Public and Private Shaming

Posted On: November 2, 2015

Singapore (and possibly not unlike other societies) really does a good job in public shaming.

  • Every year in the weeks leading up to March when it is time to declare our income tax, you’d read media reports of individuals or companies who were penalised for trying to evade paying taxes. Coincidence or deterrence?
  • In school, punishment was meted out in the form of standing at a corner, outside the classroom, or even public caning. Did it happen to you? Or were you too scared to ever be on the wrong side of “law” because you would just “die from shame”?
  • When you misbehaved growing up, did your parents go “shame, shame”? Was that enough for you to blush and wish a hole would appear to swallow you alone?

Is there any wonder we get worried and anxious about being embarrassed, or get things wrong – as if it is the worst thing that can happen to us as adults?

There was a piece of news that caught my eye in the social media over the weekend…

For some years now, some Singaporeans have taken much delight in shaming supposedly undeserving people who are occupying the SMRT (Singapore Mass Rapid Transit) train carriage’s “reserved” seats for the needy. They don’t think twice about such public shaming because they are just angry. They can’t let things rest and instead decide to take matters into their own hands. Essentially they want to have a form of justice and exert revenge.

When the story broke about how the seemingly fit man refused to give up his seat on the train for her, one woman might be shame him. She might be regreting her post because she removed it. The man explained he refused to give up his seat had a heart condition.

I am not going to go into who’s right or wrong (especially since I wasn’t there). I am not trying to fan more hatred or get you to choose sides.

If we turned this into a teachable moment, I like to point out we tend to associate ‪‎health‬ conditions with visible ones. People who don’t appear to be in pain can be in great suffering without appearing so. Also disability‬ is not just physical, there is also mental disability.

If all of us (myself included) can have more ‪compassion‬ for the ‪‎suffering‬ of others and be less quick to jump into conclusions and ‪judgment, the world will be a better place. Let’s seek to understand, not persecute.

Read about it here and here.

Shame is very real when it comes to sex and sexuality as well.

Women who have as much sex as men are often regarded with mistrust and called sluts; while men are considered studs.

We might start wondering if we are acting “normal”, behaving things “correctly”, and constantly comparing ourselves against others without any real basis (and instead make up stories of what his, her or their sex lives must be like).

This is a fun video which might trigger some of your judgments.

Watch it here.

What came up for you watching this video?

  • How did you feel?
  • What was going through your mind?
  • Which parts were uncomfortable? Why is that so?
  • Could your discomfort or judgment going to be an issue in your life?
  • What would you like to do about it?

Want to work through your discomfort and shame around sex and sexuality?

These are the biggest issues I work with

Who is Martha?

Dr. Martha Tara Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching. She is a certified sexologist with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality. She provides sexuality and relationship coaching for individuals and couples, conducts sexual education workshops and speaks at public events. She is the author of the books Love, Sex and Everything In-Between, and Orgasmic Yoga. She is also the host of the weekly radio show Eros Evolution on OMTimes Radio. For more, visit or email

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