I would love to say that sexual shaming of young women today is radically different from my own experiences fifty years ago. That would be untrue. And it breaks my heart. Objectification of women and our bodies still predominates in our culture and forms the foundation of rape culture.

The evolutionary purpose of shaming is to cause a rapid change in a behavior that could get someone kicked out of the family or community. It has a powerful impact internally because shunning and ostracism are survival level threats, especially to children and teens.

Shaming is meant to be directed at behavior, not at a person, and it is meant to be followed with an immediate connection experience so we understand viscerally that the behavior is the issue, not ourselves as a person.

You should be ashamed of yourself!

Toxic shaming leaves us feeling we have done something wrong and we deserve being disconnected. That we ARE something wrong. That we are on our own, unworthy of being included in the circle of protection of our family and community.

Why does a young woman give in to pressure to have sex?  To feel connected, noticed, seen, valued.

Who feels this desperate for connection? People who have been abused. Hurt. Emotionally neglected. People who have been sexually assaulted and are drowning in shame. People who have nothing to lose. People who innocently reach out for any connection. The devastating result too often is that we are shamed further.

We are shamed and bullied by our peers in person and online. We watch brave women stand up, #metoo spread and #timesup. We are at a tipping point in our culture. We are listening to each other. Believing each other. Taking action in our communities and politically.

We are driven to avoid shame because it feels so threatening. We have so many ways to distract ourselves from the pain, ranging from dissociation to addiction, overworking to shoe shopping to alcohol and other drugs. With the right support, we can stop. You are not alone.

Healing our personal wounds in our mind and body is necessary and possible. I have healed and released this trauma from my own body. I hold space for others to invite this internal energy forward. To be seen. To be welcomed. To be acknowledged and healed.

Listen to others. Act with others. Be kind. Be compassionate. You have had traumatic experiences. You are not bad. You are hurting. Be kind with yourself.

PS: Of course there are boys who are sexually abused and it goes without saying that many men, like my own son, are ethical, caring human beings who are not sexual predators. Abuse and neglect in any form and to anyone needs to be addressed and healed. No matter how hurt or insecure, men do not have the right to hit us or hurt us or assault us. That is what has to stop.

Shaming, when it is regarding a change of behavior, is legitimate. We live in a culture where perpetrators of sexual abuse are predominantly men and where there have been few or no consequences for sexual harassment and assault. I don’t personally shame men, individually or collectively. I am demanding they stop their behavior.  Every day in my work I sit with the devastating consequences of this, in my life and with others. The bone-deep shame many women feel around their sexuality. Fear. Trauma. There is a sickness here that has to be brought into the open and healed. That is what I am working for and why I speak out. That is why I support #metoo and #timesup.