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#65386 - 03/01/05 04:37 AM Is this a common fear of survivors?
stride Offline

Registered: 03/07/03
Posts: 202
Loc: B.C. Canada
While reading posts in the Sexual Identities forum, I came across a post by PhillyPa discussing his concerns, fears, etc, around emotionally and/or potentially hurting women. Something he said there really struck a chord with me because it's very similar to something I've heard my SO say on one or two occasions:

"I dont want to get to the point that I physically hurt women. What I dont know, is what will emerge during sex. What will happen if I remember during sex?"

My SO has told me that he is afraid to completely "let go" during sex with me, because he doesn't want to "hurt" me, though he is not clear just what kind of hurt exactly he is referring to (I'm not sure that even he knows just what he means by that, only that the fear is there). The only thing I can gather from him about this is that it is somehow connected to his history of SA. He is a very gentle man and in 3 years has certainly never given me ANY indication whatsoever of a penchant for pain, sadism, or sexual violence, etc. And in his case his perp was male (his father), not female, though it seems to me that his mother was willfully blind to what her then husband was doing to their sons all those years. Still, my SO is very protective of and attentive towards his mother, and his closest friends are all female.

Anyway, I'm just wondering if this is a common fear/reservation of male survivors--whether straight or gay--that to completely let go while having sex is to risk hurting their partner/s? And if so, any thoughts about that? (I have some vague ones of my own, but would like to hear from men who can relate to my SO's and/or PhillyPa's fears around this issue. Also, from other partners of survivors who may have heard similar fears expressed?)


In the right formation,
the lifting power of many wings can
achieve twice the distance of any bird flying alone.

#65387 - 03/05/05 03:07 AM Re: Is this a common fear of survivors?
dwf Offline
Moderator/BoD Emeritus

Registered: 05/24/03
Posts: 1223
Loc: Austin, Texas USA
Part of my experience as a male survivor of sexual abuse, involves(d) fear of hurting others during sex.

Funny, I was never afraid of being hurt myself. And I was hurt on several occasion. I was raped twice while unconcious and had a gun pulled on me once. I was treated like less than human and just accepted that as what happened to guys like me.

What I had learned from being prematurely sexualized by an older male who also provided for my emotional and material needs, was that my job as a sexual being was to please the other party.

Unspoken rules were in my head that pleasing him meant that I got to eat, have a place to live and also keep secret the shame I felt at what I was doing.

So doing something wrong, like hurting him, was something to be avoided. It was as if my survival depended on not hurting him, and further in giving him pleasure.

I remember one time, I was 16 he was 56, and my ministrations resulted in us both achieving orgasm at the same time. I remember how pleased he seemed; and how discouraged I felt, because I seemed to know that could not happen every time.

I started faking ejaculation when he came to make sure it seemed good to him.

Hope this isn't too far from your question, but I think it does relate. Later in life, after I had been discarded as a sexual partner and as a young man that he would help take care of, I grew very despondent. Feeling like it was my fault that he had moved on to other boys because I wasn't good enough.

It wasn't until years later that it dawned on me that I had simply gotten too old for him (I was 17). That was at the beginning of my recovery from the effects of the sexual abuse.

In between those two moments, when he left and when I realized I had been sexually abused (about 18 and about 40 respectively) I became an alcoholic and engaged in all sorts of risky dangerous sexual activities, like the ones I mentioned above.

I think that there was also a deep sadness in me that manifested itself as extreme anger at times. Sometimes that was during sex. I didn't know I was sad or angry. I thought that I was just doing what guys like me did. Get drunk, stoned, pick up a stranger and have sex. Of course I secretly wanted them to love me, but hid that, even from myself.

So the anger I think was enough to scare me. And if I was with someone, and was sober, and really cared for them, I would have this extreme fear of hurting them.

Because of my appearance, very dark hair, bushy eyebrows, full beard, stocky build and my attitude which was 'drink, drug and screw as much as you can' kind of guy, I attracted men who wanted me to dominate them. Once again I was doing what other people wanted me to do. They wanted me to act violent and harsh with them.

With all the anger inside of me, that was not hard to do, but it also left me afterwards feeling dehumanized and disconnected. The use of amyl nitrate during sex definitely adds to the strange, detached feeling from the other person, making possible all sorts of things that seemed far from the kind, gentle, hurting person I knew I was on the inside.

It took quite a while in recovery for me to begin to learn how to actually be present, not detach, not disengage, nor fall into a role while having sex.

In one of my first significant relationshipe two years ago, I was horrified and heartbroken to hear my partner say, 'Stop! Stop! You're scaring me.' I had without knowing it, fallen back into the dominating role that had won me favor with those other men.

What I had to do was to practice very hard to remain present in the room and focussed and connected to the person with whom I was making love. I found out that was hard for me to do.

But after discussing it with my partner, we both agreed to work on it. For me, it meant leaving the lights on, at first a lot and then a little, but always enough to see him and his face.

Then I had to always keep my eyes open and looking at him as much as possible. When I closed my eyes, I would drift back into old fantasies and old behaviors, and it would end up like the time he told me to stop.

After a while, I could be present with my lover. That's when I realized I was terrified of being hurt and used and thrown away. The anger and fear of hurting another had covered up my own fear and hurt.

Once again, I was fortunate to have a loving understanding partner, who would speak gently and lovingly during our lovemaking. He would reassure me and speak of his gentle way of loving me. We each had permission to stop at any time. We each agreed to quit falling into the 'orgasm driven' mode of sexual activity. And to be happy with the physical awareness and closeness of the other regardless of who had an orgasm and who didn't. That took a lot of the pressure off.

I am really sure that this is more than you wanted to know from me, but I offer it in such detail, because that is how it makes sense to me.

Your husbands experience is sure to be different, but perhaps there will be enough similarities that you and he can glean some hope from mine.

It is possible to recover from the effects of sexual abuse. It doesn't just 'happen', at least not for me. It required effort and consultation and understanding and working together with my partner.

Most of all I needed to commit to finding better ways of showing my love in physical ways. it was surprising how many we came up with.

But let's leave that for another time.

Thanks for the post. As you can see, it brought a lot out for me.

Congratulations on having the courage to come here and ask for help. That's such a difficult thing for many of us to do. Your husband is fortunate to have a partner who is willing to recover too.


"Poke salad Annie, 'gators got you granny
Everybody said it was a shame
'Cause her mama was aworkin' on the chain-gang"

-Tony Joe White

#65388 - 03/05/05 03:58 AM Re: Is this a common fear of survivors?
stride Offline

Registered: 03/07/03
Posts: 202
Loc: B.C. Canada
Thank you SO MUCH, Danny, for sharing your experiences on this with me. It has given me much to consider and offers some possible insights into what's really going on for/with my guy in this area.

I am glad that you and your partner have been able to commit to taking the steps you have WRT learning to be present, connected, self-aware and other-aware, etc, during your love-making. As of yet, my man remains very uncomfortable with the idea of making/taking such a conscious and somewhat premeditated (for lack of a better word just now)approach to our lovemaking. He says that the very idea of such a proposition just "ruins" things and that talking about/examining our sex life, nevermind adopting/practicing such approaches as you've essentially described, will just "wreck" things.

In his stated view, the whole topic is most definitely just best left alone. He 'is the way he is' and no, he certainly feels no need to be curious about that--or about my own sexuality and related matters. Sex should just be left to "happen naturally" and if I'd just drop the subject, everything would be fine. Etc.

Still, I hold out hope that one day we might be able to get to where you and your partner are with this. I love my man to the depths of my being, and this certainly seems a mutual thing, so what more beautiful hope can one have than to be able to truly "make love," and fully experience/celebrate one another's presence and being in that union?

Thank you again.
God bless,


In the right formation,
the lifting power of many wings can
achieve twice the distance of any bird flying alone.

#65389 - 03/06/05 01:30 AM Re: Is this a common fear of survivors?
Caetel Offline

Registered: 11/05/03
Posts: 322
Loc: Paris, France
Hi !
Sorry Stride I wanted to answer your post much earlier but I have been really busy with activism these days so I did not have much time to come on the board. I totally agree with DWF when he says:

"So the anger I think was enough to scare me. And if I was with someone, and was sober, and really cared for them, I would have this extreme fear of hurting them".

I have heard my love tell something close to that. He told me in a general way he was afraid to become an abuser, he was afraid to hurt the girl when making love. I relate that fear in him with the level of anger that was kept inside. I guess the fact that I was an incest survivor and later a rape survivor didn't help and rather increased his fear of hurting me even though I told him I totally trusted him.
There are also a lot of cliches in our society saying that since most of the abusers have been abused, then all male survivors are or will be inevitably abusers. I guess it is hard for guys to remain convinced of the contrary.
I believe this fear of hurting can also come up when male survivors work on masculinity issues since there is often a confusion between strength and violence as well as anger and violence. Anger is a very positive energy and socially largely accepted for men. Male survivors have sometimes experienced abuse from violent AND angry men who were the only "manly" figure" on whom they built their male identity. This create I believe a sense of "if I want to be a real man then It means I am also condemned to be violent". Of course being in an heterosexual relationship means that the survivor is directly positionned as "a MAN" (especially if the woman makes it visible that for her he is a real man). And thus the anger-fear cycle can start.
I am not sure you can follow my thinking here. I hope you understand.
Thank you for bringing this important issue on the board.
Warmest regards

Mitakuye oyasin ! We are all related !

#65390 - 03/17/05 04:12 AM Re: Is this a common fear of survivors?
reality2k4 Offline

Registered: 07/06/04
Posts: 6845
Loc: Stuck between water, air, and ...

I do not know if I can give you a picture here, but I was violently abused by a man, and I was only a little boy.

The little boy was silenced through fear, and the return of this man.

He associated sex with hurt, both physical and emotional, he also associated it with being violently sick at the thought of it.

He built up so much internal anger, and that, in a childhood, is not what a kid wants or needs.

It leads to immense mental scarring of the kid.

He cannot tell his parents or friends, just why he is so frightened and scared, he wants to scream, but finds that nobody would listen, or nobody could really be in that pain.

He cannot understand how anybody could do that to innocent child, worthless, humiliated, dirty, WHO ME? Yes this is what he is conditioned to thinking.

The abused child, always thought he must have somehow caused it, he cannot think of anything else to logically explain what went on.

Most abused kids vow, never to repeat what was done to them, because they know just how deep the hurt really goes.

The despair of someone so young, maybe not identified, as the child seeks a normal existence.

But the mental scars run pretty deep, especially as you are supposed to be living in childhood, a time of magic and love.

The silent scream is there, nobody can see the hurt and pain we suffer, we do not like to burden others with it, because nobody can really identify how deep the hurt really goes.

WHY? Because the World expects you to be normal, but what is normal? To me, it is the gentle man I find myself to be.

It takes a lot of understanding to love an abuse survivor, maybe it is worth the patience, but do not forget, he may have been hiding this secret for so many years.

When he had no voice in childhood, which threw him into utter despair, then is it any wonder, that he does not want to saddle you, with so many emotions.

Just my two cents worth,


Whoever stole the Sun, put it back and we'll drop all the charges!

#65391 - 03/18/05 11:25 PM Re: Is this a common fear of survivors?
stride Offline

Registered: 03/07/03
Posts: 202
Loc: B.C. Canada

Thank you for your input. So much of what you wrote is uncannily, though not surprisingly, like much of what I've gathered from my partner. I understand much of this.

I'm a survivor of childhood SA myself, though not of incest, not of years of SA, and I'm female, so I've not been burdened with the same kind of culturally generated crap that I believe men are. Nonetheless, through a lifetime of self-enquiry, study, much therapy, and the faith/support of numerous people over the years, I feel very comfortable being open, vulnerable, expressive and present when it comes to being sexually intimate with someone I love. At least, I did until my current relationship: Over time, his fears, "walls," etc (some of which I sense he may not even really be aware of) when it comes to this area of our life together have had an distinctly unsettling and thwarting effect on me. It is hard to relax and feel "safe" being fully open and natural with someone for whom sex is such a emotional/psychosexual minefield.

Your point about the internalized anger is well taken though. Indeed, the first time he ever told me of his fears around really "letting go" with me in bed, he ended up getting out of bed, putting handwraps on, (it was about 4 a.m.) and going into the basement of his apartment house to punch the shit out of a large, solid wooden support post there for a good 20 minutes or more until he'd finally just exhausted himself. He was hitting that post so hard that the whole building literally shook with each blow (the building was a 110 yr. old, 4 suite apartment house, and solid as they come). I could both feel and hear thuds from his room and finally got up to go see what was happening. He didn't realize at the time that I'd been watching from the top of the basement stairs (once I'd realized what he was doing I intuitively knew not to disturb him...that I shouldn't be there. I returned, quite shaken, to bed without saying a word).

That was one of the most intense, saddest things I think I've ever witnessed. Like he was beating his dad-- and himself --to a pulp.

My guy is a very gentle and sensitive man. It is so sad (to me) that anger seems a much safer, more accessible emotion for him than hurt and sadness in almost every area, but still too terrifying for him to look at in terms of how/where/why it comes up for him in bed. Hope I'm making sense here?

Anyway, thanks again for your input. Love your sig (Gabriel quote), too:-)


In the right formation,
the lifting power of many wings can
achieve twice the distance of any bird flying alone.


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