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Sexual self-harm
by TeenHelp May 5th 2016, 08:37 PM

This article has been labeled as triggering, particularly on the subject of rape or abuse. The contents of this article might therefore not be suitable for certain sensitive users. Please take this into consideration before continuing to read.

Sexual self-harm
By Cassie (Cassado)

Self-harm is anything you do with the intention of harming yourself. Some common forms of self-harm include scratching, cutting, burning, or bruising. Sexual self-harm is just as common, but it is not often talked about due to the shame or fear of judgement. What is sexual self-harm, why do people do it, and what should you do if you're harming yourself in a sexual way?

Sexual self-harm is physical and emotional, and is commonly done through sex and masturbation. People can also harm their genitals without sex or masturbation. A lot of people who sexually harm themselves have been sexually abused and do it for a variety of abuse related reasons. Others sexually self-harm because they struggle with gender dysphoria.

Victims of abuse do it because they feel like they deserve to be treated badly. Some do it to recreate the physical and emotional pain that they felt during their abuse. If abuse was someone's first sexual experience, it is likely that their abuser made a negative connection to their genitals. The victims dislike their body, so they harm it. Additionally, a lot of people become aroused or have an orgasm during abuse and they feel ashamed of that and use sexual self-harm as a punishment. Some people can only have an orgasm when they are in pain, so they use pain to become aroused. A lot of victims of abuse become angry about their abuse, and will masturbate or force themselves into having sex as a way to release their anger. It is like saying, "I dare you to hurt me again." Lastly, people tend to force themselves into sex or masturbation to show themselves that sex is okay because they feel it is wrong after being abused.

Some people force themselves into having sex when they do not truly want it. If someone is using sex as self-harm, they might have sex with multiple people, or they might force themselves into sex in a relationship without having an emotional bond with the person they're sexually active with. People might ask their partner to do particular things during sex to cause them pain, such as choking, hitting, or penetrating with different and potentially dangerous objects.

People also self-harm through masturbation. Some people force themselves into it, while others want to do it without harming themselves, but harm themselves anyway. They might masturbate with dangerous objects, or be rough enough to cause damage to their genitals. People will also masturbate "normally" and cut or burn themselves elsewhere while doing it, or use other methods of self-harm before or after masturbating.

It is also possible to cause harm to your genitals without using sex or masturbation. Many people will cut the outside of their vagina, known as the vulva, or insert something sharp or hot to harm themselves. Inserting toxic chemicals is also a way people harm themselves sexually. People often find different ways of harming their penis, nipples, or anus as well.

Children who have been abused will also harm themselves in the ways mentioned above. Many children do it as a punishment, a way to escape the flashbacks, or as a way to please their abusers. Many children will penetrate themselves with their toys, or with the same objects that their abusers have harmed them with. Children have difficulty communicating, and will do this as a way of showing other people that something is wrong. Children are likely to continue this behavior through adulthood. While some people can start harming themselves as a child, others sometimes start at a later age.

Self-help for sexual self-harm
If you're harming yourself in a sexual way, seeing a counselor can benefit you greatly. However, counseling is not always available for everyone. Luckily, there are a few things you can do on your own to stop harming yourself in this way.

Exercise your rights. If you were abused in the past, it is easy to feel like your body belongs to someone else because they violated you in a horrible way. It can be hard to find your voice, but you do not have to do anything you don't want to do. If you decide to have sex or masturbate, you should do it because you and your partner want to. You shouldn't force yourself into anything you do not want to do. Try not to engage in sexual activities when you are feeling aroused because of a flashback, however, as doing this will strengthen the connection between sexual activity and your abuse.

Make a mind-body connection. Your body is yours and yours only. Sometimes dissociation can make it difficult for you to attach to your personal identity, and can even make it feel like your body parts are not yours. Gently stroke your arms, legs, or fingers, and tell yourself that your body belongs to you. Get in the practice of being gentle with your body. Making this connection can make sexual activity less anxiety provoking and more pleasurable.

Use some affirmations. Remind yourself that sexual activity is completely normal and that it is okay to engage in it if you are comfortable. Tell yourself that you are not dirty for wanting to have sex or for wanting to masturbate. Think of a few affirmations and repeat them to yourself, or write them down and put them in a safe place to serve as a reminder.

Look for alternatives. Like any other form of self-harm, a variety of alternatives might help distract your mind when you feel like harming yourself. If you spend a large amount of time harming yourself, maybe you can replace your self-harm with a healthy activity such as exercising or reading. You could also join clubs or groups that meet during the time you'd usually harm yourself.

Decrease the amount of time you hurt yourself. If you're spending a lot of time masturbating or having sex, try to slowly wean yourself off of it. If you masturbate ten times a day, for instance, try to aim for eight times a day, and then six times, and so on.

Sexual self-harm can be hard to cope with, and even harder to talk to someone about. Remember that while it can be challenging, coping with what you're going through is not impossible. If you or someone you know is self-harming in a sexual way, seek help or try some of the self-help techniques listed above.
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