After Sex Shame Led To A Porn Addiction, This Latina Is Encouraging All Women To Unlearn Ideas That Sexuality Is Dirty

credit: Facebook / Erica Garza

Like most Latina girls growing up in the United States, Erica Garza learned young that sex was dirty, something to fear and feel guilty for desiring. Her shame would ultimately lead to years of porn addiction, one she speaks about frankly in her memoir, “Getting Off: One Woman’s Journey Through Sex and Porn Addiction.”

In the book, the Mexican-American author takes readers on a candid journey of a condition that people relate more to the dark corners of the Internet than a Catholic Latina school girl growing up in a middle-class suburb of Los Angeles. It begins with Garza, then a pre-teen, discovering her sexual impulses while watching pornography. She tries masturbating, orgasming alone in the bathtub, and at once feels intense pleasure and shame.

“Nobody had ever talked to me about masturbation or sex and I figured something was wrong with me,” Garza, 35, writes. “Every time I had an orgasm after that, tangled up in the pleasure was an overwhelming sense of shame. I began to rely on this combination.”

Her sexual curiosity eventually leads to late-night Cinemax movies, online chat rooms and unsafe spaces, like empty parking lots giving blow jobs in a drunken stupor with people she could hardly remember and choosing to stay home with “busty nurses, incestous cheerleaders and Thai hookers” rather than deal with real relationships.

?WINNER CHOSEN!? #Repost @girlpoweryouareenough BOOK GIVEAWAY + Self-Care Package! Do you remember when you first learned shame? A moment sticks out for me: twelve years old in a bathtub. I had just discovered what an orgasm was and the discovery was both thrilling and terrifying. Nobody had ever talked to me about masturbation or sex and I figured something was wrong with me. Every time I had an orgasm after that, tangled up in the pleasure was an overwhelming sense of shame. I began to rely on this combination. GETTING OFF chronicles my two-decade addiction to sex, porn, and ultimately shame. As my habits intensify in my insecure teenage years and early adulthood, I attempt to escape growing feelings of self-hatred and loneliness every way I can—my journey taking me from East L.A. to Southeast Asia, through the brothels of Bangkok and the yoga studios of Bali to disappointing stabs at therapy and twelve-steps back home. Sex and porn addiction are still considered highly taboo topics and are rarely discussed openly—especially from a woman’s perspective—but this book aims to break that silence. To win a signed copy of GETTING OFF, (a New York Times Editor’s Choice!) please do the following: 1. Follow @girlpoweryouareenough 2. Like this post and the post at @girlpoweryouareenough 3. Comment on this post and the post at @girlpoweryouareenough “No more shame” 4. Extra entry (optional): tag a friend 5. Yet another extra entry: Repost this on your page and tag @ericadgarza (must have public page for this step) 6. Giveaway ends at 11:59p.m. (PST) March 19! #bookgiveaway #bookstagram #ericagarza #gettingoff #sexaddiction #pornaddiction #sexpositive

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Through her teenage years and early 20s, Garza has a string of failed relationships and difficulties with intimacy that plunges her further into addiction and binge-drinking. While she was a successful student, completing a Master of Fine Arts at an Ivy League university, she realizes that she must deal with her addiction if she wants to lead a fulfilling, peaceful life.

During her recovery, Garza discovers that at the core of her porn and sex addictions are fear and mortification. As a child, she became obsessed with the shame she felt watching X-rated movies and that led her to additional self-loathing and eventually self-destructive behaviors.

Confronting the problem allowed her to let go of stigma, and in her memoir, writing that she says helped free her, she encourages readers to also let go of cultural lessons about sex being sully and contemptible.

Here, crucial takeaways from Garza’s memoir about unlearning sex shame that can benefit all Latinas.

1. Girls Are Taught To Feel Shame From A Young Age And We Have To Unlearn Programming.

When kids are taught that sex is a secret, it will only fuel their curiosity, Garza says. When sex talks only involve lessons like saying to girls, “Don’t ever get pregnant,” it gives way to ideas that women are not supposed to be sexual, which only prevents them from having a healthy relationship with sex.

2. Young People Need To Learn Natural Exploration, Rather Than Performing Sex.

A lot of the sexual content that is available is often presented for the “male gaze” and puts women in a position of doing things for the pleasure of men. Garza encourages young women to “explore their own desires,” which can often be complex. She believes that “if we acknowledge our desires, they won’t become obsessions” that take over our lives.

3. Understand That Pleasure Is Healthy And Normal.

Garza recalls that around the time she first discovered masturbation, a teacher talked about the subject at school with palpable discomfort and shame, describing it as a “dangerous” practice. This made her feel that she was a “bad girl” for wanting to stimulate herself. The more shame she felt about it, the more she watched porn to escape the feelings of self-hatred she was experiencing. Because pleasure and sex always felt taboo, she started associating it with something that was wrong, sinful even, and that she, too, was those things because she wanted it. Garza reminds readers that “they are worthy of pleasure,” something that needs to be said more often.

4. Shame Over Sex Can Be Tied To Other Feelings Of Worthlessness.

During Sex Love and Addicts meetings, Garza learns that at the core of her shame was fear. As a child, she never felt “Latina enough,” a feeling that started when she was teased in school and grew as she never saw people she could relate to on television. Being isolated made her feel worthless and unlovable. This sentiment was something she carried with her throughout her life. Garza writes that many addicts “had all learned at some point to believe a lie about ourselves — that we were bad, or ugly, or broken, or unloveable.” For her, unlearning the stories we tell ourselves about who we are in the world is one of the first steps to recovery.

5. Addiction And Shame Aren’t Things That Only Happen To People Who Were Abused Or Experienced Intense Trauma.

According to Garza, her idyllic childhood left her feeling even more guilty about her addiction to sex and porn since she felt that she had no “reason” to be a sexual deviant. She adds that people often believe that women who are hypersexual must have suffered intense trauma because there is an idea that women are not as sexual as men and therefore cannot experience addiction to sex. She reminds us that even people like her, who grew up in happy families, can suffer minor trauma that can affect them through life. In her case, wearing a back brace due to scoliosis in middle school and changes in her family fueled a sense of isolation that led her to escape into a world of chat rooms and pornography.

6. Talking About Sexual Desires With Partners Fuels Intimacy And Helps To Work Through Shame.

There’s a difference between having sex and having intimacy with someone. In her memoir, Garza illustrates those distinctions. She discovered that the more she was able to talk about sex and her desires to partners, the more she felt truly connected to them and the less she was consumed by secrecy and shame.

7. The #MeToo Movement Is A Way Of Lifting The Veil Of Shame.

Garza believes that the more women share their stories, especially those that involve shame, the more others will feel empowered to speak about their experiences. If we lift the veil of sex in all its complexities, we can raise children who have healthier attitudes about sex and pleasures.

“Getting Off: One Woman’s Journey Through Sex and Porn Addiction” is available for purchase everywhere books are sold.

Read: My Latina Mom Talked About Sex Candidly And Shame-Free — And I’m Better Because Of It

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