I didn’t have a chance to watch or write about last week’s episode of Showtime’s United States of Tara, so before the series got too much further, I thought I’d bring up the topic.
First of all – it’s now really clear to me what people were referring to as triggering about episode two. The sudden sexual explicitness would be triggering to a lot of trauma survivors. If you haven’t yet seen this episode, beware of the last five minutes of the show.
Tara’s male alter, Buck, sneaks out in the middle of the night, goes to a bar, and develops a sexual relationship with a woman that works at the bar. Tara is completely amnesiac for the hours Buck spends with the other woman, but she gradually notices some clues that she is missing time. Tara runs into the bartender while grocery shopping, initially does not recognize her at all, and is embarrassed by the bartender’s flirty familiarity. Tara eventually has vague recall of who the woman is, but reassures her that they will not be continuing that relationship, whatever it was. Tara and Buck argue about this situation, and Tara says “Absolutely not!” but Buck seems to be winning. He is able to continue his relationship with his new girlfriend despite Tara’s best efforts to squash it from happening.
There are layers of internal system conflicts demonstrated in the situation with Tara, Buck, and the bartender. Specifically from this week’s show, I want to bring up the topics of sexual preferences and sexual acting-out.
Here are some questions I have been asked dozens of times:
If a male alter in a female body is attracted to women, is that a homosexual interest? Or is that a heterosexual interest?
If you had an insider sneaking out of the house to have a sexual relationship with another person, how would you handle that? If this relationship was happening behind amnesiac walls, how long would it take for you to figure it out?
You might think that this story line is dramatic twist, but I have to admit, I have seen something very similar happen several different times during my years of working as a trauma therapist with dissociative survivors.
Sexual relationship issues do surface during the therapy treatment years. Not only does this issue provide conflicting feelings for external relationships, it also can create significant tension, anxiety and conflict between system parts. For example, it is not unusual for male insiders express a very different sexual preference than female insiders. It is not unusual for male insiders to feel like they should have their own options instead of being “stuck” with whomever the girls have chosen. The child parts may have a strong vote as well, meaning that they often want complete abstinence in order to feel safe. This may or may not be acceptable to the adult parts, (or to the adult partners / spouses). The subsequent arguments that can develop between system parts can be intense. Learning to work out conflicts and find suitable compromises can be very difficult in these situations.
Re-enactments of sexual trauma have an impact on sexual interests and preferences. As sexual trauma issues surface, survivors can respond in all kinds of ways. Some of the ways include finding an external relationship that either imitates the traumatic relationship, or finding an external relationship to use as avoidance of sexual trauma issues. Sometimes sexual addictions flare up rapidly, and the sexually interested insiders may feel intensely pulled towards sexual activities, including self-focused activities. Or most commonly, survivors completely lose interest in participating in a sexual relationship, and if a spouse or partner requests ongoing participation, there is a high-risk of the original traumatized child parts being pulled out.
It’s a difficult dilemma.
Most survivors with dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD) will have insiders that express all of the above views.
Finding the best balance varies from person to person, relationship to relationship.
How do you address all of this?
How do you sort out all the different layers of conflict?
How do you meet all the varying needs?
It’s certainly not easy.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
We find sex to be a ugly disgusting thing. I am a Christian and know God doesn’t make mistakes…But I Believe God made a huge big Mistake in creating Sex!!!!
All it is is a way for people to hurt people 😭😭😭 I pray and ask God to forgive me and help me to not feel like that because I know it’s a big sin for me to think and believe that.
I’m sorry if I make anyone else feel bad because I think it’s ugly, gross and disgusting…
Just wanted to add that I am another person with a dissociative disorder who struggles with these things. I have parts with different gender identities and parts with different sexual orientations. I do not have good internal communication skills so I guess like with almost everything else, that is the place to start. But knowing where to start and starting are not the same. Wish I had something helpful to add but I don’t. Just another person lost in a dissociative disorder. So you guys and girls are not alone.
I have been struggling with this issue a lot lately. I am working on internal cooperation and communication right now, so there has been a lot of talk about different parts sexual preferences, genders, and the fact that I am female and married to a woman for the past 11 years. I want to be fair to different parts, but I don’t know how to balance being fair and cooperative when it comes to their sexual feelings when I have a marriage and kids that would be dramatically affected by any behavior like this. I have wondered if I should assist in discrete affairs so as to not get caught, but then I fear I won’t be able to live with myself and the lie/betrayal.
My end goal is to integrate, but when I asked my T this week how we could possibly integrate with these different sexual orientations and gender identities, she didn’t really answer. I don’t know if that was her being uncomfortable or needing to think about it more before she says more. It is complicated. I just don’t believe there is an easy solution with this topic. I would love to know how Ts who have integrated people with these issues have seen it play out.
I remember watching this episode. It triggered a response in me.
I so identified with Tara’s plight.. having an alter who had sexual relations with someone else. This has happened to me.
I was unaware of it until later. When I did find out that I had had “affairs” I was totally shocked. I wanted to disown the personalities who had done this to my husband.
The whole thing caused much upset with my husband. He was very hurt and understandably so. He sees us as “one” and sometimes the perseption of being multiple doesn’t even cross his mind.
This has come up again after a very long time. My husband found something on my video camera and he said it wasn’t him. He automatically acused me/us. Of course I deserver this after everything that happened some years ago.
He said he has let it go… but I don’t know.
So.. the question on how I handled this. Well… I thought I had resolved this. I am pretty sure I have… but… handled the reprocussions is something else entirely.
How did you stop the dissociation?? Stop the “affairs?”
thanks everyone for your comments. (thatmaggiegirl I am trying to get us to use “our” body, too.)
I have always been confused about both my gender and my sexuality. I have a very feminine body and face, but at times have identified with having a male body, and when I was young I wondered if my problem was gender identity. I have been attracted to, and have had relationships with, both men and women, but because of my body, I have typically drawn partners who liked “femme” women, and so often played out that role.
I think my male parts are actually attracted to other men, so that helps some. however, at least one wants to be with gay men, so he is frustrated.
as I am writing, it occurs to me that some of my parts might satisfy their needs through fantasy.
Cynthia I have a part and/or an abuser introject that I am trying to figure out how to work with. its hard.
I’m the current host of the system and female. I’m still getting to know the others inside, it scares me so much. They come out frequently, but there is more co-consciousness now, which wasn’t always there before.
Anyway, while reading this post something I’m struggling with for a time now is slowly beginning to make sense. One of the insiders likes to dress really feminine (make-up, high heels, dress). With those clothes also comes a type of sexual behavior (extravert, provocative, flirty, etc. which I’m not!). She seeks the attention of both males and females, but is particularly attracted to female persons. It has happened a couple of times while being outside the house, that she suddenly leaves the front and goes inside again. Then suddenly I find myself standing there in clothes in which I feel exposed and insecure, not comfortable at all, not to mention the shame I feel for the behavior shown during that period of time and the danger she put me in once or twice in the past by attracting the wrong type of people.
She also makes the little ones inside really scared. They don’t feel safe when she is out and totally panic. Except for that one alter, that seeks (sexual) encounters not one of them can stand even to be near people physically, let alone have physical contact (e.g. even shaking hands).
Another insider – that I’m trying to understand without succes so far- has the feeling of not being in the right body. Female clothing ‘disgusts’ him. He gets angry with me, says it makes him feel like he’s a transvestite (M2F), that’s the word he usually uses to describe. It just doesn’t feel right to him and he feels ashamed when he has to walk around like that.
Yet another (female) insider insists that I should tie up female parts of my/our body, because she can’t stand the thought of being feminine (and certainly not being an adult female), although she knows the body is. But with her, I can understand where that need is coming from.
I haven’t yet found a solution that meets all of their needs. It’s difficult to compromise. In this and on many other subjects, what’s right for one insider, goes totally against the needs of the other ones.
And I’m still too scared to willingly step aside and to not being in control to let them take turns to come out and meet their needs. I try to avoid that as much as possible, although it also makes me very unhappy to do so.
Another insider mirrors the acts and sayings of our abuser and tries to re-enact the abuse on the body, causing everyone of us much pain and grief. It’s always hard to recuperate afterwards from the hours this alter was out.
Sorry for my lengthy comment and so sorry if the things I said here are wrong. I’m still searching for a better way to deal with all of this.
Have you ever heard from a case, that (for example) a male part in a female body wants to change the body (like an transsexual). This imagination is frightening.
shadowlight and co says
I guess we are lucky in that we have a female body but no male alters, we are all female (even if not all human). We do, however, have one in our system who “acts out” sexually trying to start sexual activities with men and women sort of as a “tool”. most others in our system fear sex, in fact fear physical contact of any kind. Which can be tricky as I (the host) live with my partner, but he is really good about it and now can even identify who is out with remarkable success and acts accordingly
I live in the UK so can’t watch “US of tara” (or if can have not worked out how) but from what I have heard it seems to be a better portrayal of DID than most media depictions, even if it is slightly exadurated
simplywe: buck sees himself as male and believes that his penis was blown off in Vietnam. i doubt that he really “sees” the actual sexual organs…it is kind of like…when one of the kid insiders is in front they perceive the world from a much lower angle that i do…it sounds bizarre to say but there are times that i would swear the body IS ACTUALLY shorter.
the kid insiders are scared of tall people, especially men…even though our body (i am trying to get all of us to use “our body” instead of “the body”) is nearly 6 ft tall. i have to try to remind them that our body is grown up sized. it makes them sad in ways. which is understandable.
Sam Ruck says
My wife’s system seems rather basic and well behaved (so far, at least). All are little girls except the insider “mother.” The defender and my “daughter” are out all day long. And Sophia I see once a week for her bath (and my dousing). Other than that there have only been a couple other insiders with whom I’ve had infrequent contact. Debby, my daughter, dreams with me about getting married some day, but also realizes that will be a problem (but I always dwell on the dreams with her not the “problems” with said dreams). So far the insiders have been very conscientious about not doing things to cause “problems” like getting everyone lost or spending money we don’t have, etc. though I make it a point to find out what needs they have and meet them if at all possible and also address the issues if I’m concerned an insider may purposely try to get everyone lost!
Since the stronger must take care of the weaker, that means sexually right now things are about non-existent for me and my wife to give my girls (especially Alleylieu the defender) time to heal. There never have been any alters interested in having sexual outlets with me or anyone else, and no male alters.
I’m wondering why Buck isn’t confused/bothered by getting into a heterosexual relationship with a female. If he believes he is male, what does he think of having a female body? I am DID but have no male parts and have no idea what he must be thinking, however I’m pretty certain there should be some conflict going on inside! I guess I’m not convinced the writers of the show know what they’re doing. What do you think?
My heterosexual female alters perceive my girlfriend to be male. They have a male name for her. This works out pretty well, since she’s unusually tall and an ex-Marine; she has a naturally androgynous quality that appeals to all the system members. She’s also very much at ease with my girls seeing her as male, so … lucky me.
I’m a male in a female body. It’s been challenging at times, especially when some of the fronting females were trying to be in heterosexual relationships. Those were times I had to settle for the male companionship w/o sexual contact. When we were younger it was hard for the first front who struggled with her sexuality because she would find that many of us had sexual encounters w/o her knowledge.
Now it’s easier because we’re in a homosexual relationship and with someone we all respect, okay MOST of us do. There’s always a few hold out, that’s sort of the nature of being multiple. When you have such a large group of diverse people there’s bound to be a few who don’t get along.
I got permission to talk about Pith and how her sexual preference was dealt with in the system. For starters she and her system were/are into some very kinky BDSM community. For a number of years we all gave her privacy to go participate. It was a scary time. They brought home an STD and we all had to deal with that, fortunately it was not HIV. She did look for more and more violent partners which was scary for the rest of us. With a lot of help through therapy and everyone talking together.
Our inside kids stay away from front for any sexual relationship. We have had many times when people in our system who identify with our abusers slam the children front during sex, that was bad. Our present partner is really good at recognizing the kids and stops. In the past though this was usually a mess and they were retraumatized. That was hard for everyone and it caused chaos.
Mostly this stuff can get worked out if everyone talks together and comes up with compromises.
In a way we’re glad they are addressing these issues in the show. I mean it isn’t always easy for DID people. Some things are chaotic and embarrassing to have to deal with everyday.
Hank (with permission)
****sort of explicit*****
this is such a timely topic for us. i am dating this guy. and victoria, who is really the hypersexual member of the system HATES him. and loves to have sex with him…it is a power tihng with her. he has none and so she hates him. she expresses that thru d/s activities during the actual act itself.
honestly i think that if people are either born gay or straight…that the body is actually gay. the relationships i have with women are way more fulfilling and equal…where as with men…it is about power and sex and this need to be dominated. it makes me happy a the time (the actual act) but i wind up hating myself for it. and hating them. but this guy is different…he is jsut like the dad. so frigging pathetic. makes me want hurt him..
with the co-conciousness it is hard to tell who said that. who means it.
i am very open about everything in my world. protection from being hurt with secrets? so sorry if this is to explicit.
on USofT i really felt that the biggest problem is being created by tara’s denial. which i can relate to of course. sometimes i wish for amnesia walls. take over and give me a break from the constant committee.
when u said that people often imitate the abuse…that struck a chord. the concepts the body responds to sometimes. makes us want to shut down and never com back again.
it is aslo bad because this guy does NOT get kid insiders are kids even if in a grownup body.
i won’t talk about last nights ep yet. tho i am itching to. 🙂 thanks
maggie and victoria of The Maggie
yeah um this second episode was very triggering for us. mainly because of the DR. very scary. that’s all i can say and i can’t answer the questions at this point. but i can relate to tara in this situation. the thing was parts weren’t looking for someone. it was forced on them.