Shame can cause women to inhibit sexual pleasure and lose confidence in setting boundaries. It fosters the belief that their worth lies in their sexual attractiveness to men. They’re more likely to engage in promiscuity and risky sexual behavior, such as unprotected sex, loveless sex, or with disregard for STD’s. By being objectified, girls and women become disconnected from their internal guidance system. They’re more attuned to obeying or pleasing a man, ignoring their own feelings, making them unable to protect themselves physically and emotionally. In contrast, with healthy self-esteem, women experience increased sexual desire, confidence, orgasms, and pleasure. They’re able to ask for what they want directly to get their needs met.
Worse is sexual abuse, which leaves its victims feeling self-contempt, distrustful, dirty, damaged, and unlovable. The objectification of women and invasion of their boundaries in a sexual assault is humiliating to women. Although their boundaries have been invaded, they take on the shame of the perpetrator. For centuries religion and culture has promoted their unwarranted shame.
If sexually aroused, pleasure and desire may be confused with the abuse and be shrouded in shame. They may become promiscuous or the opposite and deny themselves pleasure. Objectification leads a girl to wrongly confuse being desired sexually and being loved. They may partner with men who don’t love and respect them after the initial romance fades. They may not believe that they have a right to sexual equity, to sexual pleasure without guilt, to free sexual expression, and to sexual autonomy about their own bodies.
Shame and Intimacy
Men and women both seek connection and intimacy. But the expectations that shame generates breed insecurity. It makes us more vulnerable to shame and connection, and authenticity become more difficult. Real intimacy requires connection to our real self. We have to be in touch with our vulnerability to express it. Even then, it can be too frightening and carries shame-anxiety. Instead of receiving nurturing and closeness, many men and some women separate love and sex and substitute sex for love to avoid the anxiety of intimacy. Sex is also used to allay anxiety, fill the emptiness, lift depressed feelings, and build identity and self-worth. But loveless sex sets the stage for impotence and depression later. Although both partners may be gratified sexually, they’re often not fulfilled, nor does their self-esteem benefit. It can potentially leave them with guilt, shame, low self-esteem, and feeling even emptier than before. Sex can become addictive, since there is short term pleasure, but the emptiness is never filled.
New partners must be found to ensure excitement and avoid intimacy. Affairs and sexual flirtation with someone outside of a committed relationship are often initiated to boost self-esteem, but deceit risk damaging the partner and the relationship, creating more shame. Over time in long relationships, sex may be divorced from all feeling and become machine-like, especially when any emotional connection has waned. It’s dehumanizing to both partners and their needs for real connection are never met. But emptiness is neither fillable from sex, nor from exerting power over others. Meanwhile, the gap between a person’s real self and the persona they believe they must project gets ever wider.