When I was19 I travelled to East Africa hoping to live with and learn from other cultures. Arriving in Kenya I was told about a semi-nomadic tribe called the Maasai, who lived in Southern Kenya and part of Tanzania. Traditional way of life for the Maasai revolved around men moving cattle for grazing and water while the women took care of the children and home. Curious, I went to Maasai Mara in southern Kenya, made connections with the Maasai and was invited to stay and learn from the women in the village. I was equally thrilled and terrified at this opportunity. Very few Maasai in that area spoke English and I knew that the cultural differences would be huge. Still, this was the chance of a lifetime and I couldn’t pass it up. I decided to do all that I could to immerse myself in their way of life. I wore their clothes, slept in cow dung houses, carried water, drank lots of milk, a bit of blood, and cared for the children. I fell in love with a little girl named Katow, carried her on my back in the day and slept curled around her at night. One of my first observations about the children was that they seemed “spoiled.” They were always held, never left to cry for anything and were never alone. It was very different from the way I had seen children raised in Canada and I thought that if I had a baby I would let it cry in order to teach independence. As the days went by though, I began to see a difference in the Maasai children compared to children back in Canada. They seemed happier, more confidant in their bodies and they just felt right . Because they felt right, they acted right and were a joy to be around. Babies melted into my body – used to being held and touched and a part of village life. When they wanted something they would give cues and trust that the person holding them would respond. This meant that they cried less as their needs were always met and a beautiful reciprocity between caregiver and child was created. Even their cues for bodily functions were understood and it was common for a woman to stop mid sentence to hold her baby away from her body while he/she urinated. I was fascinated by this and couldn’t comprehend how the mother, older sister or aunt knew that the baby was going to pee before it happened. There was never a baby alone. A baby wasn’t considered singular at all but a part of another person.
For the better part of five years I stayed in Kenya and developed a passionate belief in this style of parenting. I could see that the mother was teaching the baby how to express his/her needs, and that the baby trusted that the need would be met. This intimacy led to an inherent feeling of rightness in the child and provided a secure base for which their life was built on.
A couple years into my time in Kenya I married a Maasai man and my dream of being a mother became a reality. I did many of the things I saw the Maasai women do with their babies. My daughter Acacia, slept with me, breastfed on demand for two years and spent her day observing me work from her spot on my back, lap, or arms. I learnt to anticipate her needs before she told me, and listened to my instinct to touch and hold her even when others told me that she would be spoiled. In this relationship Acacia thrived. She was a fat, happy, healthy, secure baby and I was a mother learning a new kind of intimacy. She felt right and acted right and was a joy to parent. I had four more children after her : Mateyo, Selam, Matakai and Senaya and I practiced this kind of parenting with each one. As I learnt the intricacies of each baby I discovered that they each liked to be touched and held slightly differently and favoured different areas of their body. I learnt that certain cues meant they needed help right now and other ones meant that I could wait until I was finished what I was doing. I rarely woke at night because they would nurse as needed from my bare breast beside them. They grew to be empathic, kind, and sensitive children. Relishing my role as a mother I worked hard at providing them with a base, while also being authoritative instead of permissive.
The drawback to me practicing this style of parenting was noticed when we moved back to Canada, as life here was very different. My husband went to work and it was me alone with these children all day – a far cry from the community who helped raise the children in Kenya. Still I felt extremely passionate about “attachment parenting”, as it was called in Canada, and continued to practice it proudly. My desire to support other parents, who were interested in this style of parenting, led me to become a leader of Attachment Parenting International and start a support group in my area of Canada. My belief in the value of Attachment parenting was tested with the birth of my last born Senaya. She came out an incredibly smart but more difficult child who put to test my belief that behaviours were solely the result of parenting practices. Her cues were different than all the rest and she loudly let me know if I wasn’t doing things the way she wanted. Sometimes she cried and nothing that I tried could stop it, but I held her knowing that I could still be there for her in that moment and help her build that secure base. Because her cues were so obvious I began to notice that she got fussy before she had to pee and did not want to go in her diaper. It finally made sense how the Kenyan mother’s potty trained their infants. It wasn’t a training at all. It was being so in tune with their child that they knew when the baby would pee and could hold them away from their bodies at the right time to prevent being soiled. At four months old I was able to take Senaya, without diapers, to the library or for long walks, stopping to let her pee when I felt her wiggle against my back. I was grateful that I had learnt the value of physical closeness and touch from the Kenyan women, so that I was better able to parent a more challenging child.
I parented this way for 12 years feeling fulfilled and proud until I slowly began to realize that I lacked my own base. Who was I beyond my roles of mother and wife? Where was my feeling of inner rightness and understanding of my own body and how it worked? I didn’t know myself, touch myself, listen to myself or know what my own cues for shame, pleasure or even sadness were. I had learnt to just exist and provide for others rather than feeling deeply inside. I felt like I had hit the bottom and I needed to change. I told my family that I had done everything to fill their “cups” but nothing for my own. It wasn’t their fault and it had worked for me for years, but now I needed to look inward to discover who I was. What were my own needs and desires and what would give me a feeling of rightness? I thought back to my parenting and how I had gotten to know my children from taking the time to pay attention, touch, quietly listen and simple intuition. How would myself be any different? So I began by learning to dance. At first in a class and then by listening to how my body wanted to move. I changed my diet and started eating foods that made me feel good rather than just filled me up. I went to the gym and started lifting weights – something that I had enjoyed as a teenager. As my physical body got stronger, I had more energy to look inward. I spent time walking along the river and was moved by the power of the flowing water. I read books on female sexual empowerment, pleasure, orgasm, and mind body connection but there was still something that didn’t quite click. Then I came upon Betty Dodson’s book “Sex for One” and it was all there. What I was truly lacking was intimacy with myself. I didn’t know what kind of touch really felt good for me or where. I didn’t know that I was deserving of pleasure and felt unable to really accept it. I was looking outward for these things, but I could see that the answers were inside of me. So essentially I did for myself what I had done for my children. I listened, touched, paid attention, responded and understood. Through self touch, learning to meet my own needs, accepting my body and learning how to embrace pleasure I became my own secure base. I was learning to fill holes in myself so that my interactions with others could come from a place of strength and desire to build on what was already inside me, rather than a place of lacking and needing to be filled.
Now, when people ask me how I came to this place where I’m at – working towards being a Bodysex workshop facilitator and running my own Art of Self Loving workshop, I can honestly say that it has been a full circle. In providing the base and “filling the cups” in my children I discovered that my own base was lacking and I needed to give myself that same love and attention that I gave them. I am deserving of pleasure, I can express my wants to others but I also know that I can come back to myself when they can’t be met elsewhere. I know myself, what moves, inspires and turns me on. I am my own greatest lover.
This is the beautiful space I’ll be using for my “Art of Self Loving” workshop. It is warm, safe and private. I am getting so excited! For more information check out these links………Hope to see you there!
Who Owns The Rights To Our Pleasure?
Some women, who have enquired with interest about my workshops, have also voiced concerns that their husband or partner is uncomfortable with them participating. They feel that masturbating is a form of cheating and worry that it will make their husbands feel inadequate. These concerns got me thinking about a woman’s sexuality and who actually owns it. Who is in charge of our body? Who has the power over our orgasms? Who owns the rights to our pleasure? I can’t answer these questions for anyone else, but to find my own answers, I will begin with looking at what my sexuality means to me. I imagine it as a wheel and each spoke of the wheel represents a part of myself. There are physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual spokes in my wheel with my sexuality being evident in, and crucial, to the strength of all.
“Poor is the man, who’s pleasure depends, on the permission of another.”
My physical body is where I feel my pleasure and one of the most obvious expressions of my sexuality. It is evident in the way I speak, dance, dress, walk, smile, laugh, and cry. It is expressed in my choice of foods to eat, what I drink and any way that I physically nourish my body. I know what makes me feel good and what doesn’t and none of these decisions are made by anyone else. My body and my treatment of it is up to me. When I touch myself, allowing for time and care, I feel tenderness and love for this body that I have. My sexual relationship with my physical body helps me to forgive the parts that “failed” me, celebrate the parts that carried me, and give extra love to the parts that need it. No one else in the world can know these places as intimately as me. Imagining that this relationship that I have with myself can inhibit my ability to be intimate with another is impossible for me. It is the base from which all of my relationships stem from and it allows me to embrace myself as I am, express myself fully and be present in physical pleasure.
“ Masturbation is a way for all of us to learn about sexual response. It’s an opportunity for us to explore our bodies and minds for all those sexual secrets we’ve been taught to hide, even from ourselves. What better way to learn about pleasure and being sexually creative?”
– Betty Dodson
My emotional self is where I explore and aim to understand my stories, beliefs and perceptions about my sexuality. It is here where I go to figure out where my sexual and physical shame comes from, why I believe what I do about sex and intimacy, and also where I find my desire. The awareness of these things helps me to be authentic and present in sex and to understand the difference between what I have been taught by experience and culture and what is actually true for myself. If I don’t explore this intimate place my sexuality may be dictated by outside influences. I want it to be dictated by me and what feels right for myself. No one can say what that is for me, as much as I cannot say what that is for anyone else. When I am connected to and in sync with my emotional self, my pleasure is greater and I am able to reach orgasmic depths that would normally be blocked. I cannot aspire to the highest with one part of myself, if I’m denying it with another.
“The vulva, clitoris and vagina are just the most superficial surfaces of what is really going on with us. The real activity is literally far, and far more complex under these tactile surfaces. The vulva, clitoris and vagina are actually best understood as the surface of an ocean that is shot through with vibrant networks of underwater lightening – intricate and fragile, individually varied neural pathways.”
– Naomi Wolf
My intellectual spoke is where I seek to understand my anatomy, how my body responds to arousal and the biology around sex. I have discovered much of this through reading books on sexuality, learning from sex educators’ Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross, and also from exploring the responses in my own body. Testing out theories from others and learning about my anatomy through touch and experience has provided me with self knowledge, skills and understanding that I may not have if I didn’t seek to enhance this aspect of my sexuality. Every woman’s body is different in appearance as well as in it’s response to pleasure. Self love has given me concrete knowledge about how my body works and how breath, movement and sound can enhance my orgasms. My pleasure and my orgasms come from and belong to me. Sharing that knowledge with another creates an intimacy together, where I am able to give and receive pleasure – enhanced by my relationship with myself.
“Women know that they go into something like a trance state during really powerful sex, and this trance state, is an encounter with the self on another, higher level. We misunderstand women if we see their interest in romance as being only about the “other.” If a male or female lover can help a woman get to this trance state, that love is not just compelling to her because of the “other”; it is compelling to her because, through this sexual experience, she is awakening and engaging with profoundly important dimensions of her own self.”
– Naomi Wolf
Any woman who has experienced a full body, or “higher” orgasm will most likely understand when I say that it is a spiritual experience. Using my own hands or the hands of my partner to help an orgasm travel to the tips of my fingers, the ends of my hair, the base of my spine and the centre of my soul is an extremely spiritual experience. It isn’t something that happens every time, but at times when I am present and rooted in each spoke on the wheel of my sexuality. When I can allow my physical body, my emotions, my knowledge and my soul to be present and to let go, I meet myself in a place of transcendence and pure bliss. Letting go in this way takes vulnerability, trust, awareness and compassion for myself first and foremost but also a willingness to go to this place with another. To share it with my partner only adds to the depth of those feelings and enhances all areas of our relationship.
So, it seems that the answers to my questions came back to ME. My primary sexual relationship is with myself and, all that I am, comes from that base. Keeping it strong and empowered requires stimulating and feeding all aspects of my wheel. If I have given the rights to my pleasure away, I am risking the chance of getting no pleasure at all. But knowing my body, and how to find my own pleasure means that I will always have that right. With or without a partner. My workshops provide a safe, warm, loving space where women can explore these parts of themselves without judgement, persuasion or ownership from another. Finding our sexuality and what it means to to us on our own terms, will enhance all of the relationships in our lives. I invite you to journey with me, in person or from your own home, to explore these questions, build on this intimacy and share ourselves – as we choose – with those most important in our lives.
This is an article about the first bodysex workshop that I did, written by my hilarious friend Stephanie Theobald, who shared the circle with me. All identities are changed but maybe you can guess who I am?
This two part workshop is designed for any woman interested in developing an intimate relationship with herself and her body as a base from which all other relationships can grow. This intimacy includes: understanding your sexual anatomy and how it works, addressing body shame, learning to touch yourself with the grace and love with which you would touch a new lover, orgasm techniques for optimum pleasure, self awareness and being vulnerable in a trusted space. This learning is based on my own journey towards self discovery as well as training under NY based Sex Educator’s Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross. This workshop will mimic a sacred circle ritual of sisterhood that has been around for centuries. In looking inward, sharing our stories, and through loving touch, a burden within ourselves will be lifted.
-Arrive and take your place in the circle. Introductions.
-Sharing Circle – Masturbation/self loving history and Body issues and shame.
-Admiring the beauty and diversity of the vulva – photo and art display showing the variety in women’s genitalia. Brief overview of anatomy diagrams to help better understand our primary sex organ, the clitoris, and its complexity.
-Vulva show and tell – Live demonstration where I lead, an already chosen volunteer, in displaying her vulva. ( Labia, vagina, urethra, clitoris) Understanding the functions of our sexual anatomy and recognizing the beauty in our diversity is an important step in dealing with negative body image and optimizing our pleasure.
-Questions and discussion.
-Loving touch – learn the art of sensate focus self touch. This will be a non sexual activity with clothes on. Divide into groups and everyone will get the chance to feel the power of this healing touch from another.
-Homework that requires privacy to complete
-Meet in the circle and share how your night was. How did the homework go? Difficult? Enjoyable? Surprises?
-Video demonstration of Masturbation and Orgasm techniques by NY based Sex Educator Carlin Ross.
-Self touching demo(done by instructor) – Learn to touch your whole self. It is a profound act of compassion for yourself when you touch your body in the way in which you would touch your lover’s.
-Orgasm technique demo – Live demonstration of different touching and building to orgasm techniques. Learn different ways to masturbate, and ways to incorporate your whole body into your practice. How breath, sound, movement and the PC muscle affect your orgasm. Learn the Betty Dodson method “Rock N’ Roll” Orgasm.
-Group massage. This is a non sexual, healing ritual that bonds us together on a shared journey towards loving ourselves.
Location: 300 3rd Avenue South, Saskatoon SK. Canada
May 2nd (Sat. 1-5)
May 3rd (Sun. 1-5)
Dinner provided following workshop on Sunday.
2 days $250.00
$100 NRF deposit on registration
maximum 10 participants
email firstname.lastname@example.org to register or call 306-241-2408
Remember that this is new for all of us and feeling scared and vulnerable is normal and expected. Everyone who comes to the workshop will sign a confidentiality agreement to ensure that everything stays in the circle. While this may be emotional, I can promise that it will be fun and there will be laughter as well! Please email me with any concerns or questions you may have. Nothing is off limits or silly to ask.
Please wear comfortable clothes with preferably short sleeves so that you have some skin exposed for touch. I look forward to seeing you in the circle!