In honor of the long road of my sexual life, I’m reflecting today on how it was to make that first decision about sexual engagement, and how it is as a sexual being 27 years later.
Last Friday night, my friends and I offered “Black Velvet.” This was an intentional experiment in what happens to our physical attractions, erotic engagement and sexual behavior when we enter a completely dark space. What happens if we have an hour and a half to do anything we want, as long as we obtain consent from our partners? In the numerous conversations and emails that have occurred in the days following, I have learned that setting down our sexual baggage both is and is not an easy thing to do.
When I first made the decision to become sexual, it was about a year after I had visited Planned Parenthood for the first time. At 14, my friend and I made appointments, without telling our parents, to have pelvic exams and to start on birth control pills. I remember being so terrified of pregnancy, and so terrified of my own sexuality, that going on the pill preemptively seemed like a wise, mature choice. Even in light of my current concerns about the effects of hormones on developing sexualities, I stand by that choice and have great respect for PP to this day. I remember taking my first peach colored pill, and realizing that I was taking my sexual power into my own hands.
Friday night, when I entered into the black velvet darkness, I had a similar sense. This was about my sexual power, my way. I had no fear about being in that space, as I trust my own boundaries, and even more, I trust in my ability to recover from breaches to my boundaries. No matter what could have happened, I felt secure in knowing that I could eventually handle it.
When I met Terry, first real intimate love of my life, we decided that we would have sex together, and share the loss of our virginity. We set a date, wrote a contract, talked about how it would be, and what we wanted. I don’t know where the consciousness came from, because certainly no one in either of our families had helped to guide us, but there it was. We both wanted a connected, playful, supportive and joyous experience. We both wanted a space free of gender obligations. We both wanted creativity and exploration. We both wanted something meaningful. And that is what we created for ourselves.
It strikes me that in crafting the Black Velvet space, how strongly these principles from my earliest sexual encounters continue to shape my values around sexuality. Conscious exploration and experimentation are the premises on which Black Velvet rested. Freedom from gender assumptions was a dearly-held desire. Play, connection, joy and support were all ingredients we stirred into that cauldron.
The experiment that was Black Velvet was so many things, to so many people.
I’ll only speak here from my own experience, although I’ve been collecting data from others. What I am able to say is a common thread I’ve heard in reflections: how difficult it was to leave assumptions at the door. Whether it was feeling excluded from a dyad already in progress, or concern about violating someone’s boundaries, or an unease about not knowing someone’s gender or queerness factor, our fears, assumptions, beliefs and stories make it very difficult for us to have a pure experience.
I think back to October 28, 1986, and to the purity of the encounter I had with Terry. Joy and connection. The utterly astonishing feel of someone’s naked chest against mine. The pain at the most gentle of penetration. The exhilaration of finally opening my body to someone I loved. The pride that I had done it in the way I wanted, with the person I wanted, and not drunk at some party. The sadness, knowing something was forever altered inside… not having grown into something yet that clearly had a vast and limitless potential. The not knowing how to operate the parts, the bits, and yet feeling at the same time the exact knowing of how it all worked. The vulnerability of showing my arousal, my desire, my pleasure. The rawness of naked skin, exposed genitals, and bared heart.
Contrasting these feelings to Black Velvet, I see the effects of 27 years of sexual exploration with myself and others. I know how to operate the bits. I know how to touch, and listen with my being. I now know a lot about pleasure, connection, and sex.
My encounters in the dark were both fulfilling and unsatiating. I loved being able to touch people, without knowing who they were, or what they wanted, and having to trust my own desire as a barometer, as well as trust that they would uphold any boundaries. Loved it, and found it completely challenging. Hearing fucking and slurping noises, moans and what sounded like orgasmic moments made me feel surprisingly tender, and not erotic. I loved being playfully grabbed and roughly pulled, and being slowly seduced into a full body encounter.
That evening, after Terry and I made love for the first time, I felt full of meaning. I felt like I had the most beautiful secret in the world. Feeling the rawness between my legs was like a prize… the deep ache inside made me feel grown up, in love, and powerful. It was less about my connection with Terry, and more about validating a deep unseen source of power, almost completely unexplored. It’s like when you venture into something just enough to realize the magnitude of what could potentially be possible.
Black Velvet was also like that. Having had it once, I want it more and more. I want to push more into that womb-like chamber, penetrate more deeply into the folds of its mysteries. I want to know my assumptions, my filters, my lenses. I want to know the way trauma informs my judgmental self. I burn to understand sex that is purely about physical connection. I am intrigued to comprehend how two people can be in an experience and have completely different realities.
Terry is still so dear to me to this day. Our sweet, queer explorations set a course of supportive experimentation which clearly I hold as a deep value. How completely beautiful it is to me that on some level, my 15-year-old self recognized what my 42-year-old self would want and need.
The most important revelation from the Black Velvet space is about time magick. The potent knowing that this self, right now, is setting the stage for what my sexual self will want and need, far into the future. Possibly 27 years in the future. I am so grateful for the journey, the road, the hurts and harms and healings. I am so grateful for the pleasure, the breathe, the community. Our sexual healing begins the moment we step into it, no matter how trepidatious or cautious we are. Thank you Terry. Thank you Black Velvet. And Thank you Pavini.
As the soundtrack ended, and the sounds around me in that black velvet space gentled and slowed, one of my fellow organizers spoke a benediction. They blessed our work, and our play. They reminded us that sexual exploration is our birthright. That while it may be up to us and us alone, it is indeed possible for us to create these spaces for ourselves to deepen our experience as erotic beings. And sometimes it requires stepping into our own darkness, our own black velvet, to reach deeply for healing, truth, and liberation.
One of our feedback questions from the experience was about erotic experiments, and what ideas participants have for events they would like to see happen. If you have an idea, please drop a comment below or email me. Happy Samhain!