Hi! I have a problem with oral sex, I was forced many years ago to have oral sex with a man, and now I have a problem performing it on anyone else. I would love to get past all this and be able to please my man now, is there any way of you helping me?
I want to start by thanking you for writing and asking this question. For some people, talking about being forced to have sex is very difficult. A lot of us feel shame about sexual violence and coercion, and as a result never talk to anyone about it. Other people get to a place where they can talk openly and publicly, and those who can talk about it are often a great help to those who can't. I'm not sure if it's something you find difficult or not, but either way I just wanted to thank you for sharing it.
I have to start with a qualification. Because I don't know you it's impossible for me to help in a specific way. I can't tell you "try this, it'll work" or "do this, it will change your sex life". Sexuality may be something most of us share, it is certainly political and social, but it's also deeply personal and experienced individually, and the way you experience sexual feelings, thoughts, and activities is unique to you. Which isn't to say I can't help at all. What you're describing is something many people experience, because so many of us have experienced sexual coercion of one form or another, so I have some suggestions that you may find fit for you.
Not knowing how you feel about what happened to you, I want to make it clear that changing the way you're experiencing sex now is absolutely possible. One of the drawbacks of the way we talk about sexual coercion in our society is that we tend to stereotype those who have experienced coercion or violence as people who are impossibly broken, people who will never be able to trust or love or experience sexual pleasure. This isn't true. You can't erase your history, but you can get to a place where you can have hot, consensual, powerful sex.
You didn't mention having a problem with other kinds of sexual activities, so you may already be enjoying many parts of sex. If you aren't enjoying any kind of sex, know that can change. My answer is making the assumption that you're already at a point where you are enjoying consensual sex with your partner. That assumption may be wrong, in which case what follows may or may not be a good fit for you. Either way, the fact that you are aware of the connection between a previous experience of being forced to have oral sex and your current situation is a great start. Here are some other things to consider.
Taking Care of Yourself
For most people, being forced to engage in sex is traumatic and isn't something they just "get over" with time. It can impact the way we feel about our bodies, our abilities and power, our sexuality, our desirability, our capacity to give or receive love and pleasure. If you haven't already had an opportunity to talk about this past experience in a safe and supportive environment -- one where you can think about the ways it made you feel at the time and makes you feel today, one where you can talk without fear of being judged or silenced -- that would be a place to start. For some people this means working with a counselor or therapist, for others it means making use of free and anonymous support (like a helpline or online hotline), other people will have friends, family or community they feel they can turn to. I'll include some links at the end of this article, but there are many more resources available, some which may connect to people you feel more comfortable with, so you can email me and I can try and find a specific referral for you. What's important to know is that even if your experience being forced to have sex happened many years ago, you can still get support. No one should turn you away because it didn't just happen, and it's never too late to change your relationship to past events or to change how you live with them today.
Talking With Your Current Partner, Talking About Consent
Once you feel like you have support for yourself, you will need to have a conversation with your partner about your sex life together, and in this case about oral sex. This doesn't mean you have to tell him about what happened in the past. You might want to, and it may be something that helps both of you change your sexual relationship, so I'm not saying you shouldn't. But I am saying that you needn't feel pressured to talk about something that you aren't yet comfortable sharing. You set the pace and you decide how much to share. But because you don't just want to make a change in your own life but in your partnered sex life, you will have to bring him into it.
It might be as vague as saying that you want to experiment with different ways of giving him oral sex and you want his help in that experimentation. It might mean telling him about your previous experience being forced to have oral sex. It might be something else. The point is that communication is part of healthy sexuality and in order to really shift your experience with this partner, communication of some kind is going to be necessary. There is one thing you absolutely do need to talk with him about: consent.
Consent, actively agreeing to sex and wanting to have sex, is an essential part of healthy sex. I can recommend this article titled Driver's Ed for the Sexual Superhighway: Navigating Consent as a great place to start thinking differently about consent and thinking about where consent has been in previous sexual relationships and where it is in your current one. Not all the information will fit everyone, but it's an excellent start.
The point is that a healthy and hot sex life is one where you're doing the things you want to do, and having done to you the things you want to have done. Often we just assume the other person is okay with what's happening. And maybe we are okay with it. But great sex is about more than just being okay with something, it's about having sex that makes you feel good, it's about feeling sexy and beautiful and powerful because you're an active part of what's happening. This is something we can all experience. But not without work. It isn't something we're taught and it isn't even something we're encouraged to think about (other than with some blanket catch phrases like "no means no").
Practice On Your Own
It's common for people who have been forced to engage in sex in the past to have trouble feeling safe or comfortable, or difficulty experiencing sexual pleasure, because when they have sex with someone they can be transported back to the time and place when they were being forced. If you are engaging in the same sexual activities that you were forced to do, you can find yourself experiencing similar thoughts and feelings you had when the coercion happened. Assuming (and I realize this is an assumption which may or may not be accurate) that in your current relationship there is no one forcing anyone to do things, and you are both enthusiastic about wanting to have sex with each other, you may have to learn (or re-learn) to feel comfortable and safe having sex, and this may include the mechanics of sex.
If you're already able to relax during sex and feel pleasure during other sexual activities that's great. If you aren't, then most counselors would probably recommend taking a break from sex with your partner and focusing on yourself for a while. This means masturbating. Feeling comfortable and safe in your own skin is key to feeling sexual pleasure, and one way to get there is start with masturbation, and then when you're ready bring a partner into it. A transition tool for some people is sex toys. Using a sex toy can, for some, make it easier to imagine a partner there, and can be a safer way to move from solo sex to partner sex.
If you're only feeling stuck around oral sex, silly as this may sound, you could practice by yourself with a dildo. The great thing about dildos is that when we use them ourselves, they only do what we want them to, and never push us beyond our comfort. It's possible that the mechanics of performing fellatio themselves are linked for you with the negative experience of being forced to perform oral sex. One way some people find to work through this is to be able to "perform" oral sex when they have 100% control. And doing it on your own may help. Of course this won't be the right thing for everyone, and it depends on many factors. But it might not have been something you would consider, so I wanted to share it with you as one possible thing to try.
Taking Control with Your Partner
Once you're ready to try with your partner think about the things you can do to make yourself feel most comfortable. Think about physical positioning, and consider a position where you feel physically most in control and comfortable. Think about trying it in stages, almost like homework or an exercise. If you're worried about making something sexual seem dry or boring, consider the fact that you're doing this because you want to be able to give your partner pleasure in a way that pleases you too. Chances are that's a goal he can get behind.
Thinking this clinically about a sexual act, breaking it down to its component parts might seem strange, but that's only because the sexual stories we're told in public are so unrealistic. So you may want to try oral sex for a minute, or for 30 seconds. Or maybe it's not about a time frame but something else. Maybe you want to as your partner to be blindfolded or have their hands behind their back. There's no right way, the important thing is creating a space where you feel safe to explore. It may take a while, it may be fast, but if you feel safe and supported, and you're both committed to it, you can change the way you experience any kind of sex, including oral sex.
I would encourage you to consider getting in touch with someone you can talk to or even meet with in person. Depending on where you live there are likely local, regional, and national resources that you could access. For example in the U.S. there is RAINN, which offers a hot line and an online hot line for people who have experienced sexual violence, as well as a website with lists of other organizations. Scarleteen, a sex education website geared toward young people, has forums where you can post questions, and in addition to the article about consent above, they have several articles about enjoying sex when you've experienced sexual coercion (like this one, this one, and this one). If your interested in reading more, the book Healing Sex is specifically about how to develop a great sex life when you've experienced sexual violence, and the book Yes Means Yes is less explicitly a sexual self-help book but contains a series of essays/stories about transforming sexual experiences. They also have a Yes Means Yes blog.
Now more than ever in North America there are community based organizations where you can go to find resources and support. These organizations are sometimes built around identities of ethnicity, gender, sexual identity and orientation, and geography. So if there's a specific kind of resource you're looking for, you can email me back with more information and I'll do my best to help you find something.