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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

114

Ask a Lady, Special Edition: The Repercussions of Sexual Abuse

I have been with my fiance for 2 years and we are getting married in 2012. Last month she told me that she was severely (s.e.v.e.r.e.l.y.) sexually abused from age 7 to 12. Many many men, her father "renting her out," making gangbang movies, etc. After something like a 72 hour crying fit, I recovered enough to be in awe that she is so well adjusted. Amazing educational background and career, no history of risky sexual behavior, and a really really nice, warm person. The problem is that our sex life has always had some level of daddy daughter role playing theme because this is the only way she can orgasm. Since I found out the details of her past, I CANNOT DO THIS EVER AGAIN. I even went through a brief (an hour or so about a week after hearing the details) period of being enraged with her for basically having me unwittingly reenact her abuse. Since the revelation, we haven't had sex, though there's a lot of cuddling and touching. She knows I'm not sexually rejecting her or anything and she says that she can have sex without the daddy daughter thing but that she just won't orgasm.

I'm a mess.

She won't go to therapy with me because she had mandatory therapy until the age of 18 after her ring of abusers was discovered and prosecuted and the therapy itself was traumatizing to her. She's supportive of me going by myself and is actually spending way too much time making sure I'm handling the emotions of all this when it's definitely more about her than me. I'm confused and don't know what to do. I don't want her to never experience sexual pleasure when we're together, but I will not let her call me daddy again. Ever. She is willing to at least consider sex therapy to see if there are other ways for her to climax but she hasn't decided yet and doesn't want to think about it right now.

Do you have any advice? Not really sure what my question is. I just love this woman and I'm horrified and my heart is broken.

Oh. Gosh. My heart is breaking for both of you.

My heart is breaking for both of you and I think that you need to find a way to deal with this together or your relationship — your marriage — will be at risk. And that's not because — I want to make this absolutely, abundantly clear — it's not because the abuse has somehow "damaged" her. I in no way want anyone, including you, to think I'm implying that. Survivors of abuse, who do tremendously difficult and painful work every day, can and do go on to have healthy, thriving relationships of all kinds, including those with intimate partners. And clearly your fianceé has done a really amazing job of finding a way through life that balances the need for engagement with the world with the imperative of keeping herself safe. Who she is — how she is — where she is — is totally, completely fine. But she might not be ready to do some of the work that an ongoing intimate relationship requires, work that will revive trauma and refresh pain but that is an essential part of building a deep emotional, psychological, and sexual partnership with another person.

There's no judgment about that at all. It's not bad or wrong that she might not be ready. It could just be where she is right now. I think this is a really serious and important opportunity for you both to think about what your expectations are for your marriage. Right now it sounds like she is using the relationship as a shield — as a way to protect herself from having to get close to her trauma and, ultimately, in a way that eventually forestalls intimacy. That she seems to think it's workable to just never have another orgasm with you, like it's reasonable to expect to limit her capacity for pleasure for the foreseeable future, is a symptom of this shielding.

I mean, look, I understand that sexual pleasure for people who have been abused is incredibly loaded and difficult and complicated. I understand that one of the legacies of abuse is that your body is so, so confused about what's pleasurable, what's arousing, what's good, what's bad. I totally understand why calling you "Daddy" is the only way she can come, and that she probably experiences a confusing and overwhelming flood of shame and pleasure when she orgasms. Our bodies betray us in this way, and I understand that, and I don't judge it.

But it troubles me that she has made you the silent partner in re-enacting her victimization for two years. Of course you feel sick and scared and heartbroken. You feel like you're abusing her! And now she's telling you that this is something she will not discuss with you in couples counseling, that it's not something she's even sure she's willing to discuss with a sex therapist? Instead she's just encouraging you to focus on your feelings? Oh, honeypie, it's too late. The toothpaste is out of the tube. And if y'all are gonna get married, this problem of hers isn't just hers anymore. That's not how marriage works. Or it's not how marriage works when it's a marriage that lasts.

What distinguishes an intimate partnership (like a marriage) from a dating relationship is that — and this is a really clumsy metaphor, so please bear with me — is that there's almost a third person, a third thing, that you together have to tend to. You don't lose (in a healthy relationship, anyway) your individual identities, needs, desires, or dreams. I'm not suggesting that I think your fianceé has some obligation to completely open up to you, to tell you everything, to cross boundaries she's not ready to cross yet. Much of her work around her trauma and abuse was, is and will remain solely hers. But this third thing that you're creating together does require that you both do what you can to be open to each other, available to each other, safe with each other. And I don't see how you can really build that when she's telling you that there's so much she isn't willing to do, when it makes more sense to her to just never have another orgasm with you than to do painful work that might contribute to the growth of your relationship. That she might find that work scary or difficult — that it might be slow or painful — those aren't problems for me. What's a problem for me is that she's saying she won't. And while we always get to decide that we won't or can't do something before even trying, there are consequences to making such a choice. In this case it may be that she's just not ready for an intimate partnership. And as heartbreaking as that is, it's not good or bad. It's just where she's at. And recognizing it now could save your relationship, could even save the possibility of someday marrying.

Update: There's also a wealth of useful (and different) information over on Scarleteen.

Update 2: The post has been edited.

Previously: Paying for First Dates and Asking Out Your Barista.

A Lady is one of several rotating ladies who know everything. Do you have any questions for A Lady?



114 Comments / Post A Comment

aagblog

I was sexually abused by my father as a child and had years of therapy to deal with it.

As an adult I was in a relationship where there was a Daddy/little girl dynamic. It had everything to do with power exchange and nothing -- nothing -- to do with the abuse. It wasn't "reenacting" the abuse. I wasn't thinking about my father.

I'm not saying that the woman in this case *wasn't* thinking about her father or the abuse, I'm just suggesting that it's very possible to engage in this kind of role-play without it being tied to abuse.

From my experience of telling people about my abuse I know that it's really, really common for civilians (for lack of a better word) to assume that your behaviors as an adult are because of the abuse. Survivors are almost expected to be either frigid and sexless or pathological re-enacters. Both of these extremes are often wrong.

daylightspool

@aagblog This.

stalkingcat

@aagblog That is why I'm loathe to discuss my childhood with the men I date. It's not because it's a big deal; it's because it's NOT a big deal, not anymore. You see those pictures of trees that are bent in weird angles because of something that happened to them when they were saplings? Well, they are perfectly fine, strong trees now, and no need to think they are weak just because they got bent went they were young.

And to treat her like a victim again? to emotionally blackmail her back into therapy--WHEN THERAPY HAS BEEN TRAUMATIZING FOR HER? Nuh-uh. No way. He may need therapy, but therapy does not work for everybody, and nobody should be forced to go through it.

If I were her friend, I would tell her she unfortunately should have kept her mouth shut. She should practice saying, "My childhood was really rough. I don't talk to my father/parents/family anymore." And then drop the conversation, unless it's with someone who can handle knowing it. And just because someone loves us, doesn't mean they can handle it.

wee_ramekin

@aagblog One thing that struck me is that the letter writer says that daddy/daughter roleplay is the only way that she can get off. From the way you worded your comment, it sounds like your dynamic was specific to your relationship, or occurred along with other ways of reaching orgasm.

I am not at all familiar with abuse cases, so maybe one can experience sexual abuse of this kind and legitimately have this be the only way you get off without it being connected to the abuse. As a complete layperson in this area, it does raise some alarm bells for me.

litothela

@stalkingcat You would have encouraged her to not share that kind of life story with someone who she is planning to share her life/soul/heart with forever? I don't know that that would bode well for a healthy lifelong relationship.

ormaisonogrande

@stalkingcat That is an excellent excellent analogy. (the one about the tree, because I'm not sure where they are sticking this comment)

SBGBlogs

@stalkingcat I think you're not taking notice of a key difference here. I think it makes perfect sense not to share your traumatic past with the people you date; you don't know how people will react until you know them, right?

But this is the difference. The woman in this letter didn't disclose her past to some boyfriend; she told her fiance, the man she's going to marry.

There's no real way they could have had an honest and healthy relationship if she had never told him and it's unrealistic to think that just because the letter-writer never experienced the abuse that he's not allowed to react emotionally to the news of it.

It's not something that's easy to deal with for those close to the abused, but the fact that this guy is seeking help in all the right places shows just how well he CAN handle it. If he couldn't deal, he wouldn't have written this letter; he would have already left her.

Both of them do need the help of a professional to work through this. The "therapy doesn't work for everyone" line is not one I buy. It's possible that her specific therapist was terrible or was someone who made her feel uncomfortable and guilty. It's also possible that it wasn't *therapy* that was traumatic, but the act of reliving the worst moments of her life.

Doing so isn't easy or pleasant, but I believe that it's worth it and while she may have worked out a lot of her issues alone, it doesn't mean the ones that will now arise between her and her partner should be left alone.

Gah. I don't know. I'm just a big advocate of therapy and I like that this guy wants to do everything he can to make their relationship work. I hope it does for them. I really do.

CyberAly

@ormaisonogrande Agreed - the bent tree analogy is perfect, in my mind.

Paige Colbert Van Otten

"I will not let her call me daddy again. Ever."

So she was horrendously abused for years and years as a child and now she doesn't get to have the kind of sex that gets her off (and that you seem to enjoy too except for her history)? This double whammy of terribleness is not OK in my book. Sure, take a while to get used to the idea, I get that it's weird, go to a counselor, whatever. But not getting over this is not OK.

applestoapples

@pumpyumpyumpkin That was a thing I was wondering about, too. Because if that's what she needs to get off and he's not doing it, then maybe he IS rejecting her sexually? I get that his mind is blown (because...wow), but I wonder if he's really talked at length with her to find out if she is really, really okay. Is he holding back more for her benefit, or his own?

I hope these two kids can figure out something.

melmuu

@pumpyumpyumpkin Oh come on, seriously you're going to judge this guy for not wanting to be called daddy? If your boyfriend was raped by his mom repeatedly, starting at the age of seven, would you be comfortable with him calling you "Mommy" in bed?

Paige Colbert Van Otten

@melmuu If that was the kind of sex we were already enjoying, then yes. Like I said, I get taking a hiatus and having some long talks and really laying down what means what and "are you sure you're ok" and all of that. But putting a permanent halt on mutually satisfying sex because of a revelation of a fucked-up history is fucked up.

H@twitter

@melmuu Short answer, yes. Long answer, I personally am not into parent/kid stuff at all, so would have to try to get into it, whereas this guy was actually into the daddy/girl stuff that was going on until he found out about the abuse (so in my view, he's already ahead of where I would be!). Though I'm not into parent/kid play in the least, if calling me "Mommy" in bed was what my partner needed to get off, and we'd talked about how this felt for him and for me, and we felt that this was something good for him, then absolutely, I would do my best to make it work for him, and I would probably succeed. The sexual mind is malleable.

thebestjasmine

@melmuu I can't see how people are judging him for that, especially since that his knowledge now means that he WON'T be enjoying it at all, and instead it will feel horrible and abusive to him. That's not denying her sexually, that's just saying that he's completely uncomfortable with doing this now, and his feelings on that should be respected too.

melmuu

@thebestjasmine Exactly!

heather

@thebestjasmine Yes! Sex should be enjoyable for both partners, and he's not out of line for being uncomfortable with this roleplay. And maybe with some therapy he'll come (heh) around and they'll go back to it- but he's having a very normal reaction, and if they're going to make it work then he needs to be heard, too.

Ellie

@thebestjasmine I agree. I don't know, even if it wasn't exactly that it makes him feel like he is "abusing" her precisely, it makes sense to me that he would just be so creeped out by it. I feel like I would be too if I were him.

DoctorDisaster

I'm sorry, but this guy has been essentially duped into reenacting his fiancée's childhood rape for the past two years, and you don't understand why he's upset about that? You don't understand why he chooses not to do that anymore? You think that his choice not to go along with this makes him "terrible"?

Hey, wow, revolutionary thought here: not doing sexual things that horrify you isn't "terrible." It's called "consensual." Are we actually going to argue about whether people should have to do things in the bedroom that they don't want to do?

And to hell with this "it's not reenactment" noise. There is a big difference between playing out speculative power fantasies -- what letter-writer originally thought was going on -- and "hey, would you pretend to be the guy who systematically sexually abused me for a huge chunk of my life?"

melmuu

@pumpyumpyumpkin But it wouldn't be possible for it to be the "same" sex you were already enjoying. Every time she says "Daddy" this poor guy is going to have to think of her dad. Raping her as a child. Is that fair for him?

SouthernSmirk

@DoctorDisaster But he's not pretending to be HER dad, just like he wasn't pretending to be her dad before. It's a dynamic, not a reality.

That being said, no one should do anything s/he is uncomfortable with in the bedroom, and if this couple can't find a way to reconcile their conflicting needs it may indeed be wise to consider therapy and/or a breakup. I wish them the best though, it's a difficult situation.

maevemealone

@DoctorDisaster Thank you! His fiancee dropped one hell of a bomb on him and basically said Oh by way this is what my "Daddy" did to me when I was a "little girl". He's rightly furious (I know, not at her). Their fun and games role playing sexy times suddenly has very deep and dark roots and without full disclosure on her history, he feels he was cast as a paedophile. He can stop playing the Daddy/little girl game as long as he feels like since it sure doesn't turn him on anymore. She's left him a lot to figure out on his own...

Tina Steele Wiltzius

@DoctorDisaster Word. I am dismayed by how many people think this man should do something in bed that feels so wrong to him just to get his fiance's rocks off. Do his feelings not matter?

GudrunBrangwen

@thebestjasmine "I'm not comfortable doing this now" is very different from "I will never do this again, because it's horrible and wrong." If he can't do it now, fine -- he should work at getting over his aversion to the roleplay dynamic, and try to rethink his belief that she only likes it because she was damaged by the abuse. It's not for him to decide that this type of sex is all about re-enacting the abuse or that it's wrong in some way. And it's fucked up for him to decide he's going to deny his wife sexual pleasure forever because her kink squicks him out now.

theinvisiblecunt

@GudrunBrangwen, it's not for him to decide what type of sex he participates in? oic

thebestjasmine

@GudrunBrangwen Are you kidding me? HELL YES, it is for him to decide if the sex that HE is participating in feels wrong to him, and yes, it is for him to decide what kind of sex he participates in. It's fucked up for anyone to try to make him feel bad about not wanting to participate in rape fantasies when he is playing the rapist. And people seriously cannot say that it was fine for him before, so it should be fine now; now everything that he has done with his fiance is colored by this knowledge, it is a completely different situation. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with any sex act as long as both parties are consensual, but there are things that any individual person has the right to decide are horrible and wrong for themselves to do, and he has that right. And no, he doesn't have to work on getting over it, just as she doesn't have to work on getting over her inability to orgasm any other way. For the sake of the relationship, they both could do so if they want to, but people in these comments trying to force him to do something that horrifies him is pretty awful.

CyberAly

@thebestjasmine
Its only horrifying him because he is projecting his own feelings and assumptions on their interaction. I think his reaction is reasonable, but its still his own reaction, not The Truth.

DoctorDisaster

@CyberAly There's no distinction between a person's reaction and The Truth when it comes to questions like "is this horrifying?" If it horrifies him, it's horrifying. Period.

There are cases where a thing can be horrifying only to very few people, and you might add the caveat "horrifying to him." This is frankly not one of those cases. Present any dude you care to with this scenario, of a fiancée who has been hiding a history of systematic childhood incestual abuse while making you roleplay her abuser the entire time, and I'd frankly worry if he weren't horrified.

The letter-writer obviously cares deeply about this woman. It's more than a little offensive to see people braying that he has somehow failed her by having a perfectly natural reaction to the situation.

Wendy Walker@facebook

@pumpyumpyumpkin

I have to strongly disagree with you. If I were in a relationship for two years with someone, and all of our sex play involved a very specific fantasy/power dynamic like mommy/son play, and then we got engaged, and after we got engaged he told me, "BTW, I was very horribly sexually abused by my mother as a child, for many many years, and the only way I can achieve orgasm is by pretending that you are my mother, and if you have a problem with that you need to go to therapy but I won't go with you and I won't talk about it and if you can't have sex with me the way I want it, then I'll just never have an orgasm with you ever again, how about that,"... Um, yeah, I'd have some serious problems with that.

Number one, this would mean that for two years I'd unwittingly been playing a part in a sexual drama I had NO IDEA I was participating in. There's a general rule in the kink community that you don't bring unwilling or unwitting participants into your sexual play, because that takes away their ability to consent. By not telling her boyfriend about her sexual abuse history but engaging in sexual roleplay that specifically addresses her abuse, this woman violated her boyfriend's right to consent.

Number two, this is not just her problem that he needs to accept. This is now his problem too. This isn't just her sex life that is affected. His sex life is affected too. He's had this very traumatic thing dumped in his lap and it is terrifying to deal with. He feels like he has participated in her abuse. He is now being asked by his fiancee to continue engaging in the kind of sexual roleplay that mirrors her real-life sexual abuse. She is not interested in making any kind of accommodation in that area -- she believes that she has to engage in the roleplay in order to achieve orgasm, she is not willing to attempt any kind of therapy or counseling to see if there is another way for her to have sex. Her fiance, very understandably, is uncomfortable continuing the roleplay. He is being told that this is the only way she will be able to have satisfying sex, and that if he can't play daddy that's okay because she'll just have sex with him anyway even though she won't be able to reach orgasm.

This man's options, as his fiancee has laid them out, are to force himself to go along with her desires so that she can have satisfying sex despite the fact that he no longer enjoys the game knowing what it is based on, OR he can have sex with her in a way he enjoys and she will just lay there and let it happen to her. That's not a healthy attitude toward a shared sex life with someone you have agreed to marry. Both partners have the right to an enjoyable sex life.

I have all the sympathy, empathy, and compassion in the world for this woman. I'm very, very sorry that her life has been so traumatic, and that the therapy she had to go through under court order was not helpful. But the solution she's arrived at, which is to refuse to consider any further help and hide her past from her partner only to lay all this info in his lap two years into the relationship... this is not the right solution. I hope in time she will agree to at least couples counseling, so they can figure out how to deal with this as a team.

But no, I can't agree with blaming this man for the way he feels.

H@twitter

Totally agree with @aagblog and @pumpyumpyumpkin. I've worked with survivors of sexual assault for five years, and both from that experience and from the reading I've done specifically around kink/BDSM and how that intersects with abuse, I think that the woman in this relationship sounds like she *has* done the "work that an ongoing intimate relationship requires." I have not a doubt in my mind that she has thought about shame, she has wondered if she's fucked up, and none of us know the answer to the question of whether this is healthy except her. I think her partner has some work to do to sustain this ongoing intimate relationship. Being a survivor requires constant work; being with a survivor does too--it's just that in the latter case, that work is something we who are partners of survivors *choose* to do out of love and care and respect for our partners.

If you're interested in some basics about this idea that kinky play that includes similar themes as one's abuse is not identical to reenacting one's abuse, you can check out The Topping Book, by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy (which is an overall pretty good kink primer). The key difference between the abuse this woman experienced and the sex she was having with her partner is that she did not, by any means, want or choose the abuse she experienced at the hands of her father and those other men. She *did* want and choose the sex she had with her partner. It could be unhealthy (maybe she is reliving abuse in her head), but it's equally likely that it is healthy, either a regaining of control and power over a dynamic she previously had no control or power over, or totally unrelated and, as @aagblog says, about power exchange, not abuse.

TinyArmy

@H@twitter Yes! This! I was sexually abused between the ages of 4 and 13 by a cousin and sometimes his friends. I watch a lot of hentai, particularly featuring pre-pubescent characters, often involving rape, sometimes very similar to my own abuse. I have never ever felt like it was reliving abuse, nor has it ever been painful for me to watch. Taking control of the things that were done to you, experiencing them from a position of choice and power can be incredibly comforting and can go a long way in regards to dealing with the guilt and shame that comes with the territory.

saul "the bear" berenson

@H@twitter Thank you for this. I was wondering how someone like Dan Savage would respond to this question, and this seems like an accurate and sex-positive assessment of what we can know about the situation.

chevyvan

@H@twitter You say she has done the work that an ongoing intimate relationship requires. I don't believe that. She's gotten to a place where she *herself* might be okay, but she's forgotten about her partner. He asked her to go to therapy with him and the best answer he got is that she'll think about it. I don't think that's doing the work that a *relationship* requires. She dropped a bomb on this poor guy and doesn't see a need to help him dig out of the rubble. There's a big disconnect here that is alarming to me.

CyberAly

@Moxie the Maven

I also wondered what Dan Savage would say and it sho wouldn't be that! That's why I love him, though.

@H@twitter - great points! I think this very nice and very sympathetic Lady doesn't really understand kink to begin with. Unfortunate.

martinipie

@H@twitter I think a lot of the shockhorror! people are expressing is not so much at the woman's decision/need for this dynamic in the bedroom--which, as you and others have expressed, is not necessarily a "reenactment" or unhealthy--but that she DID NOT TELL HER PARTNER and therefore did not ask for his CONSENT in this power dynamic. Consent is pretty big in kink communities, as far as I'm aware; as you said, she did "want and choose" this type of sex but he emphatically did not.

katherine delongpre

Maybe this dude should just...ask her if she's re-enacting her abuse by having daddy/daughter sex with him? Like, straight up, "I now feel weird about our daddy/daughter roleplay, because I wonder if I have been re-enacting your abuse and therefore also abusing you, is that a thing I should worry about? I don't want to hurt you, and I don't think it's right for you to deny yourself pleasure just to make me happier, so let's talk." His letter doesn't say he's asked her, just that he's told her he can't do the daddy/daughter thing and she's agreed, so...maybe he should ask her, before he and A Lady start jumping to conclusions about whether this woman needs to go to therapy or is "ready" for a relationship or is using their engagement as a shield or whatever?

H@twitter

@katherine delongpre This.

litothela

@katherine delongpre Yes and yes!

Hot mayonnaise

In my opinion, if one of the people in a long-term relationship wants the other to attend therapy as a couple, then the other probably should. If not for themselves, then for the requester. As soon as you're more important than the relationship, the relationship is doomed.

In this case, he wants therapy to deal with his trauma from their sex life vs. her past trauma, and she is traumatized by therapy. It seems they are at a crossroads.

E
E

This kind of thing comes up on Dan Savage all the time- rape survivors often act out rape fantasy and their partners usually write and say, "AH! This is freaking me out!" So I'd encourage them to read that stuff through, see if there's any advice nuggets in there to look at.

I tend to think anytime there's only ONE thing that gets you off, its something worth looking into. Not to say you can't live a whole fufilling life as a fetishist, but rather that if you train your brain in that one path, it might be a sign that you are sort of stuck in one groove, and it's probably worth exploring that at least, not just saying, "I CAN'T DO IT DIFFERENTLY" and never exploring that. People are amazing adaptable creatures, and the many horrible circumstances she's overcome only go to show just how very resilent she is.

So I think maybe not therapy per se, but maybe a reading list? Agree to read up on sex and fetish and dominance, and whatever else you both need to know about, and then to trade and discuss. And then maybe try different sex things. No pressure on her to finish, but rather, just try introducing a spectrum. If she wants to THINK about the narrow things she needs to think about during different types of sex acts, that's totally fine.

You could also try different scenarios that are close, but not too close. Like...prison guard/prisoner, teacher/student...you know, the standard authority stuff- keep the dynamic but lose the specific words that upset the dude.

Sex is a funny thing. In my experience though, there is some wiggle room. There's stuff that's ingrained and you probably can't change that, but there's also room to experiment, a place where two people can meet and hopefully overlap. And the less overall pressure you put on it, the less it's this fraught arena of power and trauma, and the more it's about playing together, I think the better. So mostly I'd say ease up. Go to therapy on your own if it will help you, but keep cuddling, trying new things and TALKING. See what happens when you are both honest.

Paige Colbert Van Otten

@E Agreed all around!

I definitely think it's worth figuring out deep down what turns her on about the daddy/daughter thing and like you say, tweaking it a little bit to have the same kind of dynamic with different characters. I know this has worked for me, and it made me feel better to know that *certain things that I am into* aren't really about those specific things, but about the roles involved. Made me feel a little less creepy, honestly, and now I enjoy both the "creepy" scenarios and the more "acceptable" ones without shame. (<--feelings of shame not required, that was just my shit that I had to get through)

That said, it sounds like in this scenario she doesn't need that, and that she's really comfortable with what she likes. But maybe for the fiance's sake, they could experiment a little with, like you say, prison guard and teacher and other similar scenarios just so that he can be convinced that it isn't about the specific words so much as the power dynamics involved, and then they can get back to daddy/daughtering it up all over the place.

Rae-rae

Dude - I was raped and sexually assaulted as an adolescent and teenager and for me, "daddy" role play in bed has nothing to do with my abusers and everything about controlling my sexual experience. The fact that my sex partners and you are people who will stop on command gives us control. If she can have an orgasm during sex, it shows that she has done the work she needed to be sexually healthy in spite of her past. You need to get a grip. If something triggers her to re-experience her trauma, she will not be having an orgasm. She will be crying or frozen or shivering or hysterical or showing any of the many other behaviors people display from extreme stress - none of which are orgasm.

Women who have not been raped can call their sex partner daddy in bed without catching hell for it. Give your fiancee the same courtesy. If she is having an orgasm she is fine. If she is being forced to see her (normal, common, vanilla) fantasy as sick or unhealthy by someone she loves and trusts then she is going to start to have issues, because you are going to be traumatizing her just like other men from her past.

Apologize to her for over-reacting and promise that in the future you will seek understanding before jumping to conclusions. To be fair to you and your comfort, she should work with you to gradually adopt other fantasies and try to discover modes of manual stimulation that can bring her to orgasm, if for no other reason that 50 years of the same old role play would be incredibly dull for you both.

Meanwhile you need to be in therapy so you can learn to cope with her past and never hold it against her. If you absolutely can not deal with her past and the ways in which she copes, then you need to leave her before you do her new damage.

laurel

...you are going to be traumatizing her just like other men from her past...

Uh, yeah, no. Not "just like" the men from her past. Their situation is a serious crisis that he is struggling to parse, but he's not an abuser, pedophile or rapist.

Hot mayonnaise

@Rae-rae: "Women who have not been raped can call their sex partner daddy in bed without catching hell for it."

Sure, and men can choose to not be called "daddy" in bed by their daddy-raped partners without catching hell for it.

GudrunBrangwen

@Rae-rae Exactly.

hilary urquidi@twitter

@Rae-rae while your sensible assessment is different than mine, i appreciate it.
advice to victims should be left to the experts, other victims. the columnist should differ to the advice of survivors.

getting a masters degree doesn't really make one the least bit qualified on how to cope with life after sexual abuse.

cause the lack of empathy is obvious.
like emelda marcos advising a rowandan how to budget.

melis

Now I'm just imagining a crew team of Central Africans, and it's kind of awesome. 'Row on, Rowandans!'

zelda

Does therapy really work for everyone though? Or not? I was repeatedly assaulted by a teacher in the 6th grade and I vaguely remember going to one therapy session afterward and it made me feel awful and disgusted. These instances were blocked from my mind and I continued living normally until I was 18, when my sisters new boyfriend raped me while I was sleeping (I woke up to this happening, this is also a vague instance but could never tell anyone about it because my sister was in love). Again, blocked from my mind. THEN, at age 22 I was kidnapped and carjacked and robbed and again raped by a crack head. This time, I went to the police as per the advice of my friends, and they actually accused me of being a prostitute, and said I must be lying as I didn't cry. I refused to go to therapy this time as well, just because even thinking about it gave me a meltdown. So again, stuffed into the dark nether regions of my brain and not thought about. I am now 26 and probably the happiest I've ever been. So perhaps this poor woman really just doesn't want to go to therapy because she got herself over her trauma well enough to be able to maintain a healthy relationship that reaches marital caliber. Time really is the ultimate healer, and while I am not sure what ages these folks are, I'd imagine they are old enough to have an "amazing educational background and career" and while these wounds are very fresh for our groom-to-be, they are perhaps only scars for this woman. Give it time, be open, and love her.

maggiekarp

@zelda Jesus Christ, I don't care if you didn't like your first therapist, you need to get some fresh perspective and help with this stuff. Your life is a Yakety Sax of rape.

wee_ramekin

@maggiekarp Woah woah WOAH. Zelda shared a super personal piece of her life in what she believed to be a safe place/thread. I think you're off-base telling her what she "needs" to do in a tone that could easily be construed as flippant.

I agree with you that a fresh therapeutic perspective would be beneficial for her, but a semi-sarcastic comment ("Yakety Sax of rape"? Really?) is not helpful.

maggiekarp

@wee_ramekin I'm sorry, I overreacted. She doesn't NEED to do anything, but I don't like the idea that she's burying all this stuff because getting help with it absolutely won't work or will somehow make her weak.

Lily Rowan

@zelda I'll just say that one bad session from when you were 12 or whatever doesn't mean that "therapy" "doesn't work" for you.

zelda

@maggiekarp Buried and already completely decayed and rotted. I mean buried in a way that it's all disappeared, really. Yes I've been through some shitty things you could say, but there's a saying that's always in the front of my mind, every day: It could always be worse. There are way more people out in this world who have it way worse than I do. Some of these people don't even have the option of therapy even if they wanted to. Also, nothing in this world has, can, or will EVER make me feel weak. I am strong as fuck and I know that. If I wasn't, I'd have jumped off a bridge a decade ago. And a Yakety Sax of rape? Really?! My life aside from those three instances has been absolutely joyous and beautiful and amazing. I wouldn't trade it for anything. All I wanted to get across is that there are folks who exist with having been through serious trauma and talking about it isn't going to change that or make it better for some. No hard feelings, and I hope you have a lovely day. It's beautiful out.

zelda

@Lily Rowan Totally true. I just don't feel any intense need to pay some stranger to hear about awful things, when I have friends that know me very deeply and love me.

maggiekarp

@zelda I don't like the sound of that "it could always be worse", that can easily be misconstrued as "I feel bad for feeling bad so I pretend I don't have a reason to feel bad", but now I'm just nitpicking/projecting. Like you say, different things work for different people. Everyone thinks of things differently.

I'm so glad you have a good life that you love, though.

melis

@maggiekarp Serious Issues aside, 'Yakety Sax of rape' is maybe the funniest thing I have heard all day.

maggiekarp

To all the repliers getting upset that he's "denying" her sexual pleasure by refusing to do the role-play... you surely know by now that there actually is a lot of psychological stuff going on between the physical stuff. It's the subtle differences that make the same sex act okay in one situation and pretty messed up in another. Like strangling or hitting.

And as far as "I'm doing the same thing that happened when I was abused but it's okay because I'm not reliving it, I'm in a position of power and control", well, that certainly can be healthy, but it also sounds half like you're burying the problem and half like you're going to repeat the cycle, especially in the cases of eroticizing children, like TinyArmy. That just ain't right.

There's nothing wrong with sex but there can also be everything wrong with sex, no matter how vanilla to kinky it is, it all depends on where everyone involved is coming from mentally.

heather

@maggiekarp I'm really surprised by the level of anger in here towards this guy and anyone else weirded out by the roleplay.

maggiekarp

@heather I think a lot of it is the idea that because sexual abuse is wrong, victims are messed up or perverted for ever enjoying sex afterwards. That's a terrible way to think, but we're living in the future now, and not many people hold those views anymore.

The problem now is overcompensating. "People think it's wrong for me to enjoy myself after being abused, so I will prove them wrong by enjoying myself only through abuse! HAHA!" That's just as unhealthy, but in the other direction. A lot of the comments here come from sexually abused people who seem to feel this way, they're completely ignoring how an outsider could see a situation because they've built up a shield, probably because their therapy (being told it was wrong and they're broken or dirty) was "worse" than the abuse.

I think it's important for the couple in this article to care about their relationship enough to compromise a little. The lady needs to open up and be willing to look around the lens that she's made for herself, even if it's hard or hurts. The guy has a fresh wound here, but as long as they're both supportive and willing to work this out, there's hope.

heather

@maggiekarp That makes sense. It's sad, but it explains the reactions. I hope this couple (and others affected by abuse) can work through it. There are a lot of emotions floating around this situation, so I hope they can both hear each other out.

SouthernSmirk

@maggiekarp I'm fully willing to accept that some women are reacting to the "you're damaged" bit by getting off on the damage, because I'm not them (obviously). However, I was abused and sometimes fantasize about a daddy/daughter dynamic and I don't think it's because of a reaction to anything other than what turns me on. Not scientific and it's possible my brain is playing games, but it's my best estimation.

I've done a lot of work, spent some years in therapy, function well day-to-day with some occasional flare-ups and I've just decided not to worry about it. If it isn't hurting me, causing me discomfort, then I'm not going to analyze it to death.

Bringing a partner into it is trickier, and I feel for this guy. A lot.

maggiekarp

@SouthernSmirk Well yeah, some things are just naturally hot. It's only a problem if it's the -only- thing that can get you off or tied to a psychologically harmful way of viewing the act/yourself.

GudrunBrangwen

@maggiekarp I would think people with extreme kinks or power-exchange fetishes aren't just doing it to "prove" some unspecified group of people "wrong"! For many people, BDSM or roleplay stuff is their real sexuality, it's very deep-seated, and they're not just experimenting with it to freak out the squares. Inevitably, some of these people are abuse victims, and it's not surprising they want to enjoy their sexuality without being diagnosed by strangers.

maggiekarp

@GudrunBrangwen I kinda phrased stuff wrong, I didn't mean it like that. Sexual kinks are normal to have, but pretty much any personal habit can be tinted by a person's life. Chores, for example. Some people just like cleaning up a house, but if a person came from an emotionally abusive household, they could be convincing themselves that they're the ones who deserve to toil so hard, or just be used to putting so much responsibility on themselves, and suddenly simple household cleaning turns into some creepy Cinderella shit.

Not to say EVERYONE who's been abused thinks or behaves that way, just an example.

Xora

@maggiekarp Or maybe it's more like, "People think it's wrong for me to enjoy myself after being abused, but I do want to enjoy myself, so I guess I have to keep my methods private if I don't want them to think I'm wrong... Oh, fuck them."

shantasybaby

@GudrunBrangwen Ha, I thought I just had alot of kinks for their own sake but now I can also claim it is just to "freak out the squares"- I love it! I have no idea how the people involved should proceed but it is as good a time as any to point out that people can have daddy and BDSM kinks without having been abused and that people can have a healthy interest in that stuff even if they have been abused.

maggiekarp

@Xora If you're keeping something so close to you a secret because you're afraid of how people you love will react, you're probably not completely comfortable with the secret.

Kristen

The one small point I want to add to all this good advice is that secondary trauma is a very real thing, and it gives rise lots of messy feelings: anger, frustration, guilt, the desire to shut down completely or run for the hills. These feelings can ricochet around your heart in weird ways, until seemingly minor issues get invested with enormous importance: "It's about the lack of honesty, because she didn't tell me about it for so long." or "It's because she won't go to therapy with me, so she must not be invested in the relationship." or "She wants to have sex in this way that I am not comfortable with and that must be a symptom of the abuse." That is not to say that these issues aren't important, and don't need to be worked through, but they sidestep the real crux at the heart of the matter: "This awful, terrible, nightmarish thing happened to someone I loved, and there was, and is, absolutely nothing I can do about it." When evil touches the people we love this way, it touches us. That sense of helplessness is what gives trauma its power, and it's why we so often respond by fixating on issues that we (or our partners) can control.

That is not to say that the writer's concerns aren't justified. They are. But it seems to me that he needs to give himself more time. He needs to recognize how serious what's happened to him is, before trying to fix this problem in his sex life. He has so much to think about and deal with: why can't he start therapy for his own sake?
Once he's had a chance to talk through what's happened, to acknowledge how scary that discovery might have been, and to ask all of his millions of questions to a nonjudgmental professional, he'll be in a very different place. 72 hours of crying seems like a lot, but it's not, not really. Once he's had some real time to process this - I would be that these seemingly irreconcilable issues in his sex life -- "I will never EVER do that" vs. "That's the ONLY way she can EVER orgasm" --will probably start to give way to something like a middle ground. Eventually his girlfriend might want to return to therapy, or they might decide together to do some sex therapy, but those are decisions that don't have to be made right away. And they're also not going to "fix" what he's going through right now - the only thing that can do that is care, patience and time.

hilary urquidi@twitter

@Kristen i actually like your comment. but, really, do we inhabit the same planet? my world doesn't include nonjudgemental professionals i can pay hundreds of dollars to make me well-adjusted to gang rape. faced with that sort of bill, i'd just, in a very straight-forward manner, proclaim myself to be truly at peace with my, (or my fiance's- whatever), past.
that's all people want to hear, or they'll continue to extoll the virtues of 'therapy' till their blue in the face. what's the success rate of paying someone with a degree, i.e. therapy, these days? even with their panoply pills?

Hooplehead

This lady has been through hell, and this is a sad situation all around. I agree that whatever means she needs to use to take control of her trauma is necessary. But I disagree that she has no responsibility to protect her fiance's well being while using those means. I think it was unethical to engage the LW in this sort of roleplay without revealing the deeper dynamics of what was going on. The issue is not about about her particular kink making her "damaged" or "maladjusted." It's about involving this man in play that echoes the deepest trauma of her life without revealing to him the larger context in which it was taking place. That might have changed what he consented to, as it is hard to imagine a situation where the LW would not feel traumatized by having it revealed after the fact that he had been asked to essentially play her rapist. If everyone is on the same page with that play, then fair game. But that seems like a pretty crucial piece of information to leave out of a long term and serious relationship. I don't think the LW is off base for having issues with what he is being asked to do. Nor do I think that it is a good sign that his fiancee refusing to be involved in finding a solution that is more equitable and palatable than a lifetime of sexual frustration for her. The LW is being asked to either willingly deny his fiancee sexual pleasure for the duration of their relationship or engage in play he finds traumatizing. That is a no-win proposition if ever I've heard one. I hope that they can find an answer that works for both of them. It sounds like they have a tough road ahead.

noodge

there are two things that really stand out for me in this situation:
1.) the letter writer acknowledging/mourning the loss of the previous sexual dynamic of their relationship, which sounds like it was pretty hot for them, and
2.) therapy, what it could do for them, and whatever hang-ups may be there.

It's not especially shocking that this revelation of his fiancee's past abuse has been a complete boner killer for the letter writer, given their dynamic. Really. Not a surprise. It sounds like - past abuse issues notwithstanding - they may have had quite a happy and healthy sex life. Now, he is currently managing the upsetting, and shocking, details of what happened to her. I think that it is unfortunate, but understandable, that this is going to "kill it" for him, doing this dynamic at least in the near future. HOWEVER, we are wonderfully malleable creatures, and I have faith that both the letter writer, and the fiancee, can modify and adjust their dynamic, and work through their confusion and concerns, and any residual baggage, with a qualified therapist/sexual therapist and make a lot of headway.
The fiancee's reluctance to go to therapy is kind of understandable. No matter how well something traumatic has been processed, digging it up to apply some growth to an area of your life that this impacts will likely stir up the sediment and cause some emotional distress for the fiancee. BUT, after going through my own divorce, it's become really evident that a willingness to go to therapy is very very important. In this case, the opportunity to talk to someone who is specially trained in XXXXX (in this case a sex therapist may be just what the doctor ordered) to help you come up with a game plan and some techniques to grow your sex life in ways that both people find fulfilling would be REALLY positive. It doesn't have to be about "you need to keep working on this past trauma" or "you have to get over your hang-ups with my preferred sexual dynamic". I see a really bright spot for this couple if they go to a therapist to discuss methods for realigning their sexual dynamic in a way that is mutually beneficial.

hilary urquidi@twitter

@teenie faith in god is justified. faith in 'specially trained' doctors is not.

hilary urquidi@twitter

@teenie faith in god is justified. faith in 'specially trained' doctors is not.

noodge

@hilary urquidi@twitter
are you serious? you're turning this into a debate about semantics at best, your religious beliefs at worst?

hilary urquidi@twitter

@teenie no i'm serious. didn't mean to post twice though. doctors suck. they're people and shouldn't be considered experts on surviving sexual abuse. and i really don't care about religion. no one in california cares about that.

noodge

@hilary urquidi@twitter ok - i don't believe that therapists are the be all and end all, but i think they have the ability and training to many times provide helpful advice that the patient can choose to take or not. i've had some VERY crappy therapy situations, and i've also had some very beneficial ones. the most beneficial ones were where i felt comfortable driving the direction of my therapy. even at their least helpful, sex therapists provide a safe place for couples to talk about their sex, and usually they do much more than that by providing some helpful hints and strategies to develop that part of their relationship in a way that is mutually beneficial.
if the fiancee doesn't feel like hashing out her shit with a therapist, that's fine. it really is her perogative. but this is impacting them both, i think it would be a loving gesture for both of them to discuss their sex life with a sex therapist to help them develop it in directions that is pleasurable for them both.

i think - no, i know - i never stated anywhere that therapists should be considered experts on surviving sexual abuse. so i guess just reread what i wrote. it sounds like you've got a bias against therapy, so it sounds like you're reading stuff into what me and others are saying here because of that.

Ariadne27

@hilary urquidi@twitter Two things. One, I'm sure many sexual abuse survivors have been helped by doctors. Two, what makes you think that "doctor" and "sexual abusive survivor" are mutually exclusive? Many people go into psychology/psychiatry/therapy and related fields because they have experience with traumatic events from their own pasts and want to help others going through the same thing.

hilary urquidi@twitter

@teenie ok. u must not know any doctors personally?
getting to be a doctor requires so much support it's hard to statistically imagine the legion of stalwart survivors, who, after years of the wrong kind of families, magically, concomitantly, have the kind of familial or community support required to study for years at the highest level.
but it's cool. no one is spared immense trials in this life, and if some schmuck does it for you, well...glad it's not my bank account. i'll go with santa.
hate to see therapy tritely trotted out as the real answer to this girl's gang rape. i most definitely would not give advice to others, just horrified at the assumptions.
chris hedges is a brilliant, former nyt columnist. talks a lot about how we are awash in lies and encouraged to live in a fantasy world. like one where the couple in question goes to therapy and emerges emotionally-adjusted to the cruelties of the her past.

noodge

@hilary urquidi@twitter
Hilary, for the love of god, READ WHAT I WRITE ok? i haven't mentioned doctors anywhere. you clearly have problems with doctors, problems that almost seem to render you illiterate. but just for your edification, i come from a broken family full of alcoholism, emotional and physical abuse, and my sister has been a therapist for just over a decade, and just finished her PhD, focusing on philosophy of therapy. so yeah, people who go through tons of shit can go through the education needed to reach out to help others who need it.
i have insurance that pays for therapy, in my low-paying crappy job for a health care system. so it's not my bank account either.
it sounds like you and chris hedges have a lot of common beliefs. it doesn't sound like he and i do however, so i'll likely not be reading his material.

hilary urquidi@twitter

@teenie okay. last post ever. the rest of the world is starving. sexual abuse is commonplace. the answer is really therapy? whatever works for you. (if you have more than 3 free sessions a year i'll faint.)
i would posit that we should all ask the girl who has lived through that stuff and still functions for a little advice, your sister included.
if you're happy with your corporate masters, i'm happy for you. that's the point of life.
if you work for walmart or bank of america, even at the lowest levels, they have a life insurance plan on you. (without disclosure.) you're worth more dead than alive to them. strangely, esp. if you're a young woman. (highest rate of return on their gamble.) walmart called their plan, "dead peasants."
so save your money, you're gonna have to help yourself.

noodge

@hilary urquidi@twitter jeez, sounds like you've got a lot of issues, bordering on paranoia. maybe you should see someone about that.

hilary urquidi@twitter

@teenie omg. that's from a michael moore movie.
go back to spending money you don't have and thinking phds in psychology are impressive.

noodge

@hilary urquidi@twitter why are you making personal attacks to people trying to be helpful to someone in a really unfortunate situation? it's not just me, it's others here, and usually this is a really nice community.
i really hope you find another board to haunt with your delusions, projections, and misanthropic and misplaced opinions. i'm tired of hearing about it.

hilary urquidi@twitter

@teenie thanking you for profound spiritual lesson of why i don't talk to stupid people. honestly, thank you.

noodge

@hilary urquidi@twitter i think you're confusing "stupid" with "compassionate" and "sane".
seriously. may of us have dealt with abuse. not all of us are convinced the world is out to get us because of those experiences. clearly you do.
maybe you should stick to your promise (several postings ago) and stop.

melis

This is why we need commenter numbers. And also special areas for folks who link in from twitter and facebook and wherever else. Hairpin kiddie pool!

TinyArmy

I just really don't think this needs to be about getting his lady into therapy. For all we know she has spent years dealing with the psychological implications of her sexual proclivities and the way they relate to her abuse. What this is about is his secondary trauma after her revelation. I do not in any way believe the LW should have to participate in sex acts he is not comfortable participating in because he is dealing with trauma but it is HIS trauma he wrote in about not hers. Does this mean he should seek therapy, maybe have his girlfriend do a couple of sessions with him down the road? Absolutely. But I do not think that we should immediately assume that the abuse survivor has to go back into therapy because this issue is allherfault or that the current problems with their sexual dynamic is all on her to solve. She has probably already dealt with her abusive past, now HE needs to deal with it, too. Ultimately the LW can't force his girlfriend to go to therapy, but he can go into therapy himself and talk to his girlfriend about doing a couple of joint sessions and if that helps maybe think about couples therapy.

maggiekarp

@TinyArmy True, but she kinda brought on this secondary trauma for him, and they are getting married. She needs to be there for him as much as he needs to be there for her.

So couples counseling and sex therapy sound like the best idea. Besides, if she can only get off from the daddy roleplay, how awkward is that gonna be if they start having kids of their own?

CyberAly

@maggiekarp This is what troubles me though is that her condition (something that she can't change and did not cause) is perceived as an attack on him. She brought on the trauma? She did this to him? She seems really concerned about how he handling it (probably having dreaded having to tell him for years because she wonders if he CAN handle it or will bail on her.) I can't imagine a way in which this situation is her fault.

maggiekarp

@CyberAly She's put him in a very difficult situation and doesn't seem to be completely over it herself, as said in previous comments. If she's saying she'd rather never have an orgasm again that make herself feel any more uncomfortable to help him fully grok this new, honestly VERY game-changing information, that's not cool. It's not HER FAULT, but that doesn't mean there's no repercussions.

But we shouldn't be expecting either side of this relationship to handle this on their own. That's why there's a relationship!

Ariadne27

@maggiekarp No, her father and her other rapists put him in this situation. But other than me being picky about phrasing, I see what you are saying.

sophduck

I would just like the fiance to know, and fully realise, that knowing this doesn't technically change anything. She is still exactly the same woman you fell in love with, she was always this woman, she always had this past, the whole time, and you loved her and you had a healthy and functioning relationship all whilst she was someone who had been abused. So it is possible. Everything you shared and enjoyed and felt up to this point - yes, including the daddy/daughter sex - is not sullied or invalidated because you know this now. It was all real, it was good, and the conception you built of both yourself, your fiance and your relationship does not need to crumble.

That said, the fact that this lady is only able to orgasm through daddy/daughter role play, having been repeatedly raped by her father throughout her developing years, and that she would rather never have an orgasm again than discuss this in therapy, does suggest she has not fully come to terms with what happened. If her fiance persists in feeling uncomfortable with this and her continued unwillingness to seek therapy, things really won't work. I think though that if they are both brutally open with each other, and pursue therapy both individually and as a couple, things will be ok again in time - and not just ok, better, because there will be greater honesty and understanding between them than there was before.

FoxyRoxy

I sympathize with both the LW and his fiancee. I don't believe the LW should do anything he's uncomfortable doing but sex is complicated and when you add a history of sexual trauma into the mix those complications multiply. I think many of the responses toward him are borne out of a frustration with just how complicated these situations are. There isn't always a direct trajectory between abuse and engaging in sexual practices that might, in some way, reflect elements of someone's trauma. Sometimes that trajectory is, indeed, there, but so what? We need what we need. Just because I like it rough, for example, doesn't mean I'm this horribly unevolved person who hasn't examined her history. That might sound defensive but there's a lot of pressure on sexual trauma survivors to follow a certain script. I went through something terrible but I'm an adult now. I know what I like, want, and need to enjoy sex. I'm certainly not re-enacting anything because now, as an adult, and this is the best part, when I say "no" or "stop," my partners actually listen. It's the best trick ever. Like the fiancee, I'm pretty much done with therapy. I've seen therapists off and on since I was 14 and my high school forced me to go. My first therapist was a man and having to sit in a room with him, with a closed door was probably the worst hell I could imagine. He was a good therapist, I'm sure, but I was too messed up to get anything out of it. At this point in my life, I have nothing left to say to mental health professionals about what happened to me. The thought of sitting with yet another stranger and talking about deeply personal things makes me want to vomit. I'm sick of dealing with it. I'm sick of the way therapists stare at me like I'm a freak and act all judgmental. I know there are great, open-minded therapists out there but I haven't met any and I don't have the energy or interest to try and find them anymore. I'm not going to pretend I'm 100% fine but I'm as okay as I'm ever going to be. There are some things you can't get over no matter how hard you try. Why is it so wrong to say that or believe that? My unwillingness to pursue more therapy at this point in my life doesn't make me undeserving of a relationship or somehow unable to fully participate in an intimate relationship. I have a great career and wonderful friends and a great family. I enjoy dating and one day I'll get married and maybe have a kid. I've come a really long way. Maybe the fiancee has made her own kind of peace for herself too. I don't think any of us are in a position to know or judge what she needs but I do think we should reject the notion that with enough counseling someone can get to a magical place where everything ends up just fine.

CyberAly

@FoxyRoxy Great response! Thank you for sharing it. I am sometimes amazed at the standards people have for other people's relationships. We are all so complex with varying degrees of effed-upness. That is why people are afraid to show their inner fears. Do I wait until I am perfect to begin a relationship? We'd all die miserable and alone.

Sarah Beach@facebook

@FoxyRoxy Best. Response. Ever. I could have written it myself, except for the part about never having met any great, open-minded therapists - but this fact only underscores your point: I got lucky and found one - a woman; brilliant and funny and jaw-droppingly perceptive and kind. I saw her for over 9 years (hopefully long enough for anyone on this board to concede that I gave it the good old college try). We hashed and rehashed my daddy/daughter/rape issues until there was nothing left to say or re-re-re-say about it. And though I enjoyed talking to her, and she helped me in other ways, it changed nothing about a) what happened to me, or b) what I like in the bedroom, whether that's related to my experience or not. I believe it IS related, for me anyway, but I have given up thinking I should feel bad about liking it rough. The things that happened to me still happened, 9 years of talking to a great therapist didn't/couldn't change that. I believe there are some things that can't be "fixed", and I also believe that that's just fine. For me anyway. Thanks for writing the response I wanted to write but couldn't think of how to say, exactly.

GudrunBrangwen

Lots of people have kinks -- BDSM, fetishes, rape fantasies, and role-playing like the daddy-daughter thing. Unfortunately there are also many sexual abuse survivors. It's inevitable that those two groups are going to overlap -- some abuse survivors will have these kinks who "would have" had them even if they'd never been abused. For others to assume that they're like that because they're damaged and need to re-enact the abuse is insulting. That might not be the case (and even if it is, it's arguably not a reason for someone not to have the kind of sex they like.)

The letter writer has decided his fiancee's abuse is the sole reason for her fetish, and she's re-enacting the rape -- without even asking her whether that's true! If I were her, I'd find that insulting and presumptuous. It's really not for him to decide. She's apparently a pretty happy, well-adjusted person, and nothing in the letter suggests her sexuality is any different.

Of course, the fiance is clearly too uncomfortable with the role-play sex to do it right now. No one is suggesting he should! But that's very different from making a dramatic declaration that he can NEVER DO IT AGAIN. Rather than letting his emotions control him ("this freaks me out, I'll never do it"), he should work on controlling his emotions ("this freaks me out, I'll try to stop associating the sex with the abuse, so I can enjoy it again someday").

It might be nice if she agreed to go to therapy with him. But by badgering her about it (in addition to his crying jags & other emotional reactions), he is really in danger of making his reaction to her abuse all about him. She's spending lots of time helping him process his emotions & being "supportive" of him, and his extreme reaction to her kink is just a part of that dynamic.

CyberAly

@GudrunBrangwen Great points! I have all kinds of kinks and have suffered no abuse beyond the usual scrapes and bruises of childhood. Does that make me a depraved and effed up individual? I also imagine that it is a LOT for this guy to process and the leap from abuse to role play does seem pretty obvious, so I don't blame him for wondering, but as you said, he seems to have decided that is the only thing it could have been about, and even if that IS what it is about, that it can only be an unhealthy reliving of it, as opposed to a positive spin on it.

euphoria

I pretty much agree with what everyone has been saying here, and having come from no abuse, I can only really see it from that perspective, but I feel for this guy hardcore.

also, a lot of you who are abuse survivors, I think your points about moving on are really good and valid, but I also notice that you just posted on the internet, on a humour/discussion site using accounts you use often, are associated with, etc, about being raped/abused, and this lady agreed to SPEND FOREVER with a man she loves before she ever even told him about hers. I think you might be a bit further along the acceptance and healing scale than she is. I don't think his insistence on therapy seems detrimental to anyone. if she's as over it as a lot of you guys seem to be, then she should be able to talk about it as easily as you do, but in therapy, to make the person she wants to marry happier and more comfortable.

hilary urquidi@twitter

there's this underlying assumption because the genesis of the problem is emotional, if the victim could just painfully 'do the work' and 'face' her issues, she could, with the acknowledged difficulty, deal with her neurosis. what if she were paraplegic? would we be like, 'if only she were willing to do the difficult physical work, she could at least progress...sigh.' anyone can she it's a miracle she's (admittedly) a kind-hearted, functioning adult. why push her?
can't she, at last, have some boundaries? is marriage about sex??

CyberAly

@hilary urquidi@twitter
I also thought about others who might have conditions of a physical nature that would limit or direct their sexual relationships too. "Sex abuse survivor" is a condition that may affect her development in various ways. It doesn't have to be corrected. It isn't something she has chosen. As you say - we would never tell a parapalegic that the way that sex works for them isn't okay because, hey, its taking advantage of or playing into something about their disability.

laseñorarobinson

just wondering if y'all would consider doing a "CUT FOR TRIGGERS" type warning/cut tag. it's a lonely night for some of us seeking distractions on the internets.

also, for some of us, daddy play isn't about re-enacting the abuse, as some have said above. personally, I think the Daddy thing, with a really loving (and relatively aware, participating, consenting) sex partner can be transformative and healing.

CyberAly

My reaction was really strong on the side of defending the fiancee's right to her kink.

However, I too sympathize with this guy who just loves this woman and found out that a) she has been hurt, b) he can't do anything about it and c) he's been enjoying something that looks an awful lot like what hurt her as a child. Clearly a reason to freak the eff out.

However, the big issue does actually seem to be that HE now feels like SHE'S making him a pedophile or complicit in her abuse. She wasn't making him a pedophile before. He has not harmed her in any way. Fantasy is fantasy. She is a consenting adult. Beyond therapy to process the new feelings he will have surrounding the actual abuse, perhaps he can work through his fears about engaging in fantasy. He shouldn't have to do anything he doesn't want to, but being in a relationship, one hopes, means being giving to your partner and game to try things out (see: Savage, Dan; GGG.)

Xora

He needs to go to therapy to deal with his second-hand trauma. If therapy works for him and she's inspired to go, as well, even better.

I feel bad for him, but I feel worse for her because, from her perspective right now, there are three paths from which to choose: 1) Relive her trauma in therapy, 2) Get married and never have an orgasm, 3) Get dumped and be sure not to tell the next fiance about the abuse.

You and I know that she has more choices than that, but (seemingly, from what the letter says) she probably can't imagine them just yet. I keep thinking about how hard it must have been for her to decide to tell him about the abuse, and how much she's probably regretting it now.

Whether she realizes it or not, telling him in re-opening the issue and working on it with help. But that doesn't mean she has to envision all the future steps or make any promises right now.

hilary urquidi@twitter

you have money for charlatans? cause talking about it really helps right? it's not the reality of things that suck, just how you look at them! so go pay someone until you both decide the universe is groovy.
is the relatively new, beneficient-therapy ethos of the modern world akin to thinking money can solve everything? it's like the greatest advertising scam ever. (though there's quite a lot of competition for that title.) freud 2.0 ain't never gonna help me with bein' gang raped.
i agree that she probably regrets telling him. and maybe impoverishing the crier, her boyfriend, is appropriate and advisable. but examine the simple-minded faith that paying a professional can lead to emotional health.

DoctorDisaster

Gosh, you're right. Giving weight to more than a century of psychiatric research and practice is totally simple-minded. Smart people put their faith in rando@twitter on a comment board!

maggiekarp

@hilary urquidi@twitter Yeah, therapy can be expensive, but a GOOD therapist is more than worth the cost. And that seems like a pretty poor attitude to have towards therapy and your own history of abuse. You sound like someone refusing to go to a doctor.

Also it's pretty funny/terrible that a lot of people here feel so uncomfortable telling a trained professional "stranger" about their problems, but feel perfectly fine telling the internet's completely stupid strangers all about it and taking their advice. Myself included, of course.

Xora

@maggiekarp Do you know anyone who's been sexually abused? Do you talk to them the way you're talking here? Or do you talk like this in general, and people who've been abused avoid confiding in you? I'm curious because you're so judgmental about it. You're like a Republican bitching about poor people who don't pull themselves up by the bootstraps. You're all like, "How come your dumb-dumbs can say anonymous things to anonymous people while faceless, but you can't shell out a bunch of money to tell your story to a stranger face-to-face?? SO SAD!!"

What if you had a kid who got abused and then didn't feel like she could tell you about it because she saw you sitting on the Hairpin passing judgment like this?

Are you young and never met anyone who was abused? Or were you abused and feel that you totally did the hard work in therapy and cured yourself and that other people are lazier than you? I mean, what is your deal?

hilary urquidi@twitter

@DoctorDisaster my philosophy: just because i've had a f-ed up life doesn't mean i have to be marginalized. (and trust me, the second you're in that chair, you're considered less-than.) i'm actually highly privileged, so i should shut up and go back to my homework. the rest of the world made it today on 5 dollars, and is probably still being sexually abused.
and you're right, i am a total loser for posting anything on this board.

maggiekarp

@Xora Deflecting and having a sense of humor about these things is sort of how I cope personally. I'm working on growing, and I want to encourage other people to do the same, even if I can't say it the way they want to hear it all the time. If I had a kid, they'd probably have been around me enough to know that's just how I do, it doesn't make me any less loving or supportive.

I don't want to list all the abuse I've known of or experienced, because that's like trying to defend a racial joke by talking about all the brown people I know. That's defensive more than justification.

Also NEVER CALL ME A REPUBLICAN EVER AGAIN YOU CUNTING SHE-BITCH

contrary

@hilary urquidi@twitter I wasn't going to participate in this comment thread, but I feel like I have some insight to offer here. I have seen some terrible therapists in my day, believe me (example: pregnant therapist who had her husband come into our session to set up a special maternity chair, expected me to keep talking about my abuse, chastised me for "not facing my problems" because I was uncomfortable being intruded on by her husband, then billed me for the entire session) BUT (but!), in the wake of all that I was able to find a therapist that was very, very helpful (in the same practice! the aforementioned therapist was politely asked to NOT return after she delivered). This woman *literally* saved my life, and I would never put a price sticker on the help that she has given to me. I understand that you have your own stance on therapy and abuse, but please do not devalue the process for those who reconcile the cost.

Nobody here is attacking you, but you're coming into the situation with such a combative attitude. I'm missing the part of @DoctorDisaster's comment where he called you stupid. In my opinion (which you are not paying for, and can ignore!), just based on your attitude in responses, it seems like you could use some perspective from someone who is a little less despondent. My $.02

fourteenth_world

it's obviously a very complicated situation. the thing is, in situations like this there are no right and wrong answers. and like, who are we to be telling people what to do? i'm coming at this from a variety of angles. i'm 19 now, was sexually abused from 14-17 by an older woman, haven't been to therapy, probably haven't "dealt with it" the way i should. yes i do have a history of "risky sexual behaviour", but i'm currently in a loving relationship with a loving girlfriend, and she knows all of this. and i like to do it dirty. she goes along because she likes to please me sexually the same way i like to please her. but from a survivor's perspective, having sex is an incredibly difficult experience after something like that happens. and you have to do what makes you comfortable. to be honest, what makes me feel comfortable is having it rough. is this like the abuse? in some ways, yes. is it re-enacting? definitely not. for me, and i don't know about the lady in this example, the hardest thing to take is the guilt - feeling like the abuse was your fault. feeling like noone will ever want you again, after the things that were done to you, or the things you have done, which is one of the things my abuser told me to keep me with her. it makes me comfortable to feel like my partner is in control, and like i don't have to be guilty for feeling sexual pleasure. of course it absolutely kills me, the way all of this impacts on her, because i love her very much. but having sex with her with a dominant vibe is not about re-enactment, its about being sexually comfortable enough to relax. we've spoken at length about it; and she's okay with understanding what it means to me in those terms. by way of supporting her, all i can really do is be open, honest, ask her how she feels and re-assure her that i'm not making her an accomplice in self-inflicting my trauma again. but i really don't think its about that. i know as a partner it doesn't sit easily, but that's the way it is for us.

jlee620

This is very sad ... hope they turn out fine.
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