Conscious Sexual Self

Connection Requires Consciousness

Shadow Impulses


Taboos, depictions of extreme sensations, themes of losing control, hidden urges and desires unleashed, body parts exposed, gasps and screams…

 

Am I writing about sex? Not exactly. I am writing about the blend of fear and horror with sexuality and why we might like it – or at least fantastical performances of it. One of the famous places that this dynamic was played out for eager crowds was the Grand Guignal Theatre in Paris. Known for its naturalistic horror plays, the theatre ran from 1897 to 1962. Similar to our more current slasher films, the Grand Guignal blended sexual titillation with terror, and like our drive-ins, it had private booths for audience members who might be overcome with excitement.

 

So why do sex and fear get mixed together for entertainment throughout human history? All the way back to Oedipus we have enjoyed horrific tales of passion and punishment. Let’s be clear, real situations of human cruelty or violence are not entertaining to most of us who have empathy (however much the news media currently packages it as entertainment). But the fantastical and extreme offers something to our psyches that we humans seem to yearn for – a way to face and engage with the Shadow safely.

 

Sexual impulses and violent impulses have both been seen as outside our rational mind and been repressed by society, left to be explored in the dark without much guidance. And yet they both continue to feature prominently in human history. Both involve the body and witnessing the body in ways that are outside of the normal day to day experience. Sensations and reactions to pain and pleasure can be surprisingly close, both can sweep us away, take us over. Excitement and mild fear can feel very similar in the body too and make us feel deeply alive.

 

We are drawn to the Shadow, the risky edges of human existence. We have things to learn there and by engaging safely with the extremes of human experience we can bit more aware. Maybe for audience members, at Oedipus or the Grand Guignal, it was simply a matter of breaking one taboo, so we may as well break another. But maybe we all get something more out of visiting our edges. At least we keep doing it…Time to see what horror movie is on tonight.


Seduction Techniques Not Working For You?


This one is inspired by the classic horror film, The Bride of Frankenstein, and that epic scream face Elsa Lancaster made famous. The story is a sad one. Poor Frankenstein monster was lonely and the doctor created a bride for him. But once she was made and brought to life, seeing Frankie stumble and mumble at her apparently didn’t appeal. Cue, Scream. And classic horror movie destruction.

 

For us human folk, happily not in a horror movie, this dynamic can play out in more subtle ways. Sometimes our seduction skills are lacking or just in hiding. Like Frankie we attempt an awkward hand pat or grunt, “want to do it?”. And like the Bride, we can respond in less than kind ways. Rejection hurts, whether you are the only 2 monsters on the planet or not, and like Frankie rejection can make us feel, “she hates me”. So what can we learn from their sad tale?

 

It can be important to let our partner know that they may be appealing but the lackluster seduction routine is not. Talk about how you like sex to be initiated. I am not suggesting you expect flowers covering the bed or a striptease each time you have sex, but there may be some things that help to get your mind on sex and some things that hinder it. Be specific. Share with your partner what words turn you on and which ones don’t. What types of touch feel arousing? And, equally important, what types of touch turn you off? Do you need a bit of conversation before you engage sexually or maybe you prefer your partner to not be wearing the sweatshirt with baby spit up on it. Speak up, focus on what you like, while being upfront and non-blaming about what you don’t like so much.

 

And if you are just not in the mood, that is ok. But don’t’ scream or hiss in your partner’s general direction. Try saying something that lets them know you do want to connect with them sometime soon, just not right now. Really ask yourself, what would help me get in the mood? Could it be as simple as, “I think I need an hour to soak in the tub and relax and then we can connect”. Or maybe you know a night later this week will be better. Think of trying to include an addendum to each No. Try for a “Not now, but maybe…?”

 

If we can learn from the bride and avoid being unfriendly about it all and learn from Frankie and try just a little harder to be seductive, it will help keep everyone happy and connected.


Being Out...

This week we celebrated National Coming Out Day. This holiday was established in 1988 when the Gay Rights movement was very focused on the need for visibility. You may remember the slogan, “The Personal is Political”. It is true that the more people recognize the gay people in their lives, the more they see gay people as part of their community, the less prejudice we should see. I see positive changes here in my lifetime, for sure. But you may note how many years it really took for us to have openly gay celebrities, politicians, and public figures in the media on a regular basis. A lot of time has passed since 1988 and we are still growing our awareness. We are still developing safe space for sexual minorities to “come out”.

The conversation I would really love to see happen around National Coming Out Day is about how much coming out is actually a daily process. Yes, daily. Not at all a one time finish line one crosses. There are significant coming out moments in one’s life, with family or a potential romantic interest. But in truth, coming out has to be a constant choice involving assessment of whether or not one is in a safe place to show this aspect of one’s self. At each new class or job, will I mention my orientation here? Walking down a street, will I show my love for my partner here? Standing in a checkout line, will I get bad service or a bad attitude of we hold hands? Meeting a new landlord, neighbor, teacher, student… in many cases, a decision to share or not. A choice that can feel like protection, but can also feel like a burden.

In the past the metaphor of being in the closet was more relevant as many people had to live nearly entire lives hiding this piece of who they were, with few moments of getting to step out into the light so to speak. Now for many people the metaphor of armor may be more relevant, something that one must put on at certain times, heavy and constricting but also providing protection. The armor will not stop the pain of impact, but it may curtail severe damage. And it can be exhausting to have to carry it with you, heartbreaking and restricting to have to fit yourself into it yet again.

So in honor of National Coming Out Day this year, let’s acknowledge the ongoing nature of the risk taking that coming out involves and  the subtleties of sharing who we are and the relationships that are important to us. Let’s come together to send energy to our friends and neighbors or ourselves for staying strong while having to continually assess if it is safe to be open. Let’s do our part by not assuming heterosexuality and thereby quietly crowding out other relationships and perspectives. Let’s be sure to honor that coming out is a part of a life, not an event that can be encompassed in a day. And let’s hope that by National Coming Out Day next year, things are even better and there are less and less days when the armor is needed.


Pain or Intense Sensation?

When I am teaching professionals about being open to and aware of the broad spectrum of the kink community, I often feel people’s discomfort or struggle to understand pain play in sex. For those not so inclined, this can seem contrary to what they are hoping for in their sex experiences. But for others, the sweet intensity of being taken to a physical edge is incredibly exciting.

Most of our experiences of pain come without our consent, with lots of unknowns attached. These experiences of pain involve fear as well, fear of what is happening to us, fear of how long the pain will last, fear of the pain getting worse, fear of our lives changing because of this pain, fear of losing control. This type of pain feels like damage is being done to us. And it is out of our control, something that is happening to us and all we can do is try to tolerate it as we wish for it to stop.

Pain without fear is something else entirely. Within a sexual exploration, if done appropriately, everything is done completely within the context of choice. In receiving pain or intense sensation, you first choose a partner you can trust to stop if you ask, to go slow enough for you to take in the sensation and track your responses and edges, and who is there to give you something you want. You know sensation will stop of fade when you need it to and so have a freedom to experience it differently.

Let me put it in a sensual, but non-sexual context. When I studied deep tissue massage, I got to experience people digging in to just about every part of my body. Sometimes this caused pain, more pain than I had yet experienced at that point in my life. Strong fingers reaching in to get underneath your Achilles tendon – this is a special kind of pain, trust me. But I was never afraid, so I was able to feel the intensity, breathe, and open to it. And I knew that if it got too intense I could say, “stop” and it would. This ability to open to the sensation without fear blew my mind. And I learned to love the clear focus this provided me, totally in the moment, and the shift in my mood, energy, and awareness that came with it.

Some of you may have experiences of intense sensation that appeal to you, times when you could note the difference between fearful pain and exciting intensity. You may never choose to bring this into your sexual exploration, or maybe you will. Either way, maybe this understanding will help you be more aware of a range of sensation play, including pain, that can be available to each of us.