Despite your history and experiences, you have a right to experience and express your sexuality in ways that fit you. Take time to create a healthy meaning for sex that fits you that may be separate from what you have learned, been told, or experienced. Take responsibility to create your own sexuality, not react to what others have done to you or wanted from you. Examples of how abusive and limited sexuality is different from healthy and fulfilling sexuality include: Doing to someone vs. sharing with someone, void of communication vs. requires communication, has no limits vs. has limits, and thrives in double life/secrecy vs. thrives in honesty and integrity.
Consider the following questions as you develop your sexuality:
What have you learned or experienced about positive and negative sexuality?
What are your strengths in being sexual, passionate, and intimate? Where’s your “edge” in terms of intimacy and sexuality?
What do you want for yourself & your partner before, during, and after sex? What do both of you need?
How do you want to embody your sexuality?
How do you want to feel about your body and body parts when you’re sexual?
What does your empowered sexual self look, sound, act, and feel like?
What kind of people are your sexual partner(s)?
What are your motivations for having sex?
What type of intensity do you prefer, what kind of sex, power, and virtues turn you on or help you feel safe to be turned on?
Consider variety of ways to be passionate/sexual (physical, verbal, visual, activities). Explore various types of sexual passion: Lustful (warrior, animal) and Nurturing (caretaker, lover).
Expand the way you experience sex by considering the various pathways to sexual/intimacy responses:
Physical path examples: Sensation, arousal, pain, whole body, and safe sex
Emotional path examples: Passion, compassion, safety, power, love—opening your heart to your partner/self, sharing feelings, setting ground rules/respect, asking for what you want, sharing and witnessing deep feelings and appreciations
Mental path examples: Fantasies, dreams, imaginations, opinions, values, identity, rules, memories, script, standards, norms (goal: broaden perspective, dispel messages, reject what does not fit for you)
Spiritual response examples: Oneness with self, partner, and beyond self—reaching beyond yourself for something out there, connection to divine (god, god in you/your partner), “opening the door to the universe,” transcendence, life-force energy, layers of intimacy, response-ability to respond to ourselves and others, eye gazing, disappearing into the divine/nature: How does your spirituality energize your sexuality?
How does your sexuality feed energy into other parts of your life?
Create a vision for your new sexuality:
Write a healthy sexual description: sexual script, fantasies, scene, relationship dynamics, etc. How do you integrate erotic, sensual, relational aspects of sexual passion? Consider the “characters” and motivations, energies, style, tensions, needs, etc. of the “plot”
Write up three scenarios that capture various aspects of the things you consider important for a healthy sexuality. If you had three full lives to live, and each could express a different sexual self, what would those sexualities be? (Three visions helps to get around what we’re supposed to do, self-censors, what’s impossible) Notice patterns to these visions? Pay attention to what keeps coming up. [This exercise is found in Haines, Staci, (1999). The Survivor's Guide to Sex: How to Have an Empowered Sex Life After Child Sexual Abuse.]
Integrate your answers into a coherent pattern of how you want to express your sexuality, why you express your sexuality, with whom you express your sexuality, and how you want to relate to your sexuality
Pace yourself: Give up and replace behaviors/attitudes one by one: Give yourself and your sexuality time to change and experience new things. Increase your sexual and intimacy comfort zones in stages: Establish “bridges” from one comfortable zone to another to expand options.
Handout created by Lee Beckstead, Ph.D. Aspen Grove Counseling. firstname.lastname@example.org; 801-556-8110.