As fall approaches and my November Bodysex retreat date is getting closer, I’ve been reflecting on the emotions and stories from the last retreat held in May. One of the things that stands out the most in my mind is the group massage. As we took turns touching and being touched there was one woman who’s emotional pain could literally be seen and felt through her body. Hoping that somehow some of the love we felt for her would soak in through her skin – we touched and we sang – telling her how beautiful she was to us. Later that evening we walked down to the beach and took this beautiful and fitting photo of her naked, with the setting sun shining between her legs.
This same woman wrote to me after the retreat and, with her permission, I’m sharing her words with you.
Thanks again for everything this past weekend. It was so amazing. Usually I can find words easily, but the fact that this time I cannot find the right words, speaks to me of how deeply this has affected me, and I suspect it will keep affecting me for a long time to come, with many parts of me forever changed.
I am revisiting circle time and all conversations from the entire weekend. Mulling over thoughts and ideas, advice and emotions. Each experience burned into my brain and psyche. One in particular I have been mulling this last 24 hours was when the question was posed to me what I liked about my body and I couldn’t find anything.
But with some consideration I have found other things I like about my body and self. I feel the need to share, so here they are…..
I like my ears, and I think my feet are kinda cute. I have very good skin on my face and rarely get acne. My legs are very strong, at the gym I can push over 130 pounds on the weight machine. I like that I am very self aware and open minded. I am also very smart and observant. I love that I have a big heart and a kind Soul.
I find I am working hard to stay in the energy brought up by the circle. I have realized that part of me wants to run away from it, to deny myself the growth, progress and change, because the past pattern is familiar. So I work to change and grow and honour my experience with all the amazing women from circle. I look forward to doing this retreat again sometime within the next 12 months. And I am telling several friends, hoping they will come try the experience and see how life changing and wonderful it is.
I look forward to how I am expanding my consciousness and my heart, especially with regard to myself. I set my intention to stop avoiding looking in mirrors, and learn to love and accept myself, as all my retreat sisters taught me I need to. I will honour my worth as a tribute to them all.
Love to you my sister-friend,
I think I need to take one of your workshops in the future. I’m pretty sure I’ve got some pussy shame. I didn’t really notice it until I recently became single. I was comfortable with my long term partner, but now I feel like mine is bigger than normal, or something. Like, it’s always been more rounded and pronounced than other’s, I noticed as a child, that I didn’t have one of those cute, tiny little v shaped pussies, and yeah, I guess I feel ashamed. Like it’s not normal, maybe, or that the men I choose to be with won’t like it, or think it’s fat and gross or something.
Thanks so much for sharing your shame with me. Pussy shame is really common and unfortunately very normal. I’ve heard this exact concern from other women and, because we rarely see examples of normal vulva’s, it’s no wonder you’re unsure.
Vulva’s come in many different “styles” – some skinnier, some rounder, some have protruding inner lips and some have tucked in inner lips – none are perfectly symmetrical. In Jamaica the name for vulva is ‘pum pum” and a woman with a rounder or more pronounced vulva is considered highly desirable. I can remember seeing what seemed to be wider or chubbier vulvas when I was a little girl and wondering what was wrong with my skinny one! The fact is there’s nothing wrong with any of us, we’re all made uniquely and that IS the beauty of it.
My advice to you is to spend time naked with yourself, touching, exploring and getting used to your pussy just as she is. Using coconut oil pleasure yourself over and over enjoying the roundness of your pussy. It’s my strong belief that in order to truly be able to enjoy pleasure and let go in sex, we need to find understanding and acceptance in our sexual anatomy. This is the foundation of sexual pleasure.
If you have children or are close to any little girls in your life, imagine that it was one of them who felt like their vulva was fat, gross or abnormal. What would you say to her? Would you want her to accept herself as she is? Would you want to help her find the beauty in her unique body? Finding beauty in a part of our body that we feel shame in is an act of compassion for ourselves. You are definitely welcome to take a Bodysex workshop, but I can tell you right now that your vulva is normal and if anyone else doesn’t like it they’re missing out on your beautiful “pum pum.”
Love her up until she feels beautiful,
ps. Here are some drawings on the different vulva styles, by my teacher and artist Betty Dodson, along with her words about her own vulva shame.
“At the age of 35, I still had an ugly mental image of my genitals. In the past, men had “gone down” on me, but I was always much too uncomfortable to reach an orgasm. The thought of someone tasting my genitals struck me as being unsanitary. Worse yet, he might see everything. I could only allow oral sex for a few minutes before I pulled my lover back up on top of me for “normal sex.”
Last week I attended a therapeutic pelvic floor massage with my colleague and friend Carly Rae. Even though I had no idea what to expect, knowing how passionate Carly is about her work, I wasn’t nervous at all. I was so relaxed in fact that I didn’t bother to tell her beforehand that I was on the last day of my period. I knew that she’d be okay with whatever my body did, and because of that, I felt really safe.
Safe, relaxed and held are the best words I would use to describe the session. Carly made sure that I was comfortable and exuded a warmth and softness while at the same time extreme confidence in what she was doing. She began by working on my stomach and explained things about my diastasis (separation of my abdominal muscles from pregnancy) that no doctor had told me before.
Moving on to the pelvic floor massage, she began by softly touching my vulva to encourage relaxation. Laying back I felt completely relaxed and was able to fully enjoy her touch. It occurred to me that no other human being had ever touched my vulva in a non sexual – but pleasurable way before. It felt really nice, completely normal, and totally safe.
The internal massage was like nothing I’ve felt before and Carly explained that “It’s a massage from the inside out.” I was struck by how intuitively she moved her fingers inside me – telling me what she was noticing with each move. She could tell exactly where my bike seat rests against my pelvic bones and explained that the tissues in those areas are stuck to the bone. Using what felt like very soft touch and the slightest movements, she massaged those tissues to encourage them to once again separate. At times I felt a discomfort – not pain – and had to breathe into it to manage it.
After the full massage I felt open and fully relaxed. Working with women who’ve experienced birth trauma, sexual abuse, and physical and sexual shame I know that a healthy pelvic floor sets a base for a healthy self. I think it takes a special kind of person to do this deeply personal work and I’m so grateful to Carly for sharing her gift with us.//www.carlyrae.ca
“Lastnight I had the greatest most vibrant orgasm.I can see clearly the correlation between vulnerability and orgasmic power.” – Anais Nin.
4 years ago I began a journey inwards by seeking out vulnerability. Seeing things that I held back from, feared and felt shame about, I realized how they limited the experiences I was having in my life. Making the decision to walk into the experiences, feelings and self touch that I’d been avoiding was terrifying, but each time I did it I discovered a new part of myself that had been blocked.
Through this self discovery I developed a relationship with myself that allowed me to use my sexual response and orgasms as a window into my own whole wellbeing. My orgasms – the strength of them, the way they travelled through my body or stayed in one place, the ease or difficulty in which they came — showed me where I was at physically, emotionally and spiritually.
About a year ago, while undergoing huge and difficult changes in my personal life, I began noticing a big difference in my response to pleasure and the strength of my orgasms. Unable to let go and love myself I’d been trying to will myself into orgasming – not really being present in the experience leading up to it. I could see myself doing this in a few different ways — masturbating less and masturbating with clothes on instead of fully naked and open. I’d reverted back to my teenage masturbation practice of holding my breath and clenching my left hand — being unwilling to open it and explore the curves of my breasts or hips. Feeling undeserving of the love and appreciation that I’d developed for myself these past few years, my orgasms were reflecting that.
Putting expectations on the orgasmic response I felt I should be getting, led me to try harder and longer and ended with me frustrated and feeling like a fraud for teaching things that I was obviously no good at. Seeking guidance I reached out to my mentor Betty Dodson for advice and she responded just like a mother would — loving, reassuring and at the same time blunt. Betty assured me that she herself has gone through this, that it’s a normal part of life and that there’ve been times where she actually broke up with herself — no sex at all. She went on to say that “in terms of the love affair with yourself, you might say you’re being a demanding “bitch” with your orgasm expectations.” She encouraged me to let go of expectation, keep masturbating and teaching, and that in time the connection will return.
Reassured I followed her advice while in the meantime committing myself to seeking out vulnerability and doing other things to strengthen and open myself — as I had done 4 years ago when I’d begun this journey. I started with what seemed like a crazy decision to do a 200k bike trip alone. I loved biking but I’d never gone over 30k in one stretch, rode only a mountain bike, didn’t know how to change a tire and was terrified to sleep alone by the side of the road. Walking into the fear I knew I needed to try. In the end I made it just over halfway having pushed myself past the point I thought I was capable of. I’d cried, been pelted by hail, experienced unbelievable physical pain and the fear of being alone at night. It was in my pain and my fear however, that I rediscovered the strength and inner power that had been lost along the way.
Feeling the need to discover more in myself I booked a private breath work session. Being used to holding space for others in their vulnerability I longed to let go and allow someone else to hold space for me. Even though I wanted this there’s a huge risk involved in truly showing up and actually allowing it to happen. Just as I look at my orgasms as a window into my wellbeing, I knew that the facilitator would look at my breath in the same way. After the session I asked him for feedback and he told me in a kind and gentle way that he had noticed my strong sexual energy, desire for living life and also my need for control, closed heart and tight stomach. I felt both surprised and horrified that someone else saw these things in me. Experiencing a full on vulnerability hangover I spent days reflecting on his response and the truth in it.
About a week later I decided to attend another breath work group ceremony led by the same facilitator. Laying back in the circle I focused consciously on my breath and pulling it up into my heart as I inhaled and letting it flow out of my vulva as I exhaled. What transpired over the next hour is difficult to put into words and I imagine almost unbelievable to someone outside of it. At some point, lost in focusing only on my breath, I was startled by the most intense physical pain i’ve ever experienced in my life. When I literally thought I couldn’t bear it any longer the pain was gone and was followed by what felt like the first breath of my life. The openness with which the air moved through me with that breath caused me to burst into tears. I sobbed and sobbed from the deepest parts of myself. As I lay on the floor crying in a circle of strangers, I knew without a doubt that I’d truly shown up.
Two days later laying completely naked on my bed, I set a timer for an hour with the intention of just touching myself. Having grown accustomed to the fear and disappointment of seeing my disconnect with myself through my orgasms I was nervous to try again. It seemed smart to go back to the place of learner that I’d started from 4 years ago when I’d never touched my body with my hands. So, using my breath as my guide, I explored myself with both hands focusing only on the sensations at my fingertips and the words that I spoke over and over “I love you Natasha.” My orgasm came as a complete surprise— just minutes before the end of the hour — and I could feel all of the built up orgasmic energy travel up with my breath and into my heart. I cried and cried with the comforting and old, yet familiar feeling, of being at home in myself that I’d missed so much.
Since that day my orgasms have been reflecting the openness in my heart, acceptance I have with myself(strengths and weaknesses) and this new path that I’m on. Coming full circle back to the place I began my sexual awakening from 4 years ago has been humbling and difficult for me. I feel grateful though that by looking into this window I’ve learned, as Anais Nin did, the connection between my willingness to be vulnerable and my orgasmic power.
I am 37 years old, married and my sex life is not bad but my orgasms for the past 4 years are very quick. I’d like very much to extend the play and also to enjoy of the clímax more in each sexual act like I used to. I think the change in my orgasms is due to my last delivery as I failed to achieve a natural birth and ended up in cesarean attempt. My vagina tore and it cost me 2 years of penetrative sex. I was so afraid when we started having sex again that I felt I should orgasm as soon as possible so I wouldn’t tear again. Since then my orgasms are very quick and brief.
My question is: How can I control the sexual energy accumulated in my genitals so that it will not ” explode ” as quickly and thus feel better in every sexual act. Thank you!
* question paraphrased slightly to make more sense to the reader as the author is ESL
Thanks so much for your question! There are two things that need to be mentioned here.
First of all what’s happening to you makes complete sense and is to be expected following the circumstances of your painful birth experience. Our orgasms and response to pleasure are connected to and affected by the health of other parts of ourselves – emotions, relationships, trauma we experience, physical health etc. It sounds like you’re experiencing some anxiety around pleasure and orgasm because you’ve associated it with pain. Anxiety during sex is extremely common and even if you aren’t worried about your vagina tearing now ( or maybe you still are) the association is there and it sounds like you’re responding to it by orgasming as soon as possible.
The problem with orgasming quickly is exactly what you mentioned in your email – you aren’t enjoying the climax as much. This is because orgasms are the release of accumulated sexual energy in your body. If you haven’t built much energy the release is bound to be smaller.
Another problem is that anytime we place expectations on our orgasms to be a certain way we are bound to be disappointed. Expectations create a sort of “performance anxiety” in that we’re hoping and waiting for a specific result and when it doesn’t happen (often because we aren’t relaxed and present enough to just be in the experience and not try to create it) we get disappointed. This disappointment carries into our next sexual experience and so on and so on until we are completely disconnected from fully experiencing arousal and pleasure in our body. The easiest and clearest example of this is when a man experiences some sort of anxiety during sex and loses his erection. The next time he goes to have sex the stress of this happening again will often make it happen and this cycle continues until he can learn to get out of his head and back into his body.
My advice for you is to slow everything down. First of all explain to your husband (if you haven’t already) what’s going on, how you’re feeling and how you miss the more intense orgasms you had before the birth of your child. I know it’s difficult to make yourself slow down but you can do it. There is a practice called “edging’ where you decrease the stimulation as you get closer to orgasm and also use your breath to level out the build up. Then when it’s levelled you can begin stimulation again. This means that you build to the edge of orgasm over and over and when you finally let go, it’ll be much stronger than usual due to the built up tension in your body. Edging is best practiced alone as there is often less performance anxiety and worry that way. So masturbate, masturbate, masturbate!
I also encourage you to touch yourself or invite your partner to touch you without hoping for orgasm. Try your best to stay present in the feelings of pleasure in your body and out of the thoughts in your head. When you touch, do so with the feeling and intent you’d have when touching a lover. Your body has been through a great deal and brought your child into the world. Touch yourself with appreciation for that so that you can help the emotional wounds heal. This also takes time – like any kind of practice – but you have everything in you necessary to do it! I’m closing with a link about edging/orgasm control. Please let me know how it all works out.