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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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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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!
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:
A month ago, I was interview by Sexologist Anya de Montigny on her radio show “The O Word.” I talk about genderqueer awesomesauce, trans and fat sexuality. It’s kinda long, but if you’d like to listen, here’s Pavini Moray, on the “O” Word.
My orgasms used to last about 5-7 seconds, and were a series of 5-10 rhythmic contractions of the muscles of my pelvic floor and anus. Since childhood when I began masturbating, I have experimented with focused orgasm. I have tried many different muscular approaches to maximize my orgasm, and settled the predicatable orgasm described in the beginning of this paragraph. While I mixed up my masturbation practice, my orgasms were typically similar each time I came.
Becoming a Sexological Bodyworker has changed my belief about what is possible orgasmically. I’ve begun to experiment again, and it is so fun. Part of what I’ve been curious about is Kegels. Everyone knows they “should” be doing them, but how much? How frequently? It’s always been a mystery. Today I’ve got a few resources for you if you’d like to work with your Pubococcygeus Muscles.
When fellow Sex Educator Nikki Lundberg saw my commitment to 30 days of pleasure, she invited me to participate in her 30 day self pleasure program running this month. Each day she is sending me a masturbation challenge. On Friday, she wrote: “For today’s self pleasure session consciously incorporate the PC muscle (the pubococcygeus muscle).
This band of muscle is shaped like a hammock and is connected at one end to your pubic bone and on the other end to your tail bone. It encircles your rectum and urethra. For people with vulvas, it encircles the vaginal canal.
If you don’t know where it is on your body, while peeing ,stop the flow of urine. (But don’t make a habit of it.) The muscle you use to do that is the PC muscle.
While the primary function of this muscle is to control the flow of urine, a healthy PC muscle is part of fantastic sexual pleasure. It contracts during orgasm – and the stronger the contractions the better it feels. A strong PC muscle also provides more force behind your ejaculation (for all genders).
For people with penises, a strong PC muscle is critical for stopping premature ejaculation – it can stop your semen the way it stops your urine (with practice.)
Today, start your 30 minutes with kegel exercises. They are pleasurable and will increase blood flow to the area.
I recommend using a timer that shows seconds as well as minutes.
Flutter – Completely contract and relax the PC muscle as quickly as possible. Try to go for a whole minute.
Contract and hold – try to keep it fully contracted as long as possible up to one minute.
Add repetition – contract completely and hold for 2 to 5 seconds and relax for 2 to 3 seconds. Repeat as long as you can up to 5 minutes.
Repeat four times daily. ©Nikki Lundberg
My daily practice this weekend has included Nikki’s suggestions. I’ve engaged my PC muscles before practice and wow! My orgasms intensify when I do this before masturbating.
Two other resources I have found recently are an iPhone app called “Kegel Camp” created by a sex educator. You can check out this technological approach to erotic training and kegel practice here.
Doing kegels with resistance can be extra beneficial. First, it helps to isolate the correct muscles. Second, it gives your muscles somethign to resist against, kind of like weight training. (There are also kegel weights available, or Betty Dodson’s “Vaginal Barbell.” This is a product that I find fascinating for kegel resistance training. (I don’t get commissions on any of this stuff… just offering it as resources.)
So what are my results thus far? Well, I’ve had several orgasms lasting over 20 seconds each. The strength of my orgasms instensifies when I do erotic training. I feel more pleasure, and can tolerate more stimulation. I like the attention I am placing on my pleasure: it draws my presence to my practice. I actually feel the love I have towards myself, and that feels amazing.
It’s such a joy to take this training on. I hope it is beneficial to you. I hope it models permission to explore and play, with your sexuality, pleasure, and yourself. Let me know how it’s going!
I have been asked by several in community to put together a class series for teens pertaining to sexuality. The intention of this post is to gather feedback and information, so that I can create curriculum that serves the needs of teens and their families.