So… the thing for this that blows me away… was that you picked up on it. The shame is obvious to me- I’ve lived with it my whole life… but it had never occurred to me that the way I feel about myself might… echo?
I mean, it makes sense… but the whole time I’ve felt like this, my attention has been inward on trying to hide them, bury them, so I could be around people and not *constantly* invoke fear or disgust.
That monster became one for me in a lot of literal ways. I didn’t think of my sexuality, arousal or even genitals as a part of me… they were more like an affliction… A passenger in my body I badly wanted rid of. I tried a few times, but couldn’t go through with it- despite myself, it hurt too much to leave the band on more than a few minutes, and I knew it would require hours to work. God, I needed help back then… I could recognize self-abuse in others so well… but in myself, it was an exorcism.
And all that before the sexual assault, when my body literally betrayed me.
I still feel that way, a lot… I’m just more open about it, because… well, partly because struggling with those feelings doesn’t make them go away, but it does make me stronger, better able to get on despite them…
But mostly because of the sexual assault, and the hope that sharing my story will help others know they aren’t alone. Using this to try and help others redeems it for me.
For the record, while I’m generally uninterested in pointing fingers… I am concerned about fingering Toxic Masculinity as the whole problem here. It’s not. A part, yes- but not the whole.
As others have pointed out, toxic religion plays a part. I attended a private christian school for years, where any arousal made one innately foul… women were only “pure” and beautiful because they supposedly didn’t experience arousal, just love.
Even Toxic Femininity can play a role. “Teach men not to rape” posters hardly encourage men to think of their arousal in a positive light, now, does it? The girl who drugged and raped me thought she was helping- getting me over my inhibitions the way she was over hers. A consent course could’ve saved my college career. I’m 100% behind consent courses as part of mandatory sex-ed… but how we approach it will have an impact.
And for my part, even before the sexual assault, most of my shame developed from how I’ve been treated by the women I’ve interacted with. I didn’t learn the word creep from my father or brothers or the guys in my school… from them I had nothing but encouragement- often clumsy, sometimes crude, but encouragement nonetheless. No. I learned it from the girl who threw up when she found out I might like her enough to ask her out.
And given the nature of this problem, as you describe it… I think care needs to be taken not to treat this as a simple issue of mere masculinity gone wrong. If we solve one piece of the problem while making the others worse, we’ve gone nowhere. We can’t afford that.