Last week I woke up to the sight of my 7 year old daughter laying beside me, wrapped in a quilt made by one of my Bodysex sisters. She had made the quilt for me last year in exchange for a friend of hers to attend one of my Bodysex retreats. Since then the quilt has mostly been used in my counselling office or at my retreats — providing warmth and comfort to women when they need it.
Seeing her wrapped in such a perfect symbol of sisterhood, I couldn’t help but think of the trickle effect that Bodysex has, not only on the women attending — but on the next generation of children. Even if they never attend a workshop, the very structure and concept of Bodysex is one we rarely see examples of in today’s culture. Women supporting other women — absent of competition. Real naked bodies — not on display, but simply being. Honest, vulnerable sharing of our most hidden stories, greatest fantasies and everything in between. Shared celebration of self pleasure as our fundamental birthright. And the healing experience of non sexual, loving touch from women who actually SEE us.
Tucking the quilt in tighter I continued to watch her, hoping that her little body would soak in some of the power of the collective stories and pleasures that the quilt holds. That as she grows and becomes a woman herself she will find acceptance in her body, love of self, enjoyment of pleasure and true sisterhood.
I love you Naya <3
I wrote the following blog post nearly 3 months ago yet haven’t had the courage to share it until today. Wondering what was holding me back I sat with it for awhile and realized that it isn’t that I’m afraid to be seen this way – that’s my old story. It’s more that I’m afraid that in sharing my feelings about something that has been this difficult for me, I might being dismissed. I’ve heard many well intentioned women say to me “God if I had your stomach I’d be laughing” or “I don’t know why you’re so hard on yourself – I wish my stomach looked like yours.” I understand that they see theirs as much worse than mine but those words don’t make me feel better – they make me feel worse. They dismiss how deeply painful it was for me to not give birth naturally. How hard it is to have visual scars of pregnancy and yet no real birth story that gives me “credibility” amongst women. My shame is drawn in the scars on my stomach and today I’m saying fuck you to the shame. This is my mama tummy and I accept it.
We read and hear so much about self love, radical self love and the idea of loving our selves exactly as we are. I think that this kind of dialogue is important and the idea is a beautiful one, but I also think that in it’s own way it sets us up for disappointment and failure. When my teachers Betty and Carlin interviewed me for Bodysex facilitator training 2 and a half years ago, they told me that they believed the biggest gift that comes from Bodysex is self acceptance. They made a point of saying that this was more important than self love. At the time I didn’t fully understand what they meant, but I listened and held that idea in my mind as one of importance.
Body shame has always been a part of my life. As a teenager I remember feeling insecure about my small breasts and overly muscular legs. I thought that, like the women in Cosmo magazines, my breasts were supposed to touch together. When I had sex with my boyfriend I’d use my arms to push them in – hoping that he wouldn’t discover my “deformity.” The main source of my physical shame however, has been my stomach. Not only have I felt shame over how it looks from stretch marks and loose skin, but after losing one baby and giving birth to 4 by cesarean, the ever present scar has been a visible reminder of how my body failed me at what I’d wanted the most.
Late this summer I asked my friend Dana to take photos of me naked exposing my stomach. It felt like a monumental thing for me to do as I’ve always found ways to keep this area hidden. The meaning of shame is to cover and hide and a part of me has believed that if people knew what I really looked like or my full story they’d be disgusted.
As I stood having these photos taken I felt beautiful. It wasn’t that I necessarily loved my stomach the way it looked or that I loved all of the stories that brought me to this place. I may always mourn the stomach of my youth or the fact that my babies weren’t born naturally. But I can and do accept that this is how I look now and that my babies weren’t.
Fast forward to today and I’m soon to lead my 5th body sex circle. For the first time in my life I feel like I can understand what Betty and Carlin meant. And because this acceptance is true and not an attempt at some form of radical self love that isn’t really there, I no longer care if someone else doesn’t like my body, finds it unattractive or if they think I’m less of a mother for not giving birth naturally. I’ve nourished all 5 of my children with this body (plus a couple that weren’t my own) been cut open 4 times, given love and caused pain. I’ve experienced grief, loss, joys, endings and beginnings. Through all of this my body has carried me. This body and the stories drawn on it, are me. By accepting it and them, I accept me.
*photo credit 1 – Stiina
*photo credit 2 – Dana Kellet
After pouring English breakfast tea into my beautiful hand made mug, I take my first sip and sigh. Growing up with an English mother I have always loved the ritual of drinking tea. Boiling the water, letting it steep in a pot, pouring the milk first and then the tea – it has to be made a certain way otherwise I’d rather not have it at all. Setting the mug down on the counter I go back to my task at hand – washing an assortment of brightly coloured dildos in the kitchen sink. Tonight I am teaching a Penis Pleasing Workshop at Positive Passions, and this is part of my preparation.
A buzz from my phone interrupts my thoughts as my 2nd oldest daughter texts to say that she’s having trouble getting her little sister to sleep. “Try singing ‘mama loves you’” I text back, hoping that she falls asleep soon or she’ll be grumpy tomorrow.
My awareness shifts back to my work and I continue to wash the dildos noticing the differences in each one – colour, veins, testicles and size. Wondering which ones the women will want to practice on, I settle on a variety and set them onto a towel to dry.
Ten minutes later – carrying my mug of tea in one hand and my rainbow of dildos in another, I go to the workshop room and set up the space.
I sit down and begin going over the material while at the same time wondering if the kids remembered to feed the bunnies. Standing up to grab my phone to text them, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror on the wall. On the outside I look like one woman but on the inside I know I’m made up of many different women. Women reflective of all of the journey’s that I’ve been on. I see the madonna, I see the whore, the sensitive and the rude. The woman who used to be too scared to walk into this store, and the woman who can now comfortably talk about anything and everything to do with sex. I’m all of these women.
It has taken me time to get used to talking openly in this way and also to learn that there are times when it’s best to not say anything at all. If I’m honest I can admit that I still worry about judgement from others and have to remind myself all the time that I can be both a loving mother and a sexual woman — especially in a culture that tells me I can’t be.
My thoughts are interrupted by the sound of the front door opening. The workshop participants have arrived and it’s time for me to go greet them.
Mug in hand I walk to the door and say “Hello my name is Natasha. I am a mother of 5, Sex educator, Orgasm Coach, and Bodysex facilitator. Today we are going to learn different ways to pleasure a penis…. “