This page represents parts of my own journey through sexual damage and healing. Naturally too, what works for me will not work for everybody and you, my visitor, will of course look further. Nevertheless, I hope you'll be encouraged and perhaps a little entertained as you read. I hope you like the spicy little goddess pics too :)
The main ethos of this page is to encourage women away from the shame and fear of their womanhood that rape can cause. I want to tell you it can be done. I needed intense therapy to overcome my sexual wounds, and I in turn recommend it.
NOTE: If you are wanting to heal sexually, safety will be an issue for you. If you are still being harmed by your partner, you're in a new relationship where your partner is very coercive or you are being pushed to work on your sexuality before healing in other areas, it's likely to replicate aspects of the trauma you've already experienced. Many women blame themselves for being sexually damaged but just as it's not your fault you were raped, it's not your fault it's damaged you in this area. You need and deserve patience and empathy.
WHEN WHAT SHOULD BE ABOUT LOVE BECOMES A WEAPON...
Damage to sexuality is quite often a major area of damage to women sexually abused by partners. In a
Titian's Rape of Lucrece
relationship, sex is supposed to be about love, or at least a degree of mutual respect and trust. When a partner rapes, he strikes at the very heart of those issues.For a long time after Peter, I felt as if my sexuality were a disgusting thing. It must have been, I thought, because why else would he have trashed it?
Sexual healing is not just about learning to have sex. I found that it threw up some basic questions about my very self, and rights to autonomy.
Fear of saying no was a huge problem for me. The rapes I experienced were not only at times when he was overtly angry, but also any time I refused sex. I do not once remember ever saying no without him just rolling on top of me and taking what he wanted. Naturally, I began to question whether I had that right, whether my body and sexuality where even mine at all to stake rights over.
I now realize that I do have absolute rights to my body. I can say no to any touch I want to. My husband has come to absolutely respect this, so I've been lucky. This is what we deserve sisters. It can take a lot of practice at no saying, but you do have that right. It's so important for that to be reinstated when it's been taken from you.
Fear of saying yes was something else I experienced as a problem. If I wanted sex, or wanted to try new things, I was fearful that my partner would think I was disgusting, and that sexual abuse would be a punishment for that. When I met Peter, I liked having oral sex performed on me. It was something he abused me with many times, taunting me that he knew I liked it, so I decided it would never be okay to like it again. I was terrified to be too womanly or sexy, because he had said I was a slut, and that his rape was punishment for that. I was so afraid men would interpret my clothing, my walk, and the curve of my breasts as an invitation to rape.
Sexual assault by a partner can do some pretty terrible things to a woman's sexuality. It is such a shocking violation of what is supposed to be loving. But healing is possible.
SUGGESTIONS FOR RECLAIMING YOUR SEXUALITY
If you are anything like I was, you may firmly believe that you will never, ever like sex again. I thought my sexuality was dead. But I want to tell you it is possible to have loving and satisfactory sex. To my surprise and shock, I found out that it is possible to look forward to, instead of dread, going to bed.
The possibilities for reclaiming your sexuality are endless. Find what feels good, right and safe for you. It should be a gentle process, with nothing pushed on you. Here are some things which worked for me:
Think About This: Your Womanhood is the Stuff of Legend - There are so many dirty, devaluing names for a woman's body parts, and for having sex with her. Perhaps some of those were leveled at you - many women who have survived sexual violence feel that their bodies and most particularly their womanly parts, are dirty. Your body, and your sexuality, are not cheapened by somebody else's attitudes Here are a few things I've found helped restore strength and pride in my sexuality and "woman-ness".
The legendary Warrior-Queen Maeve of Connaught (pictured left)thought of her sex as a prize, offering the 'friendship of the thighs' to the man who could get her what she most desired. What confidence!
Vagina - I find it helps to reflect on positive renderings of female sex anatomy. Eastern love-literature has many names for the vagina, and they are all worshipful and respect-filled - 'sacred lotus flower', is just one - isn't that gorgeous?
Several years ago I read, and loved, a poem - the title escapes me - but it concerned the little Goddess Inanna appraising her vulva and being so pleased and proud of having one that she laughed and applauded herself. (Survey conducted in Australia some years ago revealed that several guys think the vulva is a 'Swedish car' but that's another story). If you're a mother, your vagina is a gate of Life. I have not seen, or read the Vagina Monologues, but I've heard it is a splendid show for a reappreciation of yourself - if you like you can check out the link.
I love the legend of the little Greek Belly-Goddess, Baubo. She was also known as the so-called 'Goddess of
Venus of Willendorf in ALL her glory.
Obscenity', but I rather think that means she was as sexy and funny and brazen as she wanted to be!
There is only one surviving tale of Baubo left. Demeter, whose story is told on this page, was so worn with the grief of searching for Persephone that she slumped by a well, given over to her depression. Baubo came dancing up to the sad Demeter, wiggling her breasts and hips in a way that suggested sexual intercourse (just that image alone is enough to promote a fit of lovely laughter). She began to regale Demeter with the most riotously funny lewd stories, and Demeter began to laugh...deep, almost forgotten laughter from her belly. Then the bold Baubo flipped her skirt over her head and exposed her vulva to Demeter, as a way of connecting her with the sacredness of her womanhood, and of reminding her that sensuality and laughter are vital to the feminine spirit. Other legends have it that Baubo actually spoke through her vagina, and had eyes for nipples. Doesn't matter - I think she's wonderful. She conveys to me that women being 'dirty' is not dirty. I also know that when I think of Baubo, it reminds me to have a sense of humour - so healing, laughter
Did you know that 'cunctipotent' is an old word meaning "feminine power", and comes from the same root word as 'cunt'? Surprising and disappointing that the "c" word has come to describe offensive people...and that a woman's most beautiful part has been taken over by much that is negative and offensive. For more about Baubo and vulva goddesses of several cultures, have a look at this delightful page.
Have a look at ancient Sheela-na-Gig on your left - I mean seriously, this is a lass with no inhibitions whatsoever about prideful displays of pudenda. If you'd like to know more about her, go to Tara's Sheela-na-Gig Website.
Breasts - I get a lovely shiver when I think of the ancient Irish war-hero Cuchulainn looking at the breasts of Emer, his beloved, and saying 'I see a sweet country there'. There is a a hilly place in Ireland too, that is named after the breasts of the mother goddess, Danu - it is translated as "The paps of Danu"
Your body is a thing of sacredness and wonder, sister, despite what you might have come to believe. In the end, it does not matter what your partner's opinion was, or how he may have denigrated the body he was supposed to love. It matters what you think. You can heal. You can wipe away the shame his acts inflicted.As I healed, I found that I could look at my breasts, look down the length of my body at the curve of my pubis and feel such fascination and love for them. It was like getting reacquainted with something wonderful. If it's safe for you, you can get there. You deserve, beautiful, loving sex, and for your body and womanhood to be paid homage.
Counselling. I found counselling with a woman who was sympathetic to rape and domestic violence very helpful. I specifically picked somebody trained in dealing with sexual trauma; these are things you might like to consider. One technique this counsellor worked with 'provocation' techniques - she'd say things like "So, Louise, you're a slut who's asking to be raped if you're sexual, are you? You must be! Didn't Peter say so?" This would wind up with me yelling '"The hell I am! That bastard can eat shit and die! He does not define what I do!" The counsellor would applaud me at this point. It was really excellent to confront and challenge those fears and beliefs.
Think about what makes you feel sexy, and go for it. It doesn't have to be for anyone else except you. Wear a g-string because you like it and feel good in it. Put on music and sway because that turns you on.
Have a massage - this is relaxing and can help you learn how to enjoy safe and gentle touching. There are plenty of woman masseurs around. I must say I jumped in at the deep end and had a massage by a man. It was so safe, so utterly gentle that I almost howled in front of him.
Listen to sexy music by women - Everybody from Nina Simone to Madonna inspired me because they represented to me women who were not afraid to be openly sexual, and who did not tolerate being judged by male standards. Bonnie Raitt's husky purr of "honey, I got a mind to put a smile on your face" drives me crazy!
Have a Rebellion against your rapist - when I healed sexually, I decided it was time to break Peter's rules and not let him keep ruling me from a distance of years. Sexual healing is also a time when certain old beliefs or traumas can make themselves felt very keenly, so this was pretty scary. But it was certainly empowering to consider all of the rules he imposed on me as a woman, and to set about actively rebelling against them. This rebellion involves everything from how I view myself sexually, to whether I choose to reveal my cleavage in a blouse. It is my body. I will do what I want with it, and he can go to hell and all those old rules along with him. Did he say you couldn't do it, sister? Do it!
Speaking of rebellion, see that sexy snake woman on your right? She is Lilith, sometimes known as "Lilitu". Quabbalist legend has it that Lilith was the first woman, made from the same soil as Adam and married to him before Eve. Anyway, Lilith thought it was insulting to her womanhood and ridiculous beyond belief that Adam always wanted to go on top when they had sex. She, Lilith, believed that a man and woman should couple side by side like equals. Adam, wishing to maintain control, refused to accommodate her. Lilith was not prepared to tolerate conditions that degarded her, and left. There are some not very nice things reported about Lilith; she is often referred to as a "demonness". It should surprise us little that a rebellious woman, particularly sexually rebellious, should be "demonized"...and that demonization of a woman who presumes to be who she is or to want sexual equality, survives in the act of rape-as-punishment or rape-as-control.
2 Baubos Reclaiming
Practice being as dirty and flirty as you want with your partner - I found out that that letting that part of myself out was not dangerous - it's just some men who are dangerous. If you believe you are able to trust your partner, or
would like to try doing so, take some small steps towards doing what has seemed forbidden since you were raped.
Caress your body - Tell it that it is beautiful and that he should never have demeaned it the way he did.
I am his adoring concubine
Take up Bellydancing - how absolutely divinely empowering a thing this was. I learned that it was okay to adorn my body in beautiful, sensuous clothing and move it in sensuous ways. It was not sluttish, not inviting rape. Those were Peter's rules, and they were bullshit.
My crowning glory came when my best friend and I bellydanced our way down the main street of my town in an anti-rape march. I was able to think,"fuck you, Peter. I can dress and move however I want and still demand the right not to be raped. It was a beautiful moment in my healing. I truly felt like Aphrodite! Women of all ages and sizes attended the class; it is full of laughter and feminine energy, and we were all Aphrodites.
Fantasize! Is there anybody you'd like to snog the face off? Imagine him (or her!) loving you as you'd like to be loved.Next to my darling husband, my favourite boyfriend is Alan Rickman - especially as Professor Snape. Yessss...he runs through my mind frequently; with the thoughts I have the poor darling wouldn't dare walk :)
This is still a struggle for me. If I let true emotional closeness out, I still feel fearful of being hurt. What I do is try to remind myself that I really am safe now, and that I will not be hurt again. A friend once shared with me that true trust is saying "you could hurt me but I believe you won't. Taking chances is worth the effort, but only if you've established reasonably well that you're safe. My counsellor suggested to me that giving all of the self too soon can be unwise.
Many of us, after the devastation of partner rape, tend to tell ourselves that if we are frightened, we are "just" being paranoid because of what has happened to us. I think it's wise to retain your fear as a gift - if something feels wrong, it may be possible that it is. Your fear can teach you when to act. You were not raped specifically because you trusted somebody, but because he betrayed that trust.
If you have gone into another relationship, and it's good, more power to you! Test the waters. How much freedom do you have to be yourself? Does the new partner sulk when you don't feel sexual? Remember that it is not necessarily romantic or loving when he chooses your clothes or wants to go everywhere with you. These can be early warning signs of a controlling and potentially dangerous personality. Have a look at this link for Domestic Violence Red Flags . Lists of "Red Flags" may not guarantee safety, but they do offer some insight as to how early signs of abusive control may manifest. Do be careful not to "relativise," by which I mean that you don't have to be thankful that at least somebody doesn't beat or rape you like your last partner may have done, if they are otherwise controlling. For example let's say you have a partner that ridicules you in front of people but never lays a hand on you. This is still abuse, and you don't deserve to be abused or controlled in any way by any one.
Deciding to have no relationship can also be an affirming choice for some survivors. Many women, after abusive relationships, decide that they need to find themselves again before even thinking of becoming involved with somebody else.
It is also not uncommon for women to come out as Lesbians after abusive relationships. Being a Lesbian is a completely normal and healthy way to be - good luck to you if this is your journey. However, Lesbian partners can also be abusive, and you will want to make sure that warning signs are heeded.
Teenagers, please check this out: Trust Betrayed - this will offer you suggestions on the characteristics of a potential abuser.
Your new partner can be an ally in your healing - It has been suggested that a trusting, loving relationship with a man can be a rape survivor's greatest healing aid. I hope it is that for you. It's an encouraging fact that many survivors of partner rape do go on to have loving, trusting relationships.
You deserve good sex, trusting closeness and safe loving. For more resources around sexual healing, please see this site. It is run by expert Wendy Maltz, who has done excellent work with survivors around sexual healing.