Series 50: For the Love of Sex | Episode 01
Unraveling the Grip of Shame on our Sex Lives with Matthias Roberts
Welcome to our first episode in our For the Love of Sex series! We’re excited to break open this topic and find ways to cultivate what sexual health means for each of us and lay down toxic perspectives surrounding sex in our lives. Today we’re talking about sexual shame and how that can show inside and outside the bedroom. Matthias Roberts is a psychotherapist, author and podcaster. He wrote a book on sexual shame called “Beyond Shame: Creating a Healthy Sex Life on Your Own Terms” and is committed to helping people find freedom feeling shame around sex.
Jen and Matthias discuss:
- A working definition of what sexual shame is
- How Matthias’s perspective on sex shifted after coming out in a Christian fundamentalist home
- Questions to ask ourselves to develop our own sexual ethic
- How sexual shame can affect every area of our life
- Ways to stay curious and let go of shame about sex
- Matthias’s queer theological perspective on sex
The ways shame can seep into our lives is surprising. Join Jen and Matthias as they unpack, with a compassionate lens, how to stay curious and work toward kicking the shame-filled parts of our sex life to the curb.
Hey everybody. Jen Hatmaker here, your host of the For The Love Podcast. Welcome to the show.
Oh man, you guys, we are in it. We’re in it. We’re in a series right now called For The Love of Sex. The podcast team and I were like, they were like, “Jen, how do you want to start out 2023?” And I’m like, “Oh, let’s do a series on sex, a whole series.” This is our first one to do like this. We touched on the topic in other series as a one-off episode, but this is our whole treatment, and it’s been so great.
As an interviewer and as a host, I have loved having these conversations with our guests in such a liberating way, and today’s conversation matters so much to that liberation. Because today, it’s finally here, the one that you knew we would have to include in this series, which is the shame episode of the sex series. We really can’t not have it. I don’t think there’s any way to discuss a healthy adult sex life without addressing the shame that’s ruined it for so many of us.
Between a lot of our, not everybody, but a lot of our collective experiences of purity culture and even outside of a religious construct, basically society’s overall obsession with women being the good girls and pure, if you will, I think shame was going to be something we would have to absolutely address in order to even begin to diffuse. I mean, hell, I know this, you probably do too. There’s just a zillion ways that shame creeps into our beds with us, from the buttoned up purity culture programming from some of our churches, to maybe the fear or the embarrassment that our parents put on us growing up, possibly, all this very conflicting and confusing mixed messaging we get from media, which is kind of runs the gamut, even some of our internalized sexual dysfunction.
Certainly some of this could have come from abuse or exploitation. And then just, it’s a jumble. It’s a jumble in our brains about how we are supposed to feel about sex and if there’s this, quote, right way and a wrong way. And so much morality is piled onto it. And in some cases, that just is absolutely baked into the sauce. There’s just not even an alternative way to process sex than this rigid way it was presented to us. And so, it’s easy to see how we could and do create both small and large coping mechanisms in our bedrooms to deal with it all, right?
So we’re going to take some time today to break this down. We’re going to talk about sexual shame specifically and how it’s distinctive from shame itself. We’re going to talk about the tendrils of sexual shame and how it affects us, not just in our sexual experiences with our partners, but in literally every part of our life. And that also how… There’s a lot in here, you guys. This is a really good episode and it is going to be so useful. But also how we cope either consciously or unconsciously with this sexual shame.
There’s a lot of diagnostic tools that you’re going to be handed today and some resources to begin this internal work of both identifying your own sexual shame, but specifically what it is telling you. Oh gosh, that was a really big moment in this interview that I am so grateful for personally, but I’m so actually also thankful to put it in your hands. We have such a good leader through this discussion today on the show. I’ve got my friend that I love and respect so much, Matthias Roberts. He’s here today. Matthias is a queer psychotherapist, he’s a podcaster, he is an author. He wrote the book Beyond Shame: Creating a Healthy Sex Life on Your Own Terms. And he hosts Queerology, which is a podcast on belief and being.
Matthias has two master’s degrees, one in theology and culture, and one in counseling psychology. He’s a fellow at the Allender Center, which is a nonprofit who helps survivors of trauma and abuse heal by stepping into their stories of pain and harm with resources and courage. And when he’s not writing for incredible publications like O Magazine, if you will, Bustle, and more, he’s working primarily in his psychotherapy practice, helping LGBTQ+ people and beyond recover from religious and spiritual trauma, so they can begin to live confident and fulfilling lives in every way, but certainly sexually.
Matthias is, I’ve told him this a lot of times, but he’s got the heart of a pastor, and you’re going to see this immediately in this conversation. His nature in the world is gentle, and it’s nurturing, and he’s careful with hearts, and minds, and ideas.
He’s careful with faith. He’s careful with pain. And he comes to us so incredibly resourced to walk us through this very challenging conversation, because I almost don’t know anybody who has gotten this far in life with zero sexual shame. And we probably have experienced to varied degrees, but this is really real and true for a lot of us. I was telling Matthias, I mean, I got married at age 19, fresh out of purity culture, and absolutely informed how I thought about sex, how I experienced sex, how I felt internally about sex forever.
That wasn’t something I knew how to address. Nobody was addressing it back then in my world. I didn’t know how to even identify what sexual shame looked like, because I thought sexual shame was immediately supposed to be erased as soon as you got married, that I guess that’s just the end of it, then you don’t have it anymore. But that was absolutely not true, and I got to walk that dysfunction through marriage. So it’s so interesting to me now, in my upper forties, in a new relationship that isn’t my marriage, and have this opportunity to look at sex in a completely different way, in a completely different context, with a different partner, with a different me. I’m different internally.
And so I think you’re going to be really served well today. And Matthias is a trustworthy counselor and coach through this very tender space that has caused so many of us so much pain. And the good news is there’s hope. The good news is this can be overcome. The good news is this can be reversed, this can be addressed, and this can be healed. And that is good news for all of us. So, I’m just delighted to share my conversation with one of my favorite people, the wonderful Matthias Roberts.
Mentioned in this Episode:
Beyond Shame: Creating a Healthy Sex Life on Your Own Terms
by Matthias Roberts
For The Love Podcast Episode with Jay Stringer on Purity Culture
For The Love Podcast Episode with Brene Brown on Vulnerability
Sex, God, & the Conservative Church
Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free
Holy Runaways: Rediscovering Faith After Being Burned by Religion
by Matthias Roberts
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XO – Team Jen