How can anyone be guilty from having a spouse that is so giving?
It really is very easy, especially when you are open about your sex life. When people find out about me being woke up to blow jobs each day, or that we practice intimacy twice a day, they immediately find something wrong with it. I’ve heard from others that I must be controlling, I must be too needy, it must be torture for my wife to give so much of her time to me, we’re not normal, everyone needs breaks from sex, and the list goes on and on. I’ve heard my friends’ wives respond, “Oh that poor girl,” when speaking about Nessa and the amount of time she spends with me (maybe 30 – 45 minutes a day total on average). When I say I am open about my sex life, I do not mean I give all the details about everything I do sexually. That’s what this blog is for. What I do mean is, most of our close friends do know about our circle and know that Nessa and I are intimate daily.
Although we are raised to believe certain rules and moral codes as children, when we become an adult it is important that we rethink our childhood teachings. What were our parents trying to teach us, what were they trying to protect us from, and what does our own belief system and worship of God teach us? Blaming our parents or our religion for our feelings is not taking full responsibility for our own growth and re-evaluation. Most people grow up, and evaluate what their parents did right and what they did wrong. After this evaluation, they decide what they will do differently in their lives, and the way they parent their children. What happens with guilt is oftentimes different. No matter how we change our thinking, we may continue to suffer guilt when we engage in something that we grew up thinking was verboten. Sexual guilt is one of those areas that affect many couples’ lives. As with most issues in a relationship it will be easier if you address and talk about it with your committed partner.
~ Mary Jo Rapini, Licensed Relationship and Family Therapist
I believe a lot of the disconnect with intimacy and relationships is because of how we were “programmed” as children. Nessa is given “social” sympathy (not really sympathy, but almost a sarcastic response to the idea of having sex too much) as a “poor girl” because each day she has decided to wake up and spend intimate time with me for 10 minutes. Yet it’s totally acceptable for her to work for 8 hours each day.
So let me try to put this in perspective so I can understand it better. 10 minutes a day to keep your marriage strong and your spouse happy; weird and unusual. 8 hours a day to spend away from your spouse and family, busting your ass to pay bills and earn money; normal and acceptable. According to the American Time Use Survey, an average person watches 2.6 hours of television a day. Men spend 6.0 hours for leisure activities each day, while women spend 5.2. This is all normal and acceptable. I’ve never heard anyone suggest to Nessa that she was a “poor girl” because she watches her favorite show or spends time on the computer each night. However, if she has to spend intimate time with her husband each day, that’s considered unusual. Not that “you” time isn’t important, but “us” time is equally important in my opinion. Especially considering a lot of your security, happiness, comfort, and complacency in life is based off the idea that you have already found your life partner and you no longer have the stresses of being alone or looking for someone to date. In essence, making sure you and your spouse are both happy, is also “you” time. Well, if you have your priorities straight and you aren’t self centered.
Not that I am against working, because I have worked since I was 15 years old. You work hard to pay your bills and keep your job. In fact, you spend most of your life doing this to make sure you take care of your responsibilities as an adult. It’s definitely something to be commended for, even though it’s expected. However, having sex, oral sex, and spending intimate time with your spouse each day is not expected and to some people, even considered excessive. I’ve actually had a friend, who has joked with me about having sex maybe once a month, sit me down and suggest that I give my wife space. Unsure why, since he has never talked with my wife about how she feels, but seems to think, that the amount of sex we have HAS to be a problem for her. I assured him that my wife initiates equally and actually gets angry if I suggest she needs space. Because of his life, his relationship, his experiences, he can’t wrap his mind around the idea that a woman is not only okay with having sex each day, she blogs and brags about it.
But, not matter how stoic I try to be towards other peoples’ opinions, it still affects me. Whether it be their opinions or I naturally feel guilt because of how I view sex myself.
As a married couple, we still have to hide sex from the world. If we get horny, we have to sneak into our room and lock our door. We can’t talk about it openly to friends without getting uncomfortable gazes. And if we do mention sex, we definitely can’t talk about anal, facials, deepthroating, or anything else that isn’t missionary. We have to be ashamed of our blog and it’s content. We can’t show our bodies. Masturbation is disgusting. Being too open is untactful. Why? Because this is how we were programmed as children. I am no exception.
Sometimes before I go to bed at night I get depressed over my sex life, wondering if I am too needy, or I am too controlling. I catch myself asking Nessa if she gets tired of me wanting her, or tired of being intimate with me. I’ll question her for faking her enthusiasm just to please me. I’d even say I am paranoid. I feel like if I wasn’t around and she was discussing her life with her friends, she’d tell them she resents me for how needy I am. I believe this guilt stems from my friends opinions on our lifestyle, as well as how I was programmed as a child and young adult. As a child it was wrong, never spoke about, never taught, and you’d be punished for being caught. As a young adult it’s a gift. It’s never to be expected, and if you do get sex, you owe the other person a thank you and you never want to wear out your welcome.
I don’t really have a solution. I wrote this blog because it was on my mind and I needed a public place to store my thoughts. I’m open to reading any thoughts or suggestions if you have them.
Sexual guilt or shame refers to a feeling of grave responsibility and deep remorse associated with participation in or even thoughts and fantasies about sexual activity.
Individuals who feel guilt related to sex or particular sexual activities generally believe that sex (or a specific sex act) is immoral, sinful or unclean.
The understanding of guilt associated with sexual activities began with the work of the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.
While many people, including many psychologists and psychiatrists, reject a Freudian approach, his ideas are of interest as a starting point for understanding sexual guilt. Freud maintained that libido, or the sexual instinct, is one of the core drives in human behavior and personality formation.
Sexual Shame: Message From Birth
From birth, a child receives messages from its parents about what are and are not acceptable ways of expressing sexual desire, as well as messages about approved or disapproved attitudes toward sexual issues.
These social hindrances on the free and open expression of basic desires contribute to the formation of three distinct aspects of the human personality, according to Freud.
First, there is the id, a combination of the most primitive drives and the psychic energy needed to initiate actions designed to satisfy these desires, including the desire for sex.
Next, there is the ego, which refers to an executive function in the human mind that takes in information from the body’s sense organs about the external world and directs the day-to-day fulfillment of sexual and other desires in socially acceptable and achievable ways.
Finally, there is the superego, consisting of the learned and internalized social standards of behavior received from parents and others, including an understanding of banned or punishable behaviors.
The superego is our conscience; it consists of internally held values about what is right and commendable, on the one hand, and what is wrong and condemnable on the other. Transgression of superego standards leads to guilt feelings as well as to a sense of remorse, anger directed at oneself, and a loss of self-esteem. These transgressions need not be actual behaviors, such as participation in banned sexual activities. They may occur in dreams or fantasies as well.
Expression of Sexual Desires
Normally, when we are awake, the mind maintains strong boundaries between the id, ego, and superego, but during sleep and in fantasy these boundaries may weaken, allowing open expression of otherwise controlled sexual or other desires. Conscious awareness of these unrestrained desires and fantasies is another source of sexual guilt.
While Freud thought of his analysis of the forces that shape personality as universal, cross-cultural studies suggest that many of his ideas are most applicable to Western societies, especially to the Judeo-Christian tradition. Western missionaries, for example, were surprised to discover that the Japanese traditionally did not evidence much guilt associated with participation in sexual activities; rather, guilt in Japanese society was generally associated with a failure to fulfill internalized values about responsibility to one’s family. This realization has led to considerable discussion of the relationship between Christianity and its emphasis on moral absolutes (e.g., sins) and the emergence of sexual guilt.
The Church Ban on Intercourse
The early Christian church, for example, banned sexual intercourse even among married couples during many days of the year (e.g., for 40 days before both Easter and Christmas and from the time of conception until 40 days after the birth of a child).
Further, enjoyment of sex and sex for nonprocreative purposes have been condemned within this tradition (although certainly not by all Christians). Some observers have suggested that the strong restrictions placed on sex and the constant emphasis on sex as a moral shortcoming in Western culture may only have succeeded in fostering an underlying obsession with sexual objects and activities.
Some psychologists differentiate two forms of sexual guilt. The first is called “morning-after guilt”, which involves conscious recognition of feeling sinful after the breach of a specific internalized value, such as having sex outside of marriage.
The second type is “latent guilt”, stemming from a pervasive belief that sex in general is inherently wrong or dirty. Individuals with latent guilt commonly believe that sex is personally degrading and associate it with base, animal instincts. Individuals with these values tend to view sex as an expression of lack of self-control.
In such instances, a person may feel guilty even without actual involvement in sexual activities. Such a person is sometimes described as having a guilt-laden personality. This personality configuration often is associated with an inability to enjoy or consciously desire sex, lack of awareness of sexual feelings, inability to admit sexual arousal, and inability to experience orgasm, which have, in turn, been found to be common sources of problems in marriages and in other relationships.
Further, latent guilt has been found to be highly associated with a diagnosis of sexual dysfunction, depression, or diverse psychosomatic illnesses.
Other negative outcomes have also been found to be associated with sexual guilt. “Guilt and shame may further impair people’s ability to prepare for the sexual behaviors, particularly in young people,” says sex and relationship expert Dr. Drew Pinsky. “If they feel guilty or ashamed that they are sexually active, they might not be prepared to prevent the potential of sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy.”
Although guilt related to sex still exists, times are certainly changing, says Dr. Drew. “In my work I rarely see guilt and shame about being sexual or having sexual thoughts,” he says. “That seems to be something of a historical anachronism perhaps still present in the older population,” but no longer present in most younger people, with the exception of those from extremely religious upbringings.
Dr. Drew also sees guilt tied to excessive, bizarre or addictive sexual behaviors. “Even then guilt is not the predominant feeling,” he says. “There is the sense of guilt that somehow if they were to be found out by others, they would be disappointed or embarrassed. The overriding experience is that of shame, that because of these actions these people start to feel as though there is something deeply wrong with them.” Ironically, this often causes them to increase the very behavior that causes them shame in the first place. “It actually accelerates their desire to lose themselves in their preoccupations. This is the so-called shame spiral that is so often experienced in sex addicts or sexual compulsives.”
A Higher Level of Guilt
Consequently, individuals who have a high level of sexual guilt may be at a heightened health risk because they are emotionally unable to employ safer sex behaviors that involve taking conscious responsibility for sexual acts.
Additionally, guilt-laden individuals who are victims of rape may blame themselves, and as a result be unable to report the crime to the police or to seek medical attention or emotional support.
Moreover, confusion about one’s sexuality and the appropriateness of sexual contact may lead some guilt-laden individuals to communicate mixed signals to potential partners. These individuals unconsciously engage in a conflicting type of sexual seduction.
Failure, Revulsion, Hatred
Giving vent to underlying sexual drives, they may seek to attract others, only to act cold and unresponsive once the other person begins to express interest. If sexual contact takes place, the event may be viewed as a major moral failure and the individual may feel revulsion or hatred toward the seduced partner. The end result of such episodes, which for some individuals becomes a regularly repeated life pattern, is enhanced sexual guilt.
If a behavior is condemned by adults, there is the potential for individuals who have engaged in that behavior, or have had similar experiences, to feel guilty. For example, if sexual play with peers, a widespread activity among preadolescent children, is believed to be wrong by adults, children who participate in such play may experience guilt.
Penile erection and the onset of vaginal lubrication, normal biological processes that have several causes other than sexual stimulation, may present additional occasions of sexual guilt in children if parents blame the child or define such experiences as wrong.
Masturbation, an almost universal practice among males and a very common one among females, is another potential occasion of guilt among the young.
Guilt Over Masturbation
Recent studies have noted considerable levels of sexual guilt associated with masturbation among the elderly as well. In both instances, masturbation produces guilt because it is defined as an inappropriate behavior by adults or by society in general.
Some anthropologists, like Ruth Benedict, have argued that guilt is not a prominent personality characteristic in all societies. While guilt may be an important means of social control in some societies, others emphasize shame.
Although these two emotional states are similar, there is one notable difference: shame involves embarrassment in the eyes of others, while guilt arises from the violation of internalized values, even if no one else knows about the transgression.
Benedict argued that there are “guilt cultures” and “shame cultures.” It has been suggested that certain types of child-rearing practices produce a predominance of guilt, while others lead to feelings of shame in response to the violation of social expectations.
~ Copyright 2002 Sinclair Intimacy Institute