Call for submissions
Getting past sexual trauma. Plus: How do I confront my partner about cheating when I only found out because I was snooping?
I’m a 36-year-old straight woman. I was sexually and physically abused as a kid, and raped in my early 20s. I have been seeing a great therapist for the last five years, and I am processing things and feeling better than I ever have. I was in a long-term relationship that ended about two years ago. I started dating this past year, but I’m not really clicking with anyone. I’ve had a lot of first dates, but nothing beyond that. My problem is that I’d really love to get laid. The idea of casual sex and one-night stands sounds great—but in reality, moving that quickly with someone I don’t know or trust freaks me out, causes me to shut down, and prevents me from enjoying anything. Even thinking about going home with someone causes me to panic. When I was in a relationship, the sex was great. But now that I’m single, it seems like this big, scary thing. Is it possible to get laid without feeling freaked out? —Sexual Comfort And Reassurance Eludes Dame
It is possible for you to get laid without feeling freaked out. The answer—how you go home with someone without panicking—is so obvious that I’m guessing your therapist has already suggested it: Have sex with someone you know and trust. You didn’t have any issues having sex with your ex because you knew and trusted him. For your own emotional safety, and to avoid recovery setbacks, you’re going to have to find someone willing to get to know you—someone willing to make an emotional investment in you—before you can have sex again.
You’ve probably thought to yourself, “But everyone else is just jumping into bed with strangers and having amazing sexual experiences!” And while it is true that many people are capable of doing just that, at least as many or more are incapable of having impulsive one-night stands because they too have a history of trauma, or because they have other psychological, physical or logistical issues that make one-night stands impossible. (Some folks, of course, have no interest in one-night stands.) Your trauma left you with this added burden and I don’t want to minimize your legitimate frustration or your anger. It sucks, and I fucking hate the people who victimized you. But it may help you feel a little better about having to make an investment in someone before becoming intimate—which really isn’t the worst thing in the world—if you can remind yourself that you aren’t alone. Demisexuals, other victims of trauma, people with body-image issues, people whose sexual interests are so stigmatized they don’t feel comfortable disclosing them to people they’ve just met—lots of people face the same challenge you do.
Something else to bear in mind: It’s not unheard of for someone reentering the dating scene to have some difficulty making new connections at first. The trick is to keep going on dates until you finally click with someone. In other words, give yourself a break and take your time. Also, don’t hesitate to tell the men you date that you need to get to know a person before jumping into bed with him. That will scare some guys off, but only those guys who weren’t willing to get to know you—and those aren’t guys you would have felt safe fucking anyway, right? So be open and honest, keep going on those first dates, and eventually you’ll find yourself on a fifth date with a guy you can think about taking home without feeling panicked. Good luck.
This is about a girl, of course. Pros: She cannot hide her true feelings. Cons: Criminal, irascible, grandiose sense of self, racist, abstemious, self-centered, anxious, moralist, monogamous, biased, denial as a defence mechanism, manipulative, liar, envious and ungrateful. She is also anthropologically and historically allocated in another temporal space continuum. And last but not least: She runs less quickly than me despite eight years’ age difference and her having the lungs of a 26-year-old non-smoker. Thoughts?
—Desperate Erotic Situation
If someone is criminal, racist and dishonest—to say nothing of being allocated in another temporal space continuum (whatever the fuck that means)—I don’t see how “cannot hide her true feelings” lands on the “pro” side of the pro/con ledger. You shouldn’t want to be with a dishonest, moralizing bigot, DES, so the fact that this particular dishonest, moralizing bigot is incapable of hiding her truly repulsive feelings isn’t a reason to consider seeing her. Not being able to mask hateful feelings isn’t a redeeming quality—it’s the opposite.
My boyfriend and I love each other deeply, and the thought of breaking up devastates me. We also live together. I deeply regret it and am full of shame, but I impulsively went through his texts for the first time. I found out that for the past few months he has been sexting and almost definitely hooking up with someone who I said I was not comfortable with. After our initial conversation about her (during which I expressed my discomfort), he never brought her up again. Had I known that he needed her in his life this badly, I would have taken some time to sit with my feelings and figure out where my discomfort with her was coming from and tried to move through it. We are in an open relationship, but his relationship with her crosses what we determined as our “cheating” boundary: Hiding a relationship. How do I confess to what I did and confront him about what I found without it blowing up into a major mess?
—Upset Girl Hopes Relationship Survives
Snooping is always wrong, of course, except when the snooper discovers something they had a right to know. While there are definitely less-ambiguous examples (cases where the snoopee was engaged in activities that put the snooper at risk), your boyfriend violating the boundaries of your open relationship rises to the level of “right to know.” This is a major mess and there’s no way to confront your boyfriend without risking a blowup. So tell him what you know and how you found out. You’ll be in a better position to assess whether you want this relationship to survive after you confess and confront.
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