After surviving wounds to our sexuality – childhood abuse, birth trauma, assault – we survivors tend to be hypervigilant: “am I OK yet?”
Here’s some ways to start letting go of, “Am I OK yet” and begin cultivating your power and loving your sexuality.
1) It’s not always trauma, sometimes it is being human-
- acknowledge other factors that contribute to lack of desire, intimacy, and connection. (stressors of committed life together, COVID, drug use, sleep, medications, physical and mental health, physical environment, as well as the natural ebb and flow of desire and connection, especially after the initial phase of relationship)
- It is hard for most people to have and maintain chemistry, connection, comfort, and commitment all in one relationship.
- Blast the narrative that all your responses and interactions are because of your trauma. What if you couldn’t have thoughts like, “this is because of my trauma” or “ X/Y/Z behaviors and reactions mean I’m still broken”? You might find that you give yourself a little bit more slack and can normalize your feelings and behaviors.
- Broaden your focus outside of sexual chemistry. Survivors tend to oversexualize their relationships – using sex as a primary tool and indicator of relationship health when sexuality contributes 15- 20% of relationship vitality and satisfaction.
2) Own your sexuality –
- Explore what might excite and delight you. Fantasize.
- The world of erotica can be helpful with this – and also very intimidating – it is nice to explore tailored suggestions with a sex therapist that knows you well, and/or trusted friends.
- A lot of female identifying folks prefer erotic stories, and gifs of their favorite TV or movie scenes and actors/tresses
- Write down 3 times you have felt a flutter of excitement (non-sexual) as well as 3 times you experienced physical chemistry or sexual excitement and finally 3 sexual fantasies you either have or are considering exploring. What are the similarities, themes, patterns between these?
- Check out Emily Nagoski’s Free Come As You Are worksheets – having the book or workbook bring context, but just to get exploring: https://www.emilynagoski.com/come-as-you-are-worksheets
- Touch yourself.
- A good sex therapist that knows you well can really help, but until then, Betty Dodson’s Sex for One, YouTube, and OMGyes are great places to start looking for resources.
- Getting started Q+A https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HxHNClPrkQ
- How other women do it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6I0X6zBbV2Q
- Get good toys that are right for you– a lot of folks with vaginas do not get off from penetration and penetrative toys – check out the Hitachi magic wand and Wevibe melt
- Learn how to share what you find with your partner(s) and work on what stands between you and asking to receive these things.
- Have play practice where you both have permission to awkwardly try some new things.
- Try the “3 minute game” https://bettymartin.org/how-to-play-the-3-minute-game/ with a partner – or a friend using nonsexual touch
- Get in touch with a therapist if you struggle to assert your needs and desires
3) Expose yourself, and build tolerance, to anxiety – explore sensate focus and prolonged exposure with a sex therapist. Here are some good books about how to work with intimacy avoidance and share what you desire with your partner(s)
- Illustrated guide to sensate focus https://bookshop.org/books/sensate-focus-in-sex-therapy-the-illustrated-manual/9781138642362
- Rekindling Desire 3rd Edition Barry McCarthy
- Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski https://bookshop.org/books/come-as-you-are-the-surprising-new-science-that-will-transform-your-sex-life/9781476762098
Finally, many of us are walking around with unfillable holes and unhealed wounds. I’m inviting you to explore with me whether this is always a problem, or possibly a gift.