This episode is a great example of exactly what we talked about in the Sex For Saints podcast episode 253 – Consenting to Unwanted Sex. We’re going to learn more about that and what that might actually look like in a relationship.
Amanda: Hi, Kristen. Welcome to the podcast. What can I help you with today?
Kristen: Thanks so much. I have a couple of things that I wanted to work on. The biggest one I think is, I have no desire, is it’s pretty low and I’m 52 and a couple years post-menopause and I, couple years ago, I don’t remember how long ago, a little bit ago, I stopped feeling a lot of attraction towards my husband, to be honest. And I don’t know how much attraction I’ve ever really, really had for him to be really honest.
We started dating when I was in my forties, and I remember about the time where I felt my body kind of go into perimenopause and shift like that crazy hungry desire that you feel in your thirties. So, it’s been kind of just a mental game for me of like, Oh yeah, let’s create some desire mentally.
But, since menopause, it’s really, really shifted. And my husband’s 11 years older than me and he looks a lot different and I feel terrible saying it, but it’s true. And I know I’m not the only one, I’ve talked to other girlfriends, so I think it’s a valid thing to talk about, you know?
But yeah, those are the two things, kind of like intermeshed.
Amanda: Okay. All right. So let’s talk about the desire aspect first and then we can talk about the attraction.
Kristen: Okay? Sounds good.
Amanda: So you said that you had a lot of crazy desire in your thirties. Tell me about that.
Kristen: Well, I didn’t get married for the first time until 43, so I was not sexually active before that, but I made out with my boyfriend like a crazy woman, and it was really fun and I had lots and lots of desire and I wanted to make out 24/7. Okay. I mean, like, I could have and I remember it getting really intense, mid thirties and whatnot as that biological clock was just like woo-hoo, you know, type of a thing. So yeah.
Amanda: Well, and I mean, there’s a lot that plays into that, not just being in your thirties and crazy desire, because I think there’s a lot of women in their thirties who don’t feel that. But it was the dating aspect and having fun making out and feeling new things. You know like, sex is forbidden and so you can’t quite go there. And that drives desire up.
Kristen: Yeah, I think you’re right. Mm-hmm.
Amanda: A lot of times we like to attribute it to hormones, and when we go through menopause or you know, going into perimenopause and then menopause, we’re like, well, the hormones aren’t the same, and so the desire’s not the same. But there’s so much more to it. As women, we don’t really have a lot of hormonal desire in the first place because we don’t have a lot of testosterone. So, you know, relatively speaking compared to men, we have very little testosterone, like less than a tenth usually, of what men have. So we don’t have that physiological driver. We like to attribute it to hormones, but most of the time it’s not actually hormones. Does that make sense?
Kristen: Yeah, it does. And I do think it’s valid to say that sometimes it is.
Amanda: Oh, of course.
Kristen: Like when I was menstruating, there was one time during the month where I felt extreme desire, you know what I mean?
Amanda: Testosterone peaks.
Kristen: Right, right, right.
Amanda: So like you do get that hormonal increase during that time, that’s pretty normal. And that’s when a lot of women are like, Oh, I actually do feel a little horny and a little desire.
But most of the time that’s not what’s happening. These crazy make out sessions and all the desire you felt, that wasn’t always around ovulation for you.
Kristen: Yeah, true.
Amanda: That was happening throughout your cycle. So we can definitely attribute part of that to hormones around ovulation. And some women also get a peak during menstruation, like they feel a little bit horny during menstruation. But that is the extent of it for most women. It’s not a hormonal thing usually, unless you are severely deficient in hormones, then you can have a big drop off that way.
Kristen: Which I was. And I’ve had blood work done.
Amanda: So most women will say, I think it’s my hormones, and it could be. I think that’s always a good thing to rule out, and if it is, then work on that. But for most women, it’s not just that. And when we start to attribute desire to just a hormonal issue, then we lose the piece of actually creating that desire ourselves and where our horniness and the desire for sex comes just as a biological need rather than a relational aspect. Does that make sense?
Kristen: Yeah, it does. Yeah.
Amanda: So it makes sense. I think most women I talk to, will say, you know, before I got married, like sometimes I’d orgasm just from making out or other ways. Most women felt a whole lot of desire and then once you got married and it became, a I should or I have to or this is my job or my duty, desire tanks.
Amanda: Instead of like, Ooh, this will be really fun, and I can’t wait, to like, oh, now this is something I have to do, desire falls off. Would you say that that’s true for you?
Kristen: It’s never been fun, Amanda, to be honest.
Amanda: So what you thought it was going to be, it’s not. And then you continue to do it.
Amanda: Why have you continued to do it?
Kristen: Most of the time it’s to take care of him. I came into the marriage after having taken a sex course… Long story short, I took a course on understanding men and sex and came out of that thinking, oh, okay, men aren’t perverts because that’s the one I went into the class thinking that because I had some trauma before. And then I came out of that class thinking, oh, this is a biological need, but if I have a really sweet man and this is a biological need, well I’m gonna wanna you know help him because I love him. Right. So that’s honestly how I came into the marriage. It was like, I’m gonna help him meet his biological need. And it wasn’t until just a couple years ago, I was like, what the freak? This is not fair, it’s when menopause happened, you know? I’m like, no, no more.
Amanda: Yeah. So, what I’ve seen, and there’s research to suggest this, that when women consent to unwanted sex because of conditioning and belief systems that we have around sex, then there’s a lot of issues that occur.
Research shows 70% of women who consent to unwanted sex, have emotional distress around sex. So some sort of “negative emotion.” Fear, anxiety, resentment, anger, frustration, all of that. Okay. I think it was about 50% of women, I’m trying to remember the data correctly, somewhere between 30 and 50% of women exhibited PTSD like symptoms around sex. So having a trauma response around it.
And then also showed a significant amount of women had relational and sexual issues around sex because of this. And so what typically coaches and therapists have looked at as a desire issue, is not actually a desire issue, it’s a trauma issue. And so we have to approach things from a trauma perspective in dealing with the trauma rather than like, oh, we need to fix desire.
Now we might need to fix desire, but that’s further down the road. We actually need to work on the trauma piece first. How do you feel about that?
Kristen: Well, I’m interested to see where you’re headed with this. Yeah. I wasn’t sexually abused as a kid or anything like that. I just had some experiences with a guy that, before, in a way when I was younger, that just kind of emotionally felt sexually abusive.
Amanda: Yes. So when we say this is trauma that women have experienced, and I would say trauma without a perpetrator. Like your husband is not forcing himself on you.
Kristen: No. He’s a sweetie pie.
Amanda: Right. But you are consenting to sex that you actually don’t want. And what this research shows is that a majority of women have emotional, psychological, relational, and sexual effects from that.
Kristen: Yeah, that resonates.
Amanda: So this research was done by Dr. Cami Hurst and she has given steps for a proposed treatment model for clients that have been through this. So the first step is really understanding consent within your relationship. Okay. So, when you are going to engage sexually, do you feel like you can say no?
Amanda: Do you say no?
Kristen: Yeah, but I’ll feel guilty about it.
Amanda: And that’s part of those emotional effects, right? So, that’s more about a relationship with yourself, like understanding that it’s okay to say no and not have to feel guilty about it. That tapping into your own wants, your own desires, living according to your own integrity is an important part of having a healthy sexual relationship. So if you actually don’t want to, then you shouldn’t say yes.
Okay, so why do you feel guilty?
Kristen: I think that, just from some of the limited things that I learned in that class and just through time have heard. So the story starts to be, that’s kind of connected to the guilt is, I’m trying to think of the right word, but like I’m rejecting him and so, we know how personal it can feel for men to have some, you know, have their wife say no to them.
And so the story is, oh no, he’s probably feeling terrible because I’m rejecting him. And so I immediately go into what he might be feeling, versus, my body just can’t right now. I don’t want to, I have no desire, you know, and I just don’t want to and I don’t want to a lot. So I think the guilt is just worried about, you know, I see his little face when he gives me his little puppy dog eyes, his little sex eyes, and I’m like, and then he goes, Ooh, you know his little puppy guys dog eyes go sad. Right? And then I feel guilty.
Amanda: Yeah. And, and while I don’t know that he necessarily means it to be, which is part of this, but when he reacts negatively to you saying no, that is what we would consider coercive behavior. And so part of this is him understanding his part in it and working on self-soothing.
Now that doesn’t mean that it’s like he can’t be disappointed. Of course he can feel whatever he needs to feel.
Kristen: And that’s what I mean. Like he gives me, I see a disappointed face. It’s not like he’s trying to be manipulative intentionally. Right.
Amanda: Well, and I don’t want to be that women are right and men aren’t right, but just by the way that he shows up in his disappointment is coercive behavior because you end up feeling guilty about it and often end up giving in. Rather than staying in your integrity and not.
Kristen: I don’t give in a lot lately, but I’ll just feel guilty and keep saying no. You know what I mean?
Amanda: So, what we wanna do is like establish some sexual safety. Like it’s okay for you to say no, and it’s okay for you to not feel guilty afterwards.
Kristen: Yeah, that’d be nice.
Amanda: Of course he can feel disappointed. That makes a lot of sense. Like he was hoping to connect with you sexually and that’s not happening. So it makes sense that he’s disappointed.
Amanda: And you not taking ownership over that. Right? His disappointment comes from the way that he’s thinking and it makes sense with him thinking that and feeling that way.
Amanda: But that doesn’t mean that it’s your fault. You don’t need to take ownership over that.
Kristen: And as you say that out loud, I can see that that’s kind of like a semi-conscious, even subconscious, uh, story that’s playing in the background. Oh, this is something that I did wrong.
Amanda: And it’s not, it’s you living in your integrity. And we should never feel guilty for living in our integrity.
So I’ll just put right here, you are a coach, so, you understand this part, like you are not responsible for his feelings, right? We logically know that, but emotionally, somatically, we don’t necessarily know that. And so, in those situations, that’s where you need to remind yourself that you can be empathetic, you can understand that he’s disappointed and still not take responsibility for it. Does that make sense?
Amanda: Something to practice.
Amanda: Okay. What might be a good idea, when you can and feel safe is to, if you are not in the mood to connect sexually, offer him ideas that you are okay with.
Because really, I mean, yes, he would like to connect sexually, but the driving force in there is connection. And if he’s getting connection with you in other ways, I mean, I’m sure he would still like to have sex, right? But that need will be more easily taken care of because it’s not the need for sex, it’s the need for connection, and all of us need connection.
Kristen: I think I have a little bit of a mental block. I totally am on board intellectually with that and I have a little bit of a mental block with it’s just about connection. Because it’s connected to, you know, him having intercourse.
Amanda: But why do you think that it’s about intercourse?
Kristen: Hmm. I think stemming back to what I said before, that, you know, I have had this story and belief that it’s always about him getting a biological need met, and so it seems to follow that it’s about that biological need getting met, you know.
Amanda: It’s not a biological need. What if the class that you took to teach you about sexuality was actually wrong?
Kristen: Don’t know what to say to that, to be honest. Because I believe that there is some biological need to it. It just seems, it seems logical.
Amanda: Why is there a biological need?
Amanda: Okay, but you’re not trying to procreate.
Kristen: No, but it doesn’t mean the body’s not continually wired that way though.
Amanda: Our body is wired, like your husband will not die if you don’t have sex.
Amanda: So it’s not a need in the same way that food, air, water, sleep, are a need. And his body has natural ways of emitting if it’s been a while, okay. Nocturnal emissions, that happens because the body does have a need to ejaculate everything.
Kristen: Release. And that’s what I mean, like the body needs to ejaculate. That’s exactly what I’m talking about.
Amanda: Okay. So the body needs to ejaculate, which doesn’t mean procreate, and it doesn’t mean that you have to be the receptacle for that ejaculation. Like his body will take care of its needs. It is not your responsibility to take care of that for him.
Kristen: And to be really honest, some of the things that he and I have talked about, that’s the only way that he feels comfortable getting that need met. He doesn’t want to self stimulate. He doesn’t feel good about that.
Kristen: Um, I think it feels wrong to, no, I think what he said was, um, the only way that he can do that is if he sees, you know, me naked or uses pornography and he’s not willing to use pornography.
Amanda: He could use his imagination. He doesn’t actually have to see you naked. He’s seen you naked enough. I’m sure he could conjure that image anytime he wanted.
Kristen: Well, sounds like he’s gonna need some coaching too.
Amanda: I know you can’t solve that part for him, right? But what you can stand up for is you are not going to be the receptacle because he needs to work out his own issues.
Kristen: I can see where I’ve just accepted at face value that all the things that he needs are valid, and then some of the things that I need are not, you know? Mm-hmm.
Amanda: What’s going through?
Kristen: Uh, tears are coming up. Um, just the emotional wave of invalidation. Seeing the way that I’ve invalidated myself is sad.
Amanda: But also understand that it’s also really normal because of the systemic way we’ve been conditioned.
It always makes sense why we believe the way we believe. And why we think the way we think. It makes a lot of sense. But now you have awareness around it and with that awareness you can start to make changes.
Amanda: So if we can’t say no without, not necessarily repercussions from him, but there’s probably some, but also within ourselves, how do we ever really say yes?
Kristen: Mm-hmm. I can see that.
Amanda: And on the other side of this, he has been conditioned to believe that the best way to connect with you is through sex, and that he can’t be fulfilled otherwise. That’s from his conditioning.
Kristen: Yeah, I can see that.
Amanda: So there’s a lot of compassion and empathy needed for both of you because we are for sure products o systemic conditioning.
Amanda: All of us. And it’s so sad to see that because it wreaks havoc on our marriages and our sexual relationships.
Kristen: I can see that.
Amanda: So this is about you getting stronger within yourself and understanding that you don’t need to feel guilty for living in integrity. And developing a new way and different ways to connect with him that feels safer to you for the time being.
Because what we learned from this systemic conditioning, and then also from years of consenting to unwanted sex is that sex is dangerous. Because you’re self betraying every single time, which is really hard. It’s hard to live and it’s hard to see.
Kristen: Yeah, that resonates.
Amanda: So we have to work at reintegrating this part of ourselves to stop self betraying. Work on the relationship and connecting in ways that do feel safe. That aren’t necessarily sexual so that you can start to work on creating that safety in your relationship again. Treating the trauma. Most of the time there’s some healing of resentment that needs to go on, right? And then we can start practicing learning how to create desire. But all of that has to come first.
Kristen: Makes sense.
Amanda: So this is pretty normal. I mean a lot of people come to me and that, you know, I’m not feeling a lot of desire. But given what we’ve just talked about, that makes perfect sense.
It’s time to start having some hard conversations with him about what you’ve learned and what you need to work on as a couple and reestablishing that sexual safety and working on not betraying yourself by saying yes when you really don’t want to.
Kristen: Ok, we can do that.
Amanda: So, I mean, we can address the attraction piece too, if you want.
Amanda: Okay. So were you attracted to him before you got married?
Kristen: I chose him intentionally because I thought he was cute, but not too cute, where I would not be able to like control my mind. I also chose him intentionally because we were really good friends. Yeah, and so to answer the question, um, that’s just also another thing that I got from one of those courses, is don’t choose somebody that you’re like a 12 and a half attracted to because you’re not going to be able to think straight, you know, choose somebody that can be your friend or whatever, right.
Um, but at the very beginning when we started dating, I really liked kissing him and then I just didn’t anymore, even when we were still dating and that’s, um, I can’t put my finger on it, honestly. And that’s why I thought, oh my gosh, I must like my hormones have shifted.
Amanda: That’s not usually a hormone issue. That becomes aversion and aversion isn’t hormonal.
Kristen: And see, I don’t know. I don’t even know how to even make sense of it, to be honest, because there was lots of aversion that I had with lots of my other boyfriends. That’s why I didn’t marry ’em. Um, but I could still make out till the hogs come home. So, um, and I really enjoyed it at first and then, with him, and then I didn’t, I do remember thinking, oh, he’s not that great of a kisser, to be honest. He wasn’t that great of a kisser compared to my other boyfriends.
Amanda: Is he willing to learn?
Kristen: I’m sure he would be. He’s actually quite a coachable friend.
Amanda: So the thing with attraction is it’s usually there or it’s not. Sometimes we physically change, but we all physically change. We just kind of have to expect that. Right. And do we see aging or bodies changing as a problem or is it something else?
Like if you saw, you know, I mean, think about like the most gorgeous man you can think of, right? But then you learned he was a pedophile, you’re probably not gonna be as attracted to him as you were before.
Kristen: True. Not at all.
Amanda: And so what we have to look at is, I mean, was the attraction ever there? Because if it was never there, it’s probably not just gonna come out of nowhere. There’s things that we are biologically attracted to, right? Like, I mean, you know, how do you know that you’re attracted to men versus women or, you know, both, right? Like, there’s things that we just innately know within ourselves, for the most part. But then there’s other pieces where it’s more about the way we’re thinking and choices that we’re making. And so are we focusing on the things that we don’t like or that we’re not attracted to instead of focusing on the things that we do?
What do you think that is?
Kristen: Well, I know there was some attraction cuz I never would’ve been able to kiss him ever if I hadn’t been attracted to him.
Amanda: So that’s good. We can build on that.
Kristen: I could never kiss somebody I was never attracted to. It just couldn’t happen. Um, help me with the question again?
Amanda: So are you focusing on the things that you don’t like versus focusing on the things that you do?
Kristen: I am doing my best to focus on the things that I like. I really am. Like, I like his long legs. And I like how cute he looks in his jeans. He’s done a lot of work to be trim, um, to be thin. And, um, I like how tall and skinny he is. I do.
Does he look like Chris Hemsworth? No. Do I think Chris Hemsworth is sexy as heck? Yes.
Amanda: Okay. But your husband is also not, how old he?
Kristen: He’s also 62, almost 63, yeah.
Amanda: So, no, he’s not gonna look like Chris Heworth.
Kristen: I like his hands. I like his forearms. I like this part of his cheek. That is something that I did learn in that class with like, focus on the things that you do, like, you know, and I try to look at those things. Um, I think that I was just assuming like, if okay, if I focus on that, then I’ll have more desire. And what I’m hearing from you is that they’re two totally different things.
Amanda: Oh, totally different. What you’re describing is spontaneous desire, which a very small amount of women have. That it just boils up out of nowhere. And we often think, oh yes I do. Because, I felt that when we were dating or when I had other boyfriends or whatever, most likely, not most likely, you were creating it with the way that you were thinking. It wasn’t just bubbling up out of nowhere.
Kristen: I do remember feeling much more intensely attracted to a couple of the boyfriends before.
Amanda: Sure, sure. Yeah.
Kristen: They were also 20 years younger than I was. Because I always looked younger and I dated younger.
Amanda: Yes. I know. When I met you, I did not know that you were older than I am. Right? I thought you were younger than I am.
Amanda: So, I think that’s just something to recognize, right? That yes, there are things that biologically we are attracted to, like Chris Hemsworth. Absolutely, right? But your husband is never going to be Chris Hemsworth, so can you focus on the things that he is instead of the things that he’s not?
And one exercise that I love my clients to go through is really taking the time every single day to write down something, and it could be daily or you could just make a big list or whatever, but like what you like, love or appreciate about him. Get to a hundred things at least, so you can’t repeat. And there’s gonna be some days that that’s gonna be really hard. But it doesn’t just have to be physical qualities either, because there’s things that attract us to people that aren’t just physical. And you talk very highly of your husband.
Kristen: He’s a nice guy. Yeah. He’s a good fella.
Amanda: And so focusing on those things, rather than on, you know, well, he’s not Chris Hemsworth, he’s not like these guys that I dated that really got my motor going. Like when we start thinking like that, of course we’re gonna have problems, but like you said, that’s not because of desire. Those are two completely separate issues.
Kristen: And it’s very useful to see them as distinct, um, and to see that the mindset pieces or the emotions or the stories or the trauma responses behind them are very different. So that’s very useful. Thank you.
Amanda: Okay, so wrapping up here, I like my guests to just kind of talk about what they’re going to take from this session moving forward.
Kristen: Okay. Um, I love the concept of living in my integrity and validating myself, validating what I’m feeling, somatically, et cetera, right? And I am gonna have a conversation with him about guilt. The cool thing that I do really and always have appreciated about him is that I can talk to him about my feelings and he will listen and when I validate, he’ll be, you know, he can get on board with validating too.
So I see how that starts with me around that and the guilt, talking about how the guilt, um, has happened and how it’s been going on in the background.
And then I do like the idea of writing down the things that I love, like, and appreciate about him.
Kristen: Yeah, those are simple.
Amanda: Good. Um, so there’s an episode, it hasn’t aired yet by the time this airs will be coming out on my podcast, where I actually interview Cami Hurst, who did the research that we talked about. And, with that podcast will be her research slides. So it’s episode 253 of the Sex for Satan’s podcast. It outlines for research, shows all the slides, the outlines, the proposed treatment model and different prevention model. So we didn’t talk about the prevention model, but the prevention model is sex needs to be consensual which I mean, I think most people are on board with, right? But that number two is sex needs to be wanted by both parties. Three, motivation for consent needs to be non fear-based. And number four, the outcome of honest consent needs to be free from social safety consequences. So in that, you’ll learn more about that in the podcast. You know, there’s a lot of women who don’t feel safe saying no because it could create issues for them in their social safety, like, um, being left and being not be able to financially support themselves or their spouse having an affair or looking at pornography or something like that, which I don’t, you haven’t said that that’s the case for you, but it does tend to be the case for many women.
So, um, those are the four steps to the prevention model. But I think really the key here for you is that, number two, that sex needs to be wanted by both parties, and if it’s not finding other ways that you can connect with each other that is consensual and wanted by both of you. Now, he may not want it as much as sex, right? But if he wants to connect with you in a way that is consensual and wanted by you, then it’ll work better for both of you.
Kristen: Thank you. Yeah. Thank you.
Amanda: It was so nice being with you today, Kristen. Thanks for being on with me.
Kristen: Thank you so much. Appreciate you. That was really helpful.
Amanda: Okay. Thank you so much for joining me today. I love this episode because it really shows that so many times we think it’s one issue when really it’s kind of a completely different issue.
As we saw with desire and attraction, and really this pattern of consenting to unwanted sex and what we do because of conditioning that we’ve received and conditioning happens on both the male and the female side. Of course, we’re not addressing as much of his conditioning today as we are addressing hers because that’s who was here and that’s who we’re coaching.
So thank you so much for joining me, and we’ll see you next week. Bye-bye.