Shame, Blame and Rage: What #MeToo Needs Now
As the dark, secret perpetrations of men in power continue to be exposed in agonizing detail for public scrutiny, I’m thrilled to see an all too common male sense of entitlement being destroyed. And I hope that this means the playing field will be leveled for women, because that creates a better and safer world for all of us.
We are going through a very necessary and messy transition that requires a level of anger, even righteous rage, to achieve the momentum needed for change to occur. But it’s also important that we don’t get stuck in our rage, as necessary as it is. Rage, even righteous rage, is not sustainable. And if we continue to rely on shaming tactics that divide us into perpetrators and victims, the consequences could be the opposite of what we hope to achieve.
Tarana Burke, the social activist who created the now viral #MeToo hashtag, observed: “Sexual harassment does bring shame. And I think it’s really powerful that this transfer is happening, that these women are able not just to share their shame, but to put the shame where it belongs: On the perpetrator.”
As a woman who has been blamed and shamed for the sexual assaults perpetrated against me, I have an intimate understanding of just how satisfying it feels to finally see the blame and shame put “where it belongs.” Obviously this is true for thousands of other women, and is at least partially why the #MeToo movement quickly mushroomed into a viral phenomenon.
But while transferring the shame from survivor to perpetrator might seem justified and feel awfully good, it isn’t a workable long-term solution. As tempting as it can be to see the world as neatly divided into perpetrators and victims, those polarized labels don’t help us process our complex emotions. And they don’t lead to effective solutions. What we need are solutions that work for all of us regardless of our gender.
How can we create a better and a safer world for women? For men? For all of us?
One way is to expand our perspective of the problem. Is it possible that sexual predators so often employ shaming tactics because they are themselves experiencing shame? Are they projecting their own intense emotions of shame onto their victims while bolstering a false sense of power? Is it possible that sexual perpetrations are actually born from sexual shame?
And is it possible that our public shame-fest is exacerbating the problem?
When we employ additional doses of shame in order to try to stop perpetrations, we are not likely to obtain the result we are hoping for. Yes, we will cause enormous shame. But if the perpetrator we shame doesn’t end his life, what sort of perpetrations might he inflict in the future?
Shaming people is not the powerful motivator for change that we might imagine. Research professor and shame expert, Brene Brown, tells us in Rising Strong that “Shame is much more likely to be the cause of destructive behavior than the cure.”
Ultimately, we need to find a more effective way to prevent sexual perpetrations in any environment, whether that is in the boardroom, in Hollywood, in the streets or in the home.
Yes, perpetrators must be held accountable for their actions. Removing them from their positions of power if they are still perpetrating is essential.
But my heart aches at the seemingly endless litany of men who are being banished. It doesn’t feel like a workable long-term solution. What steps do we need to take so that all the pain that is being exposed can lead to healing for both men and women?
Is there a way to hold perpetrators responsible for their bad behavior while also teaching them to change their behavior?
And can we help people on both sides of the sexual abuse equation move from nonconsensual to consensual sexual behavior?
The answers to these crucial questions will require our coming together to lift each other and our culture into a place of mutual respect. And the first step in that journey involves moving away from shame.
How do we do that?
For one thing we need to start talking more openly about pleasure and consent.
Natalie Portman made an impassioned speech at the 2018 Women’s March in Los Angeles, detailing one of her own #MeToo moments. She ended her speech by calling for a “revolution of desire.”
I think she is right on and right on time!
People of all genders need to begin to speak as clearly and plainly about sexual desire and consent issues as we currently are speaking about sexual abuse and assault.
Only then can we begin to educate each other and ourselves about our mutual needs for safety, respect and sexual connection.
We need to engage in dialogue that is steeped in genuine curiosity about the experiences and perceptions of others regardless of their gender. For this, we may need to develop a new vocabulary.
Some questions we might entertain include:
Have you ever felt pressured to engage in sexual behavior you didn’t want to participate in?
Was there ever a time when you felt like the person you were having sex with, wasn’t all that into it? What did you say or do? How do you feel about that?
Do you know anyone who has dated a co-worker? Have you? Does that feel any different to you than a supervisor dating an employee? If so, how and why?
The list of questions we might explore in a judgment-free setting is endless. And now is the time to have these conversations. Clearly we have a lot to learn about each other and ourselves when it comes to sexual interaction and consent.
Since we have all been steeped in a shame-based culture, we don’t yet possess all the tools we need to be able to speak about our sexual fears and desires. As we develop these tools, we can begin a dialog built on mutual respect, curiosity and empathy.
If we can leave the labels behind and start to converse with each other as humans — who can be educated when we need it, and healed when we are unwell — we will begin to shift our current culture from one based upon confusion and coercion to one infused with mutual regard.
Here’s to less fear and more curiosity — less judgment and more empathy. Here’s to less shame and more love.
About the author:
Veronica Monet, founder of the Shame Free Zone ™, is an internationally acclaimed sexual empowerment change agent. CNN, FOX, Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect, Yale, Stanford and UC Berkeley are just a few of the numerous news, entertainment and educational institutions that have hosted Veronica for her forward thinking insights and expertise.
Veronica coaches courageous individuals and couples in mastering their erotic experience regardless of circumstance, history or health. As a Relationship Coach, Sexologist and Anger Specialist, she combines her extensive education with deep empathy derived from personal experience. Having personally healed from incest, rape, domestic violence and abuse she has not just survived but thrives. She is committed to helping others to own their personal empowerment in the most loving and honorable lifestyle tailored for each sacred being she encounters.
Veronica Monet coaches individuals and couples around the world. She is uncommonly adept at providing her clients and everyone she meets with acceptance and empathy regardless of their circumstances, beliefs or shameful secrets. Contact her at Veronica@TheShameFreeZone.com or visit her website: www.TheShameFreeZone.com