On Disassociation

By Alex S. Morgan

We usually think of dissociation as a coping skill or adaptive behavior associated with trauma, anxiety, and/or sometimes distress related to gender dysphoria, but in reality many people are partially mentally or emotionally checked out, or not fully present in their bodies, during sexual and intimate activities.

We don’t live in a culture that teaches healthy, shame-free, pleasure-centered sexuality–or for that matter, relationship skills that rely on openness rather than manipulation. 

This means it’s not as simple as “breaking” and later repairing someone’s innate, healthy sense of their sexual self; we need to share the skills it takes to find, recover, and claim their own authentic wants while being present in their body.

Embodied sex and pleasure facilitation work means showing people how they can adapt their sexual practices and their sense of self to their changing circumstances and needs. It’s teaching someone to find the pulse of their own desire and to listen to it, no matter what else is going on around them. It’s helping someone practice asking for what they want, not just what they think they’re allowed to have or what they *should* want.

Survivors, trans/non-binary/gender-diverse folks, and others with complicated relationships to their bodies and sex have specific needs here, which is why it’s so important to come from a trauma-informed, transgender-savvy perspective–but when we assume that people without these factors don’t engage in dissociation during their struggle with being, staying in, and accessing pleasure in their bodies, we forget that most of us are not starting with a pleasure-positive foundation when it comes to sex.

We forget that what we learn early in life teaches us how to be in our bodies.

We forget that the realities of day-to-day living have shifted in such a way that so many of us are used to simply ignoring our bodies or minimizing our biological needs: food, movement, relaxation, sleep. This means that even those of us who may have had a solid foundation around pleasure may have lost touch with it.

Luckily, bodies and hearts are both resilient and adaptable. And with a little guidance and facilitation, people can close the distance between them and fully experiencing pleasure in their own skin.

Everyone, *everyone* deserves this.

 

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