Conscious Sexual Self

Connection Requires Consciousness

Life Envy

 

Philosopher Nietzsche had a term Lebensneid representing “life envy”. I think most of us are familiar to some degree with the nagging feeling that if only your life was more like that life over there, you would be so much more content. I wonder if we are feeling more and more life envy as we become more and more exposed to others lives, constantly bombarded with images and stories of how other people live. I mean we even have news stories about tiffs over who gets to claim the title of lifestyle guru, and who is just a faker. The power to feed our life envy in a job title.

 

Life envy does seem to be connected to the plethora of life choices we have available to us. In her wonderful book, Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about a Hmong community she visits in Vietnam and how few choices the people there have in how their life will unfold. The surprise is that because of this they actually seem to have less angst about the state of their life. Choice brings with it doubt. There is always another option not chosen. There is always a “what if?” Perhaps life envy is an externalized version of “what if?” turned into dull but distracting coveting.

 

What can we do when we are caught in Lebensneid, convinced that our life is lacking in comparison, that they are having better sex, better relationships, a better body, a better orgasm…? We can recognize that these things are incomparable. Trying to reduce the seductive call of all those things out there that we cannot actually do anything with or about will allow us to feel more empowered. Really Gwyneth Paltrow or Jay Cutler do not have something you want. What will make you happy is totally unique to you, shaped by interconnected elements of who you are. It will involve choices and sacrifices that only you can judge. It will also involve joys and satisfactions that are only for you.

 

We all have our moments of the grass looking greener over there out of reach. It seems to be human nature to feel longing. And we are invited by our consumer culture, where happiness is just one purchase away, to ask ourselves, “Am I fulfilled? Is this as good as it gets?” Look around you, not at what others have, but at what you have. Some of it may be pretty amazing as is. Some of what you have may be raw material to work with in creating something amazing. Don’t fall into the passive disengagement that goes hand in hand with life envy. Be inspired by what is possible but know that happiness will only be found in your own life, not in the imagined life of someone else.

 

Sex While Skinny

 

What would the media like us to believe about women’s sexual confidence? I see a lot of messaging out there designed to convince us that American women are getting more and more sexually bold, empowered, and creative. Call it the Sex & the City affect or the Miley Cyrus affect, if you like. What we see are stories about how we are increasingly more sexually liberated and daring. We see feminist empowerment portrayed as the right to be unabashedly sexy (you can twerk if you want to!).  But, in reality, for many people these public displays of sex seem to be making them feel more inhibited rather than less.

 

Take for example a recent comparison of sex questionnaires, from 2 very mainstream media publications, Glamour and Mademoiselle, looking at people’s answers from 1993 and 2013. Sure, there was some great news about women receiving more oral sex than before and more women have used a sex toy. But it also showed that 48% of the women questioned felt that men enjoy sex more than women, a sharp rise from the 33% who said that in 1993. So, all the talk about women’s increasing sexual ownership and desire are not translating to people’s actual bedrooms. And here is one potential reason, the surveys also showed that 73% of women now said that they would enjoy sex more if they lost weight! This number is staggeringly sad on its own, but even more dismaying in relation to the survey results from 1993 in which only 39% of women said this. Suggesting, in relation to body image empowerment is declining.

 

It is a good thing to like the way you look and to feel comfortable in your own body. But let’s be clear, there is not a lot that 20 extra pounds of fat can do to decrease your sexual pleasure – except for what your mind does with it. Sure being obese may limit some positions. Being out of shape may limit your endurance. But sex can still be fun. Orgasms will still feel good. And, the part that is clearly the hardest for people to accept – your partner can still desire you, think you are hot, and enjoy the privilege of interacting with your body. The fact that so many women are linking weight loss to their ability to enjoy sex speaks to the cruelty and arbitrariness of our minds. You can decide that you only have the right to enjoy sultry, uninhibited sex if you look like an airbrushed advertisement. You can turn off desire by allowing critical voices free rein in your head. You can doubt your partner’s touch or belittle their passion while with you. You can hold out for impossible standards while your body does its natural thing and ages. But it is such a waste.

 

I share with the mass media a desire to tell a story of sexual liberation. I just acknowledge that there is still a battle people need to fight in their own minds to really liberate themselves, and so many of us are losing it. And the cost is denying something that is natural, that we don’t have to purchase or earn, that always belongs to us – the pleasure our body can take in sexual stimulation.

 

Does this topic hit a nerve? Consider joining Melissa’s upcoming women’s group, Aligning With Your Body

 

 

Are We Free to Be our Fantasy Selves?

 

If I am a slice of pizza, of course, I must be a sexy slice of pizza...

It’s that time of year again. The time for women to be presented with costume choices that range from nearly naked to just strategically exposed. Ugh, the tyranny of “sexy” once again. Today I saw his/hers versions of Freddy Kruger costumes in a catalog. OK, Freddy is scary and a little bit gross, correct? If you want to be Freddy you are going for the serial killer, monstrous vibe. The guys costume was pretty straight from the movie – red and black striped sweater, black pants, boots, hat, and the knife fingers. Great.  All items a woman can wear, right? But no, the women’s costume had a ripped sweater (to display cleavage), mini skirt, fishnets, and high heel boots (no doubt, great for chasing children down in dream land). If a woman likes Freddy, why would she have to portray him differently than a man? Why on Halloween do we drop all practical considerations about the way we can dress? Why do our clothing choices actually become more limited rather than more free when we are in costume? Even if we say she needs to portray a female version of a serial killer, is the best we can come up with that she would wear a miniskirt and heels? Really? Pardon my costumer sensibilities but why can‘t a woman dress like she would actually like to kick some ass (maybe even without flashing her panties)? Or at least, survive a horror movie encounter.

Sexy costumes are fun. Be a sexy something or other if that is what you want to embody this year. I can think of a lot of things and roles that are genuinely sexy. But make it your own – don’t give in the simplified belief that sexy is about breasts and thighs. See if you can be more creative than that; what feels sexy to you? And, we have to say that when every costume a woman can buy is a sexy-fied version of anything, something is wrong. Halloween should be a time when all options are available to you – that is the gift of a costume, you can be anything you want to be. You can choose to be macho, ugly, badass, monstrous, powerful, magical, otherworldly, alien, creepy, funny, unreal, haunting, commanding, wicked, angelic, maniacal, possessed, exotic, inappropriate, historic, cartoonish, dainty, or something else. Just don’t buy into the idea that you can only translate that through the vehicle of first being sexy. Don’t limit yourself or your fantasy because what is being sold to you is not very creative.

 

 

A Lifetime of Sexy?

You all know I am pro-sex. Pro-sexuality, pro expressing your sexuality, pro feeling sexy. But I am getting more and more disgusted with the pressure that is now being put on young girls to fit into an adult model of sexy – which is hardly adult, but rather to try to look as much like a 20 year old as possible, but that is another post.

What am I talking about, in case you have missed this trend. Most recently Walmart has begun advertising for their make-up line for tweens (8-12 year olds). Now playing with make-up is one thing. I have memories of glittery blue eyeshadow and borrowing grandma’s lipstick and all that. But this line is clearly more for everyday makeup and – it includes anti-aging ingredients!!! What?! That line is not overtly sexualized, just your average invitation to not feel good enough about yourself. But it comes on the heels of several companies controversial panty lines for tweens.  And let’s not forget Abercrombie & Fitch’s 2011 line of push-up, padded bikini tops for girls age 7- 12. Yuck. So now girls can feel bad about their breast size before they are even growing breasts.

Doing just a tiny bit of internet searching I have now discovered the booming business of marketing bikini waxes to teens & pre-teens. I found a few waxing professionals that were quoted as saying that in the past few years 20% of their waxing was for tween or younger. If this is accurate, it boggles my mind. One well known spa catering to teen and younger waxing’s advertising line is “If a teenager has never been waxed before, hair growth can be stopped in just 2 to 6 sessions. Save your teenager a lifetime of waxing... and put the money in the bank for her college education instead!”  Ugh, or maybe teach her that waxing isn’t compulsory and she can choose how to spend her money? The owner of this salon also apparently told the New York Post that children should begin waxing at age 6. Am I missing something? Does this make sense? Again, I am not opposed to waxing. If you want the no hair look, wax away. I am opposed to us all pretending that waxing is a necessity in life – and selling this idea to kids.

There is more madness out there of course, such as Tesco’s Peek-a-Boo Pole Dancing kit, advertised  as “suitable for participants of 11 years old and upwards”. It included fake money and a garter belt to put it in. Not a Saturday Night Live skit, real life, sorry to say. http://www.cracked.com/article_19288_8-weirdly-sexual-products-you-wont-believe-are-kids.html#ixzz2arCsWjFJ) But this is so over the top ridiculous it actually worries me less than the more subtle everyday pressures that are building for kids and the way it shapes their future sexuality and self esteem.

I think it is natural and healthy for kids to play at being adults. They will dress-up, play house, play with make-up, even stuff their tops or bellies to match grown women’s bodies. This kind of self-motivated exploration is one thing. Moving into marketing that manufactures desire and, even worse, fear that you need these things to be “normal” is something entirely different.

When I get past my initial gut disgust response, I see that this is really about creating dedicated consumers early. The sooner we can market to young children to get them to feel that they have to be thinner, less hairy, more tan, etc, the more money they will spend on products in a lifetime. It is not news that the marketing mechanisms will happily ask us to sacrifice our self confidence, sexual comfort, and dignity so that we buy more. Why would their approach to children be different? I don’t believe that the intent behind these products and marketing schemes is really to sexualize children, although that is a side-effect, the intention is to turn them into insecure, desperate consumers.

My rage comes from the fact that we are supporting campaigns that tell children they are not beautiful unless they conform to a Victoria’s Secret Model look. I am sad that we are becoming jaded to the natural beauty that children are born with. I am angry that we continue to infringe upon children’s natural sexual development, either by stifling and shaming or now by defining it so narrowly as a product to buy to keep up with others. After all, if we feel good about who we are, at any point in our lives, what do we need to buy?

 

Being loved

 

Being honest may not get you a lot of friends but it’ll always get you the right ones” -- John Lennon

Honesty is not insensitivity or insisting on having things your way. Honesty is letting someone else see who you really are. So when I read this quote by Lennon, I think it tells a truth that is deeper than it seems. He is not talking about there being “right” and “wrong” people out there, but about how we find the right people to love us. And coming from a man who was "loved" by millions and projected on by nearly all of them, I feel he might have known something about being loved for who you seem to be versus who you are.

Sometimes when we are dating or meeting new people, our approach is to try and be as likable as possible. This is nice, to an extent. We can learn new things about ourselves and find genuine new interests and passions that we may never have discovered on our own. But what happens when we try so hard to be likable that we appear to be someone we are not? One possibility is that we may end up never feeling truly loved.  Or believe we have to perform to be loved. Finding the right match for you, whether a partner or a friend, will require you to show them who you are, to be honest about what you like, what you find funny, what your limits are, what you believe in, where you want to go. Then if they like you it is real. You can assume they will still like you when you are too tired or stressed or over putting up a front.

Dating, and early stages of any voluntary relationship, is the time to be honest. It may, as Lennon said, lead to some people stepping away as your mismatches become clear. But ultimately  it may led you to the people who will recognize the colorful mosaic of who you have become, people who will hear what you have to say even when it is hard to hear, people who will be great partners in building the life that is truly right for you. I say it is worth the risk. Be honest and trust that the right people will find you fascinating.

 

Play the Part

As age-related self criticism (“I have so many wrinkles, I am so old, my body is changing…”) is on the rise in the US, I will share a fascinating research experiment with you. Harvard psychologist Dr. Ellen Langer wanted to study the effects of mind-set on our aging process. So she created a nostalgia summer camps of sorts. She took a group of elderly men to a retreat where they were exposed to cues reminding them of their youth, old newspapers, magazines, radio, music, etc. They were told to talk and interact as though they were back in the 1950s and young men. For one week they were invited to play at being young again.

And what happened? You could say magic happened, if you were so inclined. Dr. Langer conducted physical and mental testing on the men before and after the retreat. She found that the men had improvements in grip strength, healthy posture & gait, manual dexterity, memory, hearing & vision! Their bodies responded as though they were growing younger. And that was just in one week.

So before you decide that your best days are behind you, before you critique your looks, your sexual performance, your libido, your relationship, your self, consider who you are imagining yourself to be. Who is your mind telling you to be? Can you remind yourself of who you want to be? Do you need to listen to some hair metal or smell like pachouli? How would you have acted 10 years ago? What might happen if you deciding to play that part now? How might you approach your partner differently? How might you walk into the coffee bar differently? Care to try? Maybe your body will take you up on the invitation. In any case, I bet you will have fun.

Resourced from

Prevention Magazine, June 2013

 

 

 

What Belongs to You - Questions to Ponder

Do you feel changed by another person’s sexual energy or by interactions with past partners?  Sometimes I hear people use language about their sexual experiences like, “I gave it up” or “I feel dirty from having sex with him/her”. What would this mean to you? What are you giving the other person when you are sexual with them? What part of yourself are you sharing? Do you believe something changes in you or about you after being sexual with someone? What about when you are sexual with yourself, masturbating and/or fantasizing?

 

 How can you find your own baseline or ground after being sexual with someone else?   If people are attracted to you or have sexual thoughts about you, can you stand your ground and feel confident in your own ability to choose to engage or not? Or do you feel swayed by others sexual desire to a point where it is hard to keep track of yourself? If someone else wants you, do you feel obligated or infringed upon? On the other hand, do you feel that you are only desirable when you are being desired by someone else? Is your sexuality based on reacting or responding to your partners? Truly claiming your body and your sexuality can mean separating what is your energy and desire from what is someone else’s. It can be filling yourself with your own vibrant energy so that you can actively meet someone else’s energy without being overwhelmed by it. It is knowing what you want. Think of a time when your sexuality felt truly self motivated; what was that like for you?

 

I invite you to journal about these questions. There is no right or wrong answer to come to, but it is valuable to see clearly how you feel about these things. These are great topics to explore in therapy too. If you are a Northern Californian local, you can come see me in my private practice in Capitola, CA. If you are in another area, you can reach out to me for referrals.