Abuse Survivors & Sexual intimacy
Foundations for enjoyable sex
2. Having or developing an orientation based on pleasure (arousal, love, lust, and fun), rather than performance.
3. Having the kind of relationship in which good sex can flourish.
4. Being able to communicate verbally and nonverbally about sex.
5. Being assertive about your own desires and able to focus fully on your own pleasure and also being exquisitely sensitive to your partner and being able to respond sexually with them.
6. Understanding, accepting, and appreciating sex differences. Healthyplace.com
Factors that can impact on satisfying sex
• Sleep difficulties
• Body image, obesity
• Erectile dysfunction and other physical factors
• Low testosterone
• Relationship difficulties and the impact of parenting
Particular problems related to sexual abuse
• Discomfort with touch in certain areas of the body.
• Limit the type of sexual activity as considered ok or enjoyable.
• Require certain circumstances to be in place for example, lights on/or off when sex occurs.
• Experience difficulties in achieving sexual arousal or ejaculation.
• Feeling distress, shame or guilt about a sexual response, interest or fantasy.
• Low libido or avoid sex altogether.
• Excessive interest and validation of manhood through sex.
• Engaging in sexually compulsive behavior.
• ‘Checking out’ and emotionally disengaging.
• Require the use of pornography or sexual aids to achieve arousal or ejaculation.
• Difficulty trusting sexual partners.
• Experiencing, panic attacks, disassociation or flashbacks during sexual activity.
• Difficulties in sexual relationships, confusing sex with love, care-giving, abuse, pain, with being powerless or being powerful.
How sexual abuse can shape understandings of sex
|Sex as sexual abuse||Sex as positivie sexual energy|
|Sex as uncontrollable energy||Sex as controllable energy|
|Sex is an obligation||Sex is a choice|
|Sex is addictive||Sex is a natural drive|
|Sex is hurtful||Sex is nurturing, healing|
|Sex is a condition for receiving love||Sex is an expression of love|
|Sex is a 'doing to' someone||Sex is sharing with someone|
|Sex is a commodity||Sex is part of who I am|
|Sex is absence of communication||Sex involves communication|
|Sex is secretive||Sex is private|
|Sex is exploitive||Sex is respectful|
|Sex is deceitful||Sex is honest|
|Sex benefits one person||Sex is mutual|
|Sex is emotionally distant||Sex is intimate|
|Sex is irresponsible||Sex is responsible|
|Sex is unsafe||Sex is safe|
|Sex has no limits||Sex has boundaries|
|Sex is power over someone||Sex is empowering|
As a couple it is useful to:
- Be aware that it is not uncommon for memories and difficulties relating to sexual abuse to re-appear during sexual contact. Situations or contact that replicates the experience of the abuse are likely to be particularly challenging.
- Develop an awareness of what are or might be the sensitive areas, scenarios, trigger points following an experiences of sexual abuse, e.g. who was involved, males/ females, relationship context, the ways of engaging or disengaging, the places, acts, positions, touches, smells, sounds, feelings.
- Place an emphasis on slowly developing understanding of sexual preferences on prioritising safety and choice, on becoming familiar and comfortable with your body, on talking, on being together and in tune with your partner and their body, wishes and desires.
Talk, take time and prioritise choice.
- Increased emotional engagement and communication have been specifically identified as improving sexual relationship where the male partner has experienced sexual abuse.
- If difficulties arise, take time to check in and reassure yourself that it is not about you being unattractive or somehow having done something wrong.
- If possible, talk to your partner about the difficulties, – offer some ways forward that you have already thought about, for example, experimenting with intimate touch without the focus being on genital intercourse.
- Be really clear about your partner’s and your boundaries and limits. Everyone has a right to say “No” to things that don’t feel comfortable or safe.
- Know that when your partner is sexual with you he is taking a big step in trust...the occasional stumble is to be expected.
Seek help if difficulties persist