“I told him I wanted to have sex with him, but only with a condom. Then he pushed his way in without a condom. I cut off all contact with him. He had no idea why.”
“I was drunk and he was drunk. I told him I didn’t want to have sex with him, but I was turned on, and he was sexy. He pushed his way in and came inside of me.”
“I had sex with him just to prevent him from raping me.”
“My masseuse friend fingered me when I thought I was just getting a regular massage, it felt good but… I never said that’s what I wanted, he knew I had a boyfriend, I never gave him permission.”
After the last talk I gave, this is what women said when we opened up the conversation of violation. It made me want to write this piece about what to do when you feel mute, which can easily lead to ambiguous boundaries being crossed, or result in being violated.
How can you regain the power of your voice in the moment?
Many of us have had experiences when our voice wasn’t enough, which led to feeling our body isn’t really our own. But don’t let yourself believe that that’s the truth, because regaining power over your voice is the most direct way back to being an ambassador for your body.
If you’ve ever been in the ambiguous zone of being physically intimate with someone, and you found yourself saying to yourself, “It feels good but…” then, please, read on.
As a permission-giver for pleasure (because you deserve it and it’s what your body is built for), this calls for a special spotlight on boundaries, and how deciding what you want in advance and committing to it is one of the most empowering things you can do.
Connecting to your sensuality and experiencing pleasure, in itself, does not always honor your desires. To honor your desires, you need to decide in advance what you want from a relationship, get clear about what how far you’re willing to go both emotionally or physically before getting all hot and heavy, and then speak up for what feels right to you moment to moment.
Expressing what you’re feeling emotionally, as well as what you know on an intuitive gut level, is crucial in being true to your body’s physical and emotional desires.
That said—we’ve all been there—I’ve also found myself completely and utterly mute, in my own pleasurable but “off” situations.
Sometimes the loss of words can be because you don’t know exactly what it is that you need. Other times the loss of words can be because you’re in a sort of shock at what’s happening, or your brain goes into overdrive analyzing what to say, how to say it, while another part of you feels increasingly uncomfortable, wronged or unsafe. Sometimes the loss of words is because you can suddenly be disassociating from what’s happening physically, which is your body’s natural response to protect itself.
Whatever the situation, here are some ways to find your voice in these conflicted moments.
#1 – Give yourself time to identify what you want and need.
If you’re in the moment of feeling sensual pleasure, and feeling at the same time that something is “off” or not right, and you know you need to say something, but you’ve lost your words, give yourself permission to pause. Slow down. Take a bathroom break, or do whatever you need to do to ask yourself what you really want.
When you take time to ask yourself what you really want, then ask yourself what’s holding you back from speaking up. It’s so easy to get in your head and think you’re going to be called a tease, a prude, or be accused of giving mixed messages. Don’t let that get in the way of being a spokeperson for your own body. If you find that you’re literally afraid of the person you’re with, do whatever you need to take a break. Call for help.
#2 – Be clear in advance about what you want.
When you’re clear about the NO and the YES in relation to yourself before you hook-up with someone, the agreements you make with yourself and others are much more clear. You can relax more into the interaction; you can trust yourself to say no to what you’re not comfortable with and yes to what really turns you on.
I once worked with a client who wanted to go slow with her new relationships because she was in a pattern of passionate affairs. For her, sex had been a way of validating her worth and she was working on breaking that pattern knowing that she was worthy whether or not she engaged with a man sexually. So she made the agreement with herself before she went on a date that she’d be clear with whoever she was dating that she wanted to take things slow. She decided in advance exactly what that meant for her – which in this case was only kissing and touching. The will to break an old un-fulfilling pattern was stronger that the endorphin rush she new she’d get from a passionate one night stand.
On the other side of the spectrum, if your pattern is to with hold sex in order to feel in control , or as a way of protecting yourself from intimacy or getting hurt, you might explore a different kind of agreeement. You may want to commit to be being more emotionally vulnerable while allowing yourself more unconditional passion at a pace that feels good to you.
The point is, whatever you decide on in advance, gives you clarity, which will allow you feel both safe and free. Setting your own playing field, and letting your date know in advance what you want and what your limits are, saves you from an unspoken boundary being crossed.
Once you know what feels right in your body, independent from sensual interplay with someone else, you’ll have the fortitude to commit fully to your boundaries before, during and after sex. And this saves you from from being muted, and inevitably, betraying yourself by disregarding what it really is that you want and don’t want.
#3 – Know Your Body
Years ago, I once made out with a friend of my ex-boyfriend – part of me wanted to have wild, passionate, unapologetic sex with him, while another part of me felt guilty, wrong and undeserving—even though my ex and I had been broken up for two years! I judged myself so harshly that I couldn’t enjoy the moment of mutually consenting sex with someone who I liked, and who I knew liked me. I couldn’t discern my mind messaging from my body messaging, so I was involuntarily giving this guy mixed messages—my body was shutting down – turning on – shutting down – turning on—to the point that this guy said to me:
“I can’t tell if you want to have sex with me or not?”
The problem was, I couldn’t tell if I wanted sex with him or not either. Holding back what I was feeling inhibited me from being true to myself, and without knowing the difference between my guilt and my desire, I couldn’t make a choice for myself in the moment of what I really wanted.
In my case, I was often afraid of losing myself (which often happens when we’re too busy doing what we ‘think we should’). When driven by this fear, you might push your partner away by saying they’re not giving you what you want and need, and end up giving them a cold shoulder, killing them with silence, brushing them off or even dumping them.
If you were like me, the only desire you may have been able to pinpoint is that you want to be in a loving and sexually satisfying relationship. The thing is—you need to know what ‘loving’ means for you in each moment, just like you need to know what ‘sexually satisfying’ means to you in each moment, so that it’s not just a fantasy. You need to know what feels good and right in your body, as well as what feels good and right to you emotionally, so that you can actually make choices that honor yourself moment to moment.
Once you know what would be honoring yourself and your desires, having a conversation about what you want can be the most freeing thing you do before engaging in sex.
Knowing yourself is the pillar of creating boundaries and
empowering your voice.
#4 – Learn How To Create Healthy Boundaries
Learning to create boundaries in personal relationships isn’t something we learn in school, and in most cases, we’re taught how to be a ‘good girl’, and how to be liked and accepted. But few of us are taught how to navigate our feelings, especially in relationship to our bodies.
Boundaries aren’t only necessary for feeling free in your sensual and sexual expression, they’re also necessary in all of your agreements with yourself.
Many of us are raised with what is right, and good, to do as a partner, spouse, lover or friend, and sometimes are not even aware of what we need or want, we just operate out of what we think we “should” be doing to maintain a sense of love, integrity and feeling of being accepted.
It’s easy to be overzealous with boundaries—even if we’re able to be fully sexually and sensually self-expressed and achieve pleasure, but won’t let anyone get too close emotionally. This is no fun either, because it ultimately prevents us from deeper connection.
If you’re someone who has also struggled with not knowing how to navigate conflicted sensual pleasure, and you want to feel unconditionally loving and loved while you’re ‘at it’, here are some questions you can ask yourself to get more clear on how to create boundaries:
What boundaries do I need to create for myself, to help me trust myself to express my needs and feelings?
Do my boundaries help me to stand up for something I truly desire and deserve? Or have I created boundaries to protect myself from fear of being hurt? (Hint: The key is to choose boundaries that take a stand for what you desire, as opposed to creating boundaries that are road blocks to intimacy, love and pleasure.)
If I’m protecting myself from ‘being hurt again’, what is it that I need to heal?
If you’re hurt from a past break-up or physical violation, choosing to be worthy of healing over expecting someone else to take care of your wounds will pay off for your lifetime. Be honest with yourself and find how you can take responsibility for your feelings, so you don’t put the responsibility in someone else’s court.
Am I taking action to go for what I desire by asking for it? If not, then what’s holding me back?
Once you know what’s holding you back, you can explore what’s behind it. Is it a fear or a legitimate desire?
If I’m not speaking up, is it because my fear of being hurt is driving me to be complacent? And stopping me from expressing what I need?
Asking yourself these questions while you’re connected to your body, and out of “analytic” mode, is key.
When you start asking yourself these questions, and commit yourself to asking for what you want and need, you’ll always get closer to being true to yourself, you’ll master getting clarity on healthy boundaries and being able to experience pleasure without the turmoil of mixed messages!
Relationships are like tennis games. Once you know the parameters of what you need to do for yourself to stay in the game, then you’ll find your freedom in launching the ball into the other court with confidence.
Commit yourself to playing with someone who’s as available and willing to return the ball… know what you want… keep your eye on the ball… and be ready to give and receive!
To learn more about what you desire emotionally & physically, take the Intimacy Quiz.
© Krista Kujat