No matter what, I choose to feel it

I emailed this week with a young man living in Northern Europe.  He was curious about his sexuality, and because of a physical disability, did not have much experience.  Because of his location, he did not have much access to sexuality support.  He had found me on the internet and reached out so bravely, across the many miles that separate us.

We exchanged several emails, and had set up an appointment time to meet via video conferencing.  He was clear about what he wanted to work on.  In a confirmation email, I reflected back to him what I heard him saying he wanted.  He had asked me what my suggestions were, and I suggested a particular way we might work together.

The next email I received was him cancelling our appointment.  He wrote that actually he was learning all that he needed via watching videos, and no longer required my services.  “Hmmm.”  I thought.  Usually, when things are going well with new clients and we are moving towards our first session, it’s normal for them to have some fear that comes up.  Sometimes they write to me and confess their worries.  But rarely at this stage do folks cancel.

What was going on?  My intuition said that fear, repression and shame were at work.  That this young man got hit hard with some shame backlash when I reflected his desires back to him.  I was invested in working with this person; his commitment to prioritizing his sexuality in spite of the tremendous obstacles he is facing had earned my respect.

I wrote back, and asked him if shame and fear were present for him, and if that was why he had changed his mind.  I asked him to be in touch if he ever decided that he really couldn’t learn everything he needed to know about sex from watching videos.  His response staggered me.  He wrote that he had realized that his priority was to get his life in order.  That he had spent enough time working on his sexuality for now, and it was going to take at least ten years to get his life situated, and at that time he might again focus on sexuality.  And that he doubted very much he’d ever be in touch.

radicular_painI nearly cried. Ten years?? What would happen to this tender impulse towards pleasure after ten years of denial? What would happen (or wouldn’t happen) neurologically to him?

A strong belief I hold in this work is that we must live in the bodies that we have, right now. That sensation and feeling aren’t something that ‘someday’ are welcome, once the body we have is right, once the situation we have is right, once the partner we have is right.  Sensation and feeling are the currency of being human; we must be diligent in our pursuit of the experience of actually living in our bodies. 

There are so many reasons to not feel, to disassociate, to leave or forget or numb this experience of the human body. Choosing not to feel is always a viable choice. However, it is a choice that comes at a price, and one of which we want to be very aware.  When we choose numbness over pain, or denial over reality, when we turn it down or push it down or drown it out or anesthetize, when we leave our bodies… the price we then pay is in how difficult it is to return, once we are ready. It is possible, of course, to return to sensation and feeling and pleasure.  I am living proof. But oh the time it takes… and the effort.  It can be quite daunting to return to embodied life when we’ve been away.  And ten years???

Trauma is real. And for every step we’ve taken away from our deepest knowing and feeling of ourselves, that is one step we must take when we return.  10,000 steps going away =  10,000 steps coming home.  (By step I mean energetic movement away from our core, and please forgive the ableist language.)

We don’t even know what we don’t know.  We don’t know what we don’t feel. If we numbed out at a young age, the amount of sensation we feel is our ‘normal.’  We may not even consider that there is more to feel, more to know.  We may conclude our sexual situation is “good enough.”

I feel so hurty-in-my-heart about shame and the ways it impacts our ability to feel and be close.  I so wish I had a magick pill to send to that young man. I wish him all the best, and I send him the knowing that eventually, Eros DOES call us home.  A thing is not cooked until it is, and no one’s process can be rushed.  And yet. The quiet suffering of sexual repression on this planet is a constant dull roar in my ear. I cannot forget.  I am in service to Eros emancipated. And this is a prayer, that the road be open and easy as we all move away from shame, and  towards erotic wholeness.

If this resonates with you, please leave a comment below.

Participating in a Revolution: A Trans Guy’s experience at Geography of Pleasure (Guest Post)

(The following is a Guest Post by Roman Rimer, describing his experiences at the Geography of Pleasure: Embodiment for Trans Guys workshop. Enjoy! ~ Pavini)

After the Geography of Pleasure workshop I was able to talk about the experience ad nauseam, maybe even brag a little bit, to my inquiring cis-gender friends.  Finally, a place where I felt at home. 

When it came time to write about what feelings came up all the words I piece together seem slightly off, empty.  Perhaps this goes back to the adage that writing is the loneliest profession.  By contrast, participating in a workshop with family members you never knew you had, feels to be quite the opposite. Feeling part of a larger group is huge, especially if it doesn’t happen often.

Trans Love

Warm, safe spaces exist everywhere; they’re just not always open to everybody.  My first impression when I entered the space was that I was welcome, and not just because I was helping other people sign in.  Often I feel I have had to be on guard, even when I am in familiar places with people I know.  Quite often those most “comfortable” elements in my life have at points turned threatening.  When I find myself in a new space, I am safe.  I do not have to worry about where I will go next and I can be fully present.

There are too many themes covered in the workshop to fully process, and I’m sure with time a few moments will pop up when I am least expecting it; perhaps they will provide guidance for that particular moment and it will make sense.

A concrete reminder for me was how important human touch can be.  Well-meaning touch is not always easy to come by, consent is only occasionally addressed, and at moments in my life I have wanted to fully separate from my body.  I imagine if we were taught at a young age to establish and respect boundaries, how the human race could start to heal itself.  Even when in relationship(s) I constantly crave human touch and to receive it in such a loving way as it was in the workshop was a much-needed gift.

I enjoyed the exercises in which we were placed in smaller groups, either two or three of us.  In one we allowed the other person to touch us, told them where, how much pressure to apply.  In the groups of three we asked our partners to remove article(s) of clothing.  It was something that on the surface so simple, yet while enacting it felt incredibly empowering.

The actions that many take for granted, are usually much more weighted with trans folks.  Perhaps it was because we all knew what it was like, maybe the safety quashed all fears. From talking with other folks I identified that I, too, have felt my body at times was stolen from me, misidentified, physically harmed, attacked with words.  

Us transfolks must love our bodies more than anyone could understand, we have held on to our bodies through everything.  And what a better way to treat our bodies than to allow them the tenderness from others?

I’d forgotten how satisfying it was to be around ones brethren. While it wasn’t my first time with a group of solely trans-masculine folks, it was the first time in a while.

I’d imagine for many trans folks we’re constantly surrounded by cis people, often well-meaning, but still for lack of a better word, at times, horrible. I constantly find myself in a teaching role, as I find that tends to be one of the more hopeful ways to reach out to people.  Being able to talk about my relationship with my body and not take on that role, is something I really value.

Though most of us were meeting one another for the very first time, I felt as though we’d known each other forever.  Coming from different walks of life, different generations, family dynamics, occupations, we fit together like puzzle pieces, the individuals so strong yet together creating something even more magnificent than us all individually.

 “The space was sacred there’s no doubt about it. I could feel the spirits of our transancestors and those who have yet to be born, all there with us.  Those who have been silenced helped give me the strength to speak.  It was as though as soon as we formed a circle a spark was lit, igniting an everlasting flame, warm enough for all of us.”

The workshop the previous three days was a mindfuck in the best way possible.  Imagine, always feeling like an outsider, feeling misunderstood, always wary of how much to disclose (if at all), the idea that many people might not get it, or their reactions could be harmful, even dangerous. And suddenly I was in a place where not only was it safe to share, but it was encouraged, and others spoke their truths, let their fears out into the air.  Suddenly, I felt less ashamed of my own struggles.

Often I feel as eager to cover up as I am to shed my layers.  Growing up in the States, feeling ashamed of my body, nudity, sex. While it was never hard for me to find my voice, it was always hard for me to trust it. The workshop provided the trust, part from within the community and building it within ourselves.

The day after the workshop I had an improv class.  I was still recovering, emotionally.  Thoughts zoomed across my mind.  How comfortable I’d felt, while battling through recurring memories of trauma over and over again.  In class there were about fifteen of us and I looked around thought, holy fuck, I’m the only trans person here.   Improv is known for “gender role reversal” if anything this drama therapy helped me figure out my identity.  Though I’d known most of these folks for months, and was out as trans to maybe a third of them, I instantly missed my kin.  Though it was only in my mind,  I felt I stuck out as the lone trans thumb, and I instantly missed those bonds I’d just formed.

I like the idea that everyone is trans, only some of us have realized it.   Perhaps this meeting was for those of us with the courage to move forward.  After feeling shamed by the medical community, by family, friends, all these aspects of my life I could trace back to deciding to live openly and authentically.  Once I came out I couldn’t quite go back.  And as exhausting as I am by the constant teaching, It’s worth it.  All the people about to have kids, for all the people who may not have given transphobia a second thought.

Nothing has made me happier than the friends who have since given birth acknowledging gender can very much be placed on children before they are ready to express who they are and they need to check their own beliefs before imposing them on their children.  And to meet other trans folks at this workshop who were parents themselves gave me quite a lot of faith in the next generation.  

And while it may take cis-gender people a while to catch on, I believe it’s possible.  Once they get close enough to our fire, they will see the warmth, the camaraderie that elevates us all once we accept ourselves, and by proxy each other.

I mentioned the importance of a warm space and there is no way I could omit the hot food.  It might not seem like much to some, but I am always grateful to have a hot meal in a warm space.  I still feel quite privileged even with trauma I’ve endured.  Since transitioning my housing situation has been more uncertain than not.   It’s all connected.

And while I would never give it up, or change anything, it’s clear the price I’ve paid to live an authentic life.  To not have basic needs met, or at least a given, I’ve put myself at risk. Knowing where I will be at a certain time, knowing I will be fed – is a huge thing.  It shouldn’t be and everyone should always have these basics covered, but by seeing once more how “outsiders” or rather, folks who don’t subscribe to a certain, limited way of being, exist, my empathy has grown and flooded from me.  It’s easy to see we’re not alone.

To know that although we went through this all alone, we were finally able to be there with each other.   There’s something that only we can give each other.  And that was remarkable.  The scariest part is in thinking that we are all alone.  The Geography of Pleasure workshop proved nothing could be further from the truth.

~ by Roman Rimer

Revolution happens when trans-masculine people invite pleasure into their bodies, just as they are.

bridge-to-tunnelI 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  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! 

Am I feeling all I can? Honoring sex and life

candle-circleTuesday was my 43rd birthday.  

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.  


These boots were made for walking: Fluevogs, Sex, Divorce and San Francisco.

I moved to California in 2004, from a homestead in the backwoods of the North Carolina mountains where I literally baked my own bread each week. I could never have imagined all the ways San Francisco would infiltrate my skin, my soul, and my sex.  It ended my marriage, and brought me into my true partnership.  It turned me queerer than I’d ever dared to express before.  It radicalized my life. San Francisco has been, and continues to be, my totally  hot transformative lover, like no other.

Today I’ve been pondering what it is that my child self wants.  Making room for the desires of that girl, and trying to give her space for play and trust.  This afternoon, she has called out for dress up. Boots, in particular.

And although it feels incredibly vulnerable to share, here’s a little post-holiday gift for you.  I wrote this poem in 2005 about the pair of Fluevogs I bought that eventually changed my life. When I wrote the poem, I didn’t know all that would happen, but you’ll notice that somewhere I had a strong inkling, or at least some forshadowing.

As it turns out, I’ve ridden those boots home to a sexuality that continuously expands and furthers my expression of my deep, animal nature.

Back in 2005, my then-partner told me I looked like a prostitute (he didn’t mean in a good way) the very first time I wore the boots.  I was heartbroken.  But something raw and powerful inside insisted I wear them anyway. Ultimately, that moment informed my decision to leave my marriage and reclaim myself.  I felt a distinctive “fuck you” to those threatened by my sexuality.  I continue to feel that way.

In the post-capitalist-frenzy of the holidays, may my humble offering remind you that we can always travel home again, and sometimes the ticket is even for sale.

Buying the Boots on Haight Street, 2005

These boots are San Francisco.

As the striding, heel-crushing totems work their black magic,

supple black leather, long lines, heels curving up like city streets,

I tell my companion I am not ready to ride these.

As the striding, heel-crushing totems work their black magic,

my fingers trace these routes.

I tell my companion I am not ready to ride these

She says I will not wear these boots until I wear these boots.

My fingers trace these routes

like streetcars of desire.

She says I will not wear these boots until I wear these boots,

and there is longing, coveting, desiring.

Like streetcars of desire

carrying a bad-ass passenger,

There is longing, coveting, desiring

to be the woman who owns these boots.

Carrying a bad-ass passenger

Up, up, up, up

Oh, to be the woman who owns these boots,

pouring my legs into the casings, making me taller, badder, readier.

Up, up, up, up,

supple black leather, long lines, heels curving up like city streets,

and pouring my legs into the casings, I am taller, badder, readier.

These boots are San Francisco.

The Day I bought my Fluevogs (looking a little apprehensive.)
The Day I bought my Fluevogs (looking a little apprehensive.)

The Choice to Listen

im-not-listeningUnfortunately, this resembled the scene over breakfast at my house this week, waaayyyy before coffee had kicked in.

Pavini: I need to say something, and I want to ask that you just hold it and not react.  It’s about me, and not about you, or you doing or not doing anything.

Pavini’s partner: uhhhh…okay.

Pavini: I am feeling controlling about the website.

Pavini’s partner: Oh, no big deal.  You can do the website.

Pavini: That is exactly what I did NOT want you to say!!

In the above interaction, I felt angry and triggered after my partner responded that I could do the website.  I did not WANT to do the website, and merely naming my feelings was super vulnerable.   I tried to take care of myself, by front-loading the situation and trying to ask for what I needed.  It didn’t work, and in fact I got the opposite of what I had wanted. Clearly, a communication fail.

Talking about the situation later, my partner told me that when I asked him to hold what I was about to say without reacting, he felt a great deal of nervousness and anticipation.  When I actually said the thing, he felt relief.  He then wanted me to feel better, and he assumed that I would since he was feeling relieved that I hadn’t told him something heinous over oatmeal.

Unfortunately, in conveying his relief, I experienced his communication as minimization of my own feeling.

What would have been helpful in this situation would be for him to have said something like “Do you want to say more?” or “Is there something you need around that?” You know, therapist speak.

There are times when we just need to say something and have it witnessed and held well.  Sometimes, that is all we need.  No one needs to respond, judge, fix, or filter it through their own experience.  Empathic listening is the technique when a listener stays present and attuned, without doing anything else.    

In working with couples and in my own couples therapy, I have often noticed that while someone may be fluent in communicating their own feelings, it can be super challenging  to just LISTEN to the feelings of their partner.  There is a conflation of listening with agreement.  Meaning, if I listen deeply to what my partner is saying, that means I agree with it.

However, I’ve learned that it is possible to listen to what a partner is saying, and try to hear and understand, without agreeing at all. In order to be able to truly hear, we can disagreement to the side, and promise to come back for it in a little bit.  When I listen from a place that is beyond agreement or disagreement, my communications often go much more smoothly.

Here are some different types of listening I’ve been researching:

Active: Listening in a way that demonstrates interest and encourages continued speaking.

Appreciative: Listening to something for pleasure, like spoken word poetry

Attentive: Fully engaged with what the speaker is saying, demonstrating attentive body language and inserting appropriate social markers of listening.

Biased: Listening through the filter of personal bias or belief. This short clip gives more info

Casual: Listening without obviously showing attention. Actual attention may vary a lot.

Comprehension: Listening to understand meaning

Critical/judgmental/evaluative: Listening in order to evaluate, criticize or otherwise pass judgment on what someone else says.  This can include listening to rebut listening with the intention of finding fault, to rebut, or to compare with ourselves.

Empathic: Listening from the heart, listening for feelings. Maintaining awareness of one’s own self, while opening to the feeling state of the speaker.

Reflective: Listening in order to understand, and then saying back to someone what you have heard them say, while clarifying for your own understanding.

Sympathetic: Listening with concern for the well-being of the speaker. Often paired with the communicationchoice to express one feelings or offer advice.

Therapeutic: Listening with empathy to help the speaker to understand their own feelings and thoughts.

My partner and I resolved our conflict. The next time I need to speak something aloud and only have it witnessed,  I will make the choice as the speaker to ask him to listen with empathy.  That gives him clear information in making his choice as a listener. 

As listeners, we have lots of choices.  We can choose what type of listening we are doing.  We can choose how our body language reflects what we are doing. We can be thinking about what we will say next, and zoning out to the speaker.  We can be thinking about how what the speaker is saying relates to us or our experience. We can be thinking about how to fix or solve or advise the speaker.  Or we can choose to simply be present and engaged, setting down as many of our filters as we can.


Trust Resilience: Relearning Intimacy

Trust builds intimacy at Emancipating SexualityHi, my name is Pavini and I have trust issues. 

(If you do too, this post is for you… read to the bottom for a free resource for your trust journey.)

The themes of trust and betrayal has come up in all of my relationships.  Apparently, my core belief is that sooner or later, betrayal will happen.  (“Hi, I’ll take the bloody, pain-filled éclair please.”)

In my world, betrayal is defined as,  “You knew that I (fill in the blank) and you still (took the action that made me feel betrayed.)  For example: “You knew I wanted to see that movie, and you went without me.”  Or, “Even though I said it was fine, you know my history with Paul, and you know how I feel about him, and you went out with him anyway.”

I find that I am constantly vigilant in all of my intimate relationships, almost suspicious, because I ‘know’ I will be betrayed, and I’m just watching and waiting for it to happen.

As you can imagine, this puts my intimates into difficult and uncomfortable situations.

It’s taken a long time to realize how often I am viewing the world through the betrayal glasses, which color everything with mistrust.  When I stop to examine it, I realize that real intimacy is impossible without trust.  Problematic, oh teacher of intimacy.

So, assuming that I want deep intimate connections, it seems like relearning trust is the thing.  How in the world do I do that?  I was supposed to have learned it when I was a baby; is it even possible to do it now?

Yes.  And it’s work.

What is trust? Trust is not a feeling.  It is a belief about the other, based on our own observations or what we have been told.

Trust is a belief that someone will act in ways that support us, that are in alignment with what they say, and that we can depend on consistent care and honesty from that individual.  We can be vulnerable and be our real selves. Ultimately, it is a belief that someone is worthy of our trust. 

Truth: Some people are trustworthy, others are not.

And of course, there are varying degrees of trust we can bestow.  I have a dear friend that I lived through some very harrowing situations with, including being held at gunpoint in Eastern Europe.  I trust her with my life.  I do not trust her to return my library books.

In grown-up relationships, we must be both trusting and mistrusting.  We track the behavior of others, and use the information to discern the level of trust we give to someone. As evidence mounts that someone is indeed trustworthy, trust becomes a quality of a relationship. It’s important to note that if I am unilaterally mistrusting of everyone, the problem may be within me.  And it may have been within for a long time.  Like, most of my life.

In his Theory of Human Development, Erik Erikson theorized that how the infant’s basic needs are met by caregivers determine whether the child will essentially trust or mistrust the world.

The therapist, Buddhist and author David Richo goes further and explicates roadblocks to trust in his book “Daring to Trust.”

He said that our trust capacity is diminished when early caregivers:

  • Failed to show us love through the modalities of: attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, allowing.
  • Were not attuned to and allowing of our feelings
  • Neglected us physically or emotionally
  • Abused us physically, emotionally or sexually
  • Had expectations of us that were too low or too high
  • Were continually arguing with or abusing others in our presence
  • Used us as a go-between
  • Had active addictions.

When I read first read these thoughts, I felt relief.  I’ve felt so damaged by this whole trust difficulty.  Like, everyone else got picked for Team Trust, and I’m over here, nursing my trust wounds.  Somehow, having reasons for my trust challenges is comforting.

And I see that if mistrust and betrayal were things I learned, I can learn to trust again.

The journey thus far of relearning trust has been significant.  First, I’ve had to see the ways my lack of trust has impacted relationships, past and present.

Here are a few things I’ve learned through the process

  • We can increase our capacity to trust by taking calculated trust risks, and having them be successful. 
  • We can also place our attention our resilience to recover trust after betrayal. 
  • Our trust in ourselves grows, as we trust again, and are rewarded by having our discernment about trustworthiness validated by the behavior of others.
  • Interestingly, our capacity to trust also increases when we commit ourselves to being trustworthy.

For example, I often find myself reflecting on my own behavior as a child to guide my parenting.  (Aside: I don’t understand how adults conveniently ‘forget’ all the rebellious choices and exploration they experienced as teenagers.  Luckily, I have journals from this period of my life that remind me exactly of my behavior and choices.)

There were many times as a child, that the need for freedom outweighed the need for being in integrity.  I often acted in duplicitous ways, in order to achieve my goals of fun, friends and freedom.  I was not trustworthy. This eroded my sense of trust in myself.

Now, as a parent, I can choose to be trustworthy.  I can choose to be honest and integrous with my kids when approaching conversations about topics like sex, alcohol, drugs, and all those other challenging and exciting teenage decisions. 

We can all choose to be impeccably trustworthy.

This means getting super clear with our boundaries.  It means saying “yes” or “no” completely, and not changing our mind later, or if we do, having a conversation about it.  It means owning what is ours, and moving away from blaming.  It means doing what we say.  It means holding our intimates well, and holding ourselves well.

Ironically, as we choose to be trustworthy, it actually increases our own capacity for trust.  Since we are acting in trustworthy ways, we begin to believe that others are, too.

Okay, so at this point in my trust story:

  • I’m able to realize how I see the world through my betrayal lens, and question my core belief.
  • I’m able to practice putting new core beliefs next to the problematic one, such as “Many people can be trusted, most of the time.”
  • I’m acting in trustworthy ways, and that is increasing my capacity to trust others.
  • I’m taking calculated and small trust risks, and they are successful.
  • I’ve learned to track people’s words and behavior, so I have good data on which to base trust decisions.
  • When I feel betrayed, I notice my resilience to trusting again.
  • I base the giving of my trust on past experiences with individuals.

Last night I dreamed that my partner betrayed me, and then confessed to me.  I felt the feeling of betrayal; it is so painful and devastating.  It feels like nothing will ever be right, ever again.  When I woke, to his sleeping form, I knew it was just a dream reminder of the work I am doing.  I am learning to trust him.  I am learning to trust myself.

I see that I still have work to do: settling into the body sense of trusting my beloved to hold me well, to communicate, and to stay present.

If you would like to examine your own fluency with trust, here’s a worksheet I developed for one of the Intimacy Technology classes.  Taking a trust history will give you qualitative data on your own life.  Reflection on the journey is where the real learning happens.

Trust History Exploration: Free Resource from Emancipating Sexuality! 

I teach trust skills in the Intimacy Technology series. The next class is called “Trusting Again and Risking Love.”  Monday, November 25 at 7 p.m. in San Francisco.  We’ll be exploring how to trust again after serious relationship betrayal, and practicing new trust skills with a supportive and playful group.  I trust you will join us if you need to!

Take Me Down Where I am Whole: Take me down, to My Black Velvet Sexy Soul

il_570xN.171899971Yesterday was the 27th anniversary of losing my virginity.  

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. 

Black Velvet opens consciousnessThe 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!

Fucking Science: Erotic Experiments in the Dark

sex_scienceQuestion: 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.Erotic Experiments

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? 

Trusting Eros: Being Taken by the Fuck (in an alley)

Sex in an Alley“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.

Sex in an Alley

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.  

Skills for Emotional Integrity

Emancipating SexualityThe following is an in-progress list of skills for Emotional Integrity.  I am able to practice all of these things, but not all of the time or all at once.  I set my intention upon this list as a document of guiding principles as I navigate how to be the best human I can.

I am teaching a class tonight on Emotional Responsibility: 7 p.m. in San Francisco.  

Click here to Register! 

I would love to see you, and this material is the basis for what we will be doing.  

Please please please comment at the end of things I have missed or forgotten… I am so curious about your feedback!

Emotional Integrity Skill Set

  • Acknowledge all of my needs and desires (even if they will not be met at that moment, they still exist.)
  • Acknowledge my unmet needs.
  • Acknowledge the needs of all involved, and hold as equally valid to mine.
  • Share my true inner feelings and thoughts, a.k.a. “Transparency.”
  • Check in when unsure of someone’s feelings, needs, motivations, actions.
  • Work on translating blame mentality into personal accountability.
  • Develop awareness of and compassion for my projections onto others.
  • Feel the pain I cause someone, even if unintentional.
  • Recognize the difference between my intention, and the impact my actions have on someone.  The hurt doesn’t go away just because I didn’t mean to hurt them.
  • Internally trust that others experiences are true for them.
  • Allow others experiences to exist without fixing, minimizing, or assuming.
  • Know clearly the pain or core wound filters through which I view my world.
  • Ask for and receive support appropriately.
  • Acknowledge my own contribution to any conflict.
  • Recognize my blaming behaviors, and gently redirect to personal accountability.
  • Acknowledge all of my complicated and multiple intentions, be they helpful or hurtful.
  • Know my own triggers.
  • Take care of myself when triggered.
  • Know how to get myself ‘back online’ after triggered.
  • Honor biology: fight or flight is real, and to make thinking choices of response, sometimes I need a break to sort it out.
  • Give myself all the time I need to get clear.
  • Not engage from a triggered place.
  • Practice responding, and not reacting.
  • Keep the house between me and someone else ‘clean,’ not hold onto resentments.
  • Communicate forthrightly, and not wait to be asked.
  • Communicate more rather than less about my choices and feelings
  • HALT aware: Communicate when I am not Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.
  • Seek council when necessary.
  • Communicate directly to the person (not behind their back.)
  • Notice when I am critical, accusatory, punishing or desire to humiliate.  Send love and compassion to myself, knowing that these are arising from my own hurt places. Choose carefully how I proceed.
  • Commit to understanding, rather than being right.
  • Work my emotional boundaries: know what is mine and what is not.
  • Be mindful about how my energy (not just words and actions) impacts those around me.
  • Stay connected through conflict.  Reassure my loved ones, comfort each other. Reach out.
  • Be present and in my body.
  • Listen to someone, and notice my own judgments internally.
  • Acknowledge and share my mixed emotions.
  • Welcome feedback about my actions.
  • Share generously my heart.
  • Give and receive love.
  • Know that big emotions don’t justify throwing all relationship principles away: I act according to my values even when I am angry, hurt, frustrated, grieving, or jealous.
  • Don’t assign motivations based on the impact of someone’s actions.
  • Hold that the ‘meta’ of a relationship is more important than being right in that moment.
  • Let go of small grievances.
  • Respect the boundaries others set, both verbally and with body language.
  • Be mindful of hearing only what I want to hear.
  • Notice when my criticisms and judgments are active: Ask self, “Am I feeling vulnerable?”
  • Seek win/win solutions.
  • Speak truthfully, without obfuscation, lies, or omissions.
  • Choose truth over social ease most times, but also check to see if my feedback will help or hurt, and choose to the best of my ability in that moment.
  • Acknowledge everyone’s needs as equally valid, even when what someone needs conflicts with what I want.
  • Ask, “How can I make their life more wonderful?” and “How can I sweeten this situation?”
  • Seek professional help to renegotiate trauma and psychological wounding
  • Look at my own behavior, acknowledge the negative impact it has had on someone, and actively work to rectify both the situation and the behavior.
  • Assume others are acting honorably.
  • Align words and body language/cues.
  • Say yes only when almost all of me agrees. (What is my percentage for determining yes?) Acknowledge the small part that always resists, and see if it needs anything.
  • Acknowledge that I, and everyone else, are doing the best we can with all that we have at that particular moment, and if we could make a more useful choice, we would.
  • Repeatedly and over time choose Kindness towards others.

Click here to Register for Emotional Responsibility class tonight.

Choose kindness right now and please drop me a comment below.  

I am hungry for your input! 

Receiving the Fruits of Love

“Desire consists of three stages.  First, getting clear on what you want.  Next, communicating it.  And last, being available to actually receive what you want, and recognizing it when it comes.” ~me

Often, this process breaks down for people in one of these stages.  After a number of failed attempts, we subconsciously learn to push away our desire, as it has become the source of pain.  To be truly intimate, we must reclaim our desire.  We can practice each of the three stages.  When we learn to consciously and actively receive, we begin to realize that our desire is not all encompassing.  We begin to know that it’s okay to be hungry, because sometimes we are full.  We begin to allow the yearning that brings us closer to Spirit, because sometimes we know the feeling of one-ness, of not-alone-ness.

Receiving is an Intimacy Technology skill.  Perhaps receiving seems like the most intuitive part of the process.  Perhaps you are saying to yourself, “Pavini, I TOTALLY am able to receive what I want.”  I believe you.  And also I invite you to consider the following.

It’s my belief, that beneath our cool exterior, most of us  feel a sense of profound inadequacy.  And I’m not the only one who thinks so.  Tara Brach, Brene Brown, and many others link our chronic suffering with a deep-seated sense of being unworthy. In fact, the Dalai Lama has ‘”expressed astonishment at the  degree of self-aversion and feelings of unworthiness reported by Western students.”  And he’s hanging out with the kids who are actually working to undo that particular belief!

When I was first falling in love with my partner, I was deeply worried about what must be horribly wrong with my partner, since they were falling in love with me.  How could I possibly actually receive love and care when I believed that the giver was deeply flawed?  And that I was deeply flawed?  If I am not worthy of love and care, I can’t actually receive it.

So yeah, somewhere along the way we swallowed a bunch of crap.   Unpacking and rewriting the unworthiness story is crucial.  And it can be a long road to recovery.  Feeling worthy definitely takes practice and repetition over time.

Once I’ve been working on the worthiness thing for awhile, then I can turn my attention to receiving.  Even if  if I can receive love and care, doReceiving massage can help you practice receiving other things.  I notice that I am receiving long enough to feel satiation?  If all we ever feel is hungry, we lose the sweetness of dancing along the spectrum between full and empty. We numb to the subtlety and nuance of our experience when our ability to move between binaries is stuck.

When I first left my marriage, and I was living on my own, I spent an entire Thanksgiving weekend painting my living room the color of sweet potatoes.  I listened to Lauren Hill, danced, cried and made my space gorgeous.  After the long weekend, when I was standing looking in the front window to my home, and all the lights were on, I had a curious sensation.  I couldn’t place it at first.  And then it hit me: I was content!  I had never had that experience before.  I luxuriated for months in the satiation of all of my work of leaving, moving, and creating.  It was a wonderful way to receive myself, with love.

One way you can assess how well you are able to receive is by asking someone to give you a massage.  (It’s in the name of research, tell them.)  As you are being touced, notice how deeply you can allow the touch to soak in.  Do you feel it just at the skin?  Can you allow it to absorb further in? To your muscles?  Bones?  Heart?  Can you actually feel the love pouring through someone’s hands and into your body?  This month’s Intimacy Technology class is on Receiving.  On how we can practice being available to receive more of what we want intimately, and how we can recognize it once we have it.  I hope you’ll join me on Monday, May 20 at 7.

Breathtaking Vulnerability Workshop Tomorrow

I’m offering a class tomorrow night on vulnerability.  Okay, I know it’s no one’s favorite topic, but what I believe is that without the ability to be vulnerable, to open our hearts to the people we choose, we can’t be in the deep type of intimacy our souls crave.
I’ve been tackling one intimacy skill per month. I invite you to join me tomorrow night, especially if the thought of attending a workshop on vulnerability sounds terrifying or awful.
The tone will be sweet, powerful, playful, and not agonizing.  You’ll leave with some tools in your kit that ultimately will make your connections juicier.
7-10 p.m.
San Francisco
Sliding Scale, $25 Suggested Donation, No one turned away for lack of funds.
If you have questions, please be in touch.  pavinimoray (at)

Chasing Vulnerability: Why Bother?

Vulnerability feels like the perennial nightmare of getting up to teach the class, and realizing I have absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to be teaching about.  Or being in the play, on the stage, and realizing I forgot to ever study my lines. It feels like the moment right before everything starts to hurt like hell, and you know it’s coming… when you fall down the stairs, right before you hit the ground.  I wouldn’t say that it’s a sexy feeling at all.  And yet, the kind of intimacy I crave also requires me to be real, authentic and vulnerable in profound ways. 

Next week I’m teaching a workshop on vulnerability as an intimacy skill, so I’ve been spending a lot of time researching, reading, thinking about vulnerability. (And I hope you’ll join me! Follow the link to register.)

vulnerability_vulnerble_designI have also been practicing.  (Check out the picture I put on the landing page of my website.  Yikes!) On one hand, I totally get intellectually that to have the kind of intimacy and closeness I want in my life requires me being open-hearted and available.  I just wish it didn’t mean I had to be vulnerable.

The dictionary defines vulnerability as ‘capable of being wounded or hurt.’  Well, that just sucks!  Why would I want to do that?  I am a hedonist, and live my life and make my choices with pleasure as a core and central tenet.  I hate pain, hate hurting, hate discomfort.  I love sweetness, ease, and comfort.  Being vulnerable seems like the antithesis of all of that.

While it may appear outwardly that I’m good with the whole vulnerability thing, in actuality I’m a creature of habit.  I almost always order the same things at my favorite restaurants. I hate going into new situations where I don’t know anybody. I do what I know as long as it works reasonably well, and have to remind myself to try new behaviors.  I need profound, logical reasons to buy into opening myself up to hurt in service of some greater goal.  How is it going to serve me?

So I honor my monkey mind, and give it something to do.  Here’s a list in progress of the ways I’m talking myself into ever-greater vulnerability.

  • When I’m open to new possibilities, I can make choices from a wide range of productive and interesting options.
  • Being in social situations that are new, I can consciously choose to practice developing skills like authenticity.  If I am able to be real, I might meet new people who can become part of my support network and whom I will love.
  • Being able to accept help means not having to do everything alone.
  • Sharing my true emotional landscape allows me to receive empathy, and feel not alone.
  • Allowing my true self to be seen allows me a healthy perspective on myself: I am not the most fucked up person in the world.
  • Choosing not to ‘please’ someone and letting them see negative character traits allows me to relax and take off the mask.
  • I can receive support from others when I let them know I need it.
  • I can actually feel into my heart and my love when I begin to remove some of the shielding around it.  If I am always motivated by avoiding pain, I’m spending a lot of energy not feeling things.  When I stop, I feel more.
  • Me being real gives others permission to do the same, and I get met in the ways I want to be met.

We have defense mechanisms firmly in place to protect us from vulnerability.  We all struggle with this intimacy skill… and even those who appear good at it are constantly pushing their own edges of shame.

The truth is, I want to feel connected more than I want to feel safe.  Not sharing who I am means that while I may feel safe, I am not seen or known.  I am alone.  Personally, while that might be comfortable, it’s not the way I want to spend my life time. I’m going to keep at this vulnerability practice, and see where it takes me, even though it feels like being naked on-stage in high school. 

I’m curious how you engage with vulnerability. Do you resist being placed into situations where you experience this feeling?  What does it feel like to you? Would you practice vulnerability, in this moment, and write a comment below?

Intimacy Technology

So, remember when I posted that list of Intimacy Skills last fall, and it went viral?  Over 4,000 people read that post.  Holy Moly.  It got me thinking that although we are all supposed to KNOW how to be intimate, no one ever really teaches us explicitly.  Kinda like sex.  Unless you are super lucky and have an amazing family of origin, you probably struggle with intimacy, just like me.  When so many people read that post, I realized that there is a gap in our skill sets, and that I could come up with something to fill it.

I did a trial run of a few classes last fall, and they went really, really well.

I am writing a book, called “Intimacy Technology,” to help people access the skills to have intimacy more easefully.  I believe intimacy skills can be taught, practiced, and mastered.   To kick my ass into gear about writing the book, I decided to develop a series of classes, each one a chapter in the book, and present them over a year’s time.  I develop content for the class, for the book and workbook, and the peeps get to explore and practice building the intimacy skill in a low-risk environment with plenty of support.

Next Monday, January 28 starts the Intimacy Technology series.  We’ll meet just about every fourth Monday for a year.  Participants will receive strategies and tools that are immediately applicable to their relatings, be it with friends, co-workers, lovers, family, children, etc.   So, without further ado, here’s the promo: (And make sure to check out the special pricing for buying the whole series upfront)

Intimacy Skills in San FranciscoIntimacy Technology Series:

Transformative Skills for Potent Connection


“Have good boundaries.  Communicate well.  Know your true desire, and be able to ask for it. Be authentically vulnerable, and take emotional responsibility. Trust.”  All these are skills needed for true intimacy.  But where do we learn them? Mostly, we learn by trial and error, or costly therapy.  But what if developing intimacy skills was structured and fun?

Intimacy Technology is a skills development series.  Each intimacy skill is isolated, broken down into practical components, and practiced in a supportive, exploratory and playful environment.  In these classes you will explore the skills that build the intimacy muscle, with practical strategies and immediate results.

This is a year-long series, though you can attend as few or as many classes as you like.  Perfect for those who are single, newly in relationship, hoping to be in relationship, or in established relationships of any orientation or configuration.  Drop in cost is $30, or attend as many as you like for $250 paid in advance.   We meet most fourth Mondays of the month, from 7 – 10 p.m. in San Francisco.

January 28: Communication: Skills to negotiate desire, sex, emotions and conflict.
February 25: Joyful Boundaries: Honor, set, and maintai physical, energetic, emotional boundaries
March 25: On Fire with Desire: Find your desire, communicate about it, and receive it
April 22: Breathtaking Vulnerability: Opening yourself authentically
May 20: Getting what you thought you wanted Receptivity, availability and open-heartedness
June 24: Story: How does your intimacy story keep you from true intimacy? How can you rewrite it?
July 22: Dark Shadows: Meeting and knowing our darker desires, compassion and bringing our full self to intimacy
August 26: Successful and Supportive Intimacies: Allyship, gratitude, generosity and cooperation
September 23: Emotional responsibility: Owning what’s mine and mindfulness
October 28: Terrifying Trust: Opening to receiving love, intimacy and compassion
November 25: Intimate Risk-taking: With harm-reduction
December 16: Holding Space: For everyone’s feelings and needs

I’m in the process of renting space near public transport in SF, and as soon as that piece is in place I will publish the location.  I’d appreciate if you’d share this post on facebook, and forward it to anyone who could benefit.  I’m also looking for someone to do set-up and promo for a full work trade position for the series.  You can read more at or register HERE

To Know My Desire…

Working definition of Desire: The foundational current of energy in the body from which all acts of will and creation initiate.

Desire creates Life

So why bother? Why struggle to understand desire, to know its workings, to attempt to re-ignite it? Why fucking bother?

Well, what would life be like without Desire?  And I’m not talking only about sexual desire.  The sexuo-creative-lifeforce-Chi~prana-hungeryearning is what I’m naming.  It’s the flow of energy that moves through the body, inspires action and growth.  Without the flow of desire moving through the body like a river current, the internal space stagnates, becomes rigid and cement-like, and movement and growth are both impaired.

Who do you know who has tried for years to stifle and repress their Desire? And how did that work out for them?  Not so great, yah? Most likely, they are bitter or brittle, inflexible and stony.  And as much as they try to control it, the hunger leaks around the edges, yes? Desire repressed takes enormous energy to contain.

The essence of desire depends upon its movement and flow, so we are a conduit, not a container.  We can learn to hold desire as a river moving through its banks. Our bodies are the banks and edges.  Desire is the flowing water that erodes and changes us.  Indeed, set free desire has its way with us.  Dammed it does no one any good.  Let the waters run free again.

The River of Desire

Desire sources from our yearning to remember who we are and our purpose.   The very moment we allow the flow of desire to move through us unhindered is when our lives become the appropriate size for us. 

It is through our breath we come to know our Desire.  We quiet inside, and start to notice the gentle tugs on our attention that come through our senses.  I wrote yesterday of how our Desire is subjugated and we are force-fed the Desires the capitalist world would have us have.  Learning to reconnect with our own authentic desire that is less flashy than superbowl ads is challenging.

Can you feel it? Can you feel the yearning you have inside towards healing, towards wholeness, towards union, towards cooperation? Towards the Divine as you know it? Sometimes the pull is so quiet, so subtle.  So we practice.  We practice paying attention to Desire.  We practice noticing the places it is noticeable already in our lives.  We deliberately cultivate our relationship with Desire.  Most importantly, we give ourselves permission to feel Desire.

This is where Desire is fraught with challenge.  What happens if our Desire is not met, cannot be met?  What happens if we must sit with this intolerable yearning forever?  What happens if we desire something that the person whose job it is to meet our desire (a.k.a. our partner) can’t or won’t?  And also, what happens if we actually get what we say is our desire, and the hunger doesn’t abate? What about that gap between my internal experience of desire, what I am able to communicate in words, and whatever shows up to meet that desire? How about the grief I feel when I get almost the right thing, but it’s never quite it? It doesn’t stop the reoccurrence of desire?  Oh, complicated indeed.

Better, perhaps, to not give full permission to feel the desire, judging by all of the complexities that occur when I feel it.  But then, we’re right back to that repression, and blocking the flow of my want, my craving, even though it’s still there.  I asked you two weeks ago, and I ask you now.  Just for a moment today, can you let yourself be pulled by the sweet tug of your Desire?  Can you feed it one long, lovely breath? And what happens next? Yeah, you know I want you to comment.  And if you didn’t check out the Desire Worksheet I created, try it out and let me know what you think.

Stay tuned for more about Desire, libido, and lust.

So tell me what you want, what you really really want? Relearning Authentic Desire.

Most of us have an incredibly complex relationship with Desire.  

We come into this world as hedonists; pleasure- and comfort-seeking, pain- and discomfort-averse.  Soon, however, our education in overriding and subjugating our desires begins.  As toddlers, we get the lesson that just because we want that twenty-foot blue gorilla doesn’t mean we get it.  And if you’ve ever been around a two-year old as they are learning this hard lesson, they are pretty pissed off about it and really want you to know.   “I want what I want when I want it” could be their mantra.  A trip to the grocery store with the under-ten crowd is a solid reminder that children are completely aware of their desires and aversions.

Mommy! I want it!!

With further socialization, us human-types realize that the attention we receive when kicking and screaming maybe not the attention we’d like to get.  We learn to accept not getting what we want all the time.  We’re taught to ignore basic body desires like peeing or hungry, instead synchronizing our desires with the correct time for those on the elementary classroom clock.  Mid-morning bathroom break for all kindergarteners: this is when you have to pee.  12:30 Lunch time for the fifth grade: be hungry now.  Tick. Tick. Tick.

This body training begins the process of moving us away from our authentic desire.  Ironically (or not,) as we start to move away from our organic desire, the $255 billion ad industry begins to feed us a steady diet of easily fulfilled-through-three-low-payments-of-$19.99 desire.  Our desires are policed not only by what we are taught as socially sanctioned behavior, and adherence to a timetable and our parents’ control, but also by a mega-industry that exists for the sole purpose of making us hungry, of creating false desire within us.  We are offered a devil’s deal: quick, constant and cheap fulfillment of desire in exchange for real, (and perhaps delayed) deeply satsifying satiation.

Example #1: In order to fulfill our desire for human touch, we can trade the felicitous (yet inconstant and ephemeral) satiation of a parent’s hug  for the ever-present satisfying touch of a teddy bear, featuring a recorded echo of our absent mother’s heartbeat.

Example #2: We have an innate desire to explore the natural world.  Hunger to witness the wonder of the starry night sky and full moon is fulfilled not with a camping trip outdoors, but with Uncle Milton’s “Stars in My Room.”  Companies like Baby Einstein and LeapFrog Learning capitalize on exposing children to natural patterns and rhythms that were once learned outside.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, average children view 40,000 ads each year.  That’s a whole lotta being told what you want!  Is it surprising that we find it so hard to access our authentic Desire, when we’ve been force-fed our own desire for years??

Relearning authentic desire is a process.  My deep belief is that we do know what we really want and need, but must remember and relearn listening deeply for the truest voice of our Desire. 

Tomorrow I’ll be writing more about finding authentic desire within, and how to regain the absolute knowing we had as babies.  Until then, check out this worksheet on Finding your Desire that I created this morning.  Yeah, I’m a teacher, here’s your homo-work.  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Thriving Resilience, Radiant Sexuality and Recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse

Breaking Silence

From an email I wrote to one of my parents today: “I have made a commitment to myself to acknowledge and come to acceptance of the story of my body and my sexuality.”

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. 

For many years, I had experiences in sexual and intimate connections that baffled me.  My body would react in ways I did not understand.  Weird triggers suddenly made me pull away, deep inside.  I had many bodily sensations that seemed out of context to the situation.  Nightmares about hidden, dirty places haunted me my entire life.  Disassociation became an art form.  Projecting ‘perpetrator’ stories onto lovers was a strategy to avoid intimacy.  I shut down my sexuality, in attempts to deny the truth of my body.  I attempted to avoid healing, since it was so terrifying.  My demons were familiar, and if not beloved, at least steadfast and reliable.  Trust confounded me in relationship after relationship.

I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

And here’s the thing: healing is my great work.  It’s my personal work, and it’s what I’m able to give to this world.  Holding the idea that I was the most fucked up person in the world was comforting.  And surrendering to knowing that’s not true has been really fucking scary.  As long as my Shadow was enormous and unlovable, I didn’t have to engage with being worthy of receiving love.  I didn’t actually have to trust anyone enough to let myself be loved, imperfectly.

You’ve been reading my thoughts about boundaries and intimacy.  I believe we all live in a sexually traumatic culture, and probably most of us struggle with these.  And personally as a survivor, boundaries and intimacy are particularly hard-won.  In these posts, you’ve seen my will in action, as I go back and reclaim boundaries and  intimacy as my birthrights.  Action arises from will, and will from Desire.  Desire comes, of course, from our bodies.

This personal reclamation of sexuality and Desire as a survivor is a political act of deep courage and resistance.  I WILL be joyously and outrageously a sexual being, enjoying the full potential of my sensual and sexual nature.  I WILL take back my body, and learn all the stories, secrets and teachings it holds.  I WILL live radiantly, gloriously and pleasurably in this perfect body.

What I didn’t write in my email this morning was that not only am I coming to acceptance, I am coming to fucking gratitude for all that my body has endured.  I am so grateful for all the healing I can allow myself to do, not just for me, but for you too.  In spite of silencing shame and loneliness, the loss of loved ones who can’t show up for my process, and soul-numbing childhood abuse, I thrive.  I FUCKING THRIVE! Resilience, simply said, but with a radical twist.  Here it is: I’m so grateful I get to come home to my body.  It’s all the sweeter for having been gone.   

It’d be totally awesome if you’d take a second, and give me a high-five below in the comments or by liking.  It’s pretty vulnerable to write this.  I’d also love to hear if you THRIVE too.

What do you need for Intimacy?

I’ve been compiling a list of intimacy skills.  You know, all that stuff we learned in human sexuality class in school.  Yeah, right.  Anyway, what do you think?

Skills for Intimacy

  • Speak truth (gently and frankly.)
  • Know my desire (and be able to ask for what I want, even if you can’t give it to me.)
  • Listen compassionately (without being dismissive, moving to fix it or offering advice.)
  • Be responsible for my own emotional landscape (discerning what is mine, what is yours.)
  • Hold an open heart (work at it, know when it’s closed, breathe into it daily so it stays connected and available to you.)
  • Vulnerability (without expecting it to be reciprocated and without expectation that you will fix, save or rescue me.)
  • Boundaries (having good ones and maintaining them, as well as honoring yours.)
  • Energy (me noticing mine, and having some internal regulation and accountability about what I project.)
  • Saying yes to your desire (more often than not.)
  • Receptivity (being able to actually receive love, touch, care.)
  • Gratitude (being thankful for all the joy, support, as well as work.  Being grateful that you are such a good mirror for me.)
  • Awareness of differing needs (my needs are different than yours, and both are valid.)
  • Trust  (you care deeply about me and my best interests. You will tend your boundaries.  You will honor mine. Assuming good intent, even when I don’t understand your actions.)
  • Risk-taking (trust and vulnerability are required.  I have to let you have the ability to hurt me, and trust that you’ll try not to. Allowing you to see my shadow.)
  • Ability to let go of my story and of being “right” (and acknowledge that your story is true for you. This included forgiveness when you fuck up.)
  • Ability to hold space for your feelings. (No greater gift I can give you.)
  • Acknowledging when I fuck up. (Having empathy for the pain I inadvertently cause you.)
  • Cooperative, not competitive engagement with each other.  (I can depend on your care, support and well-wishes for my life.)
  • Generosity (well wishing for your life, being able to back-burner my own stuff when yours is more pressing, being available to make your life more wonderful.)

My dear H.R. Bremner ,(another fabulous somatic sex coach) and I are exploring these skills together.  We will be teaching “On Fire with Desire” on October 4.  Register here.  Getting in touch with, naming, asking for and receiving your deep desires are all skills we will work on!

Any glaring intimacy skills not on this list?  What level is your skill set at?