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It’s Time to Stop Lying About Sex

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It’s Time to Stop Lying About Sex

The New York Times’ Op-Ed columnist, Maureen Dowd couldn’t resist jumping into the conversation about women’s sexuality, S & M and why some very smart women enjoy surrendering to a powerful man, in her recent article, She’s Fit To Be Tied (NYT April 1, 2012).

Even with this article that openly discusses the legendary Story of O and the suddenly hot Fifty Shades of Grey, we are still dancing around the lies we tell ourselves about sex. We are sex-obsessed. We are obsessed with wanting it in all its flavors, deny that we want it, and then hide it when we get it the way we want it. It takes a lot of guts to be a normal real person in the real world living a fully integrated life, i.e., embracing your sexuality.

It’s fine for creatures of fiction to go off the deep end ŕ la Story of O or Beauty in Anne Rice’s contribution to erotica and have nothing else to do but devote themselves utterly to sex. But real people, the ones who dare to step outside the sexual box, are in fact indistinguishable from everybody else. They are housewives, farmers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, cops, factory workers and high flying financiers (oh how bodice-ripper writers love those financiers—thank you Goldman Sachs).

Even though sexual desires are absolutely normal, as soon we have the nerve to admit them, even to ourselves, we immediately have to plaster it over with shame and denial. Take Kathy, one of my sexuality coaching clients, who called me the other day filled with frustrated longing.

“I want to be shameless,” she cries. ” ‘I’ the professional, ‘I’ the parent, ‘I’ the daughter, and ‘I’ the secret slut… I have denied myself so much for so long, that I don’t know what I want anymore. I want to be shameless. Yet without the scaffolding of shame, self doubt, second guessing and fear of failure, I don’t know who I would be. Some days shame feels like all I have.”

Kathy’s misery echoes exactly the same anguish I hear over and over from women and men. We are confused by society’s multiple conflicting messages. Give into your desires; don’t you dare. Be faithful; try swinging. You don’t need a partner; you are nothing without one. Be monogamous; try polyamory or open marriage. Then there’s the old standby: cheating.

It’s making us all a little crazy. We’re fragmented. We’re taught to box off our sexuality from the time we’re little kids (U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders was pilloried for advocating masturbation). I mean, we’re talking about cutting out the core of one of the most basic and necessary of human behavior from the rest of our lives. That leaves most of us isolated, angry, anxious or in therapy trying to identify what’s wrong and then attempting to reconnect to what’s been sealed off. No easy feat. Most of us ping pong between salacious voyeurism and repentance and repression. We’re programmed to fear our desires, to treat them as alien invaders that threaten the very fabric of a “normal life.”

We don’t have real language or real live people to help us even think about this in a rational context. All we have are fetishized images that keep us in perpetual heat while the gatekeepers of “morality” slam the door on sex ed and information. We are a country at war with sex.

It takes the kind of courage needed to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, to live out loud. The truth is, we’re all at risk for becoming The Scarlet Letter‘s protagonist Hester Prynne. If people knew what we did behind our closed bedroom doors or in private sex clubs that exist in every state in this great nation, we can be pretty sure that there’d be hell to pay. Anyone who’s been outed knows the stakes: lose a job, get booted from the PTA, and worse, publicly shamed.

I know whereof I speak on this one. I outed myself. I figured, What was there to be ashamed of exactly? That I was happier? A better wife and mother when I finally unearthed my deeply buried sexuality? Yeah, well… I penned a funny memoir of my midlife coming of sexual age for a well regarded, crunchy granola, squeaky clean publishing house. They knew exactly what I was trying to say: I am “Everywoman,” with two kids, a 30-year-old marriage, money problems, and my mother. That I could dive into the “sexual underground,” find out that I, a powerhouse of a CEO, really liked the freedom I found in “surrender” and l could get home in time to cook dinner and have quality family time. I found healing on my journey, and I wanted to share it with the world.

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Pamela Madsen

Pamela Madsen is an Integrative Life Coach Specializing In Women's Issues: Sexuality, Fertility, Body Image, Wellness and Rejuvenation. Pamela is also author of the best selling memoir Shameless (Rodale, Jan 2011), and founder of The American Fertility Association.Her websites and her daily blog,, are a breakfast essential for reporters, writers and policymakers.


+ add your own
2:10AM PDT on Aug 24, 2012

From every article I've read so far, this is the one I agree with 100%. I was thinking that if women were to surrender to their desires instead of fearing them, and it makes sense to fear them cause they are powerful, the world would be full of what the mainstream calls "sluts".
I also think that if I were to come out and really say what's on my mind or what I've been up to in front of my friends/co-workers, I'd be burnt at the stake.
I want to live my life in such a way that if it were a novel, it would outsell 50 shades ;-)

6:33PM PDT on Apr 21, 2012

thank you

5:48PM PDT on Apr 9, 2012

There's no emptiness in sex.....not between people who trust each other & want to share in something outside of their "professional","parental" and/or "habitual" roles.....Respect is there as long as the sharing is there........sticking to everyday habits 365 days a year, come hell or high water......will eventually drown a once close, respectful relationship!
Sex is the one activity where a couple can sensually touch,explore each other......just be.

12:49PM PDT on Apr 9, 2012

Totally right.
Why we cheat? Because we don't talk openly with our couple or he/she doesn't want to? So we look in another one what we can not found.

12:12PM PDT on Apr 9, 2012

Hm. Interesting article. Definitely worth reading. I agree with you : we all should be open with our sexuality. Now, I'm not sure making your fantasies come true is a happiness recipe. I believe fantasies are like dreams : it's great to make them come true, but, once it's done, you tend to feel "empty" and left with nothing...if not feeling bad. Sexuality requires balance, like every other thing in our lives. You should be sexually satisfied, but, you should also keep in mind that self-respect is worth much more than the biggest O you can get. At least, it is for me. Open debate, really...keep it coming !

9:03AM PDT on Apr 9, 2012

No, it isn't. Sex is legal, fun and positive and I will NOT let mean, backward prudes who are wacked out crazy get in the way of MY pursuit of happiness that I am GUARANTEED by my constitution. These perverts can keep on raping altar boys in the privacy of their churches, that's their business, and I never once stuck MY NOSE in THEIR BUSINESS. NOW they will NOT STICK THEIR NOSE IN MY VAGINA and TELL ME WHAT TO DO IN MY BEDROOM or WHETHER I CAN TALK ABOUT SEX. I will talk about SEX any time I WANT and NO HOLIER THAN THOU PRUDE PERVERT WILL STOP ME.

8:54AM PDT on Apr 9, 2012

It's going to be a longgggg time before our society can handle discussing sex! It's probably not going to happen in my lifetime. I am ok with discussing it with a personal partner, but many in our society still thinks sex is taboo or they chuckle and call it dirty etc..... Sex is fun and exciting and a host of other postiive things, but that has to be your background, your knowledge or your experience and unfortunately, everyone does not have that.

2:33AM PDT on Apr 8, 2012

The US has this incredible combination of out-there, in-your-face, lack of privacy and titillation with anything vaguely sexual and extreme puritanism. We need to start having more mature public discussions about sex and sexuality.

8:07PM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

How do you expect people to talk openly about sex when they can't even explain where babies come from to their own children ? So it's a delicate subject, deal with it instead of letting teachers and strangers educate them !
Most of us have been brainwashed by priests and nuns, rabbies and imams, to despise our own bodies, to think sex is taboo and should never be spoken about, to feel shame whenever we feel good.
Well I say ENOUGH already !! It takes a lot of growing up to be able to free you spirit and your body from such a burden, to allow yourself orgasm time and again, to feel good about your body...hey if someone else likes your body and accepts it the way it is and tells you about it, why don't you ?
Have fun !!

5:47PM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

one thing that frustrates me is people cant just talk about sex like the normal thing it is. i would get so annoyed that people assume that im willing to talk about sex openly that meant i wanted to have sex with them. i am mature enough to talk about it without being turned on or feeling horny. its just stupid

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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a vicious cycle.. that could be ended by a kinder society that lifts people up and supports them, no…

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