How to Deal with Repression

shame2Repression is not what you might think it is. I recently wrote:

A lot of us think it’s about working to suppress sexual desire. And while the early stages can be at least partly conscious, after a while you’re not actively blocking anything. You’ve simply lost sexual feelings and energy. Plus, plenty of punishing messages targeted at women’s desire get internalized. And sex is too often used as a weapon.

Now add body shame. Girls are bombarded with perfect, Photoshop images that model what they “should” look like. And then women can spend their time in bed worrying about how they look — or maybe enjoying how they look — and not enjoying how they feel.

So what to do?

We must change the culture 

Obviously, we must change the culture. Stop hiding sex, whispering about it, and shaming women over their desire and their bodies. And stop using sex as a form of punishment and control.

All of that deserves loads of discussion, and will take years — at best — to change. Though we are taking small steps, even now.

What can we do for ourselves, right now?

But what can we do right now, for ourselves?

The sex-positive movement

The sex-positive movement

1) Therapy can help at all levels of dysfunction, especially sexual trauma. However, keep in mind that male therapists are less effective for women facing these issues.

2) In lieu of therapy, many women have healed with the help of popular self-help books. Lonnie Barbach is one helpful author. These can help whether we’re talking sexual dysfunction or body image problems.

3) We can also start speaking in sex-positive ways to our partners, our friends and our children. Because sometimes attitude follows behavior.

I learned this when I began teaching sexuality in my women’s studies classes. I wasn’t interested in passing on the shame I had grown up with. And as I worked to communicate a positive message to my students I ended up communicating the same message to myself.

4) Also, don’t be shy about buying a helpful tool.

5) And be sure to check out erotica to figure out what gets you going.

6) Finally, begin exploring your body to appreciate the gift of sexuality. But the exploration should not focus on orgasm — because that focus often incites fear of not climaxing, instead of producing pleasure. Not helpful at all! Instead, notice the sensations and feel into them.

And let go of the guilt. Understand that these life-sustaining pleasures were given to us for good reason by God or nature.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on November 17, 2014, in body image, feminism, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. Repression involves placing uncomfortable thoughts in relatively inaccessible areas of the subconscious mind. Thus when things occur that we are unable to cope with now, we push them away, either planning to deal with them at another time or hoping that they will fade away on their own accord.

    • And a lot of people don’t know how to deal with it when they realize they need to. I didn’t. Some of my students come and talk to me after class, cause they don’t either.

  2. Nice post. I agree with the point of talking in sex positive ways to people

  3. I agree repression just makes it worse. If we can think positively and talk positively while not feeling the shame, the behavior and experience will change consequently. I believe that God makes us function to enjoy and celebrate our sexuality. It just occurred to me how the habit of thinking works, I start to think and behave a certain way the culture impresses on us. It’s good to notice that and start to change our behavior.

  4. This whole post is amazing, sex should be explored, but of course when it is of age not when someone is a child. Also we should focus on the exploration of sex and not the exploitation of sex since exploitation is basically repression in disguise, since
    “too much of a good thing can be a bad thing”
    Another notion I would like to mention is religion focus on absencent ( or not have sex). Sex is perfectly healthy and should be explored however it should also be done carefully and with understanding of what is at risk. Any religion preventing sex before marriage is repressing a natural desire. This whole post in my opinion covers the basics for repression and understanding how to deal with different forms of repression. One of my favorite topics in this post was the focus on what we can do for ourselves. In particular the idea that we must help ourselves in understanding and deal with repression with the steps provided in the post.

  5. Georgia, I would say a lot of this applies to men too. I’ve heard plenty of messages over the years that men shouldn’t be fat, we should all have larger-than-average-size penises in order to satisfy women, tall men are better than short men… etc.

    As for sex being used as a weapon, that happens on both sides of the gender equation.

    In fact, couldn’t the word “people” replace each instance of “girls” or “women” in your post?

    • Men face sexually repressive forces too, like the general shaming of sexuality. But they don’t get nearly as many negative messages. So no, you can’t simply replace it with “people.”

      Women taking a walk of fame for having sex while men take the walk of shame?

      When is the last time you heard man called sluts and hoes? At most they are called “Man whore” — which tells you about what’s normal is for women to be called that word. And from a recent post (pt 1)

      Women are still routinely put down as “sluts” and “ho’s.” Which means: women’s sexual desire is bad and dangerous
      Viagra is openly advertised but products aiding women’s sexuality are not
      How many movies tell stories about girls trying to lose their virginity?
      A “cock” is proud. “Down there” disappears
      And be careful, or you may get f’d or screwed
      Dad brags about his son’s sexual prowess. But he’s relieved that his daughter hasn’t dated yet
      The fear of sexual violence — or actually experiencing it — makes sexuality seem fearful (Women are much more likely to be victims)

      And have you seen this post?
      Sexual Desire & Sexism
      https://broadblogs.com/2012/05/07/sexual-desire-sexism/

      So again, guys do face sexual repression. But not nearly as much as women do. And they have far less sexual dysfunction.

      • I can’t argue with any of your points; I wasn’t trying to make a statement on the double-standards or degree of the inequality, or

        The fear of sexual violence — or actually experiencing it — makes sexuality seem fearful (Women are much more likely to be victims)

      • Yeah, men also experience repressive forces in our society. Is just worse for women. But I’m sure plenty of people would have thoughts that are similar to what you expressed, so I really appreciate your contributing to the discussion.

      • True overall women have it worse. But I see how somethings can be spun for what is shamed upon women and not is for men, but what is shamed upon men and not women. Though this is due to society in the first place putting this on men, so the system to blame not women. But like you said, women are shamed as sluts for being promiscuous. On the same token, men not getting laid are seen as losers or undesirable. Women not having much sex aren’t seen as undesirable most often but very, very selective. A man very inexperienced, can be put down just like the “slutty” girl but in a different way. A man flirting to a woman, if she doesn’t find him attractive, can be seen a s creepy. A woman doing the same, usually a flirt and usually sexually aggressive women not seen as perverts or creeps. Many times its justified for guys being seen as a creep, but not always. Pigs, perves, etc words used towards men.

        Then let’s not forget while women may be self conscious about doing something kinky in bed, because they don’t want to be seen as promiscuous. A man can only be kinky in a dominant way otherwise have his masculinity possibly questioned by his woman or gf and it doesn’t even have to be anything extreme either. Not that slut shaming is good, obviously that’s bad. But a men feeling or being seen that his sexuality is not masculine especially by the girls he’s with? Well he might as well hand over his man card, cut off his balls and hide in a cave and never come out.

      • Men and women both face problems when it comes to sexuality. Repression is more likely to be the problem women face.

  6. I’m with you- it’s as much an inside job as it is needing the world to be different– but the latter may take awhile… implementing our own changes can make all the difference. Love that I’m about to quote Gandhi in a blog post about repressed sexuality: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

  7. “Stop hiding sex, whispering about it, and shaming women over their desire and their bodies. And stop using sex as a form of punishment and control.” …. Can’t agree more..all these are overtly practiced and women are often left vulnerable to repression.

  8. I like this post ‘ repression has given women this idea of what they should look like and be about and blaah. But in reality we all just need to accept the fact that what we are and how we look and the pleasures and needs of our bodies are apart of our lives either we accept it or go on living in denial about ourselves which is a pittyful way to live.

  9. I feel this post speaks a whole lot of truth for both genders, I can understand what i says when it states women are repressed and also when it says men are too. I feel both genders get too caught up in the media`s portrayal of what sex should be. Not many people see what it should be because of what the media makes us believe it is. Personally I dont think any gender should be repressed because sex should come at the time and place where it suits best. Men and women are not animals to where it has to be who has the Most colorful feathers during mating season.

  10. I couldn’t agree more. I feel that sex is a natural thing that should not be shamed or looked down upon, because at the end of the day, whether we try to hide it or refrain from our desires we do embrace it behind closed doors. It is very unfortunate that many women have a hard time discussing their sexuality because they would be bombarded with negativity and looked down upon. I’ve noticed that through my high school experience slut shaming often occurred from rumors spread by not only men, but other women as well. Our culture obviously needs a great change, but we need this from both men and women.

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