The reintegration of psychedelics into our society has been thrilling for many of us. A growing body of research shows their potential effects in discovering the “self,” diminishing our rigid beliefs, and opening unique ways of perceiving reality.
So, what is the role of psychedelics in human sexual connection?
In today's society, we have somewhat lost our way into engaging with pleasure. While new ways of transformation emerge through these substances, sexuality can be one of the notions that benefit from the run. Psychedelics might remove the void between sexuality and sensuality, stretching the definition of what it means to truly experience union, interaction, love, and pleasure without any separation.
On this quest, I virtually met three awesome women who empowered me with their stories on sexual healing, opening up pleasure, and owning their sexuality with the help of psychedelic medicine.
Before sharing the lived experiences of psychedelics, let's first explore the waves of shame and stigma - what does it mean to truly own one's sexual freedom?
What is our relationship with erotic forms of pleasure?
How many of us are disconnected from our bodies while trying to exist in the consumerist culture of living? In the modern world, our erotic relationships with life and ourselves are disrupted, causing detachment from our bodily selves. We live far from the beauty of nature; therefore, many of us feel stuck in the chaos of mundane days and responsibilities, which detrimentally affects our relationship with pleasure. We experience a great separation between union, sensations, and sexual expression.
Many of us experience difficulties living and owning our sexuality due to childhood traumas, sexual abuse, cultural and societal norms, religious beliefs, stigma, discrimination, and far more. The judgment and shame around these notions make it problematic to speak about them. Only by relinquishing from rigid beliefs/our traumas/fear, we can freely live our sexuality and bond others with intimacy and love.
If we are attuning, our bodies constantly search for meaning. As the renowned psychiatrist and trauma researcher Bessel van der Kolk greatly states, “The body keeps the score.”
Sexual traumas are often deeply rooted in the body, causing detachment from our senses and making it harder to even be in our bodies. The embodiment work requires working with these traumas, pain and reconnecting with bodily sensations.
The connection between psychedelics and sexuality
How can psychedelic experiences transform the narrative around our sexuality?
Sexual and psychedelic experiences have at least one thing in common - both are vulnerable states with a great potential for transformation. A psychedelic experience is a multisensorial and embodied interaction; it can be an erotic form of expression itself. It can look like increased feelings of connectedness and harmony with others and listening to how our body speaks to us.
In this sense, psychedelics can be little agents who open us up to live our pleasure more immensely and passionately. Through psychedelics, new ways of sexual transformation may emerge and stretch our definition and understanding of these notions.
Psychedelics and sexual trauma healing
Superposing all the statements, I now share some insights from lived experiences with psychedelics related to sexual trauma healing.
Marta is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.. The mark on her sexuality was significant; she felt rigid and it was emotionally painful to have encounters with people.
“Sex felt like it didn't belong to me. Something I did but I wasn't fully connected,” says Marta. “I was not able to be in my body so I was not able to feel connected, that was one of the most painful parts. I felt like I am just plastic – I disassociated”.
Her first experience with MDMA was transformative and liberating, eventually leading her to heal from the burden of sexual traumas.
Experiencing sex on MDMA and companionship with a man helped her to open up pleasure and find new definitions of her sexuality. Marta describes her experience as, “A shadow came out of my body, and I felt the freedom.” She notes, “I started to feel the connection without pressure. Before, sex was a reply to demand. I would have sex because I was pressured into it. Now, it is a present, sensational and a shared experience”.
“There is no pressure to have sex or not. No pressure to have an orgasm or not. Just going as your body allows.”
Emma was introduced to plant medicine on her trip to Latin America by local people. Later, she had an immersive Ayahuasca experience where she healed her sexual trauma. As a survivor of sexual abuse, her intention from the plant medicine was to forgive. She describes her pain as “It was covered with anger, and self-pity, rooted in hatred and fear.”
She recounts her experience as “I had a vision of my life, that started when I was a baby. I relived all the situations that affected me as a person. Then the vision came to the point that I was sexually abused and traumatized. I felt tiny. He felt big and dark. As the vision continued, he started to shrink and turned into ashes. I started to grow bigger with a lot of light around me. Like a love bubble.” Emma adds, “I felt all the love he did not have.”
Her sexuality changed thoroughly after this powerful experience. She says, “I started liking men again. I was able to forgive. I felt so much peace forgiving the masculine gender.”
Katie's long history of alcoholism and drug addiction heated her issues around sexuality. In her life, she had problems with bonding, intimate relationships, and sex. She says: "I have been struggling with relationships and sex my entire life. A traumatic incident when I was a child really shaped my shame around my sexuality and my expectations, therefore, experiences. I was trapped in my shame around sexuality."
Although she had a continuing relationship with various drugs, she stayed away from psychedelics for a long period. She explains her perspective,“ I was afraid of my mind. Scared of my thoughts and emotions. I was terrified of discomfort.”
Her transformational and emotionally liberating experience was with the plant medicine Ibogaine. In Katie's words, “Iboga came to me in my darkest time.”
“Medicine showed me everything that I have been through, everything I have been trying to hide and deny. All the things I felt about myself and thought about myself. In the end, I was able to accept. I learned that this is not all that I am.”
Katie adds, “I had really strict rules around my sexuality, abstaining myself from pleasure because I was terrified of it. I would choose sexual partners that reinforced my traumas. But not anymore.”
Recontextualizing sexuality - embodied mind and body
Sex itself can be a psychedelic experience when liberated from constructed norms. The path to this liberation goes through the redefinition of sexuality; while breaking down the hegemonic understanding, we can find our own equal dynamics in human connections.
Psychedelics do not necessarily heal sexual traumas, but one can say that they have the capacity to be a catalyst for feeling our sensations on deeper levels. Their offer is a gate through the embodiment of the mind and the body while breaking down our perpetuating beliefs and patterns. This provides a space for erotic experiences glorifying passion, emotion, joy, and pleasure. Sex can be a sensuous playground instead of loneliness, rigidness, alienation, and disconnection.
To experience freedom, and equality in sexuality, to live our connections engaged in a more sensual space, we need to reframe our current beliefs and fears. Reclaiming our sexuality might resemble releasing the fears we identify ourselves with. Psychedelics can lead us to the portal to striving for a more inclusive society around our sexual and creative expression.
About the Author: Aysu Naz Atalay is a curious person who loves research and writing. She is interested in exploring psychedelics and their connection with self-awareness. Naz supports destigmatization around psychedelics to find a deeper relationship with our surroundings and an individual sense of well-being. She believes in the transformative potential of psychedelic plants for humanity and hopes to contribute to the educational space while striving for a more connected future.
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Schwartz, M. F., L. D. Galperin, and W. H. Masters. Post-traumatic stress, sexual trauma and dissociative disorder: Issues related to intimacy and sexuality. National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) (1995).
Van der Kolk, Bessel. The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York, 2014.