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Sex as a Survivor


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My PTSD diagnosis stems from sexual abuse and rape as a young teenager.  I spent a lot of time with self-help books, online message communities, and a wide circle of support to help me through most of the finer (snark) points of PTSD: the guilt, the depression, suicidality.  I never did find much help with therapy (individual or group) and I had settled myself happily into a life of celibacy, because sex was simply uncomfortable and unsatisfactory for me.  I filled that void with other things and didn't seek out a relationship (in hindsight, part of this was that I never thought I'd trust men again).

In fairness, I did have sex with a few partners over time and was unable to stay present.  I tried it in the context of a long term relationship and I was unable to stay present again.  That relationship ended and brought about the period of celibacy.  But when I was interested in dating again, I bought a book called The Survivor's Guide to Sex by Staci Haines.  I re-read the sections on Sex in Courage to Heal.  I got to a point where I could sort of stay present, at least with a lot of communication between my partner and I.  But still, there are times when I dissociate, float away from myself, and instead of enjoying time with my partner, I'm off in La-La land somewhere debating my favorite kind of cheese.  Or balancing my checkbook.  That's not fair to me and it's not fair to him.

So, now with my present partner (long term relationship) we have a rule that if I can't stay present, I'll make him stop.  We have a very honest relationship, very open, and he knows all of the gory details of what happened to me as a teenager.  For a while it was working alright, because armed with good tools from Courage to Heal and a few suppliments from The Survivor's Guide, I was able to keep myself present.  Unfortunately, more recently, our rule has lead us to a lot of "almost" and "not quite there".  This is frustrating for both of us.  The meds were at constant throughout, so I don't think they're a contributing factor.

I'm out of ideas besides therapy, which I would do through my HMO at the rate of one appointment a month.  I can't really afford to go outside of the HMO, but there's a chance that there are federal or state funds (VOCA?) to help pay for therapy since my perpetrator was prosecuted (in California).  I wouldn't know how to go about looking for it through, other than google searches that have proved fruitless.  An amazon.com search brings me to a couple of new titles I haven't seen before: The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Maltz, and What About Me? A Guide for Men Helping Female Partners Deal with Childhood Sexual Abuse by Grant Cameron.  I'm also considering getting him a copy of Allies in Healing, though really most of what that particular book says I can verbalize.

Mostly I'm kind of at my wits end about what to do.  I conciously understand and desire sex, you know, but I won't lie to him just to "get it over with".  I did a lot of lying and I can't do it anymore.  Plus, he deserves all of me, not just snippets here and there.  Any book reccomendations/knowledge about funding or alternative counseling resources/other advice is readily welcomed.

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I am about where you are. I don't have any recomendations for books. I have a hard time not just vacating and letting my partner have sex with my body. It isnn't fair and he hates when I do it. But I don't know how to stop the dissociating and be part of the fun. We are in a long term relationship and I love him, but no matter what he says, he never takes the time or has the patience to help me get into it. so I end up just laying there.  I'm trying to find ways to deal with it, to overcome the guilt and feel alive again. I guess I'm just wanting to say that even though I don't know you, I admire you greatly for not giving up and trying to overcome the abuse.

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There are some additional books for him listed in the pinned posts "books for our family and friends" at the top of this board. I'm not vouching for them, just providing the references.

I have very much the same problem with sex -- in the rare times when I actually manage to be interested I end up completely separated from the whole thing. My partner can tell when I've "gone away" and tries to recall me to the place, at least enough to comfort me even if we can't keep going. Sometimes we've gotten quite far provided I keep my eyes open and she keeps talking so I can tell it's her and not someone else. It's not an ideal solution. Fortunately, she's been very patient about this -- years worth of patience.

Of course, I've also been so depressed and so medicated that I think I've not been capable of much sexual due to those reasons for a long time. I'm hopeful that with the depression much better, and a reduction in stress, I'll be more interested and more able. And more able to discuss the matter in therapy.

Fiona

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Guest ~Aurelie~

hi there.  i just wanted to say how much i admire you for even talking about this stuff.  i had a session today and froze in fear and the tears starting rushing forth just at the mere mention of the word sex, after which i promptly asked to have the subject changed.  kudos to you for ploughing through the abuse and doing whatever you can to heal things, because you're right, it is unfair to you, and your partner.  that really hit home with me and i am trying to find ways to be able to even talk about this stuff without freaking out. 

also thanks for mentioning the books you've read on the subject.  perhaps i might start there.  if i come across anything helpful, i will certainly pass it along to you.

many best wishes in your healing process,

aurelie

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Guest aurelie

many best wishes in your healing process,

aurelie

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Aurelie,

Good to see you here.

Erika

/threadjack

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

thanks erika, that means a lot.  and, you too!

aurelie

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  • 2 weeks later...

I can't orgasm (don't think I've ever had one) and have zero sexual drive. I see sex as a threat. Nobody turns me on. Certain fucked up concepts turn me on though. People used to take advatage of me with that one. Guess I've just become asexual. How long does this last for? I wanna have a drive for sex again. Rape and exploitation really didn't help anything.

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Hyper,

Are in therapy? Your life experiences have obviously been very difficult. Time with a good therapist whom you can learn to trust could help to move forward if not resolve some of your issues.

Talking about sexual issues with a tdoc or a pdoc can be difficult at first. It's not easy to bring up such intimate detials with a professional, but believe me they have heard similar things from other patients. It is also very important to bring up any sexual side effects from medications with your pdoc. If we don't and the docs don't know, then they can't help. And if you speak up, you may be helping other patenets as well.

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Indis and Panz, Fiona, Erika, and guys,  can't say how much I admire you for your courage in coming to grips with what has been done to you, and working to heal.  Have no words of wisdom,  other than that we are here for support. 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

This is worth a lot -- to know that there are people willing to support our efforts to get through all the nasty stuff. I'm not sure there can be too many such people.

Fiona

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Hi-

My PTSD stems from childhood molestation and a very nasty torture and rape (where the perpetrator drugged me and I woke up to torture) when I was a teenager.

Sex for me since then has been a sport, just another sport to master, and a way to manipulate men. Since they love sex so much and I've become good at it, sex has become an actual weapon.

And dissociation/vacating ourselves to allow someone else to use us. Again.

My suggestion is that you keep your intimate relationship to non-physical forms of intimacy first. Maybe massage, erotica, kissing, showers together, and other non-threatening things can help you get more comfortable. When you're ready, "graduate" to non-penis contact, and when you are sure you want to try, go for the intercourse.

Another thing I think works for me is literally binding him very lightly with scarves, so he is "helpless" to my lust, and I can touch him and do what I want, when I want, with no pressure and no insisting from him. That helps me a lot.

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I don't have any books to recommend, but I think that this is a really important thread. I was sexually abused by many boyfriends as a teenager, the worst and longest period of abuse reached the point where I had to submit to rape pretty much on demand, soundlessly, and any sign of discomfort or refusal would be severely punished.

I am celibate partly because of faith reasons, and I also dissassociate during sex, and feel very dirty afterwards. I am pretty asexual really. I could have long term relationship where we just went out to dinner, talked, kissed and that was all, in fact I don't miss sex at all. Society tells me to 'own' my sexuality and have sex but I don't buy into it, I don't have to be sexual if I don't want to, and I will live with the loneliness of the single life if I have to to achieve this.

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  • 2 weeks later...

An amazon.com search brings me to a couple of new titles I haven't seen before: The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Maltz

I read that book and I have it somewhere, can't remember where.  One thing that frustrates me about these types of books is it seems like mostly they say "sex with the right person is good and it's OK to like it," and I despise sex so I don't get much from being told it's OK to like it.  This book was more detailed and specific... I liked it.

I have no sex drive at all, never have a day in my life and if I never had it again, that would be great with me.  My husband does not share my views.  ;)

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Can I admit total and utter stupidity here? I have always "zoned out" during sex and in 25 years of having sex have never had an orgasm. I fake it to get it over with. My first sexual experience was rape. Due to childhoodsexual abuse by a neighbor, then a serious dysfunctional family issues and the rape, I allowed/sought out further sexual abuse and degradation, in my teens, twenties, through two marriages (sought out stranger sex, cheated on my husbands.) Weird though, all the sex I had, I always felt really dirty and guilty. Never once got any physical gratification out of it.  I NEVER have put those two together. The reason I zone out is due to trauma from those incidences ?!? I literally take mini-vacations in my brain. My partners have never noticed. Except my latest (long term)...he questions my orgasms, hasgently hinted they might not be genuine. He is very  mentally healthy, intuitive etc etc. I've never admitted the rape/promiscuity to him but it would really explain a lot.

I love this site. I have learned so much about myself!!

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Mostly I'm kind of at my wits end about what to do.  I conciously understand and desire sex, you know, but I won't lie to him just to "get it over with".  I did a lot of lying and I can't do it anymore.  Plus, he deserves all of me, not just snippets here and there.  Any book reccomendations/knowledge about funding or alternative counseling resources/other advice is readily welcomed.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Hey Indi,

After doing all the things you're doing, reading all the books, having an educated partner (dumped the ones who would not get "stop" "NOW!") I had a breakthrough after years of therapy. Group and individual. I was empowered by goddess grace, and "took back" what was so brutally taken from me by family members and a rape at age 14.

I got angry and very "fuck you" toward my perps and said, "this is mine, you took it, I'm taking it back and I'm going to cultivate it to the fullest." I used to be dissociative during all sexual encounters, including masturbation. Practice is what did it for me. I would find myself leaving, and pull myself back, wash, rinse, repeat. Until I was able to be present nearly all of the time. I had two excellent lovers (not at the same time) who helped me tremendously with the trust part. I explain my story in a general way before I get involved with anyone. Then as we move into the sexual arena, I get specific. What I need, etc. If he isn't responsive and eager to assist me in overcoming (no pun intended--but I good one, I must say!)  ;) my violations then he is not for me.

It sounds like your guy is awesome. I don't know if that helps or not, but when I met my 2nd husband I was 31. He was the first man I ever had an orgasm with. Previously they had all been self induced. And then there was my last lover. They both shared the key traits of genuine interest and horror at what happened to me, they nurtured me in non-sexual ways, and when we did have sex they were totally, amazingly in tune with my splitting and there was never any hassle.

One of the points you made that I think is really critical, and Fiona alluded to, is that our dissociation is not only robbing us, it robs them to.

Scott Peck in "The Road Less Traveled" talks about the dissolution of ego boundaries during orgasmic states, allowing a co-mingling of souls. This is what I desire. I've been fucked my whole life literally. So I chose my lovers very carefully. I spend long periods of unhappy celibacy, and once in awhile I will break down and just sport fuck this one friend of mine. He cares for me, but he's so damaged there is no future for anything. But I do it WILLINGLY, MY DECISION. Empowered. I don't give away my power to anyone when it comes to sex. Ever. Never. And today, I love sex and I refuse to be deprived of something so good and from goddess because some sick twists stole it from me so many years ago.

I hear you. I see the window well, from the basement bedroom my Uncle raped me in. He was my first perp. I was 7. I was in that corrogated sheet metal window well, staring at the sky. Thank god for that window.

Blessings,

Suze

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I found that a lot of the traditional methods didn't work for me, I am an avid reader of self help books and I tried the usual stoking the fire stuff with erotica and porn and vibrators and stuff, but it all left me feeling kind of empty. Besides a lot of that stuff is manufactured by someone else and your sexual response has to fit in with it, it's not very authentic and can make you feel very dysfunctional and faulty somehow.

I try to be sensual in my everyday life. I wear touchy feely fabrics that I like against my skin, I light incense or wear perfume, I eat food that I love the taste of, I have warm or cool showers, or long hot baths, I have my favourite pictures and colours around. I exercise and flex my body. I just practise enjoying my senses and my body as it is, without it being in a sexual context.

I also set aside time when I am feeling relatively peaceful and calm (rather than when I feel ill or upset) and I take some time to explore my sexuality. I don't decide to find my hotspots or have an orgasm or figure out what to teach my partner to do. I don't expect anything in fact. I just start by touching myself in whatever way feels good, however I like to be pleased. Sometimes it's really tame, I just stroke my inner arms or tickle the backs of my knees, and leave it at that. Sometimes I take it further. I let pleasure be my guiding principle, I do what feels right. If it bring up painful memories or evokes shame in me, I stop and take it back to whatever does feel safe as well as pleasurable. It's not about pushing myself. Eventually I find that I get braver and I get more intimate with myself, but I am always the boss. My negative voices spring up with the usual 'You look ridiculous...this is so selfish...who gets off on that?....No lover would do that to you...' but I smile and ignore them and they go away. I always make sure that I end feeling relaxed, rather than panicking and stopping if I feel scared, I take it back to a safe level of pleasure.

I think the more that you can get used to doing this, pleasure without instruction or an agenda, for pure pleasures sake, without a partner to upset or offend, the more adventurous and present you'll be during sex. It helps me to think of how really small kids deal with their physicality, adults are always hugging or tickling or poking or kissing them, and generally if an adult does something that they dislike, they'll wriggle and cry, they don't worry about whether the adult will be offended, they just react on how they really feel. This is what you're aiming for, that confidence to please yourself and not take on anyones idea of what should feel good.

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