Sex & Trauma - Need Advice

Obviously TW for sexual trauma!

Hey, all, I need advice. I am finding that my sexual trauma is interfering more and more with my sex life and I need to find a way to work through it. I am seeing a therapist for other things, but she and I have mutually decided it’s time for me to seek out a different provider, so I do not have anyone specialized in trauma work to counsel me at this moment. I AM working on finding someone, and I am fully aware this is not something people on the internet can fix for me. I’m just hoping someone has guidance for how I can manage this without becoming celibate…

My experiences with assault were insidious. I didn’t really realize what had happened until a full year after the first encounter, and the day after the second one. Nobody nabbed me from the bushes – these men just pushed boundaries to varying degrees that were not okay in hindsight. The second assault was in early 2018, but I feel like the trauma of it is getting more pronounced lately. It doesn’t show up so much in purely sexual encounters where the expectations are clear, but I’m pretty regularly having anxiety attacks around my current friends-with-benefits partner that I hang out with.

Here’s my problem: if he is horny and starts kissing and squeezing me, and I am NOT in the mood, I find I have a hard time saying, “no, I don’t want you to get yourself worked up right now because I’m not horny.” So I will halfheartedly go along with it — not really putting in much effort, and saying “no” when he tries to touch me, but still kissing him as though I am enjoying it. Sometimes I will even touch him, because I don’t want to deal with the performance of my own pleasure, but I don’t mind making him feel good – though inevitably he will still want to have PIV sex. Meanwhile, in my head, I’m trying to figure out if I DO want it, and then work myself into a spiral of anxiety that quashes any potential desire for sex anyways. Sometimes I will have sex with him and then worry that I’ve just re-traumatized myself, and sometimes I will pull away and say “no,” and then cry and feel terrible because I’ve ruined the mood, and also I was very much acting as though I DID want to, so I’ve just confused everything, and am ALSO having a Trauma Moment™.

I want to stress that this partner has been very kind and understanding every time, and has been following my lead with the conversations, but it keeps happening. Last time it was nearly a full panic attack, and I think the closest I’ve ever come to a flashback. I like sex with him and I like being around him! I just don’t want to have sex every time he does, and I don’t know how to verbalize that without being a buzzkill. I also don’t want to put a moratorium on him initiating things, since that seems unfair.

My current plan of attack is to tell him I need him to start doing verbal check-ins. I need him to ask if he can touch me, if I want to be doing this, if I want to have sex, because I will absolutely tell the truth if asked – I just seem unable to advocate for myself if I’m not being given an explicit opportunity to do so.

Does anyone have similar experiences and/or tried and true ways to cope with this? I don’t want to stop having sex, but I’d like to stop associating these traumatic moments with people I like and trust.

I don’t specifically have experience with sex-related trauma though I do understand the sentiment of feeling forced into sexual relations with a partner which results in shame and a resurgence of such feelings in future encounters. I can’t necessarily offer advice on how to manage your flashbacks of trauma so that you do not begin to form associations with your partner’s advances, however I would say that generally it seems it would be best to voice that you appreciate his interest but that you don’t want to have sex in the moment. I wouldn’t just leave it there, it might help to follow up with some kind of compromise where you can either offer some form of partnered intimacy (not PIV sex) if you feel able/willing. If you are absolutely not into the experience, you have to be honest with your partner otherwise “playing along” could result in severe miscommunication with body language and verbal communication. Also if your partner found out how frequently you “played along” despite lack of interest, it could be even more of a blow to his ego/emotions than outright telling him why you don’t want to have sex.

Verbal check ins sound like an excellent way to keep the communication flowing between you and your partner. Ideally those check ins would occur both during and outside of sexual interactions that way your partner can gain a better understand of where you’re at and at what times it is more appropriate to initiate sexual interaction.

I know it’s not an ideal situation for those involved in strictly monogamous relationships, but if you guys are open to the idea, opening up the relationship so your partner (and/or you) have other sexual outlets, may help relieve some of the pressure you feel to have sex and will allow your partner to not feel like he’s pressuring you all the time. However this situation takes a lot of clear and honest communication that labels boundaries, desires, and intentions so it does not work best for some.

With my partner I usually offer to do some other sexual act with him (something less intensive on my part). I still struggle with saying no when I’m not in the mood, but my relationship has gotten to a point where it’s obvious to my partner when I don’t want to have sex and yet I still do (this makes him feel severely bad and he emotionally withdraws). Trying to feign interest and lead my partner on did not work in the long run as it made him feel like he was continually pressuring me to have sex, so much so that he stopped initiating altogether.

I’ve found that asking my partner the frequency with which he wants to have sex and making sure I initiate a certain number of encounters myself, even if I’m not fully in the headspace for sex, has made the experiences much better. When I’m initiating the encounter I feel I have more power over how the situation will play out and my desires/needs can be made present when I’d otherwise feel like I just have to do whatever my partner wants. Basically I know that my partner wants to have sex (and have it frequently) but if I play a role in how things proceed I can give him sex in a manner that affirms how I’m feeling and what I want so I feel I have more power in the situation.

Hi! I hope you can find a good therapist, keep looking. There are good ones out there that won’t shy from working on tough topics, sexuality, and trauma. I can share a little about being on the otherside… My partner is not at all like the typical always horny man who would appreciate my advances. I have had to relearn to approach sexuality with him differently. It has been awkward and hard, but not impossible. To just be frank about being horny and asking kindly, with no judgement or pressure, and with consent then be able to wink, touch, be touchy, etc. It works a lot better for him, Not asking bluntly and kindly makes him feel objectified and forced (he is trans and has had a lot of fetishization and expectation to perform and that has left him with baggage). Definitely talk about this when he is not in the mood, and it’s a safe neutral time (not bedtime or date night). Maybe agree on a safe way for him to check in with you, the right wording, and then what goes from there—and what is plan when you need non-sexual companionship. What would help? Would a request and enough space and time to digest whether you can honestly consent? And also, if things start feeling icky, what gets said (kindly) and what is acceptable to do next at that moment. edit: Oh, PTSD is an issue for him. So touch without any warning or verbal intention can really freak him out momentarily.

Hey there! Hope you find a great therapist, keep your head up! While I personally haven’t experienced this exact type of trauma, here are a few ways I practice saying ‘no’ when with a partner initiates PIV sex and I’m not in the mood.

  • I love that I’m so sexy to you but I’m really not feeling it right now.
  • Wow babe you look so good, how about you masterbate and I watch?
  • Can we start slow? I’m not ready for sex but I would like to touch you.

There’s no perfect way to do this, but good luck and I hope you find ways to honor your own needs. Xx

1 Like

Thank you for your post. It can be so hard to talk about these things.

I also struggle with trauma from sexual abuse and I’m still trying to figure out ways to cope but you should know you’re not alone. I really relate to your issues of sexuality and saying no.

Everyone thinks saying no is easy if you don’t want sex, but I’ve come to learn that is not true at all. A huge problem is the patriarchal system which we operate under. This system tells us that men inherently have the right to women’s bodies (incels are really good examples of this). WE HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO SAY NO, AT ANY POINT. I think it’s also important to realize r*pe looks a lot of different ways, and your experience is valid even if it wasn’t violent and you didn’t get “nabbed from the bushes”.

As far as your FWB partner is concerned, here are some things I’ve done in my relationship which has really helped me in a similar situation. My partner is a man with a very high sex drive and I have little to no sex drive post sexual assault.
-it’s really important to have sexual relationships with people you really can trust and will allow you to be honest with how you feel AND NOT SHAME YOU FOR NOT WANTING TO HAVE SEX (it takes patience and hopefully they realize it’s hard and takes effort on both sides)
-doing your part of putting yourself in the mood. This means, if you like candles or incense or a certain type of music put it on! Bring out your favorite lube. RELAX. (Many times I want to have sex, but trauma causes me to shut down and become tense and disallows me from enjoying myself)
-focus on what feels good, and notice what doesn’t. If you like kissing but don’t want to take it any further, be clear. Many times when I hedge my partners expectations, for example I’ll say “hey I really like kissing you, that’s all I’m interested in at this moment” and clearly remove the pressure of possible PIV sex later, I feel much more at ease.

Like I said I’m still struggling and still figuring out how to deal but I hope this helps. Again thanks for posting