Why Katniss and Peeta probably had great sex…but it took them a hella long time to get there.
I’ve been seeing some interesting posts speculating on Katniss and Peeta’s sex lives after the horrific events of the Hunger Games and the Revolution. Some opinions go from they had NO sex life at all until Katniss decided to make babies to THEY GO AT IT LIKE WILD MAMMALS (muttpeeta has promised us a delectable one-shot on this point :D). And let’s face it, while a good hunk of our fanfiction is dedicated to looking at their sexuality in GREAT detail, much of it is wish fulfillment (myself included). Because the truth is, we want our babies to ride the waves of orgasmic glory to infinity because they’ve been through so much and doesn’t Everlark deserve a little happiness, in the end?
But research in to combat PTSD shows that, while veterans and those traumatized by torture and violence can come to have meaningful and fulfilling sex lives, it takes a lot of therapy and time to reach that end. And we are dealing with TWO combat veterans, and, if it’s true what some of you speculated, which is that Peeta was sexually assaulted in captivity (I don’t really share that opinion but who cares, since there’s no support in either direction), we are talking about some serious psychological hurdles for our beloved couple to overcome.
Together with my friend loudman1, who actually treats combat veterans with PTSD in his practice, we discussed some of the issues and looked at the facts.
First of all, let’s just establish that not everyone develops PTSD as a result of their experiences. Those of us who argue that Peeta may be less likely to develop it than Katniss are not too far from what the data supports, given his upbringing and his character, as well as his gender and the nature of his traumas (his torture, being a largely imaginary condition invented by the author, and therefore nearly impossible to quantify in terms of long term trauma). Because he is the symbol of hope and recovery, the “dandelion in spring,” it is implied that his recovery and optimism are the foundations of Katniss’ recovery. That is not to say he is trauma-free. Collins wants us to understand that he does experience the negative effects of his experiences (”There are still moments when he clutches the back of a chair and hangs on until the flashbacks are over”). But it is highly unlikely that he has PTSD to the degree Katniss has.
loudman1 also made some interesting points on Peeta’s innate optimism and Learned Optimism that I’ll let him elaborate on at his leisure.
Even if the novels did not give us clear and compelling evidence that Katniss suffers from both combat PTSD and depression, her life experiences and those of the war virtually guarantee that she will be a sufferer of PTSD. I won’t go through all of the indicators but here is a link that discusses how some individuals are more likely than others to develop PTSD. She has a several of the indicators on the list, including her age, gender, the fact that she has experienced trauma in the past, a family history of mental illness and the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one (or loved ones in her case).
The ramifications on intimacy and sexuality for suffers of PTSD are multiple. The very numbing that victims of PTSD experience, their inability to manage very intense emotional experiences without relapsing into flashbacks, make navigating intimate situations very difficult. But it is possible. This link here discusses some of the symptoms and treatments of sexual dysfunction that combat veterans may face in dealing with issues of intimacies and this link here addresses the specific challenges of female combat veterans.
It is likely that Katniss experiences emotional numbing, withdrawal and a repression of her libido. She likely has issues of low self-worth, compromised body issues resulting from her scarring and difficulties dealing with powerful emotions, including the intensity and vulnerability that accompanies expressing her sexuality in an intimate relationship. If she is taking antidepressants or seratonin inducing medication, her libido will also be compromised. And if Peeta really was sexually molested/attacked/raped in captivity, he may also experience repressed libido and erectile dysfunction as a result of those traumas.
The fact is, if we look at Katniss and Peeta’s relationship with an eye towards realism, they will have had so much to overcome. They will likely have a long courtship, full of friendship and intimacy-building facilitated by therapy, medication, their shared experiences and their profound affection for each other. They would have had a progression in their physical relationship, beginning with touching, kissing, moving onto oral sex before actual consummation. This requires communication and a good sense of humor in most cases. They may have not discussed the war and their traumas right away, choosing a quiet life of routines before they moved to the stage where they could begin to process their losses using the memory book.
Eventually, after twenty years, when we catch up to Katniss and Peeta and their children in the meadow, Katniss is finally able to recount her experiences, as she does through the trilogy (many critics have described The Hunger Games as a survivor story, given the first person narration technique and the didactic message at the end of the trilogy). By this time, they’ve done the hard work of picking up the pieces of their lives and building something lasting and enduring, a monument to their resilience as survivors.
But make no mistake. They probably took a long time to really get to a place of intimacy. It was probably a lot of two steps forward, one step back. Periods of depression and numbness, lots of therapy and patience as they struggled against the weight of their experiences. But they do it. They build a life. And it’s a good one.
And finally, after all that, I’ll bet my hat that, at some point, they finally allowed themselves to explore their sexuality with abandon, in an environment of trust and love. In my headcannon, I’d like to think that Haymitch had the good sense to shut his windows because that must have been one helluva noisy summer!
Thanks for reading!
This post and the subsequent one-shot based on this research is dedicated to my friend, loudman1, who has tolerated the flurry of emails as we talked through these issues and lent me his expertise in the writing of this post.