Asexual? Aromantic? SA victim/survivor? Dysphoria? …Or why does it hurt when I have sex?
By Sav Schlauderaff
The first time I used the words asexual and aromantic in relation to myself was on December 1, 2017.
I remember feeling so scared and hesitant to put these #thoughtfeelings into the world. That I had been (and still am) wrestling with how to contend with my sexual and domestic abuse, my eating disorder, my dysphoria, and my body pain as all potential moving parts in why sex is painful.
And I mean Physically. Emotionally. Mentally. Spiritually. Painful.
That 2017-2018 has represented a lot of growth for me. I had been barred from process my trauma because the the trauma was ongoing.
And once I was geographically far and ready to face these realities. It hit me. Hard.
It was confusing to assess the web of comorbidities. The multiple diagnoses.
The addition of new traumas.
That I was so used to using numbing coping mechanisms: alcohol, sex, disordered eating, self harm. Used to distract from the pain.
That it felt good to find refuge in the reality that I had never gotten the chance to claim sex for myself. To claim my body for myself/
I have arrived at this realization before. And thought I had come to a place of healing to open myself to someone again. But no.
Perhaps my body has been claimed far too often by others, do I know it myself? What does autonomy feel like?
I want to take this space to time travel, to revisit my raw thoughtfeelings from the past. To follow my processing. To re-member who “me” was at these times. Let us begin.
December 1, 2017.
This past year I've really been working through a lot of sex repulsion feelings that have been hard to place and understand. They have led to strained relationships with others and with my own sexuality. And overall I'm just feeling a bit lost.
This past semester I've started unpacking a lot of sex feelings overall, and I think me taking a break from sex altogether this semester has been really validating and has allowed me space to be self-reflexive.
And space to try and work through how my trauma from being raped, and from domestic violence have really irrevocably shaped my relationship to my body and my sex life.
I think the latter has been harder for me to work through because for many years I both used sex as an unhealthy coping mechanism, but also as a source of empowerment and reclamation.
I'm not sure if this is because of me finally starting to come to terms with my past traumas or if it's bound up in my more recent comfortability with being very out as trans and all that fun dysphoria?? Is this just a new depression feature??
So hey fellow queer and trans sexual assault/rape and domestic abuse victim/survivors that might also have these same feelings can we please chat?
Dec 5, 2017
I've been putting off my finals because all I can think about is how scared I feel about going back to Minnesota. And I WANT to go home. I want to see my family and friends and relax after finals and read in the silence that only small towns can satisfy. But I am scared.
And it's not necessarily the people, or my disdain for excessive John Deere logos, or preparing my body for the frigid cold.
It's that pesky PTSD.
There are just so many physical spaces that hold bad memories, and not really anyone who I have told about them.
Because yes I "overshare" but I leave out the condemning details. I leave out the names. I leave out how when I'm there it feels like someone dunked me under really thick water and most of y'all know I can't swim.
Because how will you knowing who did what change anything but where you direct your anger. How will this help dismantle cycles of abuse. How will this help other domestic violence and sexual assault victim/survivors. How will this help tear down punitive systems that don't help the victim/survivor pay for therapy or not want to kill themselves or retain friendships. Because I still haven't mastered any of those things.
One of my classmates asked me if the #metoo movement was a feminist dream come true and questioned "what about the good guys who might get accused?"
I wanted to scream.
Because "good people" can always do bad things. And I shouldn't have to repeat statistics that it's likely someone you know and that it's fucking hard to leave an abusive relationship and that abusers and victims alike are really good at hiding what is happening.
Telling people about my trauma and pain has largely only led to me being treated differently or to them being shocked ???? Like this isn't surprising.
Most all of my friends and family are rape and/or domestic violence victim survivors.
So maybe you don't need to pry out someone's story. Maybe you should be working toward systemic change because it will always be helpful.
I don't really know where I was going with this.
I suppose it's just that trauma has a funny way of hiding in familiar parks and railroad tracks, favorite restaurants, times of year.
Dec 7, 2017
Fun reminder that cis women aren't the only victim/survivors of rape and domestic violence. And cis men aren't the only perpetrators.
Please change your gendered narrative I'm tired of feeling silenced in spaces that say they're supposed to support me.
December 10, 2017
Not lonely, just relishing in being alone.
I can’t count the number of times I cried over being lonely when I was in a relationship. I think it was the pressure of needing to open and give myself over to someone. That they were meant to know me and when they failed at this monumentous task I broke.
I am tired of breaking in the hands of someone else.
Let me care for myself.
Let me get to know myself.
I don’t know if I can quite explain the freedom my bodymind feels when I spend the day alone. When I’m not forced to talk to anyone. When I can just enjoy things that I want to enjoy.
Jan 2, 2018
Works in progress for 2018/////
•Become more comfortable saying no
•Take time to reflect and write (daily)
•Tell people when they hurt me&work on fostering healthy relationships with good communication !!
•Be honest with others in how I am feeling
•Be mindful of who I let into my life&how I spend my energy
•Become comfortable making plans with people/asking them to hang out with me
•Become more comfortable with rejection
•Continue working to accept my body
Jan 2, 2018
More sex feelings//////
I've been sitting with my sex repulsion feelings lately and I think much of this comes back to reclaiming my body after so many people abused me and after so many people keep trying to claim it for themselves. As well as working to love my body after abuse and disordered eating and as a trans and queer body. I want to love my body and all its parts.
I'm just really tired of feeling obligated or pressured into having sex, particularly from people who I saw as friends.
A guilted or coerced yes is not a consenting yes and it took me a long time to realize this.
I always want to please people, but it all too often comes at the expense of my own bodymindspirit health. And I'm still working on being able to say no to people who I love after being in abusive relationships.
I have too often broken down or used toxic coping mechanisms/self harming after having sex within these past few months and it really takes me back to my actions after I was raped in high school.
In a similar vein I'm tired of people feeling like they have a right to make me talk about my traumas or sex life-- these are topics that consent needs to be present for to talk about and no one should ever guilt you into sharing this information.
I want to have a healthy relationship with my body and with sex, so for those of you close to me can you please be extra mindful to ask for consent before any physical contact with me?
I know I need to work on this myself.
Let's all work on bringing emphatic consent into and outside of the bedroom.
Much love ❤
January 4, 2018
I think I have always felt a detachment from romantic love, namely because social interactions have always been so hard for me. It is hard for me to ever feel close to anyone and even harder to trust them.
And this trust was completely dismantled because the first time I had sex I was raped and the first relationship I was in was incredibly abusive. These events obviously shaped my understanding of romantic relationships and sex.
And after both these events I turned to "casual sex" with strangers as a coping mechanism and as a means of feeling validated. But these events also made it hard for me to comfortably have sex with romantic partners because I felt completely exposed in ways that I didn't with sexual partners.
I have really only had a handful of partners who I have been able to find this sort of balance with-- but it still has always felt forced.
After really getting educated this past year on aromantic and asexual spectrums and identities I have found more of an understanding of myself and now definitely see myself as falling somewhere on both of these spectrums. I think this in particular has been bolstered by me also becoming more comfortable in my polyamorous identity because I no longer feel shame for not being monogamous and having a singular partner that I was romantically and sexually involved with.
All of this has allowed me to have deeper friendships and a more open sex life. And more recently has allowed me to become okay with not currently feeling sexual desire.
Education and open conversations are so vital to people becoming comfortable with themselves and their identities. And this is work that I do and it really hasn't been until the past few months that I have felt empowered by and supported in these identities.
So to all my asexual, aromantic and polyamorous pals you are valid and I support you.
Much love ❤
I have yet to be forthcoming online about the prompting for these realizations-- or more specifically these sub-tweet type posts that I was making around this time.
During this time I lost a relationship with someone who I considered a best friend. Queer family. A life partner.
That because our imaginings of this relationship didn’t match.
Because I was still processing being assaulted again in the summer of 2017 by someone else who I had considered a friend.
Because I was truly processing feelings of revulsion toward my body, and especially my body in relation to sex.
I was seen as toxic and harmful.
They cut me out of their life, and this ultimately led to me losing a whole group of friends who I considered a core part of my life.
I was hurt.
I still am.
I am still grappling with the fact that all our friends took her side and only one person reached out.
I was disposable.
And isn’t that a worst fear realized? That you aren’t necessary to your friends. That one day you are simply no longer important to them?
Building on top of this loss of close friends, I felt conflicted and hurt by the utter lack of resources for sexual assault victim survivors that exist outside of the narrative that all victim/survivors are cis women and all perpetrators/harm-doers are cis men. Period. And as a trans queer person who had been assaulted by people of multiple genders, I felt unseen, unheard and unimportant.
And I needed the help. I was struggling.
And yet, before the catalyst of losing a friend because I couldn’t reciprocate the romantic and sexual feelings they had towards me, these feelings of sexual and body revulsion/aversion were present. Let us work our way back further.
Nov 9, 2017
Those fun moments of realization where even though you are a proponent of having more open discussions about sex and sexuality, because you’ve been assaulted multiple times and don’t feel like you have agency over your own body and because of dysphoria you don’t even feel comfortable in your body that it’s hard to enact all your educational and activist work in your own life….. Cool.
Nov 26, 2017
I've recently been taking more time to sit and write through my healing/taking time to write non-academic work
Been re/claiming my bodymindspirit for myself//
For the first time in a long time I don't feel the need to sacrifice myself and my needs and my heart//
I don't feel the need to define my worth by the number of people who want my body who claim it with their words and their hands and their hands and their hands//
My body is starting to feel like mine and less like pain//
And less like memories of night time fights and cold feet running down the pavement and doors slamming and hands on my throat and cars that are going too fast//
I've always been someone who has enjoyed a slow afternoon//
It's about time that I've synched up with my own enjoyment//
That I felt akin to the leaves that fall in slow motion into the Mississippi river//
feeding my spirit today// indulging in happiness.
surrounding myself in the comfort of green and background conversations//
in taking long walks with no particular destination//
thinking about sensations that always bring me joy:
kissing strangers you will never see again; drinking a hot cup of coffee on a brisk morning in silence; the smell of rain on pavement; a hot bath at sunset; watching sunlight come through tree leaves; eating olives in a park; mixing bread dough by hand;
After a third person had raped me I carved NO into my skin alongside three tally marks//
I wanted this to serve as a reminder to myself to say NO, re/claim NO, to work on saying it louder and consistently//
My body has continued to be violated since then, has been forced into uncomfortable situations and silences//
Has been stolen and belittled and beaten//
It has often felt impossible that I would ever get beyond my overwhelming sadness and pain, beyond my fear// For years I cried nearly every night just wanting the negative and intrusive thoughts|memories|false realities to leave me alone//
I'm still working on remembering to say NO without the fear that I'm letting someone down or making someone else uncomfortable//
I want to re/claim comfort within my own body in constructive ways//
Trying to find other canvasses beyond my own skin.
And what about after?
Jan 13, 2018
Something hasn't been sitting right with me recently, I think as we are going to continually be bombarded with #metoo and public conversations about sexual assault and rape and sexual harassment that we need to be mindful of the language we are using. That we need to makes sure we aren't silencing or overpowering those whose stories don't fit the normative narrative.
That stories like mine where the perpetrator is a friend and a cis woman and I didn't give a verbal no, but instead felt paralyzed and spent the whole next day crying but was unable to characterize what happened as rape because I couldn't see my own story within the guidelines given to me. That I never confronted her and instead stopped all contact and felt afraid every time her name came up on my phone.
That is has been easier for me to talk about my abusers who were cis men, but haven't been able to heal from this.
We need to stop seeing sexual assault as only a problem for cis women as perpetrated by cis men. This is not only homophobic and transphobic, but it does little to help victim/survivors of rape and sexual assault. And it likely won't ever allow for women to see themselves as abusers and perpetrators.
I am tired of this fake sense of "sisterhood" (cisterhood).
We need to expand the narrative so that people can see their own stories and so they are able to process and heal.
I don't know if this all makes sense, I'm just sad and hurt.
Jan 15, 2018
A neat reminder that again coercion, repetitive asking, intimidation, guilting, or trying to “bargain” with people about sex acts does not equal consent////
Rape and assault feelings have been hitting me extra hard recently. So maybe another reminder to check in with your SA victim/survivor pals to see if they need anything or want to talk
And it was here that I didn’t feel scared that any of my abusers would read the following posts and realize it was them. Would they realize? Do they know--even now--that they have hurt me?
Am I still operating covertly enough?
And here I felt it necessary to paint the picture, to in many ways validate my pain to others.
That here I wanted to frontally paint my stories of abuse. That the note in my phone where I typed these still bears this same title.
CW: descriptive content of sexual assault-- to skip go to April 6.
Jan 16, 2018
●They gave me a drink. I blacked out. I wake up in pain and he is penetrating me. I vomit. He continues penetrating me. I work with him the next day.
●I could tell she was flirting with me the first time we met. I wasn't interested but I thought I would ignore it because she was just coming into her queer identity and I didn't want to make her "feel bad." One night when we were cooking and drinking wine when she started massaging my back and kissed me without asking I didn't know how to say no. When she started taking my clothes off I froze.
●I told him about my abusive ex partner and he forcibly kissed me at my front door. I said I don't want to have sex and he called me conceited.
●We had all been flirting and kissing at a party. I was exhausted and wanted to go to sleep. They both wanted me to join and have sex with them. I kept saying I was too tired. She unzipped my dress. He penetrated me.
●She cornered me at a party, upset that I had been flirting with someone else. I laughed it off and tried to walk away but she stopped me. She didn't understand why I was upset at her the next day.
●He grabbed me at a party and stated "I get you for half the night he gets you for half the night" referring to my partner at the time. I tried to walk away. He kissed me.
●He asked if he could take pictures of me while we were having sex and I said that it made me uncomfortable. He did anyway. He sent videos to friends of ours. The next morning he was suddenly the "victim" because he didn't remember it and felt embarrassed. He never apologized.
●He told me that I was too much of a slut to have been raped.
●He told me he could tell I had been raped because I was so needy.
●We started hooking up in his car in a mall parking garage. It started to make me uncomfortable and hurt so I told him I wanted to stop. He said it was unfair to him. I cried and he continued to penetrate me.
●He continually hid and threw away my birth control. He said he wanted to get me pregnant. I was 18. I cried when taking a pregnancy test.
●We went out to get a drink. At the second bar she tried to kiss me and I pulled away and said I didn't want to. She said "you knew this was going to happen" and kissed me again.
●He came home drunk, I was sleeping. He started kissing me and saying that he wanted to have sex. I kept saying I was tired.
All these stories spill together to create a singular story wherein my body is not mine. And my "No" whether verbal or not is considered the harmful act. That a bruised ego is apparently worse off than the numerous assaults on my body.
I often joke that I had a "rough couple of 5 years" and what I mean is that my body was continuously taken advantage of and I was continuously made to feel small, then I started to actually make myself small. That I felt alone and numb. That I envisioned and planned my suicide numerous times. That I cried on every bus ride I took. That I had no one to talk to.
That we don't know how to have conversations around consent.
That too many people are abusers and don't even know it. That will never know it.
That I still don't know how to say no even when people do ask for consent before touching me. That sometimes I say yes to try and convince myself I am okay with it. That I can't even imagine how to say no. That I am afraid of their reaction.
That I realize no won't make them stop.
Jan 19, 2018
I've been really thinking on why kindness or listening or support is too often taken and misinterpreted as sexual or romantic feelings.
I often say that I keep getting "tricked" into relationships because I always feel pressured into transferring good friendships into hastily made romantic/sexual relationships.
And it's so fucking frustrating.
I have never had the desire or intent to have a romantic relationship. And I deeply cherish my friendships.
So holistically it hurts that my friendship isn't seen as good enough or it's seen as hurtful for me to not want to have a romantic relationship.
We have consistently been taught that we need romantic relationships (and specifically monogamous romantic relationships) in order to be fulfilled in life.
Beyond that I'm tired of me just doing what friends should do/me being a supportive friend leading people to think they deserve a sexual relationship.
While I have had wonderful and fun sexual relationships with friends and still been able to maintain strong friendships with them-- these are the minority cases.
This isn't to make this into an individual problem. This again is because society has determined that supportive and loving relationships only equal a sexual relationship.
Overall, can we just start appreciating the vast capabilities of friendships whether they are platonic or sexual or whether they change over time?
Can we stop innately equating support and kindness with romantic and sexual relationships?
Much love ❤
March 7, 2018
She raped me.
This sentence has been so hard to say in ways that I wasn't expecting.
I find myself hiding behind "assault" or hiding her gender or not speaking at all.
I'm still trying to heal, and yet silencing my own healing.
I really thought all the successive "bad things" were over by now.
I bought into the heteronormative assumption that I wouldn't have to guard myself around women.
She raped me and I feel lost.
I feel like I can't trust anyone, I can't trust sex, I can't trust flirting, I can't trust friendship, I can't trust physical touch.
Now I feel scared and not real every time I think about being sexually intimate with someone.
I feel scared being alone with people.
I feel like I have no one to reach out to, because just by a change in the gender pronouns it immediately warrants a different reaction. It brings confusion, a desire for me to elaborate, not an instant anger or support. It brings silence.
Rapists aren't just cis het men or only cis men assaulting cis women. Rape isn't just a product of toxic masculinity or patriarchy, and patriarchy isn't just something than men perpetuate.
I'm tired of the silence and I'm tired of expectations of sex and being coerced or guilted or pressured into sex. I'm tired.
April 1, 2018
April is sexual assault awareness month, as a victim/survivor of multiple rapes in my life I want to recognize how hard these words are to say. I can't count the times I heard people and friends and family and co-workers and students say it was just sex they didn't want to have. That so many people have never told anyone, and may never tell anyone. That being raped is humiliating and traumatic, and finding an actual support system and ways to heal is a hard and potentially unattainable goal.
The first time I was raped was the summer after I graduated high school, I don't remember much aside from being in pain and covered in my own blood and vomit, and in the morning my life had changed. I lost nearly all my friends, I was sent threatening text messages, and coming from a small town I was the "bad person” and was slut shamed.
Unfortunately this wouldn't be the last time I was raped, and I often call this time my "bad couple of 5 years" because it seemed like the constant abuse and trauma and flashbacks and harmful coping mechanisms couldn't be stopped.
I had no one to talk to for years, and honestly I was too afraid to tell anyone about the intimate details of my abuse.
It wasn't until last year that I felt comfortable to open up to my family, and was able to surround myself with friends who truly cared about my healing and cared about me.
This is why when I was raped this last summer that I didn't completely shut down, I was able to talk to people, able to cry, able to be heard and not questioned.
Burying our abuse, while it can seem like we are protecting ourselves, harms us in the long run. I in no way am advocating for punitive "justice" I am advocating for support within our communities, our families and our friendships. I am advocating for discussing the root causes of rape without only blaming the individual, for having real discussions about consent both sexually and in everyday actions, for having real discussions about sex within friendships and intimate relationships, for not limiting these discussions to a cisnormative or heteronormative perspective.
I have been very outspoken about being assaulted and abused within the past two years because I have seen the effect it has had on those around me or those who follow me online. That I have been able to have meaningful conversations with other victim/survivors, and often that is such a huge first step to even tell anyone. I lived in fear and shame and humiliation for so long, and it meant so much to not feel alone and not feel like a spectacle for people to feel sad about.
I don't have all the answers and I'm still trying to heal, and relationships and sex still feel like unattainable and scary things for me-- but I have found so much power and love in my friendships and my family. Please always feel free to reach out ❤
“I’m tired” “I’m hurt”
What I mean is I am here, I am valid, I am real, my experiences are real.
Finding balance (?)
May 18, 2018
through the thesis haze and the last semester of my MA program I strayed away from loving and caring for my own bodymindspirit. I ditched my morning routine for frantic emails and writing edits. I was away traveling. Sick because I was traveling. And it all has taken a toll on how comfortable and confident I feel in my own skin. I've been second guessing my relationships, and not caring as much about my presentation. But more than that it has been horrendous for my physical body and chronic pain. And I know this. But depression has a fun way of making me feel aversion to things I know are good for me.
I am working to find my way back and in investing time in productive and healing self care ✨
July 23, 2018
Reflections on self growth!
I think recently I've been hard on myself BUT I also want to celebrate my successes! Namely that I have had maybe a handful of drinks, haven't been blackout drunk, and that I haven't had casual sex in several months! And while I have pretty publicly talked about my eating disorder and self harm/cutting in the past--sex and alcohol abuse in many ways seemed harder to talk about. for those of you who knew me especially during my first few years of undergrad, you were likely VERY aware of my using alcohol as a coping mechanism or that I was blackout drunk several days of the week, and also of my tendency for public hook-ups with strangers. And even those who were around me my first year of grad school, that I had a drink nearly every day. for those of you who may have known me in middle school and high school you probably did NOT know that I had been drunk during school or drove places drunk etc. All of which is to say that I both tried to hide these destructive behaviors and that binge drinking culture is ridiculously normalized during college AND in grad school/academia. That up until this last year, I constantly used sex and alcohol because I thought it made people like me or made them think I was funnier. That I was especially using it as a way to cope with sexual assault, domestic violence, and abusive/toxic relationships. That both of these behaviors are incredibly risky and have led to me being in dangerous and life threatening situations. And in situations that have irrevocably hurt me. That like many people who have been through trauma, I was looking to escape myself and I was looking to feel wanted by literally anyone. But by working to eliminate these coping mechanisms I have gotten to know myself. I am able to be self-reflective without distractions. I am able to inhabit ALL of myself and think about what I truly need and desire without being impulsive.
Yes I still LOVE beer but I've worked to see it as a treat and not as a necessity or way to cope with a bad day.
And no I don't really like or need sex. I'm still working on a lot of body things, dysphoria things, chronic pain things and sexual assault things that make sex hurt physically/mentally/spiritually.
I want to give HUGE shoutouts to all my sober pals, pals who have reduced their drinking with me, pals who have been through similar traumas, and pals who are on the ace and aro spectrums like me! You have made this process SO much easier and I love you ❤
Re-center. Now. August 26, 2018.
Let’s return to the question posed: why does it hurt when I have sex?
And what then is this need for achieving “normalcy.” Because isn’t it NORMAL to desire sex. Normative sex.
Isn’t it NORMAL to desire romantic emotional bonds?
And what does it mean when we don’t? When we have been taunted for our lack of ability to make those connections with others. That no, I DON’T like physical touching exercises even at healing workshops.
That even when I was using sex as a coping mechanism for my traumas throughout undergrad I rarely felt comfortable or present during sex.
That I often made jokes that I was a “self hating sluts” and that now I was a “self-empowered slut.”
Was this ever true?
Did sex ever make me feel empowered?
Or did I only realize how much I didn’t enjoy or desire sex after I started to address my eating disorder and self-harming? After I came out to myself?
Is the genealogy important?
And is the central question I am trying to address here truly “Why does it hurt when I have sex?” and what is hiding behind that question? A desire to seemingly enjoy sex again?
What if I was honest about the sexual questions that preceded this?
Was I afraid of my sexual desires that may have been tied to my abuse? Is aversion preferable?
What about the reality of the pain? All my frantically google search questions about pain, my panic about not being normal.
And yet, I truly feel like I am content here. I feel happy and fulfilled by my friendships, by my queer family.
I sometimes like to kiss people, and it has felt so affirming to have these boundaries be respected. I want to be continue this dialogue, this unearthing of past realities/past thoughtfeelings and these feelings are still present///
or were they just part of the way to forgiveness/healing?
I think I’m ready to find out.