Updated: Jun 29, 2021
Trigger warning for mentions of sexual assault.
Overcoming the shame and guilt of physical arousal during sexual assault
*Disclaimer: This is just my personal experience. I am not a therapist, doctor or professional. I cannot provide individual support on this but there are resources listed at the end of this post.
My first assault happened on my 19th birthday and it had been a super fun night up till that point. I was flirting with a guy I had recently met. Everything was so exciting and I was enjoying the flirtation, I felt cute, I felt special, he made me feel good, all until he didn't.
In a way, I knew I was 'playing with fire', by going to an after party at his house, I knew I was in the danger zone. We've all heard it; 'don't go back if you don't expect to hook up', but somehow I just felt that was unfair. I wanted to continue hanging out, but I didn't want to do more, why couldn't that be possible?
When we got to his place, it turned out everyone else was 'running late', so it was just us two. At first I thought it might be nice to have a private moment to talk some more and hang out, but that's how it goes, you like someone so you trust them more and you tend not to walk away from situations that you feel like there's some danger in, because you like them!
But people you like can hurt you, people you like can abuse you and it's so much easier for them.
I never once expected him to take it to where it went. I knew he was 'cheeky', I even liked that about him, but I never expected him to ignore me saying no over and over again, and do what he did. I still don't get it. What is appealing to someone about someone saying no. When I like someone, I want to know they fully like me back and want to continue, so what is it about abusers? They get turned on by the sound of a no? They like to overpower you? They think it's all just a big game of tease?
In that moment I also become very aware of my size. I'm small, like really small, and he clearly liked that. He kept lifting me up and putting me on his lap and I would say no, and climb off him. We did this dance a few times until he jumped up and came on me from behind. That's when he put his hand down my shorts and into my underwear.
The fucked up thing is, I came. Despite saying no and being on the edge of tears, full of fear and anger, I had an orgasm.
I had so much shame over this, I totally invalidated the assault because of it. I felt like my body had betrayed me, and I never even told him, 'hey! You assaulted me', because I felt I had no grounds just because of the fact that my body had an orgasm. It took me years to realise that no matter what my body did, I still did not consent.
It took me a long time to reclaim my body after this. I almost mistrusted my sexuality, I felt a complete disconnect between what my body and my mind wanted. It was like, well if my body enjoyed that, then how can it be part of me?
It was the wrong way to look at it and an incorrect view on arousal and orgasm. Many people experience orgasms in conditions where they are not happy, or fully on board. The specific number of people who experience orgasm during assault is hard to find, partly because the fact people don't want to admit it, due to shame or fear that their case won't be taken seriously, but one study by the Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine states that up to 21% of women have experienced a physical response to their assault and 10% were attracted to their abuser.
This cannot be used to invalidate assault, and we can't let it ruin our relationship with our bodies and sexuality after.
Assault is not always clear cut. It's not always a random man who grabs you in the street, it's more likely to be someone you know and care about. It might be even harder to understand what happened in your own head, because we've been taught a lot of toxic ideas about consent, so it might even be years later that you fully realise what happened.
We might be attracted to someone, to have enjoyed everything they did and said up till the point where they crossed the line. We might have consented to kiss and touch but still they crossed the line. We might have been in love, been married, and still they crossed the line, because abusers can be anyone, and unless we emphatically agreed, then it is assault.
If you or someone you know have been affected by assault, please seek help. There are organisations in almost every country and language who can give you support for free. We've listed some below: