Finding pleasure after pain. Sex after sexual abuse

Sex is something we seem to talk about constantly and yet there are many aspects of sex that we rarely discuss. I suspect this is because we’re too busy reassuring ourselves and anyone who will listen that we enjoy sex, we get lots of it, and most importantly we’re really good at it.


The truth is that everyone should find sex challenging. At its best sex is one of the most powerful encounters you can have with someone else. But despite what our popular culture may tell us the power of this encounter doesn’t rest on sexual technique – something you can ‘do’ to someone else to send them into a state of ecstasy. The power is in intimacy. It’s about being ‘with’ someone. Which is a challenge because intimacy only happens when we have the courage to show and express our selves. It isn’t just physical, it’s psychological. During sex you’re psychologically as well as physically exposed. This is why sex can make us feel vulnerable. It’s why healthy sex can be vitalising. It’s also why sexual abuse can be so devastating.

 
Sexual abuse is a crime against the ‘self’. The power of intimacy is turned against you. You are treated as an object. A thing. It’s not just your body that’s violated; your sense of who you are is overwritten by someone else.

 
Your body and mind will do all sorts of things to help you survive the experience of your abuse. Clever things that help you get through it. But when it’s all over you’re left needing to make sense of who you are, how you responded to the abuse, and how to reclaim your body, your self and your sex life.

 
One of the things that can help is to know that you are not alone.

 
Which is why this week I’m going to be talking about sex after sexual abuse with the team from the My Body Back Project at the Women of the World Festival in London. At the event, and on their website, you’ll be able to hear stories of how people have reclaimed their bodies and their sexuality after sexual abuse.

 
There are so many things to talk about: the long term impact of trauma; the difficulties created by sexual responses during abuse; the impact that abuse can have on fantasy; and the challenge of including your partner and meeting their needs as well as looking after your own.

 
Many conversations need to happen. It’s great to be making a start.

 
Be part of it by joining us this Saturday. And if you can’t make it – you can be sure I’ll be talking about this topic many more times.