How mindful sex helped me heal from sexual trauma

An antidote to the toxic culture of modern sex.

4/7/2021 5:30:00 PM

How mindful sex helped me heal from sexual trauma

An antidote to the toxic culture of modern sex.

, what does seem inarguable is that intimacy has grown increasingly separated from the here and now.Whether through dating apps, social media, sexting, or porn, the search for sexual connection and satisfaction plays out more often on screens than in our bodies. Meanwhile, the always-online culture of the information age inundates our minds with a barrage of notifications, distractions, anxieties, and stress. Who can blame us for being too busy to find the time, energy, and vulnerability it takes for truly satisfying sex?

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HOW TO START HAVING GREAT MINDFUL SEXHow-to guides on mindful sex often make it sound like a rigid, strictly serious affair with hard rules you must follow in order to do it “right.” In reality, it’s the opposite. All you really need is a body, and the willingness to hear it.

In reviewing my meticulous documentation of my journey — copious journal entries, audio recordings, and even graphs of my orgasms from thebiofeedback-tracking vibrator Lioness— I realize just how self-evident the benefits of mindful sex are. It can’t all be in my head if the data shows my orgasms getting longer during mindful masturbation sessions the more I practiced. I also hear the mindful techniques working while having sex with my partner, our voices growing softer, gentler, more giving in the audio recordings (made with consent of course, and for our ears only). headtopics.com

Bob Al-Greene (Mashable) and James Wang (Lioness)The only real “prerequisite” to benefiting from mindful sex is getting rid of the preconceived notions of what mindfulness “should” be, feel, or look like.“People often get caught up in the idea that they're meditating ‘incorrectly.’ Or that if it’s not relaxing or hard, it’s not working and they’re doing a bad job,” says Dunkley. “But as with adopting any new skill, it can be frustrating.”

The most common blocks you might experience during mindful sex — fear of intimacy, trauma, self-defeating thinking, boredom — can all be learning opportunities. The shift in perspective embedded in mindfulness allows you to more easily return to a sense of presence when your mind inevitably wanders or comes up against those blocks. No matter how many times it happens though, that resistance, those frustrations, are like the soreness in your muscles after a productive workout.

The concepts around mindfulness can sound so abstract on paper that it’s almost easier to define it in terms of what it’s not. Mindfulness in sex does not mean clearing your mind of all thoughts, and also does not preclude engaging in fantasies, sex toys, porn, or even

BDSM role play. Actually, all of those can be essential for effective treatment.“Use whatever you want. There are no rules,” Battle laughs. “The point is to use whatever allows you to root more deeply into your senses, and spark curiosity.”You may discover you don’t like a lot of it. That’s part of the process of becoming an active observer of your sexual experience, rather than a passive receiver of someone else’s idea of what it should be. headtopics.com

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This mentality is what makes mindfulness such an effective tool for dealing with many common issues associated with sexual dysfunction. At the same time, it’s also what can make it scary at first.“Many people struggle with the idea of being alone with their own thoughts and physical sensations — especially if you’re mentally or physically not in a good place,” says Dunkley.

It’s also why experts recommend first incorporating regular, non-sexual mindful practices into your day-to-day routine. If you cultivate mindfulness habits and skills during less charged experiences, then it can become a more automatic response when you need it in the heat of the moment.

Anyone is capable of mindfulness. But only you can decide if you’re ready to invest the time and emotional energy needed to face what you’ve needed to repress in your body, whether pain or pleasure. It takes work and courage, deciding to try to recontextualize your own self-hatred, shame, and trauma into self-love, curiosity, and pleasure.

Like a rollercoaster, getting to the other side is indescribably exhilarating. You might even find it surprising how easily your tenacity can overpower the fear, like going into free-fall after getting past that seemingly insurmountable uphill climb.One of the most demonstrable benefits Brotto’s mindfulness program has revealed is improved self-compassion, closely linked to better body image. I realized that's probably why I'd stopped hearing that constant hiss of headtopics.com

selfishevery time I experienced a new type of pleasure. Increased self-compassion makes it easier to remain present rather than shut down during a negative thought spiral or triggered response from trauma. Staying present and maintaining mental distance from the distress helps you identify why it’s happening in the first place.

It's what allowed me to realize that my paralysis during flashbacks to those disembodied too-big hands often stems from the sensation of a larger body on top of mine, or a wet mouth on my cheek, a beard scraping against my neck. Before, my limbs always used to reflexively go limp, lips suddenly unable to speak. Like a child, I’d become afraid to make a sound — resign myself to crying silently and hope my partner didn’t notice.

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I still can’t bring myself to communicate in the moment with my partner why it's happening, too preoccupied with struggling against the instinct to disassociate from my body altogether. But since learning to be kinder to myself, I don't see this as a failure. Rather, it's proof that I've come so far, and that I'll get there with more practice.

The invaluable understanding mindful sex gave me was that negative sexual experiences don’t need to live inside my body as trauma forever. Some of it will, and that’s OK too. But with the right touch, right partner, and right mindset, I can transform my trauma into the knowledge I need to heal.

Because as we’ve learned, speaking out against the sex that silenced us is the first step to affirming our right to the sex that gives us pleasure.BECOMING A GODDESSThe whole picture of what mindful sex gave me feels almost sacrilegious to put into words. Or so silly that my old meditation-phobic self would roll her eyes out the back of her head.

When my partner and I did a Tantra session with Clay (which was PG and fully clothed), I caught glimpses of what I can only describe as an inner divinity — fleeting and quick to disappear if I tried to pin her down. I’ve heard it described as oneness, this altered state of consciousness that distills you to a body while also spilling you out into everything outside that body, from the bedsheets below to the moon above.

Not selfish, but selfless.Our session started with setting intentions for why we were there. I want to relinquish control, I say. Almost by accident, I also admit shamefully to being terrified of receiving oral sex — going numb at the thought of a wet mouth where it shouldn’t be.

After we do some eye-gazing, feather-touching, and breathwork, Clay invites me to offer my partner a body part to worship. Not knowing why, I give him my wrist. She tells him to touch it like it’s his whole world. I like that.Later, alone, we do it all over again — naked this time.

We invite each other to voice any sensations, thoughts, or memories our touch brings to the surface. When it’s my turn, I try to remember what it felt like in my skin to feel worthy of worship. Not a child being robbed of something, but a goddess giving a gift willingly.

When he touches my belly, I fight the near-universal urge women have to shrink away. He must notice, though, and asks how my tummy feels.“Good,” I say too quickly, surprised by the lie. What I want to say is that every time you touch me there, I hear the word selfish — want my belly fat to disintegrate into nothing and take me with it. I want to say that since puberty, I’ve never been able to touch my stomach and feel good about it.

Not a child being robbed of something, but a goddess giving a gift willingly.But I consciously let it go, returning to my body to realize he’s clasping my wrists. Exhaling a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding, a wave of euphoria passes through me as I marvel at the pulse of my heart beating against his thumb.

I give another involuntary jump when he reaches my feet. He asks why I don’t like people touching them, and I tell him the story of how my older sister would tickle-torture me, pin me down, and crack my toe knuckles. I laugh it off, but quietly make a connection between this silly ordeal and the feeling of powerlessness under that too-big body.

Eventually his touch becomes light kisses that trail all the way down, pausing over the place I'd shied away from, asking for permission. I finally give in, observing his weight on top of me as a comfort rather than a threat. A small pang of panic flares in my chest as I brace for the familiar numbness to take over.

But it never comes. Only tingles.Later, I catch my naked reflection in the mirror. To my surprise, my eyes don’t zero in on my belly fat with disgust like usual. Instead, my gaze remains soft, seeing my body in frame, like a portrait — Botticelli’s Venus, a goddess naked and reborn, staring back at me shamelessly.

If you have experienced sexual abuse, call the free, confidential National Sexual Assault hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), or access the 24-7 help online by visiting online.rainn.org.Read more from the seriesThe best and worst high-tech sex toysHow to join the sex toy revolution

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