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Author Topic: Identifying as male only in sexual situations?
Berry Babe
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Hello! I'm going to do my absolute best to make this as concise and conservative (as far as language goes) as possible, but I apologize if I say anything that may be vaguely offensive or bothersome to anyone. I'm not good at talking about things like this. I also don't know what information would be useful in a topic of this nature, so pardon me if I tell too much. Also, sorry if this is in the wrong section of the forum! I wasn't sure where to put it. Okay! Disclaimer aside, here I go:

I'm 20 years old, a biological female, and I've been having quite a few problems when it comes to sexual activity. I'm a virgin and I don't watch porn or masturbate at all, and I know that although that's a bit rare, it's not all that unheard of. The troubling part for me is the reason why I don't partake in activities like that.

I adore being female. I love being pretty and sexy and partaking in quite a few stereotypically female activities. Until it comes to intimate or sexual behavior. I've self-diagnosed myself with Sexual Aversion Disorder (spurred by some hetersoexual sexually abusive relationships in my past), and although that would normally explain my lack of interest in activities of that nature, it doesn't explain my main problem.

I simply can't bring myself to do anything sexual because I despise having female genitals. I can't look at mine or anyone else's without becoming either incredibly anxious or sickened. But male genitals are fine. So fine, in fact, that every single one of my sexual fantasies involves me having male reproductive organs. Whenever I'm aroused at all, I see myself with male parts, and I constantly wish that I had what I imagine. When partaking in intimate behavior in my current pseudo-relationship (I am currently involved with another female), I yearn to be called by male pronouns, for my breasts to be ignored, to have my manhood praised, and to partake in only male-based activities. Without going into too much detail (as I don't know what would be seen as obscene in this situation) the only time I can successfully get off is when she and I place ourselves in a situation where male anatomy would be satisfied.

So you can see my dilemma. I enjoy being a woman, but I cannot partake in sexual activities with the genitalia that I possess. I have dysphoria, but only on a limited scope. I looked into autoandrophilia at one point, and although it comes close to what I may have, it doesn't seem to encompass the whole situation. I view this not as a fetish, but instead as a gender dilemma.

So I'd like to ask, is there any opinion on what may be going on? I haven't been able to find a situation like mine on the internet, so I figured I'd ask about it. Is this a case of gender troubles or does it stem from my disorder?

Sorry for the length of this post. But thank you to anyone who reads it and offers an opinion. I hope you're all having wonderful days.

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Robin Lee
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Hi Berry Babe and welcome to Scarleteen,


I have a few questions:
What do you mean by the relationship you're in right now being a "pseudo-relationship"?

How does your partner receive your desires to be referred to as and behaved towards as male during your sexual encounters?

Have you ever received any support, therapy, or both around your experience of abuse?

[ 12-27-2012, 03:18 PM: Message edited by: Robin Lee ]

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Robin

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Heather
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Hey, Berry.

Save that, if you haven't already, you might want to look into some counseling so you can learn to make peace with your body (after all, you need to live with it for the whole of your life, and not just when sexual with others), I don't see any big problem here.

(I do, however, strongly suspect this probably is about post-trauma with your abuse if you don't otherwise have any disconnect or feelings of displacement with your gender. And for sure, having gender issues around sex and body parts after abuse is not at all unusual, especially if your gender plays a big part in your sexuality, and/or it did in your abuse. I'd also suggest actually seeing someone with some training and education around sexuality, abuse and gender -- ideally all three -- rather than self-diagnosing an aversion disorder. Especially if you want to be having the sex you are now and are enjoying it, which would stand counter to aversion.)

In other words, if what works for you for now (or hell, for always) is to identify yourself and/or your body or its parts as male in sexual situations, that's certainly okay to do.

Obviously, you'll need to let partners know that in advance. Is this an issue in your relationship right now, or is this going okay in that regard?

[ 12-27-2012, 03:14 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Berry Babe
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Thank you so much for the welcome!

I call it a pseudo-relationship because we aren't technically together. It's really most comparable to the stereotypical "college experimentation", especially since she's my roommate. We're best friends and mostly platonic. We don't view each other as significant others, but we will occasionally engage in intimate behavior together. It's sort of a "friends with benefits" situation. I know that sounds horrible, but it's true.

She knows and encourages all of the details that I have told her about. I haven't mentioned my preference for male pronouns in that situation or my wish for my female parts to be ignored and my manhood to be praised, but she will put herself willingly in a position to satisfy what I fantasize. I was honestly ashamed of it and afraid to admit it to her the first time, but she encouraged me and refuses to let me call it any sort of a belittling term. In fact, she was the one to suggest that it might be a gender conflict, so she's incredibly supportive. I'll often turn to her for help whenever I need to talk about it.

I'll try not to be too graphic on this one. My first abusive relationship included me being pressured or even physically forced into a lot of situations I simply was not comfortable with. It was when I was very young, in about seventh grade, and lasted for about a year. My second one lasted for about two and a half years and started the summer before my sophomore year of high school. My boyfriend was what he called "addicted to sex" and would pressure me into performing oral sex on him or allowing him to take pleasure with me in other ways. Although it was never penetrative, I still see that as abusive. I would cry or beg him not to, but in the end he'd have his way, only to be incredibly apologetic afterwards and even break into tears. He took pictures of me for his own enjoyment and casually insulted my female genitalia the one time I allowed him to get that close.

The only support I've received for these two situations has been from friends and my sister. I have never told the other members of my family. My current roommate/friend/partner(?) knows about both of them and will help me to address them if I need to, but I rarely talk about them. The second happened during my parents' divorce, so I bottled up most of those situations and feelings and tried my best not to think about them. I'm not in denial, but I try to avoid the subject. I've made peace with the second, more abusive boyfriend, but the first and I never talk.

I also self-diagnosed those as sexually abusive. I honestly don't know if they qualify as such, and I apologize if they don't. I know a lot of people have it a lot worse than I did.

I hope that helps! Thank you so much for your interest!


EDIT: sorry, Heather! I posted this before seeing your response!

I diagnosed myself with the disorder because I cannot hear about or talk about sexual situations, visit sex stores, see pornographic images, or anything of that sort without becoming very jumpy and nauseous. I can only partake in sexual situations if I am very, very well acquainted with my partner. That may very well be a misuse of the term, so I'm sorry if I diagnosed that incorrectly! But that was the reasoning behind it at least.

The problem with this is that I feel incredibly foolish and uncomfortable with the fact that I can't function as a female in all respects of my life. I don't know if that's a valid concern, but I know that this situation has been causing a lot of trouble and confusion for me. I hope this answers your questions and addresses your concerns!

[ 12-27-2012, 03:35 PM: Message edited by: Berry Babe ]

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Heather
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First things first: I'm glad you trusted us to talk about your abuse.

You have described several different sexual abuses here. Both by legal definitions and by those used by people like us who educate about abuse and advocate for victims and survivors.

Sometimes people get really hung up on the idea that their abuse wasn't "real" because it wasn't "as bad" as someone else's. I think it's helpful to remember three big things:

1) We all react differently to trauma, even to the same kind of trauma. So, with sexual abuse and assault for instance, one person can have a given thing happen to them and be very traumatized, or have a tougher time healing, while another can have the exact same things happen and do a lot better.

2) The idea of what's "bad" and what's "worse" is really very arbitrary.

3) No one who has also been abused or assaulted in some way is harmed by anyone identifying their abuse or assault as such. You doing so doesn't invalidate their abuse or assault, nor does it mean they can't say what it was like for them. Sometimes I'll get a little personal around this and remind a user that I'm someone who has both survived a kind of sexual assault that's often classified by a lot of people as being in that "the worst kind" group, but I've also survived sexual abuse that wouldn't get filed there, and verbal and emotional abuse that wouldn't, either. Not only can I recognize all those as abuse, I, personally, have found it was way harder for me to heal from the verbal abuse. Just my two cents.

I do think that seeking out some qualified support and counseling would be a good thing for you: it is for most survivors. I think that no matter how you ultimately choose to identify your gender, during sex or in general, you'll benefit. Would you be open to that? If so, it sounds like you're in school of some kind right now: have you looked into what services they might offer?

Whatever feelings and concerns you're having, they're yours and they're valid. But it sounds like the weight you're giving to "functioning as a female in all respects of life," (I put that in quotes because being female and/or a woman is such a diverse experience, I don't honestly know what that means to you) probably is related to the abuse and assault. What do you think about that? Might some of this, perhaps, feel like a power was taken away from you that you want to harness, if you catch my drift?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Berry Babe
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Thank you for clarifying that! I'm so sorry that you had to experience what you went through, but you're incredibly strong for using that situation to help others.

I have often thought about seeing a counselor of some sort, especially since my college does offer a few free sessions. However, it would only be a matter of time before my family learned that I was in therapy. My mother is bipolar, my father is depressed, and my sister has OCD so horribly that her doctors said she shouldn't be able to function in normal society. But. Because of that, although counselors are a common thing in my family's life, I can't bring myself to see one. If I did, my family would worry about me and ask what the matter was. I have a very conservative family, and my mother has been fishing for something controversial in my life to make a large deal about to turn the attention away from her affairs. So if she found out, I would never hear the end of it.

I know that therapy would most likely help (my father has a bachelors in Psychology, so I know it can be a very effective practice), but the trouble is also that I will have to face someone face-to-face and tell them about all of this. On a college campus, no less, which would give me a high percentage of running into them during the day. I know there is a lot of patient confidentiality involved in therapy, but seeing them would be hard for me. Knowing that someone I don't know well know about my life.

Oh! I didn't mean to infer that one had to be female to be a woman. I meant that since I'm comfortable with being biologically female, I find it incredibly difficult to not accept all facets of what that means.

I've had the suspicion that it was linked to the abuse, but I'm not sure? It's hard for me to say whether or not I lost power in those situations, since I don't particularly feel like I ever had power even before the relationships. I can never remember wanting to learn about my female body. I can, however, recall several times before the abuse when I longed to have male genitalia. My sister shared this with me for a while, but she eventually grew out of it, and insists that me "penis envy" is something that I, too, will "grow out of."

She belittles me jokingly for not wanting to participate in sexual activities as I am. She doesn't know about the gender dilemma.

I seem to be talking in circles, so I'll stop there. I'm sorry if I overlooked anything you asked me, but thank you so very much for helping me out so far!!

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Heather
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It's okay. And I'm okay. But I appreciate your care about it. [Smile]

Can I ask how you think your family could/would learn that you were getting counseling or therapy unless you told them?

Mind, it also sounds like you're thinking classic therapy is the only option here. It's not. Support groups, for example, are another option. Going to a rape/sexual abuse crisis center versus a therapist or a counselor at school is another. There are others, too.

Plus, we build relationships with these kinds of helpers. It's pretty much like any relationship: we don't just walk in and dump our whole life story and every feeling on a counselor or therapist before we build trust and a rapport. So, it's not likely that in any of these kinds of interactions you're going to feel like they know you and you don't know them. You get to only disclose as much at a given time as you want and feel comfortable with with a good counselor or therapist, just like you get to do with any other kind of healthy person.

quote:
Oh! I didn't mean to infer that one had to be female to be a woman. I meant that since I'm comfortable with being biologically female, I find it incredibly difficult to not accept all facets of what that means.
I actually didn't think you were inferring that. What I was asking about and questioning was the idea that there are "all facets" of what "being female," or being a woman means, or, perhaps more to the point, that for the myriad of things that CAN mean, any one person ever COULD manage to inhabit all of them. Make sense?

Like I said, it sounds to me like you need some help in healing wither or not your feelings about your genitals are related to your abuse. I also don't want to pathologize how you're feeling about your genitals: by all means, it's not like discomfort with genitals, period, specific genitals, or wanting a different gender identity than you were assigned in any or all situations is something that comes about only because someone has suffered abuse or some other kind of trauma.

And I certainly think the highly outmoded Freudian theory of "penis envy" is dismissive here (and pretty much anywhere), and again, outdated and not remotely helpful. I'm sorry your sister has responded like that.

Do you think some books might be helpful to you right now? Maybe a couple on healing from sexual abuse, maybe another couple on gender and identity?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Berry Babe
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Of course! [Smile]

I'm not financially independent and I'm still under my parents' health insurance, so if I wanted to continue seeing a specialist, I'd have to contact my parents in order to afford the service.

And that's very true! I'll look into abuse centers in my area and see if my school has any support groups. I didn't look into them earlier because my dilemma straddles the line between abuse and gender issues, and I know some groups do not appreciate when something outside of the main topic is brought up. I could be wrong, though!

I understand what you mean. I guess I just meant that it bothers me a great deal that I can identify with being female and that I can go about my daily life while being female, but that there is a situation that I can't face while identifying as a female. And to me that's highly discouraging, especially because everyone in my life is either cisgendered or transgendered, so the idea of somehow straddling those two borders really stresses me out and causes quite a bit of problems for me. I have, in fact, minorly self-harmed because of it on more than one occasion. So although it may be something that's acceptable for someone else, I can't really bring myself to understand or accept it in my current mindset.

Books might be useful, but I'd have no idea where to start. There are so many different schools of thought on the topics that it's easy to get turned around. I honestly am just lost and sort of hit a brick wall last night while texting my roommate that made me think I needed to ask someone who was more knowledgeable on this topic than either of us.

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Heather
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I'd be happy to look locally for you: many cities (and especially often college towns) have sexual abuse and assault centers for survivors with free counseling. So, the issue of paying for it may be a non-issue.

You know, I get that when everyone around you is either cis or trans, the world can feel very binary. However, know that however people may identify their gender, not only can no one possible perform or experience ALL that is whatever gender theirs is, because no one person can: we all have a wide range of experiences with gender, even when we share a gender. And that's the case of cis and trans people, too.

But it also isn't like being genderqueer, or agender, or neutrois, etc. aren't things that are also just as real, no less so because a given person doesn't know any genderqueer people. That's not to say any of those gender identities are or must be yours, mind you, just a reminder they're out there, too. And people experiencing gender in a wide range of ways? That's true for cis and trans people as well. Get where I'm going?

Too, though, I think identifying how comfortable you do or don't feel with identifying, or identifying your body parts, as male, is meaningful. That's likely to be key in figuring out if this is about a gender identity or performance that feels right for you, and you're just getting used to that, or if this is all really borne out of a discomfort, and you think you'd feel best identifying as a woman, or your parts as female. It just might take a little while to sort that out.

I'll make you a book list shortly!

In the meantime, because I really love them - and their founder is a friend - and just suggested them to someone else here today, so they're on the brain, I want to be sure you're familiar with Genderfork, which is one place you can see genderqueer people, and a range of gender expressions, GQ or not, and also interact with people, if you like: http://www.genderfork.com

[ 12-27-2012, 06:04 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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Here are those book suggestions! Just did a few for each, because I didn't want to overwhelm you. [Smile]

On gender:
• The Nearest Exit May Be behind You by S. Bear Bergman
• My Gender Workbook, by Kate Bornstein
• Delusions of gender by Cordelia Fine

On surviving abuse or assault:
• The Survivor's Guide to Sex by Staci Haines (the new edition is called Healing Sex, but if you find the old one instead, it's all good: it'll still be great for you, I think.)
• Healing Your Emotional Self by Beverly Engel (not specific to sexual abuse, covers the abuse bases)
• The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse, by Wendy Maltz
• In the event you go for the more academic, I'd throw this one into the mix: The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment, by Babette Rothschild

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Berry Babe
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Wow! Thank you so much! I'm running an amazon search on those books and scrolling through the profiles on Genderfork right now! Everything seems amazing and pretty useful!

I have a question, though.

quote:
Too, though, I think identifying how comfortable you do or don't feel with identifying, or identifying your body parts, as male, is meaningful. That's likely to be key in figuring out if this is about a gender identity or performance that feels right for you, and you're just getting used to that, or if this is all really borne out of a discomfort, and you think you'd feel best identifying as a woman, or your parts as female. It just might take a little while to sort that out.
I can't help but admit that I'm relatively naive when it comes to the idea of gender. I was raised in a very conservative home, so the only exposure I've had to the concept comes from the internet, my trans friend, and my roommate. If you don't mind me asking, (and I hope this doesn't come across as offensive or ignorant, I'm just purely curious) I do understand how one can identify as a certain gender or lack-there-of, but how do you identify a specific part of you as another gender than the whole of you? I may have worded that oddly, but it's not something I've come across before, and it caught my attention just now.

Also I may begin searching around where I go to college, but I don't really know what I'm looking for. If I find a hold up, would you mind me messaging a more specific location than "Michigan" to you if you're willing to help? Or would the state itself be good enough for you to make your search?

I honestly can't thank you enough for the amount of help you're giving me. I never expected for someone to be so willing to assist me, so thank you so much! It means a lot to me! [Smile]

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Heather
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That's how we roll around here. [Smile] I'm happy to be of help.

Nothing offensive to me about what you're asking, but it strikes me as one of those questions with the answer is either blindingly simple or very complex, so I'll do my best.

It might be easiest if I do this from a personal place first, since there's some stuff I can relate to here, per someone who isn't trans, but also really doesn't feel cis plenty of the time, either. Hopefully it's not TMI for you: I try and keep big boundaries here with personal stuff so no one feels like the person helping them is putting their stuff on them.

Now, for me, that not-feeling is both really not fitting, or feeling at home in, some very common and pervasive roles and ideas about women but also just not entirely feeling gender in some ways. Like, not so much as in there are ways I feel more like a man (though there's some of that, too), but ways where even classifying something as being male or female, man or woman, and putting a gender on it doesn't really make sense to me: are places where if someone puts it on me, whatever (probably mostly because I'm too old to care at this point, honestly), but I wouldn't place gender on those areas myself.

I've certainly experienced that with a lot of my sexuality, but I've also experienced it with more specific things or parts, like gendering my breasts, for example, or my singing voice, or who I am when I'm helping someone with something where my gender is irrelevant. Sure, those things, save the breast bit, aren't body parts per se, but they're parts of who I am as a whole person.

I say that to give you a picture of how that can be. If it helps to hear some more, I know some older trans women, when standards around getting hormones and surgeries were way more strict, who expressed really resenting what they had to do to "pass" and be considered as someone who was someone else's idea of 100% woman, especially when either that wasn't their idea, or when they didn't consider themselves 100% of any gender. And, validly, didn't think they should have to in order to identify and present their gender as felt best and true to them.

It might also be relevant to mention that, for example, some lesbian women who use strap-on's do NOT identify them as a penis, while others do.

In essence, I think you might be being more rigid around ideas of what makes someone, including yourself, a certain gender, or a certain sex, than tends to reflect a lot of people's lived experiences. Maybe even most people's.

Does that make sense?

Overall, I think the core bit to live with about gender is that if something is your experience of your gender, it's your experience of your gender. If, as it happens, you want to be a woman, identify as a woman, and your identity as a woman includes identifying your body parts as male, then that doesn't mean you're not a woman. It just means that's part of who you are as the unique woman you are.

That's the simple version of that answer. How do you identify a specific part of you as another gender than the whole of you? However you do. You presently are. In other words, you're doing that, and lo, you're still you. If that person is a woman, then she is. [Smile]

More than a state would be helpful. To protect users from harassment, we don't have messaging enabled, but if you click the "contact us" link at the bottom of the page, you can drop an email I'll get. A zip code works just fine. [Smile]

[ 12-27-2012, 08:44 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Berry Babe
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Okay! I sent my zip code!

I can sort of understand what you mean. I feel like maybe this is something I'm still missing, though, and that actually understanding it may require a lot more research. Through no fault of your own, mind you. I just have a very hard time understanding concepts around gender, since it's relatively new to me.

I hate to sound like I'm regressing, but I've been a little off all day, so please excuse me for addressing topics that we may have already touched on. As previously stated, I identify as female. But I feel the need to envision myself as, and act like a male under sexual situations. This, however, causes me great distress and a lot of strife in my sexual life, but I can't face those situations as a female. So, what I guess I'm asking at this point is: how do I choose what to identify my libido (for lack of a better word) as when all open options seem to cause me more problems? I don't know whether or not that's a question that you can answer or if I'll have to look into it, or if it seems like I'm going back to square one (for which I'm sorry), but that's what's really eating at me at this point.

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Heather
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It's okay for us to keep circling back to things.
Let me check in with you first, though: do you feel that sex is something you WANT right now, and that you think is the right thing for you right now, in general?

In other words, you say you can't face sexual situations as female. Since sex is optional, and to me, hearing you frame it as something to "face," doesn't make it sound like something you want or feel comfortable with, period, I want to get the weather report on what you think about that.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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Btw, looking into local resources for you.

Here's a list that covers your whole state: http://www.aardvarc.org/rape/states/michrp.shtml

It's not classified by zip codes, and I'm only slightly familiar with Michigan as a state, so you'll likely be able to spot anything that's close. What I'd suggest doing with that is calling whoever on it is nearest you. If they're close enough and have services you want, great.

If not, you can still call the closest service and ask if they know about anything nearer to you.

I do think this branch of the YWCA may be close to you:
YWCA of Grand Rapids
25 Sheldon Blvd
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
(616) 776-RAPE (24 hour crisis hotline)

If it is, know the Y is often a GREAT resource for women coping with any kind of abuse or violence. They often have totally free counseling or support group services.

I don't know if this is where you're at or not, but The Grand Valley State University Counseling Center provides specific counseling for survivors of sexual assault. They're at: (616) 331-3266.

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Berry Babe
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Okay! Thank you so much for being patient with me.

The answer to that question is both yes and no. I have chosen to remain abstinent until marriage when it comes to penetrative sex. However, I would like to be able to partake in other sexual experiences without the fear of breaking down afterwards or getting nauseous at the thought of doing so. And to be frank, I'd like to be able to masturbate, since it seems to be something highly beneficial to everyone that I've talked to.

Interestingly enough, GVSU's center seems to work hand-in-hand with YWCA, so it looks like if I contacted one of them, I'd in essence be contacting both parties. I'll look into their programs. Thank you so much!

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Robin Lee
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What I'm hearing from your comment about masturbation is that it's something you maybe think you're supposed to be doing, versus something you feel emotionally or physically moved to do right now. If I'm reading that wrong, please feel free to set me straight. I think it is also helpful to remember that all of this is for right now...so if the sexual activities you're feeling like you want to try really aren't okay for you right now, it doesn't mean that they won't always be, either through the simple passage of time, or through doing more work on this with a counsellor.

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Berry Babe
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Well, I won't deny that it seems to be something that everyone around me does. When I told those closest to me that I don't (my sister and roommate), they were both shocked. My sister thought I was joking.

I agree with the idea that what I view as "okay" will change with time. But I just sort of have this mindset where I think "If I can't even do that, how will I be able to do this?" Hence my desire to be able to function like everyone else in sexual situations. And also why I have a problem with coming to terms with functioning as a male in situations of that kind.

Really, to put it simply, I just want to be able to be able to function "normally." I know that's probably silly of me to think, but that's where my thought process goes.

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Heather
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Okay, so I hear that you WANT to "be able" to be sexual, and to do so comfortably.

But I guess I'm still not getting a sense of if you actually want to be engaging in sex when you are, like with your roommate. Like, is this a strong desire to be sexual with her you're feeling when you engage in sex together?

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Berry Babe
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Ha. Um, actually. That's an entirely separate issue sort of. I'm sorry. This is a complicated answer.

I feel like I have a sort of overwhelming sexual desire when we do what we do until a certain point, and then I'm pretty disconnected and disinterested.

And in all honesty, I don't really know how to put this, but I've been trying to partake in only heterosexual relationships for a myriad of personal reasons that she knows and understands (although she might not agree with them), but I simply can't. Since my last abusive relationship, I've had relationships with exclusively females, actually three different girls despite my attempts not to.

So yes, to a point. It's sort of like part of me wants to do what I'm doing and the other part doesn't. If that makes any sense?

I'm sorry for being so convoluted and off topic from the original intent of this thread. Thank you for putting up with me!!

[ 12-28-2012, 11:38 AM: Message edited by: Berry Babe ]

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Heather
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No, you're not being off topic at all, and this is much more clear. I also don't think this is at ALL a separate issue.

Here's what I'd say: I'd say that it's not really healthy -- not just for you, for anyone -- to be having sex after any point at which you're not engaged and interested. And that it's also not healthy to be having any kind of sex you don't feel great about having, in all respects -- be this about a partner's gender or anything else -- and in control of per your own choices. For anyone, but that's especially toxic for sexual or emotional abuse survivors.

So, I think the very best first big step you could probably take with ALL of this would be to step ALL the way back from sex with ANYONE right now. To make a really hard limit around it, maybe for a set period of time, while you instead invest that time and energy into starting to do some work with healing, into really looking into what you want for yourself and need, into figuring out what with all of this is about gender and what's about abuse, the works.

I hear you saying you want something specific with sexual partnerships, but keep winding up in those which you really don't want or feel okay about (and your reasons get to be whatever they are: no one else has to agree with them, they simply need to accept them, which would also mean, though, not having sex with you when you've made clear that's not in line with what you want).

Do you have any sense of why that keeps happening, keeps being something you choose? Is it you initiating these sexual relationships?

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Berry Babe
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Yeah, I had a feeling it wasn't good for me to be doing. The problem is, although I have very strict barriers as to what I'm willing to do when, I seem to be pretty incapable of denying sexual activity as a whole. Like with my last abusive relationship. I dumped him, but we still continued to partake in the relatively-abusive situations until about a year and a half after we were officially single.

When it comes to these most recent relationships, yes. It's me who initiates. For the first two, I was the one who initiated pretty much everything. With my roommate now, it's a bit more even-sided, but I'm definitely the one calling the shots. This has really caused me a lot of trouble, since I'm torn between what I want to do and what I actually do.

I don't know if it's relevant, either, but aside from a brief situation with a ftm man that I know, I haven't been able to have a relationship with a male since my abusive ones.

But yeah. I definitely understand that I need to stop so I can think. I have an app on my phone in which I can record daily activities which are marked only as either "good" or "bad" for me. I've been trying to keep track of when I lose control and engage with my roommate. Although I'll have a week of green, then next week and a half will be completely red. So. There goes my self control.

As for why I keep choosing it, I don't know. Most of the time, I'll want something romantic (i.e. cuddling or something that could be seen as semi-platonic) and circumstance will turn it into something sexual. So, in the face of that, I think my natural reaction is then to try to take control of an uncontrolled situation. If that makes sense?

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Heather
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It does.

So, how do you feel about making a real commitment to yourself to simply take sex, with anyone, off the table for right now. For, let's say, one month to start? A month you can absolutely extend if after that month, you feel you want to?

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Berry Babe
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I'd love to. I'm just not sure if I can stick to it. Every time I tell myself that I won't do it again, I wind up in that situation only a matter of hours later. I just don't really know how to say no to my roommate without making her upset? She's emotionally invested in me, and I don't want her to feel crushed if I tell her that we need to stop.

I'll try, though. I really will. It's not that I don't have faith that it'll help. It's that I don't have faith in myself to abstain. But I'll definitely try.

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Heather
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I suspected you might have some trouble saying no to people with sex. That's common, period, but especially common with sexual abuse and assault survivors.

So, up to creating some strategies for that together, especially since "love to," suggests to me this time away is something you deeply want? I'd be happy to brainstorm and come up with some tools for you.

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Berry Babe
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Yes, thank you, that'd be super useful. I mean, my sister always says "why not just say 'no'?" and although that might work for her, it doesn't for me. I always get too concerned about how my continued refusal will upset whoever I'm with. But yeah. I think being able to just clear the air would be amazing. The problem is, I'm sure I could tell my roommate no, and she'd listen to me (she's from a history of sexual abuse, too), but she'd get worried and upset and think she did something wrong.

So yeah. I'll just start thinking of ways that I can redirect her, maybe. Because she's not at fault, and the last thing I want is for her to feel like she is.

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Heather
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You got it.

One thing I'll lead with here is saying that ANYONE who is truly emotionally invested in us, and in our own well-being, for real, will NOT want to have any kind of sex with us we don't also 100% want. They also won't get upset when we say no to sex they do, especially if they're people with the basic capabilities of having a healthy sexual life with anyone, which always includes accepting that people will say no to sex we want, and we have to be able to not only deal with that, but be able to pretty easily.

Understand?

So, if she's truly emotionally invested in you, then just saying that you need at least one month of NO sex, and maybe more, to figure out what's best for you, to start working on your own healing? That really should cut it. I know getting up the gumption to say that might take some effort on your part, but if you do, that should help. It also makes clear this is about you: it's earnestly not about her.

You can also make clear this isn't about her doing anything wrong: it's about you figuring out what's right for YOU to do and say yes to.

How do you feel about that?

After a talk like that, if she takes it seriously and doesn't initiate, then it's about figuring out how to keep yourself from doing that, especially when you know you really need to not be involved in sex right now.

To figure some of that out, can you by any chance identify what it is you're seeking when you DO initiate sex? Like, what are some of the things you want from that for yourself, and want to do for someone else with that?

Or (or and), if any of this happens at times when you're feeling socially lost or out of place, can you identify what those are? Like, for instance, when you're not feeling close to someone or able to get close to them otherwise? When you want attention? When the other person seems upset or lonely? Just some examples.

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Heather
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Oh, also, can I ask, too, how much of this might be about control for you? In other words, I hear some in here that suggests you might be trying to control this person's feelings: not in a crummy way, but in a way that you might be feeling afraid to let her manage her own disappointments and such herself, or even to let her simply experience them, as we all will.

Or, maybe controlling, or trying to, her investment or interest in you?

Or, controlling around the fear that if someone gets upset with/about you, they might do you harm?

[ 12-28-2012, 12:39 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Berry Babe
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That all makes sense. And I know she'll honor whatever I ask of her.

When it comes to initiating with others, I think it's just honestly because I want to be able to understand what my sister and roommate talk about. And what everyone else mentions. Our society is so sexualized that it seems like I'm the only one that doesn't get the whole "sex" concept. I know that's not true, but that's what it feels like. I think it's a mixture between that and also fulfilling physical desire, since I have no other outlet for that.

As for my partners in those situations, it's honestly always more about them. I don't know how to achieve whatever it is I'm looking for, but I do know how to help out my partner, so I focus on that. I don't care if I don't feel anything as long as they do. (Honestly, with my abusive relationships I never had a chance to get anything out of any encounter, so I'm pretty used to focusing on who I'm with instead of myself.) I like making my partner happy, for lack of a better word.

Of the examples you provide, the only time that I'm likely to partake in a sexual activity is when my partner is upset. Because maybe it'll cheer them up or distract them. I tend to bottle up my own emotions and often eschew them entirely, and I rarely feel lonely or out of place, so I don't think those can be a reason for why I act the way I do.

Yeah, I can admit to trying to shield her from her own emotions. I helped her get out of her recent abusive relationship (I know I use that term frequently, but if what I had constitutes as an abusive relationship then hers does as well), but we have two other roommates and one of them happens to be her ex girlfriend. So I'm rather protective of her because if she feels like I'm upset with her or like there's something separating myself and her, and our other two roommates are hostile towards her, she has nowhere to turn.

I honestly am not afraid that she'll do me harm. I've never been afraid of that. Even in my past experiences, I was never afraid of being harmed, but rather going further than I was comfortable, or even worse, getting caught in the act. I'm much more concerned that if someone gets upset with/about me, that they'll do them self harm. I don't want anyone to suffer just because of me.

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Heather
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(I have a phone meeting now, will be back to you on this in around an hour, maybe less.)

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Berry Babe
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That's absolutely fine! I understand that you have other engagements, and it'd be silly of me to think otherwise! I have a few things to attend to, too, so it's no problem in the slightest!

I look forward to continuing this conversation when you get a chance, but please don't rush! You need time to live your own life, too! [Smile]

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Heather
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Work alas, not life, but so it goes. [Smile] But I certainly appreciate the room you're making!

So. Sounds to me like you could use a few things:

1) You're viewing sex with a partner as "helping" them in some ways, and that needs to shift. Sex with a partner is ultimately about something people co-create. It can fill some needs for all of us, for sure, and it might well help us or others in any number of ways, but sex-as-service often isn't a sound frame in most sexual situations that aren't about sex work, but it tends to be a really noxious one for survivors of abuse.

To give you some helps during your off-time, to start, how about we come up with a list of a myriad of alternative ways you can help people you care about and do what heels good to make them happy? You also mention this can be about cheering them up, so let's see if we can include ways to help someone to cheer up that aren't sexual.

2) You need to develop some ways of letting your friend take care of herself and own and experience her own feelings.

To do that, perhaps you can start by bearing in mind that we don't actually empower anyone by parenting them when we're not their parents, and really, that's kind of what keeping others from how they feel, and dealing with how they feel, is. Your best friend has to live with herself, and will likely have a whole later-lifetime where you might not be around: she needs to know how to take care of herself, and you need to let her.

She also needs to perhaps make some changes FOR herself, like changing her living situation per not living with her abusive ex. It might be your "help," however well-intended, is holding both of you back in your own healing more than moving you both forward, you know?

One thing you might do is be honest with her about your inclination to act in this way, and state your intent to change that. You can also ask for her help in that, like her reminding you that she can take care of her, and she needs to own her own stuff, not have you shield her from it. Maybe the two of you can talk about ways you can best support each other than are different than how you have been?

I think if we can come up with some answers to those two things, then you'll feel much better equipped to say no when you aren't at a 110% yes, and one that truly includes you and what you want for yourself, and also more equipped to bring something besides sex to the table to 'answer" these situations and scenarios.

Long-term, it sounds to me like you really need to think about changing your housing situation. One, you (and your friend) certainly don't need to be living with someone who has been and may still be abusive. But I also wonder if living with this friend is the best thing for you either, especially given some of the patterns it sounds like you two have established that don't seem to be at all good for you?

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Heather
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Also, this general readiness checklist might be something that can help you start to identify some of the areas where you've been doing things you aren't really wanting, aren't really ready for, or where someone ELSE in the situation isn't all there yet: Ready or Not? The Scarleteen Sex Readiness Checklist.

Probably more of a helpful tool once you start with that time off, so I may be jumping the gun a bit, but just wanted to get it out there while it was fresh in my mind.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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Hey, Barry: I just wanted to let you know that I won't be available this weekend (and actually because of life, not work, this time!).

But Robin, our Assistant Director, will be and is at the ready to talk more with you if and when you need. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Berry Babe
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I'm so sorry that I haven't been posting on here! I had a lot of things pop up in life that demanded my attention and only now have gotten a chance to check this board.

I also hope you're having a great time, Heather, and thank you, Robin, for stepping in to help me! [Smile]

Yeah, it'd probably be a good idea for me to make a list like that. I'll have to think through various other ideas.

And I agree that we need to change our living situation. We have one more semester to deal with her ex, but then it'll just be my roommate and me. I know that's probably not the best set up, but between now and when the next school year starts, I'm pretty sure we can work out how to live with just each other without getting too far involved in areas we shouldn't be. Hopefully, at least.

But yeah, what seems to be evident is that she and I need to sit down and talk about all this. We move back in on the fifth, so I'll probably be able to address all of this then. Until then, though, I'm not sure what I can do?

Yeah, I stumbled across that check list the other day while searching for something else and I really liked it. I skimmed it at the time, but I'll go over it more thoroughly and maybe save it as a document for my own future use. As soon as I get a chance, I'll hop to that!

Thank you so much for your help so far, guys! I hope you're having a great New Year's Eve!

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