So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

01 May, 2007

Shame, Shame, Shame

So, Renegade Evolution asked for folks to talk about experiences with sexual shame.

I come at this one from a slightly funky angle, but my world is always on a slant; my biggest shame issues around sex have a lot more to do with not doing than doing.

My libido is fairly low in general, by which I mean that I don't seek out sex or, in most circumstances, seek it out; I will respond to a partner, but almost never initiate. And when I get depressive ... well, the responsiveness takes a major hit, too, and I go from 'almost never initiate' to 'will not initiate'. If the depression gets really bad, I go from 'responsiveness takes time and effort' to 'responsiveness is impossible'.

I used to get flashbacks, too, to the sexual assault, and my major trigger was the sight of an aroused man. This has something of a chilling effect on the free expression of the sexuality of a heterosexual woman interested in partnered sex.

For a long, long time I had major shame issues around the assault. I minimised it constantly, feeling embarassed that it had damaged me badly enough to give me flashbacks, to interfere with my interactions with other people, because I was not raped or injured physically, so why, why did I have all of this mental damage? How could I possibly be that fucked up by it? I was ashamed of my damage, ashamed of needing to close my eyes, afraid of the tension that would lock up my mind at times, shutting down my ability to respond the way I wanted to. And I was too ashamed to try to seek out psychological help -- get a diagnosis for my damage, get treatment, anything that might help -- because it was an admission that I had been broken so badly by something that was, at least in my head, supposed to be trivial. He stopped, right? Before it was rape? So why was I hurt? How could I possibly be so slashed up inside my mind from that, when it didn't even cross over into the much-debated-as-legitimate "date rape"?

I've never had an adult sexuality that didn't have echoes of that as a part of it, that didn't have the shadows of him behind me. I was a late bloomer, physically; the assault came six months before menarche. (The fact that I had not developed that far at the time was about the only thing that was visible in the fractured horror-movie mirror of my mind through the experience, the: "I don't even have my periods yet. How can he think I'm ready for sex?" Over and over again, shards on shards on shards of my mind shattering around me.) I've never had an adult sexuality that was untouched by the shame.

In the end, it's that that I can never forgive him for, for taking that away from me. For associating sex and terror before I had fully grasped how to claim sex as my own thing. For tainting my uncertainties with shame.

The major thing that started to loosen the bonds of that shame on me, the thing that got me actually thinking, was that I was swapping assault stories with another survivor, late one night. She had had an experience that I parsed as flatly horrific, and had fought off her attacker by tearing his throat open with her teeth -- and when I told my story, she said, "How horrible!"

How horrible, what happened to me. From someone who knew from horrible.

There's a key to the chain. There are other locks to that shame, but that was the first and largest.

I don't know if the depression takes out my sex drive because of that, or if it's independent, but either way, it vanishes, all my ability to connect and express my sexuality fades out with the rest of the world when I'm depressed. And then I have the shame of the inadequate partner, the failure as a lover, the knowledge that others want that form of connectivity with me and I just ... can't ... open up and live that much.

And that's the shame that hurts the most these days, this sense of failure, of personal inadequacy, that I'm unable to consistently or readily fulfil that part of relationship. If I could only figure out how to set that shame aside, to get over it and myself, then maybe the flow wouldn't be blocked up with shame, maybe it wouldn't be so ... damn ... hard sometimes.

If I weren't ashamed of my shame.

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