Guilty Pleasures: Removing the “Guilt” from Pleasure with Chantelle Otten
on Jul 29, 2022
In this blog, sexologist Chantelle Otten talks about the guilt and shame of pleasure, why we should throw them out the window and how.
We all have guilty pleasures. Whether it's that extra slice of cake, spending too much time on social media, or binge-watching our favourite TV show, we all do things we feel like we shouldn't. And more often than not, we feel guilty afterwards.
But why do we feel guilty? And is there a way to remove the so-called “guilt” from pleasure? Especially in the bedroom?
Firstly, let's explore why we feel guilt.
Guilt is often linked to our personal values and beliefs. We may feel guilty because we think we are breaking a rule or going against our personal code of conduct. For example, if you grew up being told that masturbation is wrong, you may feel guilty when you practise self-pleasure, or you might avoid the activity altogether.
Guilt can also be linked to our relationships with others. We may feel guilty because we think we are disappointing someone or letting them down in some way. For example, you may feel guilty if you self-pleasure while in a relationship. It’s very normal and actually quite healthy to masturbate in a relationship, however some people feel guilt over it, like they are cheating on their partner.
So how can we remove the “guilt” from pleasure? To start with, it's important to become aware of your personal values and beliefs. What are your beliefs around sex? What about masturbation? And lastly… your attitude toward sex toys.
And values. Most of us can easily name what our values in life are, but what about our sexual values? I know. Hard right? But think about it this way: what matters most to you erotically? What kind of connection do you want to build with sexual partners? What about in regards to your own sexual self?
Because the important thing is that good sexual values translate into good sexual behaviour, alongside a wonderful time for everyone involved. They are linked to consent, pleasure and compatibility.
Sexual values are linked to our personal feelings about what is acceptable and desirable behaviour. Just like our other belief systems, these are shaped by our life experiences, the society we live in, our upbringing and relationships. Have a think and take some time to note them down.
Once you know what your values are, you can start to question why you feel guilty about certain things. Is it really worth feeling guilty about something that doesn't align with your values?
It's also important to remember guilt is often based on our perceptions. Just because you perceive that you are disappointing someone, doesn't mean you actually are. So try to take a step back and assess the situation objectively.
Finally, don't be too hard on yourself. We all have guilty pleasures and there's nothing wrong with indulging in them from time to time. Just remember to enjoy them guilt-free!
Now, what about shame?
Guilt and shame are different. Shame is a reaction to something we believe about ourselves. It’s a heavier, more debilitating emotion than guilt. Guilt is the feeling we get when we do something bad. Shame is the feeling we get when we think we ARE bad.
Shame is not helpful because it keeps us from growing and changing. It’s like being stuck in quicksand – the harder you try to get out, the deeper you sink. The only way out of shame and guilt is to face them both, head on.
That might mean giving yourself some space for exposure therapy. This is slowly exploring the area that brings you guilt, shame or fear but from a safe environment. For example, if you feel shame around sex toys, perusing the Lovehoney website, or just opening the Lovehoney site on your computer might be a good start.
It also might involve talking to a therapist, or even just confiding in a friend or family member who will love you no matter what. It certainly won’t be easy, but you are worth the work. You are worthy of experiencing pleasure.