How do you have great sex if you grew up feeling ashamed of sex?
Every Monday I like to tackle a reader question, and this week on To Love, Honor and Vacuum I want to talk about boosting our libido. To start the week off, though, I thought I’d continue a conversation we started last week about sexual confidence and shame, since it’s a good bridge to libido. Here’s a recent question I received:
I’ve been married six years, but the one thing I still struggle with is confidence in intimacy. I grew up with family members (predominately my older sister) who, frankly, made sex seem bad and dirty. My mother tried to raise us according to Bill Gothard/Doug Phillips-type principles, if that helps explain anything (principles which I have now all but rejected). So, your writing has really helped me gain a healthier and holier view of sex than what I thought it was.
I had been having sex with my husband almost as a separate person- I guess maybe I subconsciously felt like in order to keep myself “myself,” I couldn’t enjoy sex as ME- so I would practically pretend I was someone else in order to be able to really enjoy sex. Now, I’m beginning to understand that the role my sister (and my mom) carved out for me to play is not one I have to step into anymore, and I’m learning to take responsibility for my own happiness with my husband and denounce the lies told to me (“sex is naughty” / “sex is only something to keep your husband happy” / “I can’t imagine you being able to have sex because you’re too nice” etc). So that being said, I am pretty hungry for any confidence boosters in intimacy and being myself and present, during intimacy.
Great question! And you can’t know how HAPPY it makes me that some of my writing is really helping women in this situation. I feel so much for women who are growing up in extreme purity culture where they’re taught that sex is shameful. We talked about that a bit during the Josh Duggar scandals, too. So Yay for coming out of the evil (for it is evil) lies of the Gothard movement and back into grace!
But now what do we do practically? I talked last Thursday about what sexual confidence looks like; today I want to talk about how practically to achieve it.
What to do to Become More Sexually Confident–and Stop Feeling Ashamed of Sex
1. Replace lies with truth–and tell them to yourself!
You grew up in a world of sexual lies:
- sex is naughty
- sex is only something to keep your husband happy
- I can’t imagine you being able to have sex because you’re too nice
That’s what your brain automatically says to you about sex.
We’re told over and over again in Scripture to challenge the thoughts that come into our heads. Indeed, my latest book, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, is all about how thinking differently can change everything.
But this is a discipline!
So write down 5 truths about sex that you want to believe. Put them in your Bible (of all places!) or in your bedside table to remind yourself. Write them in the notes section in your phone. Somewhere where it’s handy. And then, when one of those “shameful sex” messages comes into your head, pull out a different message. Here are some examples:
- God created me as a sexual being to enjoy sex
- God created sex to be great physically and spiritually, all at the same time
- God made me with a body that wants to respond to my husband sexually
- God wants me to experience sexual pleasure
- When I feel “in the mood”, that makes my husband happy, me happy, and God happy (because I’m growing my marriage and having fun!)
You can likely think of others that have more to do with your specific situation, like perhaps ones about body image. I’ve got 10 truths about how God made sex to be amazing here, that may help, or some truths about sexual confidence. Choose whichever ones speak to you the most! But write them down. Please. Don’t just decide you’re going to think good thoughts; plan what thoughts specifically you’re going to think. And then keep thinking them whenever those negative thoughts come!
2. Buy some pretty lingerie that makes you feel powerful
I’m a big believer that a matching panty and bra set can make you feel so much sexier! It just plain looks pretty, and when we feel as if look pretty, then our confidence increases tenfold. And for women who grow up feeling shame about our bodies, to be able to show off our bodies to our husbands in a way that’s special can give you that confidence you need.
I’ve spoken to so many women who can barely get undressed in front of their husbands, or who always have to have the lights off. If that’s you, then try the pretty underwear route. It may be easier for you than getting completely naked, and you’ll see that he really does enjoy it!
3. Take longer to relax before sex
Sex is likely a trigger for you to tense up and retreat into your brain–like this letter writer says, she has to feel separate from herself to enjoy sex.
That means that sex is stressful, because you have to be on edge to do it “right”.
That’s why it’s so important to be really relaxed before you start to make love. When you’re relaxed, and your brain isn’t thinking about a million things, and you’re able to concentrate on how much you love your husband, then these lies and the defense mechanisms you’ve built up to retreat are less likely to kick in.
So spend some time before you make love having a bath together, massaging each other, whatever it may be. Enjoy being naked and intimate together, and it will make that urge to flee much weaker. And, if you can, pray together! The more spiritually intimate we feel, the more sexual desire is fuelled. And then it really does feel “pure”, because it’s so linked to how vulnerable and open we are with each other.
4. Practice speaking out loud
A big part of defeating shame is to speak your truth out loud. That’s such a big part of confidence–to voice the things that are actually in your head.
So try this as a dare for yourself: at least once, every time you make love, just tell your husband what feels good or what you like. That’s it. Just start validating the fact that you’re supposed to feel good, and you’re not only allowed to have sexual desires–it’s a good thing!
5. Play a game to help you show what you want
Have difficulty speaking things out loud, though? Sometimes turning it into a game can help. The problem with just speaking things out loud is that it’s very vulnerable. But if it’s a game, where you’re simply supposed to, in a strange way it takes the pressure off. So one thing you can do is to set a timer to run every two minutes, and when the chime goes off, you have to point to where you want your husband to touch. Or you have to speak one thing out loud you want him to do.
Another game is to play “teacher”. Take 10 minutes and during that time you have to order him around, showing him what to do. Then you can reverse roles, as well, so it’s not all on you. But that way it frees you up to express your desires without feeling quite as vulnerable.
6. Work through 31 Days to Great Sex
Finally, I wrote 31 Days to Great Sex especially–though not only–for women in this situation: women who have a hard time enjoying sex for all it can be and feeling good about sex. It’s also great for couples who have simply gotten into a rut and want to make sex feel special again, but a lot of the exercises are really perfect for women who are carrying a lot of sexual shame.
So if you feel like you’re stuck and like there’s this sexual woman inside of you who has yet to be able to come out, pick up the book! I’ve deliberately kept it super cheap, just $5 for the ebook version, so that more couples can be helped. But this really is a full-sized book. So start it today, and start to see many of these lies finally be defeated!
Now tell me in the comments: Did you grow up in a family that made you feel ashamed of sex? How did you defeat that? Let’s talk!
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