Beyond the Myth: Navigating the Complex Reality of Orgasms During Abuse

by | Feb 13, 2024 | Catholic Church, Other Sexual Abuse

Shame from Sexual Abuse Horowitz Law


Orgasms during abuse just happen. That’s how our bodies are wired. When we encounter physical harm, our bodies react in ways beyond our control. This fact holds true across a multitude of scenarios, yet when it comes to the deeply uncomfortable and painful topic of sexual abuse, the conversation becomes shadowed in shame and misunderstanding. Some abuse or rape survivors, while they were being sexually violated, ejaculated or had an orgasm. Unfortunately, some wind up feeling ashamed, embarrassed, or even guilty. It’s important to remember this simple fact: Our bodies are mechanisms. They respond instinctively and mechanically to stimuli.

We would like to shed light on a particularly distressing aspect of sexual trauma that many survivors face: the body’s involuntary response to sexual stimulation, which can include orgasms. Through a sympathetic lens, let’s explore why these reactions occur and reaffirm that they do not diminish the validity of the survivor’s experience.

The Involuntary Nature of Our Bodies

Imagine the array of uncontrolled reactions your body exhibits daily. From the blink of an eye to the jerk of a hand away from something hot, our bodies are primed to respond automatically to external stimuli. This principle extends to all aspects of our physiology, including sexual arousal and climax.

• Our bodies are mechanisms designed to react.
• Touch, irrespective of consent, can elicit a mechanical response.
• Sexual responses, including orgasms, are often involuntary in nature.

Understanding that these reactions are rooted in our biological wiring can begin to untangle the complex feelings of shame or guilt that survivors may face. If your body did this, either as a child or an adult, please do not assume you ‘enjoyed’ the experience or that the experience wasn’t hurtful. It was…it is.

The Unique Challenge for Abuse Survivors

Perhaps the most poignant reflection of this misunderstanding is how survivors of abuse perceive their bodies’ reactions during their trauma.

• The misconception that an orgasm during abuse signifies enjoyment or consent compounds survivors’ suffering.
• It’s essential to separate the body’s physical reaction from the psychological and emotional violation that occurs during abuse.
• Feeling shame or guilt about a bodily reflex is an added burden that survivors should not have to bear.

Recognizing these responses as natural does not mitigate the abuse or the abuser’s culpability. You need not make excuses, apologize, or feel awkward. An orgasm is a very natural reaction. That automatic physical impulse and those uncontrollable responses – shame, embarrassment, or guilt – do NOT signify actual pleasure, much less genuine consent.

It Says More About the Perpetrator

The fact that you ejaculated or had an orgasm actually says little about you. It says more about your perpetrator.
It almost certainly means he’s done this to others. An abuser’s ability to manipulate the body’s reactions should not be mistaken for skill or intimacy. It is a horrifying exploitation of human physiology for their gain.

• Abuse and the elicitation of orgasms during such acts is a tool of control and manipulation.
• Sexual predators may interpret these physiological reactions as consent or pleasure, further perpetuating their denial of the harm they cause.

In fact, it could well mean that he’s somewhat ‘skilled’ at manipulating a person’s physical parts because he’s had a lot of practice at it on others who were just as shocked, uncomfortable, and unwilling as you were.
At a bare minimum, it just means that he wasn’t completely physically inept at ‘achieving’ something our bodies are hard-wired to do: respond to touch. Acknowledging this can be a step towards healing, emphasizing that the responsibility lies entirely with the perpetrator, not the victim.

We at Horowitz Law most often hear from adults who were abused on the massage table or were violated in their younger years by priests, ministers, nuns, brothers, monks, bishops, rabbis, and other spiritual figures. In fact, we wonder if many clergy offenders, at some level (even unconsciously), feel deep guilt at what they’re doing. To help alleviate that guilt, we suspect they may manipulate their victims into having orgasms and then tell themselves, “Well, he or she seemed to enjoy it.” 

Here are just two examples involving priests:

 • According to a Pennsylvania grand jury report, a victim reported that he had been abused as a youngster by Father John A. Piatkowski, who kissed him and played with the victim’s penis until he had an orgasm. Fr. Piatkowski worked in at least three Pennsylvania towns – Erie, Tyler, and Sykesville – and is on the Erie Diocese’s credibly accused abusers list.

• A woman told a church official that Fr. Patrick John Barrett “touched my genital areas, labia, etc. – there was lubrication – he played with my clitoris – I had an orgasm.” Fr. Barrett spent time in Montreal, Canada, and in these Michigan towns: Grand Rapids, Hubbardston, Carson City, Plymouth, Mancelona/Bellaire, Lake Leelanau, Hannah/Karlin, East Tawas, Kalkaska/Fife Lake, and Mapleton.

Survivor Insights

Survivors sharing their experiences provide invaluable perspectives that can help others feel seen and understood. Online forums and support groups are replete with testimonials of individuals grappling with the confusion and distress of having had an orgasm during abuse.

• These shared narratives underscore the commonality of the experience, offering solace in understanding.
• Reading about others’ journeys can be instrumental in the healing process, providing both support and validation.

The bravery of survivors speaking out serves as a beacon for those navigating the intricate path of recovery.

Sometimes, those who have had the same experience are often better able to explain a particular phenomenon than the most qualified, experienced, and well-intended professional. So check out this online thread in which victims of sexual violence who have had orgasms during the crime explain their feelings, and please read to the end to see a particularly sinister explanation for the possible motives of an abuser.

Concluding Thoughts

In the journey to heal from sexual abuse, understanding the involuntary nature of our body’s responses is pivotal. Recognizing that an orgasm during abuse is a reflexive, physiological reaction can help lift the undue weight of shame and self-blame from survivors’ shoulders. It’s crucial for survivors to know they are not alone and that their experiences do not define their worth or dictate their future. In the end, the most powerful stance we can take is one of compassion towards ourselves and others, striving always towards healing, understanding, and, ultimately, prevention. Let this be a call to action: to support survivors unconditionally, educate our communities, and dismantle the myths surrounding sexual violence.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and numerous sexual assault lawsuits against massage therapists. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization, doctor, professional, or therapist sexually abused you, contact us today at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today.