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 was having a drink with a friend I’ve known from way back the other night when she said “I always tell people how you used to wear capris all summer because you hated your legs and you were fully covered up no matter how hot a day it was. Now look at you!” Lying on my bed listening to her say this, my mind kept going back and forth between those days of such body/self hatred to the present moment of being so comfortable in my body that I’m consciously trying to remember to keep my bare pussy contained in the tiny onesie I’m wearing.
It’s easy to forget how much the way I feel in this body has changed over the last 7 years. Before my first nude Bodysex workshop in NYC, I hated it. I don’t mean dislike, I mean hated it. I thought my legs were too big, vulva lips too long and my stomach too wrinkly and loose from all my pregnancies. The only time you’d see me in shorts was when I wore them in the swimming pool over my basic black one piece. I remember clearly thinking, when I walked into that Bodysex workshop, that I was disgusting and now everyone in the room would know it too. But they didn’t see me as disgusting, they saw me as me.
I survived that weekend feeling liberated and inspired. I realized that even though I still didn’t necessarily like my body, I wanted to like it. But how? Covering my body had allowed me to avoid it and in a sense I could almost pretend that it wasn’t a part of me. I remember thinking so many times that “if only my legs looked skinnier or my stomach firm again they’d feel like mine.” I put conditions on my body’s worth and yet treated others with love unconditionally.
Taking a cue from my Bodysex experience, I decided to actively and regularly uncover my body. I started looking at myself, touching myself and was even convinced by my friend to let her take nude photos of me. I was terrified, but with her and another woman’s support, I relaxed enough to enjoy the ultimate pleasure of sun on my bare skin. I even felt kind of pretty. The more I got naked, the more normal it felt and the more normal it felt, the more I craved it. When I began leading my own Bodysex workshops there wasn’t a woman in my circles that I couldn’t see myself in – and all I saw was beauty. Maybe my legs didn’t need to be thinner to be mine. Maybe my vulva lips contain an abundance of glorious nerve endings to provide me with a life time (and more) of pleasure. Maybe the loose skin on my stomach made me even more me.
When I look at these pictures now, I want to wrap my arms around the woman in them and say that her thick,strong legs will do an amazing job carrying her up and down the steepest hills of her life. That her long vulva lips will come to signify that they’re as excited for life as she will be and just don’t want to be contained, that her stomach will someday simply be a reminder of the most important people in her life – her children. She is this body but she’s also so much more. I am this body, but I’m also so much more.
These days my most favourite thing to do is to be naked outside, naked inside, naked, naked, naked. It soothes me when I’m sad, comforts me when I’m lonely and makes me feel like I’m drop dead gorgeous. Is it true? Who knows. Who cares. It’s what I feel today in this body of mine.
**special thanks to Betty, Carlin and Bodysex <3
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.
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 learn to 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.
Last week I posted a pic of myself on social media, biking with my 4 times pregnant, stretched stomach showing just a bit. I’ve never received such a response from anything I’ve posted and it made me realize how much even I – who promotes body acceptance and vulnerability – have been afraid of being seen as I am. There’s still an old belief that if I’m seen I won’t be accepted – and yet I do accept myself. I guess I don’t necessarily trust others to do the same.
After the overwhelmingly positive response I received, I looked through my photos on social media and imagined myself from the outside looking in. I realized that I write about my scars but I don’t necessarily show them.
Here are two photos of me taken on the same day. One covering the physical marks that remind me of the beautiful beings I helped create, and the other showing them. In both I was sweaty and flushed from my bike ride and in both I felt absolutely beautiful. At the end of the day, both are of me and I apologize for taking so long to show up publicly in this full expression of myself. ❤️
When I work with clients of all ages, I often invite them to create a wheel identifying the different elements or spokes that make up themselves. I’ve learned with time that it’s best for people to choose their own spokes, centre and circumference of the wheel. I often share my own with them to give them a sense of the exercise, but it’s much more powerful when they make it unique to themselves.
As with anything we are often drawn to the finished product, but I find that the awareness that comes from the process of creating the wheel is often more important. Was it easy to make or difficult? Were certain spokes harder to fill than others or were there some that you didn’t want to put at all? Were you critical of the way it looked or sounded? Did you struggle to see what already is and instead seek out what isn’t? Were pleasure and sexuality a part of your wheel? What makes your wheel turn and who or what is at the centre?
I love looking at the simplicity in my daughter’s wheel and being reminded that there are always “happy things that make us feel better” when we’re willing to look.