How To Talk About #MeToo Subjects Like Abuse, Sexual Abuse & Sexuality

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Speaking up about sexual abuse and their body with people who matter
Self, Sex

Pay attention to what your body is telling you.

Women’s bodies (and your ability to feel comfortable in your body) have been put into the spotlight with the media’s recent focus on sexual harassment towards women.

Movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp and others are bringing to light important issues about how women can take power in a situation where they may feel powerless, embarrassed, ashamed and unable to verbalize around subjects like their body, abuse and feeling safe to speak out.

Taking power when talking about your body and the awkwardness of this topic is a personal issue where women struggle to bring to words what they feel about their body, sex, and sexual abuse with both the wider public and their close confidants.

It’s also difficult for a woman to publicly admit she has sexual feelings or desires or needs without being judged as inappropriate, "asking for it", or other thoughts that have been going around for centuries that judge women as being lewd if they have sexual desire.


RELATED: It Started When I Was 3 Years Old — What It's Like To Endure A Lifetime Of Sexual Abuse And Domestic Violence


(At the end of this article, I will share some pointers to start talking about the awkwardness with those who are close to you.)

One of the reasons we have such poor emotional health is that people — men and women — carry so much shame about sexual expression and sexual experiences. And what perpetuates that shame is not being able to talk about it with people you care about, including your spouse or love partner.

The New Yorker fictional writing piece "Cat Person" became a viral sensation in December 2017. The story outlined the dating drama of a 20 yr old woman and a 34 yr old man in New York City.

The author created a buzz on the internet with many women readers identifying deeply with the choices made by the younger woman in a casual dating scenario that starts with texting and ends with awkward conflicting emotions, a lot of projection and fears about the other person and a feeling of not having clear choice in the world of dating and what’s wrong and right.

In an interview with The New York Times, author Kristen Roupenian says that one of the reasons the piece of fiction touched many women is how uncomfortable it was to read parts of the writing, such as the lack of the woman’s enjoyment of the sex, the guilt for ‘leading on’ a date because the attention felt good, and feeling uncomfortable with having sex at all when it was really just the attention from a man that she was interested in.

This story was brewing inside the author for many years. And in the same way, women have sat in silence about their feelings of how their bodies are treated sexually. It points to a deep place of shame that women and men — and our entire society — share about sexual conduct and sexual misconduct. 

They can’t speak about having a good time or having a bad time with your sex life because it is too close to many experiences that are unspoken, forgotten about because they are too painful or simply too hard or pointless to put into the words because the feelings are buried so deep in the body that only time and healthy connections with people (and pets!) will heal.

But this author has shed light on a wonderful awkwardness which I hope can give you pointers as to how you can begin to willingly open up to your feelings — about sex, sexual desire, conflicted emotions and dealing with abuse — so that you will be more at peace in your life and relationships.


RELATED: Why It's Still Sexual Harassment — Even If You're Married To Him


Here is a guide to how to talk to others about complicated issues around sexuality, such as sex and abuse. 

This guide may start to give words to those awkward feelings around sexual desire and your choices. These tips work for both men and women — as it is about how to share feelings when you feel uncomfortable.

1. Pay attention to your body's signals. 

When you feel awkward, pay attention to how your body responds. Does it immediately withdraw, get reactive, shut down, do you look down, shudder, do you squirm? These are all clues your body is holding shame about some choice you made, or a situation where you felt you had no choice.

When you feel awkward, don’t immediately feel you have to explain to anyone what happened, but rather state what you are feeling in your body like: "I feel really uncomfortable, I don’t know how to talk about this, I feel like I want to hide/not talk/it’s just I’m not sure you can understand."

By taking the time to actually pay attention to how your body responds and verbalizing it — you start distancing yourself from the feelings — and not getting sucked into the feeling of shame, but using language to explain what you are experiencing in that moment of awkwardness.

If you avert your gaze from the person, then fine. Use your words to explain what you are feeling in your body. Other people rarely know what to say when they sense you are awkward, so help them out by telling them what you are experiencing in your body.

2. Explain to the person that you have conflicting feelings.

Say "I have conflicting feelings" and then list them.

For example: "I thought I wanted attention, a date, romance, to have fun (or what you wanted) and then I felt guilty because I felt conflicted, like I led you on." 

Or: "The situation changed and I didn’t know what to do. I felt powerless or not able to do anything. And that makes it more awkward."

3. If you had sex and it wasn’t comfortable for you, tell them.

Say: "The intimacy made me feel uncomfortable."

Don’t go into the reason why, just be plain in acknowledging that it was uncomfortable.

Focus less on details of what happened and how it was actually really hard for you at that moment to make choices you felt comfortable with.

4. If you're scared they will judge you or think less of you, tell them.

If you had a sexual situation where you are fearful of talking about it because you think the person will judge you for wanting sex and then they will think "It got out of hand and what did you expect you were dating a stranger" or they will just think you are sexual and judge you for that — be clear that you are fearful of people’s judgment.

For example: "It was not what I wanted, but the situation got to a place where I couldn’t take back what had happened. And I’m scared other people will think that because I wanted sex, I got what I deserved and that makes me feel so ashamed/angry/duped/what I feel about others judging me for being sexual."

5. Express when you feel guilty about the actual type of sex.

If you are feeling guilty about the sex you had, feel uncomfortable that you had the sex, or that you did something with your body that you now regret, spell this out for your loved one.

Avoid the details of what happened and focus on the conflict within you about what you did and how it may affect your moods and behavior.

For example, "I feel you (or someone else) think I just wanted sex, and I did and while there’s nothing wrong with that, I still feel there is or that other people think it’s bad. And I just can’t shake the feeling that somehow I did something wrong even though I know intellectually I didn’t. People are so judge-y about a woman wanting sex. And sometimes I want to be more open/closer/sexual/playful/whatever I would like to be but I feel not able to."

6. After you have explained your fears/emotions, give your loved one something they can do for you.

For example: "When I feel this way, I want to talk about it, but not what happened. Just the feelings where I felt stuck so I can vent."

Or: "When I feel this way, I just need a hug."

Or: "When I feel this way, I don’t want you to feel guilty or weird or awkward, I just want to talk about my feelings and you don’t have to do anything, just listen."

Giving loved ones concrete pointers on the support you need and want takes the pressure off them to know how to support you. And you can always tell them when you feel awkward and to just ask you, "How can I support you?"

It’s a good cover and it also gives people a way of staying connected when awkward feelings arise and it's easy to remember!

Women can find it hard to bring what they feel to words because how their cycle and moods are. So if you feel more grumpy emotional or vulnerable, before you speak, consider what is that you want to share with someone who is close to you.

When we share these awkward experiences with someone close to us, it’s more important to focus on what is the understanding you want your partner or loved one to have and how they can support you. People who love us don’t always need to know details of the abuse.

As a coach, I’ve witnessed those who have been told the details about the abuse of a loved one and have not really known what to do with the knowledge.

It builds more bonding and something to work with when your loved one actually knows what makes it hard for you to feel "normal" or speak and then give them more concrete behaviors that they can do for you when you feel awkward. They don't need to know the details to love you.

They need to know how to support you, still be close even when you feel uncomfortable and still be close when they feel uncomfortable too.

We get close when we face difficult feelings — together.


RELATED: The Actual Definitions Of Sexual Abuse & Sexual Harassment For People Who Think The Rules Have Changed


Angela Ambrosia is a love and relationship coach with a deep affinity for women creating a deeply satisfying love.

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