I recently became inspired to consider the connections between shame, guilt, humiliation, and degradation.
As my master is Jewish, and our oldest daughter is devout enough for High Holy Days, I attended Yom Kippur services with them both. The rabbi’s speech centered around two concepts, Shame and Guilt.
At one point he started labeling some things as shame, others as guilt. “The Jewish religion,” he began, and I stopped myself from finishing out loud, “is guilt.” As he said the words himself, he laughed. As did the audience of hundreds. Yes, we all knew the obvious.
But soon enough my mind wandered, as it is prone to do. Especially sitting in a three hour long service. I thought, improperly without a doubt, of an earlier conversation I had with a friend on the difference between our kinky interests, specifically two kinks each related to one of the former concepts. She was into humiliation. I, on the other hand, favored degradation in my play. The two, humiliation and degradation, are often conflated as kinks– but the reality is that they fall on opposite ends of their spectrum. She happily engaged me in conversation, as she, too, believed there to be a distinct difference between the two and liked that I validated her thoughts.
We spoke for some time, but, essentially, it boils down to the following:
Humiliation, like shame, is external.
Shame, the rabbi said, is about what others think about us. How we feel bad, because of what someone else says or thinks. I agree. Shame flushes our faces; a deep red, highly visible sign to others that we have been affected. We can’t help it. It is an automatic response to someone. Shame passes, but it is a strong emotion in the moment.
I am very much not into humiliation, because it is about embarrassment and I don’t like or want that. Being walked into a public space with every intention of People Looking at Me. A public thing. Someone commented once about some humiliation kink. It sounded hot, but in no way turned me on. It was not for me. Which is fine, not everything has to be for everyone. I am simply pointing out how unaffected I felt by the scenario, despite, as I will explain, my absolute need for degradation.
Degradation, like guilt, is internal.
It is perhaps unsurprising that I have had trouble with guilt my whole life. I take things and I turn them inward. Guilt is something private. “I feel guilty that I said something mean to my friend.” It doesn’t matter how the friend felt. Or if anyone knows. Maybe nobody does. But that guilt is ours. We feel it even if nobody else found out. Guilt lingers, sometimes roots in the deepest parts of our being. And it often becomes stronger over time.
Degradation is not a public embarrassment, but very personal words (typically, I would say) designed to trigger us in specific and personal ways. Bitch. Sissy. Slut. Whore. Which words are dependent on the individual. Whore, for me, is a term of affection; “my sacred whore,” says my master. That is my own association. But I love to have him compare me to other women, tell me I’m useless, or that this all I’m good for.
Why? Who knows? I can’t explain it any more than many can explain kinks, but I need him to talk to me this way. Or someone. Even myself. I can play with myself for hours, even in pleasurable ways, but I won’t orgasm without them. Sometimes, when I’m pressed, I’ll insult myself. Maybe it’s weird, but it works for me. Perhaps it helps that I know he doesn’t mean it. Afterwards he is kind and gentle and reassuring, as he is in our daily lives. He assures me I am special and beautiful and how much he needs me in his life. It’s nice…after.
Of course some do experience both.
Are there, in fact, persons that exist that are into both? Of course. We can feel opposing feelings. Have you never felt excited and scared at the same time? If not, you surely know someone who has. Though I doubt many have not experienced such a common and simple scenario.
But I simply wanted to put forth, in as simple terms as I could, the very different worlds that each kink lives within. Please understand both whenever you approach someone into one or the other; and never assume they are into the opposite until they tell you explicitly.