5 years ago on Christmas night I stayed up late reading a book written by Naomi Wolf, called “Vagina.” Having just begun to feel an awakening in my own sexuality I was searching for guidance from other women on what this meant and, in some ways, the permission to allow it.
Naomi wrote that “Female sexual pleasure, rightly understood, is not just about sexuality, or just about pleasure. It serves, also, as a medium of female sexual knowledge and hopefulness; female creativity and courage, female focus and initiative; female bliss and transcendence; and as a medium of a sensibility that feels very much like freedom. To understand the vagina properly is to realize that it is not only coextensive with the female brain, but is also, essentially part of the female soul.”
Even with my very limited first hand experience with these words, they resonated deeply with me and I knew that this was not only what I was seeking to learn, but also what I’d been afraid of and holding back from for years. My identity had been tied to mothering, being a supportive wife and giving to others. Seeking this pleasure – which honestly almost felt like a bad word – seemed selfish and unmotherly.
Nervous yet Inspired by the book I decided to touch myself – something that I’d never done before. This idea seemed foreign and because I didn’t really like my body, having to touch it reminded me of everything that was “wrong” with it. Unsure and unconvinced about what I was doing, my first few attempts didn’t go very well. I was so completely focused on having an orgasm that I hardly felt a thing. Like an over eager lover I went straight for my clit and ignored the rest of my body – which needed to be touched just as much. Frustrated that this wasn’t working I thought that there was surely something wrong with me until one day it just happened – I’d brought myself to orgasm with just my hands!
I was thrilled and the orgasm was a great reward for all my persistence and hard work – but what ended up being the most profound for me was what I learned through the process of discovery. I learned about my body, what feels good for me, that I actually liked what I felt like under my fingers and because of that I imagined that someone else might like it too. I learned to be patient, to enjoy the build up, to use all of my senses and all of my body. I also learned that my own touch – whether or not it led to orgasm – could help me at difficult times in my life, reminding me that I’ll be okay and that I’m always here for me.
I’m so grateful to be able to say that in these past 5 I have come to not only understand but live what Naomi was saying. Through embracing and seeking out pleasure I have healed, became a better mother, more self aware, learned to trust and honour my intuition, set boundaries, seek out my passions, forgive myself, grow through vulnerable situations and finally to love and be loved. ……and as Naomi says that “feels very much like freedom.”
.Merry Christmas. <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