You are here: American University Campus Life Diversity and Inclusion Internalize Oppression and Sex

Internalized Oppression and Sex

Internalized Oppression and Sex

Internalized oppression is the byproduct of oppression. The centuries of systemic oppression have caused an individual to associate oppressive messages with the core of who they are. The terms associated with internalized oppression relate to the type of oppression occurring. For example, discomfort or hatred of one's race or sexuality would be both internalized racism and internalized homophobia, biphobia, etc. depending on that sexual orientation. Internalized oppression has been studied and dissected by scholars in racial and ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, religious groups, and low income folks.

How this Relates to Sex

Consider how the following forms of oppression impact your life: racism, xenophobia, sexism, classism, ageism, transphobia, homophobia, and ableism. Sex education in the U.S. is still largely restricted to experiences that fit into heterosexist, white, ableist norms.  This system is based in a binary that excludes queer, trans, and non-binary folks as well as reinforces the sexist beliefs that womxn and femmes are lesser than their counterparts. This current system drills in these hurtful, oppressive, and shaming techniques that leave us ill equipped and do not empower folks to have the healthiest sex lives possible. Reform of sex education is necessary to truly and fully prepare folks for to make informed, confident decisions about their sex life. 

Beyond the scope of sex education, internalized oppression can show up in traditions and beliefs. One of the most widespread examples of this is through the idolization of "virginity" and shaming those who do not “save themselves for marriage” as many religions ask their practioners to do. This same concept of virginity is also based in a double standard that praises men for their sexual exploits and villanizes womxn.

Significant research has analyzed how Black LGBTQ+ communities are heavily impacted by internalized oppression, including higher rates of HIV transmission. Furthermore, there is a history of hypersexualization of racial and ethnic minorities within the US. This has played out in the stereotypes of the hypersexual and predatory Black man, the feminine Asian man, the “spicy” Latina, and so on.

For these reasons, it is important to unpack where our beliefs come from.  If you choose to look for a mental health care provider to help you unpack and dissect the impacts of internalized oppression, please check out the resources page for resources for finding providers that can best fit your needs.