How can you have sex after surviving the trauma of sexual violence?

Some road-tested ideas. From one survivor to another yo!

Take your time. Start to learn your triggers. What are they? Do they change with anything? Are there times when you’re more trigger-able than not?

Explore with yourself. Have your turn-ons changed? What feels good? How do you feel initiating sex with yourself? What doesn’t feel good?

Chat with your partner. What would you like them to do for you? How would you like them to support you? Recognize that your desire might change, your interest in sex might be raging or sporadic, you might not be able to say or plan anything with certainty. And that’s okay.

Flashbacks could be a possibility. Safety plan with your partner around this. What are the signs that you’re numbing, detaching, or re-living trauma? What do you need your partner to do? How do you want to calm and ground? What do you need after? Flashbacks can lessen over time, but in the moment feel terrifying and very real for many survivors.

Take the pressure off. What are safe ways of connecting intimately? Are there alternatives that calm you, rather than trigger you? What is your body telling you?

You get to set the pace. You get to say no and yes as often as you want. You get to change your mind. You’re entitled to hot, gratifying sex after trauma, when and where and how you want it!


The Arc of a Love Affair

Here’s how it goes. You meet this man, right. He’s fucking beautiful. Like: chiseled jaw, groomed stubble, lats and pecs and biceps and shoulders and cock and TATTOOS. Sleeves.

And you kiss. Open mouth, confident tongue and his hands, twisted in your hair at the back of your head, pulling in and back, just enough to know that he’s naturally in charge. You melt, and finish in his car, sweaty, with his dog tags slapping your chin as he fucks you with all the sexy propriety of a man who plans to own you one day. Cumming, thighs and ankles wrapped hard around him as he thrusts himself up against your cervix, you reflect for seconds that you have never felt so consumed by one person in such a short period of time. (5 hours, to be exact).

That consummation continued for 10 days. In those days the two of you:
spent a day as loved up tourists at niagara falls
ate a lot of fudge
fucked in the bathroom of a dessert house at 2pm in the afternoon
watched The Hobbit
had Denny’s breakfast twice
fucked in an empty ballroom
met significant others (sister and best friend)
watched Silver Linings Playbook
gave an outstanding example of perfect road head


12 and a half months later, I have never anticipated seeing someone as much as I did with him. After a year of emotion, excitement, lust and promise I descended into that freezing, concrete city, applied makeup and perfume with shaking hands in the airport bathrooms after a 22 hour flight and then, wiggling into white lacy thong, I strode out to collect my baggage.

I saw him before he saw me. He was much bigger, broader, muscular than I remembered, wearing a green hoody. He’d snuck through the doors, to MY side of the arrivals. This was unexpected, I thought I still had the wait for my baggage to collect myself and so I saw him, and then pretended that I hadn’t. Out of the corner of my eye I watched him spot me as I glided down the escalator, and aware of his movement, I shuffled myself through the crowd in the opposite direction from him, eyes glued to the baggage carousel. I was aware of him coming closer to me and I felt terrified, heart beating and almost for a moment I wished I was somewhere else. And then he gently pinched my ass, and I turned with surprise in my face, and kissed him, long and deep, and pressed my chest against his and the world disappeared.

I never told him this, that I saw him first and my fear of him approaching me. It wasn’t HIM that I was afraid of…it was the fear of leaping off, of anticipating something and someone so deeply and then when it’s about to happen you panic, afraid that the anticipation was all in vain, that the anticipation is sweeter than reality, that the anticipation is actually the best part. And then you leap, and kiss, and the story you’ve been weaving together is now coming to life and this is sad for a moment, you’ve lost something and you can’t go back from that.

We were so very guarded around each other. I feel that we had the same unspoken agenda: protect ourselves, play it cool. In retrospect, I wanted to protect this….idea, image, dream I had of what he’d be like, what we’d be like together. I almost wanted to keep my eyes half closed and hang on to this vision we’d been weaving..I didn’t feel ready for this vision to suddenly have to be held up to reality.

But then, of course, amongst all this uncertainty was the pure wonder of touching each other, really seeing each other, looking into each other’s eyes and kissing, fucking, joining our bodies together. These opposing emotions created a strange blur over that first week. We didn’t talk much, slept in hotels in awkward angles to each other, overly aware of intruding on space that for the last year, had very much been our own personal bubble. Thinking about those first few hotel days, I feel the sadness, emptiness. It wasn’t like how I imagined. We weren’t like how we had been. This felt so tragic to me, but I was supposed to be happy and delighted and I couldn’t understand my emotions, so I numbed them.

He was distant with me, cold at times, almost as if he was trying to show me that I was superfluous, replaceable. That I wasn’t as important as I thought I was.

I think we tried, over the next 5 months. We had beautiful breakthroughs: lazy, wandering rainy mornings in Kensington market, easy conversation over pizza. Gasping, hungry sex, reaching for each other, consuming each other’s bodies and pleasure with greed and sweaty, grasping limbs. Midnight kisses at The Garrison, my hair covered with snow and icy breath. Purposeful grocery shopping, meals made with love, so many blow jobs, so many. And through all these love moments were tears, circular conversations, changes won and then forgotten, pained conversations and hurt glances that made me want to rip my own heart out. Why was it so hard? Why, when we spent the year planning us, did these plans never come to fruition? How could we not work? Were we best apart, in anticipation, dreaming of our perfect partner who could never exist? Why did we feel so wrong for each other?

I never found the answers to these. Some days I retreated into myself, pointed my finger entirely at him and relieved myself of responsibility. And then, embarrassed by my own righteousness, I’d completely flip the coin: he’s an angel and I’m the one who screwed up. The closer I’d get to trying to Figure It Out, the more wispy and elusive the answers and reasons would become, changing according to my mood, to how successful I felt like I was at creating a new life here, to how angry I was. The coin kept flipping until it didn’t matter anymore.

It’s been 2 months since we last had contact. After we broke up, the final time, I ached for him, on more than half the days I hid under my sheets and cried my pain and fear and anxiety into my pillows, living on cherries and almonds and littering my room with tissues. His trace was still there- a stray hair under my pillow, a thumbprint bruise of his on my inner thigh. My body missed him, and I’d wake from tortuous dreams…his cock grinding into my pelvis, long and hard, pushing into me until my body and mind were totally consumed by him.

But, I rode out this sadness and grief with a bravery that took me by surprise! I romanced myself with introspective solo tips: a pool bar, a beach dance party, a hiking trip, a theatre show. I used to do these things and wish he was with me. Now I do them and I feel a rush of pride and self-love: I am not broken, I am not a failure, I am beautiful and legendary. This emotional fallout is inevitable of any breakup, I’ve been through it before and although I know it well, I’m always shocked at how much love can hurt.

I observe the arc of our romance from this solitude. He is who he is. He is not the fantasy. He is his own, complex person and it doesn’t matter that he can’t be to me what I want him to be, I will always love him for exactly who he is, even when it means he can’t be my partner.

In a month I’m going as far west as I can. I’ll paddle my feet in the pacific ocean- my ocean- and view our relationship from there, as if I’m falling off the western edge of the canadian shield he is so rooted into. It’s ironic, I packed up my life to come here to be attached to this shield with him, I craved this security, I craved his solidity. But now I feel more transient than ever, sliding over the world on my imagined octopus legs. I’m water, he’s rock.

Do I regret it? Yes, in moments of rejection, low self esteem, anxiety and fear all I want to do is run back to Auckland. I feel angry at coming here for plans and dreams that shattered so quickly. But then I don’t, really. I did a crazy thing, I met a stranger, fell quickly in love and moved across the world for him. I took such a risk! And if I didn’t take this, then I would have wondered for the rest of my life, what part of me was left in Toronto, living in his heart.

(Respect to Paul Simon: Hearts and Bones “The arc of a love affair. His hands rolling down her hair.”)

When anxiety, vulnerability and insecurity got the better of us

I know my sadness was hard for you.
I know that it made you hurt, and all you wanted to see was me smiling and laughing and perfectly, endlessly happy.

I wished I could open my mouth, and the right words would come out, expressing so very eloquently everything I was feeling.

I don’t know how to just talk, sometimes. And it physically hurts, I open my mouth and my mind just goes blank, and my throat gets a huge lump in it and my mouth gets dry and all I can do is give a little smile, and quietly say “yeah”, or something else equally neutral and inoffensive.

So I practice saying things to people in my head, over and over again, I have conversations and I imagine how I would say something and how they could respond, and then how I would respond and back and forth. And it’s funny, because when I have these conversations in real life, people never quite respond the way I imagine and then I can’t figure out how to do my part, and I end up feeling unsatisfied, because there’s still so many words still inside me that I didn’t share.

I got really good at doing this with you, over the year. I felt like we had two relationships. The real one, and then this one in my head, where we had endless conversations. I would talk so freely and expressively, and you would respond with respect and interest.

I’m got sick of imagined conversations.
Instead I craved the solid certainty of our bodies.
The blunt, hungry negotiation of sex.
The simple communication of touch.

Here’s some words inside me that I tried to say to you and couldn’t (in no particular order).

I love you so much I want to wrap my entire body around yours, and never let go. I want to be with you constantly, I’d love to know you so well I don’t have to wonder or have stupid conversations in my head, because I just know what’s going on for you and we can dispense with awkward, tangled words.

I wonder about you a lot. I want to form a better picture of You in Real Life. I’d like to know how you feel about everything in the world and in your life. I think you’re a very private person and I try hard to respect that. I don’t know if me asking lots of questions would annoy you, or if you trust me enough to tell me more about yourself. I always have wanted to know why people are the way they are, and you are no exception.

I can’t quite grasp how you feel about us, about me, and right now, when I’m searching for something concrete and certain in my life, this is challenging to me. And maybe you don’t know how you feel about us. I have lots of thoughts about us, and actually none of them are concrete or certain, beyond what I know right now, which is that I love you and I feel like I can’t get enough of you.

I dream about curling up on your chest, burying my face deep into you until you block out all the world, feeling your arms around me and your heartbeat and thinking of the ocean, the crashing waves, taste of salt, and hair whipping back from my face, heart open and toes digging down under cold wet sand. And knowing that you know me, that you know me so well I can forget having to explain myself, and I can just sink into your knowing and be loved and safe for a while.

In retrospect, I wonder if you had a similar dry lump in your throat? Or maybe your block was deeper? In the end, neither of us could have the conversations we needed to have. And that was that.