If you are a survivor of sexual abuse, sexual assault or sexual trauma and want to reclaim your experience of your body, your sexuality and your ability to experience pleasure, you are not alone.
Chris, one of the two women behind this site, is also a survivor. It is a main reason this site exists: Chris experienced multiple forms of sexual violence and has dedicated herself to helping to change sex culture from one of abuse and fear to one of celebration and reverence. Below are some of her thoughts and advice for anyone looking to heal from sexual trauma and live a sex life of their own choosing.
Sex for Survivors
from Chris of PleasureMechanics.com
Right now, as you read this, we live in a global culture of sexual violence. Whatever happened to you is part of that global culture, and it is our legacy inherited down from centuries of even more violence and oppression. But that sex culture is changing – it was not too long ago that most sexual abuse was not even acknowledged as an issue, but rather part and parcel to other systems of oppression. So the fact is, sex culture changes constantly, and we all influence it with our own lived sexuality.
For us survivors of sexual abuse, that begins with shedding the ongoing violence of what happened to us (make no mistake, until the trauma is resolved the violence is still very much at work in your body!) and rewire our systems back to a state of sexual pleasure and agency.
The truth is: the work it takes to undo sexual trauma is the same work we all must to do be sexually healthy beings. Us survivors have more baggage to sort through, layers of trauma to undo, and more “unlearning” to do than our peers who have not experienced sexual trauma. That is the bad news: there is work to be done, it isn’t clean or easy, and it takes time and effort in your life. That is part of the impact your abuse has had on your life, and you can either own it and do the work, or ignore it and live under the influence of your trauma forever. Many choose not to do the work – and for some people some of the time that is the best choice.
It is my belief that most of us want to heal, want to experience a sexuality that is not colored by our abuse. We want a sexuality of our own making, guided by our own values and desires. Most importantly, we want to end the cycles of abuse that hurt us.
I experienced multiple forms of sexual violence, starting around the age of six or seven until well into my twenties. I think this is true for many of us who were abused as very young children: boundaries are evaporated so young they never get established, and my sense of what was normal and acceptable included a tremendous range of abuse. Someday, I plan on telling the story of what happened to me all those years, from getting in the wrong car as a little girl to be grabbed on the streets of Venice as a teen, from date rape in frat houses to being driven to abandoned parking lots in quiet beach towns. Like so many men and women, one trauma led to another and I broke the cycle only through sheer will and hope.
When I moved to San Francisco after college to forge my path as an independent sex educator, I had no idea that my first job would include massage training. My mentor Annie Sprinkle hooked me up with my first job, working alongside Joseph Kramer, Ph.D. Founder of the Body Electric School and pioneer of erotic massage, Joseph welcomed me to the world of somatic sex education: where sex is taught not through charts and diagrams, but rather through the direct experience of the body. Think erotic massage classes with twelve men on massage table receiving simultaneous penis massage – I was the teacher in the center of the room. Think “masturbation coaching” sessions, breath rituals and blindfolded trance dances. For five years I worked with the most esteemed teachers in the field, and taught graduate level sexology programs at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. I have since parted ways with that tribe, bringing everything I learned from my studies and work to the online sex education I do with Charlotte as The Pleasure Mechanics. But as my career as a sex teacher was taking off, something else happened along the way.
I healed my body of the trauma of my sex abuse. I went from almost totally numb to highly sensitive and orgasmic. I went from having painful cramps after every single orgasm to pain free. I learned how to stay present and feel pleasure. I learned how to say “yes” and “no” again – and how to figure out what I wanted in the first place. I ended a lifetime sugar addiction, lost thirty pounds and discovered joy in dancing and swimming. I fell in love! I woke up to the beauty and wonder of my body. All without a single talk therapy session, pharmaceutical drugs or medical intervention of any kind. It all happened as a byproduct of learning a few simple physical skills that, when practicied regularly and paired with authentic emotional honesty with yourself, works wonders.
These transformative physical practices – touch, breathing and movement – are so deceptively simple it is easy to dismiss them. And yet, perhaps they hold the key of what so many of us survivors need – a path back to safety, comfort and relaxation in our own skins. It is my goal to create resources that make these practices within reach of anyone who wants to heal trauma and experience more pleasure.
I would love to hear from anyone who has read this far! Email me through the secure form here and share your story, what has worked for you, what you are struggling with, what questions you may have.
“You are stronger than what happened to you” – Staci Haines
May we work together towards a world without sexual violence, and may the root of that work be healing our own bodies with the incredible power of pleasure.