Should the product of my sexuality and spirituality be shame?
Short answer: No.
Short answer: No.
By Cori Hill
Short answer: Shame should not be at the intersection of your sexuality and spirituality. However, while the answer is simple, it is not necessarily easy.
As a Black therapist in the South who addresses anxiety, trauma, relationship issues, sexual concerns, and racial trauma, I have worked with a large number of black women who grew up in The Church and struggle with various elements of their sexuality. Whether we are discussing their identity, desires, or pleasure, shame is usually present and usually has been for a while.
Shame is often a frenemy for many people of faith—it seems to direct that person toward “the good life” they have been taught to live, but it also can create deep feelings of failure and unworthiness in areas where they fall short. When it comes to sex, this appears to be more prevalent for women and especially for women of color whose bodies are more likely to be hypersexualized while what they do with their bodies is more often policed.
I encourage you to consider this information in addition to, not as a replacement for, participation in counseling. If you find yourself having a particularly difficult time reading this, you can call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for support at 1-800-273-8255 for immediate support or connect with a licensed mental health professional.
As a black woman raised in a church in the South, I have done my own work to reconcile my own spiritual and sexual perspectives. As a therapist and human, my role is not to impose that on my clients, but to work within their beliefs to help them to understand and love themselves however they choose to live—to help them define goals and boundaries that work for them and to provide for themselves grace or self-compassion when they don’t uphold the goals and boundaries they set.
I have found that where there is struggle, there is often a conflict in values. As a way of exploring one’s values around the intersection of spirituality and sexuality, I suggest the following exercise.
Below is a diverse selection of articles and a couple podcasts that discuss the ideas of sex, faith, and shame. These are intentionally from a variety of sources and perspectives. Take note of your emotional reaction as you are reading or listening to each.
Differing perspectives on Christianity and Sex/Sexuality
On which parts did you roll your eyes?
On which parts did you say “Yes!” or even “Yasss” with some finger snaps?
When did you notice feelings of anxiousness, guilt, or shame?
When did you feel excited, happy, or proud?
What did you read that you want to adopt into your perspective?
What did you read that you want to remove from your perspective?
Pay attention to which values informed your reactions. For example, did you discover that your desire to be a “virtuous woman” bumped up against your desire to be an “independent woman?” Whatever conflicts you noticed, consider the definitions you associate with those ideas. Reflect on how these various values have served you or not served you. What goals or boundaries will help you live your best life when it comes to sexuality and spirituality, the two most personal, intimate life experiences?
As with any health concern, you should discuss your mental, spiritual, and sexual health concerns with trusted professionals. I recommend working with a sex-positive therapist who can accept and understand you whether you choose celibacy, casual sex or something in between or beyond.
Sending you love. Take as much as you need and give the rest to others.
Disclaimer: Keep in mind that the above article is informational only and not a replacement for therapy or medical advice. You are encouraged to make decisions for your mental health in consultation with a licensed mental health professional.
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