"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all"- Oscar Wilde
Perhaps this one was the sorrow that killed.
When at around age 11 I joined the other little girls in exploring each others bodies and awakening delicious, delicate pleasures through touch, one of them mentioned our erotic play to their mom. She called my mother, the Puritan, the frightening narcissist, who immediately labeled me a lurid pervert and let all the other mothers know it. A witch trial began in which I became the scapegoat for the burgeoning sexuality in all our young bodies, a dirty, shameful symbol of sex.
From then until I graduated at age 14, I was shunned as affectively by my classmates as Amish villagers would shun an outcast. My back hunched, my breasts grew slack with poor muscular posture, my offending pelvis tilted under, hidden. As if a withering blight had been cast on my sinful carnal flesh, scourging me, crushing me. Silencing me. Banishing me.
Deliberately unseen, I ceased.
"Whore" said my mother.
"Bad" said my stepmother.
"Disgusting" said my brother.
"Men are animals. You will incite them" said my father.
Loudest was my peers silence.
I remember once somehow there was a sleepover with a former friend during all this. In the night we reached for each other, eager to pursue our discoveries of wandering sensations and the delightful secrets our bodies where bursting to teach us. As our innocent pleasure began, she suddenly drew back, her arms wrapped protectively and fearfully around her body, shaking. "I can't" she said. "I'm saving that for my husband". "Saving what?" (we were hardly doing more than looking at our vulvas and a little touching/petting). "My ...that". Sexual knowledge. Sexual pleasure. At 12, it had been taken from her and given to a hypothetical man, as if it was an owed possession. And I was the dark outlaw threatening this Order of Things.
"All this" I said, "for something so simple? Everybody's doing it. The boys are doing it, too".
"She's obsessed with sex! Sees it everywhere. Put her away!" And I was put away finally, in a brutal mental institution for ten days, until I escaped.
The thing I remember the most about escaping, the saddest thing, was that I took two other girls with me who didn't belong there. And they both went back of their own accord, their spirits broken. I would have killed before I went back. As it was, much that was priceless in me died of grief and horror.
It doesn't take long to destroy a child if you really try, if you use all your forces and no one stands up for the child. Even a strong, intelligent child who fights back, such as I was, will twist and break in hidden ways. I broke under the betrayals. Under the ill-intent, the desire to harm, the bullying and jealousy. My heart broke and went numb for decades. I became one of the walking dead, a living ghost without a sensory memory to anchor me to my past or a kinetic connection with the present.
Nor could mad clawing sex or abandoned love affairs fix it, or therapy, or anti-depressants, or books. (Not that those things can't be curative, but I wouldn't cure). Once self-hatred takes root, it becomes a weapon that splinters in your system and inflicts infinite wounds, which in turn become infected and separate sources of damage.
Words Copyright© Shain Stodt. All rights reserved.
Shain Stodt is the founder of www.informedaboutsex.com and the founder/moderator of the Facebook page Radical Women Talk Sex. A Sex Educator (IASHS), author, and community activist, Shain became involved in sex education with the New York Women's Center, where she worked with the pioneering Abortion and Birth Control Outreach project and lectured on sex education in the public school system. Shain also developed sexuality workshops for the Women's Center and other feminist organizations, and hosted a local cable program on sexual issues in New York City. She lives in North Carolina. She can be contacted about professional engagements at: firstname.lastname@example.org.