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NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, December 16, 2023

Overcoming Feelings of Sexual Shame and Guilt Due to Personal Issues

In my prior two articles, I discussed sexual shame and guilt from an interpersonal perspective and from a cultural perspective.

Sexual Shame and Guilt

See my prior articles: 


In the current article, I'm looking at how personal issues can affect sexual guilt and shame.

There's a lot of overlap with personal, interpersonal and cultural issues.  

If you haven't read the prior two articles, I recommend that you read them first before reading this one because those articles have more detailed descriptions about many of the problems outlined below.

Sexual Shame and Guilt

As a recap from my prior articles: The difference between sexual shame and guilt is:
  • Sexual shame is a worry about being rejected for an aspect of who you are as a sexual being. 
  • Sexual guilt is a worry about being rejected for your sexual thoughts, feelings or behavior
Personal Issues Related to Sexual Shame and Guilt Include (but are not limited to):
  • Problems with body image (feeling too fat, too thin, breast size too small, penis too small, etc.)
  • Discomfortable with undressing in front of a partner
  • Insecurity with being a sexual person
  • Lacking sexual self esteem
  • Chronic stress related to sex
  • Sexual anxiety
  • Depression before, during or after sex
  • Negative self talk about sex
  • Harsh self judgment about sexual thoughts, feelings or behavior
  • Fear of having sex
  • Lacking sexual self awareness
  • Inability to identify what is sexually pleasurable to you
  • Arousal or orgasmic difficulties (assuming sexual activities are unrelated to a sexually inattentive partner)
  • Isolation
  • Problematic or compulsive sexual behavior
  • Substance misuse or abuse
  • Severe discomfort with sexual topics
  • Difficulty talking about sex with a partner, medical professional or sex therapist
  • Avoiding sex
  • Limited or no sexual experience as an adult
  • Worrying about smells or taste related to sex even though you and/or your partner are clean
  • Avoiding masturbation
  • Feeling ashamed and guilty about masturbation
  • Discomfort with your own sexual fantasies or repressing your fantasies
  • Discomfort initiating sex with a partner
  • Feeling guilty after having sex with a partner
  • Engaging in "duty sex" with a partner out of a sense of obligation
  • Approaching sex with a partner as if it is a "chore"
  • Fear of expanding your sexual repertoire to try to new sexual activities
  • Believing sexual pleasure is only for heterosexual men and not for heterosexual women
  • Repressing LGBTQ sexual orientation or gender issues
  • Inability to set boundaries with others because you don't know your own sexual boundaries
  • Experiencing physical discomfort during sex
  • Severe body tension during sex
  • Pain during sexual intercourse, including dyspareunia, vaginismus, phimosis (uncircumcised man's foreskin gets stuck so it cannot be pulled back)
  • Fear of telling a partner you're experiencing sexual pain (related to "duty sex")
  • Erectile difficulties (erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, delayed ejaculation, erectile unpredictability)
Overcoming Feelings of Sexual Shame and Guilt
The following strategies may be helpful:
  • Journal your thoughts about sex
  • Get to know your body:
    • Look at yourself in the mirror several times a week either without clothes or with minimal clothing, and pick one thing you like about yourself (no matter how insignificant it feels to you).
    • If you're wearing clothes when you look at yourself, gradually wear less clothing over time to get comfortable with your naked body.
  • Engage in solo pleasure/masturbation
  • When negative thoughts about yourself as a sexual being arise, counter them with positive thoughts you genuinely feel
  • Educate yourself about sex through reputable sex education podcasts like Sex and Psychology with Dr Justin Lehmiller
  • Educate yourself about sex by reading books by sex therapists or sex educators, including Come As You Are By Dr Emily Nagoski
  • Try to have conversations with your partner (if you're partnered) about sex (start small until you gain confidence)
Get Help in Sex Therapy
Overcoming sexual shame and guilt on your own can be daunting and you might need professional help from a sex therapist.

Get Help in Sex Therapy

Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?)

There are no physical exams, nudity or physical touch during sex therapy sessions (see my article: What Are Common Misconceptions About Sex Therapy?).

Individual adults and couples seek help in sex therapy for a variety of issues (see my article:What Are Common Issues Discussed in Sex Therapy?).

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help in sex therapy so you can overcome your guilt and shame and lead a more fulfilling life.

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 couples.

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.