Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I remember learning what shame feels like...

Early in the morning, 5:30 or 6 am, I would rise and go downstairs into the living room before anyone else woke up. This was my favorite part of the day. It was just me and my books. I was 6 years old, and I would sit on the brown couch with a volume of the Childcraft library and read until Mom woke up to get our day rolling. The volume I read the most was called "Look Again", and it was full of works of art, from Jasper Johns to Picasso to daVinci and Rembrandt. I loved it. I'd pour over the pictures again and again.

I discovered that if I held the book just right, the hard part of the spine made me feel...well...very good. I had no idea why it made me feel good, but it did, so I'd sit there with the book between my legs. It was as mindless as wrapping your hair around your finger or sucking your thumb.

One morning my mother came out of her bedroom and discovered me sitting in this way. She erupted in disgust. "Shame on you, you dirty girl! That's disgusting!! I don't ever want to see you doing that again!" The book was ripped out of my hands and I was marched to the bathroom to wash. Reading was wrong? Or was feeling good wrong? I was very confused. I felt a hot burning on my cheeks, and guilt that was unattached to any action, as far as I could tell. This was shame--an embarrassed confusion covered with anger...I had finally discovered an activity that I had to hide from my mother.

Over the next years, I continued to find ways to "feel good", and felt dirtier and dirtier. I was very good at hiding it. It wasn't until I was in Grade 5 and read a book by Judy Blume that I discovered I wasn't the only person in the world who enjoyed the feeling I got from rubbing my genitals. I nearly cried as I read that book. I had thought I was some kind of freak, that I was broken in some way...and here I was normal. It was a shocking thing to realize.

3 comments:

Pondering Pig said...

Goodness, Paula, you continue to go where no blogger has blogged before. Amazing! Well, when it comes to six year old sex I have a memory myself that comes to mind, except I was probably five. I am sitting in my best friend/next door neighbor's kitchen sink cabinet eating dog biscuits with Jimmy and we are talking about the little girl around the corner and how could we get her to take her to show us her thing. I remember saying to Jimmy, "why is it that when we talk about Susie's thing, my peanie gets hard?" He didn't know either.

Spoke said...

(well Mr.Pig, once again your words and Pj's are fodder to ponder..."eating dog biscuits"."peanie")

Last week, on Thursday, the "Crew" I lead (Christian youth-type group) talked about "dating" and "lines" and "going too far" and "boundaries" and Jesus' compass in all of it.
We got on to masturbation too. That's what they want to talk about tomorrow night.
Why? Because they wonder if its sin or dirty or wrong? No! I think they want to talk about it like curious, mature young (14-17 yr) adults in a safe environment. Too many parents are scared to mention it or don't want to talk about it because they were treated like you were Paula, and they themselves haven't quite recovered.
2 kinds of people...those who do it, and those who lie about not doing it...

troll said...

Sexuality issues in our society still seem soooo taboo: and shame used far too freely. A child should know that touching themselves feels good, that touching their genitals feels good, letting others touch them is not good, and that they can talk about such things: shame shuts all of that down. As parents our own fears and taboos end up haunting us (ii have some inkling of why Paula’s mom said what she said – my mom is of the same ‘generation,’ although that is a pretty broad paintbrush, and I’m doing them all a disservice), and although a 5 or 6 yr old child may not need to know all about sex (their curiosity is often minimal), when situations arise, such as Paula’s, shame doesn’t need to be the driving factor, even is our fears as parents are at the surface. Shame leads to secrecy, and secrecy can open to the doors to abuse too easily – which, because sexuality, especially concerning children, in our society is not ‘discussed’ too easily overlooked. This is obviously an issue that concerns me – shame and sexuality (and abuse) are issues that individuals, the church, and society as a whole tend to fumble with, run away from, or just rail against, but rarely deal with honestly, carefully, prayerfully, consistently and with arms & eyes wide open.