shame and vulnerability


Respected Member
So I have been noticing something for a bit and have been mulling over these questions for some time. Shame and vulnerability. I talk a lot with my husband and I connect from time to time with men on here. I have noticed how much shame we attach to conversations about sex. Then one day the thought occurred to me, "Is it shame or a fear of vulnerability?" Maybe it's not we are ashamed to talk about it but more we don't feel comfortable making ourselves vulnerable? I know our culture (in the states) doesn't encourage vulnerability. I feel that is sad. When you step out and open up in a manner that makes you vulnerable you allow for a deeper connection to occur. I talk to my husband and he says he doesn't feel shame but also doesn't feel comfortable initiating conversations about sex. He can with me but it is hard for him. If can participate in a discussion but he doesn't' want to be the one initiating the topic. Now i am not saying that we need to talk to our friends about sex all the time...that would be awkward, lol.  I am more thinking if we can bring this into more of a comfortable conversation and make it less taboo then maybe people wont isolate as much and when they need help and are hurting they could get help sooner. What are the thoughts of others on this? I am just trying to figure out how we as a community and try to shift culture to combat this problem. Seems like conversation is a good place to start.

Emerald Blue

Well-Known Member
What an interesting topic to come up at this time, as I?ve just finished reading I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn?t) by Bren? Brown. It?s a book about shame and shame resilience. It?s not about the culture of shame around sex or porn, but shame as it manifests in our lives in many situations and often holds us back and limits our potential to live fully. My personal recovery from my husband?s porn addiction means working on my own body anxiety and the body dysmorphia I lived through after many years of my husband?s porn addiction and how it impacted on our relationship. So, I?m tackling shame from another perspective, but it?s also one where the cultural anxieties experienced by most women plays a large role ? not the whole story, but certainly part of it.

I sought to understand my husband?s experience of shame around his porn addiction as it seemed to be an issue in his own recovery but it was quite difficult to unpick it. He was sexually assaulted by a male relative around puberty, so I?m certain that?s a factor in his own shame. These issues are always much more complex. He didn?t receive any sex education, yet the older males in his family had porn, so it doesn?t take a leap of imagination to figure out that sex was this big taboo and that men could indulge in porn and masturbation as long as it was done in secret.

I was always open to talking about sex with my husband but he didn?t seem able to. His porn habit was always supposed to be kept hidden from me. When I did find out his reaction was the classic ?kid with his hand in the cookie jar? reaction. Promises never to do it again at first, it was all very child-like. He didn?t quit. He couldn?t. We didn?t have sex and when I tried to bring it up he?d close off the conversation ASAP. Even more recently, anything slightly uncomfortable and he?ll close the subject within the first sentence. I don?t want to push him. It?s a slow process. We are making progress and I have to be grateful for that.

Shame is perhaps a deeper issue, but there?s no doubt that there?s a lot of cultural anxiety about discussing sex and how healthy sexuality is experienced. It?s an important and necessary skill in any relationship. I think it?s definitely true that men can feel very vulnerable when opening up about their own sexuality in a meaningful way, talking about their own personal experiences, desires, inhibitions, anxieties, fantasies, etc. I?m not saying it?s easy for women either, but I think we tend to talk and share more readily anyway. Female sexuality comes with its own culturally mediated taboos as well. We?re still living under the ?nice girls don?t? ethos in an increasingly hypersexualised culture, so the rules for women are shifting too, but not necessarily in a healthy way.

For any couple battling it out with porn addiction, please don?t let awkwardness about talking about sex hold back your progress. Please, please try. My husband and I have said to each other throughout our recovery ?if only your said something ?? so many times. My biggest regret was NOT having those conversations much earlier.

On the subject of shame, if you feel it ? for any reason ? tackle it. #MeToo propelled a lot of women through their shame barrier. There?s a lot of brave women (and men) speaking out against body shame, I?ve discovered. We can be ashamed of our parents if they?re poor, we can be ashamed of our grades because we didn?t get straight A?s, we can feel shame for a multitude of reasons. But we can learn the skills of shame resilience.

Stay strong, people. xo