I was 34 when I first noticed the stirrings in my body that people call desire. I had just weaned my 5th child and my body seemed to sense that my time for nourishing babies was over. Like a magnet being pulled towards a force, my vulva felt ripe, charged and open. Up until this point sex had always been something I did for someone else’s pleasure, to be a good wife or girl friend, or to feel loved. I had never orgasmed during sex or been pleasured by anyone else to the point of orgasm. In fact, looking back, I’m not sure any man that I had been with had even tried to pleasure me. I masturbated in secret at times — just to get a quick fix — feeling awful shame and guilt that I was “cheating.”
These new feelings of desire excited me and brought awareness to my body and caring for it in ways I hadn’t thought of for 13 years — when all of my focus had been on supporting and raising others.I became more aware of how different foods made me feel and began to exercise and take dance classes. Curious about the near constant stirrings in my genitals, I sought out every book that I could find on desire, pleasure, orgasm and sex. I invited my then husband to read a book with me so that we could explore the activities in it together and he responded by suggesting that I read it and tell him what to do. I understood then that sharing pleasure with mewasn’t a priority for him.
Discouraged but not defeated I kept searching for a book that would help me learn, and in my search came across Betty Dodson’s book “Sex For One.”Finally I’d found a book about sex, pleasure, desire and orgasm that didn’t require having a willing partner to practice things with. With Betty’s help I began to practice masturbating using my hands and — with patience, persistence and the help of a timer — become orgasmic in this way for the first time! Being able to bring myself to orgasm with my hands also meant that I could orgasm during penetrative sex with my partner — as long as I was willing to help myself out. Sex changed for me once I knew what worked for my body and I celebrated the fact that I didn’t need to have pleasureless sex ever again. I loved Betty’s philosophy of taking ownership of your pleasure and not waiting on or blaming anyone else for a lack of it. I became epically good at pleasuring myself and my husband enjoyed the fact that I wanted sex everyday — until he wondered if I might be liking it too much.
When our marriage ended I continued pleasuring myself in soft and gentle ways that still included orgasm but were more focused on making love than sex. I made love to myself in front of a mirror keeping eye contact the whole time. I tried different positions, sounds, breathing patterns — exploring what felt good for me. Touching my body — in a way that I wished a lover would touch me — helped me through that time and also helped me begin to love and accept myself. Masturbation became so much more to me than a quick fix and I devoted hours of my time to it. Spending so much time intimately with myself helped me to recognize parts of my body that I hated (the ones I avoided touching) and provided me with opportunity to give those parts more love. I became my own lover, my own emotional support and my own source of pleasure. The self pleasure was good for my self esteem too as — realizing how good I felt to touch, I imagined my body would feel good to someone else too.
My “self skills” also helped me become more discerning with new partners because I knew how to have pleasure on my own and I no longer felt like sex was what I needed to do to feel loved. I remember one situation where I stopped right in the middle of making out with a guy and told him I was done. It was a one time encounter and it became clear to me that the only way I would have any pleasure with him would be if I did it myself — which I knew I could just as easily do after he was gone. He was shocked and asked if I would at least give him a blow job which of course I said no to. (Note that he didn’t ask if he could pleasure me) The high from choosing for myself and saying no instead of “enduring” unreciprocated pleasure, was like nothing else, and once again I was grateful that learning self pleasure meant learning to take care of myself in more ways than one. That night I had incredible sex with a partner who knew just what I liked and who loved me too — ME! After that I discovered that men were usually happy that I could bring myself to orgasm with some trying to pleasure me and others not bothering to. Some were intimidated by my relationship with myself and looking back I can see why, but I was so used to having to rely only on me that I knew no other way.
My path hasn’t been seamless and I’ve made many mistakes in an effort to untangle old patterns and beliefs around sex, worthiness and love — yet the whole time the one solid I’ve had through my journey is me. I’ve been there for myself in love and pleasure no matter what was happening or who I was with. Today I’m in a relationship with a man who’s as good at pleasuring me as I am, and I recognize it as a beautiful gift to have someone excited to explore and share with me. Having relied on myself for so long it isn’t always easy for me to receive from him and I still battle with fears of him not wanting to put in the time or effort for me. But he continues to — in non demanding and non expectant ways — and each time I respond by softening and trusting more.As good as I am at doing it alone, it’s wonderful to have someone who wants to do it with me.
Desire throbs between my legs everyday and I know the source and abundance of it depend on me — in my love for myself…for pleasure….for life. Like any relationship worth keeping, I don’t take it for granted and make sure to devote time alone in pleasure and love with myself often. Soft lips that swell under my fingertips. Wetness. Curves. Stretch marks. Squishy tummy. Scars. Each time I touch my body I don’t have to imagine that it would feel good to someone else, I know — because it feels good to me.
I birthed this girl 19 years ago today. And in birthing her, a part of me was born too
I became Mama.
Mama knew right from the start that even though she had other dreams and plans for her life, nothing in the world mattered to her like growing her little girl did.Their connection was strong and mama learned to watch her little girls body for clues to tell her when she was hungry, scared, tired or just wanting some reassurance. Mama learned quickly how to meet each of these needs before the little girl had to loudly tell her, and this made others sometimes question what mama was doing. “You’re holding her too much,” “She needs to learnto sleep alone,” “Just let her cry.”
Mama wanted to do right by her little girl and so she listened to what others said but the feeling in her tummy told her that the little girl knew what she needed more than anyone else did, so mama kept listening to her. During the day mama’s body fed the little girl, held her, and showed her the stillness, peace and presence that comes from being in nature. At night they cuddled together face to face, the little girl teaching her mama that she can be comfortable with eye contact, the healing power of skin to skin contact, and what the reciprocity of true love feels like.
As she grew, the little girl taught mama many other things too. When mama tried to push her before she was ready to do something, the little girl would sit — steady as a rock — until she herself was ready — reminding mama that it’s okay to take time and do things slowly. As the girl grew bigger still and began to navigate the world without her mama at her side, they both struggled sometimes with the little girl learning that mama can’t be there for everything and mama learning it’s not all up to her to fix.
I birthed this little girl 19 years ago today.
Today she is a smart, strong, proud and beautiful woman that I look up to. We come to each other when we’re down or need advice. We talk about boys, love, attachment, body image, racism and the meaning of life.I’m her mama still, but we’re also friends.
Thank you Acacia for helping me to trust myself, love without limits, be the mama I want to be, and for being the birth place for me to learn presence, intuition, curiosity, stillness, connection, vulnerabilty, intimacy and holding space — foundations of all the work I do now as a woman. I love you lambs.
I received an email the other day from a woman who had questions about her body, orgasms and pleasure response. I love answering these questions and am always happy to do it, yet our exchange reminded me of how much can’t be taught.
I think it’s easy to imagine that others have the wisdom we need and that if we attend certain workshops or sessions, read specific books, or listen to the right podcasts, we’ll find the answers. It’s true that there are many facilitators and teachers who have much to offer and that through listening, reading and asking questions we can learn and bring awareness to aspects of ourselves that we hadn’t recognized before. I’ve learned from many teachers over the past several years and yet what always stands out, and what I’m continually relearning, is that the answers are with in me, not with out.
Pleasure, orgasm and intimacy are about connecting to and feeling from our innermost selves, and the greatest teacher we have is literally at our fingertips, in our breath, tastebuds, sight and hearing. It’s simply a matter of opening and listening to what can be felt. This takes time, commitment, willingness and presence. It isn’t easy nor does it happen in a clearly defined five step process.
When we touch our body with the curiosity and wonder we would have if we touched a treasured lover, we will discover pleasure.
If we imagine our breath as a vehicle carrying pleasure through our body and that we can speed it up, slow it down, make it stop and start, go round in circles or drive any way we want, we will discover pleasure.
If we practice opening our legs, our mouths, our hearts and our vulvas while we touch, we will discover pleasure.
If we relax our vocal chords and let out whatever noises want to come out – from deep gutteral sounds to high pitched squeals – we will discover pleasure.
If we slow down our eating, taking small bites of our food, letting it roll around our mouth so that we can not only taste, but also feel the food, we will discover pleasure.
If we listen to music with our eyes closed and allow the vibrations to play through our body, we will feel pleasure.
If you are on a path to discover and explore your sexuality, I think it’s absolutely worthwhile to seek out and explore the knowledge and wisdom of sexually empowered teachers. I also believe that the greatest guides and teachers will continually lead you back in the direction of the greatest wisdom of all – yourself.
**I write this in thanks to Betty Dodson, the first teacher on my path to discovering my sexuality, that pointed me back to my self.
** dedicated to those who “just want to get in the door.”
Once upon a time there was a man. He was a successful, beautiful man with a good job and a nice big home of his own. Even though he had many things to be grateful for in his life,what he longed for most, was someone to share it with.
The man liked to walk, and on his walks he would think of how much better his life would be if only he had that someone. As he walked he’d notice the doors on the houses he passed by and he’d wonder if the woman he was longing for was behind one of them. He saw yellow doors, green doors, blue doors and black doors but they were never quite the right door.
One day while he was walking, he noticed a bright red door and he thought to himself “That’s it! That’s the one I’ve been looking for!I really want to get in that door.” Thinking that this was the door he’d been longing for, he was determined to do something really big to get it to open for him. Everyday he danced, sang songs, wore costumes, learned instruments and even rode a unicycle dressed as a peacock hoping that he could convince the door to let him in.
But the door stayed closed.
After several months of this he felt defeated and one day, exhausted, fell off of his unicycle in front of the door and wept. It was so unfair! All he wanted was to get in this door and no matter what he did, it just wouldn’t open. After crying for some time he opened his eyes and decided to walk home. As he stood up he realized that he had been laying on a pathway that led to the red door. Never having noticed this pathway before he saw that it was curved and unique, made of rocks of all shapes and sizes. He also noticed weeds poking up between the rocks and decided that the weeds made the whole walkway more interesting. “How beautiful” he thought as he walked sadly home.
The next day he woke up feeling like he had no more purpose in his life without the purpose of getting into that door, but he forced himself to go for a walk anyways. Without thinking, his feet led him — not to the red door — but to the pathway leading up to it and he once again marvelled at it’s uniqueness. This time though he noticed that the pathway led not only to the shiny red door, but to a whole entire house! Thinking back to the months he spent singing and dancing in front of the door he wondered how had he not seen this house before? The house wasn’t big and fancy like his home and yet he couldn’t stop looking at it. He noticed paint peeling on one of the shutters, fingerprints on a window, and a mixture of vegetables and flower plants in a pot. The house fascinated him and he spent the rest of the day looking at it —wondering what rooms were inside, what it smelled like, what stories it held, what secrets it kept and who’s finger prints were on the windows. Even more fascinating to him was seeing the steady stream of neighbours come and go through the red door, as if it was their own house and the door was always open.
Transfixed by the feelings this home evoked in him and the enjoyment he felt in those feelings, he realized that the sun was going down and that he had spent the entire day looking at the house and had forgotten about his desire to get in the door completely. Feeling strangely settled and at peace, he got up to start his walk home. After glancing over his shoulder for one last look at the house, he began to turn around when he heard a click. From the corner of his eye he saw the red door slowly open and he turned to face the woman standing in it smiling at him. “Hello” she said. “Would you like to come into my home?”
I met you 9 years ago….. after a long and stressful flight home from Ethiopia, with my newly adopted daughter.
Exhausted and scared of the long transition ahead, I was surprised and relieved to see you in the kitchen greeting our arrival.
Although it was love at first sight, I couldn’t know then how deep that love would grow, or how much we would go through together in the years to come.
You were there for me while I helped my daughter adjust — through her tears and tears of my own. You were there as we bonded – her learning that she could trust me as a mama, and me learning to not take her initial rejection personally. You were there while I watched lovingly as she slept peacefully beside me — hoping we’d make it through. And… You were there when I knew we had.
You were there as my family grew and we welcomed another daughter into our home. This one from my own tummy. You were there for the late nights I sat up with her — feeling a mix of both awe and fear at what I’d gotten myself into again.
You were there while I cuddled with countless children on my worn out couch, reading book after book after book….
You were there as I took time for myself during those busy days running a daycare. The children learning that when you came out, mama was going to sit for a little bit. Because of that, they seemed to hold you with reverence and importance too, and often liked a taste of what you had to offer.
You were there as I felt the uncomfortable stirrings of change and dissatisfaction in my body. Providing endless cups of tea as I poured myself over books trying to find the answer to what it was I was looking for.You were there when I discovered that the answer was in me.
You were there as I painfully untied the threads of my marriage. Unsteady and scared, you grounded me through the consistent warmth you offered my hands, and my body.
You were there as I picked myself up off the floor, and created a new path for me and my children.
You were there for not only me, but for the other women that I welcomed and supported into my home. Sharing stories, tears, laughter and pleasure – they too came to know you as a constant.
Like me, you’ve changed a bit over the years. A broken piece here and there, marks that won’t wash off — stained from endless memories. I’ve learned to adapt to your age, happily holding you in a different and more gentle way. It seems awkward to those who don’t know you as well,but I don’t mind. I especially love how your flavour has developed over time. It’s so good that I’m hesitant to go elsewhere. The way you’ve aged has only made you more interesting and beautiful to me, reminding me to look at my own aging that way.
Last week however, an important part of you broke and, through my tears, I knew that your end was near. For a few days I handled you even more gently, seeking comfort in the warmth you still provided and discussing with my children ways to fix you. But I knew that it was time to let you go.
So yesterday I bought a beautiful new tea pot. Hand made with love by a local potter. It’s shiny, the handle is in tact and there are no stains. Her tea doesn’t taste like your tea, her edges are too smooth and I keep forgetting that I don’t need to hold her as gently as I held you.I know that I’ll grow to love her, but for now, you’re still holding the space in my heart.
It’s not goodbye. I will still see you everyday on my shelf, amongst other treasures that I love, reminding me of all the things I hold dear: family, commitment, perseverance, warmth and unconditional love. Thank you for our beautiful love affair.
**** Special thanks to Mary-Anne Parker for gifting me this tea pot 9 years ago. <3