The freedom to express yourself in any way you see fit is an amazing gift that everyone should experience. For those of you heading to Burning Man, you know preparation is key. Thinking ahead can give you the freedom to stop thinking so much and to just enjoy and explore, and still come home healthy and free of regrets.
Clothes have definite benefits but how often do we get a chance to be naked? If wearing very little is the way you want to go, be mindful of the more delicate parts of your body. Foreskin and public hair both serve the purpose of providing some protection from external irritants, but many of us are without these protections. Pubic hair functions as a soft screen that catches things like dust before it reaches your vulva. If it is an option, you may want to take the counter-culture stance of letting it grow out for now. If not, just be aware that your vulva is exposed and treat it accordingly. Body paints and glitters are generally not designed to play nice with genitals, so work around. And of course, if a body part has not seen the light of day in a long time - sunscreen!
In Girl Scouts we had “sit-a-pons” which were cushions to sit on that we carried with us. This is not a bad idea, even in decidedly non-Girl Scout-ish environments, so you have a soft place to land. Still everything is going to get dirty. Anytime showers are hard to come by, it is good to get body wipes to clean up easily. A lot of the body wipes sold in stores are not designed for genitals, so find ones that are, like After Glow Toy Tissues (with the added bonus of being safe for cleaning your toys too!) You can use the tissues before sex and after sex to minimize dust or other dirt getting places it shouldn’t. If you are prone to UTIs you can ask your doctor for an emergency travel prescription if you are going somewhere without access to pharmacies. They may not give it to you, but it is worth asking.
Looking forward to a little ecstasy-induced trust or other escapes from your reasoning mind? Be honest with yourself up front about what you want to experience and prepare to make it easy to protect yourself. Acknowledge with yourself up front that even awesome, loving, beautiful people can have STDs and, since so many can be carried with no symptoms for years, they may not be aware that they are putting you at risk. Practice safer sex and be prepared by carrying your own condoms or other barrier methods. Communicate your boundaries ahead of time and while you are engaging with a partner. That way you can enjoy yourself without unwanted consequences later.
You probably planned for months so that you can have an amazing break from the everyday realities of life and still be comfortable. You deserve a chance to let go of worries and be playful but our bodies’ needs and realities are a constant. Make your sexual health a part of your plans. Plan ahead then play hard.
There is a poem full of longing by Stanley Kunitz that ends with “Darling, do you remember the man you married? Touch me, remind me who I am.” The poem expresses a moment of exile from the self, those times in our lives when we have changed or are changing in ways uncomfortable and seeded with grief. And then it ends with this hope, the potential of love and touch and sexuality to bring us back to some foundations of who we are and the willingness to let someone else see a side of us that feels elusive.
One of my hobbies is photography and lately I have been inspired by nudes. This has invited me to ask myself, what is it that I am trying to capture with nudes that is different than photos of clothed models? I think some of the answer is in what this poem expresses. When we can shed clothes, we shed expectations of identity, those external cues about who we are supposed to be or cannot be anymore or have become. We become more vulnerable, sure. But there is also a freedom. When I am gifted with the opportunity to work with models who will be nude, I feel like I get to work with a Human Being, rather than with a fixed identity or a part of who they are. Clothes cover but they also limit. Being naked, the person is more of a mystery and I am drawn to pay attention to each gesture, each expression, each interaction to let them show their self to me.
So one of the potentials that lies in sexuality with a partner, long term or not, is the chance to shed external rules and roles and to show up naked. How might you allow yourself to have sex in a way that reminded you of who you are at the core? Touch can pull us back into the simplest, and yet profound, information source about our self that we have – our body. With someone who has known and loved you, touch can convey a memory or contain a history of you that is still there for you to draw on. And how could you approach sexual engagement with a partner with the intention to remind them of their incredible humanness? How could you honor their nakedness with you by freeing them from being a certain way or a certain person?
This poem reminds me of the availability of the present moment, of joining with someone else to be human in the midst of all kinds of noise encouraging us to be something more limited. As we face loss and transitions and endings of all kinds, sexuality can be a place to return to our self. Sex itself will change too, sometimes feeling unrecognizable. But if we let our self open to touch maybe we can find relief from our private disappointments and insecurities and doubts for a time. How can we let sex remind us to let go of all the things we don’t have to use to define ourselves? What distractions to our Self can we shed as we shed our clothes? What if sex is a place to celebrate our mystery and also our simplicity?
Do you seek your self when you are having sex? What if you did?
Do you feel like you know yourself, really know the internal workings of who you are and how you engage with world the way you do? How about when it comes to your sexuality? Do you feel like you are aware of the different parts at play inside of you? Are you ever curious about why you desire what you desire or how your fantasies can feed your sexual life? Do you wonder about your body and its responses? Are you ever confused about conflicting beliefs or urges? Do you have things you might like to see change or transform in your sex life?
When was the last time you really explored your sexuality? Often we get an influx of information, usually somewhere around junior high, that we rapidly adapt to, feeling like we have to perform sexual know-how so we don’t look foolish or naïve. We start from a place of feeling like we know nothing, so we stop listening to ourselves. From there we bumble along through our early sexual experiences, searching for external cues and crucial information that will make us acceptable sex partners. Some of us might have looked to magazines, porn, seemingly experienced friends, maybe even some sex-ed videos or classes. We keep trying to find the perfect performance tips, learn to touch spot A, then B, then C, while desperately trying to keep things from becoming routine. Society tells us there is an answer out there, if you just listen to the right person.
But the sexual answers for you aren’t out there. And the external searching for those answers leaves many of us feeling dissatisfied, more confused, and alienated. The place you really need to be looking for sexual answers is inside yourself. Let’s be clear, the longest running sexual relationship you are going to have is with yourself. Shouldn’t you get to know that sexual partner, the one who is present for every sexual experience you have? Can you imagine what might happen if you opened up the possibilities within yourself, if you became fascinated with the sexual person you are, if you became fully awake to this part of yourself? This will feed your sex life more than any external tips or role models.
This is excerpted from The Conscious Sexual Self Workbook, by Melissa Fritchle, Sex Therapist& Educator --to be published in Fall 2014. Almost here...