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.
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.
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.
4 More Days LEFT!
Last night I went to the Pacific Ocean, and released the Rose of Jericho plant that had sat on my altar since the full moon. This plant, and its release, were part of the magickal manifestation spell I did for this fundraiser. I stood there in the moon-dark night, waves crashing against the shore and tossed the desert-dwelling plant into the salty deep with whispered prayers and kisses.
The Rose of Jericho, also known as the “resurrection plant,” is a tumble weed and can be blown over the desert for up to 10 years. This will spread the seeds over a very large area. It opens to release its seeds when water is present, and close in times of dry.
I imagined the plant, traveling in the dark water, and opening to release its seeds, its blessings. I imagined those seeds travelling far and wide, to bless waters and the land. I imagined that this film, Holy MILF, is just like this plant. It will travel the lands and waters, releasing its seeds, and growing new beautiful ecosexual projects.
I am humbled by this work. I feel such humility at being the caretaker of this project that so many gorgeous witches believe is crucial. They were willing to put their bodies, their sexuality, their private relationships with nature and themselves onto film, in deep service. The musicians were willing to allow the chords, melodies and harmonies of THEIR erotic relationship with this planet to move through them, in hopes that they would serve others.
I don’t think I got until last night the enormity of this spell that we’ve been collectively casting. That this is not “my” film, but I am in stewardship to it! I am so grateful to be the vehicle, and so awed that this exists now, because of all who contributed.
In these last few days, I want to urge all who read this to feel into your own body, and know this simple truth; you can be in service to your sex, your pleasure, and your planet by helping this film be firmly rooted in the world.
It’s not me who is asking for your financial support. It is this film, that wants so whole-heartedly to be in service to our species. Please reach deep and give this film some green love! And if you feel called, why not ask your friends to do the same?
It’s our connection, our deep felt connection, with the Earth, that is calling us home to wholeness. No scare tactics or statistics are ever going to be enough to get us to make the necessary changes for continuation of humanness here, on Earth. But our ecosexuality just might be.
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.
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.
I meet my clients where they are in terms of their sexuality, and together we discover the blocks, traumas, and limiting beliefs that stand between them and the deeper erotic life that is possible for them. It’s a process. Along the way, there are unexpected twists and turns, as the body slowly begins to reveal its secrets and stories. Almost always we encounter the gatekeeper, Resistance. It’s how we know we are getting closer to the essential erotic self, which is quite powerful and can be frightening.
I have the capacity to make this journey with my clients because I’ve done it, am doing it, myself. My body knows trauma, resistance, and both welcomes and trembles at hope. I’ve had to wrestle sexuality back from fear, and reclaim my erotic life from the abyss of disassociation and sexual shut-down.
I watch, time and again, as the intuition and body knowledge someone has deep inside emerges to guide them home to Eros. I stand in awe of our power to know ourselves, ever more deeply.
I’ve come to know myself more deeply. Over the last year or so, I’ve experienced a growing desire to embrace my performer self. I’ve not had a lot of training in performance, and I’ve been seeking out venues to practice.
It’s good for me to be in spaces where I don’t yet have mastery; it keeps me in the space of beginner’s mind. But I also fucking hate not being good at something, not having things be easy and effortless. It reminds me of the vulnerability and courage it takes to enter into a process, not knowing who you’ll be on the other side, and what the price of admission will cost you.
Mystery Box is a story-telling show out of Portland that is real people, telling their real foibles with sexuality. It’s not porn stars, or people who have it all together in terms of sex. The stories are funny, tender, heartbreaking, and remind us that we’re human.
I worked with Eric and Reba for three months, developing my story for their San Francisco show.
The story they chose for me to tell is about the very first public masturbation ritual I ever led, when I had never even masturbated with another person before. Everything was working against my desire to explore communal masturbation. It was a pivotal moment in my life, one that ultimately led to me becoming a facilitator of sexual liberation for others.
Each time we would meet for our skype session, I would have to tell them the latest version of my story. They’d tell me how great it was coming along, and then they’d basically suggest restructuring many components, or eliminate elements that were non-essential to the story.
Throughout the process, I felt the story getting tighter and more cohesive. I also dreaded each and every coaching session. It is really fucking hard to show up, with your art, your tender, vulnerable story, and have someone, with the greatest compassion, hold you accountable to an even higher iteration of your ability.
I was a wreck in the days leading up to the performance. I fought with myself. I met with them one last time the day before the show, and they wanted me to change the beginning of the story that I’d been working on delivering just right for weeks! I wanted to punch Eric in the face. But I sucked it up, and kept working on the story, figuring out how to implement his suggestions.
They don’t tell you the order you will be presenting your story in during the show until that night. I was hoping that I would go first, and just get it over with. When I met I met the other story tellers, one of whom I’d recently seen perform, I was relieved because I assumed I would go first. Unfortunately, when they revealed the order, I was the last performance of the evening. Which meant I had to sit through all of the other stories, heart pounding and palms sweating.
I’d been worried that I’d forget key elements, or that my timing would suck. I was concerned that my gestures wouldn’t work, or that I’d fuck up with the mike. None of that happened. While I was telling my story, I felt the greatest sense of presence, and of pleasure. I couldn’t believe it when I realized I was getting to the end of the 17-minute piece.
I stepped off the stage, and knew that I had nailed it. The joy and celebration lasted for days.
Two weeks later, I’ve had time to reflect on the experience. Why was it so successful? Well, as I’ve already said, all the preparation. But even more than that, I realize it’s because Eric and Reba were there, expecting me to be brilliant. Their belief in me fueled my belief in myself.
I’ll hold that moment of success as a trophy, a reminder of what happens when there is support, high standards, and accountability. I’ll use the experience to support processes that I move through, and sexual liberation processes that I help my clients move through.
Listen to a participant talk about the power of communal erotic learning.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
(The following is a Guest Post by Roman Rimer, describing his experiences at the Geography of Pleasure: Embodiment for Trans Guys workshop. Enjoy! ~ Pavini)
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.
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
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!
I write to you from the garden of the home we share. The radiant oranges and yellows of the nasturtiums splashing their outrageous beauty everywhere remind me of you. I thought I’d write and tell you the truthful yearnings of my heart.
When I see you walking with your back straight, your chin raised toward the sky, rolling that big gorgeous ass, I think to myself, “You, YOU are a new paradigm of beauty.”
Your abundant beauty belongs to you. All those curves and rolls and solid flesh. That way you disregard all the ways you are supposed to be beautiful, and make your own rules instead stuns me with delight. It is a miracle to witness you, to watch your strength and determination, as you live so fatly and fiercely. I know they said you wouldn’t.
I watch you, out of the corner of my eye. I watch as you dance and spin, cutting crazy moves on the dance floor. I watch as you make raunchy love. I watch as you gather children, lovers, friends and enemies into your embracing arms. Sometimes, you are so exquisite that I lose my breath. My heart pounds like its gonna burst out of my chest with an explosion of love and glitter.
When I see you like that, I lose all of my fear. I feel full of confidence, knowing you are mine. You have been so patient, waiting as I’ve come to know this.
When you pull your tight black tee-shirt over your head, fasten your studded belt around your thick waist, I know you are not concerned about what anyone will say. Your flesh is molded into the shape of erotic luxury and perilous pleasure. I love the way you own your desire. You are subversive and dangerous, just by your lines and shape.
You are ripe and delicious, like some rare succulent fruit. When you let me cup your heavy breasts, stroke your skin with rose oil, and dip my fingers into your secret places that you only share with me, I know pleasure beyond any other. Can you feel the breath of my adoration humming along your skin?
You are my miracle of beauty and life. I desire to dive deeply into you, to utterly lose myself inside of your wild, free form. Inside of you, I will find home, I just know it.
There’s always the bit about how many awesome proposals they received, how it was excruciating painful to choose (as if I care) and how truly, truly amazing my proposal is. How they look forward to seeing my work out in the world. And in the really stellar rejection letters, they find a way to ask for my continued support for their project.
So far this year I’ve received ten rejection letters, for a variety of projects, including conference proposals, writing contests and performance proposals. Each proposal I’ve submitted has taken hours upon hours of work to conceive, articulate, edit, answer all of the questions, and gather submission materials. Each one has been a dream, a calling forth of something important into being, only to let that dream slip away, perhaps to be reborn in a different form, or perhaps not.
I really, really wanted to create that performance piece about the circus freak show: the fat lady, the bearded lady, the half-man, half-woman, and the sexuality of each. It would be a powerful reclaiming of the fetishized, for purposes of validating our own eroticism.
But. “When the Fat Bearded Lady Sings Subterfuge” is not to be, at least not this summer.
With every proposal, and also with every rejection, I feel I stand at a bifurcation point: one path leading one way, another leading to a completely different destination. Taking the path marked “Reject” leads somewhere, often to somewhere unexpected and enlivening.
Creating meaningful content is not a challenge for me. I have ideas all day, every day. The challenge is to curate the ideas, discern which ones will further not only my work, but the issues that I stand for. Faith seems to be the only means by which to understand the mystery of why this project, this idea, and why now. Or why not. I am choosing to engage with the various selection committees as a divinatory process. The Hand of God, tapping my creative efforts that best serve my people.
It is inarguably the tide of Eros, churning within the moving rivers of my body. Each idea is a desire born of an embodied longing, bubbling up. These things, they want to be born, they yearn to manifest. They crowd around, like impatient spirits waiting to reincarnate.
When I answer the call of a particular desire, the ebullient and effervescent delight which courses through my body is sublime. Merely putting the words onto paper is sometimes orgasmic. Letting them then go off into the world, to be petted and stroked and sometimes mauled by complete strangers is oddly liberating. They are not mine alone, anymore. They belong to us, to our species. What is our medicine today, this week, this decade? What beauty, what insight do we need to ensure our collective survival?
Sometimes the desires are resilient. Tough, with bouncy edges. Sometimes they are tender, and become easily cracked and disheartened.
That moment when you don’t know if your touch will be welcomed. That fragile, heartbreaking pause between your gesture, and their acceptance when the entirety of your self-esteem is up for grabs.
I’m practicing trust in my creative process, when I send those ones out, that the rejection I face will not damage me. That the burn of Eros will be fed by the ashes of rejection, and honed into an ever-clearer flame of yearning and expression.
It is a terrible-wonderful thing, to put one’s heart on public display, time and time again, for critique and judgment. The not-good-enough trolls stand just at the edge of that autonomous zone, waiting for my transgressive heart to cross the border into the land called self-doubt.
But wait! Ding, you’ve got mail! What’s this? A call for submissions for a new zine on fat acceptance? A film contest exploring marginalized sexuality?
P.S. Geography of Pleasure: Embodiment for Trans Guys is happening 2/21-23 in San Francisco.
Perhaps you thought, “OK, so then I’m going to increase my capacity for feeling pleasure and expand my sexuality.”
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?
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.
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.
In juxtaposition to the images above, consider the following:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I wake up today (everyday,) and not a full minute goes by before I’m thinking about what I want. Coffee, return that phone call, text my crush…. and the list goes on. Every moment of every day, thinking and feeling into what I want. Sometimes getting what I want, sometimes not. Sometimes able to ask for it, sometimes, the desire smoldering inside. Doing all of these human dances, with desire as my constant partner.
What is it? It seems like every big religion’s got the word on Desire. Recognize this one? “And the woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and it was desirous for the eyes, and the tree was lovely to behold.”
Buddha teaches that attachment to desire is the root of suffering: The second noble truth the origin of suffering: Within the context of the four noble truths, suffering (dukha) is commonly explained as craving.
- Craving for sensory pleasure
- Craving for Union (togetherness)
- Craving to not feel painful feelings (not aloneness)
Shakta Tantra (the Hindu variety which I practice) resolves the fundamental dilemma presented by being human and having desires and those desires causing suffering by directing human desires towards liberation rather than repressing them. This philosophy argues that trying to deny certain desires only empowers them further. Rather than repress potentially harmful impulses, Tantra tries to harness them in service of setting ourselves free.
Of course, Christianity gives a narrow container for the expression of limited desires, and seeks to control through fear and punishment all desires that fall outside that purview.
Pagans seem to welcome desire and pleasure, and don’t fret too much (maybe not enough) about the impact on our spiritual development.
In my admittedly very limited knowledge of Islam, it seeks to provide a code for the expression of human desires, seeking balance between wanting and fulfillment of wanting.
Judaism prescribes a law-filled code for the fulfillment of desire as well, that at least includes pleasure.
None of these ways of engaging desire really work for me. They seem like how it could be, or should be, or an idea…. but not personal enough. My own experience of desire is so complex. It is often glorious, often painful. My desire ignores codes, rejects shoulds, and is often the antithesis of what is culturally conditioned. I wonder if this is not the experience of most of us?
Every person I have ever worked with or discussed sexuality with has expressed their desire in completely unique, and specific-unto-them terms. The only common thread is the liminal, and ever-changing nature of desire, and its insatiable quality.
I want permission for my desire. This process you are reading is about me giving myself permission, and hopefully giving you permission. Imagine, all of us, simply wanting what we want.
I desire things that I am not supposed to desire. I desire much that my socialization tells me are taboo, wrong, disempowered, disgusting, shameful, abhorrent, too far from common decency, too powerful, too violent. I notice my desire like hunger.
Last week, I noticed the gnawing in my belly. I tried to fill it with too much Halloween candy. I tried to fill it with socializing, with sex. I tried to fill it, and then I stopped.
Just noticing the hunger, noticing the emptiness, is so hard. It is so terribly hard to just sit with it. My mind clamors: Try a beer. Try some cuddling. Try a bath. Soothe it, dissipate it, quiet it. Somehow lessen the ravenous void of its immense gaping maw.
Wanting is terrifying. It is the rawest, most bloody form of nakedness that I know. Wanting without a tether, without something at the end of the desire, is what lies at the root of the hungers we try to feed through addictions.
I want her. I want her precious, big-eyed vulnerability. I want her tenderest tears and fragility. Her badass intellect. Her heartbreak. Her need. I want to make her come and cry, and then wipe her tears with my hair. I want her to want to give her orgasm to me. I want to cut her heart wide open, and take it from her chest, licking the dripping blood off of it (this is a metaphor.) Or maybe I just want her to text me.
I want him. I want his fierce submission. I want his most vroom vroom passionate passion to have room to express. I want him to have the flexibility to turn his crazy erotic energy up and turn it down, at will. I want to see him naked, dancing, feeling completely free within his bondage. I want the intensity of his James Dean eyes turned on me, his unfettered desire throbbing and thrumming as he awaits my instructions for the afternoon. I want him to serve me lunch.
I want to build a container (a world) in which you never again question if you are wanted or desirable.
I want to be able to name my desires freely. (Ironically, while writing this a dear one emails me. In that moment, I find I want him, too, and write and say so. Naming my desire is terrifying.)
I want reassurance that my desires are not too big, too disturbed, too insatiable.
I want to feel poignant, intense feeling. I want to not be separate, insecure, alone. I want erotic community. I want magick and synchronicity. I want clean underwear.
I. want. to. be. taken. care. of.
There are other desires, things named and unnamed, that I will probably never do or have. I name them (and ask you to know that there are others I am not naming here) because I don’t want to offer you a diluted version of the truth of my desire. I don’t want to give you lukewarm permission to be fully, completely in your base human desire. So here is what I also want: I want to sell my body, to make them pay for it. I want to tear and bite with my teeth, rip with my blade. I want to hurt. I want to humiliate and I want to worship. I want to lay my body down and open, prostrate myself in front of the Divine, and offer the service of my meager life.
I feel so humbled by the power of my desire. I have spent years trying to quiet it. Trying to feed it. I have this big, fat body to show for it, all my wanting. While there are certain standbys for bringing comfort and offering temporary satiation, I find that even they are growing old and cold and less effective, as I get closer to being able to express the heart of my desire.
What I am learning about desire, as I give myself full permission to want what I want, is that it almost never is what I expect it to be. It is continually surprising and an elegant mysterious process of uncovering what I want in each moment.
Internally, my experience of my desire is sweetly familiar and freshly distinctive and exceptional. I notice I can’t breathe deeply. The best I can do in that moment is to say, “Sitting here, next to you on this couch, touching your hair, I am feeling desire.”
Of course, the next logical question is “What is your desire?” and it is here the breakdown and the loss and the grief occur.
I can only express around the edges of my desire. It is not because I am shy, or inarticulate, or unable to tell you because of shame or repression. It is because when I try to put my desire into words, there is something essential I cannot capture. Using words, I cannot put my yearning into pure form. There is something lost in translation. And no matter how close I get to expressing what I truly want, when you give it to me, there is always another translation gap which I also grieve.
So many different, intricate dances with desire. What I’ve never done is just stay open to it. What is on the other side of this yearning? What is it to not know the answer? What is it to wait, hungrily waiting? What is it to acknowledge that the want in me is the want of the very universe, exploding itself into being? What is it to allow feeling that power, to feel the hunger that will never, no matter what, stop? And even as I contemplate, and practice, just sitting with the wanting, there is that within me that wants to want.
But my dear, although I can never tell you, of course I want you. And I want you to want to be wanted by me. I can’t tell you in words. But my eyes, my eyes can tell you. My eyes can tell you, without losing the pure raw brutal power of my lusting want, my aching need, my unadulterated desire. I want you. Just look in my eyes.
Last week, a client said to me “Well, I know you have always been free sexually, but I’m not like you, I’m stuck.” I smiled/cried because nothing could be further from the truth. I was sexually blocked for years. Right now, I’ve got an erotic energy block the size of a small city at my diaphragm that I’m working on. And, even being able to identify that stuckness is a profound indicator of how far I’ve come. (We are called home to Wholeness)
Each day I traverse the challenging road back to the body, back to my breath, back to pleasure, back to trust and vulnerability and intimacy. Just as a path quickly becomes overgrown without traffic, this liberatory road of the body must consistently be tread and reinforced. I must continually reinforce the neural wiring I am consciously choosing for my sexual liberation.
It’s important to name that being sexually stuck is where my journey began. Stuck in a sexless marriage, stuck with a limited potential for pleasure, stuck. I was settling for a mediocre sexuality that I knew was problematic. I didn’t know how to get out of it. I had no support resources.
Around me, I saw those who were going further and deeper into their sexual potential. I felt tremendous guilt that my sexuality was so limited. Deep shame that I seemingly had no libido. When my then-partner would try to touch me, I felt fear and confusion at my arousal process, and no ability to talk about it or seek support.
In that ho-hum Eoyore way, I was accepting that this was as good as it was going to be for me in this lifetime. (We are called home to Wholeness.)
In therapy for food addiction, one day my therapist gently pointed out that as I was healing my relationship with food, I must also heal my relationship with my body. An important next step was to enter more consciously into my sexuality. When a client comes to me and expresses how stuck they feel, or how blocked their erotic expression is, I completely get it, on a body level. I KNOW intimately the aversion, the fear, the shut-down. And, I also know the desire and innate craving for erotic expression that led me out of that painful morass. Ultimately, it has led me to playfulness and joy in my sexual exploration.
We are called home to Wholeness. In each new relationship, we are giving ourselves opportunity anew to heal our wounds, both from our past and from our lineage. I was recently in a group and there was a man there in his mid-seventies who had just come out as gay. He had spent his entire life taking the “easier path” (his words) only to find that hiding one’s erotic identity is ultimately a denial of one’s very life. I am grateful to have learned this truth at an earlier age. But whenever we do decide that the pain of claiming who we truly are as erotic beings is LESS than the agony of trying to be someone we will never be, coming out allows us huge, instantaneous advances in our own liberatory process.
This morning, I was reading Susie Bright’s lovely little book called Full Exposure: Opening Up to your Sexual Creativity and Erotic Expression.
“Not many people are actually looking sexual liberation, at least not until they get to the end of a very weary road of dissatisfaction. That usually takes a decade or two. Liberation, per se, is not the sort of thing people count as tops on their to-do list.”
In my perfect world, we all feel and acknowledge the pull of liberation as an imperative of being human. I KNOW we feel it. I KNOW we deny it. And I know we get ourselves stuck, with the very purpose of later being able to set ourselves free.
One of the agreements made in order to attend Black Velvet, the erotic experiment in the dark that I hosted last week, was an agreement to reflect in writing on the experience. We asked participants several prompting questions, including “What were the rules you found, that you made for yourself?” Many people noted internally constructing rules that were not implicit in the structure of the event, or that didn’t necessarily benefit their erotic experience or freedom. Here is qualitative data about how we construct our own erotic limitations, our own sexual prison cells, often without realizing it.
One of my dear friends, a teacher of erotic education and sexual liberation, has said to me upon several occasions, “I don’t feel sexually liberated, most of the time.” Ironically, it was my observations of the erotic life of this person that led me to decide I was worthy of sexual liberation, and that I could have it in this lifetime. That person helped me to realize that the rules I had about arousal, desire, and lust were not mine: they were internalized cultural constructs, or internally created prohibitive rules, that were not expressive of my true erotic nature.
Sexual liberation is a process, not a goal. For the rest of my life, I will be freeing myself from all of the rules that I have swallowed, either those that culturally constructed or those that are self-imposed. For the rest of my days, I will be calling myself home to erotic wholeness.
How do we start that sexual liberation process? How do we free ourselves of the limiting beliefs, constructed and internalized rules and codes about eroticism, sensuality and sexuality? How do we take those first, scary steps into our own erotic authenticity? How do we call ourselves home to erotic wholeness?
One of my favorite sayings by teacher Liu Ming: “Resist as much as you possibly can. Only do that which you truly cannot resist.” Ironically, resisting the process is a crucial first step. (Read my blog post about Resistance) While we can live in denial for a long while, at some point, our own heart becomes our compass. The pull of the truth that resides in our hearts and our genitals may be a quiet truth, but it ultimately is undeniable.
One of the most important things I learned as a Montessori teacher was that I never know more than my student about what they need. I don’t know when a student is ready to learn something, or if they even need to learn that thing. All I can do is watch carefully, and be present to offer support when readiness appears. It’s a philosophy I carry into this work. I stand in honor of your process, without judgement or agenda.
Whether you choose to put sexual liberation at the top of your list (as I have done, and you could too; it’s fun!) or whether you choose to ignore sexuality altogether, press your legs tightly together, and think of England, there is a biological programming inherent in your cells that compels you to move in exactly the right motions and rhythm for you. There is something inside that knows exactly what you need for erotic wholeness.
Here’s a final thought for today: you are already experiencing sexual liberation. Susie Bright again: “When you do finally get laid, and then it happens again and again and again, the confidence you acquire leads you to some new questions about the value of sex, about a lover’s companionship in your life, about your own sense of adventure and mystery in your erotic body.” Let us call ourselves home to Erotic Wholeness.
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!
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!
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.
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.”
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.
Every year I attend Free Cascadia Witchcamp, which is my heart’s true home. We gather, in the wilds of Cascadia, to celebrate, make magick, do the work, and evolve our culture. This year was a particularly powerful year for me, especially in regards to Fat.
First, let me say it was a million degrees all week. Pretty much all week I spent nekkid, trying to eliminate any additional heat caused by clothing. Nudity used to be a big edge for me, especially in public spaces. However, since taking Sexological Bodywork training, it is no longer an issue. Sometimes I wonder how my fat naked body is perceived, and mostly I just don’t care. You like? Go ahead and look. You don’t like? Don’t look. Simple.
Our camp structure holds a morning path (class) time, afternoon affinity group time, and evening ritual time. Every morning I taught path with another wonderful witch on erotic self-expression and performing creative erotic art. Every afternoon, I met with my affinity group. Affinity groups are small groups based on a topic that group members have affinity around. These groups are often used as process-based decompression for the intense and rigorous spiritual and social experience one typically has at a witchcamp.
This year, my affinity group convened around fat bodies. Calling ourselves “Fat Magick,” we began what feels like life-long work in sharing, learning and deepening into the particular mysteries that come from dwelling in a fat body.
In the deep heat of every afternoon, we gathered in the shade. As we shared, laughed and cried together, as we made magick together and prayed together, certain threads of experience began to emerge that are the beginnings of a tapestry of sacred and arcane knowings. We began the conscious creation of a body of work celebrating the Body Fat. There are so many fat deities, that it is surely of no coincidence that our bodies reflect a mystical experience!
I feel a deep commitment to continuing this work. I’ve been doing a lot of research on fat + spirit and interesting gleanings are revealing themselves. Here are two.
I especially love the second part of this next article, about the Buddha being onto something, and how ridiculous it would be to put him on a diet.
It was at a different witchcamp, many years ago, that a gorgeous fat priestess of sex spoke words that have forever altered the course of my life. She said “As a fat person, my sexuality is invisible.” I have lived into those words these past years. As you may know, I have made working with fat people so that we may experience sexual liberation a core theme of my work. Bringing invisible sexuality back to center, seen and validated is another.
I was so struck by the concept of invisible sexuality, and what it means and who gets sexuality and who gets to have their sexuality validated. Just as the medicine is often the poison, I believe that the antidote to body oppression lies in liberating all bodies from policing. One of my dear radical friends recently said to me, “As a thin person, I work for fat liberation because I know that I am not free until we are all free.” I believe a correct medicine is fat magick.
What I am learning as a fat, sexy witch is that I truly need all of the space my body provides in order to do the work and make the magick I am compelled to. I need the full range of embodiment offered by this fat body, so that I can hold, move, teach, write, fuck and love the way I want during my Earth time. Being fat has helped me learn to be accountable for all of the space I take up. My fat yearns to be radiant, and every fat cell wishes to glisten like glitter. And jiggle. They love to jiggle.
This Wednesday 9/11/13, I will be performing a piece on Spiritual Fat at 510 Feelmore in Oakland between 7-9 p.m. I would love to see you there.
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)
“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 http://www.emancipating-sexuality.com or register HERE
Among my clients, I hear a continual theme of frustration around orgasm. As a culture, orgasm has become the only permissible destination the sex train can stop at. I don’t buy it.
Superficially, it would seem that culturally we are hedonistic, desireful, and ever-seeking more and more pleasure. I don’t agree. What seems truer, just beneath that skin layer of consumerism, is our absolute terror about staying with our pleasure.
We’ve learned to stay with our pain, our suffering. We sit with it in therapy, and feel the spiritual elevation of allowing our suffering to crack open our hearts. There’s something we deem morally good about feeling our pain.
And I say that there is another road: one in which pleasure can also bring us into the presence of the Divine.
The problem here is often thus: when we begin to feel extreme pleasure, we disallow it. Our story of ourselves at our core is often one of un-deservingness, unworthiness. Who are we to receive such pleasure? To be open to such unrestricted arousal? Who are we to allow ourselves to feel liberation and exaltation through our senses?
No, pleasure has to be gotten on the quick. Furtively, hurriedly, we clench down to encourage our elusive orgasm to happen. Without genital tension, we might take too long, and our partners might give up, leaving us frustrated. Or, we find that extreme pleasure in the body is too intense, and we can’t bear it as it borders on overstimulation and even pain.
Just get the pleasure over as soon as possible, get the orgasm out of the way, and be done with the whole corporeal mess. Change the sheets even.
Viewed through this lens, frustration about not being able to come, and coming prematurely before you want to stem from the same source: get’er done. They are both not the true thing.
The Hitachi Magic Wand vibrator, beloved and useful as it is, has a stake in this orgasm predicament. Putting out such extreme vibrations, people become dependent on a certain level of stimulation that is inhuman, and hard to recreate for a sustained period of time. Reaching for the vibrator when the frustration starts to creep in is perhaps a quick fix, but ultimately perpetuates the same disallowal-of-pleasure cycle.
My teacher, Joseph Kramer, says that we must train to maintain high states of erotic energy in the same way we would train for a marathon, or any sport. I believe that maintaining high erotic energy in the body actually changes the body, and what it is capable of. It changes how much pleasure we can receive. And ultimately, receiving pleasure challenges our story of unworthiness and forces us to reclaim our agency as worthy, sensual and powerful beings.
Here are some suggestions on Erotic Training.
This year I’m committing to Erotic Training, and to exploring the pleasure potential my body holds. I’m letting go of orgasm being the only acceptable outcome, and I’m challenging myself to receive more and more pleasure. As I move through 2013, I’ll be posting my findings and offering up the jewels of my research for your erotic benefit. May my pleasure serve yours.
If you like what you’ve read, take this next 60 seconds to write publicly your erotic commitment to yourself this year, and post it in the comments to be witnessed!