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Sexual repression is a state of being that prevents individuals from expressing their sexuality. People who are sexually repressed typically feel guilty, shameful, or depressed because of their sexual urges.
Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud was one of the first people to use the term sexual repression. He argued that sexual repression led to many other problems in Western society, including health conditions and crime.
Sexual repression leads to a conflict of desires: a person’s innate sexual desires and those it feels are imposed by society or self. People who are sexually repressed struggle to express their sexuality because they fear others will react negatively towards them.
Because of this, people with sexual repression may condition themselves to feel aroused less frequently than individuals who are not repressed. This can lead to physical and emotional problems including poor self-esteem, fatigue, irritability, aggression, and insomnia.
Given the negative side effects of sexual repression, many people decide they want to liberate themselves and feel sexually free. This usually involves analyzing the reasons for one’s sexual repression, which likely stem from attitudes held by parents, the church, and other influential groups. Sexual abuse and poor body image can also lead to sexual repression. Masturbating, consuming erotic art and films, belly dancing, and communicating desires to a sexual partner can all help a person overcome sexual repression.
Sexual repression is a somewhat subjective term. In cultures with more liberal attitudes about sex and sexuality, someone may be considered to be sexually repressed for displaying attitudes that wouldn’t be out of place in a more conservative culture. Deeply religious cultures tend to be more sexually repressed than cultures where religion does not play such a key role. For example, some religions condemn homosexuality and thus cause people to repress homosexual feelings and desires. In some societies, sexual acts deemed undesirable, such as sex before marriage or adultery, may be punished by violent means like honor killings or stoning.