Why Did You Decide to Become a Sex Coach?

Trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault and PTSD.

Please take care of yourself first and foremost.

         One of the questions I am asked most frequently is why I decided to study sexology and become a certified Sex Coach. My profound interest in helping others overcome sexual problems and find their bliss is rooted in my own history of years of struggle and eventual healing around sex. Here is my story.

         In the summer before I entered college, I was drugged and sexually assaulted by someone I knew. Some of the most important people in my life at the time sided with the perpetrator, believing the interaction to be consensual. I struggled with feelings of low self worth, shame, guilt, and self doubt. Full of turmoil, I entered college. My behavior around sex changed dramatically; I became impulsive and put myself in situations that compounded my trauma and left me feeling lower than ever. I didn’t know until much later that this isn’t an uncommon reaction to sexual violence, and used my own behavior to fall deeper into self loathing. After an escalating spiral self harming behaviors, I left college after 3 months and entered residential treatment for lifelong depression, anxiety, sexual trauma, and PTSD.

         In general, my experience in that treatment center was a positive one. I learned many skills for reframing my thoughts and managing my emotions, such as both Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. I processed my emotions regarding the assault at length in therapy while I was there, and thought I had resolved all of my issues with what had happened to me. I moved in with my mom, reenrolled in college, and had a few insignificant sexual relationships that I managed to enjoy for the most part.

         At age 20, I entered into a loving relationship with my now-husband. For the first time in my life, I postponed having sex in order to build up trust and intimacy. When we first began having sex, it was so loving and safe. Everything was perfect. The excitement of our new relationship kept us in a honeymoon state for over a year. But eventually, unresolved issues around my assault crept back into the bedroom. I stopped experiencing desire, even though my feelings for my partner were unchanged. Worse, I started to become increasingly anxious around sex. Sexual initiation and touch could cause me to burst into tears. When we did successfully get started, I would frequently experience vaginal pain, and would sometimes be overcome by panic attacks mid-coitus.

         First, I went to see a gynecologist in order to address the pain I was experiencing during penetration. She didn’t ask me any questions, just performed an exam and determined there was nothing physically wrong with me. She pulled out her prescription pad and prescribed me Lidocaine, a numbing ointment, for internal use in order help make sex more bearable for me. To me this was the equivalent of telling me to “close my eyes and think of England!” To this gynecologist, I was a body disconnected from a mind and heart.

         Second, I sought a therapist who specialized in sex. Looking back, I’m not sure if she was a certified Sex Therapist, a separate subtype of psychologist, because she was less comfortable talking about sex than I was. We hashed and rehashed my feelings of guilt and shame around my assault, but this kept me in a state of reliving my trauma with no real catharsis. Furthermore, she had nothing in the way of practical advice about how to overcome the obstacles that prevented me and my partner from having a healthy sexual relationship. To this therapist, I was a mind and heart disconnected from my body. I was also a past disconnected from a future.

         I quit using the ointment. I quit therapy. I struggled for 7 years with feeling broken, feeling like I was failing my partner, feeling ashamed, and feeling so very alone.

         I confided my struggles with sex to a friend, who surprised me by inviting me to a BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism) lifestyle social and party, which immediately fascinated me. I had always struggled with my own desires to be dominated. I had even tried a foray into kinky play previously with utterly disastrous results. When I went, I was totally shocked: no, not by the floggings, though I did see those, too! What shocked me was how adept this group of adults was at openly discussing sex, negotiating for what they wanted, building consent, enforcing boundaries, taking care of their partners’ physical and emotional needs after the interaction was over (called aftercare in BDSM), and in making those discussions fun, sexy, and safe.

         The kinksters taught me how to own my desires, say no, ask for what I wanted, become more accepting of my own desires, be more curious, be more body positive, and be more present in the moment and in my body. This was achieved through discussing and eventually negotiating pre-planned “scenes” in which myself and my play partners agreed upon what activities we would do together, what my role would be, what language I liked being used to refer to me and my body parts, what types of touch and sensations I was interested in receiving, what my boundaries and limits were, and how to to stop the scene if I became uncomfortable through the use of a safeword. I never felt more in control or more empowered. It didn’t hurt that I enjoyed the BDSM part, too. Well, it did hurt, a little. In a good way.

         I brought what I learned home to my bedroom and more importantly, to my relationship. Those critical communication techniques learned from the kinksters enabled me and my partner to overcome the obstacles that had plagued us for years. We reconnected with each other and found joy in each other’s bodies and sexuality that we had seldom experienced since the end of our honeymoon phase. I reclaimed the sense of control that had been taken from me when my sexual autonomy was violated. And although I still occasionally had freakouts, we had a way to deal with them: safewords to indicate something was wrong and to cease sexual interactions, and previously discussed aftercare techniques. Just knowing that these procedures were in place greatly reduced my anxiety, and eventually, the panic attacks themselves.

         I started having the best sex of my life. I experienced more pleasure, more sensations, and more connection. And it just keeps getting better! That’s not to say that I don’t have the occasional difficult moment–I do, but now I have tools and resources at my disposal to get me back on track.

         So how I become a sex coach? During my sexual reawakening, I became obsessed with sex positive media. While listening to a podcast, I was entranced by one of the speakers, a certified Sex Coach, who was talking about how fulfilling it is to be able to help others overcome their sexual concerns and find their bliss. I was all in. I wanted to be the person that could have helped my younger self when I first sought help. I really resonated with the core values of Sex Coaching as model: not pathologizing or stigmatizing clients with diagnoses but rather treating them as creative, resourceful, and whole, each holding the answers within them to whatever challenges they face. Another core facet of the coaching model is focusing on achieving goals rather than dwelling on how the problem came to be. I wanted to be an expert on human sexuality. I wanted to know more than just the anatomy, the diseases, and reproduction. I wanted to know about pleasure. I wanted to know about how to overcome the sexual concerns that so many of us struggle with, so that you no longer need to suffer.

I share the personal details of my story because I think it is emblematic of something bigger: just because you are suffering now does not mean you will always suffer. There is help. You just have to reach out for it.

Note: I do not advocate BDSM as a replacement for therapy, or as a cure all. I do advocate the use of the communication skills and focus on consent that are characteristic of the BDSM community.

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