Overcoming Sexual Trauma with Miss Cory B
With so many women across the world speaking out about experiencing sexual trauma, we’ve come to see how widespread of an issue it is. However, we’ve also come to realize that it is something that we don’t talk about a lot. We sat down with sex educator and sexual trauma survivor Miss Cory B to shed light on this and walk us through how those who have experienced trauma can heal and use their sexuality as a way to feel empowered.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your journey into becoming a sex educator.
A: I began working in the sex industry about 3 years ago when I was hired as the personal assistant for a well known sexuality researcher and professor. It was a great introduction into the industry in New York and I was able to connect with different people and spaces that I later went on to work with on my own. Several months after graduating from NYU with a specialized degree in Media & Technology and Gender & Sexuality, I started teaching my own workshops and building my brand as a sex educator on social media. I definitely started with a more academic route but so much of the knowledge I’ve now gathered has been from hands on experience and continuing education via books, workshops, and fellow community members.
Q: I know a lot of the education you do is also surrounding trauma. For those who have survived a sexual trauma in their lifetime sex moving forward can be a really tough thing to navigate- the trauma can manifest in so many different ways. What are some of the things you help women with who are survivors?
A: I think identifying trauma and normalizing survivors’ experiences is a huge part of the work that I do. Often when someone comes to me with a problem related to their sex-life, we work to figure out the source of that issue and more often than not, that source is trauma (and not necessarily sexual trauma). Sexual and relational violence is unfortunately so commonplace that many of us don’t realize that what we went through constitutes harm, yet we very clearly exhibit symptoms of PTSD or C-PTSD including but not limited to anxiety, depression, and flashbacks. When I was being abused by my ex partner, I was in a constant state of confusion about whether or not what was happening to me was actually abuse. The media does NOT properly portray things like emotional, verbal, or even sexual abuse in an accurate light, so talking about these personal experiences is extremely useful in helping other women and femmes come to terms with the realities of their situations.
I have also been encouraging a reframing of the idea that emotional or verbal abuse is a “precursor” to physical or sexual violence. While that can be true, emotional and verbal abuse can be equally if not more damaging as these more physical kinds of abuse, and many may never experience physical harm while enduring deep emotional trauma every single day. If we can start to acknowledge truly just how harmful things like gaslighting and manipulation are, we can start to have the conversation about how to identify these tactics and how survivors can seek both emotional and physical safety.
Q: Shame is unfortunately a common feeling for those women who have survived a sexual trauma even though they’re the victim in the situation. Shame is also a common feeling for women when it comes to sex in general, feeling shame for wanting sex, wanting to try new things, etc. How do you coach women to release those feelings of shame?
A: The idea of shame is built upon expectations, and women and femmes in society know very well just how many expectations are placed upon us. We have to work hard but also be easygoing. We have to be sexy but not too slutty. A major part of encouraging folks to let go of shame is helping them let go of the unattainable expectations that society and even our communities or loved ones have placed upon on. It is too easy to internalize these expectations, so something I do is help people realize where the source of these expectations come from. Is it childhood trauma? Intergenerational trauma? Trauma that is specific to a marginalized group? Shame is learned, and it is often learned through traumatic experiences, so when we can identify the cause of shame we can start to unpack it and begin to unlearn it.
Q: Trauma bond is a term we hear a lot more lately. Can you describe what that means and what are some of the signs?
A: Trauma bonding is when an abusive individual harms someone and then after harming them, provides their victim some form of emotional or physical support to “heal” the harm caused. Trauma bonding is incredibly dangerous because it very literally rewires a victim’s brain to see their abuser as the person who is providing them care, which makes it next to impossible to leave the person causing harm. Trauma bonding can take on many forms. One of the most common examples of trauma bonding is childhood abuse at the hands of a parent or caregiver. No matter how abusive or harmful the caregiver is to the child, the child has no choice but to remain with the abuser since the abuser is also the source of care and comfort. This can continue into adulthood and cause adult children to remain bonded with their parents or caregivers even though they aren’t necessarily providing care anymore. This trauma can seep into relationships in adulthood and cause a vicious cycle to begin and repeat unless treatment is sought.
We also see trauma bonding in situations of intimate partner violence. One partner will cause harm to the other partner, and then after the violence is over there will be a period of apologies or “love bombing” in which the abusive individual showers their partner with love, gifts, affirmations, or even validation about their experience. The difference between this and a couple reconciling after an argument, is that the abusive partner will not take responsibility for the harm that they caused. They will blame external circumstances or even the victim themselves on their abusive behavior. Things like "I'm just so stressed at work" or "you know how I get when you do this" are classic examples of avoiding responsibility. This repeats over and over again in relationships in an exhausting cycle that can be very hard to break. Trauma bonding can cause deep confusion because oftentimes, the words of the abuser do not match the actions. Love is something that is shown through actions, not just three words that are spoken.
Q: What are some tips and practices you give to empower women to own their sexuality? Whether that’s to help someone overcome their trauma or just to help someone who has felt like they need to play the role of a sexual object.
A: Empowering women and femmes I think is always about reiterating that we have a choice in what we do with our bodies and no one owns those choices except for us. Even some forms of modern day feminism continue to place expectations on women and femmes about what we are “supposed” to like or dislike in the bedroom or elsewhere and it can be debilitating! What matters is that you enthusiastically consent to whatever you're doing, no matter what it is.
I use an exercise with my clients when helping think about what they truly want where I ask them, “In a perfect world where you could have anything you wanted and no one judged you for anything that you did, what would you eat for breakfast? What would you wear to go out? Who would you hang out with? What kind of sex would you have?” Envisioning a world where you can have everything you want, is the first step in slowly creating a world where you actually can have it all. Once you figure out those ideals, asking yourself “what is currently preventing me from making these ideals a reality?” Sometimes it’s societal standards that we have to work on internally letting go. Sometimes it's friends or family members that actually don’t have our best interest at heart. Sometimes it’s unaddressed trauma that needs some attention and care.
Q: When trying new things sexually there can be a fine line between trying something new and pushing things too far. How do you help women navigate that line?
A: When trying new things, we ride that line between excitement and nervousness. Excitement is rooted in joy whereas nervousness is rooted in fear. In order to squash any fear, I think the biggest thing anyone can do to gauge where they are emotionally is ask themself, “How would my partner(s) react if I changed my mind or wanted to slow down?” When we enter a new sexual or kink scenario, knowing that we can change our minds at any time and be met with validation and alternative options is HUGE. If we are worried that we’re going to disappoint someone or worse, make someone angry, that is enough fear to drive someone into silence. Talking to your partner(s) before trying something new is the best way to live in that state of excitement rather than fear. A good partner will never shame or guilt you for needing to stop, change direction, slow down, or take a break. A good partner will thank you for speaking up and ask you what they can do for you to make you feel like your best self.
Q: Another thing you specialize in is [BDSM]. How did that get started and how have you found that [BDSM] helps empower your coaching clients?
A: I first got into the BDSM scene when I was studying abroad in London. I made a Fetlife account and began meeting up with play partners and exploring my interests. So much of my identity as a kinkster has evolved since my initial introduction into the lifestyle but it still holds a very significant role in my life and in my work. A lot of the work that I do with my clients involves helping them gain a better understanding of their kinky interests and fetishes and figuring out how to go about fulfilling their desires and fantasies in safer and more informed ways. There are SO many people who unknowingly involve elements of BDSM in their self-identified “vanilla” relationships, but these elements are not negotiated or communicated properly which leaves room for error and harm. Helping people communicate their desires with proper language not only helps to empower them but also to reduce harm.
I also have helped people facilitate various forms of trauma healing through BDSM. Many people find that they are able to make peace with their trauma by exploring certain roles in a power exchange scenario, and I love helping people set up these scenes and dynamics that allow them to regain a sense of control. Some people find deep healing in being able to recreate a traumatic experience in a setting where they have all the control in the form of who they choose to play with, what safe words or signals are used, and in what environment these scenes take place. When we allow and encourage survivors to be specific about their desires, we can help them find a sense of agency and power beyond just a sexual setting.
Q: What do you wish every woman knew about sex?
A: You should be talking about sex when you’re not having sex. Talk to your partner(s) about what you liked, what you could do without, and what you’d like to do differently next time. Talk about what certain sensations feel like and ask your partner to do the same. Not only does it help us be better lovers but it also encourages us to be more descriptive about what we feel and what we want.
Q: What do you wish you could tell your younger self about sex?
A: There is nothing wrong with being a slut as long as you feel empowered and confident in who you are as a sexual being.