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Sex for Mental Health

There is a new perspective on sex that I have gained in the last few years.

I have been in a (very) long-term mostly vanilla relationship that included a reasonable amount of pretty good sex, even after decades together. So, in a way, I was luckier than most long-term monogamous couples, at least according to online statistics. My partner and I had a shared public/outdoor sex kink that we had been able to indulge in quite a bit. But in many ways my sex life was similar to the “conventional” one. The woman in the relationship needed to be “in the mood” to be willing to have sex, and, being a guy, it was my job to make sure she stays in the mood. Any kind of tension would kill that fragile mood and, implicitly or explicitly, that would be my fault. The prevalent attitude is that it’s the guy who “gets lucky” when sex happens. I had accepted it as a given and didn’t think much of it. Well, sometimes I wondered, in passing, if anything else is possible, but then figured I should appreciate what I have.

That relationship eventually crashed and burned within barely 3 months, rather unexpectedly for both parties. I’ve had one online fling and two long-term relationships since then, one I am in right now, and hopefully for a long time. One common theme in all of those was a completely different place that sex has in them. it just so happens that each one of my partners has been through severe long-term childhood trauma, with the resulting mental health issues. The trauma had resulted from physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and, not surprisingly, it affected their attitudes toward sex. Sex is no longer a perk, or a reward. It is a necessity and sometimes a lifeline. Let me try to explain.

Imagine how a person with a Complex PTSD may feel day to day. They are struggling to survive, they are full of conflicting emotions and needs, they alternate between self-hate, despair and suicidality, they are always on edge, anxious and often panicky. When on a psych medication, they may not feel much at all, unable to focus or to function even at a basic level. Sometimes they do function at a high level, for a time, but those periods rarely last, and they crash and burn. The cycle may repeat multiple times. These alternating highs and lows can be exhausting and depressing in themselves. Add to this constant hypervigilance and deeply ingrained lack of trust in themselves and other people, and you can see the hell those who survived abusive childhood go through every day.

Sex can actually be one of those remedies that work as good as, or better than a psych medication, and with fewer side effects. Childhood sexual trauma survivors often end up with hypersexuality, for better or for worse, and to get off properly need something far more extreme than the mellow vanilla sex depicted in the mainstream media, or even in the garden-variety BDSM writings. Undoubtedly it partly stems from the need to reenact the childhood experiences, which, when left to its own devices, goes into unhealthy habits and often self-harm. But in the right context hypersexuality can be a very powerful and positive force. In sex I have a dominant role, so my partners, naturally, have been submissive, at least with me. I know that many can be dominant or, more often, switch between the two, depending on the partner, but I will focus on my personal observations.

Someone who is hypersexual and submissive is easy to, well, turn on. While in a traditional vanilla relationship the woman who stereotypically needs the courting and the preparation, and the so-called foreplay, in a D/s relationship the hypersexual submissive is almost always ready to perform. “Perform” is not quite the right word, though. They are ready to submit, at least in the sexualized context. And not just ready, a part of them craves this submission. Being able to let go, for a time, after being constantly on edge is very freeing. That’s why you can often hear the sentiment how submission, which is ostensibly giving up one’s freedom and obeying someone else, gives the feeling of freedom. While a person who had a reasonably happy childhood may need freedom from others to be able to express themselves, an abuse survivor needs freedom from themselves, from the inner demons eating them alive from the inside. And letting go and giving up control to another person quiets those demons, and, with that, brings the freedom from themselves, and, rather counterintuitively, an ability to express themselves without that constant fear and doubt plaguing their daily existence.

So, you can imagine how different my sex life is now, compared to what it was before. It lets me express my dominant and even sadistic side, while also taking care, physically and emotionally, of my partner. It took me some time to wrap my head around it. The first time I heard someone say “pain is so nice!” I was dumbfounded. How can pain be nice? But yes, it absolutely can be, and without it feeling nice in the same way self-harm feels “nice,” though there is definitely the possibility of overlap. It took me some months to wrap my head around these different meanings of feeling nice, of pain being nice, of being forced and controlled feeling nice, but I think I get it now. Pain in a sexual context is just another strong physical feeling, and for someone who went through physical pain growing up it is a familiar, often nostalgic and thus comforting. And with the right partner and in the right context it also feels safe.

So I can indulge in slapping, punching, twisting, kicking, humiliating someone, maybe even reenact a rape fantasy, and watching them revel in it, even while screaming in pain or crying from humiliation, or fighting back. The sex is much more intense, much more exhausting, and, dare I say, much more satisfying. My natural desire to take care of my partner, physically and emotionally, gets satisfied by… well, indulging in my other desires, like hurting them and fucking them raw. So sex is nearly always very intense, often exhausting, and very satisfying. When it works, and it usually works, my partner spends most of it in subspace, free from the torment of those inner demons tearing their soul apart, sometimes in the background, and sometimes very visibly, throwing them into an emotional flashback. Subspace is a break from all that. And it tends to reset the body, too, for a time, so the reprieve often lasts well past the sex itself.

With time, it may also modify the trauma survivor ingrained reactions. Sex is not something to fear, another person’s touch is not automatically a danger, and trust is not a mythical quality only found in fairy tales. Sex and a safe consensual D/s relationship can have and essential contribution to the person mental health. And it can be quite versatile. A quick mental reset through judicious application of pain, a short but intense scene, a daily D/s ritual to look forward to every day, sex can play a healing role that no medication or therapy can.

And so I revel in my new appreciation of sex and I am happy that I can fulfill my fantasies while helping my partner feel better and get through another day.


  1. Ms. Kiki E.

    I don’t believe my situation wasn’t as extreme as what you describe here, but I did/do have repressed memories of abusive experiences from when I was young. It took extreme stress as an adult to begin unlocking them, and managing my sexuality through the process has been a challenge.

    • Master

      Ms Kiki, so sorry to hear that you had been through this. It is not uncommon for people to realize how much trauma they had been through up until they get retraumatized again as an adult. Sounds like something like this has happened to you. You are right, managing one’s life, let alone sexuality while grappling with the demons of the long forgotten past is a huge challenge! I hope you are able to navigate the many pitfalls of this process and have some sort of support from kind and understanding people close to you.

      • Ms. Kiki E.

        I’ve worked through much of the mental and emotional anguish and my life today is pretty positive today. I am fortunate that I was able to, because the initial profound shock of those mental doors opening up was pretty life changing. Writing on my blog and connecting with others has been an immense help. Learning that I am not unique was also very comforting.

        • Master

          I can imagine how hard and even bewildering it must have been for you. Good to hear that you are past the worst of it. You are right, writing and sharing is a big help, definitely beats thinking that you are alone in it.

  2. Brigit Delaney

    Super interesting post, Master…

    I did not experience trauma as a child, and I can see how some people outside of the kink community (maybe even in) could find the idea of fucking a trauma survivor and using them as a submissive to be abusive. However, this post clearly explains how that could be healing for a survivor.

    Sexuality is such a delicate, complicated, personal thing. What would be hell for one peson can be freeing for another. And I can see how submission and pain could help a suvivor to be free from themselves.

    informative and carefully crafted post. Thank you for writing and sharing your experience.

  3. Jupiter Grant

    This is really a fascinating topic. I completely see the point that being in sub space allows a respite from the trauma of poor mental health episodes, and that submission like this is actually very freeing, being able to just let go and rest from all the struggle of keeping things together. This is a very appealing thought. Great post, Master👍

    • Master

      Thank you! I wish there was more research done on the effects of healthy D/s relationship on the quality of life of childhood trauma survivors. Maybe some day.

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