In these times, more than ever, our practices become what sustain and nourish our resiliency and our capacity to resist, without collapsing from fatigue. Our practices are our freedom; we choose where we place our valuable attention. Through practice, we become the artists of our own lives, refusing to subsist only on a diet of despair and powerlessness, instead practicing what deeply feeds us; joy, kindness, forgiveness, boundaries, pleasure.
Consciously choosing what we practice is how we liberate our lives, personally and collectively, from the tyranny of the over culture. It is my professional opinion that making certain our bodies are feeling pleasure is a radical act of resistance, and a necessary act of self-care.
Sexual liberation can be understood not as a state, but as a series of practices. Practices which support the commitment to freedom in one’s body, on one’s own terms. Choosing the erotic as a path to freedom takes tremendous courage, willingness to resist most of what you are told you should and should not do, feel, know and experience as a sexual being. Erotically liberating practices are countless, and wonderfully diverse; if the path of the erotic calls to you, choose one practice and follow it with avid curiosity as you discover what is true for you.
Here are five practices of sexual liberation, created for your delight and reflection. One does not need to do all, or any, of these practices while pursuing freedom. Any practice (no matter how small) repeated over time, can lead to big changes in your sexual freedom.
I do not invoke sexual liberation lightly; I understand that it is the path for some, and not all, and also timing is key. No judgement if this is not your path, or not your path right now. No judgement that the erotic is the best path. As Rumi wrote, “there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” But if practicing sexual liberation supports your wellness, my blessings on your practices!
Without further ado, practices that support Sexual Liberation.
Shamelessness: the practice of desiring, touching, and communicating with innocent abandon. Throwing off the repressive yoke of shame to embrace an inner attitude of freedom. How to practice: Notice when shame arrives knocking at the door. Usually, shame is attempting to control our speech, actions or requests. Once you notice that shame is in the house, imagine throwing it off of you. Shake yourself free (metaphorically, and even physically), take a big breath, and do or say the thing. You can name that you are feeling shame, and acting anyway. By practicing shamelessness, we free ourselves of the constriction of shame.
Lustiness: the practice of commitment to experience the world through the lens of lusty vigor. How to practice: Notice during the day when you have sexual feelings or thought. Perhaps someone hot crosses in front of you when you are stopped at a red light. Perhaps you wake feeling aroused. Once you notice the erotic stirring within you, bring your breath to it. Breathe into the feeling, and see if it wants to expand a little bit in your body. Allow yourself to slip into feeling lascivious. Instead of stopping lust when it happens, follow it for awhile and see where it leads.
Permission: the practice of wanting what I want. Allowing the space in my life to want new, surprising things. How to practice: To give yourself permission to do something, you have to first notice when desire for something arises. Perhaps the impulse towards something you want is quite brief, and the inhibition of the impulse occurs almost immediately. Start by paying attention to those small desires, those moments where your desire surprises you. Notice what happens in your body when your impulse, and then inhibition, arise. Now experiment with telling yourself you can have whatever it is, if you really want it. Notice what happens in your body when you do that! If what you want is within the realm of harming none, and brings you pleasure, try actually following through on giving yourself permission.
Celebration: the practice of celebrating sex, your body, body diversity by cultivating an attitude of raunchy joy, loud and raucous praise for the sensual and the sexual, and lip-smacking wonder and delight. How to practice: Savoring and Celebrating both require your attention. Talking with friends about the great sex you had last night, or praising your lover’s many delights out loud to them. You can cultivate gratitude for your erotic encounters, and remember them with relish and in detail in the day or so after they finish.
Erotic Self-confidence: the practice of moving your body and making moves on your playmate without fear of rejection. How to practice: Athletes often use the power of their imagination to practice winning the game or meet. They go into great detail, forming a neural pathway in their brain that has already HAD the experience they are preparing for. Erotic self-confidence is similar. You can practice ahead of time, in your imagination. Of course, an erotic encounter will go how it goes, but preparing your brain for a confident experience will help. Another part of practicing erotic self-confidence involves practicing feeling confident. This can be in any situation. You tune your internal channel to the “I am a sexy, confident beast.” And you practice feeling that, and believing it is true.
Choose one of these practice and try it out, if it brings you joy. Explore it to the edge. The practices of Sexual Liberation call you home, set you free, and nourish the revolution.
I’d love to hear about your erotic practices. What works? What have you explored? How does your erotic practice nourish you? Please leave a comment below! It makes me happy to hear from you.
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How to say “No” to your partner and increase love and Connection!
A three-week compassionate boundary-setting exploration for queer, lesbian and gay couples.
I survived a decade-long relationship without many boundaries. Phew! That was rough!
Finally learning how to set boundaries with my partner has increased the love and connection we feel. And it’s not something we learn in school or usually in our families. Where then do we learn? Come to “Embodied Boundaries” starting on Monday (in person) or Tuesday (online) and you and your partner can create the relationship you want. Only when we learn to say a clear “no,” can we trust our full yes.
The class will cover boundary settings and maintenance, as well as how to make and receive requests.
This class is especially for you if you feel shame about not having boundaries already. You’ll leave a boundary wiz!
Starts April 5, 2016
When my kids and I moved into a 38-foot converted bus on a commune for a few years, we had 240 square feet of living space. My physical boundaries became tiny! All of my movements became tighter as my body adapted to living in a minuscule space. It took a couple of months of head-bumping and hip-bashing, but I learned to navigate precisely and efficiently within a very small radius.
When we left the bus and moved into a sprawling house in San Francisco, I noticed acutely the feeling of ‘too much space.’ I felt ill-confined, like I was wearing clothes that were way too big. I didn’t know how to fill that much space with my movement. Like a goldfish in a small bowl, my body had adapted to smaller physical boundaries Re-expanding my personal space was uncomfortable. It was a couple of months before I could walk down the middle of the hall, without pressing myself to the edge of the wall. My physical boundaries defined the way I experienced my life.
For many of us, our emotional boundaries, or lack thereof, define how we experience our partners and our relationships.
What are boundaries?
Basically, boundaries are the edges of our experience. Your skin is the boundary to your body. Your door is the boundary to your house. The amount of time you can stay at a family gathering and feel well is your emotional boundary.
Boundaries welcome in what we want in our lives, and keep out what we don’t want. They are a tool of discernment. They are a strategy we use to keep ourselves safer, and to tend our emotional well-being. Boundaries help us be adults, as we care for our desires and needs, and create the lives and relationships that serve our highest potential.
There are many different types of boundaries: physical, energetic, time, space, emotional, and sexual, among others. In order to understand boundaries, it’s important to know the sensations of having them in our bodies. It’s hard to know what we have not felt.
For example, babies love the sensation of being bundled: it makes them feel safe and contained. Adult boundaries can do the same for us.
The most important boundary any of us have is our capacity for saying “No.”
If you grew up in a reasonably well family, you learned that you could say “no” and still be loved and feel like you belong.
If you grew up in a household where saying “no” got you in trouble, or was ignored, or you survived an abusive or traumatic childhood, your most basic boundary was violated. You may have learned that it’s not safe to say no, or it’s futile because it doesn’t get honored anyway.
In my somatic sex therapy practice, I frequently meet couples who are close to ending their relationships. What often comes to light is that one or both of them do not really believe that they get to say “no” to their partner. They don’t believe that they get to stand up for their needs, even if their partner is unwilling or unable to meet those needs.
Someone may feel obligated to meet their partner’s requests, or go along with their partner’s desires, even if they don’t want that thing at all.
(Here’s where consent as a clear binary “yes” or “no” system becomes confusing. Because if you ask me to do something, and I don’t want to but I say yes anyway, because I don’t believe I can say ‘no’ to you, am I consenting?)
When boundary violations happen over and over, blame and resentment eventually build up. And it is resentment that, over time, sucks the lifeblood out of relationships.
As an adult in consensual relationship, when I do not say ‘no’ to what I do not want, I become complicit in the violation of my own boundaries. I am allowing my protective barrier to be breached, by not clearly refusing that which does not serve me. I get it; It’s so easy to wish that my partner could read my mind and honor boundaries I haven’t verbalized. And it’s unfair to expect partners to do this.
Part of being an emotionally-responsible adult is learning where your boundaries are, and verbally communicating them. It is also about doing the work of honoring everybody’s boundaries; your own, and those of your lovers, friends, parents, children, partners, co-workers etc. It is frequently easier to respect other’s stated boundaries than it is to verbalize our own.
It is fair to expect that adults with whom we share consensual relationship honor the boundaries we verbally state.
Chances are, if I set a verbal boundary, and someone disregards it again and again, my person-hood is not being well-held within that relationship. It is then my responsibility to take action that supports my well-being. It might not be the most popular opinion, but here it is: In adult, egalitarian relationships, your boundaries are yours to uphold. If someone isn’t respecting a boundary you have stated, it’s your job to protect yourself.
I know it would be nice to say your boundary once, and then everyone respects it in perpetuity. And the thing about boundaries is that we don’t just get to set them, and be done. They have to continually be reinforced. We have to be willing to stand up for our boundaries. We have to be willing to reinforce the consequences of violating our boundary. For example, “If you continue to touch me in that way, I will not have sex with you anymore.”
Often once we set a boundary, folks will initially, or periodically, need to “check” and make sure it’s still there. This is especially true with folks who struggle with their own boundaries; if you are willing to compromise yours, it can be validating for them. Especially in the beginning, folks can react to our setting of personal boundaries as an affront. As we carefully tend our boundary, they tend to shift their freak out, once they realize our boundary is there to stay.
Just like a farmer who has to tend to their fences so the cows don’t get out, tending to our boundaries is part of our mental hygiene.
In my experience, the best part about learning boundaries has been the sense of personal agency I feel. If I don’t like something that’s happening in a relationship, I can name it and either it changes, or I move away from it. Learning to have boundaries has set me free.
If you’d like to learn more about boundaries, like how to know where yours are, how to articulate them to your partner, and how to stay connected while doing so, I’m teaching a 3-part class starting this month for lesbian and queer couples. You can participate in-person in San Francisco. You can also participate virtually from anywhere. We’ll learn and practice boundary skills for connection, so that your relationship can thrive.
I’m lying on my bed, legs spread, my lover’s mouth on my junk. And I’m not doing anything.
Not tensing, not thrusting, not helping, not wiggling, not desiring. I am simply being, while my body is stimulated and pleasured. The sensation is exquisite. The pleasure builds and builds. As it builds, I feel each tiny movement towards increase. Meaning, as the pleasure increases, there are moments where I crave MORE pleasure. I move my hips a tiny bit, pushing my bits against my lover’s tongue. Or I tense my PC muscles ever so slightly, to increase the sensation.
All of my attention is focused on my receiving practice. Can I be still and receive? Can I just receive? Each time I notice my miniscule attempts to increase pressure or stimulation, I relax again, and remember my intention to just simply be and receive.
Recently, I learn that the name for someone who allows themselves to receive is disparaging; ‘turtle lesbian’ or ‘pillow princess.’ I’m grateful that I don’t have this framework, and that my practice of receiving can be free from judgment.
I practice and practice receiving. I practice Erotic Being, without Erotic Doing.
In my practice, there are moments of epiphany. For example, I realize the vast distinction between placing my attention ON something (like my genitals) and placing my attention IN my genitals. The difference is so subtle, and yet tremendous; it’s about living, feeling and being inside of my experience. My consciousness can dwell in tissues other than my brain tissue.
An old friend asked, apropos of nothing, “How do you make good decisions?” and I answered that I’ve been feeling into my junk, more and more. When I listen to the truth that is spoken between my legs, my decisions are good ones. My body does not lie.
In order to have more of what I want in my life, my capacity for RECEIVING more of what I want must be increased. I must build the muscle of having, of receiving without doing. Erotic practice is the perfect place to build this capacity. I ask my friends, “How are you good at receiving?” via text. Some respond, befuddled. Two write back that they receive when they get massages from their partners. One person responded that they pay attention to what’s going on in their body when something is being offered, and notices how their body feels different when they are open to receiving and when they are not.
In the spirit of celebrating of Erotic Being-ness, what follow are some thoughts on receiving. (And what I mean is the practice of receiving things we WANT from the world, not getting all the stuff we don’t want or need.)
- Receiving is an art. If you want to learn to receive, conduct an Indiegogo campaign. Make it count, make it meaningful. Put something you love out into the world, and ask your people to support it. This is a terrifying practice, not for the meek or inexperienced in receiving. This will shine the light on ALL of the shit you have about wanting, asking, and receiving. There’s pretty much no place to hide.
- Receiving can be cultivated. I can rest back in my body, pay attention to meeting the world from my back, choose to open my shoulder muscles. The more I receive, the better I get at receiving.
- Resistance to a thriving receiving practice can hide out behind egalitarian concepts like “mutuality” and “reciprocity.” Meaning, I am only available to receive if I believe the giver is also getting value from me. We are all so fucked up when it comes to gifting and gift economies, that we sometimes greet gifts with suspicion. We carry a lot of baggage around gifts that came with obligation, gifts that we gave out of obligation, gifts that mean more than just a gift. I can deflect receiving by not simply accepting the gift/compliment/pleasure/promotion/support… I can be overly grateful, or grovel. Not great receiving.
- Receiving is an elevated form of connection. Babies are held in “receiving blankets.” Offices have reception rooms, and receptionists whose job it is to receive you when you arrive. Shipping and receiving. Receiving dock. Receiving lines. And of course, the Hebrew Kabbalah, “receiving.”
- Receiving meets the offering with a full body presence, and an open-hearted welcome.
- We could choose to pay more attention to how we receive. How we receive others: their ideas, their words, their feedback, their gifts, their gestures. How we receive ourselves: our stories, our wounds, our faults, our gifts and talents and joys.
When all is said and done, here’s what I think. Receiving, that gorgeous practice of receptivity, is hard work. It’s a special kind of doing-not-doing. When I am receiving, I am BEING receptive. And that is the erotic self I’m striving towards, these days; the one that can fully receive the pleasure that is offered to me.
If you liked reading this, I’d love to RECEIVE a comment from you below.
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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.
Being a coach and standing in witness of the journeys my clients make is a magnificent experience.
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.
Recently, I was given the opportunity to participate in a transformational coaching process for performance, with Eric Scheur and Reba Sparrow of Mystery Box Show.
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.
The transformative story coaching process was supportive, and yet humbling.
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.
Miraculously, once I heard “Please welcome to the stage Pavini Moray!” my fear dropped away.
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’m so grateful that I got to participate in a transformational coaching process, and that the results were so clearly demonstrated.
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.