The Queer Sex Ed Community Curriculum is a free sexual and relational health curriculum for young people and adults. It was created out of the need for a sexual health curriculum that is: accessible, accurate, and accountable. QSECC strives to create a pleasure-centered, trauma-informed, queer-inclusive, and socially conscious curriculum. It was co- founded by Aly albertson, an individual Share-Net member who participated in Share-Net’s Linking Research Policy and Practice conference last year (if you’re interested in this event, the call for applications is open for 2021).
This week QSECC is teaming up with sex and relationships therapist Coty Nolin MFT (she/her) to talk about trauma and the Mind-Body connection. Let’s dive in! Content warning: this zine includes discussions of trauma, sexual assault, mental health, and mental health care.
Have you ever felt a disconnect between your mind and body during a sexual encounter? This can show up in various ways. Maybe you did not feel present in the experience, maybe you noticed you were paying more attention to every move you make or if your partner is satisfied rather than your own sensations. It’s possible you felt distracted with all of the other tasks you feel like you need to do, or felt too stressed about work or your to-do list to be there in the moment. When our minds and bodies are present and integrated together, we call it an embodied experience. There are many reasons we may have trouble being embodied in our sexual experiences- things like relational dynamics, difficulty with body image, gender dysphoria, general life stressors can all cause challenges. One reason some people experience difficulty being present in their bodies is trauma.
When we experience any form of trauma (systemic, physical, emotional, mental, sexual abuse of any sort) our minds store these sensory/body memories. Then, even when we are not actively experiencing trauma, our nervous system may intake certain stimuli as a perceived threat to our safety. Those perceived threats may be what we call “triggers”. For example, let us say your perceived threat is that you have a thought “What if my partner does not like what I am doing?”, and it triggers a traumatic memory (in your body or mind) where you were unsafe if your partner did not like your actions. What does your body do? Your nervous system tells you “this could be an unsafe situation!” and activates your fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response.
These stress responses are activated to protect you; however, the “threat” of the traumatic experience may not really be there. Trauma also affects your ability to use imagination; it affects our ability to let our minds play, which is an important piece in sexuality.