Steering into the skid: overcoming trauma

Tw: sexuality, sex, sexual assault, dominance/submission, anxiety, r-pe, healing.

 

I haven’t had to process trauma that happened to me just before grad school, and all previous traumas, for 5 years. I retreated exclusively into the queer dating world in all its beauty and wonder, and loved it. But I feel as if I’ve been ignoring part of my identity out of fear, fear of not knowing my limits. I struggle with relationships and even friendships because I don’t know what my boundaries are; I don’t know when I want someone and when I need to use them/let them use me. I don’t think I can sort it out until I work through everything that happened to me since I began my journey into the sexual world at the ripe age of 17–or maybe even before that.

I’m feeling icky and triggered right now for two reasons. One was that date on Thursday night; the one where he massaged my shoulders a bit at a show and I left minutes later and started crying on the train. I’m still not okay, days later. I actually had to take my vest off and readjust my bra straps earlier, because of how they were weighing on my shoulders.

The other was that this man that I’d been texting explicitly with… turns out his girlfriend (whom I’d known about but he’d made it sound more casual/open than it was) lives with him. We were never going to meet up; I was hesitating before. The fantasy was better than the reality anyways. The fantasy was healing; the reality would likely be triggering. But this shattered the fantasy of a guy who would throw me around and use me on my terms, in safe play, let me give trust over to him… and suddenly I didn’t trust him. I’m not okay from that either.

A straight friend of mine and I had coffee yesterday, because I had to process all my icky feelings. But for all the shitty triggering that I’ve been experiencing I learned something big about myself: whereas I never thought I wanted this before, I find myself in desperate need of a (presumably cis straight male) partner I can trust to dominate me and work my boundaries with care. One who runs the risk of triggering me, but with whom I can build mutual respect.

This is apparently a common thing in survivors of assault: BDSM and kink are ways of building radical trust and reclaiming one’s body, crucial things for healing after trauma. There’s even a very healing experience in being the submissive. I’ve never ever been interested in anything remotely in this direction so I never realized this; now it seems painfully obvious.

It surprises me because nobody’s ever held me down and r-ped me. I’ve just been guilted and coerced and denied emotional comfort until I gave in. I found myself after my first sexual experience wishing he’d just gotten it over and r-ped me; I felt that worthless. The gentle touch can be triggering sometimes, because it can be dishonest; it’s not violence and it’s not cold distance, it’s a “nice guy” who is using his gentle touch to mask the true power of his desire and lack of respect for my needs, and if gentle touch becomes icky it’s hard to get close to another guy after that. So in my fantasy world, I get used and I get fucked and the other person has complete physical control but I am in complete psychological control over the situation. But they know my boundaries and my triggers and will turn it into play.

For the first time in a long time I’ve shattered another wall, and after talking with my straight friend about it I was finally able to feel positively about what I need from a partner, finally able to process it completely, able to explain what I need to get past everything.

I’m not discovering anything new here. This is an age-old game. But to me it’s brand spanking new. Do I trust someone else bigger and stronger and maybe even cis het male? Do I trust myself?

I’ve talked with a few more people and learned more about the psychology of kink and my boundaries and open communication than I have in all my 12 years of being sexually active. How are we not teaching open communication and knowing ourselves and being in tune with ourselves in sex ed?! What the fuck. And how are we not as a culture talking more about sexual play outside of a wink-wink context? Again, nothing new here that kinksters didn’t already know, but wow, have I ever been repressed.

And one last thing; this exploration of gender I’ve experienced, just like my early college weight gain, is an effort to protect myself. It’s a way to feel in touch with my masculinity and my strength and to distance myself from (and even punish myself for) the things that make me sexual. I struggle, still, to embrace my femme side, because it can feel like vulnerability.

Even as I’m working through the triggers of the last few days, I’m learning or at least trying to channel it by steering into the skid and exploring things one step at a time. It feels terrifying, but it feels like what I need. I will be safe and listen to my bodily reactions; I will learn my boundaries; I will know myself. Who knows; someday I might even feel empowered.

 

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A bilemma

I’m so happy to be back “home” right now. Quotations necessary because I don’t have a home right now.

I’ve expanded my tindering to men and women, if only to explore all sides of me and maybe see what others see in me. Hence why I’m back tonight after my first date with a cis straight guy from Tinder, and hence why I dragged myself to the nearest queer bar to nurse a beer, hug myself to myself, reassure myself that I’m safe, and talk with an incredibly charming, much older butch.

The guy I met up with was easy going. I wasn’t not attracted to him. But by the end of the evening, when we were at a punk show and he was standing behind me rubbing my shoulders, I felt suddenly claustrophobic. I gave him a hug and told him to enjoy the rest of the show just before I bolted. On the train, I wanted to cry. I was shaking. I made it all the way to the queer bar and sat down with relief, nursing my $3 beer and letting the evening sink in. He hadn’t even kissed me; all he did was barely more than friends would do to one another.

I texted two friends about it, one of whom is monosexual and didn’t understand at all the need to explore other genders; and the other who tends toward the monosexual but gets it. I think a big part of biphobia in the queer world is just not understanding the ways in which experiencing different genders are inherently different experiences.

I don’t get it. Alright, some more context: I have been (very explicitly) texting another cis straight guy from Tinder. It gets me so hot and bothered that I sometimes have trouble concentrating on work. He asks me about my preferences, turns my individuality into something fun/cute/sexy, and makes me feel really validated. I, on the other hand, imagine myself relinquishing control, giving it up to someone else bigger and more masculine, and playing to my own strengths in a cishet context for the first time in my life (rather than trying to be someone else within that context). I wish I weren’t into it, but I am. I wish it were about dating someone, but it’s not: he’s got no redeeming qualities. We’re supposed to meet up in a few days, quite honestly just to have sex. I’m not sure yet if I’ll go through with it. It makes me feel really dirty and guilty, especially as someone who identifies as a queer woman, to talk about hooking up with someone so overtly heteronormative; but at the same time undeniably excited. In immersing myself in queerness, cisheteronormativity has become taboo. In discovering sex that respects others’ bodies, being used on my terms feels like a way to reclaim my own body from other peoples’ terms.

Why is it that one guy rubbing my shoulders is more invasive than another guy sexting me? What will happen should guy number 2 and I actually meet? (I predict I will be into it, and then run outside to cry soon after.)

Where does that leave my sexuality, that I can date women but I can’t date men but that I want to sleep with men but also the thought of a man’s hands on me makes me want to curl up in a tight ball, retreat into a shell, and never emerge?

Do I really think that hooking up with, or even just getting a shoulder rub from, a man would be simpler than hooking up with other genders?