How is healthy sexual attraction supposed to feel?

Bradley P

Active Registrant
Hey guys--

So, I've had a question lately that has been bugging me...what is normal, healthy sexual attraction in a loving relationship (gay or straight) supposed to feel like? If there are those of us who struggle with compulsive sexual activities, i.e., porn/masturbation or sex addiction, is the feeling we get from engaging in those activities the same as when in a loving relationship? Is it supposed to feel the same?

Whenever I see certain porn, namely -- oral sex scenes with depersonalized males (focus on body parts--definitely related to the abuse I suffered from my brother and uncle), some threesome scenes (possibly related to my bullying/abuse by my uncle, brother, and some of my brother's friends??) -- I feel an intoxicating rush mixed with anxiety, fear, and woundedness. I can feel PTSD-like symptoms for days...but the intensity of the sexual arousal is stronger than I've ever felt in any other situation.

Does this mean that I am supposed to be engaging in illicit sex to be my "true self" whatever that means?

Vanilla sex with my wife feels satisfying, good, sometimes very good, and fulfilling--sometimes female or lesbian porn feels very tantalizing and gives me a tremendous surge--sex with my wife prior to marriage was also "taboo" (I'm religious) and felt very strong--but again, none of the above is ever quite as intense as masturbating while watching other men perform certain sexual acts. Intense is the best word, because it doesn't feel 100% good per se, but on fire, narcotic almost, and then of course with the after-affects that I'm sure we're all aware of.

Is this just because this is related to my first sexual imprinting/abuse? Or does it indicate an orientation?
 
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Northmale

Registrant
I think healthy sexual attraction isn’t followed by shame, self loathing and sense of being completely alone.

I recognise your choice of the word narcotic to describe the feeling, I have experienced similar sensations but afterwards I have felt like a lesser being and not more complete.

I think abuse leaves us programmed to not understand shame, to seek it ok, to trigger it and that is what is hardest at times to deal with.
 

Chris4TheMill

Active Registrant
In a nutshell (because I consider this is a big topic), this is what I have discovered healthy sexual is going to feel like:

  • Most of all, Connective (i.e. you are connecting with another person)
  • Present
  • Relaxed
  • Safe, Accepting
  • Nurturing
  • Loving, Bonding
  • Playful
  • Beautiful
This is what I have realized healthy sexuality is NOT going to feel like for me:

  • Compulsive, Just a "Fix"
  • Detached, Disassociated
  • Shameful
  • Anxiety-producing, fear-producing
  • Degrading, Self-Punishing
  • Coercive
  • Objectifying
  • Dirty
  • Ugly
  • Painful, Abusive
  • Angry, Retributive
  • Repelling (i.e. you want to run away afterwards)
  • Lonely, Isolating
Because of our imprinting, it is hard to break away from the 2nd list because to us, those end up feeling normal. I do not personally believe the 2nd list is the ideal way that sexuality should express itself, I see it as a result of the past abuse and the imprinting. Others can argue that point if you want. But by working past issues, I am finding it can be possible to build bridges toward feeling and identifying sexuality more through the 1st list. It's not a perfect switch by any means - there can still be a tendency to be triggered into feeling bad about oneself so that one falls back toward the 2nd list as a learned response and coping mechanism. But it's like anything else that requires practice - once you can train yourself to recognize what's going on, you work through it, move on and keep practicing and focusing on the new bridge you are trying to build.

Not saying any of this is easy. It's a process. For me, a very long one.
 
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KMCINVA

Member
I agree with what has been said. I want to add to Chris4TheMill list of what a healthy sexual relationship feels like-it is respectful and fulfilling (satisfying the pleasures of both parties).

I believe imprinting does impact how we view sex. I have learned one can overcome the negative emotions when one begins to heal and is in a loving, trusting and safe relationship. Fear from the past abuse must be released in order to move into a healthy relationship. It is here that we struggle because the past has a hold on many of us. If we are involved in a relationship and do not feel loved or a priority in our partners life, the sexual life will not be fulfilling because of how we view ourselves. It is a difficult journey and once you are able to have a healthy sexual relationship, you will find it to be a wonderful relationship. As Chris4themill said it is a process to heal and to be comfortable in one's own skin.

Kevin
 
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manipulated

Greeter
I “like” Chris4theMill’s list and the amplification of what I too have found necessary to move from the second list to the first proffered by KMCINVA.

I would like though to pose a question that also helped me to lose the shame and self loathing- what is the source of the shame and self loathing? Is it societal or religious? If religious what makes the feelings I/you have “wrong” if no one else is disadvantaged, harmed or abused? Was I not wired this way by my/your creator? Why do we dwell or seek to “know” orientation? Is it polar as society demands or truly circular as Kinsey and science would suggest?
 

Strangeways

Member
what is the source of the shame and self loathing? Is it societal or religious?
It's trauma. It's your brain, reacting to horrible trauma. If the trauma was your fault, then the world is still a just, fair place and everything is still under control. Your brain wants everything to be under control, and wants the world to be a just, fair place, so it's telling you that everything was your fault, and that you are a shameful person.

Of course, the world is not a just, fair place. Our abuse wasn't our fault - but it happened anyway. We are NOT shameful people.

Any God that wants you to suffer? That's not a God I'd want to worship in any way.
 

Bradley P

Active Registrant
In a nutshell (because I consider this is a big topic), this is what I have discovered healthy sexual is going to feel like:

  • Most of all, Connective (i.e. you are connecting with another person)
  • Present
  • Relaxed
  • Safe, Accepting
  • Nurturing
  • Loving, Bonding
  • Playful
  • Beautiful
This is what I have realized healthy sexuality is NOT going to feel like for me:

  • Compulsive, Just a "Fix"
  • Detached, Disassociated
  • Shameful
  • Anxiety-producing, fear-producing
  • Degrading, Self-Punishing
  • Coercive
  • Objectifying
  • Dirty
  • Ugly
  • Painful, Abusive
  • Angry, Retributive
  • Repelling (i.e. you want to run away afterwards)
  • Lonely, Isolating
Because of our imprinting, it is hard to break away from the 2nd list because to us, those end up feeling normal. I do not personally believe the 2nd list is the ideal way that sexuality should express itself, I see it as a result of the past abuse and the imprinting. Others can argue that point if you want. But by working past issues, I am finding it can be possible to build bridges toward feeling and identifying sexuality more through the 1st list. It's not a perfect switch by any means - there can still be a tendency to be triggered into feeling bad about oneself so that one falls back toward the 2nd list as a learned response and coping mechanism. But it's like anything else that requires practice - once you can train yourself to recognize what's going on, you work through it, move on and keep practicing and focusing on the new bridge you are trying to build.

Not saying any of this is easy. It's a process. For me, a very long one.
Amazing post--thank you!
 

George

Active Registrant
I agree with Chris's list.

My own reasoning that helped me decipher what the drive to act out meant and what it didn't mean was; The acting out had nothing (0%) to do with loving, honoring or cherishing. I likened it to a fix to an addict, it was dirty, secretive and abusive and I kept myself locked in the cycle of abuse, only I was the one abusing myself thanks to faulty coping patterns set up in my immature child mind.


"what is the source of the shame and self loathing? "
I agree with Strangeways points. I would add that shame for me was something instinctive, like from deep in my bones. I couldn't explain it to you back then, but I knew what was happening was real bad and shameful, no one had to tell me, it was nothing I had learned anywhere it was something built in. Society nor religion had a part in my shame.
 

Bradley P

Active Registrant
I 100% agree George. I struggle with the power of the drive to act out--the intensity--and I use to believe it had to mean that I must really desire these things. I would try and accept it as a part of my identity, and I simply couldn't go through with it in real life. Sex with my wife is so different--it's great, it's beautiful, but it also sometimes feels less intense. But I also always feel complete, whole, and satisfied when its done right.
 

Chris4TheMill

Active Registrant
Hi all - I'm glad we are on the same page. I honestly was expecting a more mixed set of thoughts and reactions.
Anyway, I want to add some more thoughts, partly as a follow-up to Kevin's points, and
will do so when I have some more time to focus on it.
 
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JayBro

Active Registrant
So much of what was said here applies to me. I only have had tantalising glimpses of healthy attraction. I am attracted to many guys, but when it comes to romance, I have never experienced love back from the person who I loved.. and of the many sexual encounters that I have had, only a minority of them were non-triggering and not a re-enactment of my abuse. Often when I am having a sexual encounter memories of my abuse or triggering porn which has re-traumatised me pops up in my head and I either start numbing out or panic. My goal is to one day be in a relationship.
I think as well much of my PTSD has also been brought on or reinforced by porn and dating sites, seeing what people post on chat room etc. So many things have given me panic attacks and also made me upset that such stuff exists. It eats at my soul and makes me feel tremendously unsafe. I try my best to be positive - and often much of the world sees me as such - but I have a deep sadness inside and I always feel so guilty and ashamed.
But to reiterate the question posed at the beginning of this thread, I have no idea what a healthy, positive sexual attraction (or in my case, mutual love and attraction) is supposed to feel.
 

PRFL

Active Registrant
POSSIBLE TRIGGERS!!!
I've struggled with the concept of healthy sexual attraction for much of my life and I'm frustrated that I still can't wrap my head around that. I can't shake the idea that sex is inherently abusive, particularly things like penetration. But biology is what it is, and I know that when I do it, it's a very powerful pleasurable feeling, but I fear I'm abusing my partner. In particular with women, I feel I'm "contaminating" them with my filth. I did have one girlfriend that really, really enjoyed me in her and was very vocal about it, and it felt very validating to me...and very scary because I'm thinking, what's wrong with her that would make her want something this disgusting? Never mind that they have the wiring to enjoy it.
With men, it's a somewhat different dynamic. My attraction to men is mostly out of my sense of being incomplete as a man and I want the other man's manhood in me, so I allow myself to be f- -k and s- -k them desperately trying to get that intangible "it" inside of me, no matter how painful or disgusting it may be. My fantasies about men are never about my own pleasure, but about them using me for their own pleasure, and humiliating me in the process, reenacting the humiliation I felt as a kid. And yet, I've had some wonderful experiences which makes this so confusing to me. I recently ran into a very warm, friendly man who smiled at me, and that was enough for me to fantasize him taking me home so he could do whatever. The fantasy itself felt healthy, but I know that had I acted on it, I would have been horribly triggered, so I'm still very confused. Living alone and not having a partner makes it so much hard, I think, because I can't work out these issues with a real life person, I can only think about this stuff and drive myself crazy So, while cognitively I understand that sex is a normal, healthy part of our humanity, I'm still seeing it through the filter of having been abused, and only have had a few glimpses of what healthy sexuality might be like.
 
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