Thank you for this essay, I feel what you are saying is important!
As a male, my shame in sex has come about 50% from religion, I think religion has played a huge part in both men and women in western culture perceiving their sexuality as bad and shameful.
However, a significant change has come with the advent of the modern era, the decline of religion’s dominance has created a cultural climate where women’s sexuality is now accepted and even celebrated.
Men’s sexuality, on the other hand, is still very much considered bad and shameful from a cultural perspective. Nothing much has changed about it.
I stated earlier that 50% of my personal sexual shame comes from religion, well the other 50% comes from the females in my life. I love females, I think they are the most wonderful thing in the world, but this is just the truth of my experience.
In fact, the first thing that comes to my mind is how my girlfriend has expressed on several occasions her disgust at the idea of men masturbating. She is never specifically referring to me of course, but I cannot help but internalize it. It’s a normal thing people do, we have a healthy sex life but on occasion I’m in the mood and she isn’t, so I take care of my own business. She has done the same. However, I feel the need to hide and I’d probably be mortified if she ever “discovered” me. On the other hand, I don’t think her masturbating is disgusting at all, I’m attracted to her so it turns me on just like any other sexual thing.
The strange thing is, I’m fairly certain that she doesn’t actually perceive ME in that way, it is just some sort of abstract cultural image that she is responding to. Nevertheless, I internalize this image of me as some sort of disgusting monster for having these impulses that are so repulsive to civilized society.
Another bizarre embedded memory is from when I was a teenager and my mother told me with disgust that “all men care about is sex”. I was going through puberty at the time and thinking about sex constantly, I felt so ashamed like the most horrible creature because I love my mom and I would never want her to think that I was a bad person. I was 13 and already had the idea that because I had sexual feelings, I was a bad person.
I think that shame and demonization with regard to sexuality, specifically directed towards males, is a BIG problem in western society. It is such a big problem, in fact, that I have no idea how it can ever be resolved. Maybe it can only be resolved on a personal level, even if it may never be resolved on a larger cultural scale.
This response was really just a stream of consciousness so pardon the rambling, thanks for your essay and the conversation that it will inevitably spark.