In the September edition of their monthly column for Document, Liara Roux answers readers’ questions about being weird, transitioning from sex work to the art world, and reconnecting with one’s body after trauma
I reached out to you some time ago on your Instagram story. I asked if I was normal for not having sex for four years. You said it was alright, and I was relieved in a way. I needed to write you this email—first of all to thank you—but also to ask your thoughts on my current situation.
I’ve been seeing therapists for years now—not for that aforementioned problem—but we nonetheless touched something. It took me nine years to realize that I had been sexually abused by my then-best friend’s then-girlfriend. I was in a relationship, and one time, at a party, she took advantage of the fact that I was drunk to put her hand in my pants. I felt powerless, I felt horrible, I wanted her to go. She guided me to an isolated area so nobody we knew could see. I was so ashamed that I never told my then-girlfriend, nor my friend, because in my mind back then, it was impossible for a man to be sexually abused. I kept this secret for years, until it was unraveled through therapy.
This caused me to be very afraid of sex. Even with my ex after that, I wasn’t enjoying sex anymore—I kind of waited until it was over and took no pleasure in the act. I was 21 when the abuse happened. We broke up when I was 24. It was three years of hell.
After that, I dated some girls, but my self-esteem was broken. I gained weight; I was hiding under a lot of oversized clothes (hard to find, because I’m 6’2”, 242 pounds as of now). I always felt like the girls were doing favors for me, and just once it ended up in a sexual act. It was painful. It’s not that I was impotent, but I felt deep pain in my genitals during the act, like a sting. Since the beginning, the girl told me it was for one night, and I think I’m still in love with her after four years. Recently—2020 I think—I had preliminaries with a girl and the same pain manifested. I asked her to stop before going further.
I’m afraid. Afraid of sex, afraid of looking ridiculous if I experience this pain once again. I’m constantly trying to appear attractive, but it attracts no one. I feel gross, fat. For me, the sexual act is very important. I don’t want to do it with a stranger. I’ve never experienced sex with a sex worker.
Feel free to answer whenever you can, or don’t answer at all. I think I needed to get this off my chest, if that makes any sense.
“Healing is never linear, but you will learn how to navigate all the ups and downs that come your way.”
I’m so sorry to hear that this happened to you. Like you said, it’s a very common belief that men cannot be sexually assaulted by women, but it does happen.
It is very normal after being sexually assaulted to want to hide; gaining weight and wearing clothes that hide your body are, in fact, very normal reactions. It’s also quite normal to have very mixed feelings about sex in general; the fact that you crave sexual attention and are also terrified of it is, in many ways, a standard response. I’m sure you’re in a great deal of pain—I wish you were here right now so I could give you a hug!
I’m very happy to hear that you’re in therapy and beginning to process what happened to you. Even acknowledging that what happened was sexual assault is a major first step. You should feel very proud. Please be gentle and kind to yourself. You’re healing, and often that can bring up big, scary emotions that you’ve pushed down for a long time. Know that they are coming up now because you are in a safe place where you’re able to process them—if you weren’t, you would continue to repress them. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the healing process, especially in the beginning. But it will get easier. I promise.
Surround yourself with kind people who love you. Don’t pressure yourself to have sex again too soon. You will find yourself in the right situation with the right person when you’re ready for it. Doing other things that reconnect you with your body and with intimacy might be a good option; you mentioned seeing sex workers, but I wonder if getting a regular, non-sexual massage might be good for you.
When you feel ready for it, and if it feels right, seeing a sex worker may be a good option for beginning to explore sex again! I’ve had many male clients who experienced sexual assault, or violence in general, and saw me as they were beginning to reconnect with their body. It was a big honor to help them gently move through the process. I heard from many of my clients that it took a lot of pressure off when they started dating again, as they felt confident about their sexual abilities.
I have full confidence in your ability to heal and to thrive and feel comfortable in your body once again. I hope that day comes sooner rather than later, but just remember to be patient with yourself! Healing is never linear, but you will learn how to navigate all the ups and downs that come your way. Sending you lots and lots of love.
“I urge you to keep putting yourself out there; it can be hard to be vulnerable, but it’s the only way to find what you’re looking for. I promise that you’re way more likely to meet a partner if you’re continuing to go on dates than if you shut yourself in and tell yourself you’re too weird to ever find love.”
I don’t know how much time you have to read emails. I’m sure even my therapist doesn’t know what to do about me anymore.
I’m 36. I’ve been in three relationships that last all under six months. I’ve had flings, but nothing that lasts. I feel like I’m too weird or something. I have bad anxiety, depression, and I’m on the autism spectrum.
The last time I got laid was a few years ago. God, I miss the rush. Sadly, I can’t afford seeking websites or being a sugar daddy.
Anyways, back to life.
First off: If it makes you feel any better, plenty of people haven’t had sex since the start of the pandemic! Right now, everyone is feeling a little awkward and strange about dating and sex.
That being said, having anxiety, depression, and being on the spectrum can all make dating a little more complicated to navigate. You say you have a therapist, but I wonder if this therapist is a good fit. Do they specialize in working with people on the spectrum, or are they someone who usually deals with neurotypical people?
It sounds like you’re looking for a long-term relationship. Plenty of people just want short affairs; where are you finding people to date? If it’s online, you may want to find a website that focuses on long-term relationships. If it’s in-person, you may want to ask the people you’re seeing upfront if they’re looking for something more serious.
It’s definitely easy to take rejection hard—to feel like you’re too weird for anyone. To be completely honest, I feel the same way sometimes myself! I have a pretty out-of-the-ordinary lifestyle, and not everyone can handle it.
I urge you to keep putting yourself out there; it can be hard to be vulnerable, but it’s the only way to find what you’re looking for. I promise that you’re way more likely to meet a partner if you’re continuing to go on dates than if you shut yourself in and tell yourself you’re too weird to ever find love. Even if you are weird, there are lots of weirdos out there waiting for someone who can fit their way into their strange life.
Wishing you good luck,
“The tide is shifting. Sex work is no longer quite the taboo it used to be, despite the stigma that lingers.”
I’m a sex worker and I’m trying to break into the “art world.” I know a lot of people who are successful artists who have done sex work, but most of them seem to keep their sex work history private. Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to center my experiences in sex work in my work. A mentor pulled me aside and advised me to keep it private as it might turn people off. And in fact, I have noticed some people seem uncomfortable about my work.
You seem to have balanced the two. You and a few other writers and artists have been very public about your experiences in sex work, and I’m wondering if it has negatively impacted your career and if you have any advice for how to navigate all this. I want to be out and proud, but not at the expense of a successful career.
I’m very flattered that you think I am successfully balancing the two! Often, it feels like I’m not. People are definitely weird about my sex work. I’ve had people make very strange and derogatory comments about my history in porn and escorting.
But on the other hand, I’ve recieved a ton of support from people who used to be sex workers or who want to support sex workers. The tide is shifting. Sex work is no longer quite the taboo it used to be, despite the stigma that lingers. I’m very grateful to people who are still closeted about their SW histories who have lent me helping hands, introduced me to people, supported me. And I’m grateful as well to people who may never have worked, but who are eager to support current and former sex workers.
I support whatever decision you want to make. I do think it’s possible to be quite successful while being public about your sex work experience, although it may present some difficulties. However, you will be helping to pave the path forward. As your career develops, it will become harder and harder for people to put obstacles in your path. And you’ll be in an incredible position to help other community members who want to pursue careers in art as well.
Lots of love,