Sexual Shame and Guilt Starts the Moment We Put Clothes On

Does viewing this picture make you feel uncomfortable in any way? Or does it make you feel like joining them?

Does viewing this picture make you feel uncomfortable in any way? Or does it make you feel like joining them?

Within moments of being born, the covering of our naked bodies begins.


Often, as young children, we try to resist. Who doesn’t have a picture of themselves naked and joyful in the back yard, clothes happily discarded, exposed to the wind and sun? Ah yes, the freedom of it! Remember?

But we are quickly ‘marshaled’ into our clothing once again, when the frolic is over.

We learn that it is not ‘proper’ to expose our nakedness.

We learn that there is something ‘wrong’ with nudity.

We learn to criticize our bodies, based on being visually fed the scantily clad physiques of so-called “beautiful people” in the media. No wonder our bodies should be covered!

We learn to think that clothing represents our ‘style’. We begin to believe that what we wear is part of what defines us, or how we express our personality—a comfortable justification for covering ourselves.

Sometimes we tell ourselves we wear clothes to keep us warm, which is perfectly reasonable when it is cold. Yet when it is warm enough to be naked, we seldom go garment-less, especially around others.

We learn to believe that nudity is a trigger of lust (as if sexual desire is something bad). Therefore being naked is ‘asking for it’, or perverted, or immoral, or even sinful.

And it all begins with that first piece of clothing placed upon us.

We are not taught all this by words alone. Much of it comes intuitively, from silent social cues. And as we get older we come to understand that we can even be thrown in jail for removing our clothes.

It is astonishing that more people do not practice nudity. That is, of all the millions of people worldwide who seek to shed life’s traumas and grow in self-awareness and confidence—to expand consciousness and connection—a very small percentage regularly get naked with others. We do arduous work on our ‘insides’, yet miss the very simple, yet deep, work we can do with our ‘outsides’.

Sometimes I think practicing nudists or naturists are a step ahead in ‘consciousness’. The stories of folks who have embraced ‘public’ nudity with like-minded others are invariably the same. Almost all talk about the initial fear and inhibitions they experienced as they doffed their clothes. Self-awareness and self-criticism can be excruciating at that moment. Not only is there anxiety about people looking at you, but also anxiety about ‘where’ and ‘how’ to look at others. Yet despite these initial discomforts, new nudists ALL talk about the experience as being wonderfully freeing. It does not take long to realize, and internalize, that others embrace your nakedness as being beautifully normal. Issues about body image eventually dissolve. New confidence flourishes. 

Sexual shame and guilt begins with clothing. Which is why taking off our clothing in the presence of others is a critical step in healing self-limitations. 

Here’s to all of you who have no problem doffing your clothes, no matter what your gender, age or shape, within any kind of group gathering. You have, no doubt, found the experience as freeing as I described above. We need to better communicate how this simple act is crucial to healthy self-awareness, confidence, joy, enlargement and wellbeing.

It is not surprising that most of society regards nudist/naturist camps or resorts as being sleazy, or even dangerous. Most think they are havens for immoral, hedonistic people. And it is true that some people even fetishize such places. But there are many well-run resorts that are filled with Average Jills and Joes. And while these can be great places to take this first step to healing sexual shame and guilt, there is nothing stopping you from doing it with any group of friends or acquaintances, as long as everyone participates by choice, with understanding of the framework and goal for doing so.

To grow we must allow ourselves to become vulnerable.

Imagine how easy this step to healing is. No process to study. No long term work to be done. No talking required. No evaluations to complete. Just two brave hands, unbuttoning buttons, unzipping zippers, unclasping clasps, sliding off material. It takes less than 30 seconds. All done! 

Now relax and let the healing do its magic.

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Note: There is nothing wrong with clothes. Clothing does, of course, serve many purposes. But we are not taught to have a balanced view of why we cover ourselves. Instead, most of what we internalize about clothing limits us. If we experience anxiety about being naked in the presence of others we know we have a distorted perspective of clothing—and ourselves!

60 Sex Myths You Shouldn't Have Heard


We think it is natural to feel the “get a room” discomfort when a couple engages in an overly steamy public kiss, especially if there is some associated groping going on. A recent Hyundai ad on TV showed the parents in the front of a car leaning and sharing a little loving kiss, to which the tweenage daughter in the back seat exclaims “Gross!” as she rolls her eyes at her little brother. The ad writer knows most of us agree that imagining our parents having sex, brought on by displays of intimacy, is yucky.

No one is immune to sexual myths, since their influence is very subtle. The old myth that masturbation will make you blind was once taken very seriously. Thankfuily I can still see to type this. Today, with our increased openness about sexual practices, such a statement would be generally laughed at. Yet while we laugh, the message is still attached. There is something negative about masturbation.

How about some of these other masturbation myths, which you may have heard or read? If you masturbate too much you will run out of semen. Too much masturbation makes the penis shrink in size. Masturbation will lead to psychological problems. Masturbation can lead to sexual addiction. Masturbation is selfish and evil.  God will punish you for masturbating. Masturbating while in a relationship means you or your partner is not satisfying enough. Or similar, once you are married you don’t need to masturbate any more.

To this day, masturbation scenes in movies are often given negative treatment and result in crass jokes, nervous laughter or quiet discomfort. In the Academy Award winning American Beauty, for example, sexually frustrated Lester Burnham resorts to masturbating in bed, to which his wife, upon discovering him, says in horror, “That’s disgusting!” Natalie Portman’s intensely beautiful masturbation scene in Black Swan ends with a look of terror on her face when she thinks someone is about to enter her bedroom. Must be wrong, somehow.

Ask yourself this question: how would I react if my parent (or children, or spouse, or friends, or workmates, or strangers) walked in on me gleefully in the throes of orgasm while masturbating?

The ocean of sexual myths that we are immersed in is vast. Here is the beginning of our growing list. How many of these have you heard at some point in your life? What sexual myths can you add to the list? We are sure there are many more.

  1. Having too much sex is bad for you.
  2. His penis won’t fit inside me.
  3. Intercourse is uncomfortable.
  4. Pressing, sucking or fondling a woman’s breasts will make them larger.
  5. I can get pregnant from swallowing sperm.
  6. If a girl has sex, she’ll get pregnant.
  7. If a girl has sex before marriage, she’s “used”.
  8. If a girl has a child out of wedlock, she’s “used”.
  9. Men’s ejaculate tastes bad.
  10. Getting an STD means I’m dirty.
  11. The stock of semen is limited. You could run out if you masturbate too much.
  12. Men need or want sex more often than women.
  13. If you want to have anal sex you are homosexually oriented.
  14. If you want to have anal sex there is something wrong with you.
  15. Oral sex is a perversion.
  16. A man should be able to achieve an erection whenever he wants to.
  17. Losing one drop of semen is the equivalent to losing 40 drops of blood.
  18. Masturbation is evil.
  19. Masturbation leads to psychological problems.
  20. Masturbation will make you go blind.
  21. Nocturnal orgasms only occur for men.
  22. Wet dreams are a type of sexual disorder.
  23. There is no need to use birth control if the woman is a virgin.  
  24. A man is not a man if he can’t have an erection.
  25. A woman is not a woman if she can’t (or doesn’t) have a child.
  26. It’s abnormal or immoral to be sexually attracted to more than one person at a time.
  27. We only have one soul mate. There is only one person meant for us.
  28. Humans are born to be monogamous.
  29. Too much masturbation makes the penis shrink in size.
  30. Some special foods and exercise can increase the size of a penis.
  31. A small penis can’t satisfy a woman.
  32. Women with large breasts are more sexual.
  33. Menopause is the end of a woman’s sex life.
  34. Playing doctor with other children as a child is psychologically damaging.
  35. Hymens are a sacred seal.
  36. The first intercourse is always painful for a woman.
  37. Drinking and drugs make sex much more fun.
  38. Only sluts get STDs.
  39. Imagining our parents having sex is gross.
  40. Looking at naked bodies is bad and will lead to immoral behavior.
  41. You should not see your parents naked.
  42. Your parents should not see you naked.
  43. A man being touched by another man is an indication of homosexuality.
  44. Homosexuality is a disease.
  45. You should never hug and/or kiss in public.
  46. Hugging and kissing in public is a sign of weakness in a man.
  47. Oral sex is dirty.
  48. A woman’s vagina smells like a fish.
  49. God will punish you if you masturbate.
  50. Sexual thoughts or fantasies contrary to God’s commandments are a sin.
  51. Arousing fantasies or thoughts about aberrant or “evil” behavior indicates there is something psychologically wrong with you.
  52. You have sinned if you have sex outside marriage.
  53. Orgasm is the goal of sex.
  54. The man is in control. The woman is subservient to him.
  55. Being naked is embarrassing.
  56. Losing your virginity means you’re spoiled.
  57. You should be able to be all things to your man: mother, career woman, sex kitten, friend... and if you fail there is something wrong with you.
  58. Getting raped indicates the victim must have ‘asked’ for it, wanted it.
  59. If a woman dresses provocatively, she ‘wants’ it.
  60. It's OK for women to withhold sex to get a man to marry her.

We could likely write a separate blog post on almost all of these sexual myths, talking about the subtle threads of shame and guilt they each sew. Thankfully we live in a time where awakened people are genuinely trying to cast off these damaging misconceptions. Yes, we can take our clothes off and feel beautiful. Yes, we can touch ourselves without shame. Yes, we can have great sex without orgasm. Etc.

Yet schools and churches continue to be a source of sex-negative talks and mainstream porn creates a whole new kind of sexual mythology for our young people.

We have a long way to go. Many times I hear people claim to be liberated from sexual myths, only to witness them unknowingly behave in ways that demonstrate subtle sex-negative influences still linger. And that's true of myself too! Embracing full-spectrum loving sexual truth while we swim in a vast ocean of cultural messages that detract from the truly divine potential of sexual energy is a day-to-day process.

More on sexual myths to come. Just talking about them helps. Don't forget to share any MYTHS we've missed, in comments, or on Twitter at #SexMyth.