** Photos by Studio Stiina
I came into last weekends Bodysex retreat in a super vulnerable state. The past 10 months of my life have been extremely difficult — supporting my son through a loss and learning to navigate parenting my children without another co-parent. The night before the retreat I woke up suddenly — feeling afraid and exposed — worried that my children could somehow get hurt by my work. A memory came flooding in from this summer when I was called a whore — because of the work I do — and I wondered if my continued exposure would just give him more reason to do so. I can laugh it off most of the time but sometimes, when I’m feeling especially vulnerable, it scares me. My work requires an openness that I welcome and yet sometimes, when I’m not feeling safe, it can also make me feel too exposed.
After Justine and I set up the circle in preparation for the women to arrive, I laid down naked in it and masturbated while she talked to me. Touching my body grounds me — like I’m entering into the safest, most comforting home — and doing so while seeing and hearing my loving sister and friend — was exactly what I needed. After orgasming a couple of times, I heard the first of the women arrive and went to greet them feeling relaxed and affirmed that this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.
From the moment of the first naked hugs to our goodbyes on the last day, the workshop flowed with the most exceptional ease. So much so that even while holding space for the other women, I felt like I was on a retreat! Never have I felt so comfortable being so naked, so open with my heart, my legs and the full expression of who I am. “This is SO much bigger than the 8 of us in this circle” said one of the women, holding her arms up in the air. Looking around the circle at the other women embodying their stories of joy, sorrow, pleasure and pain, it was easy to see she was right.
The 8 of us spent almost the entire weekend, in and out of workshop time, as one solid group flowing between sharing through our words and sharing through our bodies. No part of it felt forced or held back — it all just seemed so perfectly normal.
Through conversations in the nude about life, love, longings, loss, dirty fantasies, amazing sex, forbidden sex, bodily functions, needs, desires and never convincing anyone of our worth again— we laughed and we cried accepting each other as we are.
I always enter Bodysex weekends with the intention of removing armour that still delicately covers inner layers of my shame. I came away from this weekend though, feeling fully embodied in who I am right now — without feeling such a need to do something about it to make it different or better. Body sex gives me permission to boldly be who I am and helps me be less afraid when that doesn’t fit into societies standards for me. I was reminded in the eyes of each of the women that it’s okay that I feel better open than closed, that my path to self awareness, ecstasy, and self confidence begins at the soft spot right between my legs and that there is nothing wrong at all with thoroughly and ecstatically enjoying sex and pleasure with myself. Body sex gives me the freedom to be me. If that makes me a whore, I’ll take it.
Thank you to my dear sisters for meeting me so fully in the circle and reminding me that I’m okay being me.
I love you Turtle, Singh, Wizard, Ruby, Iridescent, Niko, Belle and Kitty <3
“We work on ourselves in order to help others and also we help others in order to work on ourselves.” — Pema Chodron
I was sharing with a friend recently some of my own challenges with intimacy — situations where I feel uncomfortable and scared. They asked me how I — who at times still struggle with my own intimacy — can help others with theirs.
It was an honest question and I didn’t mind being asked — yet I was surprised to be asked. I forget sometimes that there are people who believe that in order to help others, we need to have it all figured out ourselves. That would mean that a minister should never have moments where they doubt their own faith, a teacher never realize that their students know more about something than they do, or a counsellor never have issues in their own life that they don’t have a solution for.
I was drawn to work around intimacy because intimacy has always been a struggle for me. Because I have, in the past, found it difficult to look my partners in the eye, have hard conversations, allow my naked body to be seen, ask for what I need, acknowledge that I have needs, or be myself in sex. I chose this work because it’s the work I needed to do the most and because of that I’m always aware of and doing my own work in it. And because I’m continually doing my own work, I know that the answers for myself and my clients can be found right in the places we feel most uncomfortable. And because I recognize my own discomforts, I know them as my own and don’t assume my clients areas of discomfort will be the same.
When we look to our coaches, teachers, counsellors, ministers or practitioners as experts and all knowing, we fail to discover the empowering role we can take in our own growth. I think that a role in all of these professions is largely to be curious and provide a mirror — for the person seeking answers, back to the source — which is themselves. Otherwise the journey can become about some one else’s needs instead of our own. And wanting answers to come from someone else, or thinking that we have answers for someone else, are excellent ways to avoid the discomfort we feel in ourselves — which IS the source of all our answers.
I choose and seek out work that accentuates the residual discomforts in me and, through stepping into these discomforts with my clients, I continually support my own growth in intimacy. What is intimacy anyways if not sharing our most naked, most vulnerable selves with another? I do it because I’ve learned that beyond my naked, vulnerable outer layer is ….softness….an open door… light in a room that was dark. Each time I do it with you, I do it carried on my unconditional belief in your ability to go to your own source of intimate discomforts. I do it with you.
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 me wasn’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.
Those who know me, know that I love story telling and fantasy. As I sat down to write about last weekend’s Bodysex retreat, I kept seeing the images from it in my mind like some grand fantasy. No matter how hard I tried to stay focused on writing a “proper blog” the images wouldn’t stop. So I gave up trying and here it is.…
Once upon a time there was a woman who loved to be naked. She was in her early 40’s — a mother — who looked regular on the outside yet felt like a goddess of fire on the inside. Sometimes the fire inside her burned so hot that she imagined there was a pot sitting on it, bubbling upwards and outwards from her vulva. On days where the pot would bubble higher — she wondered, in both fear and excitement, what would happen if it boiled over.
This woman enjoyed being naked and pleasuring herself so much that she decided to invite other women to spend a weekend with her, celebrating in nudity and pleasure together. Not surprisingly she discovered that there were many other women like her — regular on the outside yet goddesses of fire on the inside — longing to celebrate their heat fully.
She knew that celebrating in this way was not “normal” where she lived or anywhere really, but she was called to do this more than anything else in her life. She spent months thinking of the women before they came, wondering what their stories were, what they longed for, and if they too felt the heat of a rising, bubbling pot in their vulvas. She also spent a great deal of time preparing the weekend for them. She wanted them to feel like goddesses staying in a beautiful country, with a castle to sleep in and plenty of food to nourish them. She first found the castle — making sure it had plenty of space for the women to wander the grounds naked, then searched far and wide for a chef who could prepare delicious dishes to please their bodies and fuel their pleasure. Finally she elicited help from the goddess of art who also loved to be naked and found great pleasure in adorning the women’s bodies with her elaborate designs.
When the day finally arrived for the women to come, she blessed the space in the most sacred and powerful way she knew how. Laying down in the centre of it, she traced the length of her body with her fingers adding heat to her already bubbling pot. As the pot bubbled and her pleasure built ,the ceiling above her began to fill with colours and stars. Imagining that it was the sky above her— they came together, with the sky ejaculating a thousand tiny stars upon her body and the space around her. Content that the castle was now sacred enough for the goddesses to enter, she and the goddess of art, went to greet the women as they arrived.
One by one they came through the castle doors shedding layers of fabric that didn’t do justice to the bodies beneath them. Overwhelmed by the visions of such beauty, they welcomed the women into the space that had been so beautifully blessed merely moments before. As the goddesses took turns sharing stories about what had both dimmed and fuelled their fires, the woman realized with surprise that they all appeared more naked than before. She was sure that each one had removed their clothes upon entering, and that she herself had been naked all morning, and yet here they were taking off another layer of clothing.
As the day wore on, the women couldn’t contain their curiosity over what fuelled the fire under their pot and agreed that it was was essential to take a closer look. With mirror and lamp in hand, one by one, they spread their legs and opened their vulvas to each other — excited and nervous to see what they’d find. They were astonished to discover what appeared to be flowers growing out from between their legs. Even more surprising was that each woman’s flower was unique. Shiny, smooth, plush, rumpled, flowing, sleek, delicate, bold, dark, bright and a mix of both— each one different from the rest, like a field of wild flowers, and yet none more beautiful than the other. After exploring all of their flowers, both inside and out, the women marvelled at the lucky bees which came to taste the nectar hidden deep inside.
The women spent the rest of the evening and following morning sharing, laughing, being adorned with art, and noticing with surprise that the more they let their flowers open, the more clothing they shed.The opening wasn’t always easy and the women often felt conflicted with appearing one way on the outside and feeling another way on the inside. And of course they all wondered what would happen if the fire in their vulvas became too hot and their pots boiled over.
More naked still, and feeling brave from the deepened trust and connection, the women decided that it was time to play with the flowers that peeked out from beneath their legs and see what would happen to their already burning fire. Forming a circle they once again opened their legs and, with all of their flowers exposed at once, began to play. Like bees they buzzed and danced around the edges of their flowers — sometimes plunging in to taste the nectar — and sometimes teasing the petals, encouraging the nectar to trickle out. Their inner fires burned on and amidst the buzzing you could hear their bubbling pots rising higher than ever before.
All of a sudden, the clouds outside moved and the sun shone through the windows of the castle directly upon the flower of one of the goddesses who had at times, seemed slightly more reserved than some of the others. The other goddesses watched in awe as her flower opened up in full bloom before them. Crying and shaking in pleasure, her boiling pot spilled over the edges of her petals touching each of the other women. What they were touched by surprised them as it was not something you could feel with your fingers or see with your eyes. What came from her pot was simply more of HER. Her stories, her dreams, her hopes, her pleasures, her sorrow and her joys.
No longer afraid of their own pots boiling over, the other women let their flowers open wide and within minutes the entire room was in full bloom with each goddess spilling over the edges of their petals — being touched by the full celebration of who they are.
As they said goodbye the next day and left the castle, the women noticed that they no longer appeared regular on the outside and that, in fact, no one else appeared regular to them either. Could it be, they wondered, that we are all gods and goddesses with fires and boiling pots inside, simply afraid of showing who we are?
Dedicated with love to:Turtle, Princess tulip, Poretta,Maleficent, Becky, Beyonce, Lola, Pearl,Rapunzel, Boss lady, Unicorn, Coral, and all of the other goddesses I have sat in the circle with.
I decided to create the Advanced Bodysex retreat when it became apparent to me that the women who keep returning to Bodysex, often do so because they want a deeper exploration. Thanks to Bodysex they are comfortable with group nudity, masturbating amongst a circle of women and have a more in depth understanding of their sexual anatomy. I believe that these things provide an essential foundation to help with confidence, self acceptance and being orgasmic, while also offering us the freedom to act independently and make our own free choices around pleasure. Once we become orgasmic and even up the orgasm gap between men and women, we often start asking the questions “what else is there for me to discover, experience and feel, and how can my orgasms encompass more of me?”
I designed this retreat with the focus on feeling more and expanding our pleasure through absorption that extends beyond our clitoris and vagina. Pleasure — unlike orgasm — is subtle, and exploring it is a non linear process that’s more difficult to define and much less goal orientated. To me exploring pleasure means abandoning the “traditional male model” of sex and thinking much more expansively. It requires being present in the moment and open to experiencing all that can be felt through the senses, visual imagery, fantasy, body awareness and a deeper felt sense of our honest yes and no in regards to what we enjoy and what we don’t. Just as pleasure isn’t restricted to the genitals, it also isn’t restricted to sex. It can be felt during mundane tasks in our everyday lives as long as we allow ourselves to open like sponges, absorbing and feeling more. Opening to absorb life around us, cultivates desire within us.
Facilitating this retreat was difficult for me because what I’m trying to help women explore isn’t the same “deep dive” as Body Sex where you enter terrified but know exactly what you’re going to have done when the weekend is over. There is no 1,2,3 step model for pleasure and because the barriers are less visceral, I think it’s easier for our mind and negative self talk to take over. Pleasure requires a deeper presence in our bodies and, as often happens in sex, our head can fuck things up. I work with people everyday who struggle to experience pleasure because they can’t stop imagining what their body looks like and think it’s gross, or believe that they shouldn’t feel too much because feeling too much is bad, or worry about how they measure up or don’t with others. I found it interesting to see all of these fears arise in myself and other women during this retreat. While I know the answer to all of these problems is to find ways to get out of our defensive mind (pleasure killer) and into experiencing our body (the source of pleasure) this can be easier said than done.
Betty Dodson says “The present moment is the point of power” and I think her words encompass exactly what I hoped the women could learn from this retreat. It is only in this moment right now that we can feel. We may have felt in the past and we may feel more in the future but feeling as a verb happens RIGHT NOW. I can’t make anyone feel, yet I can encourage them to do so by providing opportunities that invite them into the present moment. To do this I began by providing a framework for absorption which I defined as “the openness and ability to become deeply immersed in any experience that intrigues you,” and helped them identify ways that they currently absorb and ways that they could increase their absorption. It has been proven that the best predictor of intense sexual pleasure is a woman’s ability to become fully absorbed in the moment and that her enjoyment of imagery, fantasy and daydreaming (which seemed to go hand in hand with absorption) are also associated with peak sexual arousal. Women who are “high absorbers” and have an openness to absorbing and self-altering experiences, are women most likely to have “supersex” or “peak” sex. Going over and above (beyond ) orgasm to experience an ecstatic mind-body-spirit connection.
With this understanding in mind I provided opportunities for absorption through a partnered 5 senses exploration, creating fantasies through a “desire interview” and sharing the fantasies amongst the group. Breath work with our ideal erotic selves in mind, “mirror play,” boundaries exercises where we identified what yes and no actually feel like in our body. Partnered zucchini and finger exploration to help identify vaginal/cervical pleasure spots, proper breathing techniques and isolating separate pelvic floor muscles. Group orgasm edging practice where we repeatedly built to orgasm and grounded our pleasure with our breath until we finally let go, as well as having 4 structured masturbation circles and several other “diddles” whenever someone felt the urge. Only with Bodysex women can you be having a conversation and masturbate at the same time!
Because this retreat is of my own creation and is very special to me, it’s the most vulnerable one for me to facilitate. As the facilitator I’m always learning and growing and it’s a bit like opening up my chest and inviting the women to step inside. To do my best to stay in the present moment I kept coming back to the questions that inspired the retreat in the first place “what else is there for me to discover, experience and feel, and how can my orgasms encompass more of me?” My answer every single time is that it has nothing to do with “doing” but everything to do with “being.” Being in the moment when I’m naked with my lover (or in a retreat full of women!) instead of thinking how my body looks. Being in the moment when I’m being pleasured or offering pleasure rather than worrying that I won’t be able to reach a specific goal. Being in the moment when something arises that’s scary or uncomfortable and letting it be a part of me too. All of this being requires me to surrender. Surrender to the moment, to being vulnerable, surrender to feeling more, to pleasure, to love, to life.
This retreat weekend reminded me to carry the reminder of BEING with me everyday as I face myself, my sisters, the world and my lover with arms spread wide, legs apart — Open to absorb life around me, cultivating desire within me.
Much love to my beautiful sisters and a special thanks to juicy Marika who helped me co-facilitate
I’m super excited to announce my Spring Bodysex dates in Saskatchewan and Quebec!
When I attended my first Bodysex workshop 5 years ago, I saw my sexuality as separate from who I was — not really sure what I liked or didn’t because it was so far from being a true part of me. Sex was something I offered when I wanted closeness in my relationship, and with held when I didn’t. Masturbation was in a box of it’s own, brought out at rare times when I needed some kind of relief —always accompanied with shame for taking it. When my sexuality excited me I felt a need to contain it — as if I was possessed by some foreign body and wasn’t quite sure I could trust it. When it disappointed me I added it to the list of disappointing parts of myself and pushed it away further.
Through the process of taking off my clothes, sharing my stories and consciously practicing self pleasure and orgasm, I now understand that my sexuality isn’t a thing, an act, or a behaviour. It’s who I am. It’s in the way I move, eat, breathe, dance, make love, work, play, touch others and touch myself. It’s in my curiosity, my vulnerability and my way of experiencing life. My history of offering or denying it negated myself in it. Today, I choose to live it. And in living it I’ve learned to trust it because it isn’t an it at all. It’s me.