Sexual Honesty: A Challenging and Empowering Journey

Finding a path to authentic expression of your most taboo sexual desire, from a place
where it had been kept secret, is an empowering and healing journey.

Bill Hayward (Gallery 3)

I had a new client recently who confessed how she had almost turned around on her way to her first appointment.  We had talked initially by email and then had a phone interview. She had asked for help in sorting out her secret sexual desires.

On the phone, she could only hint at what she had held back sexually all her life. In a choked voice, she struggled to say that it had to do with “being taken.” She wanted to be dominated. “This is so embarrassing to talk about.” Some part of her was terrified that she had this desire at all. It totally went against her feminist and religious beliefs. But she was reaching a point where her erotic desire was overwhelming her fear and shame at revealing it. She knew something had to shift. We scheduled an initial appointment for a talk-only session.

On the way, she had pulled over and parked down the street. She was in a battle with every part of her that wanted her to turn around and run away. She felt like she might throw up. Her body and soul were shaking in fear, just at the thought of telling the truth about the nature of her sexual desire. She had never revealed it to anyone before. She was nearly 50 years old.

But she also knew she was at the point of no return. It was clear after all these years that her desire was not going away. Eros is such a relentless part of our being!

When she told me of her struggle just to arrive, I blessed her for her courage to confront and face the deep shame and fear she felt around her sexuality. Her story about the powerful urge to flee instead of show up drove it home for me once again:

It requires tremendous courage to overcome the deeply embedded fear and shame many of us carry around about our sexual truth.

I am struck by the high percentage of my clients who have told me similar stories about their struggle not to turn around on the way to their appointment.

How is it that such an integral, natural and vital part of who we are has become so vilified and repressed that we are compelled to hide it so desperately, and be so terrified of others knowing what our sexuality really looks like? Can it be anything but harmful to our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being to live in a culture where we are afraid to speak the truth about our sexuality? Our culture provides no place where people can go to feel safe, honored and encouraged to speak honestly about their erotic desires, at least those desires beyond the narrow range deemed appropriate by the conservative, sexually uptight mainstream.

It wasn’t my intention to focus my practice on those who have never found a safe place, or someone they felt safe enough with, to reveal their most closely guarded sexual secrets. But somehow that has wound up being a good portion of my clients — those who reveal to me, for the first time ever, whatever sexual secrets they have held so guardedly, often for decades.

That is why I bless them for their amazing courage, just to show up! I am witnessing this Herculean effort by men and women who, despite their paralyzing fear, their overwhelming sense of guilt and shame, their bodies literally plunging into a state of flight, can still show up!

In this regard I am also struck by how deep, tenacious and relentless the soul of Eros is. Despite decades of intense repression, fear, shame, and vilification, Eros does not go away. My clients tell stories of how they have tried to forget about what they desire sexually, channeled it into eating, drinking, irritability, frigidity, spirituality or pornography. It did not matter! Eros was as strong a part of them as ever. Many had tried to keep their Eros locked in a secret world of fantasy and masturbation. They were all deathly afraid of getting caught, but still took huge risks in some cases to feed their desire in shadowy, unconscious or even dangerous ways.

I know exactly how my clients feel about revealing their sexual secrets. I came from the same place about 15 years ago. I had kept my interests in ‘Fetish’ and ‘Kink’ secret for my first 48 years, after a lifelong interest that began before puberty. I desperately hid it. I was so afraid of being judged, shamed or punished socially. My outer persona, or my perfect cover, was the altar boy, the eagle scout, the gentleman, the guy in the white hat. The leap to becoming sexually authentic was terrifying. I could not imagine any way I could have the courage to take the leap. An unexpected nudge from behind pushed me off the edge. It was a rough and tumble journey, but the blessings that came from being true to myself have forever enriched my life.

I am so grateful to be in a position now where I can offer the safety and trust that allows people to open up and speak their desire honestly. They can finally begin the process of learning about and sorting through the difficulties tangled up with their erotic desire. Healing is a process of disengaging the fear, shame, harsh judgments, feelings of not being worthy and other challenges that have gotten embedded in the unconscious and that arise on cue, right along with our Eros. This tangled up expression leaves us frozen, or clumsy, or disconnected physically, emotionally and spiritually from the depth, power and exhilaration that is natural to our sexual expression. This is why the path to sexual authenticity is quite often a powerful healing journey as well.

3 Comments on Sexual Honesty: A Challenging and Empowering Journey

  1. As a psychologist specializing in the treatment of sexual compulsivity, I get to see the whole rainbow of sexual templates. I think we need to be cautious of adopting too niave a view on individual sexuality. Certainly, everyone should have a place where they can talk about their desires, and when appropriate try to understand why those desires exist. However, not all desire should be celebrated. The example given here about a woman with fantasies of forceful sex is probably the most accepted of all the taboo desires. Would the author feel the same affinity for his male client who enjoys fantasizing about the sadistic rape of women, or torturing children? I didn’t pick those examples to be shocking, male to female sexual sadism is something I frequently hear reported. Many people aren’t interested in finding a willing partner because the willingness destroys the “Eros” of the moment. I agree that additional shame is always counterproductive. However, sometimes the best course of action is one in which desire is harnessed, controlled and even at times repressed.

  2. Pro Dommes (sex workers) have been facilitating liberating actualizing experiences for people for literally ages. Long before mainstream psychology finally started (recently) acknowledging that humans have incredibly diverse sexuality.

  3. For 16 years I have been a bdsm professional – I also accept the title of sex worker – also known as a professional Dominatrix.

    In that time I have facilitated thousands of sessions for people, who like the writing above- were carrying around sexual secrets. The vast majority were just beginning to come to terms with their desires and did not have the option of getting involved in any bdsm community if one existed for them to participate in. Some had carried their desires around deeply hidden for decades if not most of their lives. To finally act out and express their feelings- as I have witnessed time and time again, is truly a liberating process and one which is an honor to facilitate. I work with both individuals and couples.

    It has been extremely fulfilling to be able to participate in an individual’s or a couple’s growth process in such a context.

    Long before the psychological- mental health professional community finally began to embrace alternatives to ‘mainstream sexuality’ there were providers such as myself who facilitated sexual growth and experiences, where on the other hand the mainstream culture only viewed these people as unhealthy (and counselors-psychologists right along with the culture). As our culture has become more tolerant and aware, of course now there are more ‘kink aware professionals’ who are willing to facilitate for people, but this wasn’t always the case. In fact, only in recent years do we find kink tolerant psychologists (my wager many are kinksters themselves who were drawn to the work due to a lack of KAP’s and a surge in mainstream interest and acceptance).

    We still have a long way to go as a culture regarding sexuality.

    By the very nature of what has organically manifested societally- it is apparent to me that there is a place for sex workers like myself, in terms of what we do as being a therapeutic modality. Long before there were KAP’s (kink aware professionals) there were pro Dommes (and Doms). First the Internet and then 50 shades of gray (as silly as that book truly is) comes along- so now people feel they’ve been given permission to come out of the kinky closet? Yes I do think it is as simple as that.

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