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..
This past year or so, I’d begun to feel like I’d “broken up” with my body. Four years ago I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had to have a tumor removed along with my right thyroid. For three years following that, my left thyroid took over the functioning and my body felt “normal” to me. Over the past year however, I’ve battled with sluggishness, fatigue, weight gain and just a general feeling that me and my body aren’t quite working together. I began taking thyroid hormones and iron pills this summer and have slowly felt my energy start to come back. Because of this disconnection with my body, leading up to the Quebec workshop I felt old feelings of shame that this would be visible, and wished I’d been able to lose weight before going – stuff I often hear other women say to me, but haven’t related to personally in a long time.
Sitting in the circle with women who speak mostly in French, gives me an opportunity to really attune to their bodies and listen to them beyond the words they’re speaking. (Marika graciously translates afterwards for me). It requires a deep presence and I notice many things I might not, if I were to focus on their words. The way their breath changes throughout their sharing, the rise and fall of their clavicles, legs or arms crossed that fall open, flush of skin. It reminds me of attuning to my lover in sexual intimacy where so much is said without words and the body tells its own stories.
In a way that I’ve never done before, I spent the weekend really watching the women in awe of their way of being, and imagining what a lover would notice and love about them. This happened organically — as I love fantasy — and anytime I’m drawn to something, a story of images starts to form in my mind. The women in the circle were a wonderful source of inspiration for this.
I imagined ………. a lover lying on the couch watching her spend the evening before the workshop cooking nourishing food for the potluck to be shared with the other women in the circle. I imagine them marveling at the generosity, time and the care she put into planning and preparing the meals at a time when she was likely nervous and excited about the weekend she was about to have.
I imagined……… a lover recognizing the vulnerability in her eyes, in the hesitance of her voice and the shortness of her breath as she speaks her story and shares what she truly wants.
I imagined……… a lover watching the jiggle of her bum as she walks away from him naked and wondering how she could ever be insecure about something that was surely made by a goddesses’ own hands.
I imagined…….. a lover noticing that she is becoming comfortable because her jaw has relaxed and her voice now flows smoothly from her mouth instead of seeping through tightly held lips.
I imagined……….. a lover inhaling her particular scent and pausing to breathe it all the way in. Savoring it as a symbol of the essence of her and enjoying it for hours after as it lingers on their fingers from touching her.
I imagined……… a lover feeling sad and lonely and longing for the most comforting place in the world — head on her chest and hands on the roundness of her belly, thighs, and breasts. The softness and squishiness that she sometimes tries to hide, just feels like home.
I imagined……… a lover watching her dance and wondering how they got so lucky as to have a goddess fall in love with them.
I imagined……… a lover delicately parting the petals of her vulva, watching it unfold before their eyes. I thought of them showing with their eyes and their words how much they adore this sacred part of her body.
I imagined……… a lover watching the flush rise up her chest as she orgasms.
I imagined…….. a lover thinking that what they love most about her is a sum of all the tiny little things and that being with her reminds them that life is really about the tiny little things.
Every fantasy we have, tells us a story about ourselves, and this one reminded me that the beauty of the women around me is multidimensional and not defined by one part. How was I any different than what I was seeing? Generosity, vulnerability, jiggles, relaxation, scent, softness, movement, delicate vulva petals, the flush of pleasure.
And just like that, me and my body are back together again.
Thank you to my sisters: Gaiananda, Frieda, Night sky, Anilla, Fleur de deese, Quetzalcoatl, Bella, Lotus, Lily, Houlaou, Butterfly bliss, Dancing queen.
I hate advertising. I don’t say hate very often, but I really do. I feel like advertising is for selling products that we could mostly do without, but need to convince others they need. I don’t think of advertising in regards to connection, sisterhood, love, acceptance, freedom, pleasure or safety. Yet twice a year I have to do something to “promote” Bodysex® and every time it feels wrong. I prefer to write my stories, to share my experiences and to express what a gift it has given me to not think I have to be someone else’s idea of a woman in order to love and accept myself.
I scrolled through my pictures trying to find one that encapsulates Bodysex® and ones of myself where I feel sooo beautiful, make-up free and alive stood out – as well as the ones where I’m naked with other women. I hesitated about posting this one because before Bodysex® it would have scared the shit out of me. It’s not what you have to do to attend, it doesn’t always happen, but it kind of expresses the freedom of not holding back. A group of women, wet from their own sweat and juices, holding each other post pleasure. A sexual situation, but we aren’t being sexual with each other. It just felt so normal and I like to think women have been doing this since forever, and that it always felt as normal as it can feel in Bodysex®
Bodysex® is done in the nude but it’s more nude than just taking off your clothes. We bare our souls – if we choose to – we open our vulvas and let each other see into our sacred selves, we pleasure ourselves side by side. After Bodysex® it feels weird to wear clothes and I (atleast) feel absolutely phenomenal in my body. I forget that sexy is supposed to have a certain body type and I just. fucking. rock mine. I feel like my pussy is so beautiful that I wish I could be wheeled around town in a cart so others could see it. My pussy isn’t any more beautiful than anyone else’s, I just stop thinking it has to be any other way. Thats how powerful Bodysex® is.
Times like covid, where I haven’t seen many real naked women, and I haven’t displayed my pussy for a group of sisters in a long time, I can start to wonder if I’m still beautiful. This freaks me out and I wonder if I’ve lost it…. Yet I know that as soon as I see another bare bum jiggling around in front of me, and the same rolls on a belly and the loving, accepting eyes of a woman I didn’t really know before, I will remember that I am. I see it in them and they see it in me. We all are.
Due to covid-19, I had to cancel 3 of my spring Bodysex retreats. I am happy to say that I have new dates for retreats in Saskatchewan and Quebec for September and October!
In keeping with the Sask. provincial guidelines currently in place which limit group sizes to 10, I have reduced my number of participants to 8 (plus myself and Justine). My September Sask. retreat is full, but there is still space in the October one, as well as 1 space in my October, Quebec retreat. If you would like more information or to book, please contact me. https://natashasalaash.com/bodysex-workshops/
During this time of isolation I am even more grateful for my self pleasure practices which keep me connected to myself and also remind me of the importance of touch and intimacy in my life. <3
** 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
Three weeks ago I facilitated my 14th Bodysex retreat — the third one in Quebec with Marika. Each retreat I’ve led this past year, I’ve noticed my level of comfortableness and confidence increasing. I’m less concerned about doing it “right” and more able to be present with and for the women. Being more present means not only hearing the women’s stories, but feeling them in my body— even when they’re speaking a language I don’t understand. Feeling others in this way connects me to them on a level that can be limited by language, and reminds me of the beautiful moments in sexual intimacy that involve only eyes, hands and mouths.
As I opened the circle I shared my journey into Bodysex and how it began 20 years ago when I witnessed girls I loved being circumcised in Kenya. One of the women pointed out that in Kenya a woman’s power is removed physically through the cutting of her clitoris, and here it is removed mentally by not talking about or acknowledging her sexual genitalia and right to pleasure. When we don’t talk about something, it’s as if it didn’t exist in the first place. I believe that a way to honour the women who’s pleasure has been taken from them, is for the rest of us to exercise our right. The right to look at our vulvas, touch them, understand them and pleasure them.
And we did!!! The weekend was a beautiful display of vulnerability in the sharing of our stories, our bodies and our pleasure. Never has a workshop gone on for so many hours each day and yet it still felt as if there wasn’t enough time for all we wanted to share and do.
What struck me most though, was how many layers of shame I still carry. I’m comfortable in my body now and I don’t find it difficult to be naked, show my vulva or masturbate with other women. Yet without fail it seems, an old story of mine comes up, and the thought of sharing it makes me feel sick to my stomach. This physical response is a good indicator to me of what holding it in is doing to my body, and I know that the answer is in sharing it. Knowing this doesn’t make it easy to do, and I battled in my head wondering how they’d feel about me once they knew it. Reminding myself that I can’t ask anyone else to show up and be vulnerable if I’m not willing to do it myself, I shared my story.
Letting go of shame is the best release ever and almost immediately the space it was occupying inside of me, felt free — free for more pleasure, more authentic relationships and more me.
As we spent time sharing pleasure during the second day, I kept my eyes open and focused them on a spot on the ceiling to keep me present. As my pleasure built I heard giggling from a woman in her 60’s, only a hands width distance beside me, and looked over to see the flush rise up her neck as she orgasmed. Giggling more she continued on — 2, 3, 4 — more times and I thought how beautiful she looked and how lucky her lover is to see her in this way. What an honour. Looking back at my spot on the ceiling the wood began to blur, and my pleasure kept building. The ceiling became the sky and I alternated my breath from high in my chest to low in my belly so that I could stay in that place of ecstasy. At the point of no return I opened my left hand into the air to receive energy from the women around me and felt their love, acceptance, pain, joy, shame and pleasure along with my orgasm — like stars falling down upon me.
This circle and the vulnerability of all the women in it, reminded me that we do this hard, brave work not only for ourselves, but for women who can’t or couldn’t. It’s not easy, but it’s an honour and a right and at times like these I know that the affect of our opening extends far beyond the walls of the workshop space.
To every woman who has had her pleasure removed physically or mentally we do this for us and we do this for you. <3
To my sisters in pleasure:
Zaia, Ananda, Esmeralda, Sao, Red velvet, Mia, Rosie, Mariposa, Xochitl, J’Ouvre, Hot, Kali