How Bottoming Helped Me Heal From Sexual Trauma

Healing from my sexual trauma looked like learning how to bottom. I hate limitations and labels, but for clarity purposes, when I say “top” or “dom/me,” I mean the person making things happen and calling the shots, and when I say “bottom,” I mean the person who has surrendered to an experience.

My sexual trauma happened before I was sexually active, and by the time I started having sex regularly, I was discovering a lot of things about myself that were unconventional. I’m very shy when dating, but I’ve never been shy sexually — and I usually feel the most comfortable when I top. Friends and lovers have expected me, tender and soft as I am, to be a bottom. But, no — I enjoy dominating. I took a class on rope tying. I enjoy making people beg. It feels good to be the one who can choreograph, decide all the moves.

I appreciated having a partner who could surrender to the experience. That’s how I became interested in trying bottoming myself — it felt like the last piece in letting go of my sexual trauma and the ways it overshadowed my experiences with sex.

At this point, I was still working through vaginismus caused by religious and sexual trauma (I’m fully cured now! Thank you, redditors on r/vaginismus!), so most of my early bottoming experiences were non-penetrative. I did feel broken at times. I felt a lot of shame about my vaginismus and wondered if there was a whole world of pleasure I was missing out on. Now I feel grateful for that period of my life, because it deepend my understanding of sex and intimacy. I learned to use toys and whips and had fun with power dynamics and role play. I became more sensitive to textures and sensations.

Part of why I couldn’t be penetrated — and I didn’t know it at the time — was because I didn’t let myself need anyone. I had to learn how to feel safe in the world in order to bottom.

For me, surrender is healing.

Music has always made me feel safe. Music can completely change the vibe of a room. The right song can trigger a certain memory that changes your inner workings, both spiritually and physically. So I listened to as much thirsty music as I could, surprised at how I related. I didn’t just feel sexual feelings — I also felt deep love and safety.

The playlist I made that took me to this place of surrender was called “Music for Toxic Bottoms.” I’d spent my teenage years studying my parents’ fraught marriage and reading the best books on integrity, boundaries, and codependency to eliminate any toxicity in myself. But through this intense process, I think I lost some of my organicness, some of my truth, some of my freedom. I needed to let myself be “toxic” to heal, and for me, that looked like allowing myself to make mistakes and be human. I learned how to face my messiness and its consequences.

Letting myself be less than perfect felt liberating. It helped me release the harmful black and white morality of Christianity and immigrant culture, especially around love and sex. It helped me be proud of myself, even when I’m not perfect or “pure.” It helped me receive my own self — my shadow, my neediness — and integrate that dark self within my whole self.

As I continued to practice bottoming, my bottom identity also manifested in my friendships — not through sex, but through letting myself ask my friends for more, knowing they would be there for me and not let me down. I learned that for me, my (cue Marvin Gaye) sexual healing could only happen in the presence of others, whether they’re friends or lovers. I feel incredibly grateful to have learned that if we were traumatized by other people, it only makes sense that healing happens with other people, too.

Today, I don’t know if I consider myself a bottom. I’m very much a switch and fluid and enjoy being with someone who can also shift energy. But my experience with bottoming helped open up a whole world inside me, one that was waiting for me to feel safe enough to find it.

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Stuti Sharma is a stand up comedian, poet, and photographer based in Chicago. She ran an after school program for immigrant youth in Chicago's Devon neighborhood, was a Tin House 2020 participant, and has work published in Mason Jar Press and Belt Publishing's Chicago Neighborhood Guidebook. You can find her in the forests of Illinois or only eating at restaurants where the cooks facetime family. Follow her work at

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  1. “I feel incredibly grateful to have learned that if we were traumatized by other people, it only makes sense that healing happens with other people, too.”
    My religious trauma around sex and gender looms larger than I’d like, but so grateful we have such tender communities for healing. Thank you for this gorgeous, vulnerable writing

    • Aw thank you so much for reading and for liking the playlist!

      Great question! Off the top of my head, I’m going to recommend mostly novels instead of self-help books, because I believe that novels and poems can cover the complexity of the human experience and the longing towards healing a little better than regular old self help books.

      1. Beloved by Toni Morrison
      2. The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
      3. Being in Your Body: A Journal for Self-Love and Body Positivity by Fariha Róisín
      4. Recovery of Your Inner Child by Lucia Capacchione
      5. Like a Bird by Fariha Róisín
      6. Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar
      7. The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie

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