In these times, more than ever, our practices become what sustain and nourish our resiliency and our capacity to resist, without collapsing from fatigue. Our practices are our freedom; we choose where we place our valuable attention. Through practice, we become the artists of our own lives, refusing to subsist only on a diet of despair and powerlessness, instead practicing what deeply feeds us; joy, kindness, forgiveness, boundaries, pleasure.
Consciously choosing what we practice is how we liberate our lives, personally and collectively, from the tyranny of the over culture. It is my professional opinion that making certain our bodies are feeling pleasure is a radical act of resistance, and a necessary act of self-care.
Sexual liberation can be understood not as a state, but as a series of practices. Practices which support the commitment to freedom in one’s body, on one’s own terms. Choosing the erotic as a path to freedom takes tremendous courage, willingness to resist most of what you are told you should and should not do, feel, know and experience as a sexual being. Erotically liberating practices are countless, and wonderfully diverse; if the path of the erotic calls to you, choose one practice and follow it with avid curiosity as you discover what is true for you.
Here are five practices of sexual liberation, created for your delight and reflection. One does not need to do all, or any, of these practices while pursuing freedom. Any practice (no matter how small) repeated over time, can lead to big changes in your sexual freedom.
I do not invoke sexual liberation lightly; I understand that it is the path for some, and not all, and also timing is key. No judgement if this is not your path, or not your path right now. No judgement that the erotic is the best path. As Rumi wrote, “there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” But if practicing sexual liberation supports your wellness, my blessings on your practices!
Without further ado, practices that support Sexual Liberation.
Shamelessness: the practice of desiring, touching, and communicating with innocent abandon. Throwing off the repressive yoke of shame to embrace an inner attitude of freedom. How to practice: Notice when shame arrives knocking at the door. Usually, shame is attempting to control our speech, actions or requests. Once you notice that shame is in the house, imagine throwing it off of you. Shake yourself free (metaphorically, and even physically), take a big breath, and do or say the thing. You can name that you are feeling shame, and acting anyway. By practicing shamelessness, we free ourselves of the constriction of shame.
Lustiness: the practice of commitment to experience the world through the lens of lusty vigor. How to practice: Notice during the day when you have sexual feelings or thought. Perhaps someone hot crosses in front of you when you are stopped at a red light. Perhaps you wake feeling aroused. Once you notice the erotic stirring within you, bring your breath to it. Breathe into the feeling, and see if it wants to expand a little bit in your body. Allow yourself to slip into feeling lascivious. Instead of stopping lust when it happens, follow it for awhile and see where it leads.
Permission: the practice of wanting what I want. Allowing the space in my life to want new, surprising things. How to practice: To give yourself permission to do something, you have to first notice when desire for something arises. Perhaps the impulse towards something you want is quite brief, and the inhibition of the impulse occurs almost immediately. Start by paying attention to those small desires, those moments where your desire surprises you. Notice what happens in your body when your impulse, and then inhibition, arise. Now experiment with telling yourself you can have whatever it is, if you really want it. Notice what happens in your body when you do that! If what you want is within the realm of harming none, and brings you pleasure, try actually following through on giving yourself permission.
Celebration: the practice of celebrating sex, your body, body diversity by cultivating an attitude of raunchy joy, loud and raucous praise for the sensual and the sexual, and lip-smacking wonder and delight. How to practice: Savoring and Celebrating both require your attention. Talking with friends about the great sex you had last night, or praising your lover’s many delights out loud to them. You can cultivate gratitude for your erotic encounters, and remember them with relish and in detail in the day or so after they finish.
Erotic Self-confidence: the practice of moving your body and making moves on your playmate without fear of rejection. How to practice: Athletes often use the power of their imagination to practice winning the game or meet. They go into great detail, forming a neural pathway in their brain that has already HAD the experience they are preparing for. Erotic self-confidence is similar. You can practice ahead of time, in your imagination. Of course, an erotic encounter will go how it goes, but preparing your brain for a confident experience will help. Another part of practicing erotic self-confidence involves practicing feeling confident. This can be in any situation. You tune your internal channel to the “I am a sexy, confident beast.” And you practice feeling that, and believing it is true.
Choose one of these practice and try it out, if it brings you joy. Explore it to the edge. The practices of Sexual Liberation call you home, set you free, and nourish the revolution.
I’d love to hear about your erotic practices. What works? What have you explored? How does your erotic practice nourish you? Please leave a comment below! It makes me happy to hear from you.
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It’s good to talk about the nuances of a pleasure revolution, in particular for those of us with sexual trauma.
And yet pleasure can be complicated. Or maybe it always is.
What is pleasure? How do you know it when you feel it? What’s your capacity for staying with it? Can you bear it for hours? Do you let pleasure absorb deeply inside you, defining your embodied existence? Does pleasure validate your worthiness? Or, like most of us, do you gulp down the delicious meal, rush towards orgasm, or in other ways try to escape from feeling sustained pleasure?
I work with many folks with sexual trauma. I struggle to not let their heartbreaking stories become my normal; to allow myself to feel the impact of each and every violation of each client, without becoming swamped in despair.
The suck-ass truth is that for those of us with sexual trauma, we bear the burden of working through it. It’s not fair. It’s so not fair. And yet, without our own personal work navigating towards sexual freedom, we remain stuck in a sexuality that is not our full expression. And this is of course an okay choice, but it is not the one I nor my clients are making. We want pleasure.
I sit with my clients through the weeks and months and sometimes years as they fight for their right to feel pleasure, and as they build their capacity to stay with it
While listening, it raised a question I’ve been feeling into ever since. What is it to live in the world, completely dedicated to expressing the thing you are here to express? To give yourself completely to that thing? That even trembling with fear, flooded with overwhelm and suffering pain you just throw yourself into yourself, and pour yourself out again? To allow inspiration to have its way with you, and to focus focus focus your expression in the way that only you could ever do?
I am committed to developing my full erotic expression in this lifetime. There are moments when I am able to allow pleasure to completely ride me, moments when my body exists inside of me!
But more often are the complicated pleasure moments. The times I’m using my strategies to stay present, to explore what’s possible in this body in this moment. The days where my libido caught a train to Detroit, or I’m distracted by the books I need to read for my lit review. Or I’d rather just get off quick and nap, than do the work of feeling deep pleasure.
My erotic practice is about practice. My erotic practice is about Practice. Like learning to shape a voice made for rock and roll, or hone muscles that can powerlift heavy weight, or learning the art of feeling the trauma of my clients and letting it move through me instead of getting stuck, I am devoted to my art of subtle, nuanced erotic feeling.
This is my pleasure revolution; to develop sensitivity to sensation, to develop the capacity for feeling, in the face of trauma that says ‘No, don’t feel. You don’t deserve it!’ or ‘It’s not safe to feel that!’
Through practice I’ve learned to fuck harder when shame strikes. To remain soft and open to receiving pleasurable touch when tears come. To speak hard-to-say truths in the middle of beautiful moments. To continue erotic energy when my partner is triggered. To receive erotic energy while I’m triggered. To pause, reset, and continue. To explore how to hold pleasure for a long, long time, through all the bullshit that comes up.
Almost all of my clients long for easy pleasure. Pleasure without tears at the end, or having to stop in the middle. Pleasure that doesn’t require explaining to one’s partner that the reason they can’t touch your left thigh has nothing to do with them, but could they please try and not? Pleasure that is just simple. However, that’s not the hand they are holding. Instead , erotic expression involves work and practice and willingness to experience the grief/rage/anger/sadness/numbness, again and again beyond boredom, ad nauseum. Trauma legacy.
And yet. I’m not totally convinced that complicated, hard-earned pleasure isn’t just a tiny bit more worthwhile. I’m not actually convinced that ‘easy pleasure’ and ‘deep pleasure’ ever coexist. It’s a revolution because it’s an overturning of the false dichotomy of the ‘haves’ who get pleasure and the ‘have-nots’ who don’t. Pleasure for the People! Committing to full erotic expression after trauma is a seizing of personal power in the face of hegemony and shame.
That said, choosing full erotic expression as a trauma survivor takes the time it takes, and maybe that time is never. I’m not the pleasure police. It is a valid choice to focus self-expression in totally different arenas. There is no ‘should’ about feeling anything. Just choices about where we choose to place the limited resource of our attention. Living a life of hedonism and pleasure happens to be where I choose to rebel in the face of my trauma and upbringing.
Would I have committed my life to this personal and professional exploration of reclaiming pleasure without sexual trauma? I’ll never know, but I doubt it. My pleasure is earned, hard-won. It’s my art. It’s my practice. It’s my connection with self and partner and the Divine.
And truly, not today, but some days, pleasure really is effortless
If this speaks to you, please leave a comment below.
Last week, I suggested to my partner that they take a shower because I wanted to have sex before we went to sleep. Ari was tired, had to get up early, and was a bit resistant to my suggestion. I sidled up to him, all rubby-rubby-kissy-breathy and said that I believed he could find his way into feeling erotic with a little help. I wanted sex, after all. After a few minutes of this, he finally got up to take a shower, and as I lay in bed waiting for him, I realized that maybe my gentle pressure which I was framing as seduction wasn’t actually acknowledging his “no.”
When he returned, I asked him verbally if I had his consent to continue, and he said an enthusiastic “yes.” When I thought about this encounter later, I realized that a few years ago, I would have accepted his getting up as a tacit yes, and not worried too much about issues of consent. But because he’s been working hard at finding “no” and I’m working hard at listening for it, things are different now.
However, it made me realize how easy it is to assume consent, especially in a primary long-term-relationship. How easy it would be to violate boundaries, if I wasn’t carefully seeking them. How often I have probably assumed consent in the past, in absence of a verbal “no.” If it’s not a hard ‘no’ then it must be a ‘yes,’ right? It’s not violation if I participated, right?
Throughout our lives, I imagine that most of us have encounters we may later question. Did I consent? Did I get full consent? Because we’re not always clear what we want or what we don’t want, sometimes defining what was sexual violation, both for survivors and for perpetrators, can be murky. Our bodies can register trauma, even if our brains do not.
Recently, I’ve been exploring ancestral connections as a source of embodied wisdom and support, in particular how ancestors can inform resiliency and healing from sexual trauma, in individuals and in communities.
My ancestral research is ultimately in service of my dissertation. I’ve researched my own genealogy, scouring old records for information about my queer ancestors. I’ve attended family constellation workshops, read tons of books, and have been working to develop relationships with particular queer and trans ancestors (trancestors) in the creation of my new endeavor, The Embodiment Arts Collective.
Outside my office there are framed pictures of nine people who have passed through the veil, who were queer and trans rights and/or sexual liberation activists during their lives: Harvey Milk, James Broughton, Sylvia Rivera, Lou Sullivan, Alice B. Toklas, Leslie Feinberg, Larry Mitchell, Del Martin, and Chester Mainard. Each day I sing, pray, light candles, burn incense and talk to these fierce renegades who committed their lives to their passions.
Through developing these relationships with these particular ancestors, my goal is to create a container for healing for my clients here at EAC, that is supported by the physical, (space) the professional (my training) and the energetic (the unseen realms.) Okay, before you think I’ve been living in California WAYYYY too long, hear me out.
What are ancestors? Many cultures and traditions hold relationship with the dead as a crucial source of wisdom and knowledge. These are not traditions that I have learned as I grew up a white person of European descent, although I am convinced that ancestor worship is indeed a lost body of knowledge that my blood ancestors did participate in. Because it is lost, I am instead having to seek out resources and learning from outside sources, as well as listening deeply to my own intuition.
In the ways I am coming to understand matters of spirits, not all dead become ancestors. In order to become an ancestor, that person must be properly mourned at their death. They must also wish to return as a helpful guide, and have cleaned up any messes they made in their lives that “stick” to their spirit. Having been sexually violent is one such thing that can stick.
As soon as one steps foot into queer community, the impact of invisible yet culturally-sanctioned sexual violence and the ramifications of sexual trauma on the fabric of relationships and communities are striking.
For example, I hear frequently from my clients about sex they have had in the past that they weren’t totally into, but going along with it was the easier thing to do in the moment, for a host of reasons. What about the other person in this situation, the one that they’ve had sex with, who assumed consent? Does this make them sexual perpetrators? I’m starting to believe that since we live in a sexually violent culture, we all internalize some degree of sex as violence.
Just as in dominant culture, the same systemic oppressions of sexuality show up in queer culture. Butch-Femme violence. Fag misogyny. Violations of non-verbal consent in gay male cruising culture. Femme phobia. Slut-shaming. Unwelcome touch or verbal comments in environments designed for sexual exploration. Coercive sexual encounters between folks of all genders and orientations. As in my example above with my partner, sometimes situations that seem innocuous can contain subtle variations of consent violations that surprise us.
Another rift in the fabric of connection that I witness in some of my clients is how hard it can be to actually have physical intimacy and emotional intimacy with another person. When we have sexual experiences that we don’t want (whether we consent or not) trauma can get caught in our bodies, and manifest months, years, decades later when we try to connect intimately.
Sex and intimacy can become divorced from each other. Triggers around sex can yank us out of the present moment, and hurl us willy-nilly into feeling unsafe, terrified, frozen, furious. We can forget that the person we are with currently is not the person with whom those past experiences happened, and turn our blame onto our new partner.
The “trigger warnings” that are popping up on Facebook messages, email lists, social media are indicators of how close to the surface trauma resides, and to what lengths we will go to avoid feeling the feelings of helplessness and despair it engenders. Collective trauma is an ever-present reality.
Moving through the trauma that we hold individually and in community requires resiliency skills. How can sexual wounds of the living and the dead in our communities be healed? What is the role of the dead in supporting the living as we do our healing work?
So many questions!
- How can I (we) turn to the dead as a source of support for my (our) life and work?
- How can those who have passed help heal the wounds of sexual violation and trauma?
- How can those who have passed, and who committed sexual violation during their lifetimes, atone for their actions in a way that beneficially serves the present and future?
- How can sex-radical queers who have become allied ancestors be called on to support sexual healing for living queers?
- What impact does healing ancestral trauma caused by sexual violation have on current and future generations?
Samhain is a traditional Pagan holiday (also called “Halloween”) when the beloved dead are honored and remembered. Witches say “What is remembered, lives.” This year, in observance of Samhain, I am hosting an erotic ritual. Attendees are in full consent about their participation. The intention of this ritual is to raise erotic energy, and gift it to our dead and to our ancestors, those who wish to heal, and those that offer their support. If you feel called to this, drop me an email and I’ll let you know more.
I’ll be writing more on ancestral sexual connections in the weeks that follow.
Can you welcome yourself home to your sweet body?
2015 has been an ass-kicking year, for me and for many folks I know. “Relentless” is the word a friend used recently. When life is hard, and every day is a struggle just to get through, sexuality often gets relegated to the back burner. Our attention is scattered; our desire is seemingly non-existent. We may not think we have the time, energy or emotional bandwidth for deep erotic connection, with ourselves or others.
During these times, sex may be the last thing we want to do. Our masturbation becomes purely functional, or doesn’t happen at all. Actually living and feeling inside our bodies when we are suffering may be unbearable. And so we leave: we disassociate, check out, numb out, distract ourselves. We pretend that our sexuality isn’t hugely important. We forget.
While all of these coping strategies offer us the ability to just get through whatever the hard thing is, there is also a hidden somatic cost associated with them. The more we are absent from our own felt sense, our own sensations, the less we actually feel. Our capacity TO feel becomes limited. And even once the hard time has passed (as they always do) we are then left with diminished feeling and sensation. Joy becomes something that others feel, not us. Pleasure is elusive.
I’m curious about a loving cultural reframe. What if we experienced our bodies as a refuge? What if our sense of safety was held within, and we could choose to find a sense of embrace inside? What if sexuality was a space of home, of welcome? If we could nourish our hearts through feeling pleasure? What if, when our hearts were bruised and tired, we brought loving touch to ourselves?
Trauma tells us that we are broken beyond repair. That we are unworthy of love and pleasure. That the only safety is somewhere else, never here, now. Trauma tells us that suffering is our due, that swimming and muddling through the quagmire of our brokenness is the ‘real’ work. We believe we just can’t get this body thing right. This is not the way things are supposed to be. We are not damaged goods.
Who or what is served by all of your struggles against embodiment?
Imagine for a moment if there was a small dial, behind your left ear. You could just reach up, and change that channel of loyal suffering. Instead, you could choose the channel “I live in this body. It is my home.” And when things get so fucked up and hurty, and you are overwhelmed with it all, you find your fingers, rising of their own accord to that tiny place. Suddenly, breath fills your lungs, your belly. Your awareness drops down through the tissues and organs of your body. You feel your sex, resting and open and alive.
Your hands move down your body and find the places you know well, or the places you are only now discovering. The secret places of joy, where your body belongs to you and you alone. And your touch is that of an old, familiar lover, bringing care and adoration.
Is sexual liberation possible in this lifetime? Yes. If I commit myself to its practice, each and every day. If, when I forget my true work of freeing myself from all of my internalized oppression, I remember to touch myself and whisper “I am worthy of my love” and “I am safe in here.”
What do you think? If you’re curious about these ideas, please leave a comment below.
“What are you flagging?” Sie asks.
I follow hir green eyes down to the matching green bandana hanging off my belt. I’ve been camping for days on the gentle land of southwest Washington state, without giving a thought to the queer hanky code that relies on colored bandanas in one’s back pocket to signify sexual availability.
“Um, flagging pee rag?” I try for a mix of affronting honesty with irreverent humor to cover up the shame I feel at being caught un-queerly unaware.
“Daddy.” Sie says confidently. “You’re flagging Daddy. And receiving.”
The amount of math I do in the next half second is staggering. I’m flagging “receiving daddy.” This incredibly hot sexy genderqueer person just opened a door called “daddy” that I’ve been wanting to walk through for quite some time. Sie is a longtime friend, and I trust hir. We’re at an ecosexual convergence, deep in the woods, sitting at a picnic table with a bunch of folks who are exploring the lover relationship between Earth and self. I have permission from my primary partner to explore my erotic edges. I want Daddy. I want hir to be my daddy. I want to get fucked, in the woods, with hir as my Daddy. And it’s all possible, if I can just ask for it.
“Yeah, well, that’s interesting, isn’t it?” I stumble through the sentence, aware that the other four picnic-table sitters have gone quiet and are looking at me curiously. “So, I was wondering if you’d be down to fuck me?”
I can tell that sie is surprised, didn’t quite expect that full-on of a reach-around. It’s hir turn to do the math. I wait.
“Well. Hmm. That’s a thought.”
Not exactly the enthusiastic response that would set my pounding heart at ease, but not a cool brush off either.
Another beat. I wait until sie speaks. “What did you have in mind?”
And it’s on. We negotiate a scene for the next afternoon. I tell hir that I’ve never truly bottomed before, and that I want to be opened.
Truth, I’ve never been in a space where I’m not in control. I’ve been stone more times than I can remember. I’ve opened many people, had many hot erotic moments that I’ve driven. I’ve even surrendered to receiving pleasure from others many times. But this is different. This is turning over the power to another, someone I don’t know at all in their erotic personhood, someone who is powerful, fierce, ferocious. And definitely sadistic.
The next twenty-four hours pass slowly. I find myself excited by the ‘what-will-happen’ feeling. The winged insects are having a field day all over my inner landscape… it’s beyond butterflies into full on plague of locusts. I’m not scared exactly, I trust hir. I trust hir capacity to handle me, to be my Daddy.
When the time comes I’m showered and ready for our forest date, (which in the aftermath of a forest-floor fucking turns out to be kind of ridiculous.) We meet at lunch, and walk out among the Douglas Firs together, the unbelievable vanilla scent of the trees perfuming the warm Summer Solstice air. It’s the longest day of the year, and Daddy and I are going out under the trees to play.
I’ve brought the only thing I have to lay on, my lavender towel, which will become a sap-filled souvenir of “the time sie fucked me so hard I bled.”
Sie asks me to sit down. Tells me to call hir “Doctor.” Then tells me to remove my wife-beater, my belt. Sie wants it to be sexy. I get the unspoken subtext: this is not a strip-tease. Just be really hot for me, please.
I take off the thick black leather belt, and upon hir request, open my mouth to embrace the silver pentacle belt buckle. I’m not from Texas, but I know the importance of an oversize buckle. However, I pay the price for my cocky audacity when sie doesn’t just want me to tongue it, but wants me to receive the whole damn thing. I let the spit and drool roll out of my mouth, wanting to make apparent my commitment to abandon and submission.
“I don’t like pain,” I’ve told hir, and instead I’ve been told to be available for ‘sensation’ which may become more intense over time. Surprisingly, I am available. When sie pulls the dripping buckle from my mouth, the feeling of absence is an unexpected grief. Sie takes off my pants, and takes a long look. Sie tells me that sie likes my dick.
Without ado, Daddy begins to fuck me. Sie spits on my junk, and I feel the hotness of hir spit drip down between my legs. This is a fucking that will change my life, and I know it as I have it.
I’m sobbing. It’s profound gratitude for the queer labor of love we are both engaged in: this is work we can only do with each other in community. At first, sie is concerned and checking in, but I reassure hir that everything is so good, beyond good. That it is perfect and welcome and I want it all. My body turns and rises to meet this fucking, wanting every bit of hir inside of me.
My hands reach out and grasp the dirt, duff and detritus of the forest floor, pulling it into my fists to hold the fuck onto something, anything.
I call out to this doctor of love and redemption to make sure it is okay to touch hir back. I grab fistfuls of Daddy, brutally pulling hir to me again and again. I crawl into hir neck, kissing and nuzzling. Our mouths, come together open and wet. This surprises me, all the kissing. I tell hir I love hir, and I mean it, which also surprises me.
I begin to notice the sensation of deep relief. Beyond the pain and the filth, something inside of me feels so calm. To be the Doctor’s boy, to give myself to hir completely. Hir hand, dipping inside of me again and again begins to touch my heart. I move towards, rather than away from, the splitting pain of hir fist, creeping its way inside my cunt.
When I feel the tearing of my tender bits, there is a moment when I choose to find pleasure over discomfort. I choose the bright sensation, the ecstatic pulling and pulsing that is building in my dripping cunt, over the ripping and burning. Later, I will bleed. I will feel the dull ache of an empty lonely space inside of me, about the size of a fist. But for now I have it, hir fist, holding me firmly from the inside.
I call out to the trees, to the land. “Io Pan! Keeper of the woods and the beast of my body! Wild Love! Wild Love! Wild Love!”
I pray, and sie moans, “Here I am with you, praying. Here I am with you, inside your body, with you.” It’s the sweetest thing I’ve heard maybe ever. I’m not alone in my body. Daddy is here. Sie is here. We are together, sharing creation and prayer and song and delight, and my body is the container that is holding us.
The trees call back: “If you want wild love, practice feral sex.” Hir fist pounds into my battered front hole, again and again. Sie tells me how good I am at taking it, tells me I’m a champion for getting fisted for the first time, and bottoming for the first time, in plain sight of passer-bys to boot. When shame rises up, I fuck even harder. But really it is the Doctor who is my champion, championing my queer desire, my desire to fuck the shame and trauma away so that I can feel free.
Soon, I squirt and squirt all over hir hand. I am fucking crying praying squirting surrendering and time just stops. We both notice that it is 2:30 for a really long time. I want it to be over and I want it never to end. The only things I know in this singular moment are the trees swaying above me and the exact edge where they meet the blue sky, and this beautiful lover’s embrace that holds me tight right up against my pleasure and my pain.
I know I don’t want to get fucked like this every day. I can’t. And yet I need this. This is me getting fucked queer. This is me saying yes and allowing someone to fuck me in the way that SIE wants to fuck me. This is me, finding Divinity and Self and Home and World. This is mine.
There is mounting rhythm and pleasure. The Doctor’s not-quite-human face looms above me, gorgeous and open and brutal. I feel my orgasm approaching, and my eyes open wide and pour into hir ocean green gaze. Through my eyes I give every bit of my pleasure to this Daddy, my Daddy. I scream and come and shake, all at the same time. It goes on and on. From my healing heart, deep, wrenching sobs of joy and freedom.
And when the paroxysm of agonizing pleasure is finally done, and the sobs are quiet, the world is irrevocably different. I am the trees, I am this lover, I am this Earth and this sky. I am this everything. Love is so present in this moment: rough, raw violent love, love that has fucked me free.
I’m lying on my bed, legs spread, my lover’s mouth on my junk. And I’m not doing anything.
Not tensing, not thrusting, not helping, not wiggling, not desiring. I am simply being, while my body is stimulated and pleasured. The sensation is exquisite. The pleasure builds and builds. As it builds, I feel each tiny movement towards increase. Meaning, as the pleasure increases, there are moments where I crave MORE pleasure. I move my hips a tiny bit, pushing my bits against my lover’s tongue. Or I tense my PC muscles ever so slightly, to increase the sensation.
All of my attention is focused on my receiving practice. Can I be still and receive? Can I just receive? Each time I notice my miniscule attempts to increase pressure or stimulation, I relax again, and remember my intention to just simply be and receive.
Recently, I learn that the name for someone who allows themselves to receive is disparaging; ‘turtle lesbian’ or ‘pillow princess.’ I’m grateful that I don’t have this framework, and that my practice of receiving can be free from judgment.
I practice and practice receiving. I practice Erotic Being, without Erotic Doing.
In my practice, there are moments of epiphany. For example, I realize the vast distinction between placing my attention ON something (like my genitals) and placing my attention IN my genitals. The difference is so subtle, and yet tremendous; it’s about living, feeling and being inside of my experience. My consciousness can dwell in tissues other than my brain tissue.
An old friend asked, apropos of nothing, “How do you make good decisions?” and I answered that I’ve been feeling into my junk, more and more. When I listen to the truth that is spoken between my legs, my decisions are good ones. My body does not lie.
In order to have more of what I want in my life, my capacity for RECEIVING more of what I want must be increased. I must build the muscle of having, of receiving without doing. Erotic practice is the perfect place to build this capacity. I ask my friends, “How are you good at receiving?” via text. Some respond, befuddled. Two write back that they receive when they get massages from their partners. One person responded that they pay attention to what’s going on in their body when something is being offered, and notices how their body feels different when they are open to receiving and when they are not.
In the spirit of celebrating of Erotic Being-ness, what follow are some thoughts on receiving. (And what I mean is the practice of receiving things we WANT from the world, not getting all the stuff we don’t want or need.)
- Receiving is an art. If you want to learn to receive, conduct an Indiegogo campaign. Make it count, make it meaningful. Put something you love out into the world, and ask your people to support it. This is a terrifying practice, not for the meek or inexperienced in receiving. This will shine the light on ALL of the shit you have about wanting, asking, and receiving. There’s pretty much no place to hide.
- Receiving can be cultivated. I can rest back in my body, pay attention to meeting the world from my back, choose to open my shoulder muscles. The more I receive, the better I get at receiving.
- Resistance to a thriving receiving practice can hide out behind egalitarian concepts like “mutuality” and “reciprocity.” Meaning, I am only available to receive if I believe the giver is also getting value from me. We are all so fucked up when it comes to gifting and gift economies, that we sometimes greet gifts with suspicion. We carry a lot of baggage around gifts that came with obligation, gifts that we gave out of obligation, gifts that mean more than just a gift. I can deflect receiving by not simply accepting the gift/compliment/pleasure/promotion/support… I can be overly grateful, or grovel. Not great receiving.
- Receiving is an elevated form of connection. Babies are held in “receiving blankets.” Offices have reception rooms, and receptionists whose job it is to receive you when you arrive. Shipping and receiving. Receiving dock. Receiving lines. And of course, the Hebrew Kabbalah, “receiving.”
- Receiving meets the offering with a full body presence, and an open-hearted welcome.
- We could choose to pay more attention to how we receive. How we receive others: their ideas, their words, their feedback, their gifts, their gestures. How we receive ourselves: our stories, our wounds, our faults, our gifts and talents and joys.
When all is said and done, here’s what I think. Receiving, that gorgeous practice of receptivity, is hard work. It’s a special kind of doing-not-doing. When I am receiving, I am BEING receptive. And that is the erotic self I’m striving towards, these days; the one that can fully receive the pleasure that is offered to me.
If you liked reading this, I’d love to RECEIVE a comment from you below.
What are you thinking about during sex? How often do you share what you are actually thinking with your partners? How often does your mind wander? What does it wander to?
Today I’m writing about one of the most common complaints I hear in my practice: “I feel stuck in my head when I’m having sex!” Since this is so prevalent, is there a way to reframe this dilemma that would actually help us have better sex? What (and how) you think during sex can profoundly impact your sexual experience, including genital functioning (!) and if/how you orgasm.
A big part of erotic liberation is the ability to CHOOSE where you are placing your attention, and then to maintain it there. For example, I can choose to place my attention on the sensations that are happening in my body while I’m having sex.
You may not even realize that your mind is wandering during sex, because it happens so frequently. There are many distractions; it can be hard to give ourselves permission for the time it takes to have sex, to have sex even if all of the things on the to-do list aren’t crossed off. Fantasy can be a distraction, especially if one isn’t sharing what’s going on inside one’s head with one’s partner.
“In society’s rush to assure people that sexual fantasies are “normal”—meaning okay—we have lost sight of the fact that they can nonetheless interfere with intimacy during sex.” ~David Schnarch
If the ability to choose where we place our attention is a facet of liberation, then living and feeling inside one’s body as opposed to dwelling in one’s head is an emancipatory practice. In this way, sex is like meditation; bringing our attention back again and again to what is happening now; we are developing the capacity to be with ourselves and our sensations.
If you are like many people, you are greatly able to be with your suffering. We ruminate and worry, and think repeatedly of our troubles. Our capacity to be with our own pleasure is often much less developed. Staying with sensations that occur during sexual play without attempting to increase them is a challenge. We rush towards orgasm for so many reasons; habit and conditioning, fear that we won’t get there, unconscious desire for the intense feeling to be finished, unknown wish to retreat from the primal animal body back to the ‘safety’ of the thinking brain are just a few.
I am not advocating for backward growth away from the permission we have worked for to enjoy fantasy and porn. Instead, I take a stand for freedom through choice; meaning, I choose how I get turned on. I choose how long I hang out with my pleasure, and I choose to feel all the sensation that is available for me to feel.
All that said, you may want to know that there are different ways that folks connect with their sexy. Donald Mosher was a psychologist and sex researcher who developed a matrix of sexual engagement. His work is a constructed paradigm that can be overlaid your sexuality, to help you better understand how your mind influences your sexual experiences. Understanding how your sexual mind works can also help you navigate your sexual relationships with partners. Having language to put around experience makes it easier for partners to see how they are alike and how they differ when it comes to getting turned on and feeling pleasure.
Here’s how Mosher breaks it down:
Each person has a primary mode of accessing their arousal; through erotic trance, partner engagement or role play.
Each of these modes has an energetic tone, communication style, and physical technique. Your psychological preference determines your fantasies, your definition of hot sex, and the types of touch you like. While we each have a primary mode, these aren’t hard-and-fast definitions. Also, we can learn to access arousal through other modes with practice over time.
Erotic Trance focuses on body sensations. If you prefer this mode, you most likely prefer private sexual encounters with minimal distractions. You may prefer taking turns rather than mutual sexual contact. Even being asked a question about what you like may be quite distracting. You want to be able to focus on the experience, and not on communication. The normal world falls away. Fantasies are often wordless, just visual images or feelings. There are varying depths of erotic trance, and at the deepest level you lose awareness of everything except the sensations. You can experience erotic trance either as a giver or as a receiver.
Partner Engagement focuses on emotional connection with your partner. This is the sex we see in Hollywood movies. Affectionate sharing and mutual pleasure get you hot. Eye contact, verbal communication, full-body contact and face-to-face positions. Observing your partner become aroused arouses you, as does their pleasure. There are different levels of partner engagement that run a spectrum of experiences, from predatory to loving.
Role Play focuses on sex as a stage. Performative aspects are important, such as costumes, acting out fantasies, porn, online sex, props that are chosen for their appearance rather than for their sensation, visually interesting positions or settings. You like to become the role you are playing, and have the flexibility to step into many different sexual selves without shame shutting you down.
Considering which of these descriptions fits you and your partner/s the best gives you valuable information about the mental dimensions of how you access arousal. But the problem that many of my clients face is actually HOW to get into the body so that arousal and pleasure can happen. How can we practice embodiment?
We have all of the tools at our disposal. Breath is an important element. Paying attention to our breathing is a direct route to the body. Practicing bringing our attention back again and again as it wanders is an important skill. We know how to do this, even if it’s hard. So perhaps the real question is this: why is there often so much resistance to being in our bodies? Why do we struggle so with inhabiting our pleasure?
Does this question ring true for you? Instead of beating ourselves up with the “why,” perhaps it is enough to know that we do resist living fully in our bodies and our pleasure, and that we can choose to engage with ourselves gently here.
If indeed it is a goal to be able to get out of your head and into your body during sex, each sexual encounter becomes an opportunity to practice, to make the choice of pleasure again and again. Acknowledging that we have lots of baggage when it comes to sexuality, and that we are still standing in our commitment as beings worthy of pleasure is enough. Sometimes we’ll get it, we’ll be in our bodies. Sometimes we won’t. We succeed through our commitment to examining our resistance, being compassionate with ourselves about it, and gently steering the ship back to pleasure and sensation.
Here’s the video of my Mystery Box Story! Enjoy!
With great pleasure that I announce:
My new 40-page ebook called “Free Your Sex! Your Toolkit for Erotic Liberation” is now available for free download!
This book contains 16 of the best tools I know to help you deepen into pleasure, and get the intimacy and transformation you need in your sexuality.
I hope you enjoy it, and may it serves your pleasure well!
professional development online class:
“Beyond the Yoni Puppet:
Deepening Pedagogical Brilliance
for Sex Educators.”
May 1 – 31, 2014
This is a four-week professional development intensive that gets sex educators the curriculum, classroom and marketing skills they need for success!
The skills we possess as sex educators hugely impact not only our success but how impactful our teaching is.
It is not enough for us to have relevant, scientifically based current sexuality information. It is not enough for us to have excellent content and activities.
In this series I will share with you the wisdom and best teaching practices I have gained from two decades as a Montessori educator.
You will leave this class with a slew of educational strategies and a serious increase in your skill as a teacher. You will:
- Better understand of the process by which students actually learn
- Engage various learning styles by providing the same information in different ways
- Structure curriculum that engages and allows students to make learning their own
- Hold learning as it happens over time, and support the integration
- Hone your observational powers so that your teachings are relevant and fill the need of your students
- Create safer containers so that students feel safe to relax vigiliance and engage with new ideas
- Maximize your curriculum planning to squeeze out every ounce of potential learning
- Create environments where learning and transformation can occur, and where students take ownership of the process
- Discern whether supporting a student to move through their resistance or helping them with self-acceptance is the right course of action.
- Know when to speak, and when to wait silently
- Help students dealing with trauma from other educational experiences that they project onto us
- Pace material effectively
- Give permission effortlessly
- Possess information about stellar time management and time tracking skills
- Have a framework to seek, absorb, and integrate student feedback
- Give timely feedback that students can hear and act on
- Understand the value of excellent classroom management skills
- Get your work in front of the right audience
- Read what’s happening in the room and make sure your students are staying engaged
- Deal effectively with disruptive students who are trying to meet needs in the class that are not within the class container
- Assess exactly where a student is, and what the smallest next step they need for their growth AND hold the trajectory of a student’s learning over the course of time
- Monitor congruence between what you teach to your students and the ways you live your life as a sexual being: “walk your talk.”
- Have tools to redirect when teaching suddenly goes in the opposite direction than you thought!
This class consists of four video calls, participation in a collaborative learning environment with other brilliant sex educators, weekly online readings, viewings, assignments and practice opportunities, and a facebook group.
Cost is $180 and there is still some financial aid available if you need it!
By Marcus, a participant in the “Geography of Pleasure” workshop.
After the last day of the workshop, I was driving home meditatively, feeling the edges of my being. Not clicking from one radio station to the next, and blasting my senses with distracting stimuli. I wanted to allow myself to feel.
When I arrived at my place of residence, I thought, ‘I am home.’ I was feeling in my body and holding myself in a pleasant, nonjudgmental observation. My awareness of self was for once not about boundary patrol against shame, fear, or violation.
Two days before, I arrived at the workshop space in a daze, overwhelmed by the feeling of being around other people. I had become so used to the security of isolation and shutting down before I could be rejected. Alone, I could (unsuccessfully) pretend that I was all the things I wished I could be, and remove myself from reminders of failures and inadequacies.
I tried to relax into the comfortable seating, dim lamp lights, and the circle of anxious strangers, only to find myself comparing my body to others and listing off all the ways I lacked qualities that I admired in others and so wished for myself. The expression of trans masculinity became ever so in focus. I began to irrationally perceive my body to be physically smaller and smaller and uglier and uglier, as I unrealistically assumed perfection and invulnerability in others.
Though it was my intention to stay and not run or hide, my body sure wanted to run as we began to take turns speaking in the first of many circles. I was suddenly morbidly afraid of looking and sounding funny, and not being taken seriously. Amazingly, these divisive views between myself and others were gradually broken down, in a way I never thought was capable… I will now attempt to describe some of my most groundbreaking workshop moments.
This scared me a lot, as I have long experienced this as mutual invasion of private space. While it is a common expression of wanting to know and be known, sustained eye contact was something I only normally used within the following contexts: romantic interest, aggressive challenging, or conversations. I felt extremely exposed because it was as if I were ‘caught’ seeking an inappropriate level of closeness. There was little excuse for me to stop looking, because the activity did not allow for typical distractions. It was very unsettling to feel that emotional nakedness that I reserved for almost no one. By the end of the workshop, I no longer felt such reservations once I understood seeing and being seen to not be a threat. Instead, it can feel so loving and fulfilling!
When I allowed my body to observe and be observed, I was overcome by the emotions of others and the energy of the room. When I felt loving, gentle gazes caressing my body’s surfaces, I realized the toxicity of my self-directed gaze. I never extended to myself the same kind of understanding and acceptance I aspired to give others.
Moving to music felt awkward. I was confronted by my body’s lifelong reluctance to express itself. Interacting with space around me felt dangerous compared to stillness, which felt so safe and contained. My initial line of thinking was that I don’t know how best to move, so I might as well not.
Though I had a blindfold on, I still felt a critical gaze upon me, the kind that has long held my arms down, my torso stiff, and my legs frozen. Then I realized no one was laughing, and others were similarly focused on their own movements. I had nobody to apologize to for my movements, as no one could see. This activity allowed me to ponder the following questions. What am I holding back from, when there is no one to please but myself? What is possible of myself, when no consequence will arise from honoring my impulses?
It was difficult to surrender, and I don’t think I fully could yet, but I willed my mind to allow my body to interpret the music how it pleased. I allowed myself to enact my varying emotions: playfulness, exploration, loneliness, calm. To stand and shuffle and wave and swagger and sit the way the music called my body to do.
Healing another, watching the healing of others, and receiving my own healing all were magical moments. It was when shame, anger, and grief looked startlingly beautiful in all their ugliness. When I realized we needn’t harden against it all. We could all face and absorb the immense shame and trust that our existence would not be smashed to smithereens.
For me, the ritual felt like bones being reset, and being allowed to heal with alignment and clarity. I had to dig really deep, because I had buried so much of my shame. Entering the circle forced me to verbalize what was holding me back from the happiness and pleasure in life that I desire. I found, and released fears, inadequacies, and traumas that my body was holding despite my amnesia.
Eros field trip
(NOTE: Eros is a men’s bath house (very trans-inclusive) in San Francisco that generously donated admission for anyone in the class who wanted to go and check it out on Saturday night.)
I had reservations about going to a men’s sex space as a straight man with no prior inclinations towards having sex with men. But, I am really glad I went, as it was exciting to explore a new space with unfamiliar dynamics, all while feeling so safe because my amazing friends from the workshop were around!
I discovered I was actually physically desirable to some individuals, and the context of the men’s space really made me feel validated as a man. (Though I do worry about assumptions being made, based on my body type.) I also realized I still have some work to do about feeling ok and not guilty when enforcing my boundaries.
I did not discover any desire for sexual interaction with other men, but I now yearn for more access to intimate men’s spaces. This hasn’t really been open to me as a straight man, and I have, for a long time, adopted a normatively competitive gaze towards other men. For me this has fostered more feelings of isolation, inadequacy, and jealousy.
We were invited to sway to nautical music while imagining ourselves to be bull kelp. The idea of being rooted and just o.k. with my existence while swaying with the movement of the water was strangely profound. When we were invited to return to feeling the edges of our bodies, I could not help but weep from the sensation of viewing myself with non-judgment and comfort. It shook me to observe how long my body has been deprived of my love, and how long I have gone without noticing!
I appreciated both lessons on the chest and the genitals and the fact that they were presented in dysphoria-reducing language. I have had some bottom surgeries, and am eager to understand my genitals. Tissues have now been rearranged, rendering some parts more accessible, and others less or not at all.
Despite having pored through countless anatomy articles and diagrams, I learned a new term and site of pleasure: the perineal sponge! This knowledge has helped me gain a better understanding of how to best stimulate the nerves that I thought were no longer accessible.
I felt extremely soothed, and so grateful feeling the love and care of the two people working together to bring me the release from muscle tension I desired. They were eager to comply, and I grew in my comfort to be able to ask for how I wanted to be pleased. For once, I experienced the joy of trusting another’s desire to please me. It was liberating to not feel guilty or burdensome
My body felt extremely honored by their touch, and I had never known that comfort and love could accompany such vulnerability. Who knew that exposure doesn’t need to be just about shame and embarrassment and instead could feel so delicious and freeing? I didn’t.
The Circle Holds Us
We took turns in a circle being held and holding one another, before everyone stepped backwards together towards the center of the circle. How amazing it felt to be this stable entity of love, so unyielding in its solid hold of me, despite how fragile we may each feel in so many moments of our lives. In this moment I knew I was not the scared person I was on Friday who was eager to shut out the intrusive presence of others. Instead, I leaned into the warmth of our bodies, the life of our collective breaths, the energies of trans masculine brethren with whom I felt an unmatched closeness.
Culmination and Integration
This workshop was such a highlight of my life after so much anguish and pain. I have rarely cried so much and been so deeply moved. There was a ‘before workshop’ era of my life, and now the ‘after workshop’ time is only beginning. I left with the profound understanding that there are truly greater possibilities for really knowing others in a way that facilitates the closeness and healing that I so desire, yet have always been so afraid of.
After saying many goodbyes, I entered the elevator, alone. The loneliness was momentarily terrifying. I was so sad to leave the space, because the world outside will never be nearly so safe, with facilitators actively shaping healing vibes. But even as I return to my real life, where my physical and emotional boundaries are continually tested, I recharge and revive when I think of being in that circle of bodies, holding and being held. Even now, my heart is still overflowing with love for our capacity to heal so much pain. I revel in the memory of that circle.
I dip my pen into the blood of my heart, and begin to chronicle the myriad of thoughts, sensations, feelings, body epiphanies and erotic somatic learning that happened this past weekend.
It is only now, four days out, that I can bring myself to write of the beauty, the heartbreak, the joy, the community and the exquisite pain that was the first Geography of Pleasure: Embodiment for Trans Guys workshop.
Here’s what I notice: my heart aching mightily with the openness we created together. I find my heart expanding into love and joy, and contracting into fear and anxiety, in a regular pattern. I find I want the rawness and intensity of the workshop space in my everyday life. It is hard to return to dishes, kids, and regular life.
How can I describe how the electricity in the room as we smashed paradigm after paradigm? How to write of the power of claiming our rightful erotic space, as humans who live on a trans-masculine spectrum? How can I describe the utter suffering that the people in this circle have endured, that has impacted every aspect of their lives? And how can I describe the fierceness and righteousness of watching the erotic call each of us home to our bodies, just as they are in this moment?
Truly, I cannot.
But what I can describe is the feeling of success I have as a facilitator of a crucible that created demonstrable transformation for participants. People looked different when they left. They felt different. They felt like their context around pleasure, their bodies and their relationships had shifted so much that it was difficult to articulate. They spoke again and again of feeling a sense of safety that they had never in their lives felt.
I knew the workshop was going to be potent, but I really had absolutely no idea to what degree we would change everything.
One of my favorite reflections comes from workshop participant Jun C:
“I came in feeling like I had nothing to offer. I now feel like I have everything to give.
“I feel like I finally found the kind of community and connection with other trans-masculine people that I’ve been looking for that I couldn’t find for so long.
“I had initial reservations coming in (didn’t we all?) I thought there was a very likely possibility that it was going to be some hokey new age-y type thing that usually strikes me as being disingenuous, devoid of real substance, with a false type of enlightenment. I don’t know yet how to articulate the sparkle magic that happened, but I’m so glad I was there.”
This workshop arose from a vision I had of a room of trans-masculine people, working together to banish shame, craft community, and communally welcome into our bodies the pleasure that heals trauma, brings sensation to numbness, and replaces fear with joy. And this bold vision actually happened.
As a facilitator, my heart grew larger and larger with each story, each sharing, each time I sobbed with the hurt we have all borne. The scars I saw this weekend, (and I saw many,) denote a strength and a resilience, a determination to live in our bodies and to be truly ALIVE, without apology.
Perhaps I will write in greater depth about the specifics of what we did, but for now, I am basking in the delight of a heart full of passion for continuing and growing this work. We have already been invited to Portland, New Mexico, Toronto, Minneapolis and the UK. You’ll be able to track our progress at http://www.geographyofpleasure.com. I’ll be posting participant written reflections on my blog, as well as spoken reflections on our website and youtube. Stay tuned!
Our dream is for every trans-masculine person in the world has access to pleasure and embodiment, in the body they are in, RIGHT NOW!
Perhaps you thought, “OK, so then I’m going to increase my capacity for feeling pleasure and expand my sexuality.”
Indeed, how does one expand into feeling more pleasure, if one has already accepted that the limits of our pleasure capacity are inflexibly where they are?
Or worse yet, what if we have don’t realize that the limits to our capacity for feeling pleasure are ones that we ourselves have created?
Before we consider the question of how to increase our capacity for pleasure, let us first acknowledge our diminished capability to enjoy the fullness of our human sexuality. Let us ground into the historical contexts of how we have ended up here.
Throughout my blog, I have often written of my own experiments as I attempt to expand my erotic self and broaden my capacity for pleasure. I write of my own experiences for a number of reasons, mainly because I trust personally people who walk their talk. Therefore, my integrity compels me to be transparent about my process. Blogging keeps me accountable to my chosen course towards erotic wholeness. Importantly, transparently blogging about my sexuality helps hold my shame at bay.
Ironically, the shame of not being or having the sexual self we know or imagine is possible can actually be enough to block us from seeking that self. Therefore, it is crucial to the sexual wellbeing of the planet that we begin to break silence about our shame. That people with marginalized identities also claim sexuality. Through sharing our erotic journeys, we not only give ourselves permission, but also model and give each other permission to seek authentic sexual expression.
When I started exploring my erotic nature, I was optimistic, but guardedly so. Perhaps there was more to my sexuality than I was experiencing. I had a vague sense of missing out on something, but assumed (incorrectly) that the experience I was having was the extent of the experience I could have. I thought the sex that I had, though limited and at times non-existent, was good enough. Plainly put, I settled for the experience I had and tried to wrap my sexuality around it. I did not try to expand the experience to meet the edges of my sexuality.
After all, I had read enough about women’s sexuality to know a few things (or so I thought.) I knew that that many women didn’t masturbate. Many women didn’t orgasm during penis-vagina intercourse. Many women didn’t have more than one orgasm. Many women didn’t even orgasm at all. Since I was capable of coming a couple times when I had penis-vagina intercourse, and I masturbated, I was doing better than many women.
I set my own sexual bar super low.
What were some things I was missing from my sexuality?
- Play and Exploration and edge-pushing
- Desire and Fantasy
- Transcendent sexuality and sex magick
- Embodiment, sensate focus and being present during sex
- Freedom for fantasy during sex and Freedom for all kinds of fantasies
- Exploring different turn-ons
- Toys, different positions and mixing up the patterns of sexual encounters
- Gender play and different sexual partners
- Anal explorations
- Knowledge of my anatomy
- Squirting and Kegels
- Breath, movement and sound
- Ecstatic sexual encounters and meeting the Divine during sex
- Awareness of erotic energy, and ability to work with it
- Kink, BDSM and power exchange
- Communal erotic encounters
- Allowing sex to crack open my heart
- Full Body orgasms, G-spot orgasms and orgasmic spaces beyond the clittoral
- Acceptance for my kinks and turn-ons
Shit, that’s a whole lot of missing!
The most interesting thing is that I really believed I was doing good! I ACCEPTED that the limits of my sexuality were real.
Barnaby Barratt, a psychotherapist, sex therapist, sex educator and tantric facilitator, implores that, “Our sexuality encompasses everything about our embodiment. It is our sensual and erotic connectedness with all that is around us. It is the medium of our alignment or misalignment with the universe, the grounding of our being-in-the-world.”
Why do we accept for our sexuality something that is less than perfect alignment with the universe? How did it come to be that I accepted those limits?
While most of us probably feel some degree of shame about where we are in our sexual expression, it turns out there are actually a number of really excellent reasons why we are where we are.
Here’s the crux of it: Our sexuality is informed by a complete paradox. Ubiquitous in the United States are both blatant sexualization and blanket sexual repression. We all encounter examples of both of these hundreds of times each day.
Sexually Explicit or Implicit Advertising
Oh Hi, Sex-Sells Advertising! The earliest known use of sex in advertising was in 1871, by the Pearl Tobacco brand. The advertising featured a naked girl on the package. Since then, sex has been a powerful advertising tool used to sell almost everything. And it works, too, since we are hard- wired to respond to sexual connotations.
We actually even respond to messages that only imply sex, meaning advertisers merely have to access the part of our brain that recognizes sexual messaging. According to the American Association of Advertising Agencies, average American adults are exposed to approximately 650 advertising messages each day.
We live in a society that is completely sex obsessed,
and simultaneously completely sex-phobic.
Pervasive Sex Negativity
In juxtaposition to the images above, consider the following:
- Abstinence-only sex education is still going strong. Since 1998, over $1.5 billion in state and federal funds has been allocated for these abstinence-only and abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education programs.
- The wide acceptance of ‘sex-addiction,’ as a real disease, although sexual addiction was rejected for inclusion in the DSM-5 and it is widely disputed.
- Porn is often vilified. (While secretly consumed in epic proportions; 12% of all websites are porn-related)
- BDSM activity, even where clearly consensual, can be and frequently is prosecuted under state criminal laws dealing with assault, aggravated assault, sexual assault or sexual abuse.
- It was a mere ten years ago in 2003 that the U.S. Supreme Court (in a 6-3 decision in Lawrence v. Texas) struck down the Texas same-sex sodomy law, ruling that private sexual conduct is protected by the liberty rights implicit in the United States Constitution. (This decision finally invalidated all state sodomy laws and meant that same-sex sex couldn’t be prosecuted.)
Receiving these contradictory messages can be disastrous in our search for authentic erotic expression. On top of that, layer the traumas, stories, shame, abuse and bad sex many of us have had, and it’s a recipe for sexual shut-down. Seen through this lens, the fact that we can feel any pleasure at all is quite remarkable!
“Many of us tell ourselves that “sex is not all that important to me,” and then we immerse ourselves in substitutive activities. We plunge into all manner of heartless addictions, or we become preoccupied with policing the sex lives of others. We even lose our awareness of how disconnected we have become from our sensuality. We no longer recognizer our own inhibition, nor do we see its roots in our unconscious shame and guilt.” ~Barnaby B. Barratt
Those who do attempt to cultivate an authentic erotic experience often find themselves facing strong societal prohibitions. However, when we turn our attention to that quiet, internal voice that compels us towards wholeness, we know we must question the limits we currently accept as immutable.
Sometimes we are required to accept things on faith. Take leaps of thinking and believing that are unsubstantiated in our lived experience. Sometimes, we just have to believe there is more, and set off it search of it, hoping we will find it. I had to leap into the void of giving up my sexual limits, (without having any proof I would get something better,) before I was able to start consciously evolving my own erotic experience
I started this post with the thought “Okay, then I’m going to increase my capacity for feeling pleasure and expanding my sexuality.” That is indeed the topic. Stay tuned for further thoughts. And until next week, I invite you to do one thing: consider that perhaps the current limitations of your sexuality will be different in the future. Perhaps something deep inside hears the truth of this next statement:
Without a doubt, there is more for you to feel.
I spent the day at Orr hot springs, moving between the water, the woods and the bed. All day was magickal, from the tarot ritual in the afternoon to the devotional fire ritual in the early evening. I dwelt in Spirit all day, finding the territories of the body and heart that welcome in the numinous. I made love with Kali Maa, my Ishta Devi (which is like your deity BFF), and listened for the voices of the land, the water, the creatures.
I reflected on my year, on the 43 years of my life, and worked on honoring the life the resides in this body. We often focus our honoring of life on ‘life out there’ forgetting that we too harbor the spark. What is it to honor the life force within?
For a birthday gift, my lover gave me an NJOY, which is a really beautiful stainless steel dildo. It looks like a work of art, and it feels incredible. Best sex toy ever, and this is not a review. This post is a celebration of the unrealized pleasure and feeling potential of our bodies.
Scientific American debunks the myth that as humans, we are using a mere 10% of our potential brain power, but until this morning when I was fact checking, I believed it. What is true that is we are not using all of our brain at all times. What if the same is true of our sexuality? When I learn something new, my brain somehow codifies and stores that information that was not there before. I have more information now than I had before. I have learned.
I believe we all accept far less pleasure than we are capable of experiencing. It is possible for us to learn new things in our sexuality. It is possible for us to feel more. These are my lived experience.
While every sex toy promises the ultimate pleasure, the pleasure does not arise from the toy itself, but from how our bodies respond to a different kind of stimulation. When we are able to place our attention on subtle difference in sensation, we become able to feel more. We can attune our attention to be ever more nuanced.
One of my favorite questions to ask myself when I notice that my mind is wandering during sex is “Am I feeling all the pleasure I could be feeling at this moment?” In effect, asking that question both refocuses my attention on the pleasure I am feeling, and opens the door for my body to be able to feel more pleasure.
This same question can be extrapolated to our sexuality as a whole. Am I feeling as much/experiencing as much/exploring as much as possible? Or am I settling for 10% of my potential?
The intention of such a question is NOT to create shame, or “I should be doing more,” but rather to invite space for more to be present within our sexual experiences and our sexuality.
On my birthday, I felt sensations I have not felt before. My body responded in ways in has not responded before.
While we were soaking in the delicious hot water, my partner asked me if I thought that we would ever reach the end of the road with our explorations and our learnings about sexuality. He then answered his own question, saying “Actually, I’ve been enjoying sex since I first figured out masturbation when I was nine. It’s been getting better and better since then. I don’t think it will ever run out.”
It can be easy to settle. We get lulled to sleep, lured into complacency. We think it’s too much effort to change, that our sex is good enough. We can believe our demons are too scary, too difficult to face. We can stop exploring, and our sex can become routine, limited, rote. We can convince ourselves that sexuality isn’t that big a part of our human experience, that it’s a bunch of hype. I know this too because of lived experience.
When I honor and listen to the voice of the life force residing in my body, I hear a different message. I hear the word “Hope.” Heeding the call of this voice, quiet as it initially was, has saved my life again and again. So many times I have tried to settle. Tried to resist change, resist the hard work of intimacy, resist the call of my true animal nature.
This week, as many of my kind are setting resolutions for this next trip around the sun, I am instead honoring the life force that insists I pay attention to my sexuality, my creativity. I am honoring the fire within that quietly but firmly resists falling to sleep and missing my life. I am honoring the continued learning and evolution of my sexuality and my pleasure. I am honoring my commitment to showing up for the exquisite theatre of the body. And I am honoring the insistent voice of Hope, telling me that there is more to feel.
As a sex coach, I sell my time, energy, attention and knowledge to assist clients to realize and express their full sexuality. This is service work, and I feel myself in deep service to my people. And there is something inside of me that resists the conflation of money and sex.
What started as a simple question of “What does success mean to me?” has spiraled into an intense reckoning with my personal integrity about being someone who markets sexuality.
It’s the commodification of Eros that disturbs me.
Do I want to have a big fat bank account? You bet. Do I want to put a price tag on your orgasms so that I can have that? Not a chance. Selling sexual empowerment for big bucks sit wrong with me. I have no doubt that people can really benefit from participating in such programs, so then why do they make me feel gross?
When I sink in, I realize I feel ever so protective of our Eros. Of that magick, fluid energy we humans feel inside of us, that lights us on fire. That mysterious force that can enlighten our whole lives.
Recently, I watched an fMRI of a woman’s brain as she orgasmed. At the moment of orgasm, her entire brain was alight with oxygen. Her. Entire. Brain. Imagine what would happen if we were consistently using our entire brains? It’s not too far of a mental leap to think (okay maybe it is, but it’s fun to consider) that having more orgasms as a species quickens our evolution. Eros, friends, is a biological force that deserves homage, and not commodification.
The sexual empowerment model for sale subtly reinforces that sexual power is “out there.” You must claim it, as if you do not inherently possess it. It’s kinda like “getting religion.” (Commodification of spirituality also raises ethical questions for me.) If sexual empowerment is not within you already, you are fucked, but not in a good way. And if you’re not sexually empowered, you are what? Sexually disempowered?
In contrast, let us reframe with a “remembering” model. You know, the one where we remember who we truly are. Instead of focusing on sexual empowerment and erotic mastery, I choose to recall my sensual nature, the one I was born with. The pleasure-seeking self that was entranced by the play of light on water, or wind through leaves. We can choose call into being our sexual wholeness, to invite home our erotic personage. And I don’t think it’s bullshit to have a companion on that path of remembering, paid or otherwise.
It’s also not bullshit to desire a degree of mastery in the realm of sexuality, and to seek teaching from those slightly ahead on the path. Teachers have invested lots of time, money and energy into the wisdom they possess, and paying for solid teaching feels just fine.
There are two deceptively simple free resources are the actual building blocks of evolving personal sexuality. The necessary ingredients for erotic success are dedicating enough time to exploration and practice, and building the capacity to hold your attention where you place it in the body.
Slightly more difficult to come by but readily available are an attitude of curious exploration, and a beginner’s mind. The price of both is the unknown. No, I mean for reals. Like, stepping into the not knowing, and giving up the security and comfort of all that you ‘know’ about yourself as a sexual being. In the not knowing, you become available for all manner of unexpected surprises. Scary as hell.
I don’t have any answers yet to my philosophical quandaries. I’m not sure how to reconcile my desire for financial success, my desire to serve my people and their sexuality, and my desire for Eros to be protected from further commodification. But my commitment to transparency includes delving into the questions that making me uncomfortable, and offering the process as a gift. I’ll update you once I know more.
But for now, a little magickal spell casting.Here’s my anarchist, synergistic view of how I want things to work, that’s actually backed by evolutionary history. Species that cooperate, survive.
So, I do my part, you do yours. Interdependence is real and necessary. We all need each other to help us live to our fullest potential. Working together, we accomplish more than working against one another. By allowing myself to be vulnerable by needing you, I am strong.
My part is that I think and write about sex and relationships. I compile resources, and distill the wisdom of many sources, and give it to you in a cogent form, for your benefit. Your part is to do the work of your soul and your heart, and share the gems with me. We don’t all have to do all the things.
So Mote It Be.
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!
Someone I deeply respect, and who has had an enormous impact on the art and craft of my teaching unsubscribed from my blog this week. It was after a particularly graphic post that I wrote, about practicing to be fucked in an alley.
While I understand on an intellectual level that the edge I walk in my work as a teacher of sexual liberation is not for everyone, inside my heart, I felt pain, and another surprising feeling: shame.
The voices of self-doubt rose strongly: am I doing anything that has meaning? Am I not going to be liked, respected, accepted, loved because I insist on pushing the boundaries of sexual freedom in such a public way? Should I tone it down, practice and explore privately? Am I too going too far, beyond that radical edge, to where my work loses relevancy? The level of doubt was staggering.
Maybe, I thought, I should step away from this work, and go back to working with kids with dyslexia. No one ever unsubscribed from that blog. (Okay, I didn’t really have a dyslexia blog, but in my oh-so-fun shame story, they wouldn’t have if I did have one!)
I am not sure if self-doubt and feeling unworthy are the same exactly, but they are pretty darned close. Who am I to do this? Why would anyone want to work with me? These are the unworthy voices.
There is something so scary in doubting what I’m doing. What if I’m lying to myself? What if I am delusional? I don’t want to be dependant on external validation by others, but in these moments, I find I am.
I know it’s not sexy. I know successful people often hide these kinds of thoughts behind a veneer of confidence. Which is exactly why I want to speak them. I get so tired when I try to hide insecurity, judgement, doubt. Actually, hiding them seems to empower them, make them stronger. I have found that if I just name these shadow feelings aloud, radical and scary as it is, they seem to dissipate.
So, dear readers, today’s post isn’t for your benefit, per se. It is for my own… to publicly own all of those unlovable parts. To claim transformational process as a state of being, replete with doubt and shame. To be honest about how it actually is today, inside this skin sack I’m wearing.
And I do want the kind of world where we can all be honest about the shadow places, the fear places, the small places, and find love and acceptance out there. I spoke with my partner, who is often wise in the ways of transformative process. What he said is that self-doubt is just part of the process. It’s to be expected, planned for even.
And so, wallowing within the void of self-doubt, I prayed. I asked Spirit for a sign. “Please, please show me and let me know that you want me to keep doing this., that I am meant to do this.”
I mean, I’ve trusted this process thus far. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, trusting deeply that I am being led in good ways through my life. I’ve made so many scary, risk-taking-you-could-really-regret-this-later kinds of decisions, and they have always worked out. I have trusted that a higher intelligence guides my work, and that there is a benevolence that is holding me as I move through my days. I have said, and continue to say, “Yes” to what is.
Well, I did get my sign, my coincidence, my synchronicity. Yesterday, I came across and read a beautiful blog post, one which made me cry. After reading, I was checking out more of the blog, an lo and behold, the author (someone I have never met) had written to me a couple of weeks ago, telling me how deeply they appreciate my work, how they are coming to San Francisco soon, how they would like to meet me. In that moment of connectedness, I felt my heart open. While I continue to feel fear and sadness and the loss of the kind of passability that comes with being an educational therapist and not with being a sex coach, I know I am going to keep bringing it. In spite of self-doubt, I continue on, as evidenced by the writing of this blog post.
Because I think that this TRULY what successful people do. They keep bringing it, and bringing it, in spite of objection, persecution, obstacles, self-doubt, and loss. They keep bringing it because they have to, because it gives their life deep fucking meaning, and they really believe in their work that much. They truly cannot do anything else. They keep fucking bringing it, until they fucking die. I am of that ilk. So, though I know the cost of admission is painful, and that the road will be fraught with self-doubt, I am going to fucking bring it, until I fucking die. I can’t really do anything else.
Question: What happens erotically, between a group of people in a completely dark, anonymous, anything-goes-but-consent-is-required space?
Hypothesis: Participants will explore their own erotic desires, curiosities, hang ups, and boundaries, and will move beyond who they know themselves to be as erotic beings.
Before HIV, in the 1960’s and 1970’s, gay male bars often had something called a “darkroom” or “blackroom.” This was a space, in the back of the establishment, that was unlighted and could be used for anonymous sex. You know, stop in for happy hour on a Friday, order a Bud, go in the back and get a blow job, come back and finish your beer. Does that sound good to you? I have always wondered why gay males get a different kind of sexuality than everyone else. Why do they get glory holes, bathhouses, anonymous sex? That’s always felt unfair, and I’ve decided to do something to change that. It involves my living room.
Today, as I’m writing, I keep glancing in there, wickedly imagining. Come Friday evening, it will be magically transformed into an erotic pleasure laboratory. Four sexual “scientists,” together with an invited group of people, will participate in an experiment called “Black Velvet.”
Consider this imaginary scenario, culled from the invitation:
In this Black Velvet space, although there is no light, you will begin to notice the presence of other bodies. Slowly, as you crawl through the space, you bump gently into a soft, warm presence. You reach out a hand to touch, and jump slightly as your own erotic energy becomes merged with that of another. You don’t know who. You don’t know what that person looks like, their name, where they work, or what bits they have. All you know is whether you enjoy the energy between you or not.
If you do, and if they do, you stay and explore being in bodies in the dark together. If one of you doesn’t enjoy the shared energy, you move away, move their hand away, or whisper “busy.” There is no shame. There is no expectation or obligation. There is no commitment, other than to the truth of the moment.
Consent is always necessary… and it is given by your potential partner choosing to engage with you. Your boundaries are not negotiable, and indeed the entire group is responsible for creating safer, supported space that welcomes all bodies, genders, sexual identities, and desires. This group holds as its most profound value that the decision not to engage with someone is a decision to trust our deepest knowing, and is therefore a gift to everyone.
What will happen in this Black Velvet Space? That’s completely up to you. You may leave after being deliciously fucked by a hot stranger. Or, you may explore what it is to be in a space like this and hold your boundaries and not engage at all. Or a thousand other outcomes. The only requirements for how you explore a space like this is your desire to know yourself better as an erotic being.
Are you still breathing? Does this sound intimidating as hell to you? I know it does to me. I am really pretty scared about Friday night. My intention is to open my body in new ways, and I don’t really know what that means or how it will manifest. What if I go too far beyond my boundary? What if I fuck someone I don’t want to fuck, but they smell and feel so right? My control issues/needs make it really, really hard to imagine being in a space like Black Velvet, and just surrendering.
However, I am on fire with conducting erotic experiments. I am deeply committed to using my body as a pleasure laboratory. I am ‘all in,’ for maybe the first time in my life, in my ongoing explorations of body, sex, spirit and intimacy.
I’m really quite tired of my erotic limits. I’m tired of only seeking the kind of sex that connects, builds intimacy, and endures the test of time. I’m tired of sensation and pleasure being limited by my own narrow capacity. I’m ready to push past the boundaries I think I hold, and find what lies beyond them.
How do I know what I am erotically capable of, unless I conduct experiments? How do I know what I might like unless I try it out? What else is possible for my genitals to feel? For my hands to learn? What else can I do with my erotic energy? How can I use the power of my orgasm to make electricity that lights my house? What happens if I turn my bits inside out and stimulate them? To what edge of beyond trust can I push myself, while still staying connected and compassionate with my heart?
Oh there’s that trust word again. I will say it is pretty intense, to be on this erotic journey in such a public way. It’s crazy hard sometimes, to claim radical sexuality and pleasure in this queer, fat body. I am deeply trusting my own process as alchemical. I hope it stands for something that is meaningful to you. Learning to trust diving into the void of not knowing, and learning to trust that I will emerge, intact feels like my great work.
So what will be the conclusions of the Black Velvet erotic experiment? Will participants explore their desires, curiosities, hang-ups and boundaries? Will we emerge from the darkness, with deeper and fuller knowledge of our erotic capacities? And will we be able to make it stick, make it count, make pushing our erotic edges translate into more space in our whole lives? Or will it just be a cool, I-live-in-the-Bay-Area-and-we-do-weird-sex-shit-like-this-cuz-we-are-so-hip kinda deal?
I do not know. Participants have agreed to send me their reflections within 48 hours of the event, so there’s my data collection. I will write to you next Monday (are you noticing that posts come out every Monday? You could *subscribe* if you never want to miss one again!) Next Monday, I will describe the event and my experiences, should you be so interested. (I’m also teaching an Intimacy Technology class next Monday on trust: please consider attending.)
If you like this post, it would make me deliriously happy if you would consider conducting your own erotic experiment in the next week or so. Post a comment below telling me what will be, or drop me an email and tell me what happened. I know I’m not the only erotic revolutionary here!
What might happen on our planet if we build
a critical mass of erotic consciousness?
“Can you take it?” Togan asked, his hands wrapped around my throat, as he stands above me, gazing down at my face.
It was hard to answer: my pussy was being seriously banged by Dramal. “That’s all you got?” I barely whisper, and watch as his face contorts with anger and pleasure, simultaneously.
Yesterday, I practiced being fucked in a filthy San Francisco alley.
I don’t typically have casual sex. My trust issues prohibit it. The sex I have is connected, meaningful, intimate. I am incredibly selective about my partners, and tend to have sexual relations that span decades instead of minutes. My relationships tend to depend deeply this kind of strong trust. Trust allows me to surrender, to open my body and my heart. This is how sex feels good to me.
And yet. There is a part of me that yearns to explore uninhibited, no-strings-attached sex. The kind of sex where you have to pick the gravel out of your knees for days after. The kind of sex that leaves the stench of garbage and piss all over your boots. The kind of sex that burns hot, extreme, and strikes like lightning. Ironically, the kind of sex that is beyond trust.
Erik Erikson was a psychologist known for his theory on psychosocial development of human beings. If you’ve ever said “I’m having an identity crisis” you can thank him for that phrase. He theorized that there were 8 stages of psychological development in humans, and that each stage allows one to master (or not) a crucial life skill. If not mastered (because the needs around it weren’t consistently met) it can become a core wound, an area of your life in which you consistently experience challenges.
The first stage of Erik Erikson’s theory centers around the infant’s basic needs being met by the parents. This experience leads to either trusting or mistrusting the world. Erikson defines trust as “an essential truthfulness of others as well as a fundamental sense of one’s own trustworthiness.”
My core wound is trust. I am petrified of betrayal.
This fear has haunted me in all of my relationships. It has been prohibited me from exploring the full extent of my sexuality, because I seek to meet my need for trust in my sexual relationships. Perhaps you can relate! I am often suspicious, and can question a lover to the nth degree, until I find the betrayal I am certain exists. This behavior is not particularly conducive to intimacy, and thus my sweetheart has requested me to examine when I am viewing through a situation through my betrayal lens, and I am attempting to comply, by finding situations where I can practice and be held with love.
This weekend I attended a Body Electric workshop called “Outside the Boxes.” It was a time for queers and genderqueers of all flavors to explore body, sex and pleasure. The intentions included to expand Eros through embodiment, especially using breath and pelvic focus. To discover edges, and to deepen into living in one’s whole body. To participate in communal erotic ritual, in a container that is about presence and Self, as opposed to hooking up and Other. It is an amazing chance for us to do our personal work, in a supported, focused environment.
There were many interesting activities and rituals over the course of the weekend. However, it is the last encounter about which I write today. The culmination of this weekend was in giving and receiving erotic massages in groups of three. To tell you about this, I must rewind a few weeks into the past, and tell you about attending an event at the Center for Sex and Culture called “Perverts Put Out.” Writers and storytellers ply their erotic crafts and share their work this juicy evening. One of the stories that night was read by local writer Jen Cross, who conducts Writing Ourselves Whole writing workshops for survivors of sexual abuse and trauma. The story she told pierced into my brain like an arrow shot through an apple, and has remained lodged there in the weeks that followed.
She told a kinky tale of mindfuck: a submissive boi being taught a lesson on manners and assumptions about power and gender. As if I were there, I saw it… in a crumbling alley off of Folsom… the three of them locked in a gritty urban embrace of filth and power. In my mind, I watched the scene unfold: the boi choking and gagging, learning to deepthroat from a woman wielding a large silicone cock while Daddy watches on. Boi assumes Daddy is in charge, and he’ll get to play with him if he tolerates the attentions of the skirt. The mindfuck is that actually the Top in the situation is Mommy, schooling the ignorance right out of the boi’s disgustingly stupid head.
Back at the workshop, I’m asked what my intention is before getting up on the table. The truth is, I want the kind of internal trust that would let me experience being that boi in the alley. It’s not that I want his role, I don’t want to be someone’s boi, per se. It’s just that I want to be able to open my body, beyond trust, beyond safety, and know that I’ll come out the other side intact.
I choose my partners. They are edgy, genderqueer and I’ve watched each of them get fucked in turn, both preferring hard fucking and not so much the lovey-dovey. I haven’t met either of them before this weekend, and while I have an affinity with them, I’m scared as I walk towards them. They are waiting, blindfolded, at the massage table, for us to make our choices. Perhaps I should choose less dangerous types for partners, perhaps picking instead a gentle older woman or a young sweet femme. I head towards the tattooed and muscled pair, my hands sweating. They uncover their eyes, and I see them appraising me, wondering how this will go. I don’t expect either of them to turn down the volume of their Eros, I just pray I can open to receive it.
I tell them the story of the alley. I tell them my intention is to practice having sex in an alley. I see the diabolical light enter into Togan’s eyes. I know I am in a safe container to practice this, but it’s still scary. Dramal’s touch is gentle at first, and I want more. Each time he asks me, “Is this okay?” until I say that I actually don’t really want him to ask me… and he gets it quickly. “I’m asking you once and for all, do I have your permission to Handle you?” he whispers scathingly in my ear. My yes is weak on volume, but it will do.
Their touch is strong. I fight against it, and the slickness of the oil and sweat covers us all as we wrestle and fight. I’m laughing, mocking them into giving me more, making it more real. I want them to Want to do this, want to force their touch on me. My face, smashed into the table, searing hands around my throat, fingers slamming into me. It’s not exactly pleasurable, but there is something here, something erotic beyond what I can name. It’s brutal, primal. I check in with my pussy: “How are you doing down there?” and my pussy screams back “Shut the fuck up! This is amazing!” I smile, inspiring more force.
I see the rats, smell the garbage, feel the rough pavement beneath my ass. I use my imagination to practice being in this scene. I allow myself to become that boi, taken and used. It is delicious.
When it’s over, we collapse against each other on the table, panting, sweaty, spent. I wonder how it’s been for them, if they felt the animal of Eros as I did, or if they were just good at crafting this kind of experience so that I could play with what happens in the space that is beyond trust. They wrap me in sheets, and stand with their attention focused on me for the next ten minutes as I dream and fly. Smiles and giggles come and go… I feel so happy, so free. I have opened my body to two people I don’t know, and probably won’t ever see again. I have trusted in my own ability to stay present. I have travelled a new road of Eros, that was often beyond what I would have named as my desire, and found it exquisite and satiating. It’s sex, but not how I’ve known it.
This is the kind of trust I want in myself. I want to be true to all of my desires. I want to explore my edges and beyond, trusting that I will never fall into victimhood. I burn with the need to expand my erotic capacity. I like practicing. I don’t know when I’ll be ready to enter that wretched alley and have that kind of sex. I trust that I will know when I am ready, and I trust that when I do it, Eros will take me exactly where I am meant to go.
If you are interested in exploring trust, and wanting to learn how to expand your capacity for it, plan to attend the Intimacy Technology class I am offering on Monday, October 28. We’ll practice trust skills in a gentle, supportive way (in my living room, not in an alley!) and you will be in choice about all activities we do. You can register here for Terrifying Trust.
Living in Northern California, the term “energy” gets bandied about with quite a degree of frequency. And in my field, that includes erotic energy. We talk about “erotic energy regulation” and “moving through your energetic blocks.” Now, admittedly, I’m pretty woo. But sometimes I feel challenged by what exactly I’m supposed to “do” when playing with energy. I feel it, I know it exists, but how to engage it in meaningful, and pragmatic ways?
Why work with Erotic Energy?
Well, Neo-Tantra has claimed erotic energy as part of the branding. Personally, I find it really distasteful. But I’m not willing to let them have all the good stuff! I think that everyone can have access to the skills of erotic energy regulation without having to subscribe to a vague ‘sacred sexuality’ doctrine.
I work with erotic energy in different ways. Deepening my understandings (like writing this piece) is one way; practicing and experimenting with things is another. I work with erotic energy because I find that I don’t truly know the edges or limits of my own potential as an erotic being. I am of a curious nature, and find that engaging energy in my sexual encounters provides deeply pleasurable and often transformative encounters.
What is a working definition of “erotic energy?”
Dictionary.com offers the following definitions:
Erotic: pertaining to sexual desire
Energy: The capacity to do work, available power
Therefore, a working definition of ‘Erotic Energy” could be “The available power of sexual desire.” Of course, I want to add “pleasure” to this definition. Thus, here’s my definition:
“Erotic energy is a resource available to humans at all times, and can be understood as ‘the pleasurable power of desire.’”
What are the tools to access and use erotic energy to maximize pleasure?
I believe there are different skills involved in working with erotic energy. There are a set of foundational skills of embodiment. Then, there are skills of creating, sustaining, moving and sharing erotic energy. Many people have access to some of these skills, and can choose to develop others.
Aware of Body Sensations
Aware of the inner landscape of the body
Sensation is returned to areas of the body once numb
Lives fully in all areas of one’s body
Able to breathe fully into the belly: the belly is soft, and movements are smooth
Able to place one’s awareness in different areas of the body, and hold it
Able to move the “I” who is experiencing out of the head region, and place it into different areas of the body
Has a “pleasure map” of own body
Aware of own energy field
Can access own energy field at will
Able to build sexual charge within the body
Able to turn oneself on
Can use tools of breath, sound, movement, touch, fantasy or visual stimulation.
Able to feel touch, whether self or other, through skin, eyes, heart love, life
Profoundly touched by the natural world
Profoundly moved by the capacity for beauty created by the human species
Sustaining Erotic Energy
Able to maintain a level of erotic charge
Training to increase capacity to sustain pleasure
Can ‘hang out’ in the Valley of the Orgasm
Able to hold erotic charge through orgasm, and retain
Sustains a level of consistency in libido, with natural ebb and flow
Moving Erotic Energy
Can pump erotic energy through the body through:
- the microcosmic orbit
- pelvic thrusting
- hip opening movements and poses
- exercise of the pelvis or pelvic floor muscles
Can allow sexual charge to move beyond the genitals and circulate throughout the body
Can allow the mind to soften, and embrace the slipping away of time and space
Utilizes both Muscular excitement (Constriction) and muscle relaxation to build charge
Sharing Erotic Energy
Able to dissolve personal boundaries
Can merge with another energetically
Can feel a field of erotic energy shared between self and others
Can allow own erotic field to open to include natural world
This list is about some of the energetic possibilities that we can access as humans. It is not exhaustive, and while many people can probably access some of these skills, most people probably cannot access all of them, all of the time. I know I can’t! So not to be disheartened if this list seems overwhelming; it’s just potentials!
I will continue to write about erotic energy and its regulation. If you are intrigued by your own erotic potential, I invite you to try this. Masturbate to the edge of orgasm, and stop. And pay particular attention to how you feel and what you notice internally for the next hour. Then, masturbate again, and notice what happens. And if you like, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what happens!
This summer, I published my first “product.” I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio during the 1980’s, when the hardcore punk scene was going strong. I came up on zines, and have a strong affinity for information being distributed in a sub-culture underground. This first issue of my zine is a labor of love, and I offer it in spirit of the gift economy: it will not be sold or bartered, ever.
It feels really scary to put a huge piece of my work out into the world, and let go of control over what will happen with it. But it feels important in service of our collective sexual liberation. That said, may this delight you, instruct you, challenge you and ultimately serve you.
Zine Free Download
Please share, print, and disseminate widely, with credit.
And no pressure, but if you do read it, it would mean a lot to me if you would drop a note and let me know.
My deepest love for all who read.
Joseph Kramer, my mentor and teacher, says that if you want to change your life, change the way you masturbate. I want to tell you a story about how I have learned to masturbate better.
I’ve written before about how this sexual liberation stuff has been quite the journey for me. I’m from Cleveland, Ohio. We did NOT talk about masturbation as I was growing up. None of my friends admitted to ever doing it. I thought I was freaky and perverse (well, okay, maybe I still think that) until I moved to San Francisco. (I find it COMPLETELY ironic that I now coach people in masturbation!)
But, there was this one time… when I wasn’t here yet, and somehow I got it into my head that I could videotape myself masturbating. Revolutionary, I know. So, I did. And when I watched it, I was completely stunned by how sensual and beautiful I looked as I touched my body, and aroused my pleasure. Unfortunately, I had a HUGE shame response, and not only erased the scene, I then DESTROYED the tape. (Pre-digital.) Yeah, I know, sooo sad!
So fast forward to now, years later. I now record my sessions with some degree of regularity. What I find is that they are very instructive. When someone tells you to ‘masturbate better,’ it can be daunting. What does that even mean? How do you know what to do? Are you doing something wrong?
So what do I pay attention to when I watch my video masturbation sessions? When I look at the videos, I pay attention to the signs of arousal I see myself displaying. If I watch it soon enough, I may be able to remember that particular moment, and connect what I am seeing on the outside with the memory of my internal experience. I notice how much time I am taking (or not) and the quality of the touch I am giving myself. I pay attention to my breath, and also especially focus on any points I notice that I may be constricting. Just like athletes watch tapes of their performance to gain insight, masturbators can do the same.
I invite you, in honor of National Masturbation Month, to videotape yourself doing yourself. Take your time. Turn yourself on.
When you watch it, (hopefully soon after) notice how you feel, seeing yourself in your arousal. Notice what feelings come up.
Wash… Rinse… and….. Repeat! Try it again, and this time touch yourself for the camera. Play it up. And also pay attention to the quality of your own touch. It’s kind of like the mirror, only a different format which you can use to change up the ways in which you touch yourself.
And, keep it! Don’t erase it. Try again in 6 months, a year. Compare technique. It’ll be like an erotic journal of your pleasure journey. I’m guessing you’ll be surprised by what you notice.
And by the way: there is no wrong way to masturbate.
As a sexologist, I believe there are various ways to enter into our sexy space. And just like different strokes for different folks (did a masturbator come up with that saying?) different people enter into erotic energy different ways.
With purportedly, 30% of all internet traffic to porn sites, obviously visual stimulation is a well-traveled inroad for many wankers. Fantasy will do the trick, and of course good old fashioned friction also get us there. And then there is erotica.
I’m a big fan of erotica. Starting with reading Penthouse “Forum” as a young person, I learned early to masturbate while reading. I would say that a majority of my teenage masturbation involved the use of printed material. My session today led me down this road of sweet stimulation. I like erotica because I can fast forward and freeze frame mentally, at will. It’s not so much the images that are created, but rather the phrasing. Words like “throb” and “sopping” and “turgid” and “slit” are not often used outside the realm of erotica. I find them incredibly turny-ony.
The kind of orgasm I have when using erotica is very different from an orgasm when my focus is on my body. There is a very particular heat that is generated by reading steamy stories. I’m super picky: it has to be well written, and detailed enough to dampen my panties. It can’t be stupid, or have too many characters with hard-to-believe names like Sally and Fred. Enough plot to be believable, not too much that I’m having to read about feelings other than arousal, turn on, shame, or prohibition. My biggest turn-ons involve situations where there is a conflict of interest: desire + shame, or pleasure + power imbalance, or headfuck situations that involve someone being turned on even though they are being manipulated.
Part of what erotica does for me is give me a space for permission to be turned on by things that I would never really do. Taboo is hot in erotica, in my opinion. I’ve noticed that erotica is often ‘given the shaft’ so to speak, and dismissed as softer porn, for girls and sissies. I beg to differ. Raunchy, saucy and dirty are all qualities I seek out when looking for a thigh-squeezing missive.
What I do consider important is not to get stuck in only one pathway to arousal. I regularly mix it up, just to keep it all working. While I don’t consider porn a problem per se, what I do have concern about is people only being able to access their erotic energy through one pathway. Why limit yourself?
If you liked this post, do me a favor and leave a comment below answering this question: what is your favorite pathway to arousal?
Masturbating in the mirror is a powerful modality that takes a brave and courageous heart, but offers the potential for deep healing. I’ve done this meditation a number of times, and each time am surprised by that moment when my own beauty takes my breath away. Practice today included gazing at myself in the mirror as I masturbated.
The other day I wrote about how I’ve been paying attention to my presence… how present I am when I am doing mundane things. I’ve noticed that often my mind is elsewhere… I’m in the shower, under the steamy hot water, and I’m thinking about a session, or my kids, or my partner, or…
Part of my commitment to pleasure is being available to receive it when it comes. For example, part of my self-pleasure practice over the weekend was taking a walk in the woods, alone, and being truly present with my embodied self. I focused on my breath, my feet, the sense of being in my body, the sensation of movement, and the sensory input I was receiving. At the end, I felt just splendid… so juicy and full and loving myself and my life. I realized that I had just masturbated in public, and no one even knew!
Us sex-educator types talk about masturbation as self-love. But I’m not sure we take it to the next level, and make it about feeling the love. Feeling that deep, warm abiding sense of presence and care. Just like we have for somebody else; a loved one, pet or child, but actually this time feeling that same love directed toward ourselves, as well as feeling the receiving of that love.
Thich Nhat Hanh writes about noticing when you are doing the thing you are doing… now I’m typing. Now I’m drinking coffee. Now I’m noticing I need to pee. Apparently, suffering comes in when we are disconnected from our experience in the present moment. And how does this relate to masturbation?
Well, being truly present to our own touch, our own sensations can be novel. Often, we focus on porn, erotica or fantasy during masturbation. I love all of those things. And. There is a certain quality of touch that comes when my attention is ONLY on touch. Or perhaps we are numbed out, and can’t feel our own touch, or get aroused by it. This will not do. Barnaby Barratt says,
“We mentioned how being touched is essential to our physical welfare, our emotional vitality, and our spiritual growth. However, none of us would thrive if our being touched remained dependent on the love of others – the love of our self is prerequisite.
It is important line of childhood development that, as we grow from babies into toddlers, we are able to assume some responsibility for our need to be touched, as we become sufficiently coordinated to touch ourselves intentionally. This does not mean that the need to be touched by others disappears. Quite the contrary, it remains strongly important to continue to be touched by others, especially since we know that being touched by another human being has pronounced different energy dynamics than touching ourselves – an issue we will mention again. But it does mean that, as our child develops, touching can be reciprocal, and then, if these developments proceed well, touching can become energetically mutual or “synergistic.”
Very importantly, it means that our child becomes able to administer the gift of touch to ourselves – moving from being simply a recipient, to the possibilities of being actively self-giving. This is an enormously important shift for physical and emotional development as has been demonstrated in many ways that documented in the literatures of developmental psychology and psychoanalysis. It is also the foundation of our human capacities to receive love, and therefore to be able to give love.”
Today, I will practice administering the gift of mindful, present touch to myself, so that I may love and be loved to the full extent of my capacity. I understand that reclaiming my touch relationship with myself is a practice, and that it may take time to feel my own touch as fully as I feel a lover’s. However, I also recognize how self-love creates availability for loving others. I invite you to this practice with me.
The extended-dance-mix version of the self-loving session is great, don’t get me wrong.
Sexological Bodyworkers love to promote awakening the body. We dig varied levels of touch: depth, rhythm, pressure. Building erotic energy over time is a favorite modality.
And then there are the the nights you just need to rip one off. Like last night.
I love masturbation. I love the soothing quality of it. I love the attention I am paying to myself. And I love how I always know exactly what feels great.
Last night was me and M. Magic. So yeah. I did that. Did you?
I invite you to join me in National Masturbation Month by committing to a month of daily erotic practice. Stay tuned here and on facebook for updates.