I'm a 30-year-old woman who was sexually abused as a child and raped as a teenager, and I have developed a fear of penetration as a consequence.
The older I get the more deeply embedded the fear becomes, fed by lovers who don't realize the importance of foreplay in order for me to trust them and to get wet, which leads to more painful sex because I'm dry. I haven't been in a relationship for the last year but am having trouble even getting wet when masturbating now.
I feel like I've reached a point where there is so much unresolved and built up pain, guilt, fear and shame that my pleasure centres are blocking off, telling me that now is the time to face things and release them.
Do you know of any good therapists who could support me on this journey? I'm also interested in releasing these memories physically and have heard of people who perform vaginal massage to help loosen the internal muscles and tissues that have tightened from repeated trauma. Any resources would be greatly appreciated.
Congratulations, sister. You are in the process of understanding that you need to put your erotic happiness and fulfillment in your own hands before you can share it with someone else. Other people can't be expected to heal you if you are not actively trying to heal yourself. If you heal yourself, you will also become more aware of what you want and need out of relationships, and be less likely to end up with partners who don't respect you, your needs and your boundaries - because they won't be attractive to you. Because you will be treating yourself like you matter.
So, are you ready for things to get a little witchy? Because they're going to, whether you like it or not. When it comes to healing your sexual soul (also known as "taking your shit back"), you will come across websites featuring women hugging rocks and flinging their arms in the air and bursting with goddess energy. And the crystals. There will be a lot of crystals.
It's difficult for some of us to get past this imagery. We are certain that these people, with their assiduous and reverential definitions of the vagina in Sanskrit ("yoni," meaning sacred passage or temple) and their ability to call you "goddess" without blinking and smirking, are delusional nanny goats. Frankly, I don't care. I'll take some of that delusion with a heaping side of sister love. (See my upcoming piece in NOW's Love & Sex guide for more on this.)
The first woman I contacted after googling "yoni massage" was Pala Copeland. She teaches goddess workshops around Ottawa and occasionally makes trips to Toronto to do introductory workshops at Good for Her. She recommended a woman named Gaia (yes, just... yes... just stay open-minded) who offers, among other things, massage for survivors of sexual abuse.
A survivor herself, Gaia helps facilitate Copeland's goddess workshops and is apparently gifted at helping women get back in touch with their sensual bodies. Gaia works in Kitchener but will travel to Toronto to see clients (succulentliving.com, 1-519-998-8619).
Gaia and I chatted for an hour about her practice, which involves initial information sessions in "a sacred and trusting space" followed by ones in which she helps you reconnect with your sexuality. As a survivor of sexual trauma, you might feel that your body was never really yours. It is your right to take it back and experience all the pleasures it can offer.
I also contacted Elite Tantric Massage and spoke to a lovely gentleman named Liam. On the nebulous continuum that is sacred sexual bodywork, I would put Liam closer to the "sex worker with a long history of massaging women's pelvic areas" end. Liam considers himself a sex worker in addition to a yoni massager, and his lack of official accreditation may not make him the most appropriate choice for you, though some of the most experienced body healers struggle to present anything akin to, say, a Ph.D, in their area of expertise.
Also, "goddesses" are referred to as "ladies" on the Elite Tantric Massage site, and I get the feeling that you're more interested in exploring your inner goddess than your inner lady.
A friend who is a gifted and loving sex worker made these recommendations. (On a personal note she gave me a vulva massage one night and with very little traditional stimulation had me ejaculating all over her living room floor.)
"I highly recommend the book A Headache In The Pelvis," she says. "The docs talk about the interrelatedness of all pelvic pain and offer information about massage techniques, including pressure points, and relearning socially imposed sexuality as a good approach to something so highly re-traumatizing as this kind of pain."
She also took an online course at the New School of Erotic Touch. "You can sign up for their online videos, lectures and articles, and self-teach yourself and your partner to give erotic massage," she says. "They emphasize body-heart connection over orgasm-as-end, so it's process-based."
Finally, "sexological body work is something to look into for erotic massage and in order to connect with your sexuality in ways other than the genitals," she says.
Ducky Doolittle conducts a Sex For Survivors workshop through Come As You Are. Here's the description:
"Tuning out? Finding it difficult to be present during sex? These are very common survival techniques for anyone who has survived domestic violence, sexual abuse, sexual assault and other forms abuse and trauma. Join Ducky, herself a survivor and a sexual assault and violence intervention counsellor, as we explore ways of growing beyond the trauma. In a safe and non-judgmental environment you are invited to discuss common issues survivors face or simply listen to inspiring ideas on how you might find more pleasure, become more conscious in your body, build confidence, bond with your partner, embrace your desires and explore healing through touch."
The workshop only comes to town when Ducky does, so keep it on your radar.
For more about yoni massage, check out the book Yoni Massage: Awakening Female Sexual Energy, available locally at Wonderworks.