This morning, I read a post on the Facebook page of Pamela Madsen who is a sex educator, workshop facilitator, pleasure queen and author of Shameless: How I Ditched the Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure…and Somehow Got Home in Time To Cook Dinner.
Like me, Pamela is a ‘soul stripper’ who dares to bare and encourages other women to do the same
Getting emotionally naked, for me, precedes getting physically naked. In her inimitable style, she had this observation: “Women suppress the erotic, the sexual, the sensuous because we have been taught that it’s through the suppression of this incredible life force energy that we will be respected and achieve in the world—yet this notion could not be farther from the truth.”
My response: “I wonder if some of it is a product of the way women’s sexuality is viewed by some (not all) men. That it is connected to their interactions with us as if they are the source of our pleasure. That if a woman expresses herself through that life force energy, then she is issuing an invitation to ‘him’—whoever that is and some men are bewildered as to why a woman might not be receptive. I have seen sexually expressive friends here on Facebook who have attracted leers, rather than cheers for saying what they feel about their sexuality. Many of us have received overly familiar messages from men who are attracted to our profiles or photos, whose comments are less than respectful. There are times when I do bring the wattage down on my energy since it has bowled men over and scared the crap out of them. I am learning not to play small.”
I’m wondering, too, whether women who are in relationship with each other, face a similar dynamic, but then, that might be another article topic. I muse about what happens any time we dim our lights to ward off disapproval. Since sexual energy is creative—after all, that’s how those who are reading this got here—envision what we could do if we could learn to tap into it and celebrate it rather than tamping it down, like a fire that could rage out of control, left unattended.
Imagine the power of women’s sexuality released—it could light up the world. What a positively incendiary notion!
One only need to look as far as media coverage of the concept of slut shaming to realize that if a woman dresses in a style that is more revealing than a cultural norm, if she engages in sexual practices that fall outside religious or societal proscription, then her right to sexual sovereignty is being restricted. As long as peer to peer sexual interaction is by sober consent, (meaning that neither party is too impaired to say yes), not coerced, harms no one and responsible safer sex is practiced, then, in my book, no one has the right to legislate or control it. Even in committed relationships, no means no and sex is not a commodity to be exchanged for love, approval, security, license or ring.
Remember that viral video called 10 Hours of Walking Around New York City As A Woman in which a young woman, dressed in a simple black t-shirt and jeans is viewed being solicited, cat-called and followed by men who seem to think that she is public property, simply because she is in range? Would they want their mothers, sisters, girlfriends, daughters or wives in such a position?
I have friends who ‘play way deeper in the pool’ than I do, sexually. One of the most beautiful things a lover told me a few years ago, when I mentioned that to him, as he tapped me on the heart was “You play deep in here.” I sometimes feel like an anthropologist, exploring the rituals of an ancient tribe when I attempt to comprehend the pain-pleasure dichotomy, since that is not my orientation. Hard to wrap my mind around it times, the predilections of my kinkier kindreds.
I read Fifty Shades of Grey as an academic exercise, not for its literary excellence. I lost count of the number of times Anastasia said “Holy crap.” The therapist in me wanted to know what happened to Christian Grey that he became such a control freak both in and out of the bedroom and red room. Pretty early on, we discover that he was sexually abused by an older woman when he was a minor and had never healed from that and thus carried it out in his other affairs. Although it isn’t great literature and there is certainly far better written and juicy erotica out there, it did provide an entre’ for many women to explore their own sexual desires.
For this seasoned woman, Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden and Erica Jong’s classic Fear of Flying opened the door to my own blooming adolescent sexuality. A few years ago, I met and interviewed Erica when she was keynote speaker at an eating disorders conference, having healed from that experience herself. As a teen, she became anorexic when she felt betrayed by her own developing body. On that day, she presented as a woman running the show in her own life. Energetically charged and colorful she was, alternating between fuchsia and vivid electric blue reading glasses as we sat in her hotel room and dished.
Another pivotal event was viewing The Vagina Monologues written by Eve Ensler. I sat transfixed, in the darkened theater as I laughed and cried throughout. Clearly, telling our sexual stories is healing for our bodies, minds and spirits. A few years later, she came through the area on her one woman show called The Good Body in which she spoke of the love-hate relationship with our bodies. Meeting her backstage for an interview, I was amazed at how petite she was, despite her clear dislike of her belly, as evidenced by much of the monologue.
Sadly, I share that body dysmorphic criticism. Back in 1992, I had an ectopic pregnancy and with it, the lower abdominal muscle was cut. Resistant to exercise and weight loss, my Goddess body retains the rounded belly. The only complaints I have had, have come, not from lovers, but from the woman in the mirror. Accepting and yes, even adoring our bodies AS IS, is part and parcel of claiming our sexuality. Fat, thin and everything in between. Boobs and booty- ‘zaftig’ or itsy bitsy, ample or no-ass-at-all, all about the bass, no treble… are beautiful. They are expressions of that divine life force that courses through us; no separation between the sacred and sexual.
That eternal question about why people call out “Oh God!” as an expression of ultimate pleasure, is central to this discussion. There is nothing even a little bit blasphemous about ecstasy. What would it look like to live orgasmically and claim our pleasure for ourselves?
Know that we experience pleasure from three perspectives. The first is in anticipation. Think about something coming up that you are really excited about. Feel that adrenalin, butterflies in the stomach, that yes resonating through you. Imagine it as if it is occurring in this very moment. Breathe into it. The second is the experience itself. Be totally present to it, keeping those lovely senses alive to it all. If that pleasure is in the presence of a lover, for example, refrain from thinking about the laundry, the bills to be paid, the lawn that needs mowing, while that person’s body is enwrapped and enraptured with yours.
Lastly, we experience pleasure in memory. Our bodies have all of these talented receptors and cells that remember it all. All it takes to evoke the feelings is to recall them. I have come to learn that the imagination is the most powerful aphrodisiac.
As we attune our bodies to the key of “O”, we are invited to live orgasmic lives. Orgasm is far more than a physiological response to sexual stimulation. Experiment with walking through a day in that state.
It could be dancing, wearing clothing that floats over your body, massaging hands caressing your skin, watching the sun dapple through newly green leaves on a gorgeous early Spring day, the aroma of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies wafting from the kitchen, followed by the sweetness of the chocolate melting on your tongue, the voice of a Beloved whispering in your ear. Those are some of my favorite delights from my ever-expanding list. I am sighing as I call them in. Be fully expressed by telling those in your life what you like. First know what you like, by becoming familiar with your body and it’s delicious responses to pleasure. Experiment with ways in which you enjoy touching and being touched.
Become your own anthropologist/archeologist, exploring your personal landscape to discover the primordial pleasures that await. As we continue peeling off the layers, revealing the real, daring to bare, owning our pleasure, remember that ‘good girls do.’
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Edie Weinstein
Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: Erin Watson at Pixoto