Recently I noticed someone asking the question on social media: How can I be more sex positive and explore more sexual experiences when I have a history of sexual trauma?
It’s great that you want to be more sexually active and enjoy the pleasure and intimacy that is our birthright as human beings.
Often when someone has had past trauma involving sex or even nonconsensual touch that was nonsexual, a variety of emotions can come up when they want to be intimate including fear and anxiety.
Also, the “trauma response” can kick in where we automatically “fight, flight or freeze.”
You might notice you check out mentally during sexual activity, can’t feel your body, or have trouble making decisions about what you want or in negotiating.
Or maybe you find ways to back out of and avoid the experiences that you want.
If the trauma is causing significant difficulties in your daily functioning then a psychotherapist is likely your best primary resource for healing.
From a body-based perspective, the most important thing those who have experienced trauma can do to help themselves is to slow down.
Don’t rush or push yourself.
There is no right pace or speed at which you need to go.
There is a lot of incorrect and unconscious conditioning in our culture
- that we should move quickly toward our goals
- that sex should be fast, and quick
- that sex is always easy – if you do it right
- that we should know exactly what we want and
- that we should know how to get what we want – without thinking or even talking about it.
These false and damaging ideas affect everyone even those who have not experienced trauma.
Here’s an example of how you could slow down. If hugging is a big step for you, or difficult, then don’t pressure yourself to have sex, even if ultimately that’s what you want.
Instead, experiment with something that feels less stressful for you than hugging, perhaps hand holding.
Ask yourself, “What would feel great for me right now?”
Then experiment with that – and let yourself enjoy it.
As you get comfortable with the activity and the person you’re sharing it with then in time you may feel ready to experiment with something more.
However, rushing yourself can slow your progress.
Some people will be very supportive of slowing down with you, but you may need to ask them to do that with you.
Others may be in a hurry to get deeply intimate and they may not be a great match for you.
The key is to do what feels great, and pleasurable. Follow the pleasure rather than doing what you think you should or ought to do.
By giving yourself permission to slow down you can value and enjoy your experience.
These positive experiences can be enjoyable on their own.
And it’s likely that by slowing down and focusing on what you enjoy, the activities you feel comfortablw with will gradually broaden or increase.
Over time that pleasure can help you change the automatic trauma responses to touch and intimacy from pulling away from it to being happy and comfortable going towards it.