MY DAD GAVE ME THE BEST SEX TALK, SO HOW DO I HAVE THIS SHAME?
I have felt shame about a lot of things related to sex. And I was given the best sex-talk of anyone I know. How did I become so repressed?I have often felt similarly about sex as my friends and partners who grew up super religious. I have no idea why this is the case seeing as I grew up a reformed Jew who didn’t have a bat mitzvah and didn’t go to temple, like, ever. I didn’t have a curfew, I had lots of different kinds of friends, and I grew up in LA. I was exposed to all types of people and lifestyles and they were all presented to me as equally good and beautiful. The sex-talk my dad gave me when I was eleven or twelve was: “Sex is a beautiful thing done between people who love each other a lot. I hope you have lots of great sex in your life.” Literally, that was it. So why do I get off on doing things I “shouldn’t” do? I had to learn the hard way while I was in Italy.
I LEARNED SHAME COMING OF AGE IN PROVINCIAL ITALY
Maybe it has to do with moving to Italy at nineteen where women who have sex with people they aren’t dating are called “emancipated women.” Living there for four years during some formative years of my life definitely changed how I perceived the sex I had had in my life up until that point.
Before moving I had been in a couple “serious” relationships, but they had only ever lasted seven months at a time. The rest of the time I had been single, and I had experimented with all sorts of relationships. Well, not that many. Just some one-night-stands, some casual dating, some intense love coming out of nowhere.
MY ITALIAN BOYFRIEND TAUGHT ME HOW OLD WORLD SHAME OF A WOMAN
Then I met my Italian boyfriend. He almost broke up with me three different times, and each time left a deep scar. The first time it was because I told him my “number,” which is by far the stupidest thing we keep track of as women because it is only used by others to shame us. Anyway, I told him my number, it was eleven, and his was four, and he almost dumped me over it. Ever since then I have been afraid to tell partners my number. I don’t actually keep track anymore.
INSTEAD OF STANDING ON MY OWN, I STOOD IN THE PAST
The second time was when I told him I had made-out with a mutual friend before we had started going out. He got so mad he left me in the middle of the piazza and drove the car home alone. I had to walk home, crying and scared because I couldn’t understand what I had done wrong. And the third time he almost dumped me was when I told him that I might be bisexual. I had to beg him not to leave me over that one.
But I should have let him go. I should have dumped HIM multiple times in the three years we dated. But I was scared and ashamed, and he imprinted me with that shame so that I felt tied to him forever. Coming of age means learned experiences add into personal wisdom. It’s painful.
NOW I AIM TO LEAVE THE SHAME BEHIND, STEP BY STEP
I finally broke up with him after years of neglect, when I had gotten to the point of forgetting how to feel beautiful, when I realized I was just a thing he ignored most of the time. The break-up was still hard, but I was free! Finally, free. The problem is: shame doesn’t really just go away. I will be working on getting rid of that shame for a long time, but I have hope that I will be able, someday, to shed the harmful parts of shame, and keep the sexy parts. Because the feeling of danger, of doing something you’re not supposed to do, is hot. I wouldn’t want that to go away. It is the separation of what you want to keep and what you want to get rid of that’s the hard part. Coming of age is never easy, even in Italy.