Self Pleasure and Survivorship

Tuesday, March 9, 2021


Alright, this is a bit racy….
but i want to write a little about masturbation as a Survivor. First of all, hate the word. It sounds both too technical, and too crass. And, like the many varieties of snow, wine, kissing, chocolate, there isn’t just ONE thing that masturbation is. I suppose all forms involve making oneself feel pleasure by touching our genitals in a rhythmic way (talk about too-technical…) But that can be as different as a breath of wind on the cheek, or punching a tetherball around a pole. As a Survivor of Childhood Incest and Sexual Abuse (all caps, because FU** it deserves all caps,) I’ve found masturbation to be: a source of shame and compulsion, AND (more and more) a way to discover the vicissitudes of my body in a pleasured, aroused state with no danger, judgement or shame.

Towards the last few years of living inside the cycles of an emotionally abusive relationship, I’d felt starved for loving attention in general, but particularly for my sexual self. As I was emerging from that experience, self-pleasuring felt like a way for me to feel a sense of desire and desirability, and joy in my sexual being.

There’s masturbation for the release of orgasm, with its lovely everything-feels-pretty-ok-now hormones. Great for its own sake, really. But, early in my remembering of abuse there was often a wave of self-revulsion, sadness and shame that accompanied that release. I often cried and felt very alone and cut off from life source in those instances, rather than connected to it. More and more these days, after years of healing work, the pleasurable feelings don’t have that heavy shadow following them.

Early in recovery i had a lot of sort of abuse-driven fantasies that got me aroused to orgasm: imagining being both naked, exploited child, and turned-on, powerful adult perpetrator—usually both male. I felt so icky about these imaginings, but also somewhat forgiving of myself. It seemed like tasty poison leaching its way out of my system. And for those of you feeling stuck in any compulsive, abuse-fantasy-driven cycles of arousal: be gentle with yourself about this. Also, it is TOTALLY possible to shift, have these patterns change and lose their charge. I can’t give you a step by step, but I know it’s possible. For me, all the healing work I’ve done with caring therapists has been a part of the change. Particularly, disentangling from those feelings of being tainted.

In general when you’re a Survivor, if you’re using words like “disgusting,” “repulsive”, “ugly” to describe how you feel about yourself, there’s some abuse trauma residue that’s responsible.

Jumping from the yucky feels back toward funtimes…i got my first vibrator at age 49, and just the searching for and purchasing it put me on a more playful, curiosity-infused path to exploring my self-sexual landscape. I remember having one vibrator-released orgasm sesh that had me smiling and laughing in the dark of my bedroom, and then crying and sobbing at feeling so joyfully inside my sexual pleasure, and how it had taken me so freaking long to get there. Like, I was finally finding my way into some gated moonlit garden I’d thought was locked to me—probably forever, due to all the abuse I’d experienced. Turns out, it wasn’t even closed. But I did find i had to get there alone, first, before sharing it with anyone else.

So. There. Some musings. Hopefully they help feel accompanied a little in this territory that can feel pretty profoundly isolating to navigate. I challenge and encourage you all to keep approaching your sexual self with curiousity, compassion, and love, seeking joy. Pleasure. Is. Good.


In safety and love,


Blockprint of female pelvises with water around them, and a flower coming out of one

Deb Talan

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