Ever since I was raped, I can only get off to violent rape fantasies
March 26, 2009 12:48 PM   Subscribe

How can I come during sex with my boyfriend? I find it impossible to reach orgasm unless I'm doing it myself, with extreme, violent fantasies. I've tried fantasizing about the same stuff during sex, but it's hard to reconcile with the reality of my gentle, loving boyfriend, even if we have rough sex or (to a degree) act out the fantasy.

When I was 17, I was raped by two men. One of them had a knife, with which he made shallow cuts on my breasts, arms, and neck. During the assault, I didn't know they were shallow and I was afraid he was going to kill me. FWIW, one of the men was an acquaintance and his friend was a stranger.

For about three years afterward, I did not date or have sex, and rarely masturbated. I started dating again when I was 20, and I'm 25 now. I've been with my current, amazing boyfriend for two years, and he's the first man with whom I've been able to actually enjoy sex. Since the assault, I haven't been able to come during oral sex or intercourse, and the only way I can climax is through masturbation while thinking about violent rape and/or breast mutilation. I've tried reverting to the type of fantasies I used to have (oral sex, romantic love, sensual massage), but it doesn't do anything for me anymore. Two of my high school boyfriends were able to get me off via fairly clumsy oral sex. Now, I'm so accustomed to only coming while thinking about slight variations on the violent rape theme. Though I know rape fantasies are common among rape victims and women in general, I do feel some guilt. Also, if might be relevant that I don't think about myself being raped; I think about a make-believe, doesn't-exist-IRL woman being raped. Another factor is that even though my boyfriend is wonderful and we are in love, I sometimes have this irrational feeling that no man truly cares about a woman, and that the secret truth is that women are nothing but fuckholes that are fun to hurt.

The following techniques, during oral sex or intercourse (usually while he or I touch my clit), have not worked for me:
- rape fantasies
- lots of other fantasies (which don't get me off during masturbation, either)
- not thinking about anything and just focusing on the sensations
- roleplaying rape (a friend suggested this, and we've tried it a few times, but it usually results in one or both of us getting really upset)
- using a vibrator during sex (even the Hitachi Magic Wand doesn't do it, during sex)
- soft/romantic sex
- rough sex

I am in therapy, but I'm thinking of switching therapists. Also, my brother went to a hypnotherapist who helped him quit smoking and overcome a phobia, and he raves about her. She does hypnosis and "rapid eye movement therapy" (??) that she says have had success with victims of abuse and sexual assault, but it's expensive and I'm skeptical. I am in New York City. I would consider traveling up to an hour outside the city for an amazing therapist, especially if s/he takes Oxford insurance.

If you have any suggestions, I'll greatly appreciate them! Thanks!!

Throwaway e-mail at mefi.anon.mouse@gmail
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

From what I've read, not being able to come during sex is not uncommon for women. Were you able to have an orgasm before the rape? I'm sorry to hear about what happened to you, but it's possible that this issue is not actually related to your history.
posted by Electrius at 12:54 PM on March 26, 2009

Have you tried the old standby (not masterbating for a long period of time)?
posted by Monday at 1:06 PM on March 26, 2009

I'm so sorry to hear about your rape and subsequent problems. Unfortunately, I don't have any good advice for you in that department.

My purpose in replying is to warn you against any therapist who uses "Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing "(EMDR). Basically, EMDR has a great marketing team behind it, but the empirical data says that it doesn't work. The academic papers I've read on the topic basically show that it's a pseudo-scientific scam like mesmerism and animal magnetism used to be.

That said, if this hypnotherapist helped your brother, it might be worth checking out. For a particular person, it doesn't actually matter what the academic literature says, it only matters if a particular therapy works for you.
posted by eisenkr at 1:11 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Two of my high school boyfriends were able to get me off via fairly clumsy oral sex. Now, I'm so accustomed to only coming while thinking about slight variations on the violent rape theme."

I presume "get me off" means orgasm here...
posted by darkshade at 1:11 PM on March 26, 2009

I think this is a prime example of the kind of situation where you need to unburden yourself with the pressure of having any orgasm at all for a while. If you start having sexual encounters that aren't orgasm-centric, you'll be able to lay your violent fantasies aside and just "Be Here Now", exploring each other and really experiencing the moment in reality where you are together. Yes, that means possibly no orgasm for him either. You may discover all sorts of interesting things, including a new path to orgasm with a loving partner, but it takes time and patience to break out of any pattern.

It doesn't sound like these fantasies are giving you what you need anymore; it may be time to move on to something else. Let this time with your boyfriend help you figure out what that might be.
posted by hermitosis at 1:16 PM on March 26, 2009 [5 favorites]

My husband never brought me to orgasm; I always did it myself, but that doesnt mean I didnt enjoy our time together. Its not always about orgasm.
I'm truly sorry to hear that you are having issues.
posted by saragoodman3 at 1:23 PM on March 26, 2009

You have my sympathies for what happened to you. That's awful.

Not speaking from experience here, but I'm given to believe that putting pressure on yourself to orgasm at a certain time/in a certain situation is actually a pretty good way of ensuring that it won't happen.

hermitosis is probably on the right track there. Sex is, after all, significantly about being with someone else, not just getting one's proverbial rocks off. Seriously, if orgasms were really the point to sex there'd be no sense in choosing that over masturbation, as the latter is far, far more effective and efficient at producing orgasms in the vast majority of people. When you have sex with someone, there is an us where there was before merely an I. I'd recommend focusing on that.
posted by valkyryn at 1:34 PM on March 26, 2009 [4 favorites]

I think you should definitely stick to a therapist, but if you haven't found an improvement in what you're mentioning here, you should find a new one. Cognitive behavioral therapy would be good, and honestly sex therapy would be, too. Hopefully you could find a CBT who has had plentiful experience in dealing with rape victims and/or individuals with sexual dysfunctions.

While hypnosis may indeed work for some, I would caution against using it for something so pivotal in your life. You want to be able to make logical, deliberate decisions regarding this, because the reason it is in your life (most likely) is from something you had no control over, the rape.

I'm no therapist, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but I don't think that you should attempt to fulfill these fantasies, to any degree, if you didn't have them prior to the assault. It is like feeding the monster.

From what you write here, you really, really want to return to feeling safe and loved and gentle. One way to not encourage those feelings would be to give into the emotions and thoughts that are an exact opposite of them. If this is something that bothers you, [good] therapy is a must, but I also think ending whatever sexual act you are doing when those thoughts come up will help train your brain to separate rape from sex and orgasm. (Just enjoying the act with your boyfriend, as others said, is important too, rather than always feeling the need to get an orgasmic result.) Up until now, it seems as though you have only reinforced the concept of sex=rape=orgasm, so it may take some extra work to undo that.

As for feelings that men don't really love women, it is another thing for a professional to help you on, considering your circumstances. That being said, if you can talk yourself through those thoughts, rationally, it will help.

The fact is there is good and bad behavior, and we all choose from both of those highly-relative terms. Most of us behave in a pretty centrist manner, doing both good and bad things throughout our lives, things that rarely do great harm outside of ending some relationships, for better or worse. Then there are others, many of which have extreme mental issues due to medical or environmental reasons, who have chosen to behave badly not only more often, but also more violently/extremely. These are the people, like those who assaulted you, that everyone must watch out for. The majority of us, though, male or female, are just trying our best. Sometimes we make mistakes; sometimes we do something extraordinarily well.

If this is something that you can tell yourself when you start getting feelings that men are out against women, and that women deserve it, then you will be much better off. If you can, separate both good and bad behavior from a person's sex. Male/female has nothing to do with it, as I'm sure you logically know. (Converting that into the more emotional thinking is a harder battle, I understand.)

I wish you the best with this. It is horrible when violent acts occur in our lives. They truly change us. However, in the aftermath of these events, we do have more control and can guide ourselves into the right direction. I think you're doing well, considering what's happened, and I think you will continue to do well if you will keep actively pursuing a healthy outcome from all this.
posted by metalheart at 1:35 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Try the hypnotherapy. Switch therapists if you want to. Just stay in therapy. Please.
posted by tehloki at 1:45 PM on March 26, 2009

From what I've read, not being able to come during sex is not uncommon for women.

She's not able to come with any type of partnered sex, not just intercourse, as darkshade has pointed out. Yes, orgasm from intercourse with zero clitoral stimulation is difficult or impossible for the majority of women (60 to 70%, depending on which studies you read), but that's not the problem here.

Anonymous, I am very sorry to hear about your rape. Recovering from rape is hard.

Now you're facing another difficult thing: reprogramming your sexual response to move beyond the gratification you're getting from hypothetical "do-over" scenarios of your rape experience (as it seems you want to do.) There is nothing wrong with deriving comfort and stimulation from replays of your trauma, if that's what seemed adaptive for you for a bit, but it seems like you are choosing to try to move past that.

So here's the thing: your post-traumatic stress disorder response has made your mental code buggy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, as already mentioned, does the debugging of this stuff really well. I've known people who have had good results from hypnotherapy. I've known people who have had good results from EMDR--like elsenkr, I'm pretty skeptical about it based on current research, but if it feels like it would work for you, go for it. Even if it works for you because of the placebo effect, selah (as long as you don't bankrupt yourself for it, of course).

Here's what's not good at resolving post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms: traditional talk therapy. I am a great partisan of talk therapy, but this is not what it's good for. I encourage you to change therapists and find someone who does some more hands-on debugging.

Best of luck to you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:56 PM on March 26, 2009

She does hypnosis and "rapid eye movement therapy" (??) that she says have had success with victims of abuse and sexual assault, but it's expensive and I'm skeptical.

It is my understanding that this technique is effective. I don't know if they know why, but it is being used more and more. It is limited to trauma victims.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:03 PM on March 26, 2009

I am not an analyst, but have you tried talking to an intelligent dominatrix? Or other members of the BDSM community who also have rape fantasies? I'm not suggesting you necessarily act out a rape fantasy with someone who appreciates it (as your boyfriend does not). But maybe, talking to someone who is similarly wired, you might be able to get your head around how your erotic personality has been affected by your horrible experience.
posted by musofire at 2:30 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you have no problem having an orgasm while masturbating, what about mutual masturbation? Rather than try to make sex work, make what works more like sex?
posted by fatbird at 2:54 PM on March 26, 2009

I'm not sure why eisenkr has a hate on for EMDR specifically, but it has worked for a lot of people who've gone through what you've gone through. Which is not to say to say there aren't incompetant EMDR therapists, just like any other therapy style, so ask around and interview a few.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:54 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Therapists in NYC who take Oxford.
posted by sweetkid at 4:35 PM on March 26, 2009

small_ruminant, I think eisenkr was fairly clear & explicit about why he has a hate on for EMDR. Try rereading his post.

OP, I'm so sorry for the horrific pain you've experienced, and of course it's going to take time to work through the issues. Some posts in this thread sound like, "Oh, chicks often have problems coming, so it's no big deal."

Not being able to have orgasms is a big deal. Not feeling at ease, loved, and satisfied in your sex life with your lover is a big deal. Not getting everything you want, and can possibly get, from your therapist, is a big deal.

Look for a new therapist. If a medicine, or a PT exercise, wasn't doing what it ought, you wouldn't think twice about trying something else.

Sounds like you are trying to work through this with your lover, constructively (role-playing your fantasies, etc), but it's a touchy issue (naturally). Glad you have someone who can be that open & caring with you.

Best of luck, lady. Time & effort are needed for your journey.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:39 PM on March 26, 2009

IAmBroom, you're right, he was clear. But the studies he refers to are also controversial. There almost isn't a style of therapy that someone hasn't "debunked," so it seemed weird that he'd target EMDR specifically. I know a few people for whom it's been amazingly beneficial, and I know OF a lot more (friends of friends, etc) who've also used it to good effect, though those were vets and therefore in a slightly different boat than the OP.

EMDR's wikipedia page talks about its pros and cons. I haven't read all their references but it seems to cover the controversy pretty well.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:46 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm guessing the "rapid eye movement therapy" referenced above is what's sometimes called "rapid eye therapy"... which is really just EMDR with a little bit of hypnosis thrown in.

>While hypnosis may indeed work for some, I would caution against using it for something so pivotal in your life. You want to be able to make logical, deliberate decisions regarding this

EMDR and hypnosis would probably both be good options here... precisely because the feelings you're experiencing aren't "rational". You already know that you want to feel different, and experience different results; sometimes, in order to do that, it's best to get the conscious mind out of the way.

The suggestion given above about talking with a dominatrix would make sense, if you were primarily interested in letting go of the guilt feelings, and finding a context and supportive community for your present erotic wiring.

What's noteworthy, though, is that your present wiring is not your natural, organic, authentic wiring; it was something literally forced on you. Your present programs are *not* you-- they were someone else's, and were foisted on you. And because that's the case, if you work with a competent hypnotherapist, you can probably reconnect to an earlier set of beliefs and imprints, and feel safe learning to again enjoy the kinds of romantic feelings-- and romantically-tinged erotic responses-- that really do belong to you.

Best of luck.
posted by darth_tedious at 5:04 PM on March 26, 2009

My own layman opinion is that hypnosis is a powerful therapeutic approach. However, it doesn't take much in the way of training to go out and sell one's services as a hypnotist. I'm generally not one to focus on certifications and membership in professional associations, but in this instance it would be prudent to look for a professional. You ain't getting rid of warts here. Your insurance is also much more likely to cover the costs of therapy from someone with a Masters or better. Go to the Milton Erickson Foundation and look at their Institutes and Links pages. If you don't find someone near you, send them an email.

Best wishes.
posted by BigSky at 6:35 AM on March 27, 2009

Wow, thank you so much for sharing that.
I know you might not want to hear this, but I think you should speak with a councilor about your rape. Because I think part of the reason these thoughts are coming up during sex may be due to unresolved sexual issues.
Now, there is nothing wrong with that! You had a traumatic event occur to you it makes sense that when you have sex it will bring it up.
Now that being said, rape fantasies are healthy, lots of people get off on them. But when it becomes the only thing that can get you off and considering your past you need to start thinking about the reasoning
posted by Ekidnagrrl17 at 7:59 PM on March 27, 2009

Ekidnagrrl17, you apparently missed that the OP is seeing a therapist.

And, small_ruminant, thanks for clarifying your objections.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:36 PM on March 27, 2009

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