Unwanted Arousal & Sexual Shame. ~ Jeanette Geraci

Via elephant journal
on Aug 7, 2012
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Embracing The Shadow Side of Your Sexuality

Western society is gradually coming to think more progressively and inclusively. With that said, in spite of recent evolutionary leaps many Westerners still have a fairly static, black and white image of what constitutes morally acceptable sexual appetites and behaviors.

In “Sexuality and Shame,” Carolyn Shadbolt writes,

“…moral edicts about what is sinful, the chastity of women, the sanctity of marriage, the moral degeneracy of homosexuality, the superiority of male heterosexuality, the deleterious effects of masturbation, gender roles, sexist imagery, biological determinism and so forth are part of adult consciousness and life experiences that directly impact adult sexuality.”

Western culture is highly opinionated. We’re constantly bombarded with propaganda of right versus wrong.  Over time, we internalize these messages—integrating them into our personal belief systems.

Shadbolt goes on to write,

“…when the uniqueness of our sexual identity collides with the views and expectations of what is ‘normal’ and of how we should be in both our private and public selves, shame will not be far behind.  In the area of sexuality, all too often shame is the result when the inner meets the outer.”

This discrepancy between inner and outer creates the kind of internal schism that tears people apartthat wreaks havoc on people’s relationships, marriages, families, health and sense of self worth.

Matter can be neither created nor destroyed, only converted into other forms of matter. If we represses our sexual energy it will not conveniently evaporate—it will bubble up elsewhere. It will switch form—manifesting into a whole different animal. It very well might mutate into something ugly, toxic and truly hazardous.

Genuine sexuality is by nature fluid, complicated and sometimes confusing in its expression. It does not always align with what society labels “healthy” or “decent.”

Sorry, but not everyone wants to f*ck in the missionary position with one select member of the opposite sex twice a week, every week for the rest of their natural-born life. That works for some, and that’s absolutely, positively fine. If this is how you derive authentic sexual fulfillment, more power to you—but please recognize that for others, getting off is a bit more complex.

Western culture lays the foundation for “the perfect storm,” an “all-you-can-eat” buffet of guilt, shame and self-loathing. Heaven knows, around these parts everyone loves a buffet.

In the face of socially unacceptable sexuality, shame is twofold—ignited from the outside, as well as within. Many people silently pathologize themselves and waste a lifetime toiling away under layer upon layer of anguish and self-reproach.

I can’t believe that I’m about to admit this on the internet, but here goes. Since the dawn of my sexual maturity, images and descriptions of erotic humiliation have been known to get my blood pumping like none other. I’m talking the likes of public exposure, forced orgasm, people— women in particular—getting stripped, bound and otherwise sexually debased, all for the viewing pleasure of hungry voyeurs.

Bear in mind that I identify as a Feminist—talk about cognitive dissonance! 

For years, I was certain that this made me a morally bankrupt human being—the opposite of what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a good daughter, a straight-A student. I wanted to be admitted to a Tier One college or university. I wanted other people to see me as sweet, smart, pretty and wholesome.

Sweet, smart, pretty, wholesome girls, I thought, definitely don’t get off on these kinds of twisted fantasies.

I remember confiding in one psychotherapist who confirmed my biggest fear. She implied, more like stated outright, that my sexual proclivities served as evidence of a troubled childhood and subsequent, deep-seated moral disfigurement. When I opened up to her about my darker desires, her knee-jerk responses read as shock and mild horror, accompanied by what I now recognize as some ignorant platitude along the lines of, “You can get over this slowly, with time.”

She saw my desires as warped, distorted and defective—a reflection of some emotional and psychological disturbance, a problem in need of correction.

This was traumatic to say the least.

I hated myself for wanting what I wanted.

In high school, I kept myself occupied with academics. In college, I ultimately developed what amounted to a serious eating disorder. I guess I hoped that if I were skinny and “beautiful” enough no one would notice that I was a “demented pervert.” Yes, at the time I equated beauty with emaciation. I guess I also hoped to alternately binge and starve away my “sinister” cravings—to distract my fettered mind with something not only tangible and manageable, but also ordinary. Worrying about food and weight seemed a hell of a lot more normal than dealing with my sexuality-guilt complex.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize—through a combination of quality psychotherapy, a steady yoga practice and long, candid conversations with solid, trustworthy, open-minded friends—that people can’t control how their bodies respond to certain stimuli.

I’ve also come to realize that it’s possible to crave whatever it is you crave, and still be a good person.

If you feel compelled to investigate the origin of your shadowy desires, you’re entitled. In some cases, I’m not sure that it’s entirely necessary or fruitful. Regardless of your arousal’s source, which you may or may not be able to pinpoint, it’s never wrong. It’s simply a fact. You have green eyes. You’re 5’9.” Images of 300 pound grandmothers in dalmatian-print moo-moos sitting on balloons make you come. Who cares? Furthermore, who are you to judge that as “wrong” or “disgusting?”

As a friend of mine from eating disorder treatment once said, “Your body is none of your business.”

Have you ever gotten off on something in spite of yourself? Has the source of your sexual excitement ever contradicted who you wish or strive to be?  I assure you, as long as you take responsibility for your behavior—as long as you don’t harm anyone who hasn’t given you their adult consent—your closet affinities, no matter how bizarre, downbeat or taboo by mainstream society’s standards, do not make you a degenerate.

Don’t try to shut off your primal impulses, they’re stronger and more potent than your mind.

Whatever you try to push away will eventually push back with equal force.

No matter what salacious hungers you harbor, there are so many ways to sublimate your shadowy yearnings, making for a rich, creative and deeply satisfying sex life. Worry not—you’re not vile. You’re not hopelessly depraved. You’re not a menace. You don’t need to “fix yourself.” Perhaps most importantly—you’re far from alone.


Jeanette Geraci lives on Long Island.  She’s a poet and a certified yoga teacher.  She is also a contributing writer at Xanga.com’s Datingish and Healthkicker websites.  You can contact Jeanette at [email protected].





Editor: Maja Despot


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14 Responses to “Unwanted Arousal & Sexual Shame. ~ Jeanette Geraci”

  1. Aella says:

    Thank you.

  2. Lara says:

    I absolutely love that you've written this, Jeanette. It's a can of worms, this sex stuff… and opening it all up in a healthy, honest and safe way will surely serve as an inspiration to others. Well done, this has, personally for me, put into perspective a friend's situation.. and has brought about a lovely feeling of compassion for me.

  3. Marie says:

    I really appreciate this post. Its an authentic take on a taboo topic, and most importantly, (to me) I completely relate. That being said, it really only touches the surface of an area of human experience which has been startlingly neglected in scientific research and likely encompasses a complex array of important issues which unfortunately does include a legacy of misogyny, sexual violence, oppression, and female suffering. I do understand the author's emphasis on purging shame from our proclivities in the bedroom, and I believe it is a significant message to spread and support. I just think it bares saying that in my experience with 'long, candid conversations with solid, trustworthy, open-minded friends' (which I am incredibly grateful for) I've come to believe that there is a correlation between our shadowy sexual fantasies and our shadowy sexual history steeped in a culture of rape. While I'm no longer sure whether I can, or should bother trying to alter my own sexuality, I would like to empower a future wherein our children don't grow into adults whose sexual identity is inextricably tied to a cultural message which correlates female sexual worth with dehumanized objectivity. In support of this claim I suggest you visit this amazing organization's website. http://projectunbreakable.tumblr.com/

  4. Jeanette says:

    Thank you, Marie, for your intelligent, thoughtful response! You bring up an excellent point — one worthy of further investigation. You've given me a lot to reflect on. I'll definitely add that organization's account on Tumblr!

  5. Jeanette says:

    Thank you, everyone, for your support. So appreciative.

  6. Susi says:

    Hmmm….so interesting cause, me too….12ish years of severe anorexia, fantasies of being forced to do all kinds of things (which were somewhat in place before the anorexia)…. I don't however, put myself into dangerous situations so I really consider them to simply be harmless fantasies and while I used to wonder why I got off on these ideas that are pretty disturbing, it doesn't bother me anymore.
    You're pretty brave to say this with your full name attached though….I don't think I'm that brave.

  7. Suzanne says:

    A friend brought this to my attention so I want to ask — why the mention about sublimation, at the end of all of that encouragement to not?

  8. Jeanette says:

    By sublimation, I don't mean channeling your sexual desires into something else… I mean remaining true to what makes you tick in a way that's HEALTHY and RESPONSIBLE. For example, acting out a violent sexual fantasy in a safe situation with a *willing* partner (as opposed to seeking out a genuinely violent, unhealthy situation).

  9. Jeanette says:

    Thanks, Susi. Stay honest and loving towards yourself!

  10. […] 1965 to 3 million by the 1980s peak. She broke ground for women by cutting the cord that for so long bound sex to shame. Now it was no longer sinful to have sex without marriage—it was instead a sign of freedom and […]

  11. […] If the only reference for sex that kids have is porn, then to them, sex is this secret, dark thing that they shouldn’t be thinking about or exploring, despite the fact that their innocent curiosity is taking them towards what feels natural, i.e. pleasure. […]

  12. apple says:

    while i admire your honesty, i respectfully disagree with your article as it applies to deviant sex acts: your intentions may be kind, but an addendum should be considered – any journalist and one who posits yogi values should consider a clause of stating specifically what is ruled out.
    i frequently dialogue with victims of childhood sexual assault – were your argument given to their perpetrators, perhaps the legacy of violence against children would be even greater.
    rather, consider the idea of not pushing away, but letting go, gently, in the interest of non-harm on all beings.

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