** photo by Justine Lustig
I took the first week in October off so that I could have some time and space alone. After 6 months of quarantine the idea of just staring at my walls — without anyone interrupting me — seemed incredibly enticing! During this time, I decided to print all the blogs I’d ever written and see if maybe collectively I’d find something in them resembling a common theme or story. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for but, feeling like I’m at a bit of a crossroads in life, it seemed like a good idea. While printing them off, I came upon a comment from Betty;
Using my honest I’s, or sharing in first person, has been something I’ve learned through Bodysex and is a commitment that Justine and I ask each woman in the circle to make when they share their stories. We don’t want to hear about their mothers, lovers, friends, partners or ex partners’ experiences. We want to know how they feel in “I’ statements.
Carrying Betty’s words with me into the retreat, I was so excited to meet the other women and see what the circle had to teach me. With Covid-19 increasing, I knew this was likely to be the last retreat for several months and I felt “itchy” at times to reach outwards for a man to soothe my feelings of loneliness.
Over the weekend, I sat listening to the other women’s stories and admiring their beautiful and unique vulvas. As one middle aged woman opened her legs and looked at her vulva for the first time in her life, we all huddled around her, offering love, support and reverence as if she was birthing a new relationship with this life giving part of her body. The next day, after she brought herself to pleasure slowly and lovingly beside me, she burst into tears and I held her hand — imagining that she had finally consummated this new found relationship with her self. “For the first time in my life, my body got the permission to do what it needs to do.” There is nothing more beautiful and intimate than the tears that come with pleasure.
The weekend wasn’t all touching moments like these though — we also laughed, masturbated, shared dirty stories and farted — marvelling at the openness and freedom we felt in our bodies when there’s no holding back. I kept grabbing my note book to frantically jot down things the women said:
“I’ve unleashed a masturbating monster.”
“It’s a buffet of flesh. Different boobs and vaginas. Don’t go near the beef curtains at the flesh buffet. They’re laced with ecstasy!”
“I am enough. I can reach drug-like highs of pleasure all by myself. I can feel sensual and sexy and hot and desirable to myself.”
“I have never felt so comfortable in my own skin.”
“I experienced, for the first time, the complete ease that comes from not censoring myself or my body.”
“I feel like I’m home and I’ve never really felt that before.”
“I was able to build to the biggest explosion of an orgasm I have ever experienced! I did really really weird things with my body and I made sooooo much noise. Like a moose/bear fighting with a ballerina, who gave birth to a hyena…if that makes sense. But I felt no shame; I wasn’t embarrassed; no one made fun of me. I was celebrated.”
For myself, I took my time with my pleasure committing with my “honest I’s” to date myself and provide me with what I am really longing for in a partner. To be made love to, to ask for what I need and listen to my response. To love myself generously through touch, words and actions. Laying in the circle with the other women I took my time with my body — bringing it slowly and softly to pleasure with my fingers, never prodding or pushing it to respond in ways it wasn’t ready for.
Looking back on my blogs it’s not hard to see that the connection in all of them is my own honest I’s, which are always changing and evolving. When my life feels rushed and I rush myself through touch and pleasure, I lose sight of what my truths are. Coming back to this honest connection, rather than looking elsewhere for someone to fix it, always gives me the answers. This weekend felt like a renewal of vows to myself — a recommitment to nurturing this relationship, to giving myself the time and space I need as I need it. To continually come back to myself, my truths and my love — no matter who I’m in relationship with. These are my own honest I’s.
Thank you Turtle, Nelly, Hope, Froya, Rose, Cindy, Casey Jones, Peach, Harrietta and Bilquis.
I’ve just learned that Betty Dodson has passed away. She was an incredible teacher, artist, advocate for women, for pleasure and she was my friend. She was also controversial, irreverent, gut achingly hilarious and could equally love and scold me just like a mother would. I will miss her terribly and am grateful for her guidance in leading me towards the ultimate love affair – with my self.
On behalf of all the women who have sat in Bodysex circles, we love you Betty and dedicate our pleasure to you as you carry on your journey. <3
*** I will write more in depth as I take space to feel and grieve
Preparing for last weekend’s Bodysex retreat, Betty Dodson was at the forefront of my mind. Currently in the final stage of her life — Betty is heading towards what she describes as the “greatest orgasm of all” —death. I felt tender thinking about her and vulnerable at the thought of carrying on her work after she’s gone.
Because of covid -19, it had been over a year since my last Bodysex workshop and, aside from sadness about Betty, I could hardly contain my excitement at being back in a circle of women. Bodysex is always the best “reset” for me and I longed to see and be seen by the other women in the circle.
When I attended my first bodysex workshop 6 years ago, the most vulnerable part of it was letting my body be seen. I was so focused on my physical shame that I don’t remember much thought of being vulnerable in any other way. As time went on and I felt more connected to myself and comfortable in my body, I realized that when I exposed my physical shame it almost always uncovered a deeper underlying emotional shame. Shame about my cesarean scar signified shame that my body failed at giving birth. Shame about my stretch marks represented a fear that I’m undesirable to men unless I look a certain way. Shame about my voluptuous vulva lips reminded me of my shame that I’m too much for others. Exposing myself physically was like peeling an onion and, the more layers I peeled, the more layers I found. When it became less vulnerable to be naked in front of others, I learned to find the words for my shame that was less obvious. With each circle I became more and more naked, and alternatively more and more me.
Sitting in the circle naked at this retreat, I felt no vulnerability in letting my body be seen. I was menstruating heavily and felt comfortable free bleeding on a towel with my legs open. It’s hard to express how wonderful it is to feel that comfortable. I felt vulnerable to be seen in other ways though, and struggled at times to name my insecurities and longings in certain areas of my life. It felt vulnerable for me to recognize how much I wanted to be seen in my entirety and vulnerable to acknowledge that I’m afraid that if anyone fully sees me, they will be disappointed.
As we took our turns sharing through words and through self pleasure, it struck me how much our fear of being vulnerable holds us back from the intimacy many of us long for — within ourselves and with others. If we feel unable to let our body be seen (by our self or by others), let our vulva be explored, stimulate our clitoris during penetrative sex, say that sex is over when we have both orgasmed, say no when we don’t want something, say yes when we do, learn what we actually like and don’t — how will we ever have the intimacy we desire? Intimacy IS Vulnerability. Without vulnerability it becomes sex. Sex is great too if that’s what we are choosing and seeking. If we want something else though — why are we accepting something different?
Sharing my stories and listening to the other women’s stories, I was reminded how much we potentially lose out on in life if we don’t step into that vulnerability — something that each women in the circle was doing simply by attending. Becoming more in touch with what I actually desire these past couple of years — and feeling confident in it — I’ve come to realize how many times in the past, I violated myself with other peoples dicks. By allowing penetration that my body wasn’t relaxed and ready for, saying yes to sex I didn’t want and by not feeling confident in admitting what it is that I really do want — that involves much more than penetration. Sitting with the women, I felt affirmed in the life I want for myself and in showing up with my words and my body for those uncomfortable conversations that are necessary for me to continue living and seeking that life.
Years ago Betty told me, while I sobbed on her lap, that to do this work I would need to get thicker skin. As the pioneer of Bodysex it’s difficult to imagine the struggles she went through blazing the trail for us women today to learn to accept our bodies and own our pleasure. I don’t know how she could have done it without having thick skin. In many ways I’ve learned to care less about what others think and, even when I do, to continue on the path that is true for me. And yet,I still feel like my skin is as thin as the peels of an onion and that being vulnerable will likely never be easy for me. When it seems to get easier in one area, I feel more exposed to my vulnerabilities in another.
I know it’s worth it though — in the moments of intimacy where I see my true self under the next layer, or each of the women in the circle under their peeled back layers. Those moments connect us as human beings in all our beauty and all our imperfections. Those are the moments I long for and I hope that Betty will feel proud of me as I carry on her humbling and powerful work, with my soft, vulnerable skin.
Thank you to: Sing, Honour, Vi, Ishtar, Jewel, Betty, Joy, Turtle and Bilquis for allowing me to see you in your vulnerability and seeing me in mine. <3
I’m sitting in a farmer’s field about ten minutes from my home, naked, leaning against a hay bale.
The wind is blowing my hair in crazy directions, and I imagine myself as one of those women in books who looks wild and free and you can just tell by her wind blown hair that she had some great orgasms that day …… and every day.
My skin is brown from all the summer sunshine, and when I turn my legs towards it, I can see my blond thigh hair, shimmer like gold.
A tampon string dangles from my vulva and I take it out, happy that I don’t need to worry about staining any sheets in this field.
There are two tummy rolls at the bottom of my stomach and I place my hand over them, tracing the stretch marks that make a spiral pattern around my belly button. I think back to the words of the surgeon I went to years ago, who asked me why I wanted to change this part of my body. Closing my eyes and feeling the texture that the stretch marks offer my fingers, I give thanks that I didn’t —and imagine my beautiful children growing inside my belly — pushing and stretching my skin with their long limbs.
My eyes move down to my vulva and I see my lips like the petals of a flower blooming in the morning sun. Encouraging them to bloom some more, I move my hand towards the petals and feel their softness. Years back I used to feel ashamed of how fully I bloom. Today, I don’t think there is a part of my body as beautiful as my pussy, and I promise to give her thanks every day for the plentiful gifts she offers me.
I pleasure myself in this field — against the bail that I imagine the farmer put there just for me. A mom of 5 on her evening walk, with her dog who’s off chasing geese.
I laugh as I cum, and afterwards, stand up and put my clothes back on to go back to the city, my home and my family. Seeing the wet spot on the ground I think with a smile, of the abundant crop the farmer will be blessed with next year.
*****My orgasm and my words are dedicated with endless love, to Betty Dodson – my mama of pleasure on her 91st birthday today.