Are We Done Shaming Tiger Woods yet?

Over the last few months, I’ve been amazed at how much shame has been heaped upon Tiger Woods. And it just keeps on going.

Here’s a blog post from Dr. Howard Samuels, a psychotherapist who runs the Wonderland Treatment Center (an alcohol & addiction center that caters to the Hollywood set). Apparently, he thinks that he knows what Tiger needs and he says that Tiger isn’t genuinely remorseful because he hasn’t displayed enough emotion:

Tiger spoke all the right words in taking responsibility, yet displayed no emotion. The only glimpse he gave us of his feelings was when he expressed his anger with the media. That is a troubling indication that he’s still playing the blame game and being a victim.

Now, this might be a relevant and fair thing to say about an interaction in a therapy session. But when you’re talking about a press conference, that hardly seems compassionate, understanding or reasonable. Frankly, I wouldn’t expect anyone to be willing to show genuine emotion when the sharks are circling. Here’s another example of what Dr. Samuels has to say:

Extra-marital sex with 14-16 different women is not normal!

The myth of the normal is one of the more powerful ways that we shame people for their sexuality. Of course, there are things that are less common than other things, but when we label them as abnormal, we reinforce sex-negativity.

This is something that sex educators address all the time. Take a look through the Good Vibrations sex educator profiles, and you’ll see how often my colleagues and I deal with this one. When a therapist reinforces the idea that someone is abnormal, their professional credentials add an extra weight and the shame becomes even heavier.

Having extra-marital sex with 14-16 people may not be common, but let’s put this in context. Tiger is a wealthy, attractive, celebrity who travels a lot. That seems like a perfect recipe for being on the receiving end of a lot of sexual attention. In those circumstances, 14-16 lovers seems quite small to me. But Dr. Samuels seems to prefer to heap on the shame, as if we should all be measured with the same ruler.

I really like Marty Klein’s post Our Addiction to Tiger Woods’ “Sex Addiction”, in which he writes:

It’s noteworthy that so many therapists and addictionologists are willing to diagnose Tiger as a sex addict without meeting him, as is a nation of lay people. If people without training can “diagnose” the guy, and professionals who haven’t met him can diagnose the guy, exactly how precise can this “diagnosis” be? Who needs school? Who needs a clinical interview?

I fully agree with this. I don’t expect someone to be able to tell me why my car doesn’t work without actually taking a look at it and I don’t expect a therapist to be able to make a diagnosis without meeting someone, talking with them, and getting as full a story as possible. But that doesn’t work when you want to shame someone for their sexual choices, does it?

As long as we keep using the myth of the normal and shame to label sex, erotophobia and sex-negativity aren’t going to end. Instead of judging Tiger for his actions, maybe Dr. Samuels and the rest of us can ask ourselves why so many people care about this. We could ask ourselves if we’ve ever made or are making decisions that might not support our well-being and our relationships. We could ask ourselves to remember how it felt when we were shamed for our sexual desires, fantasies, or choices. And we could ask ourselves if we’re done shaming Tiger Woods yet.

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One Response so far.

  1. […] breathing exercises—as is the case in many meditative practices—not to do so? Then why do so many people feel justified in telling others not to have sex, either with others or with […]

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