I’ve been carrying a lot of guilt and shame for a long time. (I’m going to drop a quick content warning here for sexual abuse: some of your readers might want to skip my question.) I am a victim of childhood sexual abuse. My abuser forced me to watch horrible zoophilia porn while they abused me again and again. This left me with an addiction to this kind of porn. I really don’t want to watch it anymore. I hate it and I hate myself for watching it. I want to know how to stop watching it as it physically hurts me every time I do, but I was conditioned to enjoy it by an evil person. This porn goes against all of my values, and I am so scared of anyone ever finding out. I’m still very young — not even 25 — and I want to know if there...
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...and I want to know if there is any hope for breaking this habit and healing from this. Any advice is appreciated. I’m sorry if this question is upsetting, but I had to ask someone. I’m sick of feeling like a horrible person.
Abuse Wounds Fucking Up Life
I shared your question with someone who works with survivors of childhood sexual abuse —a recognized expert in the field, someone who has done extensive research into sexual abuse and trauma — and they were happy to answer your question, AWFUL. This expert wished to remain anonymous here, in my column, to avoid having their #1 return on Google be their appearance in my sex column. Their request to remain anonymous was about me, AWFUL, it wasn’t about you.
“It’s not uncommon for child sexual abuse survivors to have some sort of additional exposure related to abuse or harm,” our highly credentialed expert (HCE) said. “Whether nonconsensual pornographic content or environmental exposures (like substances) or zoophilia, people who harm children often use conditioning techniques such as the ones AWFUL describes, especially taboo or shameful things, as that makes it even more difficult for the victim to disclose the abuse.”
It is not uncommon for someone who is being sexually abused or assaulted to become physically aroused. This kind of arousal is an involuntary bodily response; it is not a sign the victim has consented or is experiencing pleasure. The body is acting in self-defense to prevent additional injuries. Even though this response is involuntary and not a sign of pleasure, repeated acts of abuse can create a powerful association.
“Exposures to content AWFUL describes can get linked with not only the abuse, but also the experience of arousal,” said HCE. “Which means, for people like AWFUL, sexual arousal can come with compulsive sexual experiences linked to these contents and exposures — and quite a bit of shame. Those feelings of shame, anxiety, and depression keep people isolated and away from people that can support them and help them heal.”
And with support, AWFUL, you can heal.
“There are several evidence-based therapeutic approaches that use cognitive and trauma-based approaches that can not only reduce feelings of shame, but also help to process emotions and trauma experiences,” said HCE. “These approaches help the brain process information and make new pathways for healthier intimacy experiences.”
A good therapist can help you unearth your own authentic desires. Your own erotic imagination — your own erotic personae — is in there somewhere, AWFUL, waiting to be freed. Bear in mind that many people who weren’t subjected to sexual abuse are sometimes aroused — or even primarily aroused — by things that can seem, well, pretty fucked up to people who don’t share their sexual interests. If you break the hold your abuser still has over you, AWFUL, there’s a chance you’ll find some mildly fucked up shit lurking underneath. But it’ll be your authentic shit, AWFUL, not the shit that was imposed on you. It might not be hearts and flowers, it might not be the stuff of romance novels, but it will be yours. (And it could be hearts and flowers and romance novels — it sometimes is — but if it isn’t, don’t dismiss it as definitely tied to your trauma. And if it can shared with and enjoyed by consenting adults, share and enjoy it.)
“I want to assure AWFUL that both trauma and sex therapists are knowledgeable about the behaviors of people who commit harm against children, such as unwanted sexual content exposure — and trauma and sex therapists understand the impact conditioning and exposure might have on arousal responses and compulsive/addictive behaviors,” said HCE. “AWFUL should look for a therapist that has experience in both trauma and sex therapy modalities. Someone trained in Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) would be a good place to start.”
You are not a terrible person — something terrible was done to you. You deserve help and sympathy and if you reach out to the right professionals, you’ll find it. You can start your search for help here and here. Good luck.
I’ve met a boy who seemed so sweet. We’re both gay and out, he’s in his mid-20s, I’m in my late 20s. It’s been a year, we have a great and mostly vanilla sex life, and we successfully transitioned from FWBs to boyfriends. So far, so good. He told me early on that he sometimes hooks up with older men. (Guys in their 50s and up.) He says he doesn’t want to be with an older guy romantically and only wants a loving relationship with a guy close to his own age. I ultimately want an open relationship (and I think older guys are hot), so this wasn’t a dealbreaker for me. But at the time we talked, we weren’t hooking up with anyone else, and we agreed to check-in before either of us took that step.
He checked in with me over the weekend. This older guy he’s hooked up with a few times is coming to town. I asked if I could see the guy and he opened their chat. The first shocker was how unattractive the guy was. He’s not some hot daddy. He’s just gross. But the real shock was the way my boyfriend talks to this guy (actual quote): “u are OLD AF and UGLY AF but good dick u can breed me but u will have to BEG faggot.” My boyfriend said the “hotness gap” turns him on, as does the power trip. I looked through some other chats (with him) and most of the other older guys he’s hooked up with were just as unattractive and his “flirting” was consistently cruel and demeaning. There’s no other way to describe it. The videos are even worse.
He’s very sweet to me, Dan, and he’s very hot (and he’s already met my mom!), so I don’t want to end things. But I find myself obsessing about whether the sweetness is just an act. Is this cruel side the real him? He says he’s never been sexually abused by an older man, so this isn’t some sort of fucked up revenge fantasy. Is he harming these men? And is he going to treat me like this when I get older?
Boyfriend’s Uncharacteristic Meanness Motivates Evaluating Relationship
You’re worried the boyfriend’s sweetness is a performance — just an act — and the cruel person he is with these older men is the real him. But couldn’t it just as easily be the opposite? Your boyfriend is a sweet and loving guy who, like a lot of people, gets off on pretending to be someone he’s not every once in a while. In your boyfriend’s case, he gets off on pretending to be a mean-but-pretty asshole.
Look, I’m a gay guy who made it to his 50s — to and nearly through his 50s — and I know a lot of gay guys around my age, BUMMER, and we’re a pretty resilient bunch. Most of us have faced a lot worse than some trash-talking little twink who wants to sit on our dicks. It’s sweet that you want to protect us from your boyfriend, BUMMER, but rest assured: we can take care of ourselves. And, as you’re a reader of my column, you know that there are guys out there who enjoy being degraded. Is there a chance some older man who wasn’t into being trash-talked by a twink put up with your boyfriend’s verbal abuse to get at his ass? Sure, that’s a possibility, BUMMER, but I’m guessing it was a learning experience for him — and maybe a sign he should hire next time — and not an emotionally devastating event he never recovered from.
And, OMG, this particular older guy — the fugly-ass dude who’s coming to town — is a repeat customer. So, I think it’s safe to assume he likes it. Or maybe he’s decided that enduring your boyfriend’s abuse, which turns your boyfriend on, is a price of admission he’s willing to pay to get at (and in) your boyfriend’s ass. If it makes you feel better, you could ask your boyfriend if this guy likes being treated this way. If the question stumps him — if that’s not a question your boyfriend ever thought to ask himself before — then your boyfriend might be a monster. (A lot of people thought Ted Bundy was a sweet guy.) But I’ll betcha dildos to donuts that your boyfriend will respond with something like, “OMG, they love it!” I’m also willing to betcha that if you scrolled all the way to the start of one of his chats with some old and ugly fuck, BUMMER, you’ll discover it opens with an exchange of “heys,” with the dialed-up-to-11 degrading dirty talk coming much later.
And finally, BUMMER, I don’t think your boyfriend is gonna start verbally abusing you when you get older. It’s far likelier that — when he’s an old and ugly fuck himself — he’ll be looking for hot younger men who wanna treat him the way he used to treat older men. It’s the circle jerk of life.
P.S. I’m happy to get a group of my 50-something friends together to discuss this directly with you boyfriend, BUMMER, to make absolutely certain this is an act and that it’s all consensual. Give him my email address and tell him to put “hey u OLD AF and UGLY AF faggots” in the subject line. K, thanks, bye.
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