If there is one area where humanity’s fundamental shame is glaringly obvious, it’s sex. Take a look at the following statistics:
- 35% of the world’s women have experienced violence or sexual violence
- 45% of Japanese women aged 16-24 have lost interest in sex
- 60% of UK girls aged 13-21 have been sexually harassed
- 80% of UK schoolteachers lack the confidence to deliver sex education
- 97% of UK teenage boys have viewed pornography
All of these statistics stem from a collision between our historical shame of sex and, as society edges towards greater freedom, an increasing desire for sexual expression. When the emotional pressure becomes too intense — i.e. the sexual impulse overcomes the repressing moral inhibition — the eruption of some form of sexual dysfunction must inevitably result. Here are a few case studies:
Private Lynndie England
US Army Private Lynndie England burst into the news as the poster girl for sexual abuses at the military prison at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Pictures of England, grinning inanely while a naked, hooded prisoner fondled his own genitalia shocked the world. US military psychologists found little wrong with her. However, revelations of childhood abuse in a West Virginia trailer park point to the shame and fear of authority that allowed Abu Ghraib ringleader Private Charles Graner to manipulate her into performing degrading sexual abuses.
(See post: Lynndie England — Private Shame)
Dutch engineer Vincent Tabac provides a cautionary example of how sexual shame can destroy lives. Tabac was convicted for the murder of Joanna Yeates, whose body was found in a disused quarry on Christmas morning in 2010 with her top pulled up, exposing her bra and part of a breast. The trial consequently revealed that Tabak lived in a demimonde of porn, prostitution and unfulfilled sexual fantasies; fantasies that became nightmares when he met Yeates in their Bristol apartment block and his repressed urges violently and irrevocably erupted.
(See post: Deconstructing Vincent Tabak)
In a case that gripped the nation, in September 2012 30-year-old mathematics teacher Jeremy Forrest eloped with his 15-year-old student, Megan Stammers. Brought back from France to stand trial, Forrest was convicted of “sexual activity with a child” and imprisoned. The trial revealed Forrest as a ‘little boy lost’ who never achieved sexual maturity during his own disaffected adolescence. When Stammers turned her charm on Forrest, he was powerless to resist the lure of an all-consuming teenage sexual experience.
In May 2014 Elliot Rodger went on a murderous rampage at the University of Santa Barbara in California, killing six people and injuring fourteen others before taking his own life – all because he couldn’t get laid. Rodger’s harrowing autobiography, My Twisted World, posted online only days before his death, reveals both Rodger’s ceaseless hunger for sex and his shame of that hunger. Consequently, the endless yo-yoing between the two states destroyed his emotional stability and triggered the Isla Vista killing spree.
(See post: The sexual radicalisation of Elliot Rodger)
In a case that goes beyond the bizarre, 25-year-old Gayle Newland spent two years impersonating a man on Facebook to build a relationship with a woman she fancied. Then it came time to meet in person. Newland tricked her victim into wearing a blindfold while she used a prosthetic penis during sex. Newland told the court she was uncomfortable with being a lesbian, while her victim was “desperate to be loved.” The shame of Newland’s homosexual desires was so great they eventually emerged in a distorted and damaging way.
In November 2015 Nathan Matthews and Shauna Hoare were sentenced for the killing and subsequent dismemberment of 16-year-old Becky Watts, Matthews’ stepsister. The judge said that Matthews had “a fixation with having sex with petite teenage girls” which Hoare came to share. Police found a collection of “borderline legal” images on Matthews’ computer, many of them showing petite girls having sex with older men. Underlying this fixation is a fundamental shame that prevented Matthews from developing mature, healthy sexual interests.
These six cases are hugely different yet the underlying emotional mechanics are identical. An unconscious shame about the sexual aspect of one’s self leads to that aspect being unconsciously rejected during adolescence. The result is what Michael Picucci, PhD, calls the ‘sexual-spiritual split’. This is a fracture within the psyche where the rejected part of the self is split off, compartmentalised and repressed.
It’s important to realise that the ego does this as a defence mechanism. It knows that sexual impulses are historically highly dangerous. Consequently, it fears that if they are expressed they will result in punishment, banishment or even death. However, sexual repression is increasingly failing results in the sometimes tragically damaged expressions of sexuality seen in these cases.
These, however, are just some of the most extreme examples. All cases of sexual dysfunction and everyday sexism are simply watered-down versions of the same process.