Regarding Sesethu, the young girl whose masturbation video went viral; to her and everyone who’s ever done something that shamed them…
If you don’t have the time or appetite for reading long posts, the summary is this message to her: You are not the video. If you know her, tell her that.
I was her, one day. I wanted approval that badly, once, and I found that the most accepting of people were the outcasts that society rejected and together, them and I, we did the things that I later learned that the rest of society secretly wished they had the courage to do, and we also did the things that were so shameful that it reassured society that it’s best to stay away from being like us.
They crawled back into looking like they had absolutely no desire to do the things we did and convinced themselves and everyone else that they only ever desired to be and do things that society found acceptable for them to be and do; and the more desirable their way of life looked and felt to them, the more convinced I became: that I wasn’t like them.
I learned early in life that I can be accepted for things I don’t care about and I can be rejected for exploring the parts of who I am that nobody understands; and that everyone wants me to be happy as long as it’s a happiness that they understand and approve of. I learned that when people don’t judge me in my shame, they give me the rare gift of creating a safe space for me to gain insight into that aspect of who I am that inspires shame at first sight, even in me, and the latitude/freedom to then apply my own mind to it and grow from it in ways that society can never grasp, let alone teach me. I learned the lesson that doctors seem to learn at medical school, that we all get sick or injured sometimes and when we are, it’s necessary to expose the affected area to scrutiny in some safe environment before a cure can be successfully administered to it.
It’s not that Sesethu’s family didn’t raise her well, nor that she intended to shame her otherwise good parents, she just had the courage to follow her heart and she is discovering, in full view of society (oh well, life happens!), that the corner she turned last has led her into a dark, dangerous, shameful, and deserted blind alley; but it’s okay, some lessons can never be learned from the safety of the classroom or home. Sometimes, you have to go out and do what you have to do to get what you need to get, the best way you know how; and sometimes you’ll be hurt for it, but you will live: you’ll come out stronger and wiser.
We could choose to teach Sesethu that it’s a disgrace to be yourself or we can be honest and tell her that the difference between us and her is that we hide our shame better and that the best of us learn from it and, most importantly, grow from it. I learned that shame is a lot more common than society wants to make us believe. People just learn to walk around it and organise their entire lives to look like that shame was never there to begin with. People hide entire babies, baby daddies, dead bodies, and whatnot, and prefer to be controlled by the resulting subconscious shame rather than facing up to it; and when they see children in blind-alley moments of their lives, they do their damnedest to call them out and pin that subconscious shame on them, using that child’s blind-alley moment; because one day they’ll be grown up and they can also pin it on whoever they might find hanging around some blind alley. And the shame pipeline persists that way, and some outcasts never leave the blind alleys.
I have some questions…
Why is it that when people hear about the video they so desperately want to see it? And why is it that once they are done consuming it they climb back on their moral high horses and act like they didn’t want to see it in the first place? And why is it that some boast that they didn’t open the video? And why is it that the strongest criticism against grownups who watched it comes from parents who see their own daughters in Sesethu? And why do people judge either Sesethu herself, or those who judged her, or those who judged those who judged her? Because everyone is interested in what it’s like to be and do what only the outcasts have the courage to be and do, but feels an overwhelming obligation to apportion blame on them because society has taught them that in the face of shame, your only choices are to judge or be judged for not judging because if you don’t judge, “it can only mean you condone the thing in question and therefore, are just as guilty.”
The parents are hurt because they put themselves squarely in the shoes of Sesethu’s parents and wear their shame and in that space, they feel that anyone who is a candidate for parenthood cannot but wear the shame and begin the work of pushing it to the subconscious mind so that they can continue with the business of living, even though the shame might go on to control them from subconscious realms.
Who am I to judge any of these people? Well, I don’t. I do, however, wish to say if you ever see Sesethu or her family; or if you ARE Sesethu herself or you are, like Sesethu, in your own blind-alley moment of life: on behalf of all the outcasts, the sinners (who have a future), and the saints (who have a past), you are not the video. You deserve love, respect, dignity, happiness, and you can get back to the business of following your dreams when you are ready. This, too — yes, EVEN THIS — shall pass.
If you share this, it might reach her before she does something stupid, and it might shine a bit of light into someone’s blind-alley darkness and perhaps help them start the process of retracing their steps back to the intersection where they took the wrong turn.
If you’ve been in a blind alley for too long and settled in there, or if you have converted your blind alley experience into a subconscious force that has you behaving in ways you can neither explain or control, or if you don’t even remember what blind alleys may or may not have done to you, there’s something you can do about that. Whenever anything triggers shame in you, just draw close to it and do one thing only: forgive. Forgive yourself for your part in what happened to cause you shame though you might not remember the details, and forgive whoever did the thing that triggered your shame. You both went and did what you needed to do, the best way you knew how, and it happened to hurt. It happens to the best of us.
Gosh, these posts are not getting any shorter :-/