**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.
I spent a night with my friend and Bodysex® sister on the beach this summer. As soon as we found a quiet spot — we got naked, made a fire, cooked dinner, practiced peeing right where we’re sitting, shared stories and talked about how vulnerable it can feel to follow our hearts and really own it. This blog is inspired by her and my Bodysex® experiences:
Bodysex® reminds me of the sacredness of my own pleasure. That it’s my right as a human being to feel pleasure. Bodysex® reminds me that in the absence of a partner, or if I’m with a partner who’s unwilling to fully support my pleasure — I know my own body and can pleasure myself. That with this tool I never have to live a pleasureless life again — never have to have pleasureless sex again. That it’s okay to want a partner to be as good as I am (with myself) in bed.
Bodysex® reminds me of the familiar softness of a woman’s body and why it’s beautiful to look at and to touch. It reminds me that we all look better without clothes on, that the jiggles are super hot and fun to play with, and why our lovers are lucky to touch and make love to us. We feel so good. We, as everyday women, are goddesses.
Bodysex® reminds me of why women were persecuted for being “whores” and “witches.” That in our embodied pleasure we are magical, mystical beings that would obviously cause fear in insecure men. When we realize our magic, we can no longer be oppressed and, for those brave enough to love us, we share our magic with them.
Bodysex® reminds me why I need in person connections to feel seen. I’m a multidimensional woman and I want to be seen as that. I’m sexual, yet not just that. I’m motherly, yet not just that. Sometimes I do great things, but I’m not only that. Sometimes I do shitty things, but I’m not only that. I’m like a quilt with many different squares and colours and sections torn and frayed while others are intact. I want to be seen as all of that.
Bodysex® reminds me through stories, body language, eyes and sounds of our pleasure that we are all of these things. Sexual, soft, magical, multidimensional, goddess, witches. What is better than that?
Having more time at home with my family this past year has given me time to reflect on my life, values, the work I do and my reasons for doing it. This time of reflection has strengthened my resolve to wait for in person workshops to resume, rather than converting them to online delivery. It’s also reminded me of the value I get from my work that doesn’t come from the fee, but from my experiences with the people I work with. I do this work for reasons that online formats and money can’t provide me.
I do this work for…… the initially awkward and distant couple who is struggling to bridge the divide between them. For the moment that one of them softens, turns towards the other, looks up into their eyes and shows them — sometimes for the first time — that they are willing to do their part to break through their divide.
I do this work for…… the people who are afraid there is something horribly wrong with their body and that no one would ever love them if they see it. I do it for the moment that we show each other our bodies and they realize that just like me, they are okay as they are — exactly as they are — and that someone who loves them will think so too.
I do this work for…… the middle aged married woman who brings herself to orgasm for the first time in her life and, through her tears, cries over and over “I’m normal!”
I do this work for…… the seemingly cocky man who ends up admitting that he needs help because he’s scared in intimacy, can’t relax enough to get aroused and is so afraid of making a mistake that he can’t even listen to his partner. I do it for the moment he learns what relaxation feels like in his body and that arousal happens naturally when he takes time to allow it. I do it for the emails he excitedly sends after sessions telling me how he was able to hear his partner for the first time and that he allowed himself the time to become fully aroused in sex.
I do this work for…… the moments in Bodysex retreats that happen after workshop hours are over. When I see Justine lovingly adorn a naked woman’s scars with henna, cuddle piles in different corners of the room, shared laughter over stories and experiences of women from different ages and walks of life.
I do this work for……. what I learn about a Counselling client from the moments they break eye contact with me, look down at the floor, shift their legs, say “ummm,” start playing with their hair, bite their lip or fold their hands across their stomach. I may not know what any of these necessarily mean for them, but I know there’s something there. By being present with them, I can notice and ask them about it.
I do this work for…… the child with ADHD who feels completely misunderstood and doesn’t understand why they’re in trouble for something they did. I do it for the moment they tell me why they did it (which most often makes perfect sense) and the recognition and love on their parents face as they understand for the first time.
I do this work for…..me.
I love my work and miss the group workshops, and more in person interactions. And yet, I also don’t want to do it any other way. So — just like edging an orgasm — I’m patiently enjoying this time as a gift for what it’s showing me, and will fully celebrate the groups( and the orgasms) when they happen.<3
Happy Valentines day from my cold ass to yours! I hope that we can all feel love within ourselves to have a day sprinkled with self compassion and grace for the journey we’ve travelled, the mistakes we’ve made, our wobbly parts and all things in between. Happy valentines day to me, to you, to life! (And all the warm naked beach days to come)
I’m sitting in a farmer’s field about ten minutes from my home, naked, leaning against a hay bale.
The wind is blowing my hair in crazy directions, and I imagine myself as one of those women in books who looks wild and free and you can just tell by her wind blown hair that she had some great orgasms that day …… and every day.
My skin is brown from all the summer sunshine, and when I turn my legs towards it, I can see my blond thigh hair, shimmer like gold.
A tampon string dangles from my vulva and I take it out, happy that I don’t need to worry about staining any sheets in this field.
There are two tummy rolls at the bottom of my stomach and I place my hand over them, tracing the stretch marks that make a spiral pattern around my belly button. I think back to the words of the surgeon I went to years ago, who asked me why I wanted to change this part of my body. Closing my eyes and feeling the texture that the stretch marks offer my fingers, I give thanks that I didn’t —and imagine my beautiful children growing inside my belly — pushing and stretching my skin with their long limbs.
My eyes move down to my vulva and I see my lips like the petals of a flower blooming in the morning sun. Encouraging them to bloom some more, I move my hand towards the petals and feel their softness. Years back I used to feel ashamed of how fully I bloom. Today, I don’t think there is a part of my body as beautiful as my pussy, and I promise to give her thanks every day for the plentiful gifts she offers me.
I pleasure myself in this field — against the bail that I imagine the farmer put there just for me. A mom of 5 on her evening walk, with her dog who’s off chasing geese.
I laugh as I cum, and afterwards, stand up and put my clothes back on to go back to the city, my home and my family. Seeing the wet spot on the ground I think with a smile, of the abundant crop the farmer will be blessed with next year.
*****My orgasm and my words are dedicated with endless love, to Betty Dodson – my mama of pleasure on her 91st birthday today.