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Money and Sex: Dispelling the Stigma


Money and sex are two areas that many of us have enormous shame around. Unfortunately, secrecy around money and sex has perpetuated huge cultural betrayals against disadvantaged groups. I spoke with a forensic psychiatrist once about a case in which I represented a young woman who was sexually assaulted by a massage therapist. The psychiatrist explained to me that the research shows that people have the highest instances of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in situations of war and sexual violation and it is likely because of the moral stigma we culturally place on those issues. Where people experience traumas in areas that are not morally stigmatizing, there are fewer instances of PTSD, he explained. For example, this would indicate that when a drunk driver causes a car wreck, the person injured by the drunk driver is more likely to have PTSD than a person injured in the same way by a driver who was not drunk.

The moral stigma perpetuated by puritanical ideas that women should be sexually “pure” or that religious leaders cannot commit sexual crimes promotes secrecy and contributes to fostering a culture of sexual crimes. Just talking about sexual violations does a lot to change this culture. These are hard conversations, but we have to be able to talk about sex, even when it is hard, in order to raise a safer generation coming after us. It is okay if it takes personal work to get to a place where it is possible to talk about these issues, but it is worth doing that work to contribute to a safer culture.

Secrecy around money is similar and contributes to enormous inequality. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports that in 2017, women overall made approximately $0.81 cents to the dollar that white men made in full-time work. Hispanic women made $0.62 and black women made $0.67 compared to a dollar for white men. It estimates that at the rate the pay gap is currently closing, we will not reach fair wages in the United States until 2059.

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