Dear Kitten and The Squeeze,
I went through a breakup around this time last year. It was horrible. I don’t think I’ll ever get over this person, TBH. I’ve been seeing someone new and they’re awesome, hot, etc., etc. But I fantasize about my ex when I’m having sex with them. Pretty much every time we’re in bed I just flashback to my ex. (The sex was great, obvs.) Thinking of my ex is usually what sort of pushes me over the cliff, if you know what I mean. My new partner isn’t quite as … skilled. Am I as horrible as I think I am?
— Thinkin’ Thoughts
There’s a kind of pathological avoidance of being alone in our culture. If you’re not dating, you’re a loser; if you’re not going out much, you’re depressed (and a loser). Choosing singleness for a season (or a lifetime) means many people will treat you like you’re mentally ill. Though it is true that community is important for humans, it’s also true that intentionally spending time alone, reflecting, taking walks, reading, making art, and generally doing your best monk impression (skip the weird bowl cut, maybe) is really, really good for you.
So rather than suggest some play games for you and your partner or recommend some sort of hypnosis to reprogram the biggest sex organ in your body (your brain), I think you should consider cooling it with the new person until you’re done grieving a breakup so bad that a whole year later, you’re still having flashbacks to the relationship, the connection, and the sex.
You will have sex again. You will be turned on by another person in this life. A lot of other people, most likely. But you’re not, yet. Take care of yourself. Talk to someone — a professional— who can help you get over a heartbreak that rocked you, hard. You will get over it. While you do, eliminate the guilt that you’re adding to your psychologically already-burdened plate.
Dear Kitten and The Squeeze,
I’m a survivor of rape and I’m finding a lot of the rhetoric surrounding Donald Trump and sexual assault to be extremely triggering. Do you have any advice on what I should do until November? Should I just avoid all the news? I want to stay informed, but I’m finding it all to be way too much.
— Sad and Scared
Dear Sad and Scared,
First of all, let me be clear: Everything you’re feeling is real and valid and absolutely normal. When there is a presidential candidate who is not only using sexist language (and body language) to intimidate his female opponent, but has been recorded threatening sexual assault, and has been accused by multiple women of rape, it would be strange if you didn’t feel awful. And it doesn’t stop: Since an egomaniacal misogynist is at the center of the media circus that is the 2016 election, so is the kind of language that can be especially emotionally difficult for survivors of sexual assault.
It is completely acceptable if you decide to take a break from the news. If you know how you’re going to vote (and it sounds like you probably do), there’s no need to listen to anything that comes out of this man’s mouth anymore. There are plenty of issues to stay informed about: Learn about your local elections and campaign for the lesser-knowns who will make waves in your own community.
But if being political is a major part of your personal identity and you can’t imagine spending a day away from Democracy Now! (more power to you), do what we all have to do when under attack: Find a support network and plug into it. At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), there’s a Maverick feminist group on campus, which meets regularly to discuss these kinds of issues and to provide support for all women — including survivors of sexual assault who are suffering through this election. On a national level, RAINN is the largest sexual assault support organization in the country. I’ve called the 24-hour hotline (1-800-656-4673) a few times in dark hours, and I can’t recommend it enough.
You are not alone. This election is, unfortunately, a reminder of the degree to which women (and actually, pretty much every minority group — Trump has said triggering things about African American communities, immigrant communities, gay and lesbian and transgender communities, and plenty of others) are still majorly under attack on a national level. The ever-present ugliness is on the surface, and there are so many people in this country — male, female, Republican, Democrat, and otherwise — who are just as hurt and disgusted as you are. Put one foot in front of the other at whatever pace feels right to you. Your survival is an inspiration. Please don’t forget that.
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