Genitals & Shame
Updated: Jul 11, 2022
This article isn’t just for parents. As an adult you’ll be given the opportunity to explore your own relationship to your genitals and any shame you might have.
I recently saw a meme being shared about naming the anatomically correct words when speaking to children about genitals. The reason being that if they know the correct terms they can be kept ‘safe’. I 100% agree with this. However, how many people really are going to be in a situation of sexual abuse as a very young child? A very small amount. Abuse tends to happen later in life from peers.
To protect our children from abuse later in life what will support them is boundaries. Learning to say ‘no’ and not get pulled into situations later with partners who may be pushy and persuasive. Also, teaching little boys that hair pulling is not an appropriate way to show you love a girl. You can listen to me talk more about this on a podcast I was a guest on about how the importance of speaking to children about boundaries and consent. You can listen to that here.
What I want to return to, is talking about genitals and the language we use.
Not openly talking and using the correct name around genitals is related to our own sense of shame around our own body parts. And what do we do by using cute names or stopping our children from exploring language or their own genitals? We pass the shame on.
The problem is with passing on our shame, we are also passing on our sexual dysfunction and relationship issues too.
Let’s take a look at how shame around our own genitals can be showing up in our sex lives and therefore having a knock on effect on our relationships…
Shame about our genitals affects our ability to have nourishing and meaningful sex. How can we fully surrender and enjoy the moment if there is a part of our body we have been taught is ‘naughty’, ‘dirty’, ‘embarrassing’…’insert adjective here’?. Seeing a part of us as dirty or embarrassing means we are not loving every aspect of ourselves. If we can’t learn to love who we are, all of us, how can we feel safe and loved by the person we are having sex with?
Having shame about our genitals prevents us from getting really curious about our own pleasure. We can’t know what touch we like and where we like it, if we have never given ourselves the permission to fully explore our genitals. I write to women here about how to get a better connection to their pussy.
Why is knowing our own pleasure potential important? How can you communicate to a partner where and how you like to be touched if you have never explored that yourself? There is a tendency, especially in men in their 20s and early 30s who have had access to porn to rub vigorously the clitoris of a woman. I can only describe the action as similar to that of sandpapering a skirting board with two fingers. Largely due to the fact that they have see how to do it in various media which isn't always representative of a woman's experience of pleasure. The problem is, if a woman doesn’t know how to pleasure herself, how can she advocate for herself in the bedroom? She continues to think that there is something ‘wrong’ for not enjoying it and most likely goes on to fake the orgasm to then perpetuate the problem further. The man then goes from one partner to another making the same mistake. I write more about why faking an orgasm reduces your chances of having one here.
Then when it comes to the orgasm itself… women! On average women surveyed reach orgasm during sex only 31% to 40% of the time. 10 to 15% of women have never had an orgasm! Women! Touch your pussy! If you’re feeling uncomfortable with the use of the word ‘pussy’ then I think you might find this article here supportive.
Shame around genitals and sex means that the way men self-pleasure is also affected. Men’s whole bodies are a source of potential pleasure, most men however tend to focus on their cock. But their balls, anal rim and the prostate which can be found internally in the bum are huge sources of pleasure. In fact men can experience an orgasm from prostate play without even ejaculating, which means they can keep going for longer. The problem focusing on just the cock is it limits the potential for the man to experience pleasure in other parts of their body as overtime the body only equates cock stimulation = orgasm and ejaculation so it can take time to ‘rewire’ a new way of experiencing pleasure.
If we are passing down our shame around sex and genitals, where are our children going to get information from to find out more about sex and genitals? The internet! And not just the internet, but unfortunately - porn. If used responsibly porn isn’t a problem. It becomes an issue when it is used as the only means of sex education and sexual gratification as it can cause erectile issues and problems with reaching orgasm when in partnership. Let me explain further here…
Porn can affect men’s access to pleasure. The first being that men are wiring their brains to get turned on visually by what they see on the screen. What this can do is affect how aroused a man is able to be from the touch of another person and can desensitise them to pleasure. Men will become more reliant on visuals for arousal or spend their time in their head fantasising instead of being present in their body. I want to be clear here that it isn't so much porn use itself that is the issue but how it's being used can have an impact on their pleasure.
When watching porn and masturbating, men are known to be more vigorous in how they pleasure themselves and concentrate only on their cock. The issue being that it can desensitise their cock which means when they have penetrative sex, they can have problems getting aroused by a less vigorous touch, they can struggle to reach orgasm because the vagina or a mouth just can’t have the same feeling and action as a hand. There are ways to ‘relearn’ self-pleasure. If someone is feeling reliant on porn as a way to access sexual arousal then it is also possible to explore new and interesting ways to connect to arousal.
Another way that not having a good relationship to our genitals can affect us is that we can numb out from our genitals. We can dissociate from having a relationship with them. Many women have never looked at themselves in the mirror nor can they locate the various parts of the vulva. Men’s relationship with their genitals is often one that is of fun, the source of a joke by using almost aggressive terms to talk about their cock such as ‘missile’, ‘anaconda’, ‘hammer’ and ‘weapon’ to name a few. Language determines how we view ourselves and interact with others around us so detaching from our genitals and not having a loving relationship to them means we are detaching from our full pleasure potential.
These are just some examples of how our we relate to our bodies through language can influence not only how we view ourselves but also how we relate to other people and how intimate we are able to be.
How to move forward in this? Play around with words that enable you to feel more empowered about your relationship with your own genitals. Take a look in the mirror. Slow down your self-pleasure and really enjoy the skin you are in.
And allow your children to do the same.
Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, she works with men and women internationally to reach their goals in delicious sex, profound love and authentic relationships. Carla helps men and women understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally, in and out of the bedroom. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.