Last week I posted a pic of myself on social media, biking with my 4 times pregnant, stretched stomach showing just a bit. I’ve never received such a response from anything I’ve posted and it made me realize how much even I – who promotes body acceptance and vulnerability – have been afraid of being seen as I am. There’s still an old belief that if I’m seen I won’t be accepted – and yet I do accept myself. I guess I don’t necessarily trust others to do the same.
After the overwhelmingly positive response I received, I looked through my photos on social media and imagined myself from the outside looking in. I realized that I write about my scars but I don’t necessarily show them.
Here are two photos of me taken on the same day. One covering the physical marks that remind me of the beautiful beings I helped create, and the other showing them. In both I was sweaty and flushed from my bike ride and in both I felt absolutely beautiful. At the end of the day, both are of me and I apologize for taking so long to show up publicly in this full expression of myself. ❤️
Almost always the answers are within us – sometimes we just need someone to ask the right questions to bring them out.
Q: Hey Natasha, are you still doing q&a? I have a sex question and I’m all kinds of embarrassed to ask.
A: Yes totally! Ask away!
Q: Okay. So I’ve been seeing a guy for a few months. The sex has been great and at first I was cumming every single time. Lately, the past month or two, I haven’t been able to orgasm with him at all. The sex is still super hot and I really enjoy it, but what’s going on? I can make myself cum no problem, but not with him anymore.
A: Have you tried masturbating with him? Did anything happen of significance around the time you stopped cumming during sex with him?
Q: I haven’t tried masturbating with him, sometimes I touch myself when we fuck but even that doesn’t do it. When it was strictly physical/casual, I could easily orgasm every time without touching myself. I can’t think of anything of significance…although maybe it was around the time I started to develop feelings for him. And of course I haven’t expressed those feelings to him…which is probably the problem, isn’t it?
A: Yes!! That is very insightful of you! Having feelings for someone and expressing them requires vulnerability. Orgasms are vulnerable. To orgasm is to surrender and surrender can’t happen when you’re holding back.
Q: Well shit, that makes perfect sense. Having been in a relationship for so long, sex and vulnerability with someone new is so different. So I guess I’m gonna have to do something about these feelings, both relationship-wise and sexually. It could totally scare him away, but if it does then that just means that he’s not right for me right now.
A: Yes!!! look at you owning your feelings more than your need for his response to them!! Yay!! That’s liberation!
Sometimes it’s difficult for me to write about Bodysex retreats because I feel a responsibility to honour the other women through my words and yet, just like in the circle, I can only speak for myself. I find that each retreat peels another layer off of the armour that I wear and, with that, the mirror image that I see reflected in the women’s eyes becomes more clear. Seeing myself with more clarity — and less armour — frees me to be me. I can only hope and trust that this increased freedom to be me, gives the women the freedom to experience themselves in their full expression as well.
I came into last weekend’s retreat grieving the end of a relationship that was and is very dear to me. I felt heartbroken and tender — yet at the same time excited and curious to be amongst a new circle of women. As soon as Patti and I got to the retreat space and began setting up, my body — remembering the familiar smells, sights and feels of the space — began to settle and soften. Body sex is home to me.
The next morning while we waited for the women to arrive, I laid down naked on the couch for some quiet time while Patti and Justine sat across the room doing henna. In between answering texts from nervous women, reading quotes and drinking tea — I touched myself. Connecting to my body through pleasure always grounds me — bringing me into me. Pleasuring myself in the same room as them, while they were experiencing pleasure in their own way, didn’t seem at all strange. When I orgasmed Patti looked back at me and smiled, then went back to discussing her henna design with Justine. I smiled too in recognition of the freedom I felt experiencing this kind of intimacy — in full acceptance and non judgement — by women that I’m not sexually intimate with. We eat, we sleep, we orgasm, we don’t orgasm, we cry, we share our darkest secrets and deepest shame. In all of it there is no hierarchy or relative importance between these things and I couldn’t help but think that this is how I imagine the perfect love affair.
That feeling of freedom stayed with me the entire weekend and I can honestly say that I felt free in a way that I have never felt before. I loved being naked and felt completely at home and beautiful in my body. Even outside in the cold I’d pull up my dress so that my pussy was exposed and free. In this freedom my vulva lips bloomed and opened up to the world as if to say “this is me in my abundance and I’m not hiding anymore!!!!”
The freedom showed up in my ability to empathize with the women’s pain but not wish I could rescue them from it. Knowing that this journey is hard, I felt less responsibility for everyone’s experience and yet somehow trusted that they were having the experience that they needed. I was able to reach out physically in ways that I haven’t before — trusting myself and the women that it was welcome. I’ve always felt like I’m too much and because of this I’d hold back. Feeling free in the way I express love and compassion, I held a woman in a fully naked body hug, as she grieved a loss of her own.
In this freedom I realized that Bodysex represents a unique and beautiful dichotomy of self growth and self pleasure while at the same time an experience of deep interpersonal connection. In the contrast of these two things, we find the common connection of vulnerability. Each of us in the circle travels our own path, expresses our own shame, feels our own pain, and celebrates our own pleasure, yet we are never alone for any of it. We do so being witnessed and witnessing in a circle of sisterhood. Body sex is the ultimate love affair.
With this very difficult and vulnerable piece of writing, another layer of armour falls off and once again my mirror image is more clear. This freedom isn’t only in Bodysex. This freedom is in me.
Much love to all of you: Bambi, Bunny, Aloha, Turtle, Kiki, Ginny, Sage, Marina, Rosa, Sasha, Roxy and Liberty.
**special thanks to my dear sister Patti who’s encouragement as I wrote this meant the world to me and without it I could not have shared it. You are a gift.
** photo credit to the talented Meghan Mickelson and shared with permission
As I continue to grow and learn and get more comfortable incorporating parts of myself and my beliefs into my life and my work, I’ve started to feel uncomfortable using the word “heal” when referring to what I hope to help women achieve through my work. The definition of heal is “to become healthy or sound again” and to me that implies that we were once healthy and whatever we did or was done to us needs to be fixed so that we can become healthy again. I don’t believe that any of us need fixing. I believe that our pain, “brokenness”, trauma, and shame are just as valid parts of ourselves as our greatness. In fact often our greatness is a direct result of our brokenness.
I can see now that when I feel like I need fixing it’s usually because I’m waging battles — both consciously and unconsciously — with my stories and experiences that I deem shameful and bad. By not accepting or allowing them to be a part of me and my view of myself, I become fragmented — and a separation is created within me. It takes a great deal of energy to keep these parts separate and much of my energy is fed into hiding these perceived imperfections from others. Hiding and living in shame creates not only a separation within but a separation with out — and essentially distances me from the people that I most want to be close to.
I saw examples of this separation in my daughter whom we adopted as an older child. When she first came home she tried her best to be perfect and any time she made a normal mistake she would either apologize profusely or do whatever she could to hide it. The behaviours she used to cover her mistakes were often far more damaging than the mistakes themselves and after awhile trust between us became a problem. She seemed to be putting her energy into separating her “flaws” from herself and in doing so, was separating herself from me. Sensing that she felt the need to be perfect in order to be loveable, I began to praise her for making mistakes. I expressed my love for her “flaws.” Her spilled milk, forgotten lunch containers and messy room. Then I took things a step further and told her that I didn’t need her to be perfect or “fixed”, as adopted children often believe, and that it’s okay that she may always feel a sadness or brokenness about losing her birth family. I acknowledged that her wounds from this loss may never fully heal and that no matter what, I accept and love her as she is. I didn’t want her to think she “should” be anyone other than herself or that I needed her to feel better in order to love her. To deny the painful truths in her story would be to deny a part of who she is. I can honestly still feel her entire body sigh with relief upon hearing this.
I’ve carried this understanding with me ever since as a reminder to not gloss over or try to “fix” her or my other children’s pain or shortcomings, but instead to acknowledge and accept them as a part of their whole being. I don’t need them to be any “better” than they already are.
Through my work these past few years and in particular the shared vulnerability that happens within a Bodysex circle, I’ve learned to stop hiding in shame and acknowledge the parts of myself that aren’t so pretty to look at. In this acknowledgement and in the acceptance mirrored back to me from the other women, I’ve largely come to trust and stop fighting those parts of myself that I’m in battle with. When I stop resisting, the stories lose their power and — like a tapestry with many different threads — they become just another part of the intricate story of my life. They integrate into me. The meaning of the word integrate is “to put together parts or elements and combine them into a whole.” To be whole I don’t need to be perfect.
If you choose to sit in the circle with me or work with me in any capacity — I will not proclaim that you’ll be healed because I don’t believe that you need fixing. I don’t and won’t see you that way. I won’t pretend to have all the answers or that I’ve “arrived” at a place that you should also be. I will however, do my best to allow you to see me as a whole person with many curves and corners of both darkness and light. In the end, maybe healing is just realizing that in spite of my brokenness, I’ve been whole all along.
*** people who know me well know that I love words and their meanings and I don’t take it lightly which words I use. Just because this is how I feel about the word heal, doesn’t mean I think you’re wrong for using it. This is just what fits for me.
My sexuality is a part of – not separate from my daily life. Something that I live — a way of being — rather than a goal I reach. When I’m conscious, present and willing to be vulnerable, my orgasms serve as a window into my wellbeing. My orgasms are ME.
“A hospital chaplain says that the dying have a lot to teach us on how to live our lives better while we still can. One of the most frequent yet surprising regrets she’s found, especially from female patients, is the fact that they hated their bodies for so many years. Only now, when that body is truly failing, do they realize they should have celebrated it.”
A couple of weeks ago, while recovering from surgery to remove a tumor on my thyroid, I spent the night and day on the South Saskatchewan river. I’d been told that I should avoid the sun to lessen the severity of my scar, but I knew that there was nothing that could be more healing for me than the sun on my body, sand in my hair and the river under me.
When I got back home I noticed how the browning of my skin made the stretch marks on my body show up even more. Like my body’s own kind of intricate artwork I couldn’t help but think how interesting and beautiful they were to look at. This was remarkable considering that only 4 years previously, at my first nude Bodysex workshop, the part of my body that I was most terrified of the other women seeing were my stretch marks.
Even though I’ve spent the past few years getting used to and learning to really enjoy being naked, I won’t pretend that I have no more body shame. I believe shame comes in layers, and each time I expose myself and peel back a layer, I get closer to the root of what my shame is really about. My scars and stretch marks may be illustrations of the stories of my life, but the actual story is in what the illustrations signify to me. That’s the part that’s the most difficult to come to terms with and what I think we are really afraid that others will see when looking at us.
On the outside my c-section scar tells the story of me having surgery to deliver my babies.
On the inside the scar tells a story of me failing at what I wanted most in the world.
On the outside my stretch marks tell a story of a girl growing and changing through puberty, pregnancy and the normal ups and downs of life.
On the inside the stretch marks tell a story of me feeling abnormal and ugly.
On the outside, the most recent scar on my neck tells a story of removing cancerous cells so that I can live.
On the inside the scar tells a story that I’ve done something wrong for this to happen to me.
Thankfully my first two stories are no longer relevant to me or my life. I am still sad that I didn’t give birth naturally but I haven’t failed at motherhood. And when I’m not noticing the beauty of my stretch marks, I usually forget I even have them.
I know that it’ll take time for me to come to terms with my new scar, and the layers of stories that lay beneath it. But when I was lying naked in the sand along the river, I didn’t feel like I’d done anything wrong to deserve it. I felt more competent, loved, supported, beautiful and alive than I’ve ever felt in my life. Whether my scar fades or stays the same, I hope that this is the story behind the illustration that I will celebrate.