Does Sexual Abuse Influence Sexuality?

When we discuss sexual abuse (occurring at any age), we often discuss depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts or feelings, eating disorders, addiction, and relationship difficulties. The latter category might sometimes fall under the umbrella of sexuality, which encompasses all of our sexualized thoughts and feels. It doesn’t necessarily include sexual orientation in the case, but we’ll discuss it anyway.

According to Roller, Martsolf, Draucker & Ross, “The sexual functioning and sexual identity in adolescence and adulthood is a particularly vulnerable factor in survivors. When a child suffers sexual abuse, sexual arousal becomes activated prematurely and can largely impact the survivor’s sense of autonomy over their body and sexual sence of self.”

No one can deny that men in particular associate sex and sexual thoughts with feelings of power and control — but also immense guilt. It’s also not uncommon for men and women to feel fear, confusion, or shame while exploring sexual arousal during late childhood and early adolescence. Others will feel a connection to pain. 

One of the most psychologically damaging aspects of abuse is that the victim can feel pleasure in response to that abuse — and it would be totally normal. This leads to shame later in life, but more commonly a distrust of the body’s physiological responses to normal sexual stimuli. This can lead to conditions like sexual aversion or sexual anorexia. 

Sexual aversion occurs when a victim tries to avoid all genital contact with a partner. Those with sexual anorexia might avoid intimacy altogether. Either condition can result in connected conditions like impotence. Neither condition is a guaranteed indicator of sexual abuse.

If you’ve been the victim of abuse here in LA, a California sexual abuse attorney might be able to help determine whether or not now is the time to cast light on your past trauma. Doing so can be very difficult and painful, but it can also help a person move on from the pain. Alternatives include therapy and possibly medication.

Another condition that most people probably don’t associate with abuse is sexual addiction. This term refers to those people who cannot control their actions and have sex compulsively — often with associated feelings of shame and depression. 

Research on whether or not childhood sexual abuse can affect later sexual orientation is severely lacking, but what limited research we do have says “probably not.” Orientation is primarily dependent on biological factors like epigenetics or chemical reactions in the mother’s womb after she has already had several children. And of course there’s a ton we simply don’t know!

One of the reasons why we don’t understand whether or not abuse is connected to sexual orientation is because of the “correlation versus causation” argument. In other words, are the children who others perceive to be gay or transgendered more likely than their straight counterparts to be abused? The answer to that question based on research is “yes.” And that could have a large impact on whether or not childhood sexual abuse has an impact on orientation.