My life in sex

The Guardian - Weekend - - System Upgrade - The sur­vivor of rape

Nine years ago, when I was 16, I was raped by a stranger. It coloured the way I ex­pe­ri­enced sex for a long time, and to some ex­tent it still does, but after years of fight­ing bat­tles with my past, I now have some­thing that I once thought was im­pos­si­ble: a healthy re­la­tion­ship with sex.

For a long time, it was some­thing I both wanted and dreaded be­cause I of­ten had flash­backs. In the mid­dle of sex, my mind would get con­fused and I gen­uinely thought I was be­ing raped again. I would start scream­ing and cry­ing. Some­times I’d even lash out at my part­ner in fear.

Even­tu­ally, a coun­sel­lor taught me that it was key for me to feel in com­plete con­trol at all times dur­ing sex, and gave me some strange home­work. When be­ing in­ti­mate with my boyfriend, I had to say “stop” and then “start” through­out, and he fol­lowed what I said. It’s not some­thing I do any more, but re­as­sur­ing my­self that I’m in con­trol, and only be­ing in­ti­mate with peo­ple I feel in con­trol with, is still es­sen­tial.

I al­ways have music on when I have sex, as it grounds me and con­stantly re­minds me where I am. An­other thing that helped a lot was buying a sex toy be­cause I was able to learn about my body and take con­trol of my own plea­sure.

I’m now at a point in my life where I en­joy in­cred­i­ble sex and haven’t had a flashback in years. It’s cer­tainly a jour­ney; and at times not an easy one, but I want all sur­vivors to know that it is pos­si­ble to en­joy sex again, if it’s some­thing you want.

Each week, a reader tells us about their sex life. Want to share yours? Email sex@the­

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