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For Some Survivors, Phone Sex Can Be A Path To Healing

Knowing I control my pleasure and boundaries comforts me. With phone sex, survivors can get creative on our own terms without sacrificing our pleasure.

CW: This piece discusses sexual assault, rape, and harassment trauma.

By Bry Reed

In my first year of college, I experienced a lot of new things: parties, midterms, and yard shows. Outside of the classroom, the social climate on campus revolved around first-year students getting to know older students and making connections. I quickly got close to an older guy from the same state as me and we spent nearly every day together. Over the course of our friendship, however, the casual sexual relationship we had developed shifted to coercion and exploitation, and it changed my relationship with sex altogether. Healing from past trauma was not—and still is not—easy, but one method that helps me in gaining confidence with current partners is phone sex. 

It took months for me to name my experience as sexual assault. Addressing my discomfort, the power dynamics, and my dissociation took time. By the time I was ready to name the harm done to me, I was in a monogamous relationship with someone else. In processing my assault, I began to also process my boundaries and needs surrounding sex. Statistics show that I am not alone in experiencing sexual trauma in college. About 23% of undergraduate women experience rape or sexual assault. Moreover, about 11% of all college students report experiencing sexual assault. Though these studies center college students and college campuses, the reality is that people ages 18 to 24 regardless of being enrolled in school are more likely to experience sexual trauma. 

Phone sex—including sexting, Snapchat, Facetime, and voice calls—helped me set boundaries and explore new kinks at a pace that allowed me to regain control after experiencing sexual trauma. It became a part of my normal flirting and sex routine. I set my limits and explored new areas of my sexuality that brought me pleasure. More and more, I learned about how to make myself happy while including partners along the way. We practiced patience and forgiveness that helped me recover. I laughed more and began down a path of sexual liberation that brought my pleasure to the forefront. 

Over time, I began to wonder if phone sex could be a tool for helping other survivors of sexual trauma. A 2018 Huffington Post article explores how one woman’s work as a phone sex operator allowed her to heal. Kyli Rodriguez-Cayro’s experience and my own lead me to wonder about the potential for phone sex as a step toward healing.

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So, I began to search for answers about the opportunities for phone sex as healing. Thankfully, licensed therapist and sex educator Raquel Savage was there with answers and willing to talk to me. Our conversation began with my own curiosity about whether or not phone sex is a common tool used for sexual healing. The short answer is no. But Savage took time to explain where and how phone sex is commonly used and its benefits. “When I think of phone sex, I definitely think of it being the beginning of relationships, exploration of intimacy, and/or means of intimacy for long-distance relationships,” she told me. “I definitely think it’s a good place for people to explore not only their own sexuality but their sexuality in sex with their partners and boundaries.” 

In talking with Savage, however, it’s clear that phone sex is not the flawless solution to healing sexual trauma. It is a technique that can be effective for boundary setting, creativity, and exercising autonomy at paces that allow survivors to feel safe. But digital spaces are not safe from harm. Savage reminds me that “nothing is devoid of the possibility of harm.” Phone sex offers its own possibility for harm. This cannot be ignored. Yet, the benefit of phone sex is in allowing survivors to create spaces of autonomy that empower them to move with pleasure at the forefront without facing the potential for immediate physical harm. 

As we continued talking, we delved deeper into the benefits for survivors of sexual assault. I asked Savage if phone sex can be particularly helpful as a technique for survivors and her response was, “Absolutely.” The key, as Savage explains, is about autonomy and creativity. She says, “Because phone sex generally feels less high risk, there is more room for survivors to have autonomy and create scenarios where you have autonomy and you have power you didn’t have during your violation. And you have space to do the sexual activity you want to do, as opposed to sexual activity you’re ‘supposed’ to do. I definitely think it’s an amazing opportunity for survivors to explore that in what feels like a less high-risk situation.”

My conversation with Raquel Savage allowed me to speak with an experienced sex educator about how phone sex has the potential to heal. It is an essential part of my sex life. After my assault, knowing I control my pleasure and boundaries comforts me as I build new relationships with my current partners. And that is a huge step forward. With phone sex, survivors can get creative on our own terms without sacrificing our pleasure.

Bry Reed is a writer and scholar from Baltimore, MD committed to writing about Black feminisms, literature, and how theory shows itself in our everyday lives. She is a freelancer who hopes to bring more Black feminist writing to the forefront of cultural criticism. You can find more of Bry’s work on her website: bryreed.com. Be sure to follow her on Twitter and Instagram @thebryreed.

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