May 8, 2020
How to Overcome Sexual Shame
Messages related to sexual shame are ingrained from a young age and they affect how we feel about our bodies, how we interact with sexual partners and how we experience sexual pleasure. This week, we discuss a range of approaches to relinquishing sexual shame. Consent educator, survivor-turned-thriver and founder of CONSENTParenting, Rosalia Rivera joins Jess and Brandon to share her story and insights. They discuss:
- Rosalia’s personal path to recovery after assault
- Pleasure as a route to relinquishing sexual shame
- How partners can support survivors when they disclose past trauma/abuse
- The importance of your inner compass in recognizing sources of shame
Prompt questions to help you examine shame-based beliefs including:
- What messages did you receive about sex from your parents?
- What did your parents tell you about sex with their words?
- What did your parents tell you about sex with their actions?
- How did your parents react to sexual depictions on TV?
- What messages did you receive about sex from your peers?
- What messages did you receive about sex from your teachers?
- What messages did you receive about sex from media sources?
- What messages did you receive about sex from your religion?
- Am I okay with these belief systems?
- What do I want to do differently for myself?
- What do I want to do differently for my kids?
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This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health or other professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.
How to Overcome Sexual Shame
00:00:05 – 00:06:26
You’re listening to the sacs with Dr Jess podcast sacks and relationship advice you can use tonight Welcome to the sex with Dr. Just podcast I’m your co host Brandon. Where here with my lovely other? Half Dr Jess how are you? I’m pretty good. I’m happy sunshine in ready to talk about a rather serious topic very serious sexual shame and childhood sexual abuse and just the General Topic of relinquishing sexual. Shame and as usual. I’ll put you on the spot. Would you say you were raised with shame around sexuality? I wouldn’t say that there was shame but there was certainly a lot of communication around sexuality as I. I remember learning about sex in anatomy in junior school from a bunch of my friends who had like a dictionary with a naked man and woman was like what. How do you think you are probably around? Eight seven or eight. And then. From that point onwards there wasn’t really much said in my household probably because of discomfort. Either that or just don’t remember anything from when I was a kid and then when I was in high school my parents said and I’m not faulting them because of their own perhaps Discomfort maybe or maybe once again I don’t remember just don’t come home with the kid. There wasn’t really talk about a lot of discussion about sex and sexuality sort of like my parents said. Do not bring a dog home. Yeah so human. Don’t you dare bring a dog home. Does the Chinese side the Jamaican side and my Dad’s side He. He’s not so comfortable with animals. But that’s so broad to don’t come home with a child because there is no directive of how you might come home with a child or what you might do to prevent coming home with a child or some of the things that you could bring home. That aren’t a child but that are STI’s right S. T. is or and of course. We don’t want to create stigma around us is but I mean if you can avoid them. Most of us are trying to avoid them to avoid them and also unhealthy relationships and feelings. That are difficult to work through. All of those aren’t really conversations that I that our parents were having with us. I wasn’t raised with shame around sexuality. I certainly was raised with judgment around sexuality so something a little bit different that can lead to shame and the idea of premarital sex at least on one side of my body my body my family at least on one side of my family was highly highly judged and I remember even in high school when I was thinking about having sex with my boyfriend and I had a condom in my drawer. I remember one of my friends yelling. Tell me you’re not a slut. Tell me tell me. You’re not a slut. And she was joking with the language but it still made it really clear to me that I couldn’t tell her that we were about sex and I wasn’t going to tell her when we had sex and that was my best friend. Meanwhile for US gentlemen it was the opposite. Which was yeah Rah Rah Rah compliment. That you’ve done it right. Very performance live performance of sexuality for men performance for women and then Queer folks left out of the equation entirely It’s interesting so I wanNA talk about sexual shame and strategies to work through. I don’t even know if I can use the language come but strategies to work through sexual shame across the lifespan. Joining us to discuss is Rosalio. Era Consent Educator. A survivor turned thrive. Ver You are the host of the about consent. Podcast PODCAST FOR SURVIVORS. And those who support survivor survivors. You are also the founder of consent parenting. An online platform for adult childhood sexual abuse survivor parents to learn how to protect families from abuse and break intergenerational cycles. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you so much for having me a pleasure to be here now. You’re passionate about consent education and I’ve been reading your work and you center. Sexual Literacy as essential to overcoming trauma and relinquishing shame. So what does that mean? What is sexual literacy? And why is it so important? It’s critical for two reasons Specifically because I believe that so when we talk about consent were talking about the rights to our body and with that is also understanding that with the right to our bodies we also have the right to pleasure and sexuality is such a big part of our lives in the way that we are raised impacts how we perceive what our beliefs and values are around sexuality and you know the relationships that we have Going forward in life and I believe that if you know specifically as survivors if we do not do the work of empowering ourselves in dismantling the shame that we may experience from traumatic events like sexual abuse then we carry that forward as parents into our own parenting and those are the beliefs that we share with our kids and that just continues that cycle of shame and a lack of understanding about our own sexuality and we can’t give our children of life if that’s not a part of it so I think it’s just all intertwined and I think if we take time to unpack what our values and beliefs were that we were given by both our parents and culture and educate ourselves understand You know what how to unpack and dismantle that shame We just keep putting it forward into the next generation.
00:06:26 – 00:10:04
So I think it’s important for us to have more Likes us to be able to thrive in our sexuality as persons who are survivors but also as parents were gonNA pass that on and I believe that with when we teach about body rights we have to teach about pleasure. We have to teach about the right to our pleasure so that we can break those cycles. What do you see as the costs of leaving pleasure out of the equation? A lot of suffering as someone myself being a survivor When I I was date raped when I was seventeen and I didn’t tell anyone because I had a lot of shame believed it was my fault and I carried that on late into my late twenties And I feel like I left so much So such life on the table like I don’t know how else to explain it other than to realize that you know there was so much that I that I missed out on and also Feeling that that that shame is painful. Like it’s just something that we don’t express and then we end up choosing Partners a lot of Times that Joan Center our pleasure because we don’t believe that we deserve it and so we we end up In in relationships that are lacking a lot of different things including support of our pleasure. So if we don’t if we don’t make that a priority in our lives to learn about it and to educate ourselves on how to dismantle that shame. We just continue. We continue living. I think a lackluster life. Really you mentioned how you might choose relationships or fall into relationships where your pleasure isn’t prioritized. Is it your experience that other needs are also not prioritize? This isn’t just about sex and relationships but also about the you know the relational dynamic absolutely I mean it. It even starts with when we have shame. We don’t believe that we deserve pleasure. We don’t censor ourselves care. We don’t send her our self pleasure even So I think that when we start from that place and we’re always lacking that self esteem to you know have better relationships because we just don’t feel like we deserve them. It goes so deep as I’m sure you know that you know if we don’t love ourselves we can’t expect others to love us and we unconsciously have that dynamic that you know people don’t necessarily have to prioritize you know we prioritize others but we don’t deserve being prioritize and so the relationship with ourselves sufferers as well as with others and so with your journey. How did you start to center and find and recognize your own pleasure and relinquish some of the shame associated with with trauma for me? It was actually quite a funny story because and it was not anything planned but When I was in I Twenties I was bartending to pay for my university. And so I I ended up. Bartending in this really Big Nightclub in New York City and on Halloween. We were all told to you. Know have a costume on for bartending. Just to make more fun and I lived in the city. At the time on Christopher Street anyone knows Christopher Street there are a lot of S.
00:10:04 – 00:15:04
and M. shops that line. The street and I didn’t have a costume so I thought I’m just GONNA go in and buy some some gear and show up as a dominatrix and that was a really pivotal moment in my life because I didn’t realize that just by wearing that And stepping into that sort of character which ultimately became kind of an alter ego for me. I started realizing what it felt like to own my power and to express it you know in a relationship and what that looked like and I ended up learning a little bit You know kind of dabbling in sem for a bit. But what it taught me was that I had the right to boundaries that I had the right to Expressing sexuality as a you know sort of dominant female And feeling that role was like without fully embodying it but just kind of playing with it and it. It ultimately did Impact the way that I looked at relationships the way that I understood boundaries and and sort of the power dynamics in relationships So it was an interesting way to discover it. It ultimately led me to Thinking about what boundaries really mean and how I needed those to be respected by others especially having had those trauma experiences previously and And then exploring where. My belief systems came from soya. It really was sort of that. Groundbreaking moment that led me to a lot of introspection. And how I learned to express my needs and my my boundaries ultimately now you mention exploring your belief systems. I imagine for all of us whether we’ve experienced trauma or we’ve simply been raised with messages around sexual shame exploring. Our belief system is an important place to start. How do you? How do you navigate that? How do you recommend people start to look at our belief systems around sex and tears? Some of them down and lift other pieces up I actually when I educate parents Survivor parents on how to teach their kids about All the aspects of body safety boundaries and consent. We have to inevitably talk about sexuality. And so what I asked parents to do is to take some time to think about where their own belief systems around sex and sexuality came from so try to dig back as far as you can and do a bit of a journaling exercise with them. were it will take some days because you know this isn’t something you’re going to do in an hour It will take some time to really unearth like you know. Did it start from your parents? And what they told you or how. They expressed their beliefs around sexuality. What did they say? How did they act? You know what happened if you know an image That was sexual came on the screen. How did your parents respond? So you know starting from Ground Zero and then you know layer lake unearthing the layers of beliefs that came from institutions. Religion You know piers anything any kind of media that you came across so really digging deep and writing those things down and starting to put those pieces together to determine am I still okay with this belief system that was handed to me or do I want his you know. Do I want to have a different belief system and set of values? That will be more supportive of my personal journey and how I want to educate my kids so you know I always encourage people to really dig deep. Sometimes that’s painful sometimes. It’s uncomfortable So you know when it comes to survivors. I always encourage that you go at your at the pace. That works best for you. Sometimes you may need to put it down and come back to it. You know but don’t up on it and you know. Take the time necessary to to do that. That soul searching to an extent And determine now where do I want to go from here you? You make these recommendations for parents and I’m wondering for Survivor who gets into a relationship with a partner do you. Do you have recommendations for the partner? Who may not? You may not know how to navigate that when somebody feels comfortable disclosing to them. I am a survivor. How can the partner who hasn’t experienced it help with navigating this new this new experience? Well one of the things that is really important for Partners you know spouses or partners.
00:15:04 – 00:20:07
Is that a lot of times. When survivor is disclosing. They’re not asking for help necessarily or they’re not asking for a fix the asking just to be heard and so. I always recommend that they just ask them what. What can I do for you regarding this information? Like what would you like? How would you like me to hold space for you? Because a lot of times Survivors may not even know what it is. That seeking. Maybe they do just WanNa be heard Maybe they would like additional support in the way of you know having Them being supported in in guidance to get more help in terms of maybe a therapist or You know finding a group of survivors a Lotta Times. If they’re talking about this for the first time. It’s very scary They’re not sure how it’s going to be received so being really compassionate about it and letting them know that you’re willing to hold space and be supportive in whatever way they need that support to be so asking a lot of questions about what they need so that they can provide that support And then for survival auditoriums first step to opening the doors and say no I. I think it’s time for me to talk about this because I want start healing or I want to just let this out and not hold this feeling of shame anymore. And you know those very first steps Can feel really scary. And there are a little bit fragile. But I think if if we as survivors asked for the things that will need instead of just communicating. This is what happened to me but this is what I need from this conversation or this disclosure and I’m being clear about that. It will really help with those next steps after an imagine. Everyone’s journey is very different. I imagine you. Some people might disclose to a partner and want to share many details and talk about their feelings and others might just want to disclose and they have other sources of support may be. They’re working through it with a therapist and they don’t want to you know. Hash it all out with a partner so that that feels very useful to me What you said which is to ask what they need. Don’t assume that they WANNA talk a lot about it. Don’t assume that they don’t WanNa talk about it. And I imagine putting their needs first because you may have questions and you may you know be curious or concerned but I imagine it really at first. It’s about putting the survivors. Survivor’s needs first as opposed to your own. Do Run into troubles with that. Because certainly the person to whom you’re disclosing has emotional needs Absolutely I think that it’s important to say you may want to also seek support about this and there are you know there are excellent resources out there for that because it is a lot to take on if your first of all not prepared for it but also if that person is going to want you to support them seeking out your own support system for that is really helpful and powerful because then you can Really step up to that with a lot more a lot more resources and Understanding and compassion and really help both of you know both the relationships potentially strengthen But the communication can really be supportive for both partners yet. It seems as though you have some very specific but flexible tools to support people and I was. I was looking at your website consent. Parenting DOT COM and you have many courses and masterclasses and support groups I have a question about managing the belief systems to go back to that. Because you talked about journaling and you gave some really helpful props around what? Your parents said how they acted. How did they act when there was an immature seen on TV? What did you learn in school from your peers? From religion from media at that just beginning with that is a long for people to use even on their own right now at and then you brought us to the agent of change which is am I okay with this system or what parts of my okay. With and what do I want to do differently for myself? And for my kids and those to me. Those are big questions. That’s a big zigzag in the road. So how do you? How do you unpack that? What can people do to start thinking differently about a system that maybe has been with them for fifteen twenty thirty forty fifty years? How Begin to dismantle that? Yeah so a lot of it has to do with where you are in terms of What you connect with you know so if you are very religious Which tends to be where there could be a lot of conflict around sexuality because it still in many religions considered something very taboo.
00:20:07 – 00:25:04
I’ve talked about in the past How the Madonna whore complex plays a big role in this and and a lot of people aren’t even aware of it but how that can continue to guide you know your belief system so what I always recommend is to start doing some research and find Resources that feel good to you. That feel in alignment with where you would like to be if you look at your past and there are things that your parents said or that society said that does that doesn’t feel right internally with you you know what is that sort of gut response that you get when you hear those things. That’s you know your inner compass pointing you in the direction Of what is going to be good or bad for you personally. There are people that you know if I talked to them about the fact that I. You know toyed with SEM that may put them off and they’ll they’ll say well. That’s not any kind of anything that I WANNA get close to and that’s okay you know. I think that everyone has a right to Believe in what they feel is right for them. As long as it’s not hurting them or anyone else right so if if it comes down to you know I think that what my parents taught me was correct Then that’s fine as long as it feels right internally and so some people have grown up with a really amazing sex positive parents and still had you know sexual trauma. And and sort of reconciling those. Those things Can be a little bit of a challenge but it really just comes down to I think looking doing some research. Educating yourself you may come across people who You know really agree with what they’re saying but there’s aspects that don’t and that’s okay like we are such a rainbow internally of you know what we like and don’t like so it really just comes down to You know learning as much as you can. Educating Yourself I know that for me one of the resources that I always point parents to to learn more about sex positive. Parenting is Melissa Carnegie from sex positive families the best the best. Yes I love her I. She was one of the first when I started Parenting I was looking for resources. That helped me understand you. Know How can I talk to kids about sexuality when I have my own hangups still and that was how I started doing my own digging and like where did my belief systems come from my husband? For example he grew up in a very sex positive. Home So there was a really big shift in how he’s perceived sexuality and being able to talk to our kids about it. It’s like no big deal at all whereas for me. I grew up in a very sex negative home. And you know my my parents. My mother’s civically couldn’t even say the word Vagina. It was like you know that the thing that’s between your legs like that’s literally what she would say and so it was really difficult for her to be able to talk about it and almost like Almost like a in like a reaction that is without control. I almost had that same response. If like not being able to save the you know the word penis and how do I talked to my boys about this and Fortunately through myself and learning about you know how to talk to them and taking classes for Melissa and like there’s so many great resources today versus you know ten fifteen twenty years ago That we now have the ability to really step into owning our sexuality through educating ourselves through that work of figuring out what we like. But we don’t like and then making those changes and it’s going to be a process. It’s not going to happen right away. We may even you know. Screw up at times with our kids and you know it’s okay to do that too as well as we can still have those conversations and say you know. I’m still learning about this. This isn’t the way that I was raised. And you know I’m I’m doing the best that I can. So let’s try to have that conversation again. I really asked that language or you know this is tough for me. You know my mom or my dad or my parents didn’t talk to me about this. So this is this is the first time and you talk about a breaking Generational Trauma intergenerational habits and how how do you do that besides admitting that this is tough for you and going back and looking at your belief systems and challenging yourself to to take note of your inner compass Do the you mentioned taking courses. I mean I guess you’ve answered that. Am I missing? Anything for really managing generational trauma.
00:25:05 – 00:30:01
I think it’s important to get a support system So I have a. I have a consent parents. You WanNa one course and the first week the first module of course is actually all about getting yourself mentally prepared to step into this journey because it really will become journey We have. It’s not like you know where we can say. Okay we’re GONNA teach you the ABC’s we have to. We’re doing a lot of internal work when we’re teaching about consent. Which is something we were probably never taught about or to talk about boundaries when we’ve had our own boundaries ruptured so it takes them inner work and this is one of the reasons why we say get support get a support system in place. Sometimes that will be your partner talking openly and saying you know is something I know I need to do. It’s important for the family and I need some support with this. Because for me there are probably GonNa be some triggers And so you know lining up things like potentially starting to work with therapist or Starting to connect with other parents who are going through similar things so if you know other survivor parents You know and you want to start working on this journey together so that you have someone to talk to when you need to bounce ideas off of or talk about concerns. A support system is really powerful. So whether it’s a spouse or a group I always recommend that you are kind of build that system before you take the leap and also in addition to that is to find ways to self regulate because as I mentioned first survivor parents especially this can be really triggering journey at times not to scare anyone. Because it’s totally doable. But you will come across some things that are going to cause maybe a little bit of anxiety and you may be apprehensive to teach certain things to your kids but especially the piece about sexuality and you know even for parents sometimes talking about Body parts you know Private Parts Genitalia and using medically accurate terms can be triggering and if they shy away from doing it then they can potentially be teaching their children that those parts of their bodies are shameful. And so this is why. It’s so important to do that. Work Internally of re dismantling that shame Even before or during the process of teaching your kids about prevention all those things not getting the support in place is really helpful. I like that you’re highlighting pleasure. Because I think we have to ask ourselves why we wouldn’t be deserving pleasure right why our bodies don’t deserve to to feel good to you know explore their capacity so. I love that you’re centering pleasure. I really appreciate the work that you’re doing. I know that folks can check you out online at about consent. Dot Com as well as your podcast and encouraged people to listen. You have some really interesting podcasts. On PD ST You have some interesting podcast on everything. From why sleep matters in the recovery process to All these pieces around breaking interest intergenerational trauma so thank you so much for joining us really appreciate it. Thank you so much for having me I. I love being here. This is such an important conversation and I feel that there are so many tools in here even just beginning with writing down the sources of your belief systems from parents. What they said what they did. acted when song came on. That was sexual how they acted when seen played out on. Tv what did they say they change the channel? Did they make judgmental comments? You know what did you learn at school in the classroom and in the school yard? What did you learn from religion? What did you learn from media even if we could just begin with those? I don’t know eight to ten questions and jot down answers. That’s just the start and another piece that really resonated with me is the notion of the inner compass and feeling something inside. That doesn’t sit right with you. But oftentimes we ignore it. And I think I’ve spent my whole life ignoring it because I was trying to fit in so growing up I didn’t fit in. I knew I was mixed race. I knew that I didn’t fit in because of I think partly because of my gender which we haven’t really talked about here at some point. We should but the roles I play as you know as a woman and and because of sexuality and so I always felt uncomfortable with things with social norms with jokes with things people would say but I kind of I think chose to join them because I couldn’t beat them or because I couldn’t be myself and my point is I never had the language to describe what I was experiencing and so I just ignored it right tried to go on with dominant norms and fit in instead of.
00:30:01 – 00:35:06
I mean it’s not like tried to fit into to be cool or anything like that but rather than acknowledging my inner compass. I just ignored it and for me. It’s about language and now I have the language to describe the things. I was struggling with a round entitlement reform and privilege related to race related to gender related to income. Now I have that language but that language was in around twenty years ago and so when Rosalia talks about paying attention to your inner compass and finding resources to support you from me resources or are those that give me the language and for other people it might not be about language. It might be other forms of expression. But I’m a very verbal person and I like words And so that really just resonated with me. Yeah I mean I wish that I had somebody explain the inner compass because I feel like it would have and then also the tools because it would have given me the opportunity to ask some questions and then those questions result in other questions. Yeah when I was younger. I’m sorry twenty five years ago Which I just didn’t have that and we also didn’t discuss it wasn’t something that was brought up whether within my friends circle or even a home and then the other piece we didn’t get to explore that. I’d like to explore in the future. Is THE MADONNA WHORE DICHOTOMY? So I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this. But this basically means dividing women into two groups polarized perceptions of women as either good virgins or bad horse rights. We are or the other. There’s kind of no gradient and labeling women which I’m sure you saw growing up yeah definitely As as as a kid as a teenager when I would hang out with my friends at hockey there were women who were girlfriend material and then there were women that were deemed. Like just somebody that you’d fool around with and didn’t again didn’t really have the language or the. What was it? The the the sexual intelligence to really dive in and understand why I felt that way or even question it and over the years as a result of desire to learn and being around different people with different opinions who I was willing to listen to. Things have changed. Do you think being around more clear. Folks has had a big impact. Because maybe we’re not as married to those gendered expectations. Absolutely yeah. I couldn’t. I couldn’t agree more with that statement. And also just opening up your eyes to different attitudes and beliefs and opinions and if you’re opening a willing to listen and try to experience them then it really changes your outlook or oh look and this Madonna. Hoard economy is so important because it is rooted in and continues to uphold patriarchy. So there’s this research around how folks who believe in the Madonna Dichotomy also have a preference for hierarchical social structures rude in gender so they want to maintain the existing gender system binary Especially with men playing certain roles in women playing other roles they are more likely to to hold sexist and that are both benevolent and hostile. So hostile is obviously like Suck and you’re stupid and benevolent might be like. Oh but it’s just that women are better at this so I shouldn’t have to do it. And similarly for men because sexism costs all genders. It’s not just women lose And folks who subscribe to the Madonna Whore Dichotomy also more likely to objectify women hold sexual double standards and try and be dominant based on gender. So it’s something we need to talk about a little bit more and again. It’s one of those things where so many of us have sat in a meeting or been in a group or sat at a bar and heard things tossed around flippantly and we feel something that doesn’t feel right so we change the subject or we laugh at off and that is our inner compass speaking to us. We’re you say nothing. Of course just sit there and accept it even though it hurts inside and you don’t know why right or you do know why. Yeah well and I think we don’t bother to think about it. ’cause it’s almost easier to just go with the conversation and order another drink or have another conversation or turn to the person to your right and chat about something different. Because you don’t always have the spoons the energy to argue about these things so I think I think it’s a for that for me. I took a lot out of this conversation but the inner compass in particular is a great reminder to pay attention to it for me and break down some of these belief systems so really important conversation. Thank you so much to Rosalie. Rivera to you Brandon into you for listening folks before I let you go if you are shopping from home looking for something that buzzes or sucks in a good way or feels like it’s licking checkout we vibe dot com and please use code Dr Jess.
00:35:06 – 00:35:35
You’ll save a few dollars an hour get credit as well so again. That’S WE’VE IBE DOT COM and the Promo Code is Dr Jess and you can also use that on womanizer dot com. If you’re into that stuff as well I think we talked about womanizer on a recent episode. Really cool products so folks wherever you’re at have a great one. You’re listening to the sex with Dr Jazz podcast. Improve your sex life improve your life.