A Man in a Seemingly Cumbersome Situation
August 24, 1998 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
Dear Dr. Love,
I, first off, would like to applaud you for the wonderful service that you are providing to people that, may otherwise, be unable to find someone or be unable to afford the services that you are providing.
In doing some research, I happened to stumble upon your site and was astonished to find that someone is actually trying to help people and doing it for free. Thank you for all your time and effort.
I apologize for the story part being so long, but I thought that is needed to better understand my questions. But to the story and question at hand.
I am a 19 year old male and have recently fallen head over heals for a wonderful 21 year old woman that I care for and love very deeply. We are extremely close and have a wonderful open and honest relationship that we both had been searching for a long time. I hope that she is the one that I will spend the rest of my life with.
We have recently become closer and made the decision together to become sexually involved. She is the first woman that I have had sexual relations with. This wasn't her first time, but she was sensitive to my feelings and made it a comfortable and wonderfully memorable experience.
Being my first time and not really knowing what I was doing, afterwards I asked her how to make sex more enjoyable for her and how to please her. She informed me that she has never had an orgasm but enjoyed everything that I had done. At first this didn't surprise me because, as you probably know, a lot of women don't have orgasms through intercourse but I wanted to make sex a wonderful event for both of us.
I took it upon myself to do a little research. I looked into different positions, techniques, and advice from other women, etc. I tried quite a few of these and some seemed to be quite effective, but it startled me to find out when I brought her close to having an orgasm, she would pull away or start showing signs of discomfort and seem to be scared, upset and distraught. On occasion she would even break down and cry. I would immediately stop and just hold her and be there for her because she often couldn't or didn't speak afterwards so I was there for her until she was ready to talk about it.
After one of these events occurred, she felt that she was ready to talk about it. I removed us from the bedroom and tried to talk about what has happened. Sometimes when we would talk she is unable to tell me how she feels so I just hold her and am there for her. Other times when we are able to talk, she tells me that she seems to be frightened at attaining an orgasm but tells me that she wants to have one, just that when she reaches a point that she is overwhelmed by pleasure and the fear to go on. I try my best to 'read' what she is experiencing and stop the instant that it looks like she is uncomfortable because I don't want to push her in any way or to hurt her.
One evening when we were talking, she started crying and telling me that she had something to tell me. When she was about 9, she was playing with one of her friends and her friend brought up the subject of sex. (Pardon my candor, but I want to tell it how she explained it to me.) When her friend started explaining that sex was when a boy put his 'pee-pee' in a girl's 'pee-pee' she instantly spoke up and said 'Really, that's what my daddy does to me'.
After this had occurred, the sexual abuse stopped but her father had, and still has, a drinking problem. Due to this, he has always been physically and verbally abusive to her and the rest of her family.
Because of this, she has been in relationships before that had men that were abusive towards her. As I am sure you are aware, abuse victims unfortunately gravitate toward relationships that are abusive because they would rather have familiar abuse than unfamiliar abuse.
I had known that her father was physically and verbally abusive because some early events that we worked through in our relationship.
After I heard all of what she had told me, I broke down because I had also had an experience with a woman that abused me and had mentally played games with me to keep me from telling anyone. I have since overcome this tragedy in my life through personal strength and the help of a therapist. That experience has made me who I am today, but that's another story.
I came to the conclusion that her fear could have stemmed from her past abuse. The question that stumped me was'Why is she possibly associating her orgasm with the abuse and not the act of sex itself?' After doing some research, shockingly found out that it was possible for young female children to experience pleasure and even experience orgasm. I knew that the female body is designed for pleasure, but didn't know that it was possible for young children to experience this.
I was heartbroken. Not only was I upset that her own father had done this to her, but that she had to go through this. Not only that, but because of her abuse she had possibly created this coping mechanism to deal with her unresolved feelings that the pleasure she was experiencing was either bad, or that because she was experiencing pleasure, she had asked for this abuse.
I have read some books on sexual healing, but I don't believe that she would be open to some of the techniques in these books. I know that she would not be very open to going to a therapist right away, but I thought that some of these techniques could help her work through some of her feelings. One such technique involves her learning to masturbate and for her to use verbal reinforcement that the abuse was not her fault and it was ok to experience pleasure and work through these feelings on her own.
She is opposed to masturbating and / or using'vibrators' or other such toys, but she isn't opposed to me stimulating her during sex. I don't know if I should help her with this by being there and doing it for her, or just to try and convince her that she should do it on her own.
We are currently unable to afford much, but I believe that she needs to work through these feelings with a therapist. Until we are able to get her that type of help, can you give me any resources that I could use to help her or for her to be able to help herself? Also, how could I make it easier for me to talk with her about what she might be experiencing because I haven't talked with her about this yet?
Thanks for any help you can provide,
A man in a seemingly cumbersome situation
Thank you very much for your words of appreciation. You have understood my intentions exactly. I created this site in order to make therapy available to people who don't have access, for various reasons.
Your remarks have sparked me to tell everyone a bit more about the site. First of all, you need to know that I wish I could answer every letter I receive. It actually pains me that my busy practice and media commitments prevent me from answering each letter I receive.
If your question isn't selected for the Advice Column, remember to search my Advice Archives, the world's first searchable relationship advice database. The Archives contain thousands of answers to all sorts of questions.
You can also find answers to your questions by becoming a Chat Member. The Relationship Advice Guides (included with Chat Membership) show you how to start a relationship, how to build a solid relationship and how to solve your toughtest relationship roadblocks.
I have set the Chat Membership fee at the very reasonable price of $25 a year (much less than the cost of one therapy session). I encourage you all to benefit from the various offerings included with Membership. For a complete description, see the list of offerings on the Chat Membership main page.
If you find yourself stuck for an answer to your problem, you can always receive a private answer from me. I have set the fee for a private email consultation at less than the customary cost of a therapy session, to make it easy for everyone to receive the help they need.
Now, on to your question. Why is she possibly associating her orgasm with the abuse and not the act of sex itself?'
You actually answered your own question. Orgasm is pleasure, and she is terribly conflicted about allowing herself to have pleasure with you. Why? People who have been sexually molested carry terrible guilt. Deep down, they think that the abuse was their fault, that they asked for it, that they didn't stop it. The guilt is compounded by the fact that almost every abused person experienced sexual pleasure while they were being abused. And, why not? The body is wired to receive pleasure. Unfortunately, when a person experiences pleasure during a sexual encounter with a forbidden object (a parent or other family member), the guilt feelings are all the greater. The abused person thinks that he or she is a terrible person for enjoying a sexual experience with a person that he or she is not supposed to have sexual contact with.
The guilt over feeling pleasure during sexual abuse, leads to various sexual inhibitions. It is not uncommon for a person who was sexually abused to feel too guilty or anxious to allow him or herself any sexual pleasure at all.
Your question to me was how can you help your lover achieve orgasms. You also discussed all kinds of excellent sex tools and toys. But, these tools and toys are not for her, not now. Why? By trying to help her to have an orgasm, it feels like a violation to her, like someone is forcing sex on her. She needs to seek out the toys on her own, if she wants them. They should not be offered by you.
In fact, I wouldn't press her to have an orgasm at all. Again, a previously abused person must feel the master of her own sexual ship. She is in charge, she must decide if she wants to float her own boat (have an orgasm or not).
If you want to help her, talk about her feelings and her memories. When the time feels right, you can tell her what I said--that it was normal for her to have experienced pleasure with her father. You might also point out that even though it felt good, that doesn't mean that she is responsible for what he did to her. She may say, but I didn't stop him or tell on him. You might say to her, what kid is going to refuse an ice cream cone? Explain to her that being offered an experience that was too pleasureable to refuse is also an abuse.
The more she talks about the fact that it felt good with him, the more her guilt will subside. And, the more her guilt subsides the more she will be able to open herself to pleasure with you.
There are a couple of other things that you can do to help her heal. One, whenever she becomes upset during lovemaking, she needs to realize that she is having an emotional flashback--she is unconsciously recalling an incident in which her father abused her. Ask her to talk with you about the flashbacks that come to her mind. As she describes what her father did to her and how she felt about it, she will be draining off a lot of the emotional intensity and working through the trauma. After she has talked, try to bring her back to the here and now with you. At first this may not be possible, but try to bring her back to the now.
After she has worked the feelings through and she isn't literally choking on them (this could take months), you can work on breaking her negative association. Meaning, we eventually want her to stop thinking about her father when she has sex with you. Remember, don't try to get her to focus away from the memories of dad until she has worked-through the feelings associated with her previous abuse.
After she has worked through the most intense feelings, here's how to help her begin to focus more on her sexual experience with you. When she becomes upset, you can suggest that she stop thinking of dad and refocus on the here and now. If she needs to bring up the memory that she's associating to fine, but, let the memory go and tune back into this moment of pleasure. Our goal is to help her become more willing to experience pleasure with you. Try the sensate focus technique (see my Archives), which will help her tune in to non-genital pleasure. She can also say to herself. I am with my lover, I am supposed to have pleasure with him. If she can allow herself to experience non-genital pleasure, she may find it easier to graduate to gential pleasure as time goes on.
To also help her break the association to previous abuse, it would be good to encourage her to call the shots. If she feels in charge and can tell you what she wants you to do to her and when she wants it, she may come to associate her sexuality with an in charge feeling, rather than a victimized, helpless feeling.
Please keep me posted and let me know how the various suggestions I mentioned work out. Lots of luck. You are a wonderful man, sensitive, patient, respectful and loving. You are God's gift for her. Keep in touch.
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