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Ask Niki: How Do I Have Better Sex with My Partner Who Is a Survivor of Sexual Violence?  — Mind and Body on Bushwick Daily

Ask Niki: How Do I Have Better Sex with My Partner Who Is a Survivor of Sexual Violence?

Learn how to be a better sexual partner to someone with trauma.

Niki Davis

@nikidavisf


Q: My partner is a survivor of sexual assault.  She has always been kind of weird about sex. I want to be there for her but I don’t know how. I would love any advice that you have in how to fix this.

A: Thank you for asking this very important and very relevant question! I completely understand your desire to make things better sexually between you and your partner.  Unfortunately, the aftermath of trauma isn’t something that can be “fixed,” it is likely something that will stay with your partner, to some degree, forever. Even though you can’t heal your partner, you can definitely support them, and ideally, along the way, also help improve your sex life.


THE advice

1. Learn to avoid “triggers”

It is very difficult to predict what types of smells, sounds, humans or scenarios may lead people to have an emotional response stemming from their trauma. However, sometimes there are changes that can be made in one’s sexual routine that can make the survivor feel safer and more present. For example, I know someone who experienced an assault where someone snuck up behind her. She has learned that since the incident she’s not super into doggy style or any position where she can’t look her partner in the eye. Depending on the time of day of the assault, the clothing or smell of the perpetrator and the location of the incident(s), there may be some easily applicable changes that you could make in your sexual routine to make your partner feel safer. There also may not. Instead of making assumptions about what you think will work for your partner, ask them, because sometimes the “triggers” are not what you would expect.  


2. Make sure they know that they can always stop

Let’s be real, the vast majority of us have no interest in fucking someone who doesn’t want to be fucking us, but there is still a level of discomfort in stopping a sexual encounter once it has begun. I don’t know if this comes from the ancient mythology around blue balls (I checked, they don’t turn blue!) or media platforms that show sex as involving zero communication and ending in multiple simultaneous orgasms. Regardless, one of the reasons that your partner may be hesitant to initiate sex is because they might be worried that during the encounter they will get in a bad head space and not know how to stop the encounter without it getting weird.  

One way you can help your partner feel more comfortable is letting them know that you are cool with stopping at any point. If they think it will be helpful, perhaps you could check in with them throughout the encounter or come up with a signal if they need to stop or take a break.  Also, if at any point your partner looks like they are not present, STOP and check in with them and make sure they are still enjoying what’s going on. Understand that they are the experts in their own experience. If they need to take a second and then want to keep going, if you’re still up for it, keep it going.


3. Think about control

Sometimes people that have experienced sexual assault want to explore aspects of their trauma with their current partner. This can involve anything from exploring rape fantasies to playing with loss of control in a safe environment. I understand if one’s initial thought may be that this is unhealthy, but in fact, for many survivors this can be a very empowering experience and can help them reclaim their sexuality. BDSM doesn’t involve an actual loss of power, if anything, couples in this type of relationship need to have an especially tight communication and consent game. If your partner is interested in this type of play, don’t immediately discount it. Think about your comfort, and remember that you are not the mofo that assaulted your partner, and you may actually be able to help them rewrite history.


4. Use Verbal Consent

Some survivors may prefer using verbal consent, because it is the clearest form of consent.  However, this is not always the case, so discuss with your partner how they would feel most comfortable communicating. What you don’t want to do is be annoying and make your partner self-conscious by overanalyzing or overchecking in. Getting into a headspace where your partner is worrying about you worrying about their trauma and not them ain’t sexy.


5. Build up to it

I can’t have an article where I don’t mention masturbation and the clit so here we go. Some survivors may want to take it slow. Perhaps initially you engage in mutual masturbation (an underrated but totally hot activity) before you move on to using hands or your mouths on each other. Especially if your partner is particularly “weird” about intercourse and that’s the type of sex you’re having, take a step back and engage in some activities that feel safer for your partner.


6. Allow them to feel safe by being a good partner

Your relationship outside the bedroom (or wherever you get busy) is influenced by the health of your relationship as a whole. The best way to make your partner feel safe in the bedroom is to be a loving, reliable, honest, safe partner in your relationship.


7. Let them know you are open to hearing about their trauma  

We often don’t ask people about their trauma because we are worried that we will say the wrong thing or not know how to support them. This is a completely normal feeling. However, as long as you are thoughtful and show your partner that you are there for them, you can't fuck it up TOO badly. Check out this article where I discuss active listening and how to avoid victim blaming when supporting an important person in your life. Also remember, it is your partner’s story to tell, so never push it. Don't start the conversation during a sexual scenario (especially not after they acted “weird”).  Instead, when things are smooth let them know that you would be open to hearing about their trauma if they want to share it and when they are ready.


8. Read some words

Get informed about how trauma impacts the brain and do some research regarding how to best support a survivor. Trauma is a body’s normal reaction to an abnormal experience and sometimes an understanding of the neurobiology can help empower your partner. However, make sure to not to mansplain your partner’s trauma to them, even if you’re a lady.


@nikidavisf is a full-time consent educator, and does private sex and relationship counseling sessions. The focus of her Masters was positive sexuality and she lectured at NYU, The United Nations, and many other institutions on the subjects of sexual communication, sexual assault intervention, and human sexuality.

Have Questions?

You can always hit me up on instagram (@nikidavisf) and I also now have a truly anonymous forum to collect questions and comments.


This is my last sex advice column, but I will be writing future articles on sex news in Bushwick, stay tuned!


All images courtesy of Pixabay.

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