According to Dr. Jennifer Berman’s website, common causes of pelvic trauma include hysterectomy and medical interventions during childbirth. If your sexual response has been diminished by these procedures, Dr. Berman advises “It is important to seek evaluation and treatment from a doctor who is trained in diagnosing sexual dysfunction secondary to pelvic injury. You should be evaluated for blood flow, genital sensation, as well as receive a neurological work-up to determine the degree (if any) of nerve damage. Depending on the kind and extent of damage done, there are some treatments available including blood flow enhancing agents and devices, as well as creams that can help restore some degree of sensation and arousal.”
Many doctors still insist that procedures such as hysterectomy and episiotomy result in little to no reduction in sexual satisfaction for women. However, research such as that of Naomi Miller Stokes who “interviewed 500 women from all walks of life and from all over the United States regarding their experiences in the aftermath of hysterectomy” paints a different picture. Of the women surveyed, over 95 percent experienced less sexual desire after their hysterectomy and nearly 80 percent lost their sexual appetite completely. [Reclaiming our Health by John Robbins, chapter 7, page 135]
Addressing the physiological aspects of any sexual or pelvic trauma is very important. It is also important to heal the psychological and emotional aspects of trauma. While the culture grants a great deal of permission to grieve sexual trauma resulting from rape and molestation, individuals grieving a medical procedure may be hard pressed to find support for their emotional healing.
Whether you have undergone a medical procedure out of necessity or due to unimaginative or fallacious medical practice; if that procedure has resulted in sexual dysfunction, you will likely experience emotions of loss or even rage. Recognizing your feelings, giving yourself permission to have them and seeking treatment for grief and anger are crucial for good mental health.
Those who admonish us to “get over it” may mean well but such an approach rarely achieves the level of transformation most of us crave. Instead we are compelled to do the heavy lifting of discovering our deepest grief that we might be free of its lingering effects on our daily lives. That work can involve a variety of modalities including talk therapy, recovery groups, journaling and somatic therapies.
As both a survivor of incest and rape, I have been engaged in a long, fruitful journey of sexual recovery for over twenty-five years. Leaving anorgasmia behind and becoming multiply orgasmic required that I dig deep into sexual trauma.
In the beginning, I met with a therapist and attended several recovery groups. I kept a journal as well. While time consuming, giving my recovery my total focus netted me the dramatic, positive results I desired.
Body centered therapy soon followed. I beat my despair and rage into pillows. I visited body workers for massage, acupuncture and Rosen Work. Gradually, the numbness which often accompanies sexual trauma was replaced with sensations of both pleasure and pain which I was unfamiliar with. At times it was totally overwhelming but I stuck with it and when I got to the other side, I discovered pleasures I had never experienced before.
That pleasure was not just sexual. I also experienced laughter in a completely new way: from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. I was elated and I became even more committed to a path of recovery.
While many different professionals and resources comprised my recovery from sexual trauma, there exist today even more treatments and resources for anyone seeking sexual wholeness and joy. For instance, Staci Haines’ DVD, Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma uses dramatic enactments of specific techniques in concert with expert instruction to create a very effective learning tool for anyone wishing to move past sexual trauma and toward sexual satisfaction and empowerment.
One section of the DVD addresses “triggers,” experiences which elicit a traumatic memory. For some this might be a specific word or phrase while others may find themselves flooded with feelings in response to a particular odor or visual cue. Most sexual abuse survivors battle a variety of triggers in response to certain forms of touch, whether sexual or otherwise.
Staci Hanes outlines what she refers to as a “Trigger Plan” with specific steps to it:
a.) Change Activities (stop being sexual)
b.) Sexual Healing (go into the trigger)
c.) Center and Continue Sex
According to Staci Haines, as opposed to avoiding triggers, this approach ensures that sex, pleasure and connection win out.
After so many years of recovery from sexual trauma, it surprises some to discover that I am still recovering, still expanding my capacity for connection and pleasure. I suspect it will be a lifelong journey as I am not willing to settle for anything less.
Today, I am delving deeper into my womb. But don’t assume that entails a focus on anatomy. I do employ stimulation of internal erotic zones such as the G-spot, the A-spot and the cervix. But my main focus when approaching my womb is on my heart and my emotions.
I am discovering that much of my sexual history, both unpleasant and pleasant, resides inside of my body where the memories seem to be stored in the tissues but also in the energy centers. And this is an important point because whether you are a female with a womb or without a womb, and even if you are a person born with male anatomy who has never had a womb, the energy center associated with the womb resides inside of you nonetheless.
Some refer to this energy center as the “hara.” Considered to be important to tantric sex practices, this energy center can be envisioned as an emotional womb regardless of your gender. By connecting with this energetic aspect of your sexual self you can embark on a journey of “sexploration” which can take you to the heart of sex, where sex and spirit meet!
Next month: The Wisdom of the Womb, Part Three: Delving Deeper into Our Sexual Energy Centers