Ask Sex Coach Leigh: Sex as healing

Question: Hi there, I was wondering if you could speak a little bit about how sex and sexuality help people overcome things, such as sexual abuse. It would be really helpful for me because it works in my life, but I don’t know why. Maybe it could help me educate people who insult me about it. Thanks for having such a sex-positive blog.


Hi lovely! I’m so happy to hear that exploring your sexuality has helped you overcome negative experiences. As I’ve said before, sex can be an immensely healing experience. We are at our best when all the parts of our lives are integrated, and being able to tap into our bodies and our pleasure is tantamount to reaching that point.

If a person has experienced sexual trauma, it can be especially difficult to feel connected to their body. While it is completely normal for trauma to affect one’s sexual pleasure, sex can also be a path to healing that pain. Being fully present in your body and allowing yourself to be open and vulnerable, either alone or with a partner or partners, can create space for trust to be rebuilt. It can remind your body that touch can be warm and safe. And most importantly, it can put you back in a place of power, where your erotic energy is wholly your own.

Healthy sexuality can also be an antidote to body hate. Cultural messages about the “ideal” body are almost impossible to ignore, but one of the best ways to silence them is to find joy in the body you have. An excellent place to start is with a mindful masturbation practice, where you give the same care and attention to your body that you would give to the body of your lover. Touching your body with kindness and discovering the sensations that feel the best to you can give you a new appreciation for the skin you live in. It can also increase your confidence. When you know what makes you purr, you are able to communicate that to others. You also gain the knowledge that you never need to rely on anyone else for your pleasure. The more you experience ecstasy in your body, the easier it is to see your body as a beautiful place to be.

Positive sexual communities are often places of healing, be they kink, poly, queer, leather, or education. In the spaces that resonate with you, you will often find stories similar to your own, that can give you a glimpse into what is possible when you fully embrace your whole sexual self. Groups that put extra focus on diversity and enthusiastic consent can provide especially loving support. If you lean more vanilla, finding like-minded folks to talk about sex and relationships with, even informally, can keep you connected to your own sexuality and healing.

I love that you want to educate folks who insult you, though the Mama Bear in me says that you don’t need to prove yourself to anyone! What you can say if someone slut-shames you – and that’s exactly what judging or criticizing someone’s sexual expression is – is that you are proud of who you are. You have found a way through pain and abuse to a joyous celebration of your body and all the ways it can delight you. You know what you want and how to ask for it. You surround yourself with people who share your values, and you are committed to a life of happy exploration. If only they could be so lucky.

If you have a sex or relationship question you would like me to answer (anonymously), please contact me.

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