Am I Doing It Wrong?

Category: Advice

Author: Ella Dorval Hall

If there’s one word I could use to describe my sexual upbringing, it would be shame. Shame has gotten in my way of enjoying sex over and over and over… and over again.

When I was in high school, I masturbated for the first time to the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall. If you’ve ever seen this movie, then you might remember it in the same way that I do — it has a lot of sex scenes. This turned me on, to say the least, and I decided to explore that wonderful feeling… until it wasn’t wonderful anymore.

In under two minutes of touching myself, I was overcome with shame and guilt. I felt like a bad person and as though I had just done something wrong — really wrong. So I took my hand out of my pants and I didn’t masturbate again for five years (insert wide-eyed, surprised emoji).

Shame kept following me around. I enjoyed falling asleep to fantasies of sex — shame. I couldn’t have an orgasm — shame. I daydreamed about girls — shame. You get the picture. Shame ruled my sex life and, to be honest, it still haunts me more than I like to admit.

from Giphy

I’m most definitely not alone in shame governing my sex life. Lots of people feel shame about sex. Whether it’s because you grew up with religious sentiments that taught you sex was a sin, because you weren’t allowed to learn or repeat sex-related words, watch sex scenes, or listen to music about people getting it on, or because, in some way or another, your experience of sex, intimacy or the way your body functions doesn’t match up to the mainstream picture of a fulfilling sex life.

If you can only orgasm from using a sex toy, for example, you might feel disappointed in your body or even betrayed; frustrated that the way your body works doesn’t fit into what is considered ‘sexy’. Maybe you’ve hidden this from partners in the past (or present) and instead faked orgasms. Perhaps you wonder what it would feel like to orgasm from the hands or body parts of a partner, or over and over again you’ve wish you were ‘normal’ and feel as though life would be easier if your body functioned differently.

Maybe this sounds dramatic to you… or maybe this is exactly what you face when the topic of sex comes up. Only being able to orgasm with the help of a toy is just one of the things that cause people to feel shame or as though they’re having sex ‘wrong’. Here is a (very incomplete) list of natural, normal parts of sexuality that often make people feel inadequate, shameful, or like, in some way or another, there is something wrong with them.

You masturbate every day

Ever feel like you masturbate too much? Religion and even the psychology field have viewed certain amounts of sex or masturbation as being ‘too much’ or ‘unhealthy’. The record needs to be set straight that no matter how much you masturbate — even if it’s multiple times a day — there is no such thing as ‘too much’ masturbation and sex.

If you feel out of control about masturbating, if it’s getting in the way of your everyday life, ability to function, and responsibilities, or if it is causing physical pain, you should seek support from a sex therapist or medial professional. Otherwise, masturbate away!

You don’t masturbate at all

On the opposite end of feeling as though you masturbate too much is feeling like you don’t do it ‘enough’. Some people don’t masturbate — that’s that. There’s nothing to worry about if you don’t masturbate or if your partner doesn’t. For some people, not masturbating may be an element of their asexual identity; for other people, they just may not be interested in it.

Regardless of the reason, there is nothing wrong with you if you don’t masturbate. If you aren’t interested in masturbation because of sexual trauma or other underlying causes that you’d like to explore, consider seeing a sex therapist for support. For the most part though, if you don’t masturbate, you’ve got nothing to worry about, my friend.

from Giphy

You fantasize about things you don’t want to do in person

Fantasies come in all different forms and from all sorts of places: from a past steamy hook-up, a current sexual partner, porn you watched the other day, kinky things you’ve never tried but are oh-so-curious about to things that make you cum when imagined, but that you never ever want to do in person. This can be confusing, especially if it’s a fantasy that doesn’t feel like it aligns with your values or if it's about people that you aren’t attracted to in real life. Perhaps it’s an irresistible image of someone non-consensually doing something to you. If I’m describing your experience, don’t worry about it. We fantasize about things we don’t want to do in person. That’s normal and nothing to be concerned about.

You lose an erection, even with people you’re really into

Losing an erection can happen when you’re concerned about your performance, worried about failing, or nervous you can’t satisfy your partner. For some people, it feels like the pressure to perform is on when they are really into someone, and this can lead to your body not functioning in the way you’d like it to. For many, this brings on intense feelings of inadequacy and shame. While this can feel like a major kick to your confidence, you don’t need to fall into a shame spiral for this. It’s okay if you don’t always get hard. Sex isn’t just about the way our genitals function — it’s much more than that. You don’t need to have an erection to enjoy yourself or pleasure someone else (hello sex toys, hands, and mouths).

I could go on and on about the things people feel ashamed of when it comes to their sexuality, preferences, or the way their body works. Rest assured though, whatever you feel inadequate about, there are other people out there feeling the same thing, and there is nothing(read it again: nothing) wrong with you.

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