Conscious Sexual Self

Connection Requires Consciousness

Emotions and Sex : Can Sex be a Place to Express How you Feel?

(Published in Sex Health Expo Magazine Fall issue)

Some of the couples I work with have been having sex that is more of an intellectual exercise than an emotional connection. There is a lot of strategizing, observing, fantasizing, worrying, critiquing, hoping… but not a lot of genuine expressing. I invite them to experiment with sexual play that consciously uses emotion to guide their sexual action, sharing with their partner how they feel in that moment.

In expressive sex, the focus is on using touch and body movements to communicate what you are feeling. The point of this is not actually that your partner reads you correctly, but that you feel more connected to your own experience. It actively makes sex a non-verbal way to connect and show a side of yourself. Approaching sex from this new perspective opens up a lot of potential and can allow a broader range of sexual moods and therefore, creative ways of interacting. Things get less boring and much more dynamic.

Most of us can easily imagine sex expressing love, lust, joy, curiosity, contentment. And yet, many of us hide even these feelings in sex. Maybe we are trying to play it cool or maybe allowing emotions to come through feels vulnerable. And maybe we have been taught that sex is a series of moves, like some vastly improved adult version of Twister, and we are too busy thinking about where to put our hand next, that we forget that we are emotional. But what a powerful medium sex provides to convey just how good you fucking feel! Sex can contain your overwhelm and turn it into ecstasy.

Try this : How might you touch your partner to express how drawn to them you are? Start at their face, use your fingertips as messengers to represent how attractive they are to you. Then bring your lips to their neck and shoulders; whisper secrets about how much you lust after them. Feeling love? Ask your partner to lay back and touch them all over, imagining that your hands are telling the story of all that you have shared together and how much they mean to you.

Positive emotional states are often the places that couples start with when they begin to explore sex as a vehicle for expressing emotion. But you may have also enjoyed sexual impulses  that stemmed from pride, power, vulnerability, need, fear, even anger. Are those ok for you to express with your partner? Why or why not? And how about more subtle emotional states, like doubt, loneliness, apathy, regret, irritation? Can you imagine touching sexually in a way that expressed and contained sadness?

Does imagining some of these emotions being included in sex make you uncomfortable? Ask yourself honestly; what range of emotions you have felt with partners? Were there times that you wish you had recognized some emotions as a cue to stop? Many of us have had that experience. Are there some emotions that you would feel ok expressing but would not want a partner to be feeling when they are with you? Why do you think that is?

Thinking and talking about what emotions are welcome in sex for you can be a great practice. It introduces questions about your motivations to have sex and how you want your partners to feel about you when they engage with you sexually. If you want to go there, it can also open up conversations about old wounds and fears and clarify boundaries. Being up front about emotions and choosing to bring them into sex as a way to increase the intensity can also make it easier to manage emotions outside of sex.

Try this : Start with a difficult emotion that is not directed at or inspired by your partner today – For example, frustration from a run-of-the-mill stressful day. Tell your partner you are feeling #)*@! about the day, not them, and you are going to let some of that steam out during sex play. Then see what it is like to hide your face in your partner’s body and growl. Bite gently. Be more forceful, a bit more selfish. Keep connected to your partner; take breaks to ask, “Is this ok?” Breathe deeply and let it all out in a battle cry. Maybe you can ask them to put pressure on your arms or torso so that you can push back or struggle.

Drawing on our more challenging emotions is best done when we feel safe and trusting. It requires that we have emotional reserves and a strong foundation in self-regulation skills. Having in depth conversations about triggering words, moods, or memories is necessary to avoid unintentional pain. People who are informed in the BDSM community may talk about psychological edge play, when someone consciously chooses to set up their sex play in a way that pushes into their emotional edges. This play can be incredibly healing as participants find a way to feel self-efficacy and choice in previously scary scenarios. It is also, by design, risky. I believe that getting support and working on personal insight is key, so consider finding a sex therapist who is kink friendly and understands sexual health and diversity.

 To be clear, sometimes it is a relief to separate from emotions and have sex that is clear and transcendent. Sex can provide a spiritual place, like meditation, or a pure physical release, like exercise when you are in the flow. And for many of us, we just want sex to be relaxing, thank you very much. That is totally okay.

But sexuality can also be a potent place to explore our emotions and our ability to share them with others. Expressive sex explicitly opens up creative touch, allows us to be emotional selves, to have moods and variations, to let the energy of feelings blend with the energy of sensations to create something possible new and unique each time you come together.

 

Was it good for YOU?

I was once at a late summer party in San Francisco in a group of people very much identified with sex-positivity. A man I didn’t know began talking to me and he looked around the room and said, “You know, I have slept with all but 3 of the women here.” Since I was included in that three, I can speculate where the conversation might have gone next. But since he didn’t know he was talking to a sex therapist, he seemed surprised by my response. I turned to look at him and I genuinely asked, “Wow. What did you learn about yourself from all that sex?” I didn’t mean to fluster or embarrass him; I was asking openly. But he became very uncomfortable, laughed it off with, “I learned I like sex” and immediately walked away. But I wish he had at least tried to engage with the question. Because I really did want to know.

The thing is I think a lot of us, no matter how sex positive or not, are not asking our self that question – what has sex taught me about ME? And so, are not allowing sex to work its real magic on us.

Sexuality is not simply a check-list of things we can do. It is not simply a way to prove ourselves viable as an object of desire. It is not to find what category you belong in or who you belong with. It is not just to prove that we can please someone else or that we can have multiple orgasms or that we can commit to one person or commit to four people or that we can be brave or express resistance to old cultural conditioning. It can be all these things at different times. But it can also be an incredible path to self-awareness.

Does that sound too heavy to you? It really doesn’t have to be.

What I am suggesting is that we bring our own sexuality into its rightful place on our list of “things that give us information about our Self”. It should also be on the lists : “things that will change through the course of my life with or without my permission, “things that are different in real life than in entertainment” and “things that might, when I least expect it, confuse the crap out of me”. You have those lists, right?

But really, it is ok - good even - to take a moment after sex to ask yourself, “How was that for me? What did I feel, discover, want more of? What did I find in myself that I may not have found before?” It is not so much that our partners are our teachers, although they may be, but that HOW WE RESPOND to different people, different moods, different environments, that can teach us.

Expanding our awareness through sex is an inside job. External variables are catalysts, but the combustion happens within you, in the way you open yourself up to something, or don’t. And this exploration creates the power within you to bring your own passion and pleasure to the party. It can even give you insight in to spiritual questions, inter-connectedness, personal needs and archetypes, nature, flow states, and so much more. Let sex feed you, inform you, inspire you. And then maybe, some summer, we can have some stimulating party talk.

An Invitation, A Reminder, A Prayer...

You can say it kindly. You can say it with a hipster ironic grin while wearing sensible shoes. You can say it forcefully and feel bad about it later. You can craft an argument with references and citation and voices more respected than yours. You can add “Fuck You” at the end of saying it. You can dramatically enact it through dance, vulnerable in your sweat letting them see your body if that’s what they need to stay interested. You can pass it quietly in a note in hopes of it reaching its intended audience. You can just say it again and again and again.

You cannot make them hear you. Not if they choose not to.

Say it anyway.

Say it because you need to hear it. Because it keeps you solid and engaged and believing in yourself. Say it because it is mother fucking interesting to you and it brings you to that place of awe. Say it because you are here and this present moment shouldn’t be wasted. Say it because you do not want to self destruct or drink yourself into a stupor like so many of the people you hoped to love. Say it because when you do it reverberates in your heart and that feels good; it feels like being alive.

For now your truth can be your own. Or you can tentatively or enthusiastically find places to share it where it just might be heard. Or you can lick your wounds and revel in being misunderstood if that is what your internal teenager needs today. You can be terrified of it and keep it in a tight space for now, observing it pacing there. Maybe it is content to be contained. Maybe not, maybe it is going to irritate you every day.

I know the people you needed to hear you didn’t. They didn’t, they couldn’t, they chose not to. I know. But even then, you continued to say it, to listen to yourself. And that is really important. Keep listening to what you have to say.

I know it doesn’t seem like enough. It may not be.

Say it anyway.

Up The Intensity - Using Breath & Sound

  Written for SHE Magazine April 17

Think of your voice and your breath as fun sex toys that you always have with you, cost nothing, and don’t require a trip, virtual or otherwise, to the sex store. Simple ways of making sound and directing your breath can quickly get you and your partner into another level of intensity. You just need to be brave enough to bring it out.

Ready to try?

Start with slow, deep breaths – Breathing is a cue to the body about how to channel energy. Slow deep breaths tell our bodies to relax, to open up to sensation, and for most of us a good deep breath is long overdue and just feels good. Bring in breath so that your lower belly fills up, then as you let it out imagine that your tension is melting. Deep breaths are great when your partner is focused on pleasing you and you get to lay back and receive (and can help relieve any shyness you may feel about being pleasured). 

Move with your breath– Now that you are breathing deeply, you can rock your pelvis along with your breath. You may tilt your pelvis back on the in breath and tuck it forward on your out breath. These can be small gentle movements; think rocking, not thrusting at this point. There is no right or wrong with this, see what feels right for you. Just use your breath as an invitation to move your body. Let your breath deepen so that you can hear it. Don’t be surprised if your breathing starts to get faster…

Faster and deeper – As you get more turned on, your breath will change. You can help with that by consciously speeding up your breathing. Try taking in mini-gulps of air, like gasps. As you do that imagine your sensation building.

Let sound come out – If you are breathing deeply, you may naturally be making some luscious noise. Just let your mouth open, relax your jaw, and let your breath come out fully as a sigh. If that feels good, turn it into a moan. Making sound engages your whole body and keeps energy flowing, which is good for intensity. Making sound cues your partner to your pleasure and that is a huge turn on. But it is not just for your partner - I really recommend that you make sound when you masturbate too, so that you can ride your own excitement and get used to hearing yourself.

Sound = Vibration -  Sound involves little vibrations. If you have ever chanted OM in yoga class, you may have experienced the resonation of sound into your belly. Using your mouth and sound creates a nice little vibration for sensitive spots. If you have your mouth on your partner for some oral play, make a little ‘MMM’ sound. Gently holding a nipple in your mouth and humming – oh yeah.

Feeling the breath -  You can use your breath to create coolness or warmth on your partner’s skin. Lick a place and then blow gently on it from an inch away and watch the goosebumps rise. Lick a place and bring your open mouth close to the skin and breath out, wet, warmth. Blow like a light tickle, whisper secrets into their skin. Sensation play, no props needed.

Say it – Say “yes”, say “please’, say “oh god, don’t stop!”. Tell your partner what you are about to do. Tell your partner what you would like them to do. Using your voice can be a huge part of the fun – even the whole part if you are engaging in phone sex or just opting for a safe sex choice. This can be part of the sex play hours before you get naked together. And it can be especially fun in building anticipation with a partner who is happily restrained or blindfolded. Talking dirty is its own sexplay toolkit, and I will write more specifically about that next time…

For now, try these simple intensity boosts. If making sound feels embarrassing to you, I highly recommend you start with using breath as a gentle introduction. Play music so that you feel surrounded by sound. You can also try muffling your sounds by moaning into a pillow or an open palm over your mouth. Restricting your sound, is its own kind of play. But in any case, breath is powerful. When in doubt, take a deep breath,… let it out slowly. Enjoy.

Opening Up Your Relationship Part 2: How To Talk to Your Partner About It

 Originally Published by YourTango.com

 Asking a current partner to change the rules of the relationship can be scary. If you love your partner and want to stay in relationship with them, shaking things up can feel incredibly fragile and remind you of what you stand to lose. If you are thinking about an open relationship, I hope you have spent some time asking yourself questions and gaining clarity on what it is you want, why you want it, and what you are willing to compromise.

Once you have some clarity for yourself, you may decide to approach your partner and explore making changes to your relationship agreements. Here are some tips, pulled from couples I have seen in the therapy room, for those early conversations.

Find a time when you feel close, strong and relaxed – Thinking about opening your relationship to new partners will feel vulnerable and risky, so start the conversation from a solid foundation. Be sure you will have time and privacy, that you both have had recent clear reminders of why your relationship is healthy and strong, and there are no other major life stressors drawing energy. If you have recently had a breach of trust, or communication has been painful, or you are not enjoying spending time together, this is probably not a good time to explore opening your relationship. Rather focus on strengthening what you have together so that you have a good base for adventures later.

Be prepared to hear No – Remember if you come to this with only one acceptable outcome in mind, it is less a conversation than an ultimatum. You may be very excited about this possibility, but try as best you can to actually approach your partner with curiosity. Your first conversations should be to explore the idea together, not to try and convince them. Ask questions; what do they imagine an open relationship looks like?, what would scare them about it?, what excites them?, what would it require you to change? If your partner doesn’t feel pressured or manipulated, it is more likely you will be able to revisit the topic again.

Be prepared to tell your partner how they are special to you -  In thinking about adding new partners in to a relationship dynamic, It is natural for your current partner to wonder, “Am I being replaced? Am I lacking in some way or not enough for you? Will you treat me just the same as you treat other partners?” Come to the conversation able to speak to what is unique about your relationship with your current partner, what you appreciate about them, and how you see them as being different than other partners. How will you prioritize your partner? How do you see their role in your life as special?

Be prepared to talk about time management and priorities – The truth is having more than one romantic or sexual partner requires more time. If your partner already feels squeezed into your life or both of you are barely getting through your weeks requirements as it is, you will need to think about what is realistic. What will you have to  give up doing so that you time to spend with new people? What is going to take priority?

Don’t Bully or Belittle – One behavior I have seen again and again in unsuccessful conversations about open relationships, is one partner treating the other as though they are unenlightened, up tight, brainwashed, jealous – pick your patronizing insult. The results of this approach are no better than when the partner who is against an open relationship accuses the other of being slutty, immature, immoral, or worse. Relationships are about emotional needs as well as shared values. Even if the idea of monogamy no longer makes sense to you intellectually, remember that decisions about relationships and love are deeply emotional. They don’t always rely on the rational. Our relationships are not just socio/political exercises, they must be uniquely shaped by the humans in them. Be respectful of your partner’s stance and honor the emotions and vulnerability at play.

Expect this to be a long conversation – Look at this as a shared exploration. The two of you cannot figure out how you feel or what will work for you in one sitting. This will take time to develop, a series of conversations, starts and stops, re-evaluating, questioning, and even back tracking. All of this of ok, in fact it is the basis of an honest, alive, growing relationship.

Opening Up Your Relationship : Questions to Ask Yourself

  Originally published on YourTango.com

I see many people in my private practice who do not want to end the relationship they are in but are interested in having other sexual or romantic partners. As polyamory and open relationships are becoming more visible, more people are wondering, is there a way I can be honest with my partner about what I am desiring? How can I even start this conversation? What will help us to be successful if we try this?

Here are some tips from my years of working with couples while they explore if an open relationship is right for them. This first article will focus on getting clarity for yourself before you even approach your partner.

First, do not start an affair. I cannot stress this enough. It is true for many people that the first time they begin to consider open relationships are when they have met an appealing new potential partner.  While a new person may allow you to realize that you can love more than one person at a time; if you are seriously considering an open relationship with your current partner the first requirement will be to treat them with respect and the relationship with integrity. Open relationships are not a free for all or permission for cheating; lies are still lies. You will not be able to effectively change the rules of your relationship to allow for more openness, and the trust that this requires, when you are healing the wounds of an affair.

Be honest with yourself about what you want from your current relationship. Are you considering new partners because you are bored or unhappy with your current relationship? Are your reasons for wanting to stay with your current partner primarily practical, i.e. it would be inconvenient to divorce or separate? Can you identify things about your current partner that you love and really value about them? Are you happy being with them for who they are? A functioning open relationship will require intense honesty, respect and ongoing communication. Do you and your partner currently have those skills and want to engage MORE with each other? Are you willing to take some time to first build the foundation of this relationship before adding other partners? If not, this brings us to our next tip.

 Don’t use an open relationship as a way to break up slowly. If you are not really happy with your current partner and are desiring a way to pull away from that relationship, it will be better to be honest about this – with yourself and your partner. A struggling relationship is not likely to be fixed by opening up to other partners, nor are other partners necessarily going to ease the blow of a break up. More often it just complicates things further and makes it so you really don’t have the energy or the time to work on problems with your current partner. So before beginning a conversation with your partner about opening the relationship, ask yourself, am I really asking for this because I feel it will end the relationship so that I can be free?

Ask, are you willing to let someone else share in your sexual decision-making? While there are hundreds of ways to structure open relationships and sexual agreements with partners, if you are thinking about expanding a relationship with a current partner, that implies that you will work as partners to create rules and agreements that work for both of you. This requires negotiation, consent, and sometimes not getting to do what you want. When I meet people who tell me they want an open relationship with their partner with no rules and no partners off limits, I know we need to explore if this person wants a shared open relationship with their partner or do they want to no commitment at all. It is ok to want to make sexual decisions strictly for yourself and by yourself, but it helps to be clear about this. Otherwise what I have seen happen is an extended negotiation period in which one person continually breaks agreements, asks for more freedoms, and eventually the other person feels that there is no “relationship” at all, just free for all dating. If you want complete freedom from the boundaries and responsibilities of relationship, then that is a different conversation.

Explore the role sexuality plays in your life and your image of yourself. The more clarity you can have about your desires, fears, doubts, joys and yearnings, the more you will be able to have an intimate conversation with your partner about trying something new. Open relationships ask you to bring your sexuality out of the shadows and to talk about risky subject manner. Support yourself, know your own mind and heart as much as possible, and stay open and curious to what you are feeling. Working with a sex therapist or taking a workshop about sexuality can be a great resource.

 

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.