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!

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Ten expert tips on how to rock your long distance relationship

So, I met a man. I’m going to call him The Wolf.

December 2012, in Toronto. I went, on my own, to a club to dance. (This isn’t unusual. I love going out dancing on my own. No wall-hugging friends, no yelled conversation, no clammy men. The best). He checked my ID, said “Oh, a kiwi”, and gave me a ridiculously sexy smile. I danced provocatively in front of him the entire night, and at 4am he invited me out for a Denny’s dawn breakfast.

This started 10 days of the most incredible dating of my life. This man…and the sex…oh my gasp.

And then, because I have a killer work ethic and a ‘Grand Plan’, I hopped on a plane and flew back to Auckland, New Zealand, where I had a job waiting.

Although it was unplanned, it just sort of started. Toronto/Auckland Long Distance. And I’m talking STRICT long distance, none of this, “let’s meet in Hawaii and spend a weekend together” shit. Brutal. Admittedly, I’m only at the end of month 9 at the moment, but we’re both so stubborn I feel that we’re going to make it to 12.

So, I’m officially calling myself a LDR (long distance relationship yo!) expert, and here are my expert tips referencing personal experience.

An excellent LDR photo. My family cat and my ass.

An excellent LDR photo. My family cat and my ass.

1) Sexual chemistry. The person you’re doing a LDR with has to be the sexiest, hottest thing on the planet. You need to be able to masturbate to them. Repeatedly. You know you’re onto something good if just hearing their voice, seeing their photo or talking with them on Skype makes you wet/hard.

2) Excellent dirty talk. You can develop these skills pretty quickly, but it helps if you’re already comfortable sexting, writing your own erotic fiction and describing what you’re doing to yourself while using a sexy voice. Good words to use are: moan, thrust, cock, dripping wet. The upside is that you learn exactly what turns your partner on, because after a couple of months of no sex, having a sexy discussion is pretty fucking awesome. (And then you can masturbate about it later. Win.)

3) Celibacy and monogamy. Okay, I know some of you will be like, “well, duh?” But I came to this through a circuitous route. In the months prior to meeting The Wolf, I was very happily dabbling in polyamory. Even to the point where I had declared ONE DAY before I met him, that “I was not interested in a traditional, monogamous relationship. Ever”. (Oh fate, you tricky thing).

It was late January when he put it to me. Choose him, or choose to be poly. He was only interested in monogamy, and he was only interested in me. This level of commitment took me by surprise (no, actually, it scared the crap out of me). I was tempted to negotiate a sort of middle ground- like, still keep in touch, but sleep with other people- but I sat myself down and had a stern look at where my fear was coming from. In the end, I figured out that although the commitment was making me nervous, there was definitely excitement there too. On top of that, we’re talking about the sexiest man on the planet, and my pussy was voting for him.

So, if this is you, chose monogamy. Commit to each other early on, and outline exactly what monogamy means for you.

4) An end date. Crucial. I am landing in Toronto on 29th December 2013, at 11:30pm. This date is tattooed on the inside of my eyes. It’s circled in every diary I own. Open-ended is way too painful. Set the date, and stick to it like a mother-fucker.

5) Perspective. My mantra is ‘acceptance and impermanence’. Nowhere has this served me better than in a LDR. I accept that we will both go through periods of ambivalence, where we wonder why we’re doing this. I accept that, for lack of physical contact, I will replay our conversations, line by line, until I interpret a meaning that was never there. I accept that subtle emotion will be lost in text, email and even Skype.

And, this is the hardest of all, I accept that a 12 month LDR is not a guarantee we will work as a couple when I get to Toronto. The best we can say: we shall see. No, this is not comforting on those nights when I just want a fuck and a cuddle. Yes, holding this perspective does keep me sane.

Take a deep breath. Accept that…one day of crippling insecurity will pass. A week of doubt will pass. Three more months will pass. One year will seem like a blip in the span of your life. This is all so impermanent. You’ll be just fine.

6) Communicate like a BOSS. This one is quite simple. Be honest, be congruent and reflect on how your communication develops. We spent the first 3 months sharing our opinions: childhood, families, food, music, sex, religion, fitness, gender roles, careers, future plans, social habits. It was full on. And pretty dicey at times! (I wonder if this would be easier for established couples?)

We spent the next 2 months trying to negotiate the weirdest stuff, which at the time seemed crucially important. Like, for example, IF we ended up together, would we have guns in our house? Or, would I take his last name IF we got married? (It makes me laugh writing this, that we always put the IF in there, as if that would soften the fact that we were already talking about marriage?)

As ridiculous as these discussions (and yes, sometimes they were laptop-lid slamming) seem, I think they were important for a) establishing boundaries and individual identity and b) learning how to disagree. I think we were symbolically marking our territory.

Now we’re at a calm, mature, holding-on stage. We’re not as rose-tinted as we were at the beginning, and we’re not as emotional as we were in the middle. We’ve compromised and softened. We talk about our feelings openly, pragmatically. We share the best of ourselves. We say we love each other. We count the days.

7) Embrace ALL the technology. Get a smart phone. Use Snapchat and WhatsApp. Diversify: email, text, share photos, make videos, Skype, write letters, talk on the phone.

Although I had to move past my “Snapchat is just for horny teenagers” snobbery, I can honestly say it has saved our relationship. There was a stage where things were feeling a bit too raw for Seriously Dedicated Skyping, so we sent pictures. Of ourselves, of our lives, our family and pets and office and car and favourite view and sunsets and food and grocery shopping and latest tattoos.

Other sexy technology things I’ve done? Strip and masturbate to music, film the whole thing, send it for Valentines Day. Leave naked dancing Skype video messages. Put on red lipstick and film myself enthusiastically sucking my fingers pretending they’re his cock. Delicious.

8) Be stubborn. At the beginning, figure out why you’re doing this, and what you’re going to get out of it. Don’t rely on your partner to provide the why, find it within yourself. Because it’s going to get hard, and you’ll need to stubbornly stick to your reason, stick to your commitment, even though it might seem illogical.

9) Love the fuck out of yourself. You need to have your self-care down. Can you give yourself what you need when you’re feeling lonely, insecure, angry, or scared? Is your self-worth high enough that you can say you’re definitely worth this level of commitment from your partner? Do you have the strength to trust their word? Are you secure in your attachment? And if the worst case scenario happens, can you pick up your own pieces and rebuild yourself?

I had a good base in some of this stuff, and the rest I had to learn pretty quickly. It’s hard work. (Across the top of my mirror, I’ve written “You are so definitely worth it”. It helps.) The upside to doing this work is powerful. For the first time in my life, I can look in the mirror and unblinkingly say that I love and accept myself.

Relish masturbation. In the last three months, masturbation has gone from something I’d quickly bang off to the most intense orgasms of my life. What’s changed? For the first time ever, I’m focusing solely on my own pleasure, slowly building up arousal through touch, rather than relying on porn or erotic fiction. I take about half an hour to masturbate, I indulge every weekend, and I tease myself, getting close and then pausing, relaxing and feeling my sexual energy build. It’s incredibly satisfying, and I feel such gratitude for being able to receive so much pleasure from my own body.

10) Be proud. Tell people. Own this. It’s hard, and it takes skill. Give yourself respect and credit for trying. This is clichéd, but let yourself dream. Dream about what it will be like when you see your partner, in the flesh. What will the first minute, hour, night be like? How might you evolve? What’s your ultimate fantasy? You don’t need to share this, keep it inside yourself, to fuel those daydreams during boring work meetings, car trips, quiet Sunday afternoons and nights when your bed just feels too empty.

You’ve got this. You can do it. It can work.