Another wonderful piece by Tim, our resident guest author. This time we are looking at guilt; something many of us live with or have lived with for years.
I’ve been thinking a lot about guilt.
I don’t mean real guilt; guilt that is the guilt caused by a foul act such as a hurting another person or creature or committing a crime. I mean the guilt that we have had forced upon us by society, by, in prior days, religion, by those who seek to control us.
Often that guilt is a sexual guilt.
Now, here’s the thing. I like sex. I think sex in all its forms is almost always a beautiful thing. It should go without saying, but I do not include sex with those below the age of consent as a beautiful, valid, pleasant, interesting, or lawful act. In today’s rather prurient world, I have to say that lest you think differently about me. Weirdly, though, now the idea is in your mind. Don’t. Just don’t. It’s horrible abuse.
Where was I?
Damn. I’ve digressed. I expect I’ll get back there.
Sexual guilt, sexual hangups, sexual frustration, all of these are aiming you at the therapist you will choose eventually. Hmm, I think that’s where I was heading. I intended that to come at the end somewhere.
Some therapists are excellent. Others not so much. I went once to a “World Renowned” therapist who specialised in sexual dysfunction and discovered two things:
- That he had been a monk. Shall I let that one settle in? Oh, the sexual dysfunction in monkery! All that needless celibacy… and
- That he decided I’m not gay. I had to waste at least one session in convincing him. Now, the three of you with your minds in the gutter probably won’t believe me when I say truthfully that I did that with words!
It’s relevant, though, to this piece, and in an oblique way. It’s about taboos, leading to odd, unusual, suppressed feelings, often of guilt.
I have gay male friends who express the idea rather vigorously that the female human body, when naked, disgusts them. ‘Disgust’ is a pretty strong word, an emotive word. Why do they choose that word?
I can understand that the naked human female body does not interest them sexually, but it is, at its best, as beautiful as the naked human male body at its best. What’s ‘disgust’ all about?
I promise I am not going to equate ‘guilt’ and ‘disgust’. They are poles apart.
Parents have told us since birth that bottoms are dirty, and have germs, and these things are true. “Wash your hands, please, dear!”
(You may even enjoy reading Struggling To Poo In Public Loos Is ‘Surprisingly Common’ – So How Can You Get Past It?)
But men and women alike and for centuries have found enjoyment in hygienic anal exploration and anal sex. It’s a taboo topic. Reasonably, faecal matter smells unpleasing and discourages contact with it for most of us. It contains bacteria that are highly useful in digestion, but which are not required in other body areas. So, we associate the anus and rectum with faeces and the issues associated with them. It takes years for us to discover erogenous zones around the anal opening. And often this creates guilt.
Guilt? Yup. Guilt. We’re breaking a taboo, and it’s a thing that we’ve had ingrained in us since we were tiny.
Ah, now I have it. I’m back on track. Remember this line?
Guilt makes us secretive, drives us in on ourselves, can cause a multitude of unpleasantness for us and for those around us.
That’s where I was really heading. When you feel guilty, understand why.
An example is that I need to shed several kilos, but I had a scone with jam and clotted cream yesterday. I had a ‘guilty pleasure’, or, more correctly, I made a conscious choice to make my losing weight harder.
If I’d stolen the scone, then I would have been correct to feel guilt.
With matters of sex, there should be no guilt, providing always that no-one at all is harmed by what we do. Sex should be able to be talked about ‘in polite society’ with openness, though only when the conversation is appropriate. Talk to your children about sex, and the glorious and fun activity that it should be. Add emotional needs into sexual needs. Talk contentedly about sexuality, too, when you speak to your children, and about how you will love them whether they present you with girlfriends or boyfriends or some of each.
It won’t happen overnight, of course, but many therapists will find they have far fewer folk in need of their services.
I’m going to leave you with some questions, too. How different, how similar, are ‘guilt’ and ‘shame’? What, if anything, is the difference between them? What if you rewrite this piece using ‘shame’; instead of ‘guilt’? Is the message different?