Embarrassment as a barrier to communicate about sex
Let's talk about sex

Embarrassment as a barrier to communicate about sex

Sex & sexuality is something that's difficult to ignore in our lives because it's everywhere. It's reflected in magazine and TV advertising, fashion, music, TV series and movies, it’s part of our culture. One could conclude that a majority of us is open, relaxed and comfortable talking about it, but often the opposite is true. In fact, a lot of people find it extremely hard to talk about sex. It can be a sensitive and awkward topic that raises feelings of embarrassment, shame or inadequacy.

Embarrassment is one of the often-ignored emotions of young people when it comes to discussing issues around sexual health weather it’s about prevention and/or treating dysfunctions. There have been many sexual health studies on knowledge, attitudes and behavior of young people over the past two decades, but emotional aspects have been largely ignored, despite a growing literature among sociologists.
So, why is it so difficult to talk about sex?

Sexual communication involves a degree of risk.  By opening up and talking about sex with our intimate partners, we can become vulnerable to judgment, criticism or sometimes even if temporary, rejection. Revealing your sexual desires to your partner can therefore be scary, especially when your partner's spontaneous reaction is not positive, which can make you feel embarrassed, ashamed or humiliated.

Avoiding embarrassment, as for many of us, is a compelling drive. [1] Embarrassment exists among young people around issues related to sex education and sexual health services, but it seems to decline when young teenagers grow older. Not only are there elements of sexuality, sexual health and sex education that some young people themselves perceive to be embarrassing, they also sense a feeling of embarrassment in adults providing them with sexual advice/education, including teachers, parents & family and health professionals.[2,3]

Thus, it is important for policy makers, teachers and sexual health promoters to acknowledge and understand young people's emotions, especially feelings of embarrassment, in order to be able to improve future sex education and advice and tackle potential barriers among young people before counselling starts.[3]

MD, FECSM Carla Veiga Rodrigues & MD FEBU FECSM Sam Ward

HFTHQ19018_A
ESSM
Content written by ESSM View all ESSM contents
Bibliographical references
[1] Tangney JP, Miller RS, Flicker L, Barlow DH. Are shame, guilt, and embarrassment distinct emotions? J Pers Soc Psychol 1996;70:1256–69. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.70.6.1256.
[2] Widman L, Choukas-Bradley S, Noar SM, Nesi J, Garrett K. Parent-Adolescent Sexual Communication and Adolescent Safer Sex Behavior. JAMA Pediatr 2016;170:52. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.2731.
[3] van Teijlingen E, Reid J, Shucksmith J, Harris F, Philip K, Imamura M, et al. Embarrassment as a Key Emotion in Young People Talking about Sexual Health. Sociol Res Online 2007;12:1–16. doi:10.5153/sro.1535.

You may also like

How to keep the intimacy in spite of sexual dysfunction
News
Let's talk about sex

How to keep the intimacy in spite of sexual dysfunction

Sexual intimacy is not only about penetrative sexual intercourse and orgasm, although it is often seen as consisting of them. There may be sexual intimacy without penetrative intercourse and orgasm and there may be no sexual intimacy even though both are present. Sexual Intimacy can be defined as a condition of physical and/or emotional closeness characterized by the exchange of emotions and sensations while Sexual dysfunction is characterized by the persistent impairment of a person’s normal pattern of sexual response that may trigger distress.

Premature ejaculation
News
Premature ejaculation

Premature ejaculation

The definition given by the International Society of Sexual Medicine (ISSM) is the most commonly accepted. PE is defined as that ejaculation that always or almost always happens within the first minute after ...

ESSM: “high quality information on sexual health topics is a top priority”
News
Let's talk about sex

ESSM: “high quality information on sexual health topics is a top priority”

The European Society for Sexual Medicine (ESSM) is a multidisciplinary pan-European organization focusing on sexual health. This is reflected in our newly formulated mission statement which states that the ESSM will promote Sexual Health and the Highest Standards of Evidence Based Sexual Medicine Clinical Care Through Education, Research and the Formulation of Health Care.