Trauma and Sexuality
Cathy Vartuli from http://www.TheIntimacyDojo.com and Ashley Manta from http://www.AshleyManta.com share how trauma can effect sexual self-expression, and what you can do to support yourself or others in healing and reclaiming your sexuality.
Cathy: Hi everyone today we are talking about trauma and sexuality. A lot of people are traumatized. There is an estimated one in three females by the time that they are eighteen have had some type of sexual encounter that was unwanted and one in five men, one in four men it depends on what study you have looked at which is probably vastly under reported actually because men talking about sexual assault it very shameful. There is a lot of secret around it. So it does affect our sexuality when we have experienced sexual trauma or physical trauma or emotional trauma of any kind.
I’m Cathy Vartuli from theintimicydojo.com and I’m here with Ashley Manta from ashleymanta.com. Hey Ashley.
Ashley: Hello Cathy.
Cathy: And both of us have experienced sexual trauma.
Cathy: I was abused as a child and I know that affected me a lot when I was growing up. I was very sexually active in college usually completely drunk. I wasn’t present with my body and then I kind of withdrew once I stopped drinking so much because it was painful. It was very painful and penetration was incredibly for me and the doctors didn’t really know what to do to help me.
They offered surgery, electric shock therapy and drugs and none of those were really what I wanted. I wanted to be present with my body.
How did it affect you?
Ashley: So I was actually raped twice. I was raped when I was thirteen by an acquaintance and I was also raped in 2009 by one of my very close friends that I was going to graduate school with.
The rape when I was thirteen really affected my sexuality because I was convinced that the only thing that I was good for was someone’s pleasure, that I had no value as a person, my only value came from like what I could offer someone sexually and it took me a long time and a lot of therapy to kind of break out of that mold and feel like I was enough without having to be sexual with someone.
Cathy: Yeah it is hard and how did that affect you like when you were being sexual after these events? How did it express itself?
Ashley: I became hypersexual so I was having sex very evilly with people. I was not really discriminating if someone wanted to have sex with me then generally I would have sex with them and during the act of sex I was very much focused on their pleasure because my worth was also linked to their ability to have pleasure and orgasm. So I didn’t focus on myself. I didn’t feel like I deserved pleasure so that took a long time to kind of break out of as well.
Cathy: Yeah you weren’t centered on what your body wanted and you wanted as a being you were focused on them. That’s very common. It’s really empowering when people talk about this. I know for myself I felt very isolated there was really no one that I knew when I was first exploring this and realizing how much it affected me there wasn’t a lot out there.
I remember going to a book store in town, I lived in Ithaca at the time and there were two books on trauma on sexual abuse on the shelf The Courage to Heal and When Rabbit Howl which is a fictional book and I just felt so alone and now there is a lot of information out there but I think it is really powerful when we talk about it.
Because a lot of people don’t realize that like for me there wasn’t information why trauma would cause vaginal pain like the doctors never and even though I shared that I had been abused they didn’t ever say that’s probably the link. They just were dealing with the vaginal pain and trying to make it stop rather than helping me to reconnect with my body and enjoy that part and now that I can I’m like oh my god thank god I didn’t follow the advice of surgery or numbing out down there so that I could enjoy or I could at least be present. I think that their goal was to get me to the point where I could allow sex which is not what I wanted. Sex is something that is an expression that should be beautiful.
Yeah so how did you work through yours? Through your trauma?
Ashley: It took so much therapy and it took a partner who was really willing to be patient and mindful and check in with me frequently and you know keep me from dissociating that was kind of my go to coping mechanism. My body would be present but my brain would be over here and so having a partner who was constantly encouraging me to check in and let him know what I was feeling helped me reconnect with my body.
Cathy: Yeah and I was really amazed. I was always like in my head or outside my head and when I started getting more present I was like wow sex is really amazing when you are actually in your body and when you are noticing that the sensation of touching it brings your partner more pleasure too.
We talked about Reed in the last one and he does this exercise sometimes in classes where he is like you know try to touch your partner to please your partner like touch their arm to please them and it is kind of like you are numb like you are focused on them but there is not any chemistry there and then he is like touch your partner to please your fingers and you can’t do that unless you are present in your body but when you are pleasing your own fingers it is hot for both of you so I am really delighted that you were able to get through that.
I found a lot of help and I have done a lot of EFT emotional freedom techniques, some tantra work and there are a lot of different ways to get connected to your body but once you start getting through that it is really worth it so.
Ashley: Absolutely and talking about it so that’s the best thing.
Cathy: It gets the shame out of there and if you can talk to your partner even better.
So thank you very much Ashley.
Ashley: Thank you.
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