I wished I could die. Usually, my two weeks at Rancho Ose summer camp were heaven, but that particular day in that particular summer, it was hell. I was raised with one sister, no brothers and a very modest father. Male sexual anatomy was something that’d never been a part of my life until that day at the river
I guess I knew boys had penises, but not because I’d ever seen one. The closest I’d come to The Male Reveal was in second grade when I saw Pete Fish’s butt crack when put his swim suit on at the neighborhood potluck. I wrote about it in my diary that night.
At twelve, I was still innocent but curious. Gotta say I made up for lost time over the next couple of years, but in that moment at Rancho Oso, I knew literally nothing about boys.
We’d gone to Red Rock - a swimming hole near camp. Almost everyone was playing in the water. A guy had climbed up the rock and was ready to jump into the swimming hole. I looked up and saw him.
He was wearing a pair of thin white boxers. Nothing else.
White boxers. Soaking wet.
This is where my Rancho Oso memory kind of breaks down. I must have blocked out the part where I was staring with my mouth open. To this day, I have absolutely zero idea of what he looked like. Trauma causes us to forget things.
I do remember one thing very clearly. One of my frenemies from school was on the trip that day.
She stood next to me as I stared at the boy on the rock.
HER: Look at Jane! She’s staring at that guy with the wet boxers!
ME: No, I’m not! I’m not! I was watching the girls over there.
HER: No, you weren’t! We all saw you. Haven’t you ever seen a guy before?
Everyone laughed. Even the counselors and the wranglers from Barn Crew.
It was obvious to her and to everyone else that I was staring. They saw my sexual curiosity. They laughed at me for it. Nothing I could say would erase that truth.
I was mortified, embarrassed and humiliated.
That moment in time stayed with me for years. Every time I thought about it, I felt shame and embarrassment in my body. I couldn’t remember the details, but I felt a sensation of threat and anxiety - a pure trauma response to a typical pre-teen life event.
This is what happens when we experience traumatic events (big or small). We resist and even deny what’s happening. Later, when we remember (or are triggered) we might even dissociate.
The message I gave myself about the day was “Watch out for others - they’ll embarrass you. If they really see you, they’ll humiliate you.”
Because of this experience - and others, I know that even small traumatic events can have big impacts. I know that for a long time, it was difficult for me to be seen as a sexual person. (I guess it’s obvious that’s changed in my life now.) That’s what shame does. Until we do the work to release stuff that’s happened, it keeps us playing small.
I help my clients (men, women & non-binary humans) to let go of things that’ve happened in their lives, so they can open to who they really are sexually and share those things with a partner (or even with a trusted friend).
It’s my mission.
What about you? What shame experiences are sticking with you today? How can you start letting them go so that you can show up bigger in your life in all the ways?
Because, the guy on the rock isn’t even there anymore. And whatever’s happened to you is long gone, too. It’s time for us both to let that shit go.
PS: Some people who know me say I’m the last person they’d suspect of being a sexologist because I usually dress pretty modestly. Not sure what they’re expecting, but they’re usually pretty surprised when they get to know me better.
PSS: Want to talk about what’s been going on in your life? Here’s a link to book a fr.ee virtual coffee chat with me. I look forward to hearing your story. https://www.howtofixmysexlife.com/coffeedate.html