By E Alice Isak
Shame blocks our mouths like the fat tongue of an unwelcome lover.
A questing tongue that corks our voice in the back of our throat, our own tongue pinned beneath,
as shame’s hot sour breath fills our nostrils and its sweaty body strains against us, pressing us tight into the corner of a darkened room.
Shame is what we submit to, what we open ourselves to, when we do not know how to believe that we deserve anything else.
After my divorce, I began a long and agonizing journey to reclaim my own sexuality. Seemingly overnight, I had developed both an overwhelming urge to masturbate—and an inability to orgasm without sobbing hysterically. Every orgasm cracked open a vast well of grief in my chest, a pain too profound and inchoate to put into words, then or now.
I would cry until I choked on sorrow.
The experience felt terrifying and ludicrous and shameful. I tried talking to my therapist about how silly yet frightening I found the whole thing. I tried blogging about talking to my therapist, titling the post: “In which I Talk Shamelessly About Masturbation.”
Rereading that story today, I am reminded how ‘shameless’ is not the same as ‘shame-free.’
The small but enduring popularity of that post in the two years since I wrote it leaves me both heartbroken and heart-warmed. The readers who find my piece are asking questions about how to talk to their own therapists about masturbation—and how to do so without shame. It craters me to witness this widespread pain from our culture’s pitting of shame against pleasure, of pleasure against speech. Yet I also see hope in people’s ongoing quest for help, for answers, for ways to speak ourselves past the hurt and back into our bodies.
I wish I had found clear answers then. Continue Reading…