[Image: ‘Using Sex as self harm?]
While some survivors shy away from sex completely after the fact, other still are able to have healthy sex lives, there is another subset of the survivor+sex possibilities- those who use sex as a form of self harm.
How can you tell if you’re using sex as a self harm mechanism?
Does sex usually make you feel bad?
Do you seek out sex when you feel bad about yourself?*
*and not as in 'my partner makes me feel loved when we have sex, so I go to them. kind of seek out.
Do you think that it’s all you’re worth?
Do you often find yourself dissociating during sex?
Do you often find yourself going into situations you feel are risky and then being upset with yourself afterwards?
If you answered yes to any of the above, you might be using sex as self harm.
What can you do if you’re using sex as self harm?
First, it’s important to remember that shaming yourself will not actually make you stop. Sometimes we beat up on ourselves over these things and call ourselves horrible names- and we justify it by saying 'it’ll make me stop’ or 'it’s what I deserve for doing this’.
It won’t make you stop, it may even drive you to doing it again. And you don’t deserve to be hurt anymore.
No longer using sex as a self harm mechanism comes in three to four parts.
What will you do when you do use sex as self harm?
Even once you’ve recognized that this is a behavior that you want to stop- most survivors will slip up a few times.
Create a self care plan. Figure out what you need to do to reduce the damage. Both in terms of during and after. Birth control and 'afterwards I will call my friend instead of beating myself up for this.'
What will you do when you want to use sex as a self harm mechanism?
When you find yourself wanting to self harm- what will you do? How will you distract yourself?
A lot of people do the….'if I still want to do this in an hour I can re-examine the urge again.’ game. 'I’m going to watch an episode of HTGWM and then maybe’ 'I’m going to go take a shower and brush my hair and do my makeup and then we’ll think about it again’ 'If I still want to do this tomorrow- then maybe.’
Have a plan of things you can do in the mean time. Have things that are both straight up distractions and ways to vent, express yourself, deal with the feelings that are driving here.
Maybe ways that you can be validated. Maybe 'instead of going to the bar or calling that boy I’m going to call my friend _____ and see if she’ll come over and we’ll lay on the couch and watch netflix'
Whatever it is that you need to do to keep yourself from self harming.
Figuring out why you want to use sex as a self harm mechanism- and attacking that at the root.
Maybe it’s because you think that this is all you’re worth. If so- find other ways to validate your worth, if you can’t find worth in who you already are- ask someone else you trust to help you see it. maybe help you write a list. or figure out ways you can help build your sense of worth- volunteering, or by being a good friend, or whatever it is you think makes a person worth while.
Maybe it’s because you think this is what you deserve. If so- when you’re feeling okay I want you to write down that you don’t. that you don’t deserve to be touched when you don’t want to be. That you deserve better things. That trauma has not marked you for life as undeserving of intimacy. You deserve to come to it on your own terms though. You did not deserve what happened to you. and you do not 'deserve’ self harm, you deserve so much better.
Maybe it’s because you’re trying to process what happened. and if so- it’s a sign processing needs to happen about the trauma. Try to find healthier ways to process. Talk to a friend or a group or therapist. Read articles or watch poetry or whatever it is that you think is a healthy way to process what happened. make art, whatever it is you need to do.
Find ways to directly deal with the root of why you self harm.
and lastly- this is only if you /want/ to. Nobody is required to have sex ever again.
Find out ways to have a healthy sex life again.
Maybe you’ll still need to do the waiting period at first- to make sure it isn’t a self harming urge. 'If I still want to have sex with you in a few days, maybe. but right now- I need to wait.’
Maybe you’ll need to have sex a certain way. Soft and slow. In a certain environment. With certain conditions.
Whatever it is that makes you feel safe and comfortable. The important thing is finding something that works for you.
Remember, you have nothing to be ashamed of. You are trying to heal the best way that you know possible, but I want you to know, that you don’t deserve to hurt and that there are other ways to go about things. that you have options.
and that you deserve better.
Take care of yourself today, okay?