Self-harm is not unheard of, nor is it uncommon. However, what we think of self harm to be can sometimes be limited to a small spectrum. I know for many years, I thought of self-harm to only be the act of physically inflicting pain on yourself, usually by cutting. In fact, it's defined by Wikipedia as "the intentional, direct injuring of body tissue done without suicidal intentions. The term self-harm means the same as self-injury." However, now, I'm not sure if I believe it's that simple.
While I have never actually self injured myself by cutting, I have friends that have. They describe cutting themselves as a way to channel their pain into something else. The temporary pain of the cutting takes their focus away from the pain that they are dealing with in their life. It's a temporary fix for a bigger issue.
A temporary fix for a bigger issue.
This definition of self-harm versus the textbook definition got me thinking. How often do we do things that will satisfy us temporarily in order to take focus from a bigger, underlying problem? I believe many things can be a means of self-harm if you look at it from that angle. Two common methods being drugs and alcohol. I've personally used food to self-harm for many years. Binge eating, using gluttony to take my mind off of what was really bothering me. There are many methods of self harm, it's almost like "pick your poison." However, there's one method that I don't think gets enough attention:
Casual sex as a means of self harm.
Now, that's not to say that sexual liberation is automatically equivalent to self harm. There are men and women who live sexually liberated lives and that's just it. However, what I think the difference is, is that sexually liberated people have sex because they enjoy it and they receive some type of fulfillment.
We move into an area of self harm when sex is no longer necessarily enjoyable nor fulfilling, yet it is a constant.
If something drains you and leaves you feeling empty, why would you continue to do it? Is it to punish yourself, or is it because you think that's what you deserve? Looking at it from a different angle, let's say you do enjoy the sex while it's happening, but afterwards you still feel unfulfilled and alone. The pleasure is temporary, the emptiness remains. The temporary fix of an orgasm will not change the underlying problem. So then, wouldn't casual sex do more harm than good?
Being in college, I've had the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. There are so many different people with different personalities. I know every campus has the party people— the life of the party, the wild one. They tell you all their crazy stories, and you think they're having fun. Maybe they are, but sometimes it's just the persona they've taken on. If you really ask them, they don't even enjoy it that much, if at all. I know because I've been that person. I've had friends who were that person.
Perhaps, you're not that person. You don't often contribute to any crazy stories, and you're a wallflower at a party if you even decide to go. Still you look for the temporary fix, and no one would ever know. Still, you're left empty.
It's easy to look at someone who cuts themselves or any other form of self mutilation, and wonder why would they do that to themselves? Why would they continue to hurt themselves? But the same can be said about casual sex. I just hope more exploration will be done on the topic.
I wish I had a conclusion. I wish I could say "here's what you need to do to and things will be all better," but I can't. With any form of self harm, it takes time to heal, or even stop. There's never a guarantee. What I can say is take time for self care. Instead of punishing yourself and looking for temporary fixes, find out what makes you happy. Find out what makes you feel fulfilled. Self love doesn't come over night, I'm still learning to love myself. Everyday is a struggle. Just remember that you are created to love and be loved, so why not start with yourself?