Trauma Sensitive Sex
Today’s episode covers trauma and how it can obstruct our ability to connect our body and arousal to our emotional and social being, and later obstruct the way of connecting intimately with our partner. Cass Biron talks about the structure and ways people can approach this and overcome the struggle by integrating play and flexibility with their partner.
Cass’s Entry Into This Line of Work
Cass’s interest in this line of work stemmed from a young age of asking questions about how bodies work. She later enrolled in the Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy training in New York City and first heard about the vagus nerve and Polyvagal Theory. She dove deep into understanding the interaction between the different states of the nervous system present during sex and how they play a role in enabling richer sex lives and relationships.
Polyvagal Ladder by Dep Dana
Cass explains the model of Polyvagal Ladder by Dep Dana which consists of a top head region where all the social and emotional connections originate. It involves reading facial cues to detect the inner feelings of a person and is especially present during sex. It functions as non-verbal cues that help strengthen the connection and intimacy between the partners. Lower down is the fight or flight area of the torso where our energy is stored. Cass explains the fight or flight function that causes the increase of blood flow, higher heart rate, and heavy synchronized breathing. The bottom of the ladder is the freeze response resting in our genitals between our hips. Cass says it’s present in bodies with a vulva as it facilitates the freeze response that happens with orgasm. However, men have a “jerky kind of orgasm”.
During any sexual encounter or orgasm, we’re in all three states at the same time. Sometimes sex starts from the bottom up and vice versa. Cass talks about identifying physical health through our ability to orgasm by quoting Laura Geiger. She says it’s because we can identify the part of the nervous system that’s having trouble connecting during sex.
Where Does Trauma Show Up In This Picture?
Trauma is held in our physical form and it shows up differently for everyone during sex. Cass says it takes understanding and recognition of how and where we’re holding that stress and tension and pinpointing the occasions that trauma shows up. It takes awareness to incorporate trauma-sensitive sex. Trauma-sensitive sex is about integrating that knowledge about your body into your sex life. To be trauma-sensitive, according to Cass, is understanding your trauma and your partner’s trauma and using that knowledge to build a foundation of communication, consent, and trust. It’s a habit that needs to be circled back every time. She challenges the norm of the “top-down” process by explaining how bottom-down can be just as powerful. Masturbation and sex with yourself can be used as a tool to move through trauma.
Cass talks about mindful masturbation as a tool to release trauma from your body. She talks about “Masturbation bingo” to help them challenge the ways they think about sex. She suggests picking the video of something you’ve never watched before and suggests deciding on the setting of the room. She starts by having them write down their intentions before beginning. By changing up the routine they’ve built for themselves, they can shift the trauma that’s settled in the muscles of their body to loosen up.
Mindful masturbation teaches the three states of our nervous system to awaken and welcome pleasure rather than reject it. She talks about the challenging experiences people face during this exercise but also talks about how to train your mind to remind you of the present to keep you grounded. It’s about training your nervous system to integrate and work together.
Cass suggests playing as a medium to build a space filled with curiosity and without judgment. Play is the time when our nervous systems are trying to integrate and sync with each other, as well as with our partners’ nervous systems. It facilitates a social-emotional connection between people. Cass urges people to incorporate seduction and flirting into any sort of play. She says play doesn’t have to be something typical, you can introduce seduction into cooking or playing UNO, or getting ready with your partner. The friendly banter and suggestive flirting can in everyday tasks can be play, it’s about understanding what seduction looks like for you and where you want to incorporate it in your day.
Playing outside the bedroom is crucial to building the rapport between partners to handle stressful situations calmly. When something goes wrong in the play, you don’t escalate the situation because it’s just a game. It can be transferred into the bedroom play, says Cass.
Gay Community Expands The Binary Thinking of Sex and Sexuality
Cass takes Alok Menon, a gay writer, artist, performer, and designer as an inspiration to model the expansion of binary thinking of masculine and feminine that limits how we express sexuality. She talks about the challenges that love between couples outside the bedroom has been taken outside the box and how that can be incorporated into people’s sex lives. The act of “penis-vagina sex” confines sex into a box of social conformity and restricts the freedom to be creative in the way we can have sex. She calls on people to examine the ways we used to relate sex to HIV or used to determine our bodies as “gross” because that’s when we learn how these ideas can originate and take root in society. Having been told that the rights to her body were not hers being a catholic, she fights to break the limitations set on having spiritually free and amazing sex.
Cass Biron is a clinician and a sex educator offering parenting workshops and trauma-sensitive sex workshops for universities and organizations. She works within a pediatric clinic that serves families and children within the foster care system in Queens, NY where she works in a behavioral health team offering expertise on sexuality development, puberty, and how to support children with a high ACE score.
A former sexual health educator, Cass received her Masters in Social Work from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. While extensively trained in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Cass incorporates somatic theories, the polyvagal theory, art activities, and movement therapies to provide each client with tools for coping and thriving.
Cass wants to bring trauma-sensitive sex to all of her clients, as the sexual life and development of each person is to be of great value and supported throughout the entire life course.
Resources and Links:
Training video – https://jessazimmerman.mykajabi.com/video-choice
Sex Health Quiz – https://www.sexhealthquiz.com
The Course – https://www.intimacywithease.com
The Book – https://www.sexwithoutstress.com
Access the Free webinar: https://www.intimacywithease.com/masterclass