Posted by: Marie | September 9, 2009

(142) Confused sexuality

Post #142
[Book study – Wednesday, June 3, 2009]

The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse
(Third Edition, 1994)
by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

Part One: Taking Stock
Effects: Recognizing the Damage

[Table of Contents]


Green text: Quotes/Summaries from the book
Gray text: My words

This transformative work (the entire series of blog posts relating to this book) constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright law.


Where are you now? (Sexuality)

When children are sexually abused, their natural sexual capacity is stolen. You were introduced to sex on an adult’s timetable, according to an adult’s needs. You never had a chance to explore naturally, to experience your own desires from the inside. Sexual arousal became linked to feelings of shame, disgust, pain, and humiliation. Pleasure became tainted as well. And desire (the abuser’s desire) was dangerous, an out-of-control force used to hurt you.

Pink by Martin Chen

Pink by Martin Chen

Children often leave their bodies during sex with the abuser. You numbed yourself or disappeared. You disconnected from sexual feelings.

When abuse was coupled with affection, your needs for nurturing were linked with sex. You didn’t learn to meet these needs in other ways.

Are you able to stay present when making love? Do you go through sex numb or in a panic? Masturbation is a sexual experience for me, but sex with another person is not. It is an opportunity to gain love and acceptance from the other person – it is all about my performance being acceptable to the other person. It is something I grit my teeth to get through.

Do you try to use sex to meet needs that aren’t sexual? Can you accept nurturing and closeness in other ways? Sex is the only way I know to experience any level of physical closeness – and I haven’t experienced nurturing from other people since my mom cared for me in childhood.

Do you find yourself avoiding sex or going after sex you really don’t want? Can you say no? When I’m trying to gain another person’s love and acceptance, I am willing to do whatever it takes (including having sex I don’t want) as long as there is a glimmer of hope that they may yet love and accept me.

Do you feel your worth is primarily sexual? I feel I’m good for only three things: Earning money, keeping house and sex.

Are you sexual with partners who respect you? I don’t understand – how can you have a partner without sex?

Have you ever had partners who sexually abused you? Most of my sexual partners have stopped tending to my sexual preferences after a few weeks of sex – usually because I tell them to stop worrying about my needs. I’m not able to really even enjoy the sex after the novelty wears off so I’d prefer they not even try to arouse or pleasure me – it is a waste of effort and frustrating for me (and, I’m sure, for them).

Have you been a prostitute? Or used your sexuality in a way that had elements of exploitation? No.

Do you experience sexual pleasure? Very rarely with a partner – mostly I masturbate to experience that pleasure – but, more often than not, I use masturbation as a way to relieve anxiety rather than to experience pleasure.

Do you think pleasure is bad? No.

Do you ever think sex is disgusting or that you’re disgusting for enjoying it? No – except when my partner no longer puts effort into my pleasure and he just is a grunting, sweaty pig on top of me, using me as a sperm depository.

Are you turned on by violent, sadistic, or incestuous fantasies? This is my primary source of arousal, to the general exclusion of loving, gentle fantasies.

Do you find you need to control everything about sex to feel safe? No, I like to be out-of-control so I don’t have to do anything but lie there and allow my body to be used.

Do you ever experience flashbacks to the abuse? During sex? I don’t know about during sex – I haven’t had sex since I started recovering the memories. But, during the months after I first started recovering memories, I had flashbacks constantly – during waking hours and as nightmares.

Do you have sex because you want to, or only because your partner wants it? I pretty much never want it, so it is always about my partner.

Have you ever been sexually abusive? No.

Quotes 051


  1. You are remarkably honest, and I thank you.

    Have you tried massages and such things. There are foot and hand massages. There are also some Eastern ones that you don’t need to remove clothing for.

    Apologies if this is unsolicited advice but these are ways to get nurturing touch that are safe (done in public).

    They do require money of course.

    • Thank you, Evan . . .

      Of course your advice is welcome . . . your ideas are good ones . . . I’m a bit weirded out about massages or any kind of touch . . . but, it might be a good way to increase my comfort level with practice.

      Thank you for your input . . and welcome home! I trust your honeymoon was enjoyable!

      – Marie

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