This post contains very personal details. I am hesitant to post it. But I stand behind my decision to publicly share on the grounds that secrets don’t heal. The pursuit of a healthy sexuality is important to quality of life. And lastly I believe many other survivors maybe in similar situations.
One of the more powerful aftershocks of the assault was becoming disassociated with my body, my male body. My sexual plumbing works, but I never felt anything. Nothing felt good or nice and certainly not amazing. I was never present for any of it. A partner once said it was painful that I couldn’t stay in the room to have sex. To release myself I needed to retreat into a raging storm of punishing fantasies. I had to stay blind to the themes that just repeated themselves over and over; humiliation, mortal fear conducted in an unforgiving male hierarchy. It was just an endless loop, and I never felt anything.
My entire life I have been wrestling with this darkness. The pattern was set when I was a child. I couldn’t stop it and there wasn’t an alternative. I felt like a hazmat container collecting the storm, keeping it from the world. I could absorb and neutralize it. It never leaked out, no others were ever harmed by it again. I did try to work on it with previous therapist, but their approach was to accept and embrace it.
A little over a year ago small glimmers of change showed themselves. But it faded away. I didn’t want to forget what had started to open. It was time. I told my therapist that I was still awash in violence. I vividly described the default scenario and he pointed out how similar it was to my rape. That was the coldest thing he’s ever said to me. No matter that it was blatantly obvious, it was hard to hear it. I had become my own perpetrator.
The truth of his words stung. I was angry at myself for doing this. I was also a bit bewildered, wasn’t this what I’ve been saying for decades? I never wanted to be OK with the storm, I wanted out.
He was frank, I pretty much needed to rewire my brain. I know that sounds dangerously like “conversion therapy”, but that wasn’t what he was proposing. I needed to include sensation. I needed to cultivate a sexual expression based on physical response. You might as well have told me to fly. He laid out a road map.
I was afraid. It’s difficult to explain, but the storm is also where I went for comfort. Maybe it’s the familiarity or intensity that provides shelter. I also had to admit that I had concerns that maybe I was this way because I was broken. Maybe I didn’t have the right nerve endings or something was wired wrong. Some people can’t see certain colors, maybe I just couldn’t feel pleasure?
Angry and scared I started to follow the “road map” anyway. There were really only two instructions: Don’t go into the storm and explore. I may have complicated it by adding “stay aware and present”.
As I resisted the urge, it quickly became apparent when I would want to step into the Storm. The impulse was strongest when I wasn’t liking myself or something I did. Also when I was doubting myself. Much to my surprise it wasn’t very difficult to stay out.
The exploring was more of a challenge. My therapist suggested maybe an “adult device” (my phrase, not his). Enough said, a purchase was made. I feared it would be the first of many until I found something appropriate, but…
8 days later I literally felt my toes curl! It felt, I felt, my body felt crazy amazing! I had never experienced anything when it was aroused. I wasn’t clenched down in an ugly world, I was open and aware. I laughed at myself, I make sounds like a puppy dreaming, (I will work on that). I experienced pleasure for the first time ever! That word finally means something.
Pleasure, I will write a sonnet. But for now, I want to simply be with the beauty of it.