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

Escaping My Story

dissociative amnesia is considered a mental illness. for me, I consider it a blessing. For without dissociating sexual trauma, I would have lost my mind. For the very people who were my protectors abused me over many years at an age before I knew my full name, much less how to spell it. for over thirty years I lived in constant fear and anxiety, the source of which remained mostly blind to me. Some could see the symptoms of sexual trauma & PTSD; only those who paid attention closely though. I often hid as much as I could in self-protection; my M.O. was to be invisible as much as possible

 

I wanted to be anywhere,
but here.
This is not happening,
roll away,
get away.
Fight with all you’ve got: nothing.
When the body cannot escape it,
the mind does.

I see myself playing
outside in the yard.
Another sunny day.
My body left behind,
defenseless yet with
some feelings of bliss?

Learning now not
to trust my body,
bliss during this?!

~~~

Memories long forgotten,
suppressed,
repressed.
My mind was safer
than my body.
Escape my means to
survive this hell.

This escape proved
to be effective in
times of complete
loss of control.
It happened so much,
sometimes I forgot the way home.

~~~

I spent most of my life
wishing I could not be seen.
Early budding breasts,
I wanted to hide.
Flesh that brought attention
by prying eyes.
In their gaze, I only felt
the shame.

Middle school brought
a new discovery on Halloween.
Dressed as a Beatnik,
I discovered the comfort
of wearing all black.
Practicing playing the Cello
at lunch time to avoid
the students, who drove me back.

High school brought
the black leather jacket,
the combat boots.

Listening to everyone’s woes
about their home lives;
not understanding why my
suffering was so deep.

The truth I hid so well,
I hid it from myself.
Hiding my accomplishments,
hiding my grades,
hiding behind my black armor.

So many then thought I was a lesbian,
looking back it was a kind of security.
I preferred to chase than to be chased.

College brought a return of color
to my wardrobe.  Slowly,
at first I felt so vulnerable
without all of my armor.
Broomstick skirts,
bra-less in thin white t-shirts.
Starting to feel ok in my
sexuality. But only a little;
still wearing the black leather jacket:
my protection.

I still chased the boys,
fading from view from those
who showed interest.

~~~

I could wear a mask.
I could pretend to be happy.
Beneath it all, I was
suffering, silently.
Years of counseling to
raise my self-esteem.
All alone in my suffering.

Strong feelings,
I would suppress.
And like anything pushed back,
held back for too long,
upheaval can be unleashed
with seemingly little provocation.
It was all a mystery to me.

Eventually, when sexual abuse
of my niece was suspected,
I sought the help of a hypnotherapist
to uncover the reasons why I wore
my niece’s suffering as if it were
my own, never able to disrobe it.

The jars in the sand were part
of my healing visions in the
meditations that followed
the uncovering of the abuse.

The first memory was being
abused at four. Held down on the floor,
unable to get away, overpowered,
despite not wanting this,
I felt pleasure, some bliss.
I stopped going when memories
were younger than this.

Never would I have believed, even as a PT
that there would be any pleasure found
in being held down and abused so ruthlessly.
A nerve is a nerve, once stimulated it
will send the signals to the brain it is
programmed to send. Pleasure or pain,
to the nerve it senses and sends all the same.

It was with this memory that I knew it
was true. Locked deeply in my unconscious
before I knew what I had lost…dissociation
saved my life and my sanity,
schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder
my family’s proclivity.

~~~

Sleeping Beauty: Sexual Abuse

Mental Illness

Namaste
__/|\__ Ananda & Metta

2015.01.15

Image

 

Trust

In looking over the broken shards

Placed in jars,

A greater understanding comes over me.

It was simple to see where my

Lack of trust was born,

Oh so early.

To have submitted to his seduction and manipulation,

Before I could have known what was even happening,

nor what he was taking; my sweet innocence.

Dimming my light in an act of self-preservation as a teenager and adult,

I sought males who for me caused minimal intimidation,

Instead, their power was a passive-aggression,

Subverted manipulation.

Unable to trust a man to lead me,

Not even dancing at my own wedding.

Now I’m choosing oh so differently,

Seeking instead a man of steel will,

whose valor moves him through darkness,

who can respect and love all aspects of the divine feminine.

A man who can lead me:

a woman of mercury without being poisoned or made mad.

Come my lover, show me the path to trust.

Teach me, the dance of love that is more than mere lust.

~~~

Namaste

__/|\__Ananda & Metta

2016.02.16

Where the Wild Roses Grow: A Story of Murder

Walking down the bay beach, 

heading West,

the sun setting behind the

chesapeake bay bridge

a 17.5 mile expanse

that glows golden in the setting sun.

reminds her of when she came undone.

~~
imagine to her surprise as the 

sand began to 

glow also before her eyes.

it was golden and glittery;

but as we all know,

not everything that glitters is gold!

~~
upon closer inspection,

there seems to be a resurrection

of some buried treasure,

buried in golden topped mason jars in the strand.

the waves have washed away the protective coverings,

millions of grains of sand displaced,

so this girl would only have to face it.

where she has stuffed the broken pieces and 

buried them in jars in the sand.

the broken pieces, sharp shards of the mirrors, reflecting her

brokenness, the child who didn’t want to

remember any.of.this.mess.

~~
knuckle deep in the places of keep,

her fingers bloodied and torn,

she could not help but to feel forlorn,

to see the secrets being reborn.

yet they called to her of her secrets they could no longer keep.

~~
the more she dug, 

the more she found.

oh, my, where is the ground?

“i cannot do this alone,

i need a grave digger”

to excavate alone was an

impossible endeavor,

she silently thought.

undertaking such a blight,

usually she would have taken to flight.

~~
on the dunes to her left, she could 

see what was left of her broken

image lying in the sand.

where the wild roses grow,

she wanted and she didn’t want to know,

what so ever could have broken her

into so many goddamn pieces that

she had to bury it is thousands upon 

thousands of jars in the sand.

~~
little did she know that 

what they did to her on all those days

would change the way 

she would live out her fate

as a living dead girl 

until she was thirty-eight.

~~
it was now time to reintegrate

all of those pieces once broken,

she could not believe the things

that she endured

so much innocence lost

and at what cost?

~~

2016.02.08

Namaste

__/|\__ Metta

Interesting to discover that in some cultures children who were sacrificed in rituals were buried in jars, in the sand. 

image: Google 

Stranger Danger: A Few Thoughts

As a survivor of sexual abuse committed  by people who were playing the role of my protectors and caregivers, I scoff at the idea of teaching my children the concept of stranger danger. This may seem counter-intuitive, allow me to explain. 

Sometimes strangers are the ones that help when in an emergency. I don’t want my children to be afraid to ask for nor receive help from others they do not know, or consider strangers.

I’ve learned that those who are there to protect you can hurt you. While sometimes strangers can save you from danger.

Also, by teaching children that only strangers can bring harm to them, and not people that are their caregivers, family & church members,  children can feel that they do not trust their own negative experiences. Or hunches. Children can then feel shame and guilt about inappropriate touching and behaviors directed at them. This may contribute to them not telling a trusted adult.

Last but not least, I want my children to learn to discern who may or may not hurt them. Whether they are strangers or not.

What have I done instead?

I have taught my children the anatomical names for each of their body parts, reading to them books that speak about genitalia with the same tone as hands and fingers and noses. This reduces body shame.

I have read to them books and talked with them about inappropriate touching. This so that they what is to be expected and what is not acceptable.

I do not force them to hug or kiss anyone, even their mom, if they say no. If playing games that involve tickling or horseplay when they say no or stop, that’s a hard stop for me. Teaching them it’s ok for them to have boundaries regarding their bodies.

Yes, I do tell them to not to take candy from nor to go with others alone, anywhere, without the knowledge of a trusted adult or parent. Yet what I avoid is using the term stranger danger.


Sleeping Beauty: The Backstory of my Sexual Shame and Years of Abuse


Pictured here in 2014, my weight was my cocoon. This picture was a catalyst for me that something needed to change! With each ounce of shame I heal, the more weight I lose; 50 lbs and counting, removed. Some friends who haven’t seen me since 2014 or early 2015, often don’t recognize me now.

And I don’t wanna feel this overwhelming Hostility

Because I don’t wanna feel this overwhelming Hostility

Gotta cut away Clear away

Snip away and sever this

Umbilical residue

Gotta cut away Clear away

Snip away and sever this

Umbilical residue that’s

Keeping me from killing you

Keeping me from killing you

Lyrics from “Orestes” by A Perfect Circle, MJ Keenan, et al

I called the man referenced in the poem “Shame about Sexuality” Pop-Pop. While not biologically related, he served as a surrogate grandfather. His wife, I called Grandma. She took care of me from the time I was 6 weeks old, starting when my mother returned to work. I don’t know if the grandson in the poem was Michael or David, both now have served jail time for some crime, not related to mine. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one violated by them.

Puzzling pieces

Starting in my pre-teens, young firm breasts pressing outwards from my chest, I never understood Pop-Pop’s uncomfortably long hugs.  With his long hugs, I could always feel her discomfort. Later I figured out that Grandma knew what he was doing. In a recovered memory, she tried to wash the sins away with a hot, scalding shower when I was a little young – it felt like I was the one being punished; already embedded shame was further compounded and now pressed further towards my delicate center. Now I understand his awkwardly long hugs were his way of flaunting his sins with me in front of her…years after the active abuse stopped.

When I was around 14, and she was gone from the house, he laid down behind me on the floor as I watched TV. I was so confused. Every muscle fiber in my body was twitching, contracting, resisting his moves, my head hovering above the pillow as he spooned behind me, resting his hand near by blossoming bosom. I think this was also the night he watched soft porn with my sister in the living room.

As a much younger girl, the older sister of the two of us, I protected her by offering myself to him, according to recovered memories. She does not believe she was touched, but by nature of being present in that energy, she cannot help but to have been affected.

Most of my sexual encounters and all pelvic exams were painful clues to  a condition called vaginismus. This is the inability of a woman to properly relax her muscles for tampon insertion, pelvic  exams and intercourse. It is often very painful, some women are unable to accept anything. The underlying causes are often sexual trauma, childbirth and often are due to a shame regarding sex.

As a pelvic floor physical therapist, I help many women with this condition. I have only fully healed myself of this problem in the past year (probably from frequent masturbation, a form of self-love! haha!).

Another telltale sign of the abuse was my inability to be present during sex. Grocery lists, unfinished business clouded my mind as I gave of my body. This is no longer the case for me.

For the first thirty plus years of my life, I never consciously understood why I responded emotionally and physically to stories and scenes that involved sexual abuse: rape, incest, molestation; all caused me to feel the need to vomit, violently.

Add to this the repetitive nightmares across my lifetime of being trapped in their house, unable to escape, or to lock the “boogeyman” out when the late afternoon sun cast dark shadows into the front of the west-facing house. Burnt umber hues made the rooms glow, light danced off of the dust in the air; each feeling gave me great despair.

Hypnotherapy: A Glimpse of the Bigger Picture & Disassociative Disorder 

In the recovered memory from the poem, I was 4 years old. I finally surrendered to this memory after about 3 or 4 sessions of hypnotherapy.

The first group of sessions I spent trying to repress it all, always dancing around the truth. With each session, my sexual yearnings grew and grew, the hypnotherapist gently pressed me further with each session (sometimes I wonder, did he himself get off on this?).

While I could not see Pop-Pop in any of my recovered memories, I knew where I was and I knew he was there, whether touching or orchestrating. Just as I knew it was one of his grandson’s on top of me.

While somewhat in touch with my sensuality at the time of the therapy, this is shit I could not make up even in my worst nightmares. Eventually, I stopped the hypnotherapy sessions when I had a memory of being abused at age 2.

Given my addiction to and use of food for self-soothing, I find it no mere coincidence that they also stocked the best candies and sodas, happily feeding me anything I wanted… Shame compounded, yet again.

The Crystal Cracked

The emotional upheaval this unveiling caused was one of the early schisms in my marriage. My memories were questioned by my then husband as were my motives for continuation of the unveiling. I was met with disdain instead of the love and understanding I oh so desperately needed and wanted then. Bewildered, not half the woman I am today, I can only pay tribute to that part of me who was strong enough to survive from 2 – 32 when these memories were actively suppressed, and to the woman who has worked to release the shame since then.

Putting it all together

It was only after hypnotherapy and in asking my mother questions that I was able to begin to piece more of the puzzle together. He had free access to me on Thursday evenings for several hours while Grandma played Bingo, from 6 weeks old until after I started grade school.

The River of Shame: slow waters run deep

It’s no wonder the shame runs so deeply, it started so early as this little girl was so tender in her development.

It’s no wonder it is so hard for me to receive anything and feel genuine about it. For in fully receiving gifts, compliments and love I must fully open myself up, surrendering to vulnerability. This has been a hard fought lesson; to receive.

The Shame that Binds

Part of this shame is in minimizing my own experiences: both the “good” and the “bad.” I forever minimize my pain, suffering, even aspirations, accomplishments and achievements.

Shame keeps me from shouting from the summit the things I have overcome, endured and conquered. Shame blocks love, it blocks acceptance. It fills in the gaps with feelings of intense unworthiness.

Enter WordPress

WordPress has been a great source of my learning self-love and acceptance for to create each post, I must grow further into my garden of truth. You can easily see this in the evolution of my writing.

In future posts, I will expand on how these experiences have molded my development throughout my lifetime, my choices and even the turning away from my own femininity.

My Goal for Sharing

I share these memories not to gain sympathy nor condolences. I share it because if you’re hiding behind shame from being sexually exploited yourself, know you are not alone. Know there is help out there. Know you did nothing wrong. Know you deserve the love, the sun, the moon, the stars, and the romance you thought you missed out on can always be received.

I share because as we each rise up out of our own ashes and “muck,” we strengthen and reinforce the path for others. Please, rise up and claim your right to also be free!

Namaste

Shame about Sexuality


Shame.

It fills the crags, crevices

Each nook and cranny in my mind.

(No wonder I seek for love and

Attention to fill it.)

Shame is

Buried deep below the floor,

The things I didn’t want to

Think or feel anymore.

His hands on my oh so young body,

His grandson on top of me.

The images,

Feelings,

Fear,

Sensations

return to the surface,

Only with the help of hypnotherapy.

Easy to dismiss,

Many have,

And I wanted to, too.

Hell, I had dissociated it all

For over 30 years….

The telltale sign,

Besides feeling my body

Was never a safe place to be?

It was the set of nerves for pleasure

That were stimulated.

To not want to be there,

In that situation,

To feel pleasure,

Even momentarily,

In that position.

It all told me that

Yes, Tiffany,

this

Did

In

Fact

Happen.

The mistrust of my

Own body and its

Desires

Was sealed.

Until I was

Weak enough

To say

It’s high time

To get healed.

See also “Sleeping Beauty: The Backstory of my Sexual Shame and Years of Abuse” 

See Wandering Chrysippus “The Voice of One Crying-Out in the Wilderness” for his blog about childhood sexual abuse from a man’s perspective.

Photo by Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

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