I understand shame. I was taught it at a very young age, and I internalized it so well that it can still sometimes send a tendril from the depths of my psyche and threaten to pull me under and drown me. Fortunately, I have taught myself to recognize its voice, and I know that it shrinks from reason.
Understand, first, that shame and guilt, while related, are not the same thing. Guilt is the internal message, “I have done something wrong. My behavior violated my values. I am sorry for what I have done.” Shame is the internal message, “I am something bad. Only a bad thing could do the things I do. I am beyond saving. I deserve to suffer for being such a bad thing.”
The natural reaction to guilt is to seek out the person who has been wronged, and apologize. Forgiveness is not necessary to move on – you cannot force someone to accept an apology – but forgiveness can virtually erase the incident from collective history. The natural reaction to shame is to hide and avoid anyone who might know and understand it. Forgiveness only makes shame worse, because shame whispers that forgiveness is only given because the forgiver doesn’t understand what you are.
Guilt is incident based and fleeting. Shame is a way of life, because the person’s sense of self rests upon a foundation of worthlessness. The more you look at guilt and shame, the more you realize that guilt is healthy, and shame is not. Typically, guilt walks hand-in-hand with sorrow; whereas shame rides a horse named humiliation.
I’m not talking about humiliation as a kink that people honestly enjoy. I don’t understand that particular kink, but I don’t judge people by the yardstick of my life. I don’t have to understand it to give those who enjoy humiliation all the space they need to enjoy their predilections. I do understand enough to know that there is a way for some guys to be humiliated that actually makes them feel good about who they are.
But there are some men for whom the act of submission is humiliating. Perhaps it is because they don’t measure up to society’s stereotypes of manhood. Perhaps it is because they don’t enjoy the gender roles that are forced upon them. Perhaps it is because they have internalized these things to the point where their personal sense of manhood is threatened by the very things that arouse them. For whatever reason, putting themselves under the thumb (or heel!) of a woman is both heaven and hell, wrapped into one ball of furiously competing senses of revulsion and satisfaction.
For example, there is is the act of eating one’s own semen after ejaculation. Since Mistress Delila took ownership of me, there have been very few times when She hasn’t insisted that I “clean up” in this fashion. I have never once felt humiliated when doing this*, or when I think about it afterwards. I don’t believe She wants me to be humiliated, and would likely stop doing it if I suddenly developed that reaction. At the very least, She would expect me to get over it, even if it required therapy and medication.
When I first heard guys discussing how humiliating this is, I was honestly confused. As I thought it through, and paid close attention to how they spoke of it, I realized that this was a form of self-punishment for the pleasure of having an orgasm while experiencing something they “shouldn’t enjoy” (as they define it). It wasn’t just the act of eating semen that was humiliating – it was the entire behavioral chain.
Maybe it is something as simple as having to ask permission to have an orgasm. I as mentioned in an earlier post, Conventional Wisdom says that this is an unmanly thing to do. If a guy buys into that Conventional Wisdom (instead of rejecting it as I do); then he has to either find a way to be okay with being less of a man for what he wants; or he has to punish himself for what he enjoys.
I believe guilt is the result of a man finding a way to be okay with being less of a man. After all, by being submissive (and even more so, by deriving pleasure from it), he has violated his idea of what a man should be like. He has violated his values. He may feel sorry for doing this, but the reward is worth the guilt. And anyways, if he doesn’t let himself think about the guilt; then it isn’t so bad. Just focus on the good, and it will be okay. Mostly.
Shame, however, comes when a man cannot come to grips with his desires. A man is supposed to be in control, and he isn’t. Therefore, he is not a man. The logic is straightforward and iron-clad. The answer, of course, is to find a way to purge that non-manliness from his psyche. Maybe he simply refuses to indulge those desires – making himself suffer through denial of pleasure (and perhaps, denial of ALL pleasures). Maybe he finds a way to make the source of his pleasure so unmanly that it can’t possibly appeal to him.
From this perspective, what could be more unmanly that eating one’s own semen? That is, after all, something that women and gay men do (in the macho-stereotypical view, there is no class of humans less masculine that women and gay men), and this semen was produced by doing something unmanly, anyway. So he consumes his semen, surrendering his manhood, to pay for the pleasure he has allowed himself.
How can this not be humiliating? How can someone who seeks that much humiliation not be filled with shame? Isn’t a man who actively tries to not be a man a bad thing?
First, let’s start by tossing out that “man’s man” crap. I’ve met some gay men who are pretty damned masculine (and, actually, some women are, too). There is nothing about desiring and enjoying another man that reduces masculinity. It’s like saying that you must be a chicken if you like to eat eggs. It just doesn’t work.
Beyond that, a man is not defined by what makes his dick hard. A man is simply a boy who has grown up, and a significant part of growing up is to put away the thoughts of fancy and simplistic ideas of reality. So you aren’t John Wayne. Big deal. Neither was John Wayne! He was a fucking actor whose name was really Marion Robert Morrison!
An erection is the result of mental and physical arousal – which is, as far as I can ascertain, entirely outside of the control of most men. If having to ask permission to cum makes your dick hard; then you can no more control that than you can control if you get hard from looking at a woman’s breast or buttocks or a man’s biceps. It’s a fact of life for you. It isn’t a reflection of your character, it’s a reflection of what turns you on. Period. Nothing further.
What is it in semen that would make eating it unmanly?. Up to 75% of human semen is simply amino acids, enzymes, and fructose. Fructose is a kind of sugar. Amino acids are building blocks of proteins. Enzymes are simply a catalyst cell used to turn one thing into another – an no, it doesn’t turn straight guys into gay guys. If it did; then you’d only get once chance in life to masturbate.
Feel free to substitute other actions for the one’s I’ve used as examples. It isn’t, after all, the action that is inherently shameful or guilt-inducing. It is how a person feels about that action, and how they feel about themselves for enjoying it.
For those of you who might recognize yourself in my description, know that my heart aches for your suffering. I was there once. I understand, first-hand, how it feels to hate yourself for what you are. I also understand that it is possible to move beyond that hate, to accept what you are and who you are, and to find someone who loves you for it, not despite it. You should realize, as well, that when you punish yourself, you are also punishing those around you. No man, after all, is an island.
Even if it feels like you are.
*I will talk about what this means to me another time. Doing so now would simply derail the conversation I want to have.