One unlucky couple.
March 3, 2010 9:34 AM   Subscribe

I'm a woman, he's a man. We're in love. We were both sexually abused as children. I've overcome it, but he's still struggling. Can I help him? [NSFW]

Basically, my boyfriend admitted to me - during a very frank conversation where we got really drunk and told each other all our horrible secrets - that he was abused several times by an older boy when he was a kid. Because of this, even though he's in his late 20's, he's only recently come to terms with being a sexual person and exploring his sexuality. He's no longer scared of cuddling, oral sex, or masturbation (thanks to me and to previous relationships), but he says intercourse itself is still very scary. He said he wants us to have sex, but he's built it up in his head to be this huge, scary thing and it's leaving him paralyzed.

I was also abused when I was a child, but I've worked through most of my problems. I know what helped me a lot was to just have sex even though it was terrifying. After that, I realized sex was a lot less scary than I'd imagined, and after doing it some more, I got over my shame. It was hard at first, but it was worth it. I still feel like I'm discovering my sexuality, but now it's more fun than scary.

However, I'm not sure if this is the same thing that will work for my boyfriend. I want to be intimate with him as well, and I want to help him overcome this and for us to be happy together. He's seen a therapist and says that talking about it has really helped him, but at the same time, he's frustrated with himself for still being scared.

Can I help him? And if so, other than continuing to take our relationship slowly, what kinds of things should I do for him?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Hmm I think you just being there for him will be the best thing. You have been through the same thing he has.

Maybe start by taking a shower together. First time no sex or anything and then go from there.
posted by majortom1981 at 9:36 AM on March 3, 2010

If I were you I'd make a throwaway email account and contact the mods to see if they can post it here. Some people (not me) might have stories or advice they'd like to share with you privately.
posted by jejune at 9:42 AM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

I would highly recommend the book Abused Boys: The Neglected Victims of Sexual Abuse by Mic Hunter as a starting point. He addresses situations similar to what you describe, and some chapters are written specifically for someone like you. Mic Hunter is also a good person, I wrote him after reading his book and he responded in a thoughtful and helpful manner. It's often hyperbole to say "this book changed my life" but in this case, I believe it helped me immeasurably, as I hope it can for you and your boyfriend. The questions you pose here are answered and discussed in his book. While it was written about 20 years ago, I think it has aged well and is still relevant.
posted by kuppajava at 10:08 AM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

I usually recommend Staci Haines' book: A Survivor's Guide to Sex. It's been updated to a new edition, called Healing Sex.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:37 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're already helping him. The fact that he's told you speaks volumes about his trust. Just continue to do what you're doing, be patient and supportive. To be honest, there probably isn't much more you can do; he has to learn to be comfortable in his own skin before he can be comfortable in yours (I say this from experience).

Don't know if it will help at all but my email's in my profile if he wants to talk to someone who's been a rather similar situation.
posted by geckoinpdx at 12:34 PM on March 3, 2010

You say you've been through the same thing, but really it was probably not the same in many ways - apart from the level of abuse. Something like this affects people in different ways and although it sounds as if you want to do what you can to help him, I think to some extent it may be worth him considering professional help. There's only so much you can do to be supportive, before it may also begin to affect you also. It can be very difficult to form a relationship in this situation, best of luck.
posted by Peaches83 at 11:21 AM on March 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

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