How can I deal with my issues with sex?
October 7, 2017 9:08 AM   Subscribe

I have always had issues with sex, I was born in a conservative household where no one would ever speak about or has ever spoken about sex. I was taught that it was bad, that men who like to have sex are bad, that it offends God or whatever. I don't believe in any of that, not anymore and yet I'm a 24 year old male and I haven't had sex yet or even a girlfriend. I think my issues with sex have stopped me from doing so even when I have had several opportunities.

I'm not sure what to do about it anymore, I always knew, even when I was in school that this would be an issue. All this time I feel like if I'm dealing with two sides of me, the one that makes me feel guilty and shames me whenever I have sexual thoughts about people or when I masturbate. In fact I can't even speak about anything sex related because it makes me feel guilty, when others speak about it makes me feel ashamed not because I haven't had sex but because I just feel ashamed about sex.

Then there's also college, I have spent nearly 5 years in a career where there are few women, I'm a CS student and a very extroverted one at that. I have never liked that people in my career are so anti social. I focused on college, I never really had the time to go looking into relationships or socializing. I knew I would need to sacrifice some stuff to get my degree but I'm not too hung up on that. Even so, my environment has changed, suddenly I am sorround by a lot of people who are as extroverted as I am. There are more women than I have ever had around me, I now have time I did not have before. I think it is time for me to move on and address these issues once and for all.

Finally, I don't know if I should see a therapist, I have been living with these demons for a long time now, I want them gone but I really don't know how to get rid of them, they're constantly in my mind. I've also thought about paying a prostitute to just get it over with and at least know what sex is like. I know it won't fix my issues but I don't want to go into a relationship with zero experience about sex
posted by Braxis to Human Relations (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Therapist. At least try it. Just talking about this one on one with even a male therapist might make you more comfortable about it in general.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:17 AM on October 7 [3 favorites]

A therapist is a great idea. You sound very self-aware about your issues and are looking for some methods or tools to address them proactively - honestly that's a dream patient!

You may be feeling some shame about wanting to feel less shame - like, on some level, the shame feels like the appropriate response to sexuality, even though you know intellectually that it isn't. And you might be feeling shame about THAT feeling too! I just want to tell you that all of these feelings are ok to feel, none of them are your fault, and you will totally be able to move past this! Good luck!
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:21 AM on October 7 [3 favorites]

this is exactly the sort of thing therapy is perfect for and its entirely possible to find a therapist who specializes in sex-related issues and possibly even someone who also has experience with patients who've been raised with oppressive religious ideas.
posted by supermedusa at 9:37 AM on October 7 [5 favorites]

I can't speak to what it's like to grow up in a conservative household. But maybe a one way to get started is to learn about sex as much as possible? This reddit post contains some awesome resources.

Also check out
posted by foxjacket at 9:44 AM on October 7

What's great about therapy is that you can learn tools for wrangling with this (and other things that might also be a sticky subject in your life, like money or ambition or the state of the world - these tools are multi-use). Therapy isn't just about having someone to unburden to, it's about learning to control your own narrative.

We as a culture and society are left to guess how sex works. Not the mechanics, but like really important building-block shit like how to communicate, how to feel like having sex (it's supposed to just happen, right?), how to know when is or isn't a good time/place/person. That's not just the experience from coming from a restrictive upbringing, very few people get that education offered to them and most people have to get there on their own. Many do it badly, or not at all, and have pretty substandard sex.

Along with therapy, I recommend meditation. Just start with learning the basics, get one of the cheap phone apps, just to learn how to sit and be still first. And then you can not only use those techniques as part of the way you restructure your narrative and calm yourself when you are anxious, but learning to calm your thoughts and be very present in your body is also really good for sex.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:51 AM on October 7 [1 favorite]

I have been living with these demons for a long time now, I want them gone but I really don't know how to get rid of them, they're constantly in my mind.

Re-read that sentence you wrote, and ask yourself again if you should see a therapist. Irrational, recurring thoughts are having a major negative effect on your life in a way you've been unable to stop — if that's not a good enough reason to see a therapist, what would be?
posted by jejune at 9:59 AM on October 7 [15 favorites]

I agree that therapy (or peer support) would be helpful. The Recovering from Religion group has a peer-support line as well as a link to the Secular Therapist project. They also have some resources about sex for new atheists; there's not a lot there but it may be a good starting place.
posted by lazuli at 10:38 AM on October 7 [2 favorites]

Anecdata: I am a gay dude who acquired while growing up a huge amount of alternatively terror-inducing and feeling-numbing shame regarding sexual desire and sexual intimacy. I did not masturbate, nevermind have a sexual relationship, until I was twenty three, and even then I could not orgasm (which made me feel fundamentally broken because, hey, isn't it "supposed to be" comically easy to get dudes off, almost biological rather than psychological in any way?).

Seeing a good therapist years ago absolutely changed my life in many ways, this being one of them. It was really, really hard work exorcising those demons, but my only regret is that I did not have the opportunity to begin this journey earlier in life. For me, this took the form of psychoanalytic therapy 2 times a week, but your experiences may be different and other approaches may be appropriate to help you with your own struggles.

IMHO, "seeing a prostitute" reads a bit like magical thinking about a solution to me, if only because I entertained the same thought. Like, I just needed to "get over the hump" of having sex, and somehow everything would be OK on the other side, because maybe my problem was just being a virgin. In retrospect, I probably would have become pretty fucking disorganized mentally, cried, and felt even worse.

If you are in the Philadelphia or NYC areas, feel free to backchannel me for recommendations.
posted by The Sock Puppet Sentience Movement at 10:46 AM on October 7 [10 favorites]

I've also thought about paying a prostitute to just get it over with and at least know what sex is like.

From a purely fact-finding point of view, you'd probably get pretty a skewed idea of what sex is like - nothing bad with trying things modulo everybody's safety and consent, but it's probably not going to be like taking private instruction in sex.

don't want to go into a relationship with zero experience about sex

Much smaller of a deal than you would think, it's *very* intuitive.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:00 PM on October 7

Try reading up on Carl Jungian archetypes, especially the anima (men's inner female aspect). Try re-framing some of your demons through the lens of how your inner archetypal aspects have been warped by your years in a pre-programmed environment.

I'm speaking from a woman's perspective, so go ahead and take the following with a grain of salt. FWIW, I would consider "zero experience with sex" more relationship worthy than "got it over with" with a prostitute. Going to a prostitute will not teach you how to embrace your instincts, how to read a partner's cues, and how to bring the caring and vulnerability that comes with intimacy into your bed. It will however, reinforce the pre-programming most men get that having sex is fundamentally a non-emotional experience (that it's about forcing your biology to perform in spite of having no connection with the person or even having any desire for their smell or skin contact).

Trying the Jungian approach, learn to humanize your relationship with your own sexuality. Right now you probably feel like sexually relating to another person will never be possible because of your hangups. IME the paradoxical truth is that it's only through learning to relate to your own honest sexuality that you begin to sense resonance in others who might be genuinely attracted to you. Wouldn't it be nice if one day, you meet someone with whom you feel total resonance that this person might be good and safe to be your sexual self with? You can only get there through embracing instinct, and in order to fully embrace instinct, you have to not be in arms against your sexual self. You have to be able to calmly acknowledge it for what it is, and cultivate where you want to lead it. You can't sever it away, or else, then you're not fully present in the way you need to be for a satisfying intimate relationship.

Therapy can definitely be a safe place to spend time re-framing your demons as parts of instincts that were severed away from a more accurate understanding of sex. It's where you can also work to re-integrate your demonized instincts so that they're serving you (rather than battling against and defeating you) as you continue learning how to navigate relationship needs as an adult. Btw, you're 24? You're not unusual. That's a ripe time for many late bloomers to start to notice their inner frustrations on this matter more acutely. It's because we're meant to take that next step, in a healthy way, towards experiencing intimacy (and yes, sex). FWIW, I was in my late 20s when I had a similar personal crisis with demons, sexuality and inner disconnect. I think you're doing very well to be asking this question now.

I also want to add that in spite of how it feels like we must all participate in the collective's mass meat market, I think it's far more attractive to continue treating yourself as worthy of a high quality relationship. I don't think a person needs to sleep around, "scoring"*, to get good at sex in relationships. I do think a person needs to be able to embrace themselves, and feel at peace with where their instincts guide them, in order to be ready for the full vulnerability of an intimate, worthwhile relationship. Anyhow, I've probably said enough. Good luck however you proceed!

*Re: scoring. Taking an HIV-awareness workshop made me aware of how we share all our germs and viruses from every person we've ever slept with in the past, with every person we go on to sleep with in the future. So consider this, that sleeping around gets you "experience" but it may also get you a diverse array of HPVs, that you are now carrying forward into future relationships with loved ones whose health might do far better without more on-loading of HPVs... an awareness piece to consider.
posted by human ecologist at 1:15 PM on October 7 [1 favorite]

Dude, I feel for you, my folks never told me anything. My household was not as conservative as yours but there was no practical info, and sex was certainly something BAD kids did. So I was a slow starter, had sex my last year of high school. with no idea what I was doing. In a car, even!

Then I got to college and had issues with sex. Very nice, very attractive young women would want to maybe have sex, and I'd get all weird and avoid them or start a stupid argument and get out of there. Or drink too much.

But somewhere between there- 1990- and my mid 20's I had a few good, giving and game partners and got over the family programming and discovered SEX IS FUN and it is OK TO DO IT FOR FUN and while it can still be scary and risky, it is something everyone should have in their life to the degree they engage with it. There are asexual people, there are hypersexual peeps, everything in between, there are kinks out there that boggle the mind. But it is all okay. Consenting adults, etc.

My advice to you is slow down and go on some dates. get used to making out and snuggling and what they used to call heavy petting. Take your time. If you are masturbating, you've got an idea of how sex works, but there is so much more to explore. Try to remember that sex is one thing, your sex life and sexual persona and history are yours and yours alone.

Dr Dracator is spot on, don't go to a prostitute to solve this. You are young enough to have it happen by itself. Talking with a therapist certainly can help. A good therapist gave me the power to disbelieve several false narratives about myself, negative images taught me in chidhood.
posted by vrakatar at 4:56 PM on October 7 [1 favorite]

The first time I did some heavy petting I was actually surprised at how natural it felt and that made me feel less ashamed about my sexuality. Easing your way into sex might be more helpful. Try making your way around the bases slowly and see how you feel.
posted by sheepishchiffon at 6:55 PM on October 7 [1 favorite]

Yes, therapy! Get a good, sex-positive therapist. That's been transformational for me. You mention that it's hard to even talk about -- this is 100% true but I think it is also going to be one of the keys to your recovery. Talking openly about sex is a great shame-buster. My bet is that even just posting this anonymous question was simultaneously anxiety-provoking and a relief. A good therapist will help you step through that process, help you to find lingering hidden beliefs, and find ways to detach from them.

I totally get why you would have this idea, but I suspect seeing a sex worker is not actually going to help in the way you think it will. I had anonymous sexual encounters when I was living away from my family for the first time, but it didn't really help take away the shame and self-loathing I felt about my sexuality (it also spiked a severe bout of health anxiety for me). This is because I just interpreted those encounters through the same distorted lens I'd been using all along, taking them as further proof of my broken-ness. Now, having sex, even casual sex, is something that I find to be affirming and healing, but that's because I've had a chance to form a different relationship to it.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:33 PM on October 7

I haven't read it yet, but my therapist recommended Sexuality and the Sacred. It looks like there are two editions; I have the first one.
posted by delight at 11:09 AM on October 8

For what it's worth, I think the cultural idea that it's bad to go into a relationship with "zero information about sex" is completely false. My SO and I were both (very inexperienced) virgins when we got married. (No, this wasn't in the 1950's, it was actually two years ago. Yes, there are some millennials who wait until marriage to have sex.) And tbh, our first night together was amazing. Exploring something brand new together was a huge part of what made it special.

Also, seconding the idea of getting some therapy. Therapy is the
posted by quiet_musings at 8:56 PM on October 8 [2 favorites]

« Older What person can I pay to find my sister a...   |   Trying to clean graphite-like marks off sturdy... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments