Can't enjoy sex


Can't enjoy sex


your avatar   27 year-old woman

Oh, jeez, where to start? The usual rotten childhood stuff all applies; I was molested by my stepfather from the age of 6 till 10 (told my mother and she didn't believe me, made me climb on his lap and apologize for lying-she says now that this was just her way of trying to get out of a bad situation without making it worse for all of us--not so sure I believe that).

He was an evil, vile man, physically abusive to my mother, but thankfully, rarely ever to me. The extremely difficult thing to say out loud (I never have, though I've been in counseling off/on for many years) is that on some level, in some very basic way, IT FELT GOOD. I knew it was wrong, literally prayed for it to stop, even tried wearing footie pajamas to bed thinking that the act of undoing snaps and zippers and feet would take too long and he'd just go away. But part of it still felt good.

The abuse ended when my mother split from him (I was 10) and no more followed (surprisingly enough with her choice of 3 following husbands).

Enough of that, and on to my question. I've never had a serious boyfriend, though I have had many sexual partners, and some of them have been enjoyable experiences. I want to know why it is that I can't seem to let myself enjoy sex. I have a tendency to hold myself back from climax, and only in the past couple of years did I realize that I actually wasn't frigid so far as intercourse with men.

Am I punishing myself for some kind of sick feelings from when I was younger, does this happen to other abuse victims, is it humanly possible for me to have a long-lasting relationship with a decent man and actually enjoy intercourse like a normal person without feeling guilty? And if it is possible, how in the world do I go about doing it? Thank you.


    Margaret Burr, MA, MFT

Thanks for writing. You said you have been in counseling "off/on for many years." I'm curious why you stopped counseling once you started it, since you clearly did not arrive at the solutions you needed, ie., you never completed the counseling, because completion would involve healing from this abuse.

You have not yet healed, although you have begun the process necessary for healing many times. That's interesting. I wonder if trust issues come up for you immediately in therapy and you begin to question yourself, your therapist and the process overall.

And then you end the treatment before you arrive at any solutions for yourself. Or, I wonder if therapy is too intimate to begin with, so that you see a therapist a few times and then leave.

This (writing to an online advice counselor) is just about the least intimate way you can seek help, and probably the least effective as well.

So, my question to you is...what purpose is served by you maintaining this level of internalized pain, anger, loneliness, and guilt?

While you flirt with ways you could effectively deal with this, you do not, apparently, follow through on making a commitment to yourself and your own sex-abuse recovery. You sound bright; you must have some reason for holding onto your own misery like this. Is it, "I'll punish me. No one else can hurt me if I hurt myself,"?

I can guess that the reason you do this (keep yourself from healing) is that you feel comfortable with the negative feelings you have about you. Feeling guilty confirms every negative thought you have about you, and spirals downwards to more guilt and shame. Staying guilty keeps you in an emotional arena you have some measure of control over, too.

Making a commitment to growth and healing would involve letting go of control, and trusting that you can become comfortable with feelings other than guilt. Your history (with therapy) says that you refuse to do this.

In my opinion, you will not be able to enjoy sex, (or very much else about life probably), until you make the decision to reclaim your life, your sexuality and your self-worth from the abuser who took these away from you twenty years ago. This will demand that you develop a therapeutic relationship and participate in ongoing therapy until you are done, ie., until you no longer suffer from the symptoms of sexual abuse.

But you know all of this.

Take care,

Margaret "Peg" Burr, MA, MFT

This question was answered by Margaret "Peg" Burr. She is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC34374) with a private practice in Santa Clarita (near Los Angeles). She performs psychodynamic psychotherapy with individual adult clients as well as couples, teens, and families. She also runs groups for adults and adolescents. Her specialty area is Object Relations Systems Theory. This branch of psychodynamic psychotherapy uses a client's interpersonal relationships as windows into his or her intrapsychic structure.For more information visit:


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