old girls dress like prostitutes on a major television network you know something has gone horribly wrong. A

    • Reply

      me

      12 weeks ago

      I agree. How about a more suitable expression, this author Mark Manson, seems to see things in a very black and white , on or off perspective … What about sexual discretion as opposed to shame. Being more aware of others needs or feelings. If a man is seeking a woman for the right reasons, let him be open, assertive and confident, no problem … but if she VERY CLEARLY is not interested let him not be aggressive in pursuing her, because then it goes wrong. He will undoubtedly become bitter and resentful, frustrated by her refusal, he may even make a fool of himself and find himself seeming ridiculous in the eyes of her and others who happen to notice the situation. She will also become uncomfortable at being the overly focused on object of his attention. This can lead to antisocial behaviour such as bullying, harassment, stalking or even physical or sexual assault.

  • Reply

    me

    12 weeks ago

    An article written by a man, for men. Which ironically aims to help men have better sexual relationships……………. with women. The main mistake men make time and time and time again is making sex one way, about their own gratification. As in “I” “M-E” am not getting enough sex. Let’s be clear, is a woman (including her vagina) a commodity to be gained……….. or a participant in a pleasurable experience?

    Let me break it down into real terms sex is about relationship more than a physical activity, so is the balance right? Are you(man or woman) being selfish… or considerate, sensitive to the opposite sex? And we all know the best lovers are the ones who are unselfish and sensitive……let’s take a real life scenario, point by point.

    AT A SMALL AND PRIVATE SOCIAL GATHERING IN SOMEONE’S HOME

    I (a woman) notice another guest (a man) is withdrawn and uncomfortable even bored.
    I ask him if he wants a hug he has the choice to say yes or no,supposing he already has a gf or prefers to be alone>
    The man says ‘yes’ and seems to relax during the hug.

    A little while later music comes on, I notice the man has become withdrawn and bored again, I decide to get up and dance very provocatively very close to him where he and by default his male friend cannot ignore me he has no choice, or control as he wasn’t asked, nor was his friend, and he is being teased.

    We end up hugging again, the man looks at me and pays me a compliment he has validated me and shown appreciation for me as an individual

    I start touching his stomach, ab muscles he didn’t give permission, although he didn’t seem uncomfortable or stop me

    We stay overnight at the social gathering and decide to sleep on the sofa together, simply cuddling This is what both of us want and we feel comfortable and happy together.

    In the morning I invite him out for breakfast so I can get to know him better, he refuses, I am surprised and repeatedly ask why, trying to negotiate I should respect another person’s wishes or decision.

    He explains,in private he feels uncomfortable in having a meal bought for him by a woman,as he is a little broke at the moment, and doesn’t want to take advantage of me

    After meeting and talking a few more times, we eventually have sex (DISCLAIMER: This is in the past, I am now a follower of The Lord Jesus and have changed my views to believing sex is best practised within a loving stable marriage between a man and a woman) he does his best to make it enjoyable for me, I show my appreciation and I ask him if he wants to be my bf, he says yes We are both receptive and adaptive to each others feelings and needs.

    I eventually break up with him, as communication breaks down, he never calls and I begin to feel lonely. I also find out that he lied about his name so I was in a sexual relationship with someone I “didn’t know” The relationship, trust and by default the sexual side of the relationship dies due insensitivity, although I am still friends with this man (No, not friends with “benefits”! Simply platonic friends as we have known each other for years now.) I have never asked him why he lied about his name at the time. He told me his real name eventually and I have never found out why, even today, as merely a friend he rarely calls.

  • Reply

    me

    12 weeks ago

    SORRY I NEVER MADE THE POINTS AS I SAID I WOULD ON MY PREVIOUS COMMENT ———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————I (a woman) notice another guest (a man) is withdrawn and uncomfortable even bored.
    I ask him if he wants a hug he has the choice to say yes or no,supposing he already has a gf or prefers to be alone>
    The man says ‘yes’ and seems to relax during the hug. SENSITIVE

    A little while later music comes on, I notice the man has become withdrawn and bored again, I decide to get up and dance very provocatively very close to him where he and by default his male friend cannot ignore me he has no choice, or control as he wasn’t asked, nor was his friend, and he is being teased. SELFISH

    We end up hugging again, the man looks at me and pays me a compliment he has validated me and shown appreciation for me as an individual SENSITIVE

    I start touching his stomach, ab muscles he didn’t give permission, although he didn’t seem uncomfortable or stop me SELFISH

    We stay overnight at the social gathering and decide to sleep on the sofa together, simply cuddling This is what both of us want and we feel comfortable and happy together. SENSITIVE

    In the morning I invite him out for breakfast so I can get to know him better, he refuses, I am surprised and repeatedly ask why, trying to negotiate I should respect another person’s wishes or decision. SELFISH

    He explains,in private he feels uncomfortable in having a meal bought for him by a woman,as he is a little broke at the moment, and doesn’t want to take advantage of me
    SENSITIVE

    After meeting and talking a few more times, we eventually have sex (DISCLAIMER: This is in the past, I am now a follower of The Lord Jesus and have changed my views to believing sex is best practised within a loving stable marriage between a man and a woman) he does his best to make it enjoyable for me, I show my appreciation and I ask him if he wants to be my bf, he says yes We are both receptive and adaptive to each others feelings and needs.SENSITIVE

    I eventually break up with him, as communication breaks down, he never calls and I begin to feel lonely. I also find out that he lied about his name so I was in a sexual relationship with someone I “didn’t know” The relationship, trust and by default the sexual side of the relationship dies due insensitivity, although I am still friends with this man (No, not friends with “benefits”! Simply platonic friends as we have known each other for years now.) I have never asked him why he lied about his name at the time. He told me his real name eventually and I have never found out why, even today, as merely a friend he rarely calls. SELFISH

  • Reply

    Jennifer

    7 weeks ago

    Hey Mark, This is a fantastic article. I got a lot from it even though it’s surprisingly short. Short and to the point! My question is, when trying to overcome sexual shame you decide to express to your friends more about your sexuality and their reaction is to tell you that your thoughts/behaviour is slutty? How do you overcome this sexual judgment?

  • Reply

    Lorenzo

    6 weeks ago

    Is this a new catch-all affliction, like ADHD, or some other urban language disorder infiltrating the modern day lexicon? Sexual shame may exist in terms of what has commonly been referred to as shyness. However, don’t discount the fact that some people are just not interested in sex. It took generations for modern society to somewhat begin to recognize that homosexuality is not a choice, but an inherent orientation. And, transgender persons are ever so slowly beginning to become recognized as persons trapped inside an opposite sex body. But what so many people of all sexual orientations and dispositions cannot seem to fathom is that some people are just not interested in sex. It has nothing to do with shame or shyness or any other pseudo-psychological “dysfunction.”

    For example, it is recognized that asexuality is another kind of orientation, if we can even dare call it an orientation. Some people may want to be intimate emotionally but not sexually. It is just not in their makeup.

    Some people also, for personal, moral, religious, or other reasons, choose celibacy or abstinence. That is not due to shame, but choice.

    Persons that have been through the horrible events of sexual assault do not necessarily avoid sex due to shame, as this author put it, but as a form of PTSD from the violent act.

    Lastly, there are a number of personality disorders, as defined by the APA’s DSM-5, where sexual desire is thwarted. Again, this is not as a result of shame, but as a condition of the disorder.

    This author is trying to sell a snake oil program under the guise that non-sexual behavior is solely due to the concept of shame. However, there are no clear-cut reasons why someone abstains or avoids sex. Whatever their reasons, their decisions should be respected just as anyone else’s personal intimate decisions should be. If a person believes they have a sexual dysfunction, they should consider talking with either their primary doctor (it could be physiological) or a psychologist. However, many people who are non-sexual are happy and content with their lives and prefer their decisions and makeup despite society’s absolutism that something must be wrong with them. it’s about time we stop trying to fix everyone and just respect people for who they are.

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