Friday, September 1, 2017

Mental Health and Sexuality: Take Back Your Sex!

We came across Megan Ashley, via her Twitter page and came to find that her partner Tanya and her run a blog and podcast- Take Back Your Sex! I think sex is one of those topics that's often labeled as "taboo" still and it should not be. I find it odd, at times, that so many struggle discussing the topic, moreover it gets confusing for me, that people often assume if you have a trauma history you can't function in any sort of relationship--whether it be sexual or not. I find this common misconception to be a baffling one and so we wanted to broach the topic and found some wonderful people open to the idea...

Here is the first piece of many more to come on relationships, sexuality and mental health.

NOTE: Topics discussed throughout this post may be triggering and you should utilize your best judgment as to what you can and can NOT handle. Be well and practice self care by knowing your limits.

Tanya created the Take Back Your Sex blog, then brought on Megan and developed it into a podcast. One with open conversation surrounding positive sex discussions. 

A bit about these woman will tell you they're definitely strong and live, perhaps, what you may define as an alternative lifestyle or relationship. 

Megan was in a toxic relationship and has dealt with additional trauma's in her life. Nearly eleven years ago Megan's mother was murdered and she herself was stabbed. Megan shared this during our conversation and discussed some of her diagnoses with us as well as how Tanya, applying BDSM structures to her life and finding out more about herself through sexual expression have played a part in her growth and journey to recovery.

Megan is a participant in the BDSM community and utilizes the structure it gives to help her work through her mental health struggles. BDSM is a consent based culture and community that holds consent
in the highest regard and importance. It is no secret (well, maybe it is), that many within the trauma community utilize aspects of BDSM in their lives to heal through traumatic events. Whether that be giving over the hyper-vigilance aspects of control they seek or the desires to protect another individual and assist them through these things...There are many dynamics--endless-- within an often fantastical community which is one of the beauties of it.

"The Boring Stuff"

Inherently, this community is one of open acceptance, structure and largely a consent based culture. It should not come as a surprise that those with trauma seek out these things. So much negotiation goes into each scene, at times, that it's of no surprise to me people are drawn to it. Why wouldn't they be if they hold an understanding of what BDSM actually is? Similarly to the stigma surrounding mental illness, the BDSM community experiences it's fair share of misguided and ill-informed stigma. Unfortunately, many of the people who discuss sex, in general, also experience the sneers and snide remarks; I myself find this to be a bizarre societal oddity.

"With my anxiety I need to control everything. BDSM is helping me work through that." -Megan

Tanya is the creator of Take Back Your Sex then brought Megan aboard. They began utilizing instagram for sexual liberation. Via different relationships and the journey through school to become a sex therapist, Tanya began to realize she was growing more and more. She does not work as a therapist but uses what she learned in life and through her education, which is based in sex therapy, on Take Back Your Sex! 


Tanya recognized her muse in Megan. Through her own goals and soon finding their shared aspirations they began creating a life that suited each of their needs and continued growing the blog and podcast.

"I wasn't trying to have sex, I craved a muse." -Tanya


We had an insightful conversation, one that I myself found very intriguing and informative. As you may have come to realize, I hold information and knowledge in the utmost importance. Giving oneself the gift of knowledge can be invaluable.

Learn, people. Learn.

Tanya doesn't see herself as a BDSM community member, "I wouldn't claim to be in the lifestyle..." As an artist Tanya was seeking a muse and did indeed find that in Megan via her strength. They use many BDSM structures but an important note, there is not a sexual dynamic to their relationship. They value open communication but have now negotiated sex out of their relationship. Which is something that is not as uncommon as you may assume. 


"...start as a submissive then become a better Dom." -Megan

Due to Megan's anxiety she has an inherent need to control everything. BDSM has been assisting her through this. She craves someone else being in control. Someone (in a consensual manner) making her let go, at negotiated times has helped her. 

Megan was experiencing sex in a negative way before leaving her toxic relationship. She explained she was experiencing dissociation to the extent of not feeling connected to her body. Sex never felt good at this time. She realized she needed more from life and craved the feeling of safety. She wanted someone to bring out the sexual parts of her in a safe way.

Megan has been on a journey of finding herself and that includes her sexual experiences. From one extreme to the other, she has now begun to realize that it is ok to say no. Which can be a massively beneficial thing. Anyone who experiences addictions, guilt or shame can tell you that. With so many toxic things going on for her she slept with what she defined as many people, in an attempts to feel something but still was not connecting to her body. She was in a sense, in a dissociated auto pilot. Seeking what so many who deal with trauma attempt to find...connection. After witnessing her mother's murder and the added traumas of this experience she numbed and became hyper vigilant in many things. BDSM has been an assisting factor in giving up some of that obsession for control.

Tanya is growing and becoming more selective of whom she places her trust. Furthermore, saying "yes" does not make you sex positive. Which is another one of those unfortunate misconceptions. Choosing who and how you allow people into your life is just as positive as wanting to enjoy sex. Touch is so important and by removing sex from many things in life there has been some serious benefits to her well being. 


"It's been cathartic to laugh with Megan. We don't have sex, but we just laugh and connect that way..." -Tanya 

As a culture Tanya believes we are hung up on sex. I'm inclined to agree. Which is one reason I am working towards bringing more sex and relationship content to our blog. Sex is a part of life, with or with out mental illness, but I've come to find many in the latter community want to avoid this often triggering and tricky topic. I don't particularly think that way and I'm not much for avoiding things...so here we are.

BDSM is often considered a "deviant" lifestyle. Sex is a taboo topic and often regardless of where you fall on that arbitrary scale you're shamed... Prude? Shame. Whore or 
Man-whore? Shame. If you fall somewhere in-between and express your dislike for any specific activity you're then labeled a prude, but the opposite is also true as well, when you express your enjoyment of sex or sexual exploration that then somehow makes you a whore. Well, which is it? If I were to ask the answers would differ greatly. My stance on this is simple...Live your life. Live it in a safe and consensual manner, with open communication about what your expectations and needs are and don't forget about your partners either. Otherwise what the hell are we doing anyway?

"Giving a voice to the voiceless makes you a healer in your own right," Tanya said which I greatly appreciated the encouragement but I often don't look at things that way. I am however looking forward to continuing using our collective voices to better the lives of others.

I want to give a quick thank you to both, Megan and Tanya for openly discussing these pieces of their lives and the importance of clear, concise information regarding sex and their relationship. Don't forget to check out their links regarding their blog and podcast for further information on the work they and their team are doing! Without people willing to speak, candid and positive information will continue to fall by the wayside. That as a society, we cannot afford. 

"We'll never get these things fixed if we don't talk about it." -Tanya 


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