Conscious Sexual Self

Connection Requires Consciousness

Getting Comfortable With Uncomfortable

I am dismayed to hear about a trend in higher education in which students are expecting to be given “trigger warnings” if a lecture or piece of literature might be upsetting, or in therapy speak – triggering- to them. This will allow them to opt out of learning from content that emotionality challenges them.  I believe that protection from things that make us uncomfortable limits learning and growth. There is a great big world out there and much of it will make us uncomfortable. And the only way to get more comfortable with all those different or challenging perspectives? Face them, learn about them, try to understand them.

 

One reason this makes me very concerned is that we know from studies (recent ones focusing on attitudes about gay marriage) that exposure to difference is the best thing to reduce discrimination and negative beliefs about a different group. It is easy to hold on irrational beliefs about something you have no first hand knowledge of. Being exposed to that which makes us uncomfortable is a huge component of growth, without it we stagnate quickly. The education system should be a series of uncomfortable events, each designed to open us to new ideas and perspectives. We need to face the realities of the world we live in, much of which we might prefer to blissfully ignore.

 

And that is another reason I don’t support trigger warnings, the world is full of triggers. Getting stronger in the face of them is empowering. Hiding from them is not. I work with clients who struggle with PTSD and part of treatment is to identify triggers, things that send messages to their brain that they are in danger. Once they are identified, we can talk about ways to avoid some of those triggers, sure. And that can be helpful in reducing stress in the short term. But I never guarantee to a client that they will be able to arrange their life such that they can avoid all triggers. That would most likely be a very limited life. Instead we work to build up strength and new responses to triggers, so that they have less power to through someone into fear.

 

I see the affects, big and small, of people believing they cannot handle things that make them uncomfortable. And I know that the healing for that is, almost always, facing those things and finding that they do not have to damage you. I see the arguments for discrimination and reducing our rights being made on the basis of “I shouldn’t have to be witness to their life/behavior/art/ideas/sexual expression/choices/religious beliefs/ and on and on”. I have seen people not say something that was true and important to them for fear of upsetting a partner and the ways that reduces intimacy and connection. I have seen my own biases and blindspots change as I find myself in brand new territory, even as it scares me.

 

So let’s commit as conscious sexual selves to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Let’s let it strengthen us and inspire us. Let’s understand our own ability to honor and accept difference without having to let go of our own self. Let’s get excited about the stuff that makes us go, “what the X#*?” or “ick” because it means there is more out there than we can fully grasp, and that is ok. And let’s never let the world convince us that we are not strong enough to face it. 

 

 

Sexual Independence

 

  Declaring Sexual Independence

 

 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – including sexual liberty and happiness.

To be truly sexually independent we…

 

*Must have available to us accurate information about sexuality, sexual options, and our bodies

 

*Must be free from employers, politicians, or other people in power denying us the right or ability to decide what to do about our own sexual health

 

*Should be able to present ourselves, regardless of gender identity, which genitals we have, sexual orientation, age, or other characteristic, in a way that feels genuine and true to us, without fears of discrimination or harassment

 

* Should be able to talk to professionals who are non-biased and sex-positive and who will support us in making decisions for ourselves

 

*Should be able to explore our unique paths to sexual pleasure and desire

 

*Will value our sexual relationship with our self and feel free to give it time and attention 

 

*Need to advocate for and expect privacy and protection in our sexual lives, with an understanding that our sexual history or images of us should not be shared without our consent

 

*Deserve sexual relationships that are free from coercion, bullying, or shaming

 

*Have the freedom to create relationship structures and agreements that are right for us and our partners

 

*Address openly the inevitable changes in our self, our body, our relationships, and our sexual needs and desires

 

*Approach sexuality with joy and creativity knowing that there are unlimited ways to play and connect

 

*Will respect other people vigilantly and allow them to make choices that are right for them

 

*Must work to understand ourselves so we can communicate clearly with other people and take responsibility for our own choices

 

 

 

 

 

The Right To Be Seen

  

Now I know we need to take what the media calls “outrage” with a grain of salt, but I had to look into the outrage people are expressing over Lena Dunham’s choice to show her naked body repeatedly in her show Girls. Indeed people are outraged. They are outraged that Lena Dunham is inviting us to see her perfectly normal, not perfect or digitally perfected, woman’s body. They are outraged that she presents her character as someone whom people find beautiful, sexy and desirable seemingly irregardless of her non-Playboy model status. Not only are they not comfortable with this minor depiction of reality in our entertainment, there are some people who are intimating that Ms Dunham doesn’t have a right to show her body in this way. - This makes me outraged.  

 

One of the major voices in this attack on Lena Dunham and her supposed gall in showing her body is the often offensive Howard Stern. OK, he refers to her as “little fat chick” repeatedly, what did we expect from Howard Stern? We have not come a long way, baby, in relation to people feeling like they can critique women’s bodies. But when he links choosing to watch a show that exposes him to Lena Dunham’s body with “rape” because “I don’t want to see that” we all have taken a turn into deeply disturbing and oppressive territory. And sadly, he is not the only voice out there suggesting that Ms Dunham has somehow overstepped her bounds by appearing naked.

Let’s break this down. Assuming a consensual adult setting, are we willing to entertain the idea that only certain people have a right to show their bodies? In what context – in art, entertainment, porn? What about on beaches? Can someone claim to be offended by a fat person in a bathing suit? Do we need to earn the right to show our body by meeting a certain standard? How far do we take this? Does it only apply to celebrities? Are we suggesting that now artists must meet a weight requirement, that directors agree to only use actors who conform to an established standard? Will we institute a new sort of Hayes code that censors body images rather than morally objectionably content? If the majority prefers to see people of a certain body type should we mandate photo-shopping of all public photos? How many people have to decide that Christina Hendricks’ curves are disgusting rather than hot to draw a line? Would Marilyn Monroe’s pregnant body in Some Like It Hot be sell-able nowadays? Do we no longer make any room for diverse representations of the desirable? 

 

Have we really come to place culturally where a normal body is treated as not fit for the public view? Signs point to yes, at least for one vocal group on the internet. And for the many, many women who feel that their own body flaws are cause for shame and exclude them from owning their own version of sexy. This censorship is already happening internally in every inner voice that says, “I can’t be seen in a bathing suit, We need to keep the lights off so my partner doesn’t see my thighs…” In that case, then I guess Lena Dunham is offering us much more than a chance to see her bare her body in the service of story-telling, she is offering us a much needed reality check.

The invitation of compersion

 

Compersion is a term used in the polyamory community meaning to be happy seeing or thinking about your partner getting sexual pleasure with someone else. This is a challenging concept for a lot of people and you may find you had an immediate – What?*%?? No Way!  kind of response. That’s ok. Just stick with me for a moment to visit this idea.

We have accepted a cultural model that tells us that jealousy, especially sexual jealousy, is natural. Certainly for many of us jealousy has felt unavoidable and we see representations of it featured heavily in entertainment, music, reality TV. So it may be surprising to a lot of people to find that anthropologists have found many cultures, throughout history, where sexual jealousy was not common. In fact, in some communities people would consider a gesture of jealousy to be intrusive, unwelcome and disrespectful, rather than an act of love or passion as it is represented in our culture. Often these different mindsets seemed based around beliefs that sex is natural, love, affection, and sex are abundant and freely given, and that people are not in competition for limited resources or limited love.

So what if sexual jealousy is a learned mindset not a condition of being of human? What does that mean for you today? Well, maybe nothing.

Or maybe it means you get a bit curious about your own jealousy and where it comes from. Maybe you decide to explore the edges of jealousy and see if there are any shifts in how you feel. Maybe on the edges of your old jealousy there is room to be happy when your partner gets a lift from being flirted with at the coffee counter. Maybe there is room for looking forward to the nights your partner goes out dancing with friends and comes home filled up with sexy, playful energy from the full pulsing dancefloor. Maybe it becomes less scary to talk about your crushes or people you are attracted to or less painful to hear about past sexual relationships. Maybe you get more comfortable with your unexpected fantasies of seeing your partner play with someone else. And maybe the boundaries of your jealousy do not change at all, but maybe you have just explored them consciously a little more. Maybe you have more clarity about why your edges are there.

I believe it is good to know we have options. Compersion is an option. Knowing that other people experience compersion allows you to see that changing your relationship to jealousy is an option.

Resources

Ryan, C & Jetha, C. (2010) Sex at Dawn : How we mate, why we stray, and what it means for modern relationships. New York :Harper Perennial.

 

 

 

Wildness

 

Synonyms for Wildness from online source dictionary,com:

1. undomesticated, untamed, unbroken; ferocious. 4. barbarian, savage. 5. tempestuous, stormy, frenzied, turbulent. 6. boisterous. 7. insane. 9. self-willed, riotous, unrestrained, wayward. 10. uncontrollable. 12. reckless, rash, extravagant, impracticable. 13. grotesque, bizarre, strange, fanciful. 14. unkempt.

I believe we humans have an innate need for wildness. Not the “wildness” associated with drunk 20-somethings taking their tops off for a new reality TV show, but the wildness of freedom from being civilized, the wildness of nature. Our bodies yearn to be unrestrained by stiff chairs, pinching clothes, and polite postures. Our voices fight to let loose yells and yips and deep throated sighs. We want to see things growing without cultivation from unlikely ground. Our senses crave full reign over us, to not have the mind be running the show. Our instincts are saying, let us lead.  

But notice the many negative connotations to wildness listed above. There is a fear of what will happen if we are truly connected to wildness – we might become savage, reckless, rash, uncontrollable, even grotesque and strange. Oh dear. This privileging of the civilized has been around a long time now. We literally and figuratively build walls to keep up from the power of the natural world. And it really impacts our sex lives. Wildness is a source for our sexual desire and natural sexual expression. Have you tried having sex without letting yourself get “unkempt” (come on you know you have)? It’s not very fun. Sex doesn’t always have to be sweaty or loud and it certainly doesn’t have to feel uncontrollable, but having those potentials is a part of the aliveness of sex.

What does wildness mean to you? When do you feel most connected with the untamed parts of yourself? How can you let a little bit more of that show up for your sexuality?