Dictated by a disconnect between how we should behave and how we actually do, embarrassment is a self-conscious emotion we all experience on occasion, some of us more so than others.
Given the many taboos and myths around sex, it’s no wonder that most people would be horrified if, say, a TSA agent discovered the vibrator in your carry on. Or God forbid you let out a loud, gassy sound during S-E-X! Even the word sex, vulva, or testicles draws flushed cheeks for some people.
Thankfully, embarrassment doesn’t have to stand in the way of our Girl Boners, sex lives or relationships. With a bit of awareness, perspective shifts and maybe some flavored lube (stay with me!), sheepishness can take a backseat to your pleasure.
I loved having Kait Scalisi, MPH, sex educator, speaker and creator of Passion by Kait, back in the studio for a Girl Boner Radio chat about embarrassing sex problems and ways to work around them. The episode also features Kait’s take on feeling shy about sex sounds, how to talk about sex issues with a partner and Dr. Megan Fleming and my thoughts for a listener who’s been faking orgasms for two years.
Both Kait and I hear comments like this one often. As Kait pointed out in our chat, it has many layers, from discomfort around expressing desires to common myths about gender and sex drive interfering.
“There are all these gendered expectations that society puts on us around who has the higher sex drive—and that’s typically a male. Obviously I don’t know that the gender of this person who asked this, but given the question and how it’s worded, I think that’s where I would come from.”
Step one for moving past this type of embarrassment, Kait said, is normalizing the fact that libido is very individual and not based on gender or anatomy.
“We all have sexual gas pedals and sexual breaks and everyone’s is a little bit different in how sensitive they are,” she added. “And if you have a really sensitive gas pedal and not as sensitive of a break, there’s nothing wrong with you. They’re all totally normal.”
“I’m embarrassed to let my partner go down on me, so I have never had an orgasm that way.”
This, too, is super common. In a Cosmo survey from a couple of years ago involving women, 79 percent reported worrying about how they look or taste when receiving oral pleasure.
Most sex advice talks about adding variety and newness, which can be especially helpful in a long-term relationship, Kait said, “but being able to let go and enjoy those new things usually involves having to shut off the things that are holding you back. And so in this case, this person is so anxious about it, of course they’re not experiencing an orgasm.”
If you’re concerned that your genitals don’t smell “good,” consider this fact: Genitals should look and smell like genitals. Cultural messaging and products, such as douches, give the impression that vaginas should smell like flowers. But, nope.
Unless you notice a sudden, unusual change in the aroma, perhaps with other symptoms such as itching (in which case, see your doctor), your scent is probably 100 percent normal and embraceable. As a bonus, many partners find genital smells and flavors sexy, perhaps due in part to tantalizing pheromones.
If you feel self-conscious regardless, Kait recommends trying Sliquid flavored lube, which she says doesn’t taste like perfume or single use lingerie by Lorals, which provide a latex barrier to allow for greater ease and pleasure.
“I have pimples on my back, so I often have sex with a shirt on.”
This concern ties into body image challenges, which are among the mightiest when it comes to feeling nervous or uncomfortable leading up to or during sex.
“This is a journey that, like you said, everyone has to go on with some part of their body,” said Kait. “And it’s about finding love and acceptance, and maybe not even love… It’s finding acceptance and finding peace.”
In discussing loving versus making peace with your body, Kait referenced a blog post by Rachel Hartley, a dietitian who advocates for health at every size and intuitive eating.
“I loved that language so, so much because I think so much of the body positivity language out there is ‘Just love yourself,'” Kait said. “And if you are someone—I’ve been there, I know you’ve been there—who is deeply disconnected or in hatred of your body, going from that to love, you’re just never going to do it. It’s too hard. It’s too much. And so can you start with acknowledgement of the existence of that body or the existence of whatever you’re struggling with physically. Maybe move on to acceptance and maybe move on to peace. And if you like where ever you get along that journey, fucking celebrate it, because that’s beautiful and that’s healing.”
Kait also brought up some of activist and sex educator Ericka Hart’s powerful work.
“Ericka Hart did a post recently about some of the acne scars on their bum and the comments were just flooded with people being like, ‘I thought I was the only one who struggles with this. I’ve beaten myself up. I didn’t feel sexy.’ I’m gonna start crying… Just all of these people being like, ‘Yeah, me too.’ Because let’s be real. We all get pimples on our ass… It’s so normal, especially if it’s summer and especially if you’re working out, right? We all get it and we scar differently.”
The lesson here? Learning from or connecting with others who grapple in ways you’re struggling might lead you to see your body and self in brighter, more compassionate ways. You’ll also feel less alone in the process.
For the full episode or to binge through others, hop over to your favorite podcast app!
To shop for sex toys or lube stat, visit this episode’s product sponsor, The Pleasure Chest.