It may be controversial, but I’m grateful for the YouTube videos showing parents telling their children about sex for the very first time. Watching the children’s reactions to hearing about sex for the first time was fascinating. Most of them showed incredulity and got embarrassed. There was an awful lot of giggling. One little boy started to cry. Personally, I sobbed my guts out for years at the very thought of sex.

I’ve got a theory that your early childish / childhood exposure to sexuality locks in your attitude towards it for the rest of your life. My theory may be spot-on or it may be nonsense, but I came to that conclusion after long observation and research. For example, most pedophiles (acting or non-acting) will readily admit that they were sexually abused as children. As evil and deplorable as it is, sex and childhood became linked in their minds.

If a man’s first exposure to human sexuality is pornography, it becomes his turn-on. His safe, happy place when he needs to relax. If a woman’s first experience of sex was being raped by her father, chances are she will pursue relationships with older men, using sex in a desperate search for the platonic father-love she never received. The childhood sexual patterns repeat themselves into adulthood.

Being raised by religious narcissists, my pattern is shame. Sex and shame have gone hand-in-hand since I was a very little girl.

Shame became my turn-on.

Sadist or Addict?

Last year, I wrote a two incredibly popular articles about narcissism and sexuality. They were entitled Sex & The Narcissist: Sadism and Sex & The Narcissist: Sex Addict.

When it comes to sex, narcissists  (like cults) divide into two camps. There are the sadists who get their jollies from other’s pain…either inflicting physical pain or the cult-like pain of withdrawing sex, inculcating shame and forcing celibacy on others. The other type of narcissist is a sex-addict, a porn addict, a serial cheater.

If the narcissist is a parent, their own attitude toward sex overflows into how they teach their child about human sexuality. In fact, their unspoken attitude speaks much louder than the words they actually say.

Sex is…Good!?!

As with everything else, my family had the Official Story about sex…and the much more powerful unspoken attitude about sex.

Officially, I was taught that sex was a wonderful, loving, God-given gift to be enjoyed only between husband and wife. The genitals were called “sacred.” Sex, my father said, was a deeply spiritual act which young adults can’t properly understand. It was all a bit confusing.

Unofficially though, you could breathe the shame in the air. The older I got, the more our home wreaked of shame. (Project much?) While one parent kept getting me alone and bringing up sex, the other parent (with a hickey on their neck) became more and more bitter. There was venom in their voice when they spat out words like “sexy,” “boobs” and “orgasm” with an angry vitriol.

But for me, my first memory of sexual shame was my father’s anger when I kissed my little boyfriend in 1st grade…on the arm! But the shame was set-in-stone at the innocent age of eight.

Publicly Shamed

It was a gray, drizzly Saturday. Like many families, we’d gone to the mall for some shopping. And there they were. A couple of twenty-somethings walking ahead of us through the mall. His hand firmly grasping or rather lodged, well, use your imagination.

I was only eight and I’d never seen anything like it. Later, I confided to my tiny pocket diary that, well, I didn’t have the vocabulary to express it properly. Now, I’d use the word “turned-on.”

Did I tell my mom? Or did she read my diary? Memory fails but in no time at all, both parents knew.

Dad, of course, knew exactly how to deal with me. He shamed me. He punished me. Publicly.

My punishment was being forbidden to participate in the sacrament in church the next morning because, as Dad said, “Your heart isn’t right with the Lord.” Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle, Aunt…all of them publicly partook. But not me. I was in disgrace. If they were watching, they would see me passing the plate without taking the bread and wine (grape juice). I was bad.

Sex. Bad. Arousal. Shameful. I was only eight, but already sex and shame were inextricably linked in my mind. So was pain, physical pain. I was a shameful eight-year-old masochistic freak…and had no idea that I was actually under-going “lite grooming.”

As I grew older, the shame/sex connection was compounded and reinforced. The pathetically few times I was flirted with, propositioned or groped in my twenties met with more parental shame. If they found out, I was shamed. Lectured. Isolated. Forced to quit jobs. Physically punished with menial work. Assured of my eternal damnation.

Complicit in my own Abuse

“After their spouse dies,” my father told me, “widows and widowers kinda’ lose their sex drive. They become asexual.” Yet another piece of errant nonsense, but I was too young to know it.

I was only seventeen, but that sounded good to me! If sex was so shameful and even crushing on a boy was so evil that my parents removed me from High School, asexuality would solve all of my problems. So I set to work. Whenever my parents launched into yet another sex talk, I became catatonic. Silent. I showed no interest in their frequent lectures on the evils of sex outside of marriage, the vulnerability of young women, the trickery of lustful men. (They never mentioned that women sometimes want sex.) So they lectured more and more, louder and louder, getting more upset with me because, as they said, “We can’t get through to you.”

I’d be damned if I showed one iota of interest in sex, thus giving them more ammunition for shaming me.

If we were watching a movie, my parents “tut-tutted” and fast-forwarded through any kiss that was long or involved tongue. I went them one better. If a kiss was imminent, I simply stood up and walk out of the room.

The excruciating pain of inflicting asexuality upon myself was a kind-of “emotional cutting.” That pain balanced out the pain of being “all dressed up with nowhere to go.” Boy-crazy yet isolated from boys. Sexual yet shameful for being sexual.

I was complicit in my own abuse.

Locked In

When I married, I thought everything would be just fine. After all, sex within marriage was allowed and not shameful. Surely, everything would be hunky-dunky. The shame would dissipate and sex would be light-hearted.

But it wasn’t. Oh, I’m not saying our sex life wasn’t sheet-scorching…because it was and still is. Awesome, in fact. Just stating facts.

But I still felt ashamed. I had become so complicit in my own abuse, that I couldn’t stop. You don’t cease to trod well-trudged mental pathways overnight, just because you say “I Do” to someone wonderful. For the first three years of marriage, having an orgasm would be followed by curled-in-the-fetal-position shame.

Oh, I wasn’t ashamed for making love with my handsome husband. That has always felt remarkably innocent and natural.

Rather, I was drowning in shame for being sexual at all!

Shame As A Turn-On

Only recently have a realized that shame became so synonymous with sex in my childhood, that it became my trigger. My turn-on. The simple fact that marital sex is allowed makes it somehow vanilla. It’s ho-hum simply because it falls outside my sex/shame paradigm.

Suddenly, I have an insight into serial cheaters. People who change their spouse more frequently than I change the oil in my car. Are shame and sex inextricably linked for them too? Is it the woman or man they aren’t married to that turns them on? Is the tang of guilt arousing, almost a fetish? I “git” it…but I’d never do it. Heck! I never even make eye contact with men anymore! If they flirt…I flee!

An Insight from Cults

As my regular readers know, I find books on cults and cult dynamics the most enlightening in understanding narcissists. Why? Because all cults are founded and headed by narcissists.

Interestingly enough, cults, like narcissists, fall into two categories when it comes to sex. Either cults brand sex as a religious act incorporating sex, sadism and orgies into their religion OR the cult demands celibacy.

Growing up in a narcissistic family is like growing up in a cult. The inter-personal dynamics are the same, including the area of human sexuality. The shame I intuited was real. It smacked of cultic celibacy.

Now I know why my parents went through my belongings and dresser drawers looking for what..a dildo!?! Now I know why they censored all CDs, DVDs, books, radio, my browser history in my teen years and tried to extend their censorship into my twenties, etc. Now I know why I was forced to dress like a nun. Now I know why I was accused of being “easy” for crushing on a boy. Now I know why sex and shame go hand-in-hand for me.

Obsessed with Evil, Ignoring Good

In the 1956 movie The Rainmaker starring Katherine Hepburn and Burt Reynolds, Hepburn plays an old-maid who falls in love with a handsome con man who passes through town. They have a romantic evening where he romances her, tells her how beautiful she is and kisses her lovingly. It’s the first time Hepburn realizes her birthright as a woman and finally feels desirable.

Unfortunately, this angers Hepburn’s über-religious and jealous brother, Noah, who considers all of this to be evil. “It ain’t right, Pop—it aint’ right!” he rages.

What his father says next is laser-beam illuminating sexual shame: “Noah, you’re so full of what’s right, you can’t see what’s good!…She’s gotta have somethin’! Even if it’s only one minute—with a man talkin’ quiet and his hand touchin’ her face! And if you go out there and shorten the time they have together—if you put one little dark shadow over the brightest time of LIzzie’s life—I swear I’ll come out after you with a whip!”

My family, like Hepburn’s on-screen brother, destroyed my self-esteem leaving me feel ugly, unattractive, unsexy, with OCD-ravaged skin, filled with shame about my sexuality. And when a few “inappropriate” men did make me feel beautiful and attractive in my 20s, my family swooped in to ruin it, so obsessed with what was “right”…they couldn’t see what was good! Heck! They moped and wreaked of jealousy even during my wedding!

Sex is Good!

Sexuality is good. It’s not shameful. Marriage has shown me that! And I firmly believe that  humans need outlets for their sexuality that bear no shame. My parents denied me that. The flirtations, the propositions, that close waltz, the groping…it was good because it helped me to cope. Unfortunately, my parents shamed me for it, just like a celibacy cult.

They were so obsessed with “right,” so bitter, so frustrated, so jealous and so busy projecting their own shame onto me, that they couldn’t see what was good.

I was good and I still am. You are good too. You and I have nothing to be ashamed of.

Photo by AlishaV