How To Free Yourself from Religious Sexual Shame

Photo by Josef Grunig

Photo by Josef Grunig

“As I grew into my adolescence, I began to associate sex with sin; I imagine this had to do with being surrounded in a conservative religion in my home, church and school. My attitude about sex and sexuality was that it was something that only married or sinful people engaged in.   Other than that I did not have much information – and because I was shy – the only place I got information about sex and sexuality was from TV, magazines and books”.

This is a typical quote from a young woman who grew up in a conservative religious home.  When I hear these kinds of statements, I find myself asking, “Why has religion failed to focus its teaching on the positive aspects of sexuality?  For example, “How can sex be a wonderful, healing, exciting part of life?” or “What is the highest joy and beauty in the gift of sexuality and how do I cultivate that?”  The religious mandate, “No sex before marriage” (and nothing else) has meant most conservative religions offer negative threats while failing to offer any kind of actual guidance or education.  Yet by the age of 20, 80% of all people either are or have been sexually active.  This is 6 to 8 years before the vast majority of people get married, if they are going to marry.  Yet most people have been making sexual decisions for a decade by this point – with little or no guidance or education.

I believe we need direction on how to understand and be in relationship with our sexual longing, desires, arousal and behaviors. And we need an overt sexual ethic that can guide us in building a paradigm that provides us with information – biopsychosocial and spiritual (biological, psychological, social and spiritual). So, here are 12 ideas that serve as a sexual/spiritual/relationship lens with which to make informed sexual decisions – and liberate yourself from sexual shame.

A healthy spiritual sexual ethic would be built on these 12 beliefs –

  1. You are a gift and your life is a gift – your body, mind, soul, and relationships are woven into the gift of the human experience.
  2. You are God’s Beloved. Just the way you are … right now … every day.  All creation is a gift (each person and all the earth that holds us) – including each person you meet.
  3. You have a responsibility to care for yourself and all creation in a way that honors and supports the fullest potential of every individual.
  4. All children and adolescents have the right to learn in age appropriate integrated ways about life, relationships, responsibility and sexuality each year, throughout their education, by parents, teachers, extended family and family support educators.  This education will help them make decisions that honor them.
  5. There is a spiritual mystery in sexuality, in love and in the purest human encounters. Because of this we make decisions in love, relationships and sex with care.
  6. You are hard wired for intimacy (deep safe attachment) and pleasure.
  7. Deep love, erotic experience, satiating sex … will require you ‘show up’ with your heart wide open, eyes and body fully present/in the moment and willing to penetrate and be penetrated by your lover. If the body shows up without the soul, eyes and heart, you may find yourself experiencing a kind of sex that leaves you wanting.
  8. Love … the action and the feeling … can at times feel risky and vulnerable. It will require more courage than most encounters, yet be the most satisfying relational and sexual skill you acquire.
  9. Real sexual freedom is found inside a loving safe devoted partnership where you are truly free to be entirely yourself and to surrender to the power and mystery of love and sexual touch.
  10. When loving is fun and easy … it is nourishment.
  11. When loving is difficult – it is your teacher, your kiln, your crucible for becoming compassionate, wise, strong, centered and clear. It will grow you up … help you to show up and shape up.
  12. On your death-bed you will count the ways you loved well as your most satisfying life measures.

If we taught children … and if we guided ourselves … to make relationship decisions (who we would open our heart to) and later our sexual decisions (who we would share intimate touch with) through these 12 values, our inner wisdom would guide us. We would become skilled in the gifts of caring, and skilled at discerning if others could care for us with love. We would still make mistakes … but we would make less mistakes than we tend to make now.  We would have a foundation with which to examine decisions and a template to learn through.  We would know more of the love, intimacy and blessing God desires to give us through the gift of our sexuality.



I love this: “What is the highest joy and beauty in the gift of sexuality and how do I cultivate that?”
Too often your sexuality is a burden, you have to bear until marriage. So you’re either in a rush to get married and get on with the busy of having sex. Or you are lost and confused about what to do with sexual hungers/ desires. This past year I’ve had the joy of slowly developing a deeper appreciation for my sexuality and my sexual hunger. I enjoy them both. Next challenge: dating. :)

Tina Schermer Sellers, PhD

Good for you!! It takes a lot of courage and vulnerability to allow yourself to claim, own and celebrate ALL of your desires and see them as gifts from a loving God! No fear, no shame. You are fearfully and wonderfully … and intentionally made … just as you are! Look for an upcoming post on dating … send me any questions and I will weave them in. xo

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