When We Don't Want Sex At All Part 2

From the Sources: Preface to The Gulag Archipelago

At some point in our recovery from any kind of sexual abuse and often other kinds as well, we get to a stage where we just don’t want sex at all. It’s too triggering. We find it disgusting and repulsive and terrifying. We suffer body memories, flashbacks, and overpowering emotions when we try to get close to people. The guilt and self-loathing afterward make us feel worse than if we never have it at all. A fleeting instant of pleasure, if we’re lucky enough to get even that, can’t make up for all the heart-wrenching agony involved.

This happened to me. I spent six years of my recovery celibate while I worked out for myself exactly whether I really wanted to have sex ever again, and if so, under what circumstances. For most of that time, I didn’t see how ANY circumstances could ever make me want it again.

Even those of us who became highly sexualized as a result of abuse that was tender, pleasurable, or even orgasmic can reach a point where it all becomes too horrible, unhealthy, and disgusting to cope with. We come to understand that, in spite of any pleasure we might have gotten from it, it really was manipulative and creepy. We don’t want anything to do with that so we push it away.

This is all a very normal and natural response to the pain, trauma, and poison of our abuse. We’ve talked about this on the blog before, but I think it’s time to revisit a few key points we didn’t cover in the past.

First of all, turning our back on sexuality can interfere with ongoing relationships where the other party expects and even needs a sexual relationship. Our partners can view our decision as a betrayal and this can impact all the rest of our lives, such as our relationships with children, extended family, and friends.

Second and perhaps more importantly, many survivors arrive at this asexual crossroads and make the decision to abandon sexuality for the rest of their lives. This is a huge mistake so let’s take a look at the reasons why.

Safety

The vast majority of our motivation to turn away from sex has to do with safety issues. We might be in a toxic relationship where we really are in physical or psychological danger from the very person we’re trying to have sex with.

If this is the case, we absolutely need to get the hell out of there right this minute. No ifs, ands, or buts. There is no saving a relationship where the other person makes us feel unsafe, especially if the sex itself isn’t safe.

Let’s get one thing crystal clear right now. WE HAVE TO BE SAFE IN ORDER TO HAVE SEX. This is non-negotiable. NO ONE should be having sex in ANY unsafe environment.

If something or someone around you is making you feel unsafe, GET OUT! Get out right now. Get as far away from that person as you can. If your partner is pressuring you to have sex that is unsafe for you either physically or mentally, get the hell out and don’t look back.

Sex that is coerced in any way, either through a threat or through emotional blackmail, is what we call sexual assault and it is a crime punishable by imprisonment.

If our partners aren’t bending over backward to make us feel safe in sex, then we are in an abusive relationship that needs to end NOW. If our partner isn’t working to their utmost to ensure that us feel safe in EVERY aspect of the relationship, then that relationship is not worth saving. We should not be in the same room with that person or even in the same town with that person.

Now that we got that cleared up, there is also the possibility that we feel unsafe because of something going on inside us. Take flashbacks, for instance. We might feel petrified to have sex because we experience flashbacks, body memories, or intense negative emotions during sex. Often we can suffer from overpowering negative emotions before or after sex as well.

We might get waves of crushing fear beforehand. Afterwards, guilt, shame, and disgust can rob us of every scraplet of pleasure we just experienced.

By the same token, just being in a relationship or in proximity to someone who wants sex from us can bring up a host of feelings, associations, memories, and confusion. This can make us want to avoid entering our house, sleeping in our bed, or even talking to others.

All of these are very normal reactions to past sexual trauma, but they don’t have to be that way. The great news is that all of these can be overcome so we can feel safe. That is the number one priority, not just in sexuality, but in every facet of recovery. We MUST feel safe, both within ourselves and outside.

All the tools we need to deal with these safety concerns are available here at www.homefree.co.nz. There’s the Flashbacks No More guide as well as our comprehensive Safety Guide that covers every aspect of establishing a safe zone for ourselves.

We might be wondering why we would want to go to all this trouble when we could just skip sex altogether. We will definitely feel safe then. We never have to deal with any of these problems at all.

Which leads us to our next point.

In spite of the consequences mentioned above of disrupted relationships with people who might want to have sex with us, there is one extremely compelling reason to muscle through the hard work and build a healthy, enjoyable sex life for its own sake.

Sex is normal. Sex is natural. Sex is healthy.

Sex is normal and natural. Modern science has shown that sexuality is a necessary bodily function that all happy, healthy human beings NEED—not want, not desire, not might be interested in.

NEED.

Healthy human beings NEED sex. Sex is normal and natural, which means that, when we turn away from sex and shut it out of our lives, we are NOT behaving normally and we are NOT living naturally.

We need sex to be healthy, both physically and mentally. Doing without it and avoiding it is NOT normal. It isn’t healthy and it is NOT an acceptable solution to our trauma and abuse problems.

Let me paint you a picture.

A lot of abuse survivors have issues with food. A lot of abuse survivors develop unhealthy aversions to food for a variety of reasons. They feel disgust, guilt, and fear at the thought of putting food into their bodies. This is called anorexia nervosa. It’s a mental disorder with serious medical consequences.

Eating, digestion, and elimination are normal, natural bodily functions. What would we say if someone turned away from food and decided they weren’t going to eat for the rest of their lives to avoid the negative feelings associated with their disorder? We would say this person is mentally ill and needs to overcome those problems in order to live a happy, healthy life.

Turning away from sex and swearing off sex for life is not a healthy decision and it WILL have long-term negative consequences on our quality of life. It isn’t an acceptable solution as tempting as it might seem right now.

Think about this for a second. Everything that might tempt us to turn away from sex comes from our abuse and traumatic past.

If we had a gloriously beautiful, supportive, loving, happy childhood, a thriving adolescence surrounded by connected family and friends, we would embrace sexuality. We would take far too much pleasure from it to even consider living without it. It would empower us and bring us closer to people.

The flashbacks, the body memories, the painful emotions, the fear, the guilt and shame—all the reasons we might have to turn away from sex come from our abuse. These are the scars left behind by someone else’s criminal behavior. They are NOT normal and they are NOT healthy.

Our job in our recovery is to build a state of maximum health and normalcy. That means eliminating the harmful effects of our abuse as far as possible. We can’t eliminate them all, but we can embrace health, happiness, and optimal functioning as far as possible.

A thriving, empowering, comfortable sex life on our own terms is normal. It is healthy. It will bring us much more happiness than avoiding the work needed to get there.

When we decide to turn away from sex, we do it to avoid pain, to avoid fear, and to avoid triggers.

Imagine what sex could be like if we could enjoy it without all that negative crap hanging around. Imagine if we could have sex like we see in movies and read about in romance novels. Imagine if it was beautiful and rapturous and thrilling. Imagine if it could be as magically wonderful as our wildest dreams.

No one in their right mind would turn away from that. This is what we have to look forward to. Sex without pain, without fear or disgust or shame. Sex that is safe and empowering. Sex that is pure pleasure.

Sexuality is our birthright. We need sex and it’s ours to claim. No one has the right to take that away from us. That is exactly what our abusers will be doing if we let them rob us of this vital human function. We’ll be letting them continue to abuse us long after they’re gone and that just isn’t acceptable. 

So thank you for reading today. I hope this helps someone out there. If you need help right now, click the chatbot button in the bottom corner of this screen. We’ll get started solving your problems so you can live a better quality of life. You don’t have to do this alone anymore.