“Make no apology for your strong desire to be intimate with someone; it is neither sinful nor selfish.” Larry Crabb, Psychologist
Aside from the effects of a person’s hormones on libido, have you considered the role of shame as it affects your sex drive? Yes, shame. Our focus today asks, Is shame the enemy of sexual desire?
Basically, we never want to repeat a negative experience. When shamed, we shut down. Our libido gets frozen in the deep freeze of aversion and secrecy, hidden away and locked in a dark room. Our hormones follow suit. They obey our fears and the decisions we make, often subconscious, to protect our identities and delicate psyches.
The whole idea of sexual intimacy and mutual delight with a willing lover—so foundational to making love and seeking the soaring heights of orgasm (and, on a good day, unity of souls or the “Big O” of “Oneness”)—gets shoved aside. Our anxieties bury the genuine impulses we legitimately feel to freely offer ourselves to another human being.
We close down and the idea of sex becomes abhorrent.
When we feel inadequate or insecure, we want to run and hide. In sexual situations, we fear being naked. Being naked involves being vulnerable. We fear being exposed and judged as flawed.
We wonder, what if the other person criticizes my body, or frowns, or remains silent? As our anxiety skyrockets, sexual pleasure, openness and adventure nosedives. We reach for clothes to cover up or race for the exits—anywhere to hide.
This happens internally, though outwardly we may suck it up and appear tolerant and tough. Mentally our memories may fade over time, but our bodies rarely forget the hurt.
How does this happen?
Think of “Eros” in the way the ancient Greeks defined it: a healthy, adventurous zest for all of life’s experiences including art, music, food, sports, relationships, love, sex and intimacy. When this zest for living life to the fullest is squashed by events in our upbringing, or criticism by our parents/teachers/dating partners/spouses, the message is: “You are unacceptable . . . not good enough . . . less than . . . ugly . . . worthless . . . inferior.”
We feel attacked and shrivel up from the harsh pain that judgment inflicts, which damages our self-esteem and well-being and security. The Eros in us shrinks and dies a little. Or a lot.
Eros, of course, is the root word of “erotic.” But “erotic” has come to have a bad rap, a sleazy rep because of sexual abuse and crimes and the S&M bondage of 50 Shades of Grey. Yet there is a pure and clean side of “erotic,” if you look for it. That is, a pure and clean side unless shame defiles it.
So I ask you, Who wants to be erotic under conditions where shame triumphs? Libido is a person’s overall sexual drive or desire for sex, whether intense or weak. At its core, Eros is neither sinful nor selfish–it is the vital impulse of life itself. As the Author of life, God’s very essence (by this definition) is erotic. And, as the Creator of life (John 1: 1-4), God champions righteous Eros when it motivates righteous behavior.
Take a minute to ponder a passage from Tim Alan Gardner’s excellent book on this subject, Sacred Sex:
“We banish shame by accepting each other . . . Acceptance is what gets us to the point of standing naked—physically, emotionally, spiritually—before each other and feeling no shame. Do we completely accept and praise our mate’s bodies or do we make our mate feel inadequate or even ugly? In a world that has made us feel that parts of us are unlovable, do you create an atmosphere of tenderness and complete acceptance of your mate? Have you offered your mate the gift of loving him or her without any condemnation?”
Have you completely accepted your mate? If so, how? If not, why not?