Obligatory Sex

Trigger warning for survivors and cosurvivors of sexual abuse or assault. 

As a physical therapist who works with (mostly) women with pelvic pain and dysfunction, I am reading “Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life” by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D.

Many of my clients either cannot have sex at all or at least not without pain. Pain during sex is NOT normal. I don’t give a damn what your GYNs may say. They’re wrong. 

So I teach my clients relaxation techniques that are similar to mediation. I teach them how to breathe (so many don’t), how to contract their muscles (many don’t properly) and how to get back in touch with their bodies, literally and figuratively. Many of them are sexual abuse and/or assault survivors.

It helps them when I share that I, too, use to have pain with sex, with pelvic exams and with tampon use. I also often share that I, too, was sexually abused.

I explain to them the anatomy and physiology of arousal. Many are surprised to know that, for the most part, arousal is blocked when we are stressed. Past negative sexual experiences can affect our current sexual experiences as well. Even when we feel safe.  Even when we feel love towards our current partners. Even when we want to have sex with them.

So, here I am, reading this book knowing these things and I’m hit with a concept I had never considered. I’ve had sex, more often than I’d care to admit, out of obligation and fear of assault than out of desire. I threw up a little in my mouth with this awareness. 

Yes, I just said that. Me. A sexually liberated woman has had sex when she didn’t really want to. And she didn’t fight it because she was more afraid of being raped than she was of being (out of obligation) consenting.

Yeah, Holy (insert explicitive) Cow, Batman! Seems I need a superhero to save me from myself. 

I’m counting and only 2:5 men I’ve had sex with were truly consensual on my part. The rest were obligatory. I feared my survival or that they would force me. So I didn’t stop them. That’s not consent.

In having experienced the “freeze response” with the loss of bodily control in the face of imminent danger (think possum), I preferred to allow men to do what they needed without putting on the brakes in fear they would then try to force it.

2:5 only includes men who had sex with me. This does not include those who kissed me when I didn’t want or touched me in ways I didn’t want. So that ratio would look worse if I included men with whom I had sexual encounters that did not end with sex. That’s a more challenging figure to calculate.

Dogs are given to chase if the cat runs. I calculated my risks and determined it was better to not run…for risk of also freezing and losing all control.

I wish I could say never again. This is my hope, of course, and awareness is the first step to change.

So now I go about allowing myself to feel shame so that I can allow myself to forgive myself, thus reducing my likelihood of repeating this pattern. I used the tools I’ve listed below to help me through the tough parts.

This was a huge pill to swallow. Yet I see where I repeated this pattern and where I shamed myself for it afterwards. This has blocked me from being more open and intimate. Now I choose to let it all move through and away from me.

It is my hope that I can pass less shame onto my children with this work that I am doing here. May they never have to experience this, nor be the perpetuation of it either.

Techniques to clear emotions:

Image: Google

33 thoughts on “Obligatory Sex

  1. Tiffany, This touched me so much. It took me a long time to realize I had nothing to be ashamed of. I survived and that’s something I should feel so proud of. You’re so right… It’s a shame that can be so debilitating. Thank you for being so strong and writing this piece!! Sorry you’ve had to deal with such torment. You’re amazing!! (((hugs)))) ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What an amazing, vulnerable, and honest discovery, Tiffany. I also thank you for sharing it, because it no doubt will touch so many who’ve also experienced similar. Holding your hand in the healing process.💜

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tiffany, as a man I am ashamed of the way other men have treated and taken advantage of you. It breaks my heart! You are such a beautiful and amazing women. I hope you never, ever feel obligated to give of yourself In that way again. Our sexuality is a gift from God that should only be shared with someone who has the utmost respect for us and imho in a committed relationship. Your story and all that you have shared is a testament to all the hard work you have done. I am happy that had this revelation and thank you for sharing!!! ❤️❤️❤️ Barney
    Ed

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a choice to make – go along out of fear to protect yourself from rape or not go along and fear facing rape. Damn
    That’s an incredible insight to an aspect of female and male sexuality. I applaud your ability to look at that mechanism. Our brains are incredible computers tied to our bodies in illness and in health. May you gain strength in spirit, mind and body always.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Let me say this is powerful and those of us who are not victims of abuse still feel that way. Too many women feel that way. This should be submitted to Huffington Post. Also, I see your giant purpose on the planet. I didn’t understand how much your work tied into women’s issues. The dis-ease caused by our emotions is healed by listening to you. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My dearest tiffany, you are a strong woman and you are getting stronger every day. I know you are going to continue healing and making a difference in the lives of other survivors. I know this because you’ve already made a difference in my life. Just knowing you are here, reading and listening is your gift. And it’s a priceless gift that is cherished. Believe that, my friend. With my affection and a hug, Cara Rosewyn♥

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cara, such a beautiful response from you, one for which I am very grateful! It is a gift to know that my work and support here are making differences. Makes the toil that much more sweet. Thank you, Cara, for following and writing such a heartfelt reply. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for discussing the “freeze response”. I spent over 30 years beating myself up for not fighting back. The shame and guilt was a heavy load to bear…something I’m still working on shedding. I think it might be lifelong work, but it’s better than nothing…

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad that this was helpful for you! I still find myself having difficulty setting physical boundaries. Thank you for bringing this post to my attention. I need this reminder as I’m trying dating again.
      Much love to you as you continue to emerge from your cocoon!

      Like

  8. This really touched home for me. The freeze response is why I’ve given up in a few different instances when my “no” was ignored. I saw what happened with my ex-husband when I said “no” (he did things anyway and threatened me if I fought back). So I think I learned to just go with it if my initial protests were pushed past. I’m trying to keep this from ever happening again, and it’s been much better now that I’m in a healthy relationship, but it’s definitely a struggle for me when I’m with a new person and don’t know how they will react if I assert my right to stop.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s