Vision Magazine, October 2008
In a society with an inclination to plaster sexual images everywhere, sex is still very much in the shadows. Sexuality is often laden with shame, embarrassment, guilt, judgment, and stigma, so its shadows can be heavy and frightening. It is imperative to address the shadows of sex to see it is a natural human experience, as well as a powerful force. When such a topic is mired in silence and misconceptions, it can lead to many personal and societal problems, such as abuse and exploitation. The politicians and religious leaders brought down by public sex scandals are perfect examples of individuals whose shadow elements have surfaced in unhealthy ways.
The shadow aspects of our sexuality are those parts of ourselves we dislike, judge harshly, or deny. To find your own examples, reflect on whether any of these experiences trigger your defenses: having had an abortion, being a closeted gay man, childhood molestation by a family member, shame about a college rape, a herpes diagnosis, the inability to orgasm, early ejaculation, dislike of body parts, being called a slut, being called a prude, feeling inadequate in bed, or having shameful sexual fantasies. Do any of these experiences strike a cord?
The causes of shadowed sexuality are abundant. Growing up in the U.S., we receive many mixed and negative messages about sex through our families, peers, religion, schools, the media, and the government. My “favorite” ambiguous message is “sex is a dirty thing you save for someone you love.” It is no surprise that there is so much fear, discomfort, and denial associated with sex. But denial of what we fear does not make it disappear. As the holistic adage declares, “what we resist, persists.”
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