How do I stop masturbating to violent images?
July 22, 2012 7:40 AM   Subscribe

I am a woman who is deeply ashamed of what sexually excites me and need help or resources in learning to stop my porn/masturbation problem.

Please note: That I have been involved with BDSM and did not find it helpful but in no way believe people into BDSM deserve to feel shame or regret. It is just not for me. I would like that not to taint the responses I get.

I experienced an extremely sadistic rape in my early years and my brain is now wired to not be able to experience orgasm unless I am being hurt by others (burnt/choked/punched - working it out in context of a BDSM relationship did not help as I knew there were safeguards and found the whole thing laughable compared to what I went through) or reading extreme violent rape erotica where I picture what is happening as happening to me.

I am in therapy and dealing with the PTSD and the trauma and find that masturbating to violent images is harming my recovery. I am no longer using it for pleasure but as a substitute for self-harm and end up feeling worse after cumming. It is leading me to utterly loathe myself every time I do it and make me think I am no better than the men who hurt me.

I would like to stop masturbating to violent porn but do not know how to go about it. Everything I look to online refers to men (apparently women can only have sex addiction where they fall in love 100x times), or is highly religious. I am, for lack of a better word, agnostic and can't stomach that. I also live in a teeny tiny town and there are no groups that I could go to.

I guess what I am asking for is tips on getting through the cravings to hurt myself this way. I have told my therapist about this and we are discussing it but he has no experience with actual porn/masturbation problems (or rather no resources he can offer).

Throwaway e-mail: shameandregret@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was raped as a kid. My issues weren't as extreme as you are describing but I found my way out of a similar mental space.

Previous remarks by me where I talk about the importance of emotional attachment.

I have thought a lot about this type of issue. Like you, BDSM did nothing for me. I also viewed it as kind of a joke. I have come to believe that fetishism, which is basically what you are responding to, is about getting a strong emotional reaction in the abscence of emotional intimacy. For me, learning to develop emotional attachment and intimacy with another person was the main crux of moving on.

I will send you a link to a blog post that might explain it better. If you want to talk more, we can do it via email. I suspect a lot of what worked to help me move on would get my post deleted. :-)
posted by Michele in California at 8:02 AM on July 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Have you thought about seeing a sex therapist in addition to your other therapy? I don't have any specific advice for your situation but it seems to be like having someone to talk to specifically about sex, what arouses you, etc - might help.

There are some who will work with you online (over Skype or on the phone), maybe try that? I'm sorry I can't be more helpful.
posted by blue_bicycle at 8:04 AM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]




There was a theory I read, in a Nancy Friday book I think, where she said that a woman's rape fantasy is (of course) not about wanting to be raped, but about absolving herself of responsibility for the act of sex. Women being taught that nice girls don't do it or like it, so she feels she can't, but if the sex is not her choice it's not her fault, so she can let go of the rules and enjoy it.
Similarly, in some cases, a pain/punishment fetish could be about punishing yourself for the sex, which then frees you to enjoy it because you've "paid" for it morally. Especially with a history like yours, if your body came up with a sexual response during your ordeal, it's possible you have great guilt over "enjoying"* it, which has led to a need to punish yourself as "payment" for pleasure.
IF this is so for you, maybe working on the angle of de-shaming sexual pleasure could help.

* In quotes because I've known women who thought that because their natural lubrication kicked in during a rape, they must have been enjoying it, cue tremendous conflicted ideas and emotion around the notion of "enjoyment." But sometimes your body just follows its nerve endings instead of your mind.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:31 AM on July 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


As you're seeing it as a form of self-harm, you might look into (or ask your therapist to look into) the distress tolerance and self-harm avoidance aspects of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:56 AM on July 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's a difficult one and I'm sorry that you find yourself in this position. I'm not sure that I'm remotely qualified to offer advice here (I'm glad to hear that you've got a professional to talk to, even if this isn't really his specialty either – at least he hopefully will be able to help you figure out when some tactic is helping or hurting) but I've taken a shot at it. Please take it as an earnest attempt to help and feel absolutely free to pick and choose from my advice. If there's anything here that turns out to be helpful, then I'm glad of that.

There turned out to be a lot (though hardly all) about BDSM in here that I hope might give you fresh perspective on that facet of the issue, but honestly what I wrote is meant to be about fostering self-love and self-acceptance, and of learning to get past your fear and shame over your fantasies so that, in looking at them squarely and without shame, you can control and redirect them in ways that are healthier for you. If you want to post responses or replies feel free to MeMail me or Email me at Syriloth@Gmail.com, or of course use the contact form to have a mod post a response for you. If you want to have a dialogue with me about this, feel free to Email me for that as well. Again, I'm sure I'm not qualified but I'm coming from a place of love and if you want a sympathetic ear then I have two.

OK. For starters, I would not expect that you're going to be able to simply suppress or sublimate your sex drive to the point where it no longer bothers you. You might be able to repress yourself for a while, but it will probably break through eventually, leaving you feeling worse than ever. So I think what you need to be trying to do is retrain or redirect it toward things that you find more acceptable to yourself, and learning to accept and love the totality of yourself, including the parts that you can't change or haven't yet been able to change. (In conjunction with your therapy to address the trauma of your rape, of course.)

You don't describe in detail what types of imagery you currently turn to in pornography and in your fantasies, but since you said you found the BDSM experience "laughable" I'm assuming that you're looking beyond places like Kink.com and seeking out some of the darker, more dubiously-legal pornography out there on the Internet. If that's the case then I agree you need to find a way to stop that, as there are some icky things out there on the Net that are pretty traumatizing just to see. As to your fantasies, well, I'd actually be surprised if what goes on in your head is totally beyond the pale (I've met BDSM practitioners with some pretty rough fantasies) but it's OK for it to bother you if that's what it's doing. You're obviously coming from a very dark place here, and it's understandable that you would be bothered.

I suggest a three-pronged approach, and it's not one that is probably going to be easy or a short-term fix, but it might eventually put you on a path where you might be able to reach some kind of equilibrium with your demons and exercise them in a way that is safe and non-traumatizing for you.

The simplest one (though not easy, none of this will be easy I'm afraid) is going to be adjusting the kind of porn that you consume. You need to gradually ratchet down the intensity of the porn that you look at, to where you're viewing things that are just rough enough to get you off, rather than as rough as you would normally seek out. (If you have a hoard of "bad" porn on your hard drive, delete it. Permanently.) Start perhaps by seeking out legit BDSM productions (the aforementioned Kink.com empire is the gold standard for this – their stuff is ethically made, well-produced, features people who are often genuinely into what's happening rather than simply actors, comes in lots of different flavors of kink, etc) and then gradually work your way down to where you're watching things that you're comfortable being turned on by.

This will require some measure of self-control and will probably be less-than-totally-satisfying in some ways (and therefore an unstable solution in and of itself) but will provide you with some kind of outlet and give you practice in being turned on by gentler, more consensual sex (which may still be quite rough and have role-play elements of nonconsent, if you want that and are OK with it) which will hopefully serve you in good stead later.

Tackling your internal fantasies will be more difficult. I suspect that the crux of the matter will be one of learning to love and accept yourself – it's a cliché, but it's also at the core of many of these sorts of problems. If you want to change an ingrained way of thinking, doing it from a place of shame and self-loathing is never in my experience an effective way to do it. You need to make time for working on that outside of when you are having your fantasies. Hopefully your therapist is working with you here, but I suggest (and I am not a therapist, just someone who deals with and has dealt with shame and self-loathing issues himself) making time to specifically tell yourself, out loud and perhaps in front of a mirror, that you are a good person, that you are worthy of love, that you deserve good things.

Build yourself up. I know the technique sounds incredibly cheesy and embarrassing (and it is a bit, so just do it in private!) but I've always found it to be surprisingly effective. Remind yourself that you don't have to do anything special to deserve love – every human being is deserving of love, no matter how low. Talk up your good points, get a little mantra going, something that you can repeat to yourself in your head or under your breath when you're having a hard time. I bet your therapist can be very helpful in developing techniques for you to combat the feelings of shame and self-loathing that are hurting you, as well.

I suspect that if you can make some progress at tackling the underlying emotional issues then you will come to both see your fantasies in a different light (after all, many people – including rape survivors – have rape fantasies and are mostly or completely OK with them, and those fantasies are OK to have as long as they don't end up actually hurting anyone [including the person having them].) and also will come to have more control over them and will be better able to direct them toward avenues that you are OK with and which don't cause you guilt and shame. You also need to teach yourself to release that guilt when it happens – easier said than done, I know – and to not hate yourself for the things that go on in your head. What is happening is a product of your mind trying to process some terrible things that happened to you and which were not your fault, and just because you have fantasies that incorporate elements from your rape doesn't mean you're a terrible person or that you want to be raped or rape others. You need to learn to remind yourself of this, because only by telling yourself this and by intentionally caring for yourself when you're feeling bad and ashamed can you eventually retrain yourself to feel less bad.

Third, and maybe you're not ready for this yet and maybe you won't be for a long time or never will be, but you need to eventually find a loving and understanding (and probably kinky) partner who is willing to work with you on this stuff, help indulge you where it's helpful, support you when you're feeling bad, help you reframe your perspective, etc. I don't mean that you should look for someone who you can be totally dependent on emotionally, of course – just that you should seek out partners who are off on the empathetic/caring/thoughtful/GGG end of the spectrum, and who in the context of a rich, solid, give-and-take relationship are willing to be there for you and to try and understand and eventually help you come to grips with your issues.

Perhaps you will find that elements of BDSM eventually do become part of your life. I can certainly say that the things you mentioned above – burning, choking, punching – can absolutely be a part of a healthy BDSM experience, albeit they are pretty advanced and should be approached with a measure of caution and a deep sense of responsibility for the emotional and physical well-being of all involved. They can be done though, and an experienced and responsible top could provide you a safe place to work on those desires, if you can find such a top. I wouldn't let just anyone do that stuff to me, but I've known people who I would. I do some of that stuff myself, but carefully and on the lighter end of what's possible.

I know you've tried this route before and it didn't work for you, but I might suggest that you try again, with an understanding that the parts of BDSM you are seeking out are some of the rougher and more advanced parts of that world, and that you probably won't get to a place where you can explore them fully until you've spent some time there. BDSM is broad and varied, and while I find it unsurprising that a lot of it seems silly and lame and un-useful to you, I would also suggest that if you take a deeper look you might find things there that are more like what you're looking for.

If you do decide to give BDSM another chance, I would look to your local kink community (if you have one) where I bet you will find other people (not everyone, but some people) who have backgrounds that are in some ways similar to your own and who will be able to lend an understanding ear and help you find ways to work toward your goals. I think honestly that at first the BDSM community would have more to offer you than BDSM itself. Look to it as a place where you might make friends who you can talk to candidly about your issues, and where you might eventually find someone who was willing and able to work with you on exploring, channeling, redirecting, and making emotionally safe the parts of your sexuality that are dangerous and frightening to you. This won't come quickly (none of this is going to come quickly) but I suspect that if you are lucky enough to have a good community nearby and are willing to go into it with the specific intent of exploring your sexuality rather than simply exploring BDSM in general (much of which probably will never do anything for you) then you might be able to find benefit there.

OK. I'm sorry for going on and on about BDSM for so much of this answer – I really didn't intend to – but what it comes down to is that I don't know that you really can "cure" yourself of the kind of fantasies that you are having, and you need to look instead to find ways to control them and make them safe for you and make yourself not feel bad about having them. The BDSM world is the best place I know of for that, aside from your therapist's office of course. I would second the advice above that you consider looking for a more specialized therapist – perhaps ask your current one if they can give you a reference – and talk to someone who is understanding and nonjudgmental and who also has specific training and experience in the types of issues that you are wrestling with. I wish you all the best and hope that you can find a path toward self-love and acceptance and away from self-hatred and shame. Everybody deserves to love themselves. Nobody should live with shame and guilt for things that were not their fault. You deserve better than what you are giving yourself. Again, if you want to contact me for any reason please feel free to do so.
posted by Scientist at 9:02 AM on July 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Attacking your desires, IMO, is the wrong direction. Attack your shame and self-hatred first.
posted by RedEmma at 9:23 AM on July 22, 2012 [14 favorites]


I think that the people who recommend BDSM play as a way of addressing these feelings are overlooking your stated wish to change your patterns of sexual excitement and arousal. That is an entirely valid wish on your part.

Something to think about might be adopting some techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and modifying them to fit your situation. There is a very useful book called The Habit Change Workbook, which although it doesn't specifically address porn and masturbation habits, discusses many techniques that could be used to address that.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:26 AM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


RedEmma makes an excellent point about the central issue really being your trauma and the ways it's affected your sense of self. But presumably that's what you're working on with your therapist? You can do pattern-changing work on your own at the same time you're doing self-exploration work with your therapist.

You described the porn and masturbation as feeling like self harm to you. A book particularly about addressing self-harming behaviors from a cognitive behavioral perspective is Freedom from Self-Harm by Gratz and Chapman. Again, this doesn't include the specific behaviors you're trying to change, but perhaps the techniques described might be useful to you.

Don't let anyone try to shame you out of wanting to make these changes. You are allowed not to want to respond to enactments of sexual violence if you find that makes you unhappy. It isn't prudish or repressed of you to want to change your own arousal and response patterns; you get to set your own sexual boundaries for yourself.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:37 AM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sidhedevil, you are absolutely right and I hope that my answer is not taken as dismissive of that desire. My answer was intended to give advice toward putting the OP in a better place to control and modify her desires by working on self-acceptance and on creating safer outlets for exploring them. I think it's spot on that CBT techniques are appropriate here both for changing her patterns of arousal and response and for coming to accept and love the parts of her sexuality that will be difficult or impossible to change.

I think it is important to work from both ends of the problem, and that by doing so she may achieve synergistic effects. It was my feeling that despite her underwhelming earlier experiences BDSM could be a valuable part of that, if the OP came at it from the right perspective. It is also OK if she doesn't want to try that again, I was just trying to gently suggest that she might reconsider it as possibly having a positive role to play alongside other equally important techniques.

Now, I don't want to derail this question so I will bow out from here. I simply wanted to offer clarification on my perspective and how I meant my answer to be read. It is absolutely valid for the OP to want to adjust her sexuality, and I hope I gave some advice that might help make that possible, but it is also important to keep in mind that making those kinds of adjustments is a difficult and long-term process, and is not always possible to do 100% successfully, and that it might therefore be important to also look at the problem from the perspective of "accepting the things I can't change" as well as "changing the things that I can".
posted by Scientist at 10:01 AM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your rape experience has probably resulted in some hard rewiring that is going to be very difficult to fix with therapy alone.

Getting over this is not easy under the best of circumstances, but you might want to consider a more biological approach.

The propanolol treatment described above is not long-term -- it's supervised and episodic, and it looks promising, though you'd need to find someone qualified to administer it.
posted by rhombus at 10:36 AM on July 22, 2012


My exhusband was like this due to torture in police custody when he was younger. His pleasure/pain wiring got all mixed up. He had far more problems than just this and none of your self awareness and willingness to work your way through your ordeal. A long safe holding hug from me and I recommend what RedEmma said:

Attacking your desires, IMO, is the wrong direction. Attack your shame and self-hatred first.

You are turning this into a cycle of self hatred and shame by wanting to change a part of yourself that you dislike. Work on the "bad feelings" first and I suspect that the rest will follow. You do say however you recognize how this behaviour is holding back your healing - can you just stop masturbating for a while? Work on the mental and emotional health first, the mind is our biggest sexual organ. Treat your self abstinence as part of the tools toward healing, just like the willpower required to stop smoking or drinking.

And all my good wishes to you.
posted by infini at 10:51 AM on July 22, 2012


Oo-kay. You are NOT alone. There are a lot of people who feel mighty bad guilt about sex, a lot of people who fantasize about stuff that is pure nightmare fuel and a lot of people who feel guilty about being turned on by what turns them on.

That said, not being unique doesn't mean you are not important. You are important and your problem is important. Getting happy and comfortable in your skin and in your sexuality is worthwhile and possible and might even turn out to be a fun journey.

Where I see the problem here is that you feel guilt and want to self harm, and that you have a link between your guilt and your sexual arousal. The problem is perhaps caused by your self-loathing and not by what you fantasize, however what you fantasize reminds you of your self-loathing, and the release of orgasm ends up making you feel not better, but throws you into the pit of self loathing. Right?

It's not what you are fantasizing that causes harm. You might for example feel an equal horrified self loathing if you fantasized about having sex with a guy you weren't married to, if you came from a culture that considered women who had sex with men other than their husband filthy, sick, degenerate people. However in this culture most people recoil in disgust at the nightmare fuel that works for you, so it is easy to believe that what turns you on is justification for the self loathing. It isn't. There are guys who totally loathe themselves for wanting to be submissive in sex because it's not masculine and people who loathe themselves for wanting to have sex with someone of their same gender. Depending on your cultural beliefs these people have wholesome fantasies or are very sick, mentally ill people or people who are so viciously discriminated that they have turned the sickness of their society inward and blame themselves.

Your fantasies are not un-natural or even necessarily born of your traumatic past, although your past has become interwoven with them. In many primitive tribal cultures sexually torturing people from an enemy tribe is considered inventive and amusing and perfectly sane and well balanced, and you get things like people boasting that "Our women are perfect ass-kicking bitches, you would not believe what they did to that guy we captured."

Similarly a lot of people have fantasies that link annihilation and sex with being in the hands of a bad other. I remember reading about the astonishment of a freudian psycho-analyst who discovered that an entire series of his patients had developed the same fantasy independently. In the fantasy they were a prisoner with a lot of people similar to themselves, and were forced to watch the people first in line being killed, mutilated and/or tortured. Finally it was their turn and their masturbatory orgasm occured either at the moment of death, castration or irrevocable fatal damage.

All these patients did not develop that fantasy purely as a result of previous sexual trauma. It seems to have bobbed up to the surface independantly, whether or not they had a past history where they had been harmed. So rather than address the nature of your fantasies, I think you would make more progress to happiness if you approach your pattern of self-loathing and guilt.

It may be ruining your sex life, but it is probably better for you to have a habit of maturbating for a habit of self harm. I think you will do less harm to yourself, body and psychology if you are fantasizing knives being drawn through your flesh than if you are actually using a knife point on yourself. If I read your question correctly you are saying that you used to self-harm and now you have progressed to a place where you don't. (as often?) In that case you are making progress, and the situation you are in is actually better than where you were.

So the next step is to try to find more and better ways to deal with your self loathing. I don't know what works here. I do understand that anger turned inward is not rare, and there are resources out there, so I'd look at those resources and try to find out CBT methods of channeling anger safely and in a healthy way.

I don't believe we can much change what turns us on by downscaling the fantasies and substituting something more vanilla and habituating to the more vanilla fantasies. Therapy to cure the gay doesn't work, so I don't think trying to ease yourself out of what turns you on this way is going to be effective. However I do understand that as people change psychologically what they like sexually can change - someone who initially is turned on by fantasies of sex with strangers may switch to fantasies about sex with a dream partner after they arrive at a stage in life where they are ready for a permanent relationship. Similarly once you stop being as angry and disgusted at yourself you may be turned on by things that you would consider quite vanilla, at the moment. Or you may not.

Even so you might be able to come up with ways that you can orgasm without getting so overwhelmed by guilt. It's possible that firm and gentle self talk before and after masturbation might help: "God does not mind if I masturbate! God is loving and created my sexuality!" sort of thing.

It's also possible that working on your identity might help. You say that your arrousal only comes from a fantasy of you being horrible abused. How about if you change the identity of the you? For example what would happen if you fantasized about you being magically in the body of one of your rapists and his same psycho friends who attacked you attack him the way they attacked you? That way you can simultaneously punish your rapist and go through the experience of being hurt. Consider that you might manage to find a fantasy that was even hotter than the ones you currently have, but which made you feel less self loathing. Not that I expect the example I provided here to be just that but believe it or not, the more you understand your own sexual fantasy and accept it and work with it, the more likely things are to go in that direction, towards easier arrousal and less negative feelings.

Another thing you might try is transitioning from the sex fantasy into another one. Say the fantasy that leads to your orgasm involves you being left pretty much dead. Can you continue from there immediately after your orgasm, fantasizing about the cops walking in and arresting the guys that did it, and you getting rushed to hospital and looked after kindly and with horror and fierce protectiveness? You could perhaps picture the cops beating the crap out of your rapists with much humiliation being applied to the fuckers, while alternately imagining the nurse at the hospital brushing the hair gently back from your forehead.

One question I have is how much is guilt linked to your arrousal? In your fantasies do you deserve what is done to you? Is the guilt and shame a stronger stimulus than the abuse? Would you get more aroused at the idea of people knowing how "sick" you are and condeming you, with a single abrupt act of abuse done to you, than you would picturing yourself as totally innocent, unblamed by everyone, including your assailants, but still subjected to a whole series of abusive acts? If guilt is a necessary part of your arrousal it's quite a perplexing problem.

Hopefully I was not too pedantic or off-the subject and this helps you think about your difficulty in positive ways. If it did and if you want to talk more feel free to PM me. I have some familiarity with the subject of dark fantasies and paraphilias and would be glad to listen, or to talk more.
posted by Jane the Brown at 11:05 AM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I had some exposure to violent sexual materials at a very young age, and have some of the same kinds of issues you do with regard to what I find stimulating (this is very, very far from the top of the list of things I deal with.) I've found that getting treatment for depression and anxiety has helped me have significantly fewer difficulties controlling this particular kind of self-defeating coping mechanism.

But, in your case, I think attacking this from the POV of this as a self-harm issue may be the fastest way to get some relief. The DBT concept of behavior chain analysis is something you could use today, for example, to review the most recent "incident" of this behavior. The DBT Self Help site is full of similar kinds of tools.

Longer-term, you might want to read this page and the articles linked here. You will probably want to get treatment from a therapist who specializes in sexual issues. Depending on how much this has impacted your day-to-day life and ability to have regular healthy relationships, you may even want to consider a short-term residential or partial hospitalization program (random example.)

(If it turns out you hate DBT, don't panic. Some of us - including me, personally - really despise it, but it's tremendously helpful for many of the people who try it. There are LOTS of other avenues to explore; this is one that seems like it may be helpful for you, based on what you said here.)
posted by Fee Phi Faux Phumb I Smell t'Socks o' a Puppetman! at 11:30 AM on July 22, 2012


Mod note: From the OP:
Thanks for all your replies. It is nice that people sort of understand me.

What I am struggling with a lot is that in therapy simply talking about what happened in detail is causing me to be sexually aroused which makes it quite distressing. I did become aroused and orgasm during the attack so all of this is mixed up with that. As well the attack was my first time experience with any sort of sexual acts. I never even masturbated before that.

I still self-harm but honestly the masturbating to violent words or fantasies is making me feel worse than when I try to break my arms. Obviously I am working on self-harm in therapy and discussing ways to distract myself and learn to tolerate distress.

It is just lately that I've really ramped up the masturbating probably because for the first time I am talking about what happened in detail. That amps up my sexual arousal which amps up my hurting myself sexually.

I've tried not masturbating but can never seem to last more than two days. And then, of course, I feel worse. To the point of where I touch myself to these words/images I feel like ending it all. (NOTE: NOT ACTUALLY SUICIDAL. JUST A FEELING. MY THERAPIST KNOWS).

I do take meds for PTSD but they only really help with the nightmares (again, which are extremely violent and I wake up occasionally orgasming because of them).

I don't know if this update helps. I am not sure what I am trying to say but I wanted to say thank you for your kind non-judgmental responses.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:45 AM on July 22, 2012


It's possible that your sexual fetish is incidental to your desires and in fact the damage is because the fetish forces you to think about the traumatic experience you also had. Nobody violently raped me, and my sexual set point is on the spectrum of ghastly. After a bad experience with harassment at work, long after I figured out my kinks, I went through about a month of feeling icky when I tried to think about what is otherwise a happy thing for me.

Sexuality can evolve a bit- there's plenty of cases of self identifying straights or gays finding an exception to their assumed pattern, and personally I've experienced and ebb and flow in my turn ons- I discovered that actually male homosexuality -could- work for me basically after going through some shifting in my perception of gender, went from trying switching more on the bottoming side to realizing that dominance was more my cup of tea if I could reject the dominatrix baggage, etc... Under pinning these changes, and the shift in my tastes in porn and my own porn writing (and the sort of fictional relationship dynamics I idealized in my non-porn), was finding things that worked for me even better but built on existing aspects of my self.

BDSM includes such a broad range of activity, that if what you currently want sexually is a violent assault and your partner wants to call you 'little one' and have you rub his feet in between light spanking, you're going to find it irritating. Indeed, hell, even a supportive partner who tries to recreate your script for you may not work if part of what you're looking for is the abject despair of broken control. I can't say I know it will work, but trying to get away from the PTSD aspect of your fetishes may mean trying to re-frame the story/emotions around according to what suits you better. So let's say you're reading a porn story about a woman who is sexually tortured, also try thinking about the ramifications after and add happier aspects like how she managed to see the culprit dead or neutralized, how she recovered, and otherwise think about the aspects that would make things better without removing the initial awful
posted by Phalene at 12:36 PM on July 22, 2012


Getting lubricated while being raped is a very important way of preventing potentially severe injuries that might otherwise result, and the royal road to lubrication is arousal.

The ability to get aroused using rape fantasies and by rape itself, in a society in which rape is as common as it is, and as unavoidable, is a sign of good health and adjustment, not the opposite, and I don't think it would be wise to extirpate that aspect of your sexuality even if you could (and I doubt that you could-- or that anyone who had your life experiences could, or should).

I suggest focusing on trying merely to extend your desires to acts that are consensual, and accepting your rape fantasies and your responses to your memory of being raped as aspects of yourself that you can be not only not ashamed of, but grateful for.
posted by jamjam at 12:50 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The human mind has the infinite capability to endure and survive. After that, one must begin to thrive.
posted by infini at 12:59 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, I believed that fetishes were hardwired, but now I'm not so sure.

I had two fetishes since forever, that I feel no shame for having, but have made relationships more difficult and complicated than they had to be. (Nevertheless, I have repeatedly been able to negotiate them and have good relationships.)

In any case, now they are... disrupted, up in the air, for lack of a better sense of what's going on. I'm still sorting this out, YMMV. For example, I fantasized about sadistic mind control. Now the sadistic part seems to not do anything for me. I want the person in my fantasy to be happy. I realized that I want the other person to be hurting because I believe(d) that I am a bad person, and if she is hurting then she is an unwilling participant and she is absolved of all responsibility and she gets to stay good. (How I realized this is below.)

(Note that I didn't judge my fetish at all and I have fulfilling relationships. Having this fetish at least temporarily disrupted was accidental, and has been very disconcerting--it's a loss of a source of pleasure and fulfillment. But it's also been fascinating, because I didn't think that could happen, and I have other sources of pleasure and fulfillment.)

So, background reading:

http://www.amazon.com/Arousal-Secret-Logic-Sexual-Fantasies/dp/0312302428/

The book above is still not perfect, but it's the only one that resonates with me at all regarding how fetishes actually work. And I've read a lot of books about this.

Second, how did I realize this? What actually reached in and shook things up? Working with this book, on my own:

http://www.amazon.com/Self-Therapy-Step-By-Step-Wholeness-Cutting-Edge-Psychotherapy/dp/0984392777/

The book above has the potential for the most consistent depth work I have ever personally encountered. No therapist and no therapy protocol has had results for me like I've gotten from this book. YMMV.

Basically how it works, is you negotiate agreements with internal "protectors" to temporarily step aside so you can work with "exiles." Protectors initiate (problematic) behaviors/reactions/needs/desires/distractions to get your needs met and to protect you from feeling pain. Exiles hold intolerable belief/feelings/pain. Once you have access to the Exile you work with it to accept it, nurture it, heal it, integrate it, and so forth. You can treat it as a metaphor for primed patterns of neural activation or you can work it as if you literally have parts of self that you can talk to. But, in any case, it's incredibly powerful and flexible. You give intelligence and voice to conflicting parts of self and you work with all parts as a compassionate adult until everyone is on board and happy. And things change. A lot. YMMV.

(Sorry for tortured text. Typing on a bus. I really think this could help you. IANAD, etc.)
posted by zeek321 at 1:03 PM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


In response to your update: Could you masturbate with a vibrator to try to resch orgasm without hurting yourself? That might be a step in the right direction.

Also, when I was in therapy, I kept a journal and shared that with my therapist. It meant that strong initial emotional response occurred in private and helped put some safe distance in the sharing response.

I will suggest the main issue is that you don't know anything else more emotionally powerful or even equally emotionally powerful. Orgasm is part emotional reaction, part physical reaction. Waking up with orgasms from nightmares strongly suggests the emotional component is by far the stronger factor here. On the upside, that emotional orientation seems to be the norm for a woman.

It is possible to make new associations. I worked on that in part by writing my own erotica and trying to find different endings or outcomes.
posted by Michele in California at 1:31 PM on July 22, 2012


I really want to give some advice, or at least, offer some solidarity as someone who's felt similarly in the past, but first, I agree with those who are suggesting you see a qualified sex therapist.

You're experiencing something that's actually not too outside the realm of normal and any experienced sex therapist should be able to at least identify useful resources for you. I understand that it might be painful for you to talk about, having read your update, but I do think it would be helpful in the long run. And remember - you get to decide what to talk about in therapy. There's no reason you should have to go into detail about the rape or your fantasies. For instance, my therapist knew that, when we started working together, I was really ashamed of my fantasies (more on that in a sec) and we spent a lot of time working on this, but I never actually told her exactly what my fantasies were (beyond the general themes). It wasn't necessary.

Like phalene, I have had sexual fantasies and fetishes over the years that bordered on the ghastly, waxing and waning in their intensity. I was also not raped. Given that this happened when you had not yet began exploring your own sexuality, I really do think it's possible that you would have been aroused by similar things either way. Of course, it's impossible to know either way, but I wonder if you might feel less self-loathing about it if you didn't see it as a product of rape?

Anyway, this is not advice, just my own story, but hopefully it's helpful: I had a great deal of self-loathing about my own fantasies for a very long time. I just felt like an awful person for being turned on by such things, and felt really fucked-up about the whole thing. And then one day, I just got tired of feeling shitty about it and trying to be aroused by "healthy" things, and just decided to stop fighting it. That's when I started seeing my therapist, which was very helpful (she uses a variation on DBT, incidentally, and I agree that it's helpful for things like this).

And damn, if that didn't make everything else just a little bit easier. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't just like I snapped my fingers and instantly felt better. It's been a process, and it's something I'm still working on. And the interesting thing is that my fantasies got a bit less extreme as well.

I hope this doesn't sound too glib. My experience was very different from yours and I know it's not as easy as just deciding to feel better. But for me at least, deciding to work on accepting myself and what turned me on was so much more effective than trying to change it. It reminds me of something I read years ago about how it's impossible to change something when you're gripping it so hard it can't move.

Oh, and as for the BDSM thing - I really was very much not into BDSM for the longest time too, for similar reasons. Once I decided to work on accepting myself, I started exploring more and found things in the BDSM umbrella that turned me on and have become pretty central to my sexual identity. This might happen to you as well, or it might not. But as someone said above, sexuality evolves and is fluid.

Good luck.
posted by the essence of class and fanciness at 5:20 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nthing some of the above... I was never raped and a lot of my fantasizes and preferred erotica involve receiving pain. However, I generally accept it and don't feel shame. The only thing I've ever felt badly about was masturbating to some porn that my gut feeling said involved real abuse. It had a young looking girl and her facial expressions were not faked. I had emotional trouble with that (but it still turned me on). I solved that by generally not looking at porn like that anymore. I did sit with those thoughts and ponder them for a while and still do.

Just to say -- this doesn't necessarily have to do with your rape. A lot of normal and healthy people have sexuality that is mixed up with abuse. I am generally turned on by rape porn. One step in the right direction might be accepting your sexuality and getting away from the shame, just a little bit.

Something that helped me immensely, as mentioned above, has been more strongly connecting with people in a real and intimate way. It's still the case that I like receiving pain and such, but a lot of my fantasies nowadays involve people I like and trust giving it to me, and people who I actually love, rather than porn. I think this has been a really positive change.

Connecting with people has also broadened what turns me on, and also little by little, I've noticed that I need fewer of the really violent and humiliating elements and that I am turned on by more vanilla ones. However, I couldn't have gotten to that without at least accepting myself enough to go out exploring with people who turn me on to begin with (rather than trying to fit into a normal sexuality mold from the start and being bored).

I guess the summary is - you're pretty unlikely to change your sexuality 100%, whole hog, just because you don't like it. Some self acceptance might help move you in a positive direction.

And, I'm one example of someone who likes violence and humiliation in my sexuality, but I am completely happy with my sexuality, and I think of it as loving and safe (if done appropriately), and something I hope to explore and have fun, love, and connection with, for my whole life. I connect with real people in close and loving relationships. I consider myself sexually healthy. I think it's possible for you to feel the same way, and (example: me) it is not mutually exclusive with violent fantasies. So, just one person's opinion that the violence part is not necessarily the problem here. Whereas, the self loathing, shame, and fear might be.

From your post, living in a tiny town might be the problem here. In a bigger city, you would find a lot more examples that help you get away from the shame of it and toward accepting yourself. You said you tried "a" BDSM relationship. There are lots of different types. If I were you I'd give another chance to acceptance and exploration.
posted by kellybird at 8:53 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Somewhat out of left-field, but helpful to me in a situation that was adjacent to yours - is there anything non-violent that you find erotic? Because orgasms and masturbation are big self-soothers and maybe what would help is to have more of them in a way that leaves you feeling good. If you've already linked a particular place or technique to your current masturbation, maybe try in a different place/method with other stimuli - sexy writing (not fifty shades of grey! the internet is full of erotica - archiveofourown.org is a start), gentler porn, or just you, a glass of wine and a vibrator. Fill yourself up with kind-origin physical sensations so that you decrease the need for cruel-origin.

Also, ask your therapist to recommend a colleague to help for this. You can do phone counselling as well. Unless you are religious, I would look for a secular counselor for this.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:20 PM on July 22, 2012


L'Estrange Fruit, I've had several different lovers who fit your description of "needing to feel absolved of the guilt of having/enjoying sex".

One chanted "no, no, no" during the act - she was my first, and that was unsettling, to say the least, as she initiated.

Another could orgasm without violent/dominating/rape roleplay, but with difficulty; if I followed the roleplay, however, she went from 0-60 in nothing flat.

One had VERY specific guidelines I had to follow; anything outside those (kinky, totally dominating) rules was "wrong" - she was a kinky bisexual into submission, who spoke loudly against the morality of gay men having anal sex, and had to be "play-raped" without hearing any cuss words, because cussing was wrong. She was conflicted.

Two others would initiate up until the instant I responded, then shut down completely. The cycle repeated, as I'm not into seducing catatonic women. I finally realized with both of them that they needed me to take all the action, and thus the responsibility. One of them described her first sexual experience to me: it was plainly date rape by the "facts", but she described it as a very pleasurable experience (this was after we dated; we never consummated).

Anyway, OP, this sort of reaction isn't rare. There are others out there trapped in their emotional responses like this. Some of these women I described reacted angrily when I suggested that their responses might have something to do with deep-seated pain... so it doesn't surprise me that you can't find much literature on self-described female sexual addicts who have these sorts of reactions. Shame is a HUGE part of all of this; UNDESERVED shame.

You aren't weird; just reacting to overwhelming pain. It will take a lot of time.

I'm so very happy to hear you're working hard on these issues with a therapist, and using the help from modern medicine. Keep at it.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:17 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


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