I haven’t felt the internal pull to write and share my innermost self with a wider audience in so long. Maybe I’ve felt too tender, maybe I needed the space, maybe I was fulfilled with sharing my innermost with the people closest to me and in the spaces I hold for clients. I’m not sure exactly the reason. Today though, I feel that pull.
Last year I lost my friend Brenda. She was in the deep, early stages of grieving her son Thomas who died by suicide just over a year before. We weren’t everyday friends, but I helped raise Thomas in my daycare, our boys had been best friends, we bonded over beers, laughed at how we both felt inferior to each other for being a “better” mother and in particular connected through the vulnerability of loss and grief. I loved Thomas too and throughout preschool and elementary, I wiped tears from his eyes, told him how wonderfully kind he was to be such a good friend to the younger children in my care and cuddled him when he was hurt. I was his emergency contact, and I’ll never forget how my heart stopped the moment the school called to tell me he died. I’ll never forget Brenda collapsing into me inside her back door, with Thomas’ shoes still lined up on the mat ready to be put on. I’ll never forget the pain in my children’s eyes and holding my daughter Selam up as she struggled to stay in her body at his funeral.
I checked in with Brenda regularly after Thomas died and connected her to a suicide support group for grieving parents. That wonderful group became an absolute lifeline for her and, in my view, was the one place where she felt 100% understood in her grief. Still, I worried about her a lot. Thomas was her only child and I didn’t know a mom who loved their child more than she did. Brenda loved seeing my son Mateyo, loved talking about the times she’d taken him and Thomas to the Exhibition, or to their farm and how happy they were together. When she hugged Mateyo, I could see in her closed eyes that her hands reaching up around the shoulders on his tall, lithe body reminded her of hugging Thomas. I could see how it hurt her to let go.
We found Brenda on the cold floor of her bathroom one day in May, after she hadn’t responded to texts for 48 hrs. She’d been there, still alive in body but not in soul, for nearly 2 days after suffering a brain aneurism. Sweet Brenda who had devoted her life to her only child Thomas for 17 years and who would do anything for anyone, was gone. I remember standing on her front lawn with the paramedics taking her away thinking how in this moment so many things that had seemed important, just didn’t matter at all. Facebook didn’t matter. What people think of me didn’t matter. Being successful didn’t matter……
The first weeks after her death, I thought I was going insane. I’d never felt like that before. I couldn’t handle what I felt. The injustice of it. The pain of seeing her like that. The reality of her being alone for hours and hours in that state. I wanted to rip my skin off. Slowly, the pain eased and, miraculously it seemed, I started to feel okay again. I was sad, but I could be in my skin, and I was okay. The image of her curled up and soiled on the bathroom floor didn’t leave me though. I couldn’t help but think that even if I kept on living the rest of my life in service to others — my clients, my children — that I could still end up alone, dying on a cold bathroom floor too. If so much doesn’t matter, then what does matter? Like a curious observer, I stepped back and took stock of my life. I saw that I’d been running for years since my divorce, working several jobs to both cover up my guilt at ending my marriage, and make enough money to support my kids on my own. I don’t know if working that much helped the guilt, but I could see that I was able to support them and I might not need to work so hard. What was the cost on me? Was it enough for me to end up on my bathroom floor alone too? Did I want to work this much?
Slowly I started making changes by cutting back my hours at my job as an ADHD Coach and creating space for my Counseling practice, which provided enough income that I didn’t need to run myself into the ground. Why hadn’t I done that before? I’d been too busy creating self suffering in an attempt to alleviate guilt. Wasn’t being a mom all about sacrificing yourself? I started setting really firm and clear boundaries with my clients, children, friends. I quickly realized that I no longer wanted to work that job at all and started making a plan to quit. I hired a Coach and went to therapy to help me unravel the strings of guilt and self-punishment that were so deeply ingrained in me. When I became a mother, I did so because I wanted children more than anything else in the world. AND, I was afraid of facing myself and the other things I wanted for my life. I didn’t know I could have both. Motherhood was the ultimate way to sacrifice myself.
I kept going. My grief fueled me to do hard inner work. The layers of exoskeleton that had been removed through the past 7 years of stepping into vulnerability, uncovered a deeper set of layers. Layers over my innermost self, the part of me that isn’t just interested in meeting the needs of others. The me that has dreams of my own. I realized I was tired of how much work Bodysex retreats were and that I no longer wanted to do them in such a laborious way. I LOVED the circle of sharing, I loved the weekends with women, I loved how I grew and felt seen from them and I loved sharing pleasure. I didn’t love all the work before and after though. Maybe it didn’t need to be so hard….. I stopped offering workshops in Saskatoon and continued in Quebec where I had support with all the marketing, advertising, retreat supplies and food. I quit my job and made the decision to only Counsel clients 3 days a week and devote the other 2 days to something my innermost self was passionate about — writing a book. My work blossomed. The moment I quit my job (and I mean literally the moment), I had more than enough clients to fill my days and then some. Since then I have created a daily practice centering around myself and my passions — self-care, connection, health, pleasure and my work which involves all of that!
My days include space in between sessions so that I can ground and centre and think of the next person coming before they pass through my door. I say no to working weekends. I devote 4 evenings a week to going to the gym and 2 days a week to pilates – because my body feels great when I create space for it. I eat really healthy food, I drink wine, I walk every morning, devote time to enjoying pleasure, laughing and connecting with people I love. I can’t bring myself to advertise my work when I already have enough and don’t want or need to be bigger, more well known, get more likes or have more followers. I’m deeply grateful for what I have, and I just want to live my life from the innermost part of myself. I’ve noticed that in the space I’ve created, I’m closer to my mom, my sisters, my children. I’m more generous because I’m not running on empty ready to crash the moment I stop. I have space throughout my day to pause and feel and enjoy the moments.
I often wish I could tell Brenda how much she inspired me. How much I saw myself in her, how much I think of her in all the work I do, how much of an impact she has made on my life. After Thomas died, she told me that she could see her own pain every time she looked in the eyes of the homeless. She made a point to always look at them and had plans to devote her time to working with the homeless. I wish I could tell her that I saw myself in her too. In her loving devotion to her son, her outward care of others and in how she died. I know that could be me too. That could be any of us. That reflection changed me, and I’m forever grateful to her for helping me create space in my life for what matters. Spending time with people I love, smelling the lilacs first bloom in Spring, allowing others to care for me, the space to be present and ME.
In loving memory of Brenda and Thomas Schoor
*Art by Carlos Bongiovanni
June’s Quebec Bodysex® workshop coincided with the Roe v. Wade overturning in the U.S., and, knowing that millions of women were losing their right to choose what happens with their body, I couldn’t help but remember where my journey into this work began over 24 years ago. I moved to Kenya just shy of my 20th birthday and ended up living there on and off for 5 years, in a remote area amongst a tribe called the Maasai. During my time there, all of the women who became mamas, sisters and nieces to me, were either circumcised or were going to be once they reached puberty. I saw two girls get circumcised while I was there, and knowing that their right to pleasure was removed from them, while mine was intact but felt inaccessible to me, had a profound affect on my life. What responsibility did l have to exercise a right that others are denied? Was it privilege if I didn’t know it was there or how to use it? In all the sex ed I received growing up, never once was there a mention of the clitoris or of pleasure.
The memories from those circumcisions lived like a simmering ember inside me for years before I started to exercise my right to pleasure, started this work and began to help other women find their own pleasure. The news in the states sparked that ember into a flame, reminding me again why this is so important. The night after the workshop ended, my thoughts and dreams oscillated between the beautiful group show and tell in Quebec, and memories in the hut in Kenya where the girls were mutilated. Two very different and, yet somehow similar, ceremonies replay over and over in my head ……..
My favorite part of bodysex is always the genital show and tell. The room was quiet except for the sounds of appreciation and support as each woman took her turn sitting beside me while the other women huddled around watching. One at at time they sat down in front of a lamp and mirror, opened their legs — putting one leg over mine — slowly spreading their vulva to share her with us. Sometimes this is the first time a woman has looked at her vulva and all the layers and textures can come a a surprise to her. Together we explore the inside and outside of her vulva, admiring her clitoris with all of its thousands of nerve endings and the different colors, sizes and shapes of her beautiful lips. They look like flower petals spilling out between their legs and if someone painted the scene, I imagine that’s how they would paint it. We explore different ways to touch and what feels good and what doesn’t and how it’s different for each woman. I’m close enough to them to feel the sweat drip down the side of their naked body, and to rest my head on their shoulder so that I can see the exact mirror image they see between their legs. Sometimes the women cry, and sometimes I rest my hand on their leg to comfort them. Sometimes they take their time to open their legs and sometimes we sing them open. They open slowly like flowers except — instead of the sun — we are the light they open to. If the women look up, they’ll see a room full of women shining all their love and light towards their vulva. Every moment is a blessing, an honoring of the reverence and sacredness of this most special part of what it is to be a woman.
Next I remember a Maasai girl who is just starting her period with budding breasts and still child like features also sitting on the floor of a room full of women watching her. This room is quiet, as women and girls of all ages huddle in to watch. She is sitting with her legs spread between 2 women, one on each side, who hold them open while another sits behind her and covers her eyes with her arms and hands held tight around her. She is held there, unable to move while an old woman, who has cut many vulvas before hers, sits between her legs and uses a razor to remove her growing clitoris and each of her budding flower petals. Her cries break the silence. She screams, she tries to fight but they hold her there. Women and girls watching, half cover their eyes with their dresses. Fighting against it, the hand covering the girls’ face loosen and I see her eyes for a second. The look in her eyes is absolute terror, and I leave the room bawling. Nothing feels sacred. Nothing feels reverent. I feel only violence. Hours later I come to her home to bring her a gift and check on her. She looks relieved it’s over and proud somehow, as women move around caring for her. She rests on a bed made of freshly cut branches and leaves and her wounds are tended to constantly and lovingly by the women in the room. She will need help eating, walking and going to the bathroom for some time, and they won’t leave her side. This is how I know the women to be, shining their light and love towards her. This is how women are. Back in the other room, was what men get women to do to girls, so they can have the girls’ power before she realizes it’s even there.
Waking up the morning after the workshop, I thought of these 2 very different ceremonies and how Bodysex® was created by a sexually empowered woman, while female circumcision was created by men wanting to remove that power. I wonder what a Maasai girls’ right of passage would be like if sexually empowered women created it? Instead of cutting, would they lovingly hold the girls and sing their vulva’s open – blessing them into woman hood? If all women were taught about their clitoris and their right to pleasure, how would that change how we raise our daughters? On my flight home, I held close to me the beauty of the sacred weekend, and reminded myself that in a world where a law just passed to limit a woman’s bodily rights, loving our vulvas and pleasuring ourselves sends a powerful message. I know what my power is, I know how to access it and I am passing this power on to my children and grandchildren. Like flowers, I hope it spreads and someday we will live in a world where no petals are cut.
** In honor of all the vulva petals cut and with love to: Melba, Aruba, Eve, Tara, LilyRose, Phynissea, Myosotis, Preciousa, Asa, Bliss, Inanna, Douce Soeur and Papillon.
Every Bodysex retreat has a different “theme” to it and I’m always curious as to what it’ll be and where it comes from. Betty Dodson described these circles as consciousness raising, and I often wonder if what comes up is what the women in the circle need at that time, or if it’s part of a wider collective need for humanity. ….
Normally Justine and I start the weekend by working together to unload supplies, set up the circle and prepare snacks before all the women come. This time was different as I was committed to attend an online training for part of that morning, and I could feel the pull of wanting to please everyone. I tried to be on the call and unload at the same time, but Justine insisted that I focus on my training while she went ahead and started. I know I can trust her to be honest with me about what she needs, but I still felt uncomfortable that she had to do more work, and I spent most of the hour of training feeling conflicted.
When the women arrived, the vibe was instantly chill and relaxed and there seemed to be no sense of urgency to anything. As a group we interacted intentionally and deliberately — slowly dipping our toes in to get to know each other, getting comfortable being naked and exploring what our bodies needed to feel pleasure. As I experienced with Justine in the morning, it’s often very difficult for women to ask for what they want or to take time for themselves when they assume others might be wanting something else from them. It can be especially difficult to do so in a group setting when there is fear of “putting someone out” with whatever the need is. This group seemed to be a real exception to this because even on the first day I could see women beautifully taking up space and time to care for their own needs.
There were two moments in group genital show and tell that this theme really showed up. Each woman took a turn sitting beside me in front of a lamp, mirror and the rest of the group while they looked at and displayed their vulva. This ceremony is my favorite part of the weekend and the vulnerability it takes cannot be understated. It’s not uncommon for it to be the first time a woman has looked closely at her vulva and it often comes with many emotions. Everyone took turns naming their vulvas and stating a wish for her, followed by the group welcoming the vulva by her chosen name. One of the women stated that she needed more time in her moment, and this seemingly simple act was incredibly powerful for many of us as a group because it’s often SO hard for women to acknowledge and ask for the time they need. Hearing her do so I think in a way, gave the rest of us some permission to do so as well.
The last woman to take her turn at genital show and tell seemed understandably nervous and I sensed that she needed to ease into it a bit. I helped her to breathe in a way to encourage her body to soften and when parts of her anatomy stayed hidden, we offered her the suggestion of gently inserting the tip of her finger into her vagina to help the rest of her vulva soften. (It’s amazing how this works) As she slowly inserted her finger into her vagina she identified tension so I encouraged her to breathe down into the tension and see if she could create space around her finger. She leaned her body back into the pillows behind her and slowly breathed space around the finger inside her. On one of her exhales I heard a rumble in her breath and encouraged her to expand the rumble into a deeper sound as a way to further release the guard of tension in her body. We made sounds together on each exhale and it was incredibly beautiful to watch her take this space for her body to soften and receive her touch. So often we force ourselves to endure penetration when our vagina is just being self protective because it isn’t ready to receive yet. Her offer of her finger, along with gentle nudging of encouragement, allowed her vagina to meet her in this new experience. Sitting with my body right beside hers I could feel a guard of tension melt from her, as she so bravely honored her body by listening to its need for time and softening.
These moments on the first day really seemed to create this theme of taking the time we need and to witness women doing this in front of a group who had been strangers only hours earlier, really touched something inside of me — especially since I had felt guilty just that morning of taking my own time.
I noticed this theme show up throughout the rest of the weekend in action and words expressed by the group. It showed up in women taking space and time to themselves in their room or in a corner of the big room during non workshop hours. It showed up in women taking time to explain how they do or don’t like to be touched in group massage. It showed up in women taking time during group self pleasuring to feel in their body what the right touch is for them. It showed up in a woman choosing to go home to sleep on the second night so that she could feel better rested. And I noticed it in myself on the last morning as I took time to visit with the women instead of trying to get things cleaned and packed up to make up for what I hadn’t done in setting up.
Whether this theme is personal to our group or if its a universal need, I really needed the reminder. In my work, in my pleasure, with family and throughout the moments of each day, I can give myself permission to take the time and ask for more time whenever I need it.
Much love to my new friends: Azalea, Turtle, Eleanor, Freedom, Rose, Lily, Luna, Joy, Honor, Alice and Sunshine. I wish all of you the space and time you need..
For most of my 44 years, I thought sex and grief existed separate from the rest of life — behind closed doors and in hushed conversations. I now realize that in separating them, I missed the opportunity for the most beautiful intimacy I could have ever imagined.
Over the past 3 years, me and my children have experienced 3 tragic losses and at first, I had little ability to navigate them through what felt like unimaginable pain. Untimely, tragic deaths of children wasn’t something I’d dealt with beyond a clinical understanding in Counseling training, and I oscillated between fear that I would also lose my children, and gratitude for a deepening connection to them through our grief. Looking back on this time I can’t help but notice the parallels with my experiences in the intimacy of loss, and the intimacy of pleasure. There have been moments during this time where I felt I was experiencing the deepest intimacy of my life — Intimacy that is available when I move beyond my own fears and insecurities — and stay present in the seemingly insignificant details of the moment.
Seeing my 17 year old son hold the hand of his 16 year old sister as she cried in fear for the life of her friend. Hearing him teach her to breathe in the way he had learned to calm himself down when he had lost his friend the year before, and directing his other sisters to put a wet cloth on her forehead. I watched this scene in front of me, noticing the tv still on and half eaten food on the desk of the hotel room we were staying in. We’d come to celebrate my youngest’s birthday and all of that changed in a moment with one text message.
Fast forward a year and I’m standing in my friends’ doorway, holding her crying in my arms after losing her son. I feel her shoulder blades under my fingers, smell the shampoo in her hair, see his jacket on the hook behind her and his shoes casually sitting on the door mat under her collapsing legs — as if he’d just casually kicked them off and walked upstairs.
Interwoven with tragedy and grief is the unmistakable normalcy of everyday life.
After eating a bowl of homemade soup together in my dining room, surrounded by folded clothes and children’s books, we move to my bedroom. The woman, who’s come to me for orgasm coaching, lies down naked on my bed and I watch the color rising up her chest as her pleasure builds. Sitting on my chair I notice her seemingly oscillate between the push and pull of control and surrender — not knowing exactly how things will turn out if she just lets go. Increasing the sound of my steady breath to support her, we breathe together and she lets go; tears and laughter follow as her flush lessens and tears flow. “I’m not broken” she says. After she leaves, my children come home and we eat dinner at the same table.
Arriving at a hotel jacuzzi suite for a weekend of pleasure with my lover to discover my bleeding has come early. He takes off his red plaid shirt for me to bleed on — as if it’s the most normal thing to do in the world — and the rest of the weekend is spent naked, in pleasure, eating good food, discussing life and refolding the red shirt under me to find new squares to catch the blood.
Interwoven with pleasure and sex is the unmistakable normalcy of everyday life.
In January, we once again experienced the untimely loss of a close friends’ mother and, while supporting her through it, I couldn’t help but feel once again, this deep sense of intimacy. Intimacy in being alongside a person you love while they grieve. Intimacy in sharing stories about her life and legacy and the intimacy of asking myself what my own legacy will be. Intimacy in my daughter recognizing that her friend doesn’t “just want to talk about losing her mom, she also wants to talk about clothes and movies.”
Interwoven with tragedy and grief, pleasure and sex is the unmistakable normalcy of everyday life……….
* This is my experience only and I recognize that grief and loss are different for everyone. I’m not suggesting my experience should be anyone else’s
**Inspired by a breast cancer survivor I worked with, who asked me to share with other cancer survivors how I helped her accept her body again. I helped her in much the same way I helped myself, so here’s my story.
I started hating my body was when I was a teenager. My legs were too big and muscular, my breasts didn’t touch together like the women in magazines, and I knew I hated my vulva without even looking at it. I found ways to hide these things by wearing pants all year round, using my arms to push my breasts together during sex (yes I’m serious) and never looking at my vulva. As the years passed and I became a mother, I added a cesarean scar from 4 births and endless stretch marks that made my skin wrinkled to my “hate list.” I hated my body.
One day, while touching one of my five children, I wondered what he felt receiving touch that stemmed from a source that I loathed. Sliding my hands over his perfect little body, I wondered if he felt the love in my heart for him or, if he could feel my hatred of the body it came from. Worse yet, did it feel sourceless like tea pouring from an empty pot? There’s nothing I love more than my children and I wanted them to feel that love in every touch of my hand. So, I decided to try bringing the love I felt for them — towards myself, and see if I could fill up my own tea pot. If I could do that, I would be confident in the love they were receiving from my touch.
Making the decision was one step but the question of how to find love for my body when I hated it, was another. I thought of all the ways I showed my children love by looking at them, touching them softly and offering them kind and loving words. So (with the term “fake it til you make it” in my head) I imagined I was touching someone else I cared about, and slowly began to touch my body. It was really difficult at first — excruciating actually — and often brought me to tears. I’d avoided my body for so long and now here it — no she — was and the depth of how little I knew her and how much I’d rejected her, was right in my face. With commitment, I touched her everyday and started to remember the stories of the scars and stretch marks and other remnants of journeys I’ve been on.
Lines on my face reminded me of the sun in Kenya and all the beautiful relationships I had there. “Thank you my body.”
The loose skin on my belly reminded me that it was the first home for four of my children and I wondered about the belly of the mama who birthed my 5th child. “Thank you my body. Thank you Selam’s birth mamas’ body.”
I felt my cesarean scar and the lack of nerve endings across it. Slowly, finger by finger, I replaced the shame of my body not working properly to birth my children, with compassion for what my body went through to bring me 4 of my children. What a journey we’ve been through and you’re still here carrying me. “Thank you my body.”
Years later, I discovered I had thyroid cancer and the tumor, along with my right thyroid, was removed and there was a new scar with new feelings of shame. What had I done or not done to make myself get cancer? What am I doing now that could make it happen again? Why me? Why has my body failed me? Thinking again of my children and imagining how much love I would give them if they had cancer or a scar, and how I’d feel even more love for that part of them — I gave that to myself. I touched my neck gently and expressed appreciation for helping me find my voice that had been silent for so long. I spoke to her and under my touch, felt her soften.
“I see you and I know you’re here even if some of you is missing. Thank you my body”
It’s been 12 years from that first time I touched myself, and now I know my body so well. She’s my best friend. She’s honest with me when I eat something that doesn’t feel right for her and she’s taught me that she likes to be seen and validated and loved too. Sometimes I get caught in the trap of comparing her to others or of wishing she looked different, and I just come back to her and how she feels under my fingers and the stories she’s carried me through. When I do this, I can’t help but love her. Thinking of how I love my loved ones unconditionally, I remind her of all the ways I love her unconditionally. I love her scars and stretch marks, the thyroid still here and the one that’s gone, and her beautiful vulva. I tell her that she’s made perfectly and that I wouldn’t want her any other way, and with my touch and my words, I feel her soften under my fingers. “Thank you my body”
Today, when I touch someone else, I don’t doubt that they feel the source of this love coming through each of my fingers. With this love, I filled my own tea pot.
What else am I longing for in my Sexual/Intimate life?: The Balance of Masculine and Feminine Energy
When I was first exploring my sexuality, I didn’t resonate with using the terms masculine and feminine to describe myself — especially not when they applied to sex. I resonated with the idea of these energies co-existing, but not how having both of them could help me have a balanced sex life. Now, ten years later on this journey, I resonate much more with these terms and understand why that balance can be so helpful in sex and intimacy. At times in my explorations, I’ve swayed heavy to one side or the other, and thankfully this pendulum swing has been helpful in opening up a longing in me for the side that was missing.
I’ve always identified strongly with certain aspects of traditional femininity. I became a mother to a big family at a young age and the role of nurturing my children and husband felt at that time, like my highest purpose in life. Motherhood allowed me to tap into the soft, nurturing parts of myself that longed for connection and intimacy — through tending to the needs of others. Caring for my family became my attempt at meeting those needs in myself and yet, I often felt like something was missing. Without embodying my masculine side, I found it difficult to ask for what I wanted and needed or make decisions for myself that conflicted with my ability to care for others. My femininity lacked self-care that may have helped me feel nurtured or beautiful or comfortable in my body, and was solely focused on the needs of others. I stuffed my own needs down as deep as I could to protect this. As my children got older and built their own relationships and interests, parenting no longer met my need for intimacy, and the deep longings I felt bubbled to the surface. Slowly, I pulled them out one by one and learned that I liked to feel my body move through dance and to wear dresses and to feel pretty — for myself — and that femininity wasn’t only about caring for the needs of others.
Around this same time I discovered my pleasure in a more embodied way and the nurturing part of me that used to have sex for my husbands pleasure, started wanting pleasure for myself. It took awhile to learn how to do this, but eventually I no longer cared if he connected with me before we had sex as I’d long since been asking for. I learned that I could have sex solely for pleasure — as he had seemingly done for years and years — and that sometimes that was exactly what I needed. I learned to own my right to orgasm by making sure that, with the help of my hands, I always orgasmed in sex. I initiated sex, turned on the lights and took the pillow off of my face that I’d used for years to hide in shame. I didn’t have to feel shame to live in pleasure. It was my BIRTHRIGHT. I was doing what men have done for centuries and took ownership of my own pleasure. I’d believed my husband’s pleasure to be a given and that it was necessary for me to provide that for him during the 17 years we were together. Until I found my masculine, I couldn’t imagine believing my pleasure could be a given or necessary too.
High on this masculine energy I rode my right to pleasure as hard a cock. (see, just writing about my masculine gets me in that mode!) When my marriage ended, I continued seeking my right to pleasure in a masculine way — rarely asking for the nurturing or connection I also needed, or even discerning adequately who I was experiencing pleasure with. There are moments I remember in sexual situations where I felt almost out of body, wondering why I divorced my husband just to be back in the same situation of disconnected sex I’d wanted out of. I could orgasm just fine, but the longing for connection and intimacy and being seen, was still there.
Listening to my feminine, I started practicing discernment and realized that deep intimacy and pleasure (beyond just a basic “get me off” orgasm) happened when I felt relaxed and safe. Just “taking” my orgasm wasn’t enough anymore and I still longed for the more I craved in my marriage. I wanted pleasure yes, but also connection, softness, surrender. To have this, I had to learn to trust and to receive — both very feminine qualities. I realized it was much easier to long for these things than to actually make myself open to them, but I committed to practice. Using breath, presence and masculine confidence, I learned to soften my body like a jelly fish or sea sponge — able to absorb and feel the subtlest nuances of pleasure. Slowly I opened my legs, arms, hands and heart to myself, my partner and the universe. Allowing the feminine in me to receive and soften meant I could allow my partner to pleasure me for as long as I needed. When I felt insecure, the masculine in me was helpful as the strong voice in my ear reminding me, as it’s reminded men for centuries, that “this is my right!” Finally, the two parts were working together.
Looking back I feel that as a traditional, non sexually embodied woman — so far swung on the pendulum in that way — it was necessary for me to swing as far as I could the other way and find my masculine. I needed to own my right to pleasure and exercise it as my own, so that I could come back and own my right to embody my full femininity too. In order to surrender to pleasure, love and allow myself to be fully seen, I needed to know I deserve that. It’s my right as a human being. Regardless of gender or sexual orientation, I believe these two energies exist in all of us, as does the potential to actualize them. To know if your pendulum is swung too far in one way, you can simply ask yourself “what else am I longing for in my sexual and intimate life?” Your answer, is an invitation to explore what’s missing.
I’d been excitedly anticipating November’s Bodysex Saskatoon retreat for months — feeling like I badly needed a full weekend of connection, shared pleasure and space in a group. I love community so much and connecting with others in authentic and deep ways helps me feel grounded and gives my life meaning. Covid has really made me question where I fit when we’re told to be afraid of others, to judge them if they make different choices and that the safest place to be is alone. I don’t want to live in a world where we’re all the same, and I don’t want to just connect on a computer screen. I want to see your chest move as you breathe, smell your skin, watch how you move your body as you share your stories — and feel our hearts shine through our eyes when we look at each other. This is connection to me and, without it, I wonder where I really belong.
Justine — my assistant “stunt cunt” — moved to BC during covid so I mostly only see her now at retreats. A talented artisan and potter, she gifted me a mug the morning of the retreat and I couldn’t believe how much of me was reflected in it! The outside is covered in different textures because I love to touch and enjoy sensations on my fingers. It’s big because she knows that I always drink tea from a big mug. It’s designed and hand made by her which makes me feel connected to her energy when I touch it, and loved by her when I drink from it. Most special though is that she shaped my vulva — including my beautiful clitoris and all of her delicate petals — on the handle. I can finally play with my clit all day while I work!
This gift was the beginning of a weekend of gifts in the form of beautiful and flowing connection, authentic conversations, laughter, shared pleasure, story telling, amazing food, discussions on social justice issues, ethics, body image, consent, sacred prostitution — and so much more. I noticed so much of my own personal growth over the weekend — in particular less inhibition around my self expression and bodily functions. When I went to the bathroom I didn’t even think of closing the door, and when we first started doing Bodysex retreats I wasn’t relaxed enough to be able to take a shit all weekend! We sang together during group massage, taking turns touching and being touched by each other. I’ve always felt insecure about my singing but this time I sang passionately and ridiculously at times — doing drum rolls in the air and laughing. The freedom in forgetting to be self conscious has transformed my sex life because I can forget the conditioning that says it’s only about the guys pleasure or that it matters how I look, or sound, or express myself. Without those stories holding me back, I’m free to just feel it — and if it feels like a moose call coming out of me — I’m going to express it that way!
Each of the women in this retreat, reminded me in their own ways that Bodysex is more than something I “do” — its a reflection of the values I hold dear to my heart and the way I want to live in all areas of my life. I want to connect in person, listen to opinions and stories that are different than my own and accept the heart of the person sharing them because thats their story. This helps me accept my own heart. I want to laugh and be silly. To sing and wiggle the jiggly parts, and not take myself so seriously. I want to choose self pleasure as a way to heal the shame and conditioning we were raised in. To always be able to look back and see the evolution and growth that has come from these raw and naked connections.
These unfiltered connections are the cornerstone of who I am and the Bodysex sisterhood reminds me that, in this place, I always belong.
Thank you to my sisters: Turtle, Monroe, Hope, Indigo, Kitty, Dolphin Dreamer, Flame, V, Devour, The Empress and Pappilon
The more Bodysex® workshops I do, the more I’m reminded how far I’ve come since I started this journey nearly 7 years ago. For the first several years, each workshop brought about massive shifts in me — as if I was literally digging up a proverbial pile of steaming, hot, shit from deep inside myself and hauling it out to look at and take apart. Sometimes I’d feel rejuvenated for weeks after and, sometimes completely raw and wiped out. As time went on —I learned that I always survive the vulnerability of this excavation — and I started to notice things feeling lighter and easier. The big, old pile of shit got smaller and smaller leaving only remnants of shit to scrape up — shit that comes from no longer having these old burdens to weigh me down. Shit that arises from feeling so aligned with myself and my values that it feels impossible to follow my old way of pleasing others or accommodating myself to fit into what I think others want of me. Getting rid of that massive pile of shit, makes me ask myself “If I’m not looking for others approval as my guide to what’s right and wrong for me: What is actually right and wrong for me? What are my values?”
This past weekend in Quebec Bodysex® , I noticed remnants of my old pile of shit — particularly around shame in pleasure. Much of my work revolves around pleasure and mostly I know I have a right to it and I exercise that right all the time. I don’t feel shame in masturbation, pleasure with my partner, fantasy etc. however, I can see that I still have societal conditioning around where it’s appropriate and how that’s tied into the ways I imagine others view me. As we sat down for lunch on the first day of the workshop, one woman said “pleasure is reason enough.” I have probably said that 100 times before but hearing it from her really made me wonder if I actually believe it in all areas of my life. Cognitively yes I do, but do I know it with my whole heart and soul? Do I align with that in my life? Am I still caught in what others would think of me if I enjoy things solely for pleasure or if I actually seek things out for pleasure? We explored this idea a lot throughout the workshop through fantasy, juicy stories from our lives and self pleasuring together. Those all felt very safe and comfortable for me because they fit in to what is already authentically aligned within me.
Raised in a Christian home by a minister who felt shame for pleasure, I think (as is true for many of us) shame has been passed down in my lineage. I feel shame to share that I’m going on a trip to Mexico with my family this winter (and that I’m really excited!), or to want a glass of wine on Friday night. I don’t feel shame in doing those things, I feel shame in wanting them because they’re pleasurable — like wanting things for pleasure is somehow wrong. I can feel shame that my touch at times might feel pleasurable to a client I’m working with in Intimacy Coaching, or that I might feel pleasure in their touch. On further reflection, I don’t feel shame that pleasure happens, I feel shame if I enjoy it.
Reflecting on my beautiful weekend in Quebec, and pondering all of this as I write, I can almost hear the metal shovel scraping the ground under this pile of shit. The pile isn’t big, these beliefs aren’t strong anymore, I know that pleasure heals and to feel it means I am present and alive and open and none of that is wrong — even though most of my life I was too shut off to feel it. I am alive and open to feel with my Bodysex® sisters, in dedicated time with my family, in sessions with my clients and in beautiful intimacy with my partner. I find it ironic that breaking down my conditioning has allowed me to be present enough to feel an enjoyment for pleasure itself and, that it’s in that very thing, that I feel the most shame.
Thank you to my Bodysex® sisters who’s unconditional love and acceptance helped me to get rid of a bit more of my shit and remind me that Pleasure is reason enough.
With love to:
Blossom, Wildy, Mangue Juteuse, Cock Licker, Heart, Mystery, Fantasia, Anahata, Rose, Happy Flower, Sunda, Papillon
Betty Dodson® and Bodysex® are registered trademarks of the Betty Dodson Foundation