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5 things I learned about Sexual Empowerment by going to a Sex Party

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Picture the scene, it’s around 11pm on a Wednesday evening at a swanky Caberet club in London, the show comes to a close and the Killing Kittens MC announces that phase 2 of the evenings activities will commence; “The playroom can be found to the left of the bar and everybody please enjoy your evening, and each other”, or something to that effect.

This isn’t my first Sex Club experience.

My first was in San Francisco in the Spring of 2016 when I impulsively followed through on an invitation from coach-surfing host I was staying with to accompany him, as a friend and wing woman, to an underground club in the city where the swingers hung out. He’d been before and had had a great time and he needed a woman on his arm to get in the door. He was happy to foot the entrance fee.

I was excited, and terrified. I felt like a rebel adventurer, braving new territories and leading myself forward into deeper sexual liberation. As a single, sexually unsatisfied woman, the idea of meeting a handsome stranger and having a “no strings attached” rendezvous felt empowering and enticing. I had visions of 3 men all showering me with sexual attention at the same time, a hot kiss with a beautiful woman, perhaps my first threesome with another couple.

After making my chaperone swear in front the entire household that he wouldn’t hit on me and that we could leave if I felt uncomfortable, even after being there just 5 mins, I put on my black dress and red lipstick, popped some condoms in my purse and stepped out into the unknown.

The evening was an utter disaster. I was fresh meat in a sausage factory. Hit on left, right and centre by unattractive, overly forward men who seemed quite disinterested in getting to know me or who I was as a person. I started to become quite scared. I needed more time and space to take things in and feel into my body. I initially took solace with a couple of older, motherly-looking women who took me under their wings to calm me, before promptly propositioning me for 4-way sex with their mutual playmate, who was apparently quite the star of the swingers scene locally, well endowed and in his 60’s. They even invited me to come and stay with them and attend the sex parties they held for the local swingers community. I felt scared, confused and objectivised.

Once I regained composure, and said a polite “no” I went to find my Chaperone to ask to leave. Instead of taking me home, having not had much success with the ladies, he hit on me relentlessly, and eventually almost forced me to accompany him into the sex room so he could masturbate watching others have sex before he would allow me leave.

I walked into the sex room, in my underwear (as was the maximum allowable clothing in that space) felt the eyes of 100 sexually hungry men and women on me, panicked, then promptly regained my self-respect and left.

I hid at the bar with a couple of nice and new-to-sex-parties, equally confused psychologists for the rest of the evening, watching a human caterpillar of people having sex and performing BDSM acts on each other in the bar, suppressing my terror by overeating the free snacks and desperately pleeing internally and externally that this couple wouldn’t also suddenly hit on me before my Chaperone finished his self-pleasure/voyeurism and felt ready to take me home. They didn’t. Phew.

You might be surprised that I attempted another sex party in London last month after this experience, and somewhat so was I. However I was calmed and soothed by the “women lead” policy at Killing Kittens* that ensures that only women could do the propositioning. That felt inherently safer. The clientele were vetted, and above all, this was an organisation I’d been invited to teach for (in their sex educational arm) and so it felt appropriate to better understand my audience.

*Killing Kittens is a Sex Positive Organisation set-up to support emerging women’s sexual empowerment through managed experiential events, adult education (for men and women) and social forums for making friends and connections.

Here began Sex Party take 2!

Rather than narrate my experience, I’ll get straight to the point of what I learned from this much safer, classier experience in adult play space.

1. Sex Parties aren’t really about sex: they are about play, development and personal expression.

There are few spaces these days where you can go and play as a grow up. Gone are the days of throwing off our shoes and dancing in the mud for all but the most liberated of us. Most avenues for personal development are confined to reading materials, therapy sessions, workshops or courses and, although we can take our partners to tango on a Wednesday night, there are few spaces where one can go to explore how it feels to make love in public, to feel into the complexities of sharing ones partner with another, or simply to explore, as a single women, what it’s like to boldly own one’s sexuality in a room of friends and strangers.

For me, there was nothing arousing about being in a space of couples, triplets and strangers enjoying each other’s genitals as a post dinner snack or place to grind against for light relief. I wasn’t overcome by the same desire for exhibitionism or the merging of energies with a mysterious hot older man or pin-up couple. However I was touched and moved at the child-like wonder in the eyes of the adults in the space, by the supportive and nurturing connections occurring between the women in the ladies toilets and the looks of delight, lust and genuine care between exploring partners.

The experience opened my mind to the possibilities of Sex parties, held in safe environments, as spaces to rediscover some of the adolescent curiosity lost in a world where social and financial survival requires us to grow up and get serious really fast.

2. In our culture, we’ve split off and kept hidden our sexuality from other aspects of our social lives and this perpetuates a culture of shame around our sexuality.

It was fascinating to me to see how strangely normal and un-triggering it was for me to see couples and strangers connecting sexually over a dining table. Looking around the space some people were drinking, some were dancing, some were chatting and laughing and some were fucking.

There was a way in which it felt quite integrative to have sexual acts occurring in the same space as normal adult activities without it being made a big deal or making anyone uncomfortable. It reminded me somewhat or a scene from a 13th Century pub with men drinking, musicians playing and buxom working girls entertaining their clients at the table to earn a few pence to buy bread for their children and having a rather good time in the process. Not that the women at Killing Kittens were prostitutes, they 20, 30, 40, 50 some-things dressed to impress and having an adventurous and growthful night out with their girlfriends, partners or fuck buddies.

I’d like to make clear at this point that I’m not advocating going down on your partner at the next dinner party you go to, or even bringing up the topic of going to a sex party with your friends, I’m not even advocating going to a sex party and I’m not sure I’d go again simply as there are other ways I prefer to spend my time, however I can’t help but open myself to some sadness that such a thing as simply as social sexual play has been made so very wrong and is kept so very secret and behind closed doors.

It’s no wonder sex has gone so far off the rails for many men and women, with everyone trying to work out what to do, on their own, inspired only by pornography and a few dirty stories they got told when then were 15, or that first lover who “showed them the ropes” and potentially trapped them forever after into thinking that defined sex.

Sex is normal. Healthy adults do it, healthy kids explore feelings of pleasure and sensations in their bodies and the world might be a better place if we weren’t all so scared of that fact.

3. You can be beautiful and still be very insecure. Sexual confidence comes from the inside

One thing I had been concerned about was the attractiveness vetting at Killing Kittens Parties. It felt both reassuring to one part of me and judgemental and unkind to another. However, what I found on the day was a good mixture of normal people, slim, attractive, toned, overweight, curvy, tall, short, exotic, unattractive, they were all there. They were also all kind and respectful of everyone else’s boundaries. In fact the only time I had a small freeze response and chose to move away from someone was after I sat a bit too close to an outgoing and vibrant women who perhaps mistook my proximity for a come-on (rather than lack of table space) and got a little vocally and touch friendlier that I was ready for at the start of the evening. I sat a little further away and she immediately respected my distancing and left me alone.

Sat watching the Cabaret show I couldn’t help but ogle the men and women passing to use the toilets or go to the bar. It was like Tinder live and a hook for that part of me that likes to people-watch and play “who do I actually find attractive and why”. Interesting, I found the women much more attractive than the men and was very impressed at the outfits they had pulled together and the ways they were presenting themselves.

What was then fascinating to me, later in the ladies toilets, was to see how many of these beautiful, vibrant women, despite their brave facades and adventurous natures, were actually a ball of insecurity about their appearances once they left the limelight of the club lights and got into the safety of other women looking in mirrors and also wondering if their fishnet tights left a roll of unwanted hip fat on display.

It was something that has been very apparent to me in various stages of my own development that at my most insecure I was the most traditionally and outwardly perfect, and that my most stunningly perfect and beautiful friends were the ones who liked themselves the least. Back in the days when you wouldn’t find me without my make-up, hair extensions, false eyelashes and high heels, within me swirled a vortex of self-disgust. Nowadays you’ll be lucky if I’ve brushed my hair and I’m carrying around 1 stone more than I’d ever had thought was socially acceptable and yet I’ve never before been able to hold and work with so much sexual charge in my body with such self confidence and pleasure.

The biggest step for me from moving to average sex to really good sex has been about coming back into my body and into love with myself

It was somehow reassuring to me to be with these brave and beautiful women, and to know they still carried the same insecurities about their appearance that I had, and that they, and I, looked fabulous, even with (especially with) a roll of soft and juicy feminine hip fat.

4. Sexually Empowered women don’t need to express their sexuality through the sexual act.

The most inspiring moments for me of the whole evening had nothing to do with the sex party. No sexual acts witnessed left me moved to tears, no overheard moans of pleasure left me longing for connection, even watching the guy having the threesome take really good care of his and his partners’ sexual health with the most rapid condom changes and partner swapping I’ve ever witnessed, didn’t send me into a frenzy of applause (although seriously! Good job that guy!)

What was most moving to me were the Cabaret entertainers. Aerial dancers, performance artists and Jazz singers, the stage was lit up with powerful women, deeply in their bodies and personal sexual expression. They were strong, muscular, agile, flexible, bold and self-assured. Nothing showy, just raw self connection and expression of their natural and hard earned talents. I was in awe. I want to be THOSE women.

For me attending a sex party didn’t inspire me to have more sex, it inspired me to want to own my existing sexual/creative power (Eros) and express myself more.

I wondered if, to be a sexuality teacher and professional, I ought to be open to Sex Club Sex, Kink, Polyamory, or having eyebrow orgasms every time I brush my fringe out my eyes. Instead I realised I’m precisely on the right path by being more and more my true self. I’m happier cheerleading on the women in the bathrooms and explaining women’s sexual empowerment to the bouncer on the door of the playroom than I m having a quickly with a hot guy in a suit jacket and no pants.

May I one day be that women who loves my body enough to let it sing and dance freely, on a stage (physical or metaphorical) in a way that inspires other people to let their light really shine.

5. Running around in lingerie is a great way to remember yourself as a sexual being.

I am not one for underwear. In fact having spent several years on a deeply spiritual path trying not to become a full time hippie or naked woodland elf and to keep my feet on the ground, underwear has rather become a thing of the past. As has trying to look nice for other people, fashion, or any kind of hair styling other than my infamous “straight off the beach” look.

That said, donning my friends sexy black lingerie, thigh high boots, a kimono and too much make up (ok forget the latter part that didn’t work for my sense of feeling like myself, although did provide a good protective mask), I felt really bloody sexy. And the sexiness was all mine.

Going to the sex party, looking this hot, and knowing I didn’t need to give it away to anyone but myself, I got to really enjoy myself that evening. I was stroking the softness of my own skin and fabrics, running around without my Kimono and enjoy the looks and appreciation from men and women watching me strutting past in my sexual confidence. I think at one point I even danced around topless for a bit and pole danced against a structural pillar in pure enjoyment of being freely in my own body in a public place.

The only time I normally get this sensation is with a lover or partner, or in the baths at Esalen, California, the moonlight or sunlight bathing my naked skin in the warm waters. It’s liberating to be sexually alive in public.

It’s even inspired me to go and buy some lingerie of my own, for myself, to enjoy myself in on a special romantic “me-time” evening.

Sexuality, after all, isn’t about sex. It’s about the erotic charge that pulses through our body, transforming every cell of our being with pleasure and purpose. It’s easy to experience through good partner sex and that’s just one of a myriad of ways we get to explore who we really are.

So would I recommend you to go to a Sex Party?

I am now a teacher for Killing Kittens and I am a pioneer in women’s sexual empowerment. I am not an advocate for Sex Parties. Attending one needs to be taken seriously

As a single or partnered woman it could be fun to go with a friend with clear boundaries for yourselves and a moderation of alcohol consumption for personal safety and integrity.

For a couple, go if you feel up for it, really solid together, are good communicators and able to discuss all potential eventualities; agreeing boundaries and ways to self-regulate in advance of stepping into the highly charged environment. Having an intention for the experience is also always helpful, as is sobriety.

For single men, if you want to go with a friend, great, just make sure you honour her boundaries and safety, and your own, use protection if you find yourself engaging and please go with an intention of exploration and with a curious nature; without any agenda or expectations that might lead you to lead with your penis, rather than your heart, and accidently scare any women with a past history of trauma, like me.

Would I go again? Who knows. I think I’d be happier just lounging or dancing around at home in my new lingerie.

If you are a women interested in developing your sexual expression and allowing your sexuality in as a healthy, integrated part of your life, please find me at www.emmakharper.com for Psychosexual Somatics Therapy

Join my mailing list here for details of upcoming events and programmes such as my Killing Kittens workshop: Sex with strangers, navigating sex and dating

or please sign up for my 6 Month Women’s Sexual Expression Programme.

With Love

Emma

Emma K Harper

Psychosexual Somatics® Therapist, Speaker, Teacher, Writer, Dancer, Musician.

Discover Your Sexuality, Integrity, Freedom @ www.emmakharper.com

When I was 15 years old I was raped. Here’s what I’ve learned about why childhood spanking left me vulnerable to repeat sexual violations and what I’m now doing about it (part 3)

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If you haven’t yet read parts 1 and 2 yet please them here and here

Recap:  I’m 36 and starting to spot a pattern in my nervous system playing out in repeated experiences of unwanted sexual touch, including a full blown rape at age 15, which I had almost completely repressed.

I have distilled down what happens in the majority of the instances into 5 phases, tracking my nervous system:

  1. Phase 1: Connection.
  2. Phase 2: Move to action.
  3. Phase 3: Unwanted Physical Touch.
  4. Phase 4: Seduction.
  5. Phase 5: Splitting.

I have tracked back the patterns in my nervous system to being spanked as a child of under 5 and hypothesized how that taught my body to freeze and dissociate when someone I have nice feelings towards gets too close and comes out of heart resonance with me, leaving me open to unwanted touch and unable to stay fully conscious and change the situation as it occurs.

And I have promised in this part that i will share with you:

  • How these protective mechanisms I developed in my nervous system and personality show up in my day to day sexual behaviour and how I can use that as a trailhead to healing.
  • What can be done to break the pattern and free oneself from a life of sexual violation, unwanted touch and even bad sex, once and for all.

Thank goodness, despite being vulnerable to sexual violation, with the tendency to freeze at the first sign of someone’s sexual interest, rather than move away, say something or prepare to fight, it’s not a daily occurrence to be in the line of unwanted sexual attention.

There is one place in normal life that my reaction pattern can cause a problem: Sex.

Imagine the set up...I’m in bed with a loved one and we’re fooling around with one another. Everything is good, until that moment where they disconnect. Perhaps they misread my body signals and start doing something I’m not enjoying, perhaps they start thinking about something sexual they’ve always wanted to try and whether I’d be up for it and move from our connected body intelligences to their head, perhaps they make a new move too quickly without checking in with me.

All of these can trigger a startle response in my system. My nervous system goes into sympathetic arousal and then boom, my pattern kicks in: freeze, loose vocal chords, mentally detach (go into thought), or dissociate.

They then continue to do whatever it is they’ve decided they want to do, without asking me, and potentially without any idea anything is wrong. Meanwhile...

My body is in panic, only I don’t know it because my protective mechanisms are distracting me, so I probably just stop feeling pleasure and maybe get stuck in mental loops.

What do I not do? Say something, ask for a pause, gently orient them away from me, negotiate an alternative. No, I go into tolerating whatever is happening. Gritting my teeth, thinking hard about what I want to be different and if it’s really a long way off what I’m wanting I’m totally out my body and soon enough my Seductress is back on line trying to take back control for me.

This is not helpful during Sex.

I have, what could be described as “poor vagal tone”. The Vagus nerve; the 10th cranial nerve that runs pretty much the full length of the body, through many of the vital organs including heart, lungs and vagina, and controls many of the muscles of the face and hearing, is responsible for a whole host of system regulation and homeostasis functions, and also has a critical role in the function of social engagement.  

At a very crude level, it has a number of different branches, intended to serve different roles in self-regulation. The main branch (the Ventral Vagus) is highly sophisticated and elegant, with tonnes of myelinated nerve fibres passing information from the body up to the brain and back to manage system regulation. The rear branch (the Dorsal Vagus), is more primal, and kicks in like an emergency switch when things get scary. It can have you play dead in the mouth of a tiger quicker than you can say “shit I’m in a Tigers mouth, how the heck did that happen?”.  (Thanks to Stephen Porges for Polyvagal theory, which is much more elegant than I’ve described here, and to Peter Levine for his excellent work on the body’s survival systems and responses).

My ventral vagus function trips out pretty quickly as a result of my childhood programming. I’ve become an expert at getting stressed quickly and playing dead.

 Instead of keeping my frontal cortex online and engaging in rational adult negotiation about things I become mute and resigned to unpleasant or even painful experiences from my frozen state .

Then from time to time I overlay all my deeply unconscious panic and terror with feelings of being super powerful and sexually adventurous/dominant as my Seductress comes back on line and puts me back in the driving seat (gotta love her).

Love = Occasional Pain. That’s my normal.

Messy.

And my capacity to not take care of myself during sex with this patterning extends into all sorts of other unhelpful and sometimes dangerous behaviours. I struggle to vocalise my “no” when a man puts his penis inside me before putting on a condom, If things are moving too fast for me I’ll actively support a man to enter me before my body is ready in order to feel in control of the point to entry, I will kiss or make a move on someone I’m not really that into just because they got too close and my seductress got activated.

Pretty much anything that is happening without my consent, towards or near my body, and I’m frozen like a rusted up robot, terrified of being badly hurt or abandoned, or doing my best to get a man to orgasm fast so the whole thing can be over.

My seductress aspect is confusing to me and to others and sometimes I can’t even tell if I’m in consent to what’s happening or not until afterwards.

The other day, the only way I could tell something was happening that I wasn’t fully on board for, despite having gone pretty slowly, was that I had no desire to make eye contact with my partner. I also didn’t have feelings of wanting to touch him back. My desire for touching is usually a sign that my heart is open and I want to channel my love for the person through my hands or mouth, although please note that giving can also come from a panic place that tries to avoid abandonment so that’s a more complex subject.  

I was only open to receiving his sexual touch with my eyes closed, from my disconnected internal trance state. If I came into actual eye contact or attempted heart connection I realised I felt too vulnerable and didn’t want to be there.

 Although I liked this person and wanted him to like me back, my body didn’t really want to be sexual with him and, as normal, my protective mechanisms had kicked in, I had frozen, then seduced him and now here I was allowing him to suck on my nipples whilst I pretended he wasn’t there and tried to stay focused on the pleasure in my body (a step forward from my normal mental looping and dissociation, and a representation of the good work I’ve been doing on my unhelpful sexual behaviours these last years).

I’ve learned that even going really slowly, my old protective patterns are so strong that they can take me over.

So how do I break out of these patterns?

For me it’s a little bit of a complicated process that I’m still trying to distill down into something repeatable and potent. I’m now using a combination of what I’ve learned through Sex Coaching, Psychosexual Somatics Therapy and then couple with Dick Schwartz’s work in Internal Family systems.

The early steps are taken largely from Internal Family Systems therapy, and require much more time and space to investigate fully. For those of you not familiar with the modality please get familiar. It is a ground-breaking therapy that one can do on oneself (in time) and incorporates shamanic soul retrieval into a recognised and clinically tested western psychotherapeutic approach. It has changed my life.

[What you need to know for this is that our personalities are made up of multiples “parts”, some of which got hurt and split off in the past and are no longer visible to us, called “exiles” (these are vulnerable, highly emotionally charged and totally unconscious) and then many parts take on the role of “protectors”, designed to control our environments or our behaviours so we don’t feel the unbearable pain our exiles are carrying ever again.]

The first step to healing is to start to consciously engage with the parts of us that come up to protect us in live sexual situations today.

I’ll summarise my approach below:

Step 1: Notice the problem or pattern or protection. What’s the issue? What behaviour today is causing a challenge in current time? Get clear what wants to change. (e.g. Why do I lie for hours during bad oral sex and not ask for it to be different?)

Step 2: Investigate and get to know that behaviour as a protector. Treat is as a unique personality aspect, ask any parts of you that are judging it or scared of it to step aside and ask questions to get to know it and what it’s protecting you from. Thank it. Understand what it would rather be doing. (e.g. What is this part of me that remains speechless trying to stop from happening? What’s the worst it thinks would happen if I spoke?)

Step 3: With permission of this protection, go and rescue the exiled part of yourself that it protects. Get to know that. Sit with it. Let it tell you it’s story and feel it’s pain. Again, ask any other feelings to step aside for this process. Take care of it in the way it wasn’t taken care of at the time. Bring it back with you to the present. Support it to unburden extreme thoughts, beliefs and emotions it has been carrying since the incident that caused it to go into hiding. Allow it to remember who is really is and integrate it’s unique qualities back into your body. (E.g. I have a part that is scared that if I speak the person might get angry, and then beneath that is a part that thinks if I make someone angry they will hit me or abandon me)

Step 4: Take extreme care of the recently re-integrated part. Tune into it every day and just listen until it begins to trust you. Get clear what it needs to feel safe. (Ask how it is feeling today. Sit with it as you imagine a future sexual scenario. What comes up for it? What is it afraid of? What does it need you to do?)

Step 5: Find your boundary and hold it. From your daily conversations with this part understand when it gets triggered and what it needs.  Negotiate on its behalf with other personality aspects. Get clear what is fine and what is too much for it sexual situations and honour its edges with the protective power of a ferocious mother bear.  (Imagine doing or saying the thing the part needs you to do or say, then see what comes up? Do other parts disagree? Hold an internal negotiation until there is an agreed boundary).

Step 6: Role Play upholding the boundary. It may be too much to hold the boundary that is needed for this part to fully integrate during sex or during a live life situation if it’s not a sexual boundary. Sexual charge floods the system, and for me, my Seductress can come on line really fast and hard when she feels she needs to (more work to be done there), so it’s good to practise speaking and holding your boundary with friends, or a mentor, in a role play where there is no actual chance of sexual engagement or of being caught in the energy of the old pattern before you have time to intervene consciously. (Literally practise speaking your boundary to a friend and then track your internal reaction. Get feedback from them on how they receive you and then go again until you can do it without a charge in your body, with a calm heart rate and even breath).

Step 7: Speak your boundary to the person you need to uphold it and ask for their support before sex. This is easy to do once the exiled part has a little faith in you. Then watch how the other person responds in that moment and then during sex. A good partner or friend or person will respect and support you. If they laugh at you, judge you, question you or break the boundary, I suggest you consider leaving. This is likely not a safe, healthy, integrated person with whom you can heal your most fragile parts. (It’s good to speak about what you’re discovering and needing with a partner firstly outside the bedroom, over a cup of tea and then again before sexual engagement. Save any debriefs until you’ve had time to settle and are back out the sexual situation and with some time having passed, even days).

Step 8: Rinse and repeat. Keep honouring the boundary or finding the new one and honouring that until more trust is built. It’s best to set boundaries a little tighter than what you think is an “edge” and then creep towards them over time with space between experiments for you to review and integrate what’s happening in your body. Accept that you won’t be perfect first time, or second, or third and very quickly you will incorporate new behaviours rapidly. (Once you start holding the boundary with sexual charge present in a live sexual situation you’ll find a rapid transformation of this new capacity in your sex and in your life and that it will extend much further than just in the bedroom.

Step 9: Continually recognise you progress and praise yourself for each small step

Step 10: When you notice you’ve done something automatically that is a new learned behaviour and that you’ve stayed in your body, celebrate! I mean really celebrate, that’s huge. Well done you.

Once we’ve released the parts of stuck in time in the past, we can slow down enough to rebuild new neural pathways and teach our bodies to trust our leadership again during sexual or physically intimate situations.

Again in Summary:

  • Step 1: Identify Challenge
  • Step 2: Understand Protector
  • Step 3: Rescue Exile
  • Step 4: Maintain communication
  • Step 5: Find Boundary
  • Step 6: Role play boundary
  • Step 7: Speak boundary
  • Step 8: Practise, practise, practise
  • Step 9: Praise progress
  • Step 10: Celebrate success

If you’ve experienced unwanted sexual touch or been a perceived victim of rape or violation I’m sorry that happened. You are not to blame. You also may or may not have been spanked, violated or otherwise knowingly traumatised as a child.

You may, however, have behaviours that aren’t best serving you when unwanted things happen, and those you have the power to change, if you want to. It’s also been really helpful for me to take myself out of the role of victim (past and current) and start to understand how my behaviours play a part in the unfolding of the events that I experience.

From curiosity comes wisdom and with wisdom comes the agency to do things differently.

It’s also critical at this point for me to say that there are times during scary incidents where nothing you can do will make a difference and freezing, dissociation, seducing, playing dead, fighting, whatever your strategy is, it’s all perfect. Use it. Just get through and then get support on the other side of it. As I said before, sometimes bad things happen to good people.

Thanks for taking the time to read about my story and my learnings. I hope these series of articles find their way into the hands of people who can benefit from my experience and find some peace amongst some challenging memories or feelings.

With Love

Emma

Emma K Harper

Psychosexual Somatics® Therapist, Speaker, Teacher, Writer, Dancer, Musician. 

Discover Your Sexuality, Integrity, Freedom @ www.emmakharper.com

"The wound is the place where the light enters you".  Rumi

If you are suffering from sexual, relational, or emotional challenges as a result of early childhood or adult trauma, or simply looking for more support in developing your sexual expression and allowing your sexuality in as a healthy, integrated part of your life, please find me at www.emmakharper.com

Or if you live in the South East, or London, Join me this June for the trauma informed 2019 Women’s Sexual Expression Programme: An intimate circle of up to 10 women journeying with their sexuality to reclaim the type of sex they want to be having, with the people they want to have it with, when they want it.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2343417825947479/

https://www.emmakharper.com/services/2019-women-s-sexual-expression-programme

And if reading this brings up painful personal material for you, please remember to speak with a friend or loved one or reach out for professional help. You are not alone. Bad things happen to good people and we’re all just doing our best in a very complicated and challenging world.

When I was 15 years old I was raped. Here’s what I’ve learned about why childhood spanking left me vulnerable to repeat sexual violations and what I’m now doing about it (part 2)

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If you haven’t yet read part 1 read it here

Recap:  I’m 36 and starting to spot a pattern in my nervous system in response to repeated experiences of sexual violation, including a full blown rape at age 15, which I had almost completely repressed.

I have distilled down what happens in the majority of the violations into 5 phases:

  1. Phase 1: Connection.
  2. Phase 2: Move to action.
  3. Phase 3: Unwanted Physical Touch.
  4. Phase 4: Seduction.
  5. Phase 5: Splitting.

And I have promised in this part that i will share with you:

  • What’s happening in my nervous system and body in each of the 5 phases to allow the violation to happen.
  • How I believe that childhood spanking established the pattern in my nervous system and adult behaviours that set me up to be vulnerable to sexual violation.

Let’s see how we go

Please note, in my experiences the context here is normally that it is with someone I, to some degree, know and trust, not a stranger, as is true in the majority of instances of sexual violation. It’s less common to get attacked by a stranger, and very common by someone we consider safe. That’s how they get close. This is will not be everyone’s experience, and also this pattern below is a generalisation. Depending on my level of maturing and the level of threat the nuances of each situation are slightly different.

Phase 1: Connection

My experience:    I am enjoying an experience together with someone and having some level of connection, intellectual or even physical contact.

 I feel:   Safe. Open and hopeful, alive and energised, confident and attractive.

In my body:   I can maintain eye contact and speech, have good posture, a calm heart rate and am fully fluid and mobile.

I think: “This is great. What a lovely person. I’m really enjoying hanging out with them”, and possibly “I’m quite attracted to this person”.

What’s happening:   We’re connecting. Our bodies are starting to mirror; our hearts are perhaps starting to beat together a little, mirror neurons are firing. We are energetically, intellectually or even physically stimulated. There is a current starting to flow. Desire could be present on one or more sides.

Phase 2: Move to action

My experience:    Something changes energetically. Perhaps the other person gets a read that I might be available sexually. They move closer, into my energetic field, inside my boundaries. The sexual charge in the field becomes palpable.

I feel:    Confused, scared, early stages of overwhelm. I no longer feel my connection to them as I did.

In my body:   I freeze. My vocal chords shut down. My heart starts to race. I clench my jaw, my pelvis and maybe later my fists. I hold my breath.

I think:   “I’m confused. What’s happening? Something is wrong. I feel scared”. Then: “Don’t be silly. Nothing is wrong. This is a nice person. They are not going to hurt you. Everything is ok.”

What’s really happening:   There is an energetic disconnection from one another at the point the person makes a decision to move in towards me that is not met by my desire energetically. They say nothing verbally and may be looking for a verbal or non verbal response from me to confirm or deny if this is ok. At the point the boundary gets breached (by too close proximity) my body goes into Sympathetic arousal, my Amygdala fires off warning signals and my body prepares for flight, fight or freeze. In this case it opts for freeze due to my wiring and because this is person is bigger and stronger than me and already very close.

Note: The issue here could be intent, and could also just be pace. There is a lack of discussion, checking-in, consent to progress. At this point if there was a slowing down and a chance for verbalisation I could keep my social engagement system on line and let the other person know I don’t want to proceed. The pace of movement has prevented my front cortex and speech capacities staying online.

 

Phase 3: Unwanted Physical Touch

My experience:    The person, having not received or heard any easily discernable signs of my distress, and not being well trained in nervous system physiology or empathy (our culture doesn’t support that, especially in our male acculturation process), or simply ignoring my lack of complaint or active enthusiasm, proceeds to make a physical move and touch some part of my body that is arousing to them.

I feel:     Shock, angry, powerless, terrified, confused.

In my body: I’m not in my body at this point. I dissociate and I’m gone. I’m probably barely breathing and my pulse is weak.

I think:    “I can’t believe this is happening.......” then nothing as I’m gone”

What’s happening: By not being consulted, given choice and kept an equal in the move to sexual interaction I experience an intense loss of power and agency. My body goes into panic and, unable to deal with the intensity of fear in my system, I lose a degree of consciousness and dissociate. In less extreme cases I might just go into mental detachment and start thinking about something...anything to distract myself from what’s happening to my body.

So far so good?

So this is where it gets really interesting. In many of these instances, including my rape, there is a phase 4. Phase 4 happens when the system is desperately trying to regain a sense of control. I noticed it became more likely, or more strongly felt, later in life as I got older, physically stronger and actually more resilient and able to defend myself more.

Phase 4 : Seduction.

My experience:   I suddenly feel a surge of power and beginning to initiate sexual activity with my “attacker”. I might kiss them back or begin kissing them if kissing isn’t happening. I make moves towards them. Touching them, grabbing them and become feisty or seemingly playful. At this point they are now confident we are in consent. We are still not in consent.

I feel:   Highly aroused, powerful, dominant, joyful, excited, still underlying terrified, although I’m no longer consistently in touch with that feeling.

In my body: I feel a strong surge of energy, my heart is now racing, blood comes to my genitals and face, I have strength in my muscles and my hands. I might now be able to manage a sort of detached eye contact, just sufficient to keep their attention and let them know how powerful I am, and I still don’t have much access to my speech. I’m starting to breathe again and it’s shallow.

I think: “This is so hot, just go with it, this might not be someone you’re attracted to and you are in this moment so just enjoy it”. Or “I’m so attractive. Look how turned on they are by me. I feel powerful”.

What’s happening: A strong protective aspect of me has taken over my system. I am at this point not able to consciously control my body or my speech, except in moments of lucidity, where the terrified part of me I have overridden might be able to pipe up with “get off me” or “I don’t want this”, which is often met with laughter, the other thinking I’m playing because it’s not the consistent message they are receiving from my body at this point. There is an internal vying for control of my nervous system by different protective parts of my psyche. Anger energy discharges itself silently in the physical wrestling motions I am making with the other.

You might at this point be feeling some uncomfortable feelings as you’re reading. If you are, please stop for a moment and take a few minutes to breath, shake off your body and come back to yourself. Come back later if that’s what your system needs right now. It’s complex and Icky stuff.

So once I’m safely out the energy of this person, using some suite of skills to end the encounter and eventually make a break for freedom (this can include supporting the person to orgasm to they feel complete, some distraction or diversion technique or an eventual opportunity to fight or flee) we move onto phase 5.

Phase 5: Splitting

My experience:  I’m trying to make sense of what happened. My brain does whatever it needs to do to tell itself/me a story that I can handle, where those terrifying feelings are kept at bay. I tell one or a few people a shallow version of the story, where I leave out the details I feel shameful about, toy with reporting the person and usually don’t follow it through, cry a little, maybe get professional support for a bit if I’m unable to function at work after the incident, and then box it away forever.

I might go through a period of feeling very self-protective and non sexual, followed by a period of hyper-sexualisation where I try to regain some internal feelings of being powerful, which may or may not actually get acted out.

I feel: Shame. Confusion. Lonely. Angry. Scared. Vulnerable.

In my body: I’m rigid. My breath is shallow. I’m very cognitive, with looping thoughts and unanswered questions. I might start overeating or over-thinking as a coping mechanism. Later down the line I might feel arousal energy, and it’s not so much from my genitals as from my power centre.

I think: “Who should I tell? Should I report this person? People need to know what they are capable of”, then “No, I asked for this, I confused them, I don’t want any more trouble for me or anyone else. Let’s just forget about it”, “something is wrong with me that this happens to me” or “I’m just a fucked up highly sexual person” or “maybe I wanted this with this person”?

What’s happening: I am exiling the part of me that was scared. I am building/allowing in a suite of protective personality aspects that can stop me from ever again feeling those feelings of being totally overpowered. I am giving them permission to take over my body and run my life for me whenever this vulnerable part of me feels activated as it has lost trust in me to take care of it. I am ensuring that I stay now a little bit less in my body, where my truth lies. I’m cutting myself off from my pain.

Each violation I experience, unless I break my response pattern to what’s happening, strengthens the capacity of my protective parts to take over my system. They just get better and better at their job of taking my out my body.

Still with me?

What would be healthiest after such a trauma would be to go to a friend, parent, partner or professional who works with trauma and the body, feel fully all the feelings, shake, complete the thwarted defence response and disperse the stuck energy from the system in real time. Seeking help is such a critical step, as is giving the terrified part of oneself space to be seen and heard. It’s so important to rebuild trust in your own system after a violation.

For me I often managed to tell one or a few people something and never fully allowed myself to collapse, be held, and supported back to my wholeness.

Due to the overwhelming shame and the actual physical limitations of my body to handle the full strength of the energetic charge of the emotions of terror and rage, only as I have aged have I been able to step back objectively from the situation and really feel and speak from my truth

So this is the pattern. What’s interesting is understanding where it got set.

Where in my personal history did I learn to Flirt, Freeze, Dissociate, Seduce, Lie to myself and lock away the memory?

For the last few years I’ve trawled my experiences during my healing journey and sexual healing journey with an eye open for early childhood sexual violation and I haven’t found it.

I’ve found and felt waves of extreme fear and violation, senses of impending danger, intense triggers arising in inexplicable situations. I’ve grilled my mother, had an energy healer tell me something happened with my dad when I was 4 (which I discounted because I know, love and trust my father), and spent hours in my body just listening to all the untold stories it wants to tell me.

I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find a trace of having been sexually violated as a young child.

Of course it’s possible I was and that I’m just not ready to handle knowing it yet and the memory is still repressed.

Sadly many people have experienced childhood sexual violation. It’s very common; especially by family members, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, family friends. It’s often the people we most trust.

And for me I don’t think that was the cause.

I now believe aggressive and heart-disconnected episodes of Spanking wired me to be vulnerable for sexual violation.

Yep. That’s it. Spanking.

In my childhood my mother had low emotional range of resiliency, which, being a young mother of 3 kids raised in an emotionally neglectful family is no surprise, and an adhoc tendency for  becoming overwhelmed and displaying violent outbursts, coupled with a heavy dissociation that wipes them from her memory and prevents acknowledgement of the situation or an apology.

My dad was reasonably emotionally stable (or just not really very emotional, except in extreme moments of repression over-spilling into rage) and would occasionally come home and be asked to enforce less rage-induced discipline on those “naughty” (normal) children who had been too loud, playful or quarrelsome for my mother during the day. My mother often didn’t have the energy (or heart) to hit us once her overwhelm had passed if she hadn’t done so at the time, later perhaps feeling loving and connected to us again and yet holding a belief about the importance of physical punishment as an integral part of good parenting . So sometimes I would find myself being hit by my loving dad as he got home from work, hours after some trigger from my mother that had scared me.

When I really needed at that time was my dad to help calm and regulate my nervous system from the hyper vigilant and activated state I was left in after my mum’s outburst, and instead, without asking me what happened, or giving me any agency over what was coming, he would dutifully hit me. 

I’m fairly sure any sentient human needs to leave their heart to hit a defenceless child stood in front of them as they return home from work. I imagine there was a powerful story running about showing a united front as parents. Sadly childhood isn’t meant to be a battlefield.

This pattern of parenting, having hands laid on me by dissociated, disconnected or raging parents, showered my childhood with moments of unpredictable and inescapable confusion, fear, distress and emotional isolation.

So how does that contribute to my propensity to get sexually violated as an adult?

Curious?                

It’s actually pretty simple, and although this specific set of circumstances is unique to me, we all have our own traumas and our own patterning as a result, so there might be something that speaks to your experience.

So imagine that every child is born pretty perfect and totally unique, mostly functional, totally dependent and a bit of blank canvas. They are then immediately thrown into an environment that then serves to shape and build on their personality. Our personality is essentially the external manifestation of behaviours our nervous system learned in response to different stimuli, and is designed, with amazing efficiency, for survival in the unique social and physical environment in which we grew up. This formation and pattern setting happens especially over the first 5 to 8 years of life and extends a little further through adolescence and early sexual experiences at second puberty when our key teenage reproductive hormones kick in.

 Note: first puberty happens at around 5 years old when the first Eros energy and aliveness start to come online and flood the body, (cue rubbing a teddy bear on the parts that feel nice between your legs or flirting with mum or dad for practise.)

So as a child of 4 or 5 years old I learned all the ways to avoid getting physically hurt when my mum lost her capacity to ground herself and I learned the hard way to stop crying very quickly or else things got worse and that running and hiding only got me so far; I quickly learned the best approach was to freeze and dissociate. One of my sisters learned to fight and run. Another became phenomenal at “tending and befriending” a soon-to-blow mum and pacifying her back to sanity. We each had different experiences in our development and we each found our way through.

I learned not to speak up, fight back or try and run away when I’m attacked. I learned to cope by freezing and dissociation.

With my dad the dynamic was different. He rarely hit me in rage and what he did was to emotionally disconnect from me in order to carry out the punishment. My “good girl” behaviour and clever talk got me no-where with my loving dad. I think this was more painful and confusing for me than the erractic nature of my mother’s behaviour. My dad was my safe place. Until he wasn’t.

Being pinned down, having my pants pulled down and being repeatedly hit and hurt, whilst being told I was “bad” by the people I loved the most, with no apology, taught me something was wrong with me and that my feelings don’t matter, wired me with feelings of shame, set me up to tolerate acts of cruelty from loved ones, and ensure I knew that there was no support available so not to bother asking for it.

I imagine, that had always understood why I was in trouble, I might have felt differently. If I had had time to speak my truth I might have felt more empowered. The time my dad hit me on demand without so much as asking why, after my mum had had a bad day, raged around the house over nothing and already scared me and my sister half to death, broke my heart. I lot a piece of myself that day. I was 4 years old.

And what about the seduction and splitting?

Well the seduction came later and is actually more advanced form of self protection; a higher cognitive functioning behaviour than the flight or fight response, and part of the same system. It utilises the social engagement system to make a threatening situation feel safer by tending to the other person to stop them from going into escalating levels of attack, plus it placates the powerless feeling in the body by regaining a sense of personal power and allowing some energy to mobilse. I suspect it might be an instinctual response for women, for whom physical strength is normally not their primary asset and who can more easily turn to forms of manipulation to exert power.

Splitting/Exiling occurs when the what you’ve just learned or experienced teaches you that some part of you is not wanted or safe in the world and the associated fear of the implications of that underlying truth is too intense for the body to handle, so it’s suppressed.

It would have been impossible as a child to hold as true the reality of the memory of how abandoned by and terrified of my parents I was. So I hid it in my psyche.

 And I made up some other story. In this case I made my dad into my hero who couldn’t do wrong and my mum as the villain who I needed to escape from to be safe. It felt like a game. At least that way I didn’t feel completely alone. And the anger I sometimes felt towards my mum helped me stay feeling powerful rather than terrified and vulnerable.

That part of me that believed I inflicted this punishment on myself because I was wrong in some ways relished the chance to jump up and share it’s beliefs with me every time I got violated in the future. I would be flooded with shame until I found a way to stuff it back down again by going into my old patterns of internalising, justifying and then splitting off the memory.

There is much more depth and complexity to this psychological analysis and it’s enough of an overview for this article to put the message across.

Thanks for reading this far.

There is one more piece to follow in part 3.

In part 3 you will learn:

  • How these protective mechanisms I developed in my nervous system and personality show up in my day to day sexual behaviour and how I can use that as a trailhead to healing.
  • What can be done to break the pattern and free oneself from a life of sexual violation and even bad sex, once and for all.

If you are suffering from sexual, relational, or emotional challenges as a result of early childhood or adult trauma, or simply looking for more support in developing your sexual expression and allowing your sexuality in as a healthy, integrated part of your life, please find me at www.emmakharper.com

Or if you live in the South East, or London, Join me this June for the trauma informed 2019 Women’s Sexual Expression Programme: An intimate circle of up to 10 women journeying with their sexuality to reclaim the type of sex they want to be having, with the people they want to have it with, when they want it.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2343417825947479/

https://www.emmakharper.com/services/2019-women-s-sexual-expression-programme

And if reading this brings up painful personal material for you, please remember to speak with a friend or loved one or reach out for professional help. You are not alone. Bad things happen to good people and we’re all just doing our best in a very complicated and challenging world.

With Love

Emma

Emma K Harper

Psychosexual Somatics® Therapist, Speaker, Teacher, Writer, Dancer, Musician. 

Discover Your Sexuality, Integrity, Freedom @ www.emmakharper.com

When I was 15 years old I was raped. Here’s what I’ve learned about why childhood spanking left me vulnerable to repeat sexual violations and what I’m now doing about it.

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Picture this: I’m 15 years old, at a friend’s house party, dancing and having a good time, having a few drinks and chilling with friends, when my (very new) boyfriend of the time, who had asked me to be his girlfriend just a few days earlier, suggests we go outside and then propositions me for sex.

We had attempted sex around 9 months earlier, shortly after I lost my virginity to a man who, the next day, got back with his former girlfriend (a girl in my class at school who was loved by my friendship group and therefore left me in confusion and shame, unable to share about this critical moment in my sexual maturation with my friends).

The attempted sex was a total failure. After some brief moments of feeling very sexually powerful, like the most sexually mature girl I knew who wanted to share her new-found skills with anyone who would appreciate them, I confidently led him out to the woods and lay myself down on the floor beckoning or him to come and lie with me. The whole event ended up in a chaffed vaginal entrance, multiple cuts and scratches on my bum, a lot of frustration, almost no arousal and certainly no penetration. That was a good lesson for me in the need for body-based turn-on, vaginal lubrication and more than just my uninformed and burdened teenage minds approval for intercourse.

Wind forward 9 months and, on this day, here I am with one of the coolest guys in school, flattered he has asked me out and realising I don’t want to have sex with him; I want to dance.

I say “No thanks”, go back into the party and get back to socialising and dancing.

“No” is a complete sentence. That should have been all that was needed.

At some point later his best friend comes to find me and the rest gets hazy. I remember being taken back outside, round the corner of the house and at some point realising my “boyfriend” is still there brandishing a condom. I remember feeling very scared and trying to get away and then I remember his friend blocking me and preventing me from doing so. I don’t remember this guy’s name, and I remember vividly (now I’ve recovered more of the repressed memory) that he was very tall, with dark hair.

After I’m securely up against the wall and in the clutches of my “boyfriend” the friend turns away to give us our privacy and make sure no-one catches us.

With all the strength I can muster in that moment, I say “No” again and try to escape. I can’t. He ignores me.

The fact I managed to say “no”, and can remember it, was a thin thread keeping me connected to the truth that I was raped, when the psychological coping mechanism that followed had me hide the full truth from myself for the next 20 years.

After a brief flood of terror, some part of me makes peace with the fact that the only way I’m going to come out of this in one piece is to have sex with him. At that point, or probably just before, I promptly dissociate and leave my body. The rest is a blur. 

I don’t remember how I left or how I get home.

I don’t remember what state I was in, if I was crying or not, if I spoken to anyone or not.

I just remember overwhelming feelings of shame.

Part of me that convinced myself it was somehow consensual, or at least that I deserved it. That as his girlfriend I had given him the rights to my body or led him on.

I told myself that I had been a slut and had sex with him too soon in our relationship. I felt very confused about what just happened and I didn’t want anyone to know about it.

I’ve later discovered this internalising of a “fake consent” story which validates assumed consent, without actually getting consent, is a coping mechanism for feelings of being completely overpowered and deeply out of control.

He broke up with me at school that week and promptly started dating a really cool girl who I had always felt threatened and borderline bullied by. I felt simultaneously used and relieved.

I kept my mouth shut.

Today I am 36, currently single, and recovering from a relationship break-up that was surprisingly heartbreaking for me given that I did the leaving and had only known him, long distance, for 6 months. It catapulted me, rather against my wishes, into the next level of my personal work, unravelling my childhood attachment wounds and looking into many of those deep, dark places that I’ve been avoiding for 30 years.

What I’ve found in this journey into the most vulnerable and hurt parts of myself has been quite remarkable.

At 36 I can recognise and get curious about a pattern of repetitive physical violation.

I’m not sure when it first started, it’s just been a normal part of my experience of being me, which I put down for many years to simply being female. These experiences were, no doubt, a great motivation for my journey into Martial Arts and Self defence, and yet, on reflection, awful.

I’ve had a number of unwanted hands on me or in me episodes that I’ve experienced since age 14. You can add to this list countless experiences of being exposed to, leered at, cat called and a really creepy moment in the swimming pool changing rooms where I looked down to find a man having slid under the cubical wall, lying on his back on the floor with his head looking up my towel as I got dressed after my swim.

Some examples:

  • Passing out at a party, age 14, and having a group of men apparently touching me and laughing at me. I found out subsequently from a “friend” (who did nothing to stop the episode).
  • Having a guy I’m dancing with shove a finger inside me unexpectedly on the dance floor.
  • A co-worker at a temp job luring me into the store room and then grabbing my breasts.
  • Being pushed up against the wall by a sexually hungry University Professor at an end of term dinner. I was rescued by a friend before it escalated further.
  • Being unexpectedly kissed by a tour guide with such ferocity that I strained my neck.
  • Sharing my huge king sized bed with a partnered male friend who “desperately needed a place to stay” on a night where my house was overfull with visitors and waking up in the night to find him on top of me and taking off my pants.
  • A potential supplier at work taking me out to dinner and then to his place nearby for a cup of tea, trying to kiss me and then pinning the door shut and grabbing me when I say no and try to leave.
  • A massage therapist friend offering me a massage and then unexpectedly taking off his clothes and shoving his cock in my mouth half way through.
  • A personal trainer sneaking a finger into me during a “post-workout hip release massage” in the staff office.

I want at this point to speak to something here before I continue, because you could at this point get confused, judgement or distressed and distracted from the point of this article in a response to your own emotional reactions and potential triggers here.

I am not accusing anyone of being a perpetrator or making myself into a victim. That’s not helpful.

I have made some bad decisions, been naive, ambiguous, confused and sometimes just a bit silly or overly intoxicated. People have also violently and less violently overstepped physical, emotional, legal or professional boundaries, as I know I’ve done myself from time to time, always in good intention. I’m no angel.

None of that is the point.  

In each of these scenarios I could find reasons to explain and justify why the person did what they did and my role in that. What I’m interested in is why I became the sort of woman who gets into these situations and whose physical bodily boundaries get repeatedly crossed.

I’m interested in unravelling my experience in order that I can change it and continue to support others who have their boundaries crossed, to change their experiences.

When I distil down what happens in the majority of these scenarios (where I’m awake) it looks broadly like this:

  1. Phase 1: Connection.
  2. Phase 2: Move to action.
  3. Phase 3: Unwanted Physical Touch.
  4. Phase 4: Seduction.
  5. Phase 5: Splitting.

In each of these phases there are distinct physiological and neurological changes that are occurring whilst my nervous system copes with the violation. Moving through the 5 stages I move from safety and connection, through confusion, into overwhelm (eventually loosing conscious control of my body), try to regain feelings of control and then eventually find a way to settle my system through strengthening protection personality aspects and splitting off intolerable feelings.

By understanding my responsive personality aspects and unconscious coping mechanisms I can unlock a gateway to my own healing and break the pattern.

In Part 2, I will share with you:

  • What’s happening in my nervous system and body in each of the 5 phases to allow the violation to happen.
  • How I believe that childhood spanking established the pattern in my nervous system and adult behaviours that set me up to be vulnerable to sexual violation.

In Part 3, I will share with you:

  • How these protective mechanisms I developed in my nervous system and personality show up in my day to day sexual behaviour and how I can use that as a trailhead to healing.
  • What can be done to break the pattern and free oneself from a life of sexual violation and even bad sex, once and for all.

Thanks for reading this far.

If you are suffering from sexual, relational, or emotional challenges as a result of early childhood or adult trauma, or simply looking for more support in developing your sexual expression and allowing your sexuality in as a healthy, integrated part of your life, please find me at www.emmakharper.com

Or if you live in the South East, or London, Join me this June for the trauma-informed 2019 Women’s Sexual Expression Programme: An intimate circle of up to 10 women journeying with their sexuality to reclaim the type of sex they want to be having, with the people they want to have it with, when they want it.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2343417825947479/

https://www.emmakharper.com/services/2019-women-s-sexual-expression-programme

And if reading this brings up painful personal material for you, please remember to speak with a friend or loved one or reach out for professional help. You are not alone. Bad things happen to good people and we’re all just doing our best in a very complicated and challenging world.

With Love

Emma

Emma K Harper

Psychosexual Somatics® Therapist, Speaker, Teacher, Writer, Dancer, Musician. 

Discover Your Sexuality, Integrity, Freedom @ www.emmakharper.com

"The wound is the place where the light enters you".  Rumi

Sexuality as a lens for personal transformation

… and celebrating my first Vaginal Orgasm

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I’m 36 now, and I’ve spent a lot of my life having really average sex.

It started as a young teenager with lots of fun experimentation, some of which was really empowering and most of which was often pretty dumb or dangerous.

I had a lot of sex outside, and ended up with more sand up my vagina and enormous unexplainable scratches than I care to remember.

Once I get chased by a herd of angry cows before I had time to do my trousers up.

In the years to follow I settled into a long term relationship and a sexual life that started to resemble Groundhog Day. It happened on his terms, at his timing, for his pleasure. Same old, same old.

On a good day I’d have the courage to ask for my partners support to suck my nipple after he’d emptied himself into me so that I might use the vibrator he had bought me to bring myself to climax and pretend we were still intimately engaging. He’d get pretty bored of that after about 2 mins and go back to watching T.V. or playing something on his phone.

Sex for me became about a desperate attempt to connect with my partner and a failing tool for me in trying to connect with the needs of my body for touch and intimacy.

By the end of our relationship I’d become so afraid of initiating intimacy and getting rejected in the process that I had completely stopped expressing my needs…and at this point this passive behaviour had also started to seep outside the bedroom. Having once been a strong confident young woman, i was becoming a pushover.

My partner I had once told me that I wasn’t allowed to kiss him anymore because my kisses were too sloppy and sexual and he didn’t like me hitting on him. Oral sex had been side-lined years earlier. I had to save all my expressions of personal empowerment for my Corporate job, where at times I would notice I could be a bit of a bitch.

In one relationship-crushing move, I eventually went 30 days without initiating even hugs, touch and quality time with my partner to see if he had any interest in connecting with me physically at all. Turns out he didn’t. After a lot of uncomfortable feelings and a short affair, our 15 year relationship was over.

It wasn’t until my Mid 30’s, in the middle of deep spiritual inquiry, that I began to notice that the major experiences of transformation and growth in my life happened around, not prolonged stints of Meditation, or Shamanic Ceremonies, but the real life experiences of sexuality and intimacy I was experiencing with other humans.

This got me Interested.

I now believe, and have experienced, that when we stop and look at our sexuality and how we relate intimately to others we open a gateway to personal transformation.

Just as my healthy self esteem and access to aliveness had been eroded by the continuing marginalisation of my sexual self in my long term relationship, and as happens to many of us in unhealthy co-dependent relationships or abusive work environments, we can all reverse that trend and reclaim ourselves exponentially by consciously making shifts to how we show up in the bedroom.

When we progress ourselves enough to show up with new behaviours during sex and under the influence of our own sexual energy, those behaviours get deeply imprinted into our neurology and bodies in a way where they become more easily accessible and repeatable in the future. We develop the capacity to rapidly change ourselves and our worlds.

For example, I have had a pattern my whole life where I just let people talk at me, walk all over me and do things to me that I don’t like. Often I don’t even notice what is happening until I feel stressed or distressed afterwards or find myself resentful towards, or not wanting to see a person again.

In one session with my sex coach we worked on the concept of a “pause”. This simply involved building my capacity to identify when something wasn’t working for me and to actually speak “pause” to create space for myself to think and feel about what was happening and to ask for something to change to that would bring me back into presence and connection and out of overwhelm.

After a series of talk exercises, we tried it during a sexual exercise where I was receiving conscious touch from him on my body, and eventually on my genitals during a state of arousal.

Within a day of that session, I was clumsily saying “pause” at my poor sex coach every time he opened his mouth to ask anything of me that was more challenging than to pass the salt.

Within a week I was firing off “pauses” left right and centre at anyone and everyone who would tolerate my bemused attempts at reclaiming ownership for my life and happiness.

Within a month in normal social situations, I was able to notice when something was off for me, find a way to interrupt the situation with kindness and come back into balance and connection with the person I was relating with without a sense of discomfort or self judgment.

The next time I had sex, when my new partner was working really hard to try and give me pleasure and it wasn’t working for me, I was able to gently stop him, calm him down and find a space where we could both relax and start to more genuinely enjoy sex with each other on a more vulnerable and connected level.

Soon I was taking back control of my piano lessons from my enthusiastic overambitious Piano Teacher, re-evaluating my friendships, setting boundaries, taking breaks when I got stressed out in exercise classes and stopping those people in my life who had a tendency to talk at me like I was a brick wall from using me as free therapy at my expense.

I have never experienced such rapid, consistent and sustained transformation in my life through any other area of healing or personal development work, and trust me I’ve tried it all.

From Ayahuasca to Osteopathy and from Psychotherapy to Yoga (I couldn’t find an alternative therapy I’ve tried beginning with Z), working with my sexuality has been by far the most profound evolutionary experiences I've ever had.

I’m totally sold on Sex as an evolutionary tool.

Not less than 6 months down the line and my capacity to take care of myself and create more deeply connected and authentic relationships led to a series of the most intimate and transformative sexual encounters I have ever experienced…..

…and one of the Holy Grail’s of female sexuality

…my first Vaginal Orgasm! (Thanks Tom)

Although I’ve studied the energetic and spiritual magic of the Female Vaginal Orgasm at depth, I’m still new to it and still new to understanding It’s capacity to transform and transmute my life.

What I do know is this:

I’ve been working on my sexuality deeply and pro-actively for around 3 years now and through this medium I have developed capacities for self love, self-respect, personal power, autonomy, authenticity, empathy and pleasure that I never thought were possible.

I don’t work with sexuality because I think everyone deserves to be squirting and climaxing all over the kitchen, although great for those who can, I work with sexuality because it changes lives for the better and has the capacity for creating a more connected and loving world.

I encourage everyone to take your sexuality seriously and how you allow others to treat you in sexual situations as an indicator for how you are relating with others in all aspects of your life.

If you are not being tended to like a loved child / favourite pet / your partners most desired super hot celeb crush, stop blaming your partner, start looking at the mirror that your sex life is offering you right now and take this opportunity to take a stand for your own self worth.

You deserve to be loved, adored and ravished by life. Accept nothing less.

Join the Sexual Revolution.

 

Discover your Sexuality, Integrity, Freedom.

Reflections on Abuse

Relections on abuse

Find it hard to say the word Pussy or Cock without a smirk, as if your genitals were a joke, poking fun at the sacredness of your SEX?

Me Too.

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"Working with Emma was a wonderfully nurturing and empowering experience. I'm really grateful for what she taught me about my body and sexuality. I was amazed by the variety of techniques that Emma used to help me understand my body and mind. I've learnt things about myself that have helped me in all areas of my life, not just the bedroom!” 


Miranda Bloodworth