These are quite common. If you know that your friend has had a bad sexual experience or sexual difficulties, it could be anything from discomfort, arousal and performance problems right through to coercion and sexual abuse (refer to Abuse section), then the best thing is to allow them to talk about it – if that is what they wish to do. It is a good idea to remember a few things.
- Listen – this is a generous and considerate thing to do! Think about how uncomfortable it might be talking about such a topic and the courage and trust they have in you by speaking to you about it.
- Don’t jump in and make suggestions too early, wait and see if they ask for advice.
- Try not to do the ‘pity’ talk – e.g. “Oh that is terrible!” – this can trivialise the situation, stop them from talking and make them feel worse.
- If you do feel that you can make a reasonable suggestion maybe preface it with something like, “I don’t know if this works for everyone, but I’ve heard that ……….. can help people with this problem”.
If you feel that it is having a significant impact on them then you might be able to suggest that they seek some professional help from someone who understands the issues and can help them work through the effects that it is having on their life. You could even see a GP about this. You could help them to make an appointment.
If your friend is in a situation where there is current or very recent sexual abuse then the prime concern is their safety. Refer to the section on Abuse.