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Posts Tagged ‘problems with sex after sexual abuse’

I kicked off a series on the challenges of consensual sex after sexual abuse a couple of weeks ago, right before experiencing a death in the family. I will now continue the series.

This area of healing has been a particularly challenging one for me. I have not fully healed this part of my trauma, but I have come a long way since I started healing five years ago. Today, I am going to share my own experiences, and then I will talk about particular aspects of challenges and healing after sexual abuse in my next few posts.

I truly believed that I was a virgin before I “gave myself” to my husband a few weeks before our wedding. I felt filled with shame afterward. I chalked it up to being a “slut” for not waiting until the wedding night to have sex. Then, when things did not improve after we married, I assumed that was my “punishment” for being a “slut.” At no point did I think that hub had done anything wrong. It was all my fault.

On our honeymoon, my body shut down sexually. We had to buy lubricant, and hub said that it felt like I was “fighting him” each time. I chalked it up to me being new to sex. I had heard that sex is something that gets better with experience. It didn’t for me.

I next moved into believing that my girlfriends were simply lying about enjoying sex. I just tried to get through it as quickly as possible each time. Orgasms were non-existent.

After a few years, I stumbled upon fantasizing during sex. Although I was a very conservative and straight-laced woman, my “fantasies” were all very sick and twisted – things that I would never chose to do in real life. (Once I started recovering the memories of the sexual abuse, I was able to see that every single fantasy was a reenactment of the abuse.) The more I was like an object being used, the more I could “enjoy” the encounter. Suddenly, I had a way to achieve an orgasm during sex, and hub thought we finally made a breakthrough in our sex life.

Unfortunately, while orgasms felts really great to hub, they made me feel terrible afterward. I felt deep shame at the sick images going through my head. I felt empty and awful after sex. Orgasms only brought me pain, not relaxation.

This pushed me into a terrible place in which every sexual encounter was a bad one. If I pushed away the “fantasies,” I could not achieve an orgasm, and I hated myself for having a body that did not work right. If I achieved an orgasm through using “fantasies,” then I felt a strong wave of self-loathing, and I hated myself. So, every time hub wanted to have sex, the end result was me hating myself. This went on for a very, very long time.

Good Resource for Healing from Sexual Abuse:

The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse (Revised Edition)

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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One my most popular blog entries is one entitled Orgasm during Rape or Other Form of Sexual Abuse. In the comments, Palucci posted the following:

I woke up this morning. I realized something else about myself that I never questioned before. I am 39 years old and married for 10 years and I have never had an orgasm while having normal, traditional sex. The first time I had an orgasm during consensual sex it was oral. And that night I had the nightmare about being raped when I was a kid. Last night I was depressed, because recently it has also come to my attention that I use sex like I use cutting and burning. At the time it meets a need, but then I feel worse, remorseful. My husband has recently quit drinking and he will not participate in rough or degrading type sexual acts. Last night he would not follow me in that direction and kept it traditional so no orgasm and I still felt remorseful and ashamed of my behavior.

What Palucci describes is a very common problem for adult survivors of child sexual abuse. As children, orgasms and abuse intertwine, and then achieving an orgasm as an adult in a consensual sexual relationship becomes a challenge.

To overcome this challenge, many sexual abuse survivors reenact the abuse in order to achieve an orgasm. They might engage in similar sexual acts, such as being tied up as they are having sex. While there is nothing wrong with two consenting adults engaging in a bondage sexual scenario, more than that is going on for the sexual abuse survivor. The sexual abuse survivor is actually reabusing herself in order to achieve an orgasm. As Palucci points out, instead of feeling good after the orgasm, the sexual abuse survivor is left feeling empty and remorseful.

Another way that sexual abuse survivors reabuse themselves to achieve an orgasm is by fantasizing about an abusive scenario during sex. For example, a survivor of ritual abuse or gang rapes might fantasize that a crowd of people are watching as she has consensual sex. While, outwardly, there is nothing “abusive” about the consensual sex, the sexual abuse survivor is projecting herself back into an abusive situation in order to achieve an orgasm. Once again, instead of the orgasm feeling good, the sexual abuse survivor experiences deep levels of self-loathing after the orgasm.

Unfortunately, when many sexual abuse survivors give up the fantasies or reabusing sexual acts, they also lose the ability to achieve an orgasm. This doubly frustrates the sexual abuse survivor, and then every sexual encounter produces pain and shame.

My next several blog entries will talk about this issue in more detail. I don’t claim to have all of the answers because I am still working on healing this in myself, but I can share what I have learned so far.

Good Resource for Healing from Sexual Abuse:

The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse (Revised Edition)

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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