Conscious Sexual Self

Connection Requires Consciousness

What AM I Feeling?

Some days it takes all the attention we have to just figure out what it is that we are feeling, much less what we want to do about it. As a therapist, I want to honor that. This directive to say what you are feeling and speak your truth and be clear about what you need – not always easily achieved.

So what can you do when your thoughts are buzzing your head like angry dragonflies and your emotions are a jumbled ball of contradictory feelings and your intentions…who the hell knows?

First you can slow down. There is no rush to respond in the moment, unless the moment is a literal emergency and then you must trust your instincts. Stop talking and take a breath. Take another breath. Get out of your spinning head for a moment by simply looking around you. Find something beautiful in the space around you and look at it as though you were going to need to describe it later. Start to feel your body; it is there giving you structure. Move around a bit. OK, now that things are a bit slower…

You can identify the emotions without trying to figure them out. Just focus on the real basic emotions at first. You can say, “I am feeling angry.” Or “I am feeling really sad.” Or “I am feeling scared” Just start there. Don’t rush to explain why you are feeling that way, to yourself or anyone else, at the moment. Don’t justify your feelings by focusing on what that jerk did to make you feel that way, for now just identify the emotion or emotions. Just give yourself a bit of time to acknowledge those feelings as they are. Remind yourself that whatever you are feeling it is not going to last forever, it does not define you, and it is ok to feel it.

If you are with someone you care about, you might start by saying “I am feeling really sad right now and I want you to know that before we go further in talking about this.” This might help you avoid getting caught up in mental gymnastics and verbal sparring that is fed by unnamed emotions. Sharing how you feel also is an act of trust and openness and can soften the conversation for both of you. You can also say, “I need some time to figure out why I am having such strong emotions. I will come back to this conversation when I have more insight.”

Then give yourself a space to process all the thoughts and feelings and how they have gotten combined in such a potent mixture today. It is best if you can do this in a way in which you will not be held accountable for all that you are feeling in the moment. So talk it out with a neutral person who can understand conflicting and even irrational emotions sometimes need to be aired out. If you don’t have a person like that available, journal to yourself or talk to a mirror or close your eyes and talk to your divine or a departed loved one or a wise part of yourself. Clarity will come but it may take some dedicated time to explore the layers. Try to stay open to yourself.

We all get hit by big, confusing, overwhelming reactions sometimes. It helps to know that you don’t have to get stuck there or to have it all figured out immediately. Asking yourself, “What AM I feeling?!!” is actually a great start.

The Pleasures of Winter Sex

Sometimes summer gets all the love when it comes to sexiness. But cold weather sex can have its own enticements. Just think creatively…

What goes on under the blankets…Get into the private shared space underneath a heavy blanket. Enjoy the sensation of being bare under protective cover. Let your hands wander where you cannot see. Maybe you want to increase the cave-like vibe by going under and breathing in your shared smells and heat. Explore.

Oooh, those fuzzy socks… Or leather gloves or silky ties…Let your clothes get in on the act. Textures can be used to add new sensation to normal play. Use them when they are still on your body, stroking, brushing up against a sensitive spot. Then use them after you take them off. Ties and scarves are fun for gentle restraints or blindfolds. Gloves can make a nice little smack when used as a spanking toy. Socks…well, they are soft, just make sure they are clean (unless you are into that)

Make it hot…A sip of hot tea can become a part of sex play when you let it warm your mouth, then take that mouth somewhere sensitive. Gives whole new meaning to tea for two.

The sun is gone, to bed and so go I…dark nights, earlier bedtimes. Just saying.

Cue the soft lighting …Longer nights means more time for candlelight, firelight, twinkly strings of lights; all good choices if you are a bit shy and want to ease in to being seen in all your naked glory. Enjoy the opportunity to adjust the lighting to suit you and play with slow movements that cast shadows on the walls, slowing baring yourself, being illuminated in a pool of warm light.

Baby, it cold outside…which means each piece of skin you reveal to the elements will be very much alive and keenly responsive (so long as you are not in dangerous freezing conditions, of course). Use the variation of covered skin and uncovered skin wisely. Find a private spot where you can bare just enough to feel the shivery chills. Move vigorously to keep warm!

 

What a Trump presidency means for sexual health & sexual rights

Who can do something to protect sexual health and sexual rights? You can.

It is time to get prepared.

Health care in general is going to get less accessible and chaotic. -  If Obamacare is repealed, many of us are going to lose insurance and access the care. At best, things are going to get confusing and chaotic as massive shifts in plans, costs, and what we can expect go on around the nation. The gift of required coverage for pre-existing conditions may go away, leaving many Americans without coverage for long-term conditions. This applies to all manner of health, sexual and otherwise.

What you can do – it is hard to know how to prepare for this, since we don’t know what options will be available to us. If you have an issue you have been putting off getting care for, you may want to act. If you have a doctor you like and trust, you may want to see them now and ask about out of pocket payment options.

Birth Control is going to get less accessible – If people lose coverage for birth control (required under Obamacare), women will face monthly costs for prescriptions (estimated at $50 a month on average) putting added pressure on many individuals and families who may already be struggling. Getting a prescription may get a lot harder. Trump has said he will cut finding to Planned Parenthood, and Pence has personally led the fight to defund, which provides healthcare to 2.5 million people annually, and provides birth control for half of the women using contraceptives in the US. And we need to remember that hormonal birth control is not just for pregnancy prevention, it is used to treat symptoms of many other health issues, such as painful, problematic menstrual cycles. Effective use of hormonal birth control can preserve fertility and healthy reproductive systems for many women so that they can have healthy pregnancies later.

What you can do : For yourself, if you are thinking about longer term birth control options, like an IUD, tubal ligation, or vasectomy, now may be a good time to schedule with a doctor. If you use the pill or other monthly prescriptions, you may want to make room for that in your budget again.

For others – Donate to Planned Parenthood. Learn about low cost birth control options and spread the word. Teach your children to use condoms effectively and advocate for condoms to be available. Advocate for good accurate sex education that includes actual family planning information, not just abstinence.

More unplanned, unwanted pregnancies – Trump has made it clear he intends to reduce availability to abortion, both through his Supreme court appointees and through direct legislation. At a given time in America there are 43 million women who are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant. In 2011, 21 % of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) were ended with abortion. So that is a lot of people affected if abortion is no longer an option. I cannot address the impact on our communities of a massive increase in people being forced into parenting when they do not want that or of increased family sizes (59% of abortions are for women who had already given birth at least once).

What you can do : For yourself: be vigilant about birth control. Learn to use condoms effectively and be committed to your vision for your future.

For others : Donate to Planned Parenthood. Teach about effective birth control use, especially condom use. Talk to your kids about pregnancy prevention; do not rely on abstinence as the plan. Consider how to provide support for families who are faced with having children they do not feel prepared for, volunteer and donate to agencies that provide parenting support. Become aware and possibly support groups who are making abortion available, either by arranging travel to a place where it is available or supporting trained doctors. Become aware of dangerous procedures that people may try of they are desperate and speak out, educate about the risks.

Reduced rights for gay, lesbian, bi, and trans people – Trump has said that he is opposed to gay marriage and would consider appointing judges who will overturn gay marriage rights in the US. Earlier this year, Trump did state support for transgender people being able to use the bathroom they felt was appropriate but later said he would support individual states in deciding. Trump has said he will sign the First Amendment Defense Act, a very damaging ruling that allows for discrimination against GLBT citizens on the basis of religious beliefs. Vice President-elect Pence stated in 2000 that he felt funding for HIV research should be reallocated to provide programs for changing people’s sexual orientation to heterosexual (which has been banned by the APA as ineffective and unethical).  The potential for increased harassment, discrimination, and danger for our communities seems clear.

What you can do : For yourself : Continue to be proud, to celebrate your love and relationships, and to refuse to be made invisible. Find allies and safe places in your community and go to them for support. Research legal steps to maintain your marital rights and protect your family. Stay aware of different states policies and be mindful when you travel or move.

For Others : Find and donate to a Diversity Center in your community. Educate yourself and your community about the issues and needs that the GLBT community faces. Speak up about discrimination or intimidation that you see. Volunteer for a suicide hotline. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, make sure the shelters in your area are safe for GLBT people. March, picket, physically show up to provide support and friendship and strength in numbers. Make sure your schools are providing support and safe spaces for queer kids.

Lack of safety and respect for women – it is hard to quantify the affect that having a President-elect who has openly ridiculed, harassed, and spoken about assaulting women, and is currently facing rape charges, has upon our country. I can say as a therapist, that simply witnessing Trump’s behavior and attitude for the past few months has re-traumatized many sexual assault survivors and been deeply disturbing for people who love and care about women’s dignity. The attitude, if not the legislation, is that women are fair game for objectification, molestation, and intimidation. It is also difficult to speak to the effect that so many white women voting for a man who so clearly disrespects women has had on many of us.

What you can do : For yourself : Find allies, women, men, and other gendered, who love and support you and stand with them. Get therapy support if you are feeling triggered or traumatized. Believe in yourself and your equality. Give yourself permission to say No, to get angry, to be an independent sexual being. Take up space, speak up, be yourself.

For others: Donate and volunteer for rape crisis centers and shelters in your communities. Volunteer for abuse hotlines. Work with kids to teach about consent and respect. Intervene if you see someone who looks like they are being victimized. Stop joking about or normalizing sexual harassment or objectification.

It is not time to give up. It is time to dig deep. It is time to pay attention. It is time to stand up for what you believe in and the future you want to see. Together we have made change happen before, together we can do it again.Be safe out there everybody. Take care of yourself and take care of each other.

Beauty Wants to Be Noticed

I recently was told one of the myths of the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi, who is loosely the goddess of beauty (old world deities tend to be quite complex, not neatly categorized, but this is an aspect of Lakshmi which is very important, so excuse the simplification for now). The premise of the story was that when Lakshmi was ignored than beauty began to vanish from the world, fewer scented flowers, less sweet fruit on the vines, sunlight shined less brightly, and colors were less rich. This reminded me of a similar mythology regarding the African diety Oshun, who also rules and represents beauty and sweetness and pleasures in life. Oshun also is said to deeply desire to be noticed and when she is ignored, beauty fades from the world.

When I was younger I might have heard these stories as morality tales about the frivolity and insecurity of beauty. I would have seen them as a way to shame, specifically women, about wanting attention and reassurance that they were desirable. I would have heard in my head the male voice, lamenting that they had to keep telling their girlfriend that she was beautiful, as though this was work and shouldn’t be required of them. I would have drawn away from these archetypes thinking that they represented a weakness, rather than a gift.

But now I read this differently. Now I see two dieties, both bringing something vital to humanity – Beauty. Both wanting to be noticed. Or else. And it is the or else that matters. We need to notice or else we suffer without beauty in our life. We need to honor the beauty around us, or else we will miss it.

Now I see that stories tell us is if we do not make a point of honoring and acknowledging Beauty in our lives, we will have less of it. That beauty requires attention. Not for its own gain, but to exist. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, truly. It is there for us when we notice it.

We can choose each day to notice beauty in our life, or not. To notice beauty in our partner, or not. To act on what beauty inspires in us, or not. To celebrate and revel in the pleasures of life, or not.  

And now, as a couple’s therapist, I see the request to be noticed, to be seen, to be complimented as something much fundamental than frivolous. The request to be noticed, is a request to feed that energy, to keep it alive. It is a way of saying “give energy to the beauty I bring to your life, and this will help me keep this part of myself alive”. It is a way of saying, “I can give generously but you need to let me know what you want more of.” And I hope for my committed readers it goes without saying, that this is something men, women, and all genders need. Beauty is not exclusive to women. Beauty is a whole lot of things, as many unique possibilities as there are unique people to witness it.

Oh yeah baby, do you want more of that? Tell me…show me…

Energy needs to be replenished; apparently even for gods. All we have to do to nourish it, is notice and acknowledge what we see. How lucky for us. And our noticing and bringing attention and celebrating, brings more energy to the Beauty around us, and on and on. So as we enter this season of gratitude, I invite you to express yourself when you witness beauty of all kinds. Tell someone that they are beautiful to you. Touch your partner where they are so amazingly soft or so appealingly firm. Make some noise of appreciation. Stop and watch the colors of the sunset shift into the night sky, and point it out to someone so that they notice it too. And in this way, we keep Beauty alive and blessing us with more.

Your Shocked Outrage is Pissing Me Off

There are simply too many thoughts and feelings to express in regards to the recently released 2005 video of Trump and Billy Bush sexually harassing and hideously objectifying women. I frankly need to vent for a few more hours in private before I can offer something helpful to the conversation. But here is one aspect of the commentary about it that I want to address right now.

It is time that people stop saying, in regards to a woman being sexually victimized in any way, that she is deserving of protection because she is someone’s daughter, mother, sister, wife. Really? Really???!!! How about because she is a human being?! How about she is deserving of respect and personal rights by virtue of her existence?

This statement comes out so commonly after public instances of sexual abuse that we really need to finally call it out. If this is the best you can do in finding a reason to support women’s rights to personal safety, you are part of the problem. (To see what I am referring to watch the wonderful John Oliver’s monologue on this common response).

We need to acknowledge that the foundation of this statement is the fact that women were for centuries considered property of their fathers, husbands, or in some cases, brothers – MEN who were, by virtue of being male, deserving of respect. So to call out the relatives of a women as the reason we should protect her is drawing on the historic stance that women, on their own, do not have rights. “Don’t be upset for the pain and humiliation this caused the woman herself, but think about the pain it caused her respectable relatives”. We need to surround the woman with non-sexualized family members to consider her with compassion.

And let’s break that down, shall we? The underlying stance in this is that a sexual woman is not, on her own, deserving of protection or respect. We need to see her through the non-sexualizing eyes of her relatives to see her as worthy of human decency. If a woman is seen as sexual, we can’t expect men to control themselves around her -  there she is with her attractive legs, ass, breasts, right there for us to see. Maybe if we can mask her sexuality in our minds by relating her to a non-sexual role (daughter, mother, sister), then we can see her as something other than an object of sexual desire. Because if we perceive her as an object of sexual desire then we automatically erase some of her personal rights to respect and safety. Do you see how messed up this is?!!

This system that has established a woman’s sexuality as an excuse to violate her rights is harmful to all of us. It continues to reverberate throughout our culture in many ways. Here it is in front of our faces, yet again. What will we all choose to do about it? When will we finally understand that women’s sexuality is not bad, immoral, an open invitation, a joke, a tease, a deficit, a manipulation, a sin, a toy, a taunt, a sign of weakness, a red mark, an embarrassment, a target, or a prize – a woman’s sexuality is a natural, healthy part of who she is and is hers to express or not.

Don’t protect me from sexual assault or harassment because you think my father or mother don’t deserve to have their daughter violated. Protect me from sexual assault because you respect me and believe I am deserving of protection. Because I am a human being.

 …Oh, and if you are really truly shocked that men like Trump and Bush are out there acting like this with very few consequences, you haven’t been listening to women. But that is another post.

 

Dear Medical Doctors -

Here are a few ways I wish we could be more in agreement when it comes to sex.

1)The vast majority of your patients are having sex. And it is important to them. At least as important to many of them as their ability to play tennis or go for a jump shot or pick up their grandkids. So, since this is the reality, maybe you could include sexual health and satisfaction as a part of your wellness check? Maybe you could get comfortable talking to people about this aspect of their lives? At least don’t dismiss it or shame your patients for having concerns.

2)Most of the sex people will have in their life is not about procreation. We are having sex for many years of our lives and for many of reasons. Reproducing is a small part of only some of our sex lives. So treating reproductive health as though it is the same a sexual health is severely lacking. Issues such as long term birth control, hormone balance, sexual desire, pleasure and comfort are crucial to address.

3)Most medical concerns and their treatments have some effect on people’s sex lives. The diseases you diagnose take their toll on people’s sexual expression and can create real limitations. The drugs you prescribe can have significant sexual side effects that your patients’ may struggle with. The sexual aspects of Self are not separate from the medical concerns a person has or the journey they may need to take for healing. Please consider these aspects of your patients when you talk to us about treatment.

4)A large percentage of your patients are not heterosexual or monogamously married with children or clearly placed in some simplistic gender binary. For example, consistently statistics suggest that approximately 10% of the population is bisexual, lesbian or gay. I suspect that this number is low and reflects both a narrow categorization of sexual identity and also a long history of repression and fear of discrimination. But even if it was only 10%, denying the unique needs or rights of this group of people in our communities is discrimination plain and simple. And it is medically irresponsible. Get yourself informed.

5)You have blindspots and biases like the rest of us. We don’t expect you to be perfect so please don’t expect that of yourself. You most likely grew up with the same cultural models and mythologies as we did. You probably had very little accurate sex education. You probably have been hurt, betrayed, embarrassed, and confused about things, like the rest of us. So let’s agree that your years of medical school did not erase the limitations to your sexual perspective or understanding. That’s ok. You are allowed to not have all the answers, just acknowledge that and we can work with you from there.

6)Your job is to give us information so that we can make informed choices, not to make choices for us. No matter how much medical experience or training you have, you cannot know more than your patient does about the potential consequences and benefits of a decision in their life. Help us to understand our options, then honor that the personal factors at play on our lives are hugely relevant and frankly, outside of your scope. Respect what we know about our life.

Sincere thanks for all you do. Let’s grow in sexual health together.

Is it No? Is it Maybe?

Have you gotten a sexual invitation or proposal that doesn’t work for you? Here’s some ways to say No:

NO.

Red. (or other safe word)

No, thanks I am not interested in that.

That doesn’t sound fun/appealing/exciting/comfortable/etc to me. So No.

That’s not my thing.

I love you but I am not going to do that.

You are going to have to enjoy that without me.

No. But I would love to do ______.

But what if you are kind of intrigued. Not sure yet? Here’s some ways to say Maybe:

I’m not sure, let me think about it.

Let’s talk about this more; I have questions.

Hmm…I might want to. But something is still holding me back. Let’s talk about it more.

Something about that makes me uncomfortable. Tell me what excites you about it and maybe that will change my perspective.

Slow down; I might want to stop. I will let you know.

That might be ok if we avoided ____.

I don’t feel ready for that now but I am willing to revisit it in a few months.

I can’t consider that until we know each other better/until we have our STD results/until we are monogamous/until _____

Not right now, but let’s see how I feel after we …..

Let’s start by watching some porn or reading some erotica like that and I can see how it affects me.

I don’t want to do that physically, but let’s talk about it as a fantasy and see how that feels.

Uncontrolled versus Out of Control

In dance class recently, my teacher invited us to move in a way that was uncontrolled, NOT out of control. This felt like a really important differentiation to me, and one I hadn’t really considered before. To LET our self be uncontrolled is very different from an experience of being out of control.

Being out of control can hurt us. We have no ability to gauge our own limitations and sensations or to do anything to mediate them. We have no choice. Being out of control, for good reason, is scary. Many of us have had experiences of this and want to avoid it. So we try to be in control at all times, moderating our responses and playing it cool.

But choosing to be uncontrolled - Well, that is a beautiful thing. Letting go of control, temporarily, means we have assessed that we are safe. That we can trust the environment, our body, our own capacity to feel and respond. Being uncontrolled means we can see what happens, without needing to shape it or prescreen the ending. We open our self to sensation; we allow our response.

In this state our body can let the involuntary impulses come through, shudders and twitches and slowly rolling undulations and sighs. We shake it all out. Or more accurately, we let it all shake out because we are not doing it, we are letting it happen. There is a moment, now and then, that you can reach in dance or sport or sex or breathing that it feels effortless, like the movement is arising, simply taking you along with it. But you are there, awake to it, saying “Yes”. Uncontrolled. Not out of control.

I think we have been taught to equate the two states as the same. We have been invited to fear the feeling of being uncontrolled, to avoid it and see it as a state of weakness. But really, the ability to choose to step in and out of being uncontrolled is a source of so much strength. It is a way we learn to trust our self and to know that we can be flexible enough to move in the way that calls us in the moment. The more I dance that way, the more I know my body has an innate ability to take care of me. The more I open to that impulse or orgasm, when I have created safe space to do so, the more I understand the powerful energy that is available to me, inside of me.

You don’t have to be afraid of your ability to let yourself be uncontrolled. You can be proud of it. You are not losing control in those moments, you are learning about the dimensions of it. You are releasing the burden of constant control. It’s significant when you understand the difference. Feel it in your body. Let it take you there.

Uncontrolled versus Out of Control

In dance class recently, my teacher invited us to move in a way that was uncontrolled, NOT out of control. This felt like a really important differentiation to me, and one I hadn’t really considered before. To LET our self be uncontrolled is very different from an experience of being out of control.

Being out of control can hurt us. We have no ability to gauge our own limitations and sensations or to do anything to mediate them. We have no choice. Being out of control, for good reason, is scary. Many of us have had experiences of this and want to avoid it. So we try to be in control at all times, moderating our responses and playing it cool.

But choosing to be uncontrolled - Well, that is a beautiful thing. Letting go of control, temporarily, means we have assessed that we are safe. That we can trust the environment, our body, our own capacity to feel and respond. Being uncontrolled means we can see what happens, without needing to shape it or prescreen the ending. We open our self to sensation; we allow our response.

In this state our body can let the involuntary impulses come through, shudders and twitches and slowly rolling undulations and sighs. We shake it all out. Or more accurately, we let it all shake out because we are not doing it, we are letting it happen. There is a moment, now and then, that you can reach in dance or sport or sex or breathing that it feels effortless, like the movement is arising, simply taking you along with it. But you are there, awake to it, saying “Yes”. Uncontrolled. Not out of control.

I think we have been taught to equate the two states as the same. We have been invited to fear the feeling of being uncontrolled, to avoid it and see it as a state of weakness. But really, the ability to choose to step in and out of being uncontrolled is a source of so much strength. It is a way we learn to trust our self and to know that we can be flexible enough to move in the way that calls us in the moment. The more I dance that way, the more I know my body has an innate ability to take care of me. The more I open to that impulse or orgasm, when I have created safe space to do so, the more I understand the powerful energy that is available to me, inside of me.

You don’t have to be afraid of your ability to let yourself be uncontrolled. You can be proud of it. You are not losing control in those moments, you are learning about the dimensions of it. You are releasing the burden of constant control. It’s significant when you understand the difference. Feel it in your body. Let it take you there.

My Breasts Are Not Telling You Anything About Me

The first time I was called a slut I was 11 years old. I had never been kissed, never made out with anyone, never even considered having intercourse. I had never held hands with anyone. But I had C cup breasts in sixth grade. So I was a slut.

Having large breasts makes people see you and think “Breasts”. It is as simple as that. I learned early on that my body would always have a sexual connotation for other people. That I would be seen as showing my breasts off, even when wearing a simple T.shirt like the rest of my friends. And by the way, women are just as guilty of this judgement as men, in some ways even more so. I recently had a very intelligent adult friend admit that  as a teenager he had unconsciously told himself, if she didn’t want attention for her breasts then why did she grow them so big? Irrational, yep. Maybe you are scoffing at this. But I invite you to look a bit deeper at your own irrational mind and question who you might have labeled “slutty” in your mind and why.

Of course the reality of breast implants does allow for people to imagine I picked my breasts out of a catalog. But I didn’t. I actually had no say in the matter. And that certainly should be clear with a young girl with large breasts. So we can’t dismiss the judgments based on that fact that some women do choose to have very large breasts for their own reasons, some of whom may imagine it will be fun to have people constantly looking at their breasts.

There are also theories that float out there, usually where there is little understanding of biology, that women with big breasts must be more sexual because their body is full of extra estrogen or something. (Same sorts of theories have been floating around recently regarding big butts.) I am not even going to address this. My breasts did not and do not predispose me to any sort of sexuality. Period.

Then there is the “you could just dress to hide them if you weren’t so slutty” camp. For them, I propose some logic. My breasts are the biggest point on my body, so fabric drapes from them. The only way to really hide them is to craft clothing with internal structures to hold the clothing away from my body, like a hoop skirt but around my chest. Not very practical. I can hide my waist, thereby diminishing the impact of my breasts a bit, by dressing like Mrs. Doubtfire, that is true. Less sexy, but here’s the thing – WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO?!

Maybe we could begin talking about these things in a practical way. Maybe we could finally understand that just because someone’s body or look makes you think about sex, doesn’t necessarily mean they want you to be thinking about sex. Your sexual thoughts and responses are yours. The bodies you label sexual are a cultural construct and about the beholder, not the person in the body.

My body does not tell you all you need to know about me, not even close. It is not sending you a silent message about my availability or interest. But your response to my body does tell you some things about you. Be careful about the leaps your mind can make. That girl over there is not a slut. She is a unique girl who was born into a body with its own attributes and deficits, just like you.