Learning LIST-Learning

Physiological reactions and sexuality

If at the time of the assault a man developed an erection or became aroused in some way, this can make him even more reluctant to speak about sexual abuse.

These physical responses do not mean that a man wanted to be sexually abused in any way. Some people who sexually abuse others will deliberately manipulate the boy or man to develop an erection, then use this as false evidence to say the abuse was ‘wanted’.

We cannot always control how our body reacts, especially in stressful situations. A boy or man might develop an erection as an unwanted response to fear or physical stimulation. These physiological responses do not say anything about his desire or sexuality.

Physical arousal can cause a great deal of confusion for men. Some men feel aroused when they recall the abuse and worry about what this means.

It is an unfortunate reality that an experience of sexual abuse can influence sexual intimacy. It can both make men hyper interested in sex or particular sexual acts, and also make them feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable about sexual contact with a partner, whereby they start to avoid sex and isolate themselves.

If sexual thoughts, reactions or difficulties are distressing or bothering you, it is a good idea to find a trained counsellor who understands sexual assault and sexuality to help you make sense of this.

Be kind to yourself. As a result of an unhelpful mix of societal messages about masculinity and sex, men can experience a profound sense of failure and despair in relation to sexual problems, or when the reality does not match the (often unrealistic) expectation.

Because sexual arousal and release is an extremely effective way of achieving short-term relief from distressing feelings, men can find themselves engaging in forms of sexual activity that ultimately leave them feeling worse. Sometimes it is helpful to simply take a break, to focus on other forms of sharing and intimacy.

If you have a partner, remember that working through these issues is also difficult for them. Open, honest communication about your feelings, worries, preferences and pleasures is important.