She can’t say “No” so she freezes and lets you do have sex anyway…

I have grown up in a world where the purpose of my existence has been to deny myself in whatever way I can. As a Muslim woman, my beauty is dangerous for men (they may get out of control if they see me and may commit a sin in the eyes of Allah) so I am to hide my beauty and become as invisible as I can. I did that not by wearing hijab but instead, by becoming a tomboy. This was one way to completely deny me my sensuality, my sexuality and my freedom and still be rebellious somehow.

My friends hid their bodies so that no male (who is not a brother or a father or of a similar status) would ever see them. They hid their hair; they hid their faces and they wore a special sock for their wrists so if they move their arms and the sleeves ride up, the sock would still cover their skin.

Individual choice didn’t matter; instead what mattered was my role, duties and responsibilities as a subsurvient woman. There was no space for saying “NO” in this oppressive world of mine. Saying “No” would mean that I knew what my worth was. But I grew up as a worthless woman. How could I ever say “No”?

To make matters worse, my traumatic life taught me something else – The Freeze Response!

The freeze response is very common among children and women when they face a traumatising event. It occurs when the fight or the flight responses aren’t possible. I was sexually abused for many many years and the only way to survive those situations was to freeze. This became my primary coping strategy as a woman. It worked really well as well (or so I thought); I could please the men in my life; pretend to moan and make noises when I had sex with them and over the period of time, almost forgot that sex was anything other than what I was experiencing. I was completely oblivious that I was killing my soul – slowly!

Living in Singapore and then living in Sydney didn’t change all that. I continued to shut down and “freeze” often and men continued to have their way with me. I even found a way to enjoy this kind of sex but my mind wandered. I thought of chores that I needed to do. I thought about what the weather was like and I always did it in the dark. I didn’t want them to see my face.

I thought that the western world would be different because there was no Islam to crush a woman’s sexuality but I found that many Western women were shamed for different reasons; it didn’t matter what religion they belonged to. Somehow a women’s sexuality is so dangerous for this world that it’s best to keep them ashamed.

The end result – we live in an epidemic of shame, silence, shutdown and freeze and it’s worse for women and men who have been abused/raped/assualted.

Ironically, we talk more about the “fight or flight” response and often forget to mention the “freeze” response, which I feel is more common.

Many women freeze so they could perform their duties; many men freeze so that they don’t have to confront the shame these women are carrying or their own shame around sex.

Sex then becomes a painful act and the trauma that we cause to our sexual organs is tremendous. I used to think that it was only me but then, I came across this article published on stuff.co.nz titled Too many young women suffer through painful sex. Dr. Elizabeth Oliver says:

“The thing with dyspareunia (penetrative sex that hurts) is that each painful experience entrenches subconscious fear and aversion, which leads to pain and dryness, which leads to fear and aversion, which leads to panic and frustration, which leads to pain and dryness, and so on.

Many women don’t tell their partner because they don’t want him to think he can’t turn them on. Some guys don’t know their partner is in pain; she is too good at faking. They are trying to be good lovers but rather than asking the real, live woman in front of them, they choose to do their research online.”

I know I am not alone; I know that there are men who believe that once they initiate sex with a woman and she lets them, she is consenting. We are not taught as children to understand the value of consent and safety so we keep hurting other people unconsciously and we keep disconnecting from our own feelings to cope.

Do you think it’s a downward spiral because the next generation of our children is learning the same values? We are now entering into a territory of generational sexual shame/trauma, which will carry on if we try to teach our children otherwise.

Dr. Bruce Perry is running the Trauma Academy and is considered quite a name in the world of trauma. In his book Born for Love, he contends that all we need is empathy because we are born for love. Once we start to connect with each other, we don’t have to carry on hurting each other and we can start to live lives rich with love and connection and belonging.

I believe him.

So next time you want to have sex, what will you do?

If you are the receiver of sexual experience, will you be brave enough to say NO (if you don’t want to have sex)? If you are the giver of the experience, will you be brave enough to feel your lover freeze and allow yourself to stop?

Will you?