Tag Archives: Shame

A Brief Commentary on Shame.


This post was, for the most part, inspired by my resent post on a robust sex education program. I found myself really jumping at what a few people said and I want to explain why: I am strongly opposed to sex shaming. More so, I find that shame is an unhelpful emotion to try to bring out in others, and it is highly misused. Now, I believe that no emotion is truly a good or bad emotion, because all emotions can lead to negative and positive results, and each has their own use.

Shame, from my experience, is an emotion which is very good at one thing: entrenching preexisting behaviors. For behaviours that we would otherwise like to avoid, such as misgendering someone, or getting drunk and embarrassing ourselves, shame can be useful as we already have the preexisting wish to avoid those behaviours. When we slip up and feel shame, it reinforces those overall positive behaviours. However, when someone is consistently doing something perceived as wrong, and it has become habitual, people try to evoke shame to get the person to change. Unfortunately, like I said, shame reinforces preexisting behaviours, so, when you shame someone about something the habitually do or like/want to do, all you achieve is making them feel bad. And, more often than not, you either have no effect on their behaviour or you entrench it even further.

When you want someone to change, you don’t want to make them feel bad. Instead you want them to reconsider their behaviours or thoughts. By shaming a person your more likely to convince them that they are a bad person, then to convince them to change their behaviour. A person will change when they stop feeling bad about themselves and are actually motivated to change their behaviour. While shaming can ultimately lead to someone picking themselves up and changing, there is no guarantee that that will happen. But there is a real risk of entrenching the behaviour even more and making it less likely that the person will change it.

Aside: It needs to be mentioned that you need to be very careful if you think you should change someone else. It’s very rare that you’ll be in a position where you can effectively change a persons behaviors. Even then you should still tread carefully. The only real time you can justify trying to change someone is when they are doing harm to themselves and others, and even with that said just because you don’t like a behaviour or think someone would be “better off” not doing it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s harmful. A perfect example of this is how some religious fundamentalists who basically make up excuses for why being Gay causes harm, when really it do no more harm than being strait does.

This is part of why I’m so opposed to sex shaming. First and foremost, I think that sex between two consenting adults is just fine. I may not like what they do, but that’s none of my business anyway. Secondly, shame doesn’t change behaviours. So if you want someone to take precautions or form new sexual behaviors, shaming them is counter productive. It may help those who were never inclined to do those behaviors in the first place, but we’re already not worried about those people. We are worried about those people who already have, or are inclined to having, problematic behaviours. So the last thing we want to do is shame them and entrench those behaviours.

(Small edit: I really didn’t explain what sex shaming is in this post I’ll have to write another post to make up for that, but for completeness I’ll explain some here. One of the major components of sex shaming are “slut-shaming” but I use the term as more inclusive to basically all the ways we shame people about there consensual healthy sexual behaviour. This includes sex between LGBT persons, BDSM, a whole array of fetishes. Though I think I ought to do a full post so I’ll leave it there for now.)

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