NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Friday, October 21, 2022

Sexual Wellness: Don't Yuck Anybody's Yum

According to Dr. Emily Nagoski, sex educator and author of Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life, disgust and shame are learned at an early age (see my article: Shame is at the Root of Most Emotional Problems).

To illustrate her point, Dr. Nagoski writes that an infant is unlikely to touch a toy that her parents have responded to with disgust because the infant already understands on a visceral level what disgust is--even if she doesn't have the words to express it.   

Needless to say, if babies learn about disgust at such a young age, older children and teens respond to a parent's disgust with shame and guilt, which can last a lifetime.

What Does "Don't Yuck Anybody's Yum" Mean?
"Don't yuck anybody's yum" is an urban expression and can be applied to any preference whether it's food, sex or anything else.

Don't Yuck Anybody's Yum

For instance, with regard to food, someone from a particular culture might show open disgust for the food preferences of a person from another culture.  This is disrespectful and shaming.

With regard to sex, the phrase "Don't yuck anybody's yum" is a sex positive concept that means, as long as sex is between consenting adults, you shouldn't shame or judge someone else's sexual activities (see my articles: What is Power Play? and How to Talk to Your Partner About Your Sexual Desires - Part 1 and Part 2).

If you don't like it, don't do it.  But keep your negative views to yourself because a judgmental attitude is psychologically harmful to others (see my article: Potential Pitfalls When You Talk to Your Partner About Your Sexual Desires).

An Early Childhood Experience of Yucking Someone's Yum
It's a common experience for a child to get caught masturbating by a parent.  Although it's normal for children to discover pleasure through masturbation, according to Dr. Nagoski, if a parent expresses disgust when she finds her child masturbating, the shame often has a lasting psychological impact when this child becomes an adult (see my article: Looking at Your Childhood Trauma From an Adult Perspective).

If this same child experiences many instances of her parent's disgust for masturbation, those experiences can get encoded in her brain so that she associates sexual pleasure as disgusting, shameful and guilt ridden.  

This adult might have no explicit childhood memory of her parent's disgust, but she will have an implicit (unconscious) memory that will interfere with her sexual pleasure as an adult, and she probably won't even know why.  

She can grow up feeling conflicted about sexual pleasure.  On the one hand, it feels physically pleasurable.  But, on the other hand, the psychological association of shame and disgust connected to sexual pleasure will also be present at the same time.

Let's say this same woman doesn't even have conscious emotions of shame or guilt.  Her reaction might be somatic (in the body) instead (emotions are held in the body) so that when she is being sexual by herself or with a partner, her somatic reaction is to get nauseated.  

Since there is no conscious memory of her mother reacting with disgust and no conscious guilt or shame, she will probably be confused as to why she feels nauseated when she touches herself or when her partner touches her genitals.

She might go from one medical doctor to the next, taking expensive medical tests and spending a lot of money trying to find out why she gets an upset stomach during sex.  And given the cause, the doctors don't find anything physically wrong with her.  They might tell her that her nausea is "idiopathic," which just means that the cause is unknown.  

If she's fortunate enough to see a medical doctor who suspects a psychological cause for her nauseau during sex, she might be referred to a psychotherapist.  

If she's really lucky, she might find a therapist who works somatically using the mind-body connection so that her early trauma can get worked through by uncoupling the shame from sexual pleasure.  This uncoupling would free her to enjoy sex (see my articles: Using Somatic Psychotherapy When the Client Has No Words to Describe the Problem and Somatic Experiencing: Tuning Into the Mind-Body Connection).

A Common Adult Experience of Yucking Somebody's Yum
It often takes a lot of courage for someone to share their sexual fantasies and desires with a sexual partner--even if the sexual partner is a romantic partner or a spouse.  

A Woman Showing Disgust For Her Partner's Sexual Fantasy

When those fantasies and desires are considered unconventional, like kink or BDSM (bondage, discipline/dominance, sadism/submission and masochism), the partner might express disgust, shock or some other form of disapproval, which would be shaming for the person who made him or herself emotionally vulnerable enough to talk about their desires (see my article: What is Power Play? and Destigmatizing Sexual Fantasies About Power and Submission).

To be sure, no one should ever be forced into doing anything they don't want to do sexually. At the same time, it's much less hurtful for a partner to respond tactfully that they wouldn't find these activities appealing and then come up with their own suggestions to reassure their partner that they still want to have sex and bond with them emotionally.

Parental expressions of disgust for a child who is masturbating can have a lasting detrimental impact on a child throughout their life, especially when it comes from a parent.  

As the child becomes an adult, the impact can ruin adult romantic and sexual relationships.

In adult relationships, romantic and sexual partners can also inadvertently shame their significant other when they express disgust or disapproval for certain sexual acts desired by their partner.

As long as these sexual acts are between consenting adults, it's important to be respectful of other people's choices rather than being judgmental or critical.  

You have the right to dislike a sexual act and the right not to engage in it, but you don't have the right to shame anyone, so be tactful and kind.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist,  hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and people in relationships (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.