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Healing Sexual Trauma through Sensate Focus

One of the most difficult things for me to deal with as a therapist is the aftermath of sexual trauma. And I know that the trouble I have with this is only a tiny fraction of the difficulty my client has as he or she faces his/her past. I share with you a correspondence I’ve had with a 36-year-old man from Boston named Trent.

Dr. Dick,
When I was 10 years my parish priest molested me. It went on for over a year. Mostly, I’ve been able to put this behind me. I’ve been married over a year to this really great gal. She’s been very understanding and supportive, and we love each other very much. A couple of weeks ago when we were having sex, my wife started to massage my bottom. This was the first time someone touched me there since I was 10. At first it felt good, but then I remembered how I felt when I was a kid and freaked out. I started to cry. My poor wife was devastated at the thought of triggering this painful memory. I told her it wasn’t her fault, but we haven’t had sex since. I’m worried, but I don’t know what to do.

Working through a sexual trauma, like the one Trent experienced as a kid, is difficult. But it is essential for regaining a healthy sense of the sexual self. I told Trent—and this applies to any anyone else who has had regrettable early sexual experiences in their past—that I strongly suggested that he and his wife engage a sex-positive therapist to help them get back on track.

Many people have dealt with some kind of sexually related trauma in their lives.  However, some trauma is more severe than others. Emotional scar tissue and painful memories may linger, but you can learn to insulate yourself from the disruptive effects of the past in the present. Thanks to the indomitable human spirit, most of us live through our difficulties and go on to develop healthy, integrated sex lives.

Sensate focus is a process that helps individuals move through painful sexual memories and heal the rift between the affected parts of the body and the pleasure they can produce. I thought this technique would be of particular value for Trent because of something he’d said: “At first it felt good, but then I remembered how I felt when I was a kid and freaked out.” This tells me that he was able to enjoy the sensations before the association with the molestation kicked in and ruined everything. Sensate focus offers a way to short-circuit this disruptive connection and rewire it for pleasure instead of pain.

What follows are structured therapeutic touching exercises for couples. They are not a prelude to sex. You need to be clear on that. Your genitals will be involved. There will be pleasure and arousal, for sure. But the object of this process is to desensitize the trigger (in Trent’s case, his butt), then re-sensitize it for pleasure. These exercises take about an hour one day a week over the course of a month. If you embark on this course, make sure that you dedicate that kind of time commitment. Please, don’t short-change yourselves; this is an investment in your sexual health and wellbeing.

You and your partner will take turns being the one touched and the one doing the touching. Both of you will have 30 minutes to touch and 30 minutes to be touched: 15 minutes lying on your front; 15 minutes on your back.

Week 1—Breaking the Ice
Structured touching will be unfamiliar to you at first. I want you to use this first session to connect with each other in a sensual and playful way. I want each of you to explore every inch of your partner’s body from head to toe, first the back of the body then the front. This first week, however, avoid one another’s genitals.

This isn’t massage, where touch is directed toward pleasuring your partner. Sensate focus exercises are about gleaning information. Focus on how it feels to touch different parts of your partner’s body in a non-seductive way. Be aware of the different textures contours and temperatures. Use different pressures—heavy and light; different strokes—long and short. Use fingertips, palms, the back of your hands and forearms.

When you’ve finished the first 30 minutes, swap places. This will work best if the one being touched relinquishes control as much as possible. Keep verbal communication at a minimum. Once the hour is over, thank one another for the experience and get on with the rest of your day. Don’t try to process things right then and there, just sit with the sensations. Or better still; write your feelings in a journal that you might want to share later.

Week 2—Making Things More Interesting
Building on what you learned in the first week; this time, kick it up a notch by expanding the structured touching to include anal and genital areas. These are sexually charged zones, but the touch must remain non-seductive. Begin the exercise with some full-body touching before moving on to the new areas. Again, the emphasis is on obtaining information and awareness of physical sensations.

This is where things got a bit challenging for Trent. When his wife touched his butt, I told him I wanted him to want stay in the moment and focus on who was touching him and why. Trent’s wife was not touching him in a sexual manner; she was gathering information.

Staying in the present helps take the edge off. If anxiety builds, deep breathing can help you to relax. Your partner will probably be very nervous too, so breathing together can be helpful.

A guided touch technique can also be useful. Place one of your hands on top of your partner’s and guide it over your trigger area. Try using more or less pressure as you see fit. Remember your trigger spot is just like every other part of your body. Even though an early trauma has sensitized this area to be off bounds, sensate focus exercises will re-sensitize and reintegrate it with the rest of your body. You’ll have to trust me on this.

Week 3—Mutual Touching
This week, we move on to mutual touching. However, it must remain structured and non-seductive, both in the giving and receiving. Mutual touch will provide a more natural form of physical interaction than the previous weeks. You’ll also be shifting attention from how it feels to touch to being aware of how your partner is receiving your touch. Keep verbal communication to a minimum. Let your body tell your partner how you are enjoying the touch. If you must talk, assign a number code to the touch you are receiving: 5 being, ho-hum, 1 being Yowsa!

Remember, no matter how sexually aroused you become, this is not a prelude to sex. If you need to release your sexual tension, feel free to masturbate afterward. No partnered sex during the exercises. Okay?

Week 4—Bringin’ It Home
This last week of exercises continues the mutual touching, with a focus on overcoming any final reservations you have about your trigger zone and the pleasure you derive from it. More of your partner’s touch should focus on that area. For Trent, I advised that his wife include a nice lotion or personal lube for this investigation. (Touching with a wet hand is different from touching with a dry hand.) While concentrating on his butt with one hand, I suggested she fondle his genitals with the other. By playing with the energy around Trent’s sphincter, his wife was able to redirect it and help him reconnect his ass to the rest of his body.

Try receiving your wire’s touch in different positions. Being proactive will facilitate the healing. While she is touching your trigger area, move your butt toward her to meet the caress. You’ll immediately see how being in control will help you move beyond any remaining anxiety. You are not just being passive recipient anymore; you are actively involved with inviting the pleasure. If there are still reservations, take it slow until they too, melt away.

Once he’d freed up his ass for pleasure, I told Trent be sure to incorporate butt play into his future lovemaking repertoire, but I also reminded him to take as much time as he needed to resolve the issue. There is no quick fix. I assured him, though, with diligence and care, sensate focus would remove the fear and shame of the molestation, and replace it with a sense of wholeness, joy and pleasure.

Good luck

Sexual MYTHBUSTERS, Part 1 – The Big O

No podcast today, but there is this…

Angie is 20 and she’s having issues, lots of issues.

Hello, I would ask you a question that has been on my mind for a while. I seem to have a problem orgasming without stimulating my clitoris. I suppose that doesn’t really sound like a problem but it’s really starting to annoy me. I would like to be able to enjoy an orgasm without having to stimulate my clit every time! I love having sex and it feels super duper good but why can’t I climax that way? I mean I am aware of where my G-spot is and my boyfriend said he’ll be focusing more on hitting it “spot” on. There’s also another thing I have noticed, sometimes my boyfriend will hit my cervix and it hurts a bit, but is this even normal? Should he even be able to hit it? Or is there something abnormal going on here?

Let’s see, when you say you “love having sex and it feels super duper good but why can’t I climax that way?” Are you referring to full-on cock in cooter fucking when you say, “having sex”? The reason I ask is that not everyone means the same thing when they use that trite euphemism.

Since you’re not here to fill in the blanks, so to speak. I’ll assume you want to know why you can’t have or haven’t yet had a vaginal orgasm. But before I answer, I just want to say that I hope you are not setting up an orgasmic dichotomy where there doesn’t need to be one. That would truly be unwise.

If you are at all familiar with your genital anatomy, you will know that the pleasure centers in that area of your body are all wired together. Your clit, G-spot, pussy, taint (perineum) and butthole are all on the same circuit, so to speak. Each erogenous zone is distinct, of course, but they act in consort with one another. However, not all your parts will generate the same amount of buzz. Since a woman’s clit is at the center of this network of nerves, it tends to dominate all the others and it is generally the quickest way to intense pleasure for most women.

Ok, now my answer. I can’t really say why your not climaxing while you’re fucking. Other than the fact that an exclusively vaginal centered orgasm is a myth. The vast majority of women don’t have vaginal orgasms. In fact the degree of insensitivity inside a woman’s vagina is so high that Kinsey wrote in his seminal work, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female published back in 1953: “Among the women who were tested in our gynecologic sample, less than 14% were at all conscious that they had been touched.” That’s pretty remarkable, wouldn’t you say?

The vaginal orgasm myth is perpetuated, in part, by many women’s confusion and/or lack of knowledge about their own anatomy. Some women believe that an orgasm felt during fucking is centered in their cooch. This suggests to me that they aren’t being precise in locating the center of that orgasm. Other women believe in the vaginal orgasm myth because they think they need to conform to a male oriented notion of female sexuality — fucking = cuming. And that’s simply wrong, don’t cha know. Just ask all the preorgasmic women out there.

But ya know what? I don’t own a pussy my own self. All I can only tell you is what I have learned from those people who actually have a honeypot. The people I’m referring to, we’ll call them females, tell me vaginal orgasms, mythological or not, may simply be dependent on a tone of a woman’s pelvic musculature. As amazing as pussies are, and they are amazing, if the muscles that surround them are not taught and toned enough, a fucking generated orgasm may elude the owner of said pussy.

Some women haven’t developed their PC muscles enough to cum through fucking alone. Are you doing your kegels, Angie? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you have some serious remedial research to do.

The elusive vaginal orgasm may also have to do with your partner cock, particularly the girth of his unit and opposed to its length. My women friends tell me that a thicker cock may have more of a chance triggering a vaginal orgasm then a pencil dick. No surprise there, I suppose. Position will also play a role. Why not give a bunch of different positions a try and see if one or another makes a difference? You on top cowgirl style, or doggie style might work best. But it’s your coozie, my dear, and you ought to know it better than I.

As to your G-spot question. That’s another thing all together. I am so glad that you are familiar with your anatomy enough to have found your own personal G-spot. And it’s great to hear that you have an accommodating partner who is working on stimulating this sensitive area. Good for you both! However, while I wholeheartedly endorse and encourage your further investigations and sex play, I do have one caution. I share the concern of most of my women friends. We want you to avoid all the G-spot hype floating around in the popular culture these days. Most women have a good time with their G-spot exploration. They report that it is not particularly difficult to find, but it’s also much harder to pleasure. If a woman, you perhaps, gets it in her head that something amazing is supposed to happen with a G-spot stimulation, she might be setting herself up for disappointment. In the same way some women, you perhaps, set themselves up for disappointment if they buy into the myth of an exclusively vaginal generated orgasm.

I encourage you to see your genitals as a whole, not a bunch of separate parts that somehow work independently of one another. If your pussy is happy and your pussy is making you happy; is it really all that important how the happiness comes to be?

In comparison us men folk are not all that fussy. What gets us off; gets us off. I never hear from a guy who is disappointed because he’s not having an exclusively prostate generated orgasm. They do happen, but we’re not the least bit concerned when they don’t happen. I also never hear from a guy who thinks he should be orgasmic through manipulation of his balls alone. That can happen too, but we’re not holding our breath for them.

What I do hear from guys is that we often need a particular kind of dick-oriented stimulation to get us off. And this is where the men folk and the women folk are a whole lot alike. You, like us, probably need a particular kind of stimulation to get you off. Be it vaginal, clitoral, G-spot, or whatever. If you acknowledge that your genitals are a composite of parts that work together to bring you joy, then you’ll be less likely to be swayed by the claims, hype and misinformation about female sexual response.

Regarding the issue of your boyfriend hitting your cervix. Yeah, that’ll hurt, don’t cha know. I’d be willing to guess that he’s in the wrong position and being too athletic in his pumping when that happens. If he’s bumping your cervix, but you like the depth and athleticism of his manly thrusts, simply change position. That should remedy the problem.

Finally, I’d simply advise you to respect the uniqueness of your body and your sexual response cycle. If it’s your clit that delivers the big O, even though you are being pleasured elsewhere. Then by all means, stimulate your clit while whatever else is happening, and enjoy the ride.

Good luck

the indomitable human spirit

Happy Solstice, sex fans!

I know I’m supposed to be on holiday, but I just couldn’t resist sharing with you this correspondence that typifies the season. It is a true celebration of the indomitable human spirit.

Name: Roman
Gender: Male
Age: 22
Location: Kansas
I’m a 22 and I have cerebral palsy. My girlfriend has CP too. You say you have experience working with people with disabilities. Do you know about how CP and how it affects our balance and muscle control? Me and my GF have difficulty having sex. Our bodies don’t move like other people. Most of the time we are in wheelchairs and, while sitting is ok, our stiff legs make conventional sex impossible. We have invented ways to get each other off, but when it comes to intercourse we are stumped. We’ve tried different things, but we can’t get the angle right. We’ve looked for ideas on the internet, but nothing.

Kudos to you Roman, and your plucky girlfriend. You kids sound like you’ve got it gonin’ on, I’m really impressed. You’re right, I have some experience with people with disabilities, particularly around the issue of sexuality. And I am familiar with the affects of cerebral palsy on one’s balance and muscle control. So I think I can help you. However, I want you to help me too. I think you could help me and my audience understand and appreciate your situation a bit better.

Here’s why I think this. It’s not often I hear from such an articulate fellow in your particular circumstance. So I want to ask you a few questions. (Any one else out there in my audience who wants to chime in on this, please do!) In the past, most of the people I’ve encountered who have disabling conditions, like CP have been at the mercy of those who care for them at home or in assisted living facilities. So would it be correct for me to guess that you and your girlfriend are living independently? It sounds that way to me. The reason I say that is, one of the most troubling problems folks, like ya’ll, have is finding private time and space for any intimacies of whatever kind. Families and assisted living facilities are notorious for not giving or respecting a client’s privacy.

If you are in an independent living situation and you have enough privacy to engage in intimacies that can get you off, short of intercourse. How do you do you get one another off? Is this done while you’re in your chairs? If you’re actually getting naked with each other, and I hope you are, do you need assistance from someone to achieve this?

Here’s why I’m asking you this. If you are having a person assist you as far as getting out of your cloths and into the sack with each other, would it be out of the question for either of you to ask this person to help you get into position for fucking? I ask this because on one very special occasion a couple I knew some years ago asked me to assist them in their love making. At first, I didn’t know if I was up to the task. Not because I would be freaked out gimps gettin their groove on — not at all. I was concerned that I wouldn’t know what to do, or how to do it. My friends, the couple, told me not to worry, that they would direct me if I helped them manage their limbs and coordinate their movements. I was honored by their request, so I accepted their invitation.

We were all really nervous, me especially. They asked if I would be comfortable being naked with them. This put me on the spot, for sure. It’s not that I was uncomfortable being naked, that’s rarely an issue. But I was strangely uncomfortable being naked with them. Was it professional pride? Did I feel more secure being clothed, less vulnerable that way? Hell, I don’t know. They explained that they didn’t want this to be some kind of clinical thing where I was being a therapist, albeit an unconventional therapist.

In the end I relented. And after a few minutes of feeling really awkward, we lost our inhibitions and got down to business. Just so you know, my friends were right. Had I kept my cloths on, the experience wouldn’t have been the same. While I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible, I was remarkably able to experience, in a most intimate way, what it must be like to live in a body that doesn’t respond like my body does. I felt like my friends’ bodies were extensions of my body. And they said they felt the same way; that my body was an extension of their bodies. It was a communion like no other.

My friends kept cracking jokes. Every time I’d topple over trying to get the two lovebirds into position they’d say something like: “is that what it’s like having an able body?” BITCHES! No doubt, the humor and giggling help take the edge off for us all. I know it helped me overcome being so self-conscious. I confess I was a bit embarrassed to be the only able body person present.

What struck me most in all of this was the determination of my friends. I’ve never met anyone more dogged and tenacious…and all to get a little nookie. God bless ‘em!

We tried several positions. Luckily, my friends had upped the dose of their muscle relaxant medications so they were a bit more pliable. One position that seemed to work particularly well was having my friends lying on their sides facing each other. I helped the woman swing one of her legs over her guy. I was then able to scoot their pelvises together and guide his dick into her pussy. Then all I needed to do is bounce them a little. It was brilliant, even though it was the hardest I ever worked for a fuck — and it wasn’t even me who was doing the fucking.

We were all completely exhausted by the experience. My friends were enormously grateful and I was blissed out. It took them days to recover, but at least they achieved what they so desperately wanted. Did they ever attempt intercourse again? I don’t know. They may have discovered that fucking, especially if it takes that much concentration and energy may not be worth it. Maybe they realized that full-on fucking is not necessarily for full-on sexual enjoyment. I mean my friend was expert at eating out his girlfriend. All I had to do is help him in into position. And she got off on it big time…oh and so did he…the randy little bugger!

So, Roman, I didn’t mean to go on and on like that. Sorry if I got off topic. I just wanted to tell you that story because I thought it might suggest to you and your girlfriend the idea of having someone help you guys fuck. It’s worth a try, right?

Good luck

Sex Wisdom with Megan Andelloux – Podcast #220 – 07/21/10


Hey sex fans,

Get ready for some might fine SEX WISDOM that’s comin’ your way. That’s right; this is the podcast series that is all about chatting with the movers and shakers in the field of human sexuality — researchers, educators, clinicians, pundits and philosophers — all making news and reshaping how we look at our sexual selves. And today I have the honor of welcoming a colleague, my fellow sexologist, the beautiful and oh so saucy Megan Andelloux.

Megan is one of our country’s preeminent a Sexual Health Educators. She is consistently in the forefront of our culture’s discussions on sex; she’s a sought-after sexuality consultant for print media, and an author in the book “We Got Issues” A Feminist Response to Cultural Attitudes On Feminism. She is also the founder of The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health in beautiful downtown Pawtucket, RI, don’t cha know!

Megan and I discuss:

  • The medical-centric model and the pleasure-centric model of human sexuality.
  • Her training and certifications.
  • Aspects of sexual health education.
  • Better sexual skills workshops.
  • Sexual rights activism.
  • Sex coaching.
  • How to talk to kids about sex.
  • Sex positions.

Megan invites you into her world by visiting her website HERE! And to learn more about The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health visit them on their website HERE!

See a slideshow of Megan & friends at work and play.

Click on the thumbnails below.

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BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

 

Look for all my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Touch Down

Product Review Friday is comin’ at ya!

We have another couple more adult products from SexToy.com today. The Dr Dick Review Crew members — Angie and Jada do the show and tell. Let’s get right to it!

Erotic Sex Positions DVD —— $18.57

Angie
I have the pleasure of introducing you to a wonderful educational DVD for couples. This is the very first video of its kind that I’ve ever seen. And I must say, I liked it very much.

I’ve watched some porn in my day. I can’t say that it turns me on all that much, especially the stuff that my husband enjoys. I know it’s all fantasy and I know that most of it is purposely geared to horny straight males, but the women in the movies are almost always characteratures; nothing more than sexual objects and bimbos. I find that annoying and not the least bit sexy.

I know this is going to sound weird coming from a straight married woman of my age, but I really like gay porn. There, I’ve finally said it out loud.

Anyhow, back to the Erotic Sex Positions DVD. This is sure enough sexually explicit, but it definitely isn’t porn. It’s instructional in nature. It’s presented by two women who work in porn — Crystal Lowe and Natasha Ray. This is a big plus in my book. They set a perfect tone for what we see in this DVD. By the way, they also collaborated on another video — ‘Seductive Sex Positions’.

This DVD features 27 erotic techniques and sexual positions. It has an instructional play mode and a lovemaking play mode. So you can use it to learn something new or use it as background sexual enhancement. There are three different couples in the movie, which adds to the interest level. It has what they call a ‘Tantalizing Foreplay Teaser,’ which is also fun. And there are interactive menus too. In other words, this is a pretty elaborate presentation and very professionally produced.

The hosts provide instructions while the couples demonstrate. Some of the positions are for the more adventurous. And frankly, one would need to be very fit, trim, lithe and supple to pull them off. But they were fun to watch nonetheless even if my husband and I could never do them.
Full Review HERE

Rechargeable Infrared Playpal —— $23.43

Jada
What we have here is a 7-inch, hard plastic, waterproof, rechargeable, dual-speed vibe. And if California Exotic, the manufacturer of the Rechargeable Infrared Playpal, had left it at that I’d have a sturdy basic vibe that I could recommend.

Unfortunately they decided to add some kind of cockamamie infrared heating element on the tip of the massager and they messed up the whole damn thing in the process.

Not only does the heating element not noticeably warm up, but in order to place it in the tip of the vibe they had to add this rubber flange or seal so as to keep the thing waterproof. And there in lies the problem. This flange, or whatever you call it, has a completely different texture than the hard smooth plastic. So even with lube this becomes a major sticking point, both literally and figuratively. It makes it impossible to be used on delicate parts, let alone insertion. Think of it rubber patch on a slippery slide. All is well till you hit that patch; then look out! This is particularly true for use in water where lube would be ineffectual.

From the looks of the package this item is designed to appeal to a younger crowd. And perhaps younger people have yet to acquire the ability to discern between a good product and one that sucks…and not in a good way.
Full Review HERE

ENJOY

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