“I wish my body would just cooperate,” Mila says, deep frustration in her voice. “I'm having fantastic sex. Why can't I cum?”
We're sitting in my sex therapy office, having a conversation we've had several times before. In fact, it's a conversation I often have with my clients.
They are angry about something that their body is or is not doing, something that is preventing them from experiencing intimacy in the way they want.
It might be not being able to come, or not being able to stay present during sex, or not being able to speak to tell their partner what feels good. Perhaps they physically block themselves from experiencing pleasure, or can only orgasm by themselves and never with a partner.
In every case, there is a disconnect between what the person wants and what is actually happening in their body.
What my sex therapy clients usually come to understand is that there is a profound wisdom in the responses that our bodies have. These responses have developed over time, in reaction to the experiences we've had in our bodies. Our history is stored in our bodies.
“Is your body feeling safe enough to orgasm?” I ask Mila. Her eyes flicker away from mine, and her foot taps nervously, answering the question without words.
She blurts out, “We've never processed our breakup.” Mila recently started sleeping with her ex-girlfriend of ten years ago, and is hopeful for a reconciliation.
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“But that was so long ago. Why would it stop me from cumming now?” she asks.
She doesn't like my answer: “Your body remembers.”
Mila's situation is not unusual. She's processed the painful breakup in therapy. She understands what happened between them. She has mentally forgiven her lover for leaving her. But until our painful and traumatic experiences are processed on a somatic level, body symptoms persist.
Her mind has moved towards healing faster than her body. Her body is reminding her to be cautious, to take her time, to build emotional trust with her lover (probably including processing their breakup) before surrendering bodily control (i.e. having an orgasm.)
Part of becoming a skillful, well-integrated human means attending to all the parts of ourselves, especially those bits we avoid. Focusing our attention on our wounds with the intention of healing means acknowledging the adaptive survival mechanisms we have embodied. It means seeing how our bodies express old survival skills, even when our minds have decided that those skills are no longer relevant to our current situation.
PAVINI MORAY, PhD
(pronoun: Pe) is a somatic sex therapist in private practice. Working through a trauma-informed, pleasure-centric lens, Pavini works with individuals and couples who wish to resolve the past, inhabit their bodies and their pleasure, and learn to speak their desires. Pavini hosts the podcasts “Bespoken Bones: Ancestors at the Crossroads of Sex, Magick, and Science” and “The Well-Pleasured Podcast.” As a queer trans witch, Pavini walks the glitter path of dancing bones, ridiculous delight, and old magick.