How far have we really come?

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I mean really come…

Last week a friend of mine got himself into a double page feature in Cosmopolitan magazine, the September 2017 issue in the article entitled ‘Would You Pay to Date These Men?’ (p.110). It was a great article in the sense it was refreshingly non-judgemental about men who offer their services as escorts and sex educators, for once written without too much scandalising, sleaze, or unrequited drama added just for effect. In fact, the very fact it stayed within the realms of ‘meet these guys, this is what they offer, and this is how I felt when I went on a date with them’, in an open minded and communicative way was the thing that struck me the most – I read it and felt a combination of ‘hey progress is being made’ elation, curiosity, sadness and a bit of rightfully placed anger. The anger and sadness came from the fact I knew that this article could not, and would not have had the same tenor had it been written about a female escort or sex industry worker.

Seani (pictured below with his partner Rosie (also a sex educator and sex worker) was nominated for, and won the Sex Worker Of The Year award in 2015, and it’s fair to say he is doing some great work around demystifying sex, bringing kink into the mainstream and perhaps more importantly, bringing conscious communication to all aspects of this work.

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As it happens, in the same week I read this Cosmo article, I also listened to a podcast by Rosie on her ‘coming out as a sex worker’ journey (you can listen by clicking here) and I couldn’t help but be struck by some of the differences alongside recognising some commonalities. Let’s start with the commonalities….

  1. Coming out as a sex worker can be hard for any person, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or sexual preference. This is largely due to the fact that sex is still (FFS why?!!) such a taboo subject through much of our society and culture, and so therefore, publicly announcing that’s how you make a living can lose you friends, cost you work, and create stigma in many other areas of your life, especially if you have (for example) dependent children, family and relatives with more conservative values than you, or you happen live in a place where to be so public would be a serious threat to your wellbeing.
  2. There are no more commonalities…beyond CIS gender, racial profile or class based opportunity (or lack of it) creating communities of practice which therefore define the commonalities in that case. AAEAAQAAAAAAAAQcAAAAJDkxYjE5YmRkLWRjOGMtNDI3Ny1iOWIyLTgxZTkzMWUzMmRmNA

So now we come to the striking differences. Imagine a mainstream magazine publishing an article entitled ‘would you pay to date these women?’ Immediately you can feel the frisson of tension in that right? Is this magazine condoning men paying for sex with women? Outrage! Are we saying it’s ok for a woman to sell sex? Never! Shall we judge that question by the merit of the women’s perceived beauty or bodies (to be fair the article did do a bit of that in the mens’ case too)?

In this instance however, here we are finding language like ‘debonair, dashing, open, relaxed, ripped, ‘expensive looking skin’ (really!), suave, brooding confidence, alluring’ etc, being used to describe the men who sell sex. Women on the other hand rely on something else entirely, namely tits and ass. To use adjectives like the above would probably make their online profiles appear dull to those seeking to hire them, or offensive to those reading an article like this who may be inclined to feel we are ‘glamorising’ the sale of sexual services to men, by women. Heaven forbid a woman can choose what the hell she wants to do with her body and her sexuality.

Now let me be crystal clear here, the sex industry is an industry riddled with problems, contradictions, injustices and corruption, oh….pretty much like most forms of work really! However, because it’s about the sale of sex, workers rights, judicial protection, equal opportunities and the like are brushed aside on the grounds that ‘well you’re asking for trouble if that’s what you do’ – and why is that? Because we’re still not over the blame culture that sees women’s clothing as a mitigating circumstance in sexual assault. Because we’re still not over the idea that a sexually confident women can be anything other than readily available to all and sundry regardless of her right to discerning choice. Because we still don’t understand the basic concept of informed adult consent, and because we are still so afraid of women’s sexual power.

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And here is where it all gets a bit ‘conspiratorial’ – the idea of a society full of sexually liberated women, blazing a trial of equality in all aspects, still terrifies many people, and has become so internalised, it actually terrifies many of us women ourselves. How many of us have felt the shame of being open and out there with our sexual expression, dialogue and freedoms? I know I have. How many of us have been slut shamed or slut shamed another woman without even realising how we’re doing that? Fear of being judged, rejected, outcast….it’s a powerful inhibitor, and yet when we are able to fully own our sexual potency, to find our communities of support, to align with those who ‘get it’ and if they don’t, who are open to listening and don’t judge, then we really have the potential to free up so much energy in our lives.

I relish the day when an article like this one will be written about women; an article with no outrage, no salacious hypocrisy, and no violence inducing judgements. In the meantime, let’s keep talking, no let’s insist upon it. Let’s challenge injustice and inequality of the sexes and sexuality, for levelling the playing field can ultimately only serve everyone really. Men will be free to show their feelings and their vulnerabilities and women their strengths without being labelled ‘ball breakers’ (even that label implies a connection to sex!). Men will be free to allow their ability to receive more, women to take charge more and it’s not as if that very fact will define us after all, maybe it will just allow us to take a long, deep, sigh of relief. If the number of men who contact me asking for advice around confused sexuality is anything to go by, then it most certainly has the potential to do exactly that.

SEXUAL-FREEDOMWe’re born with it…so let’s live with it. 


The Healing Power of Rope & Fire

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Read about my experiences of both.

Yesterday a friend came round – an ordinary kind of a thing to do if you’re self employed and have time to spare on a random Tuesday lunchtime right? What was perhaps less ordinary about this meeting was its intention; to more fully experience a session of Shibari (Japanese rope bondage) and to deepen my knowledge of what had started on a fabulous recent Getting Conscious With Kink weekend workshop with Seani Love and Rosie Heart (click on the names to know more folks…these are live links!).

Shibari has been on my radar for a while now, so you can imagine my delight in learning that someone at the workshop offers this art as part of their livelihood, and was willing to let me experience it at the Saturday night play party (you can read more about that in my previous blog post here).

Experiencing this for the first time I was captivated and wanted more. On the night in question, others naturally wanted to try it out too, so I only got to experience it for about half an hour. To really, fully let go, I’ve learned you need a spacious amount of time to expand into the process and let the body and mind attune to what’s happening.

For many people rope (and other forms of bondage) can be deeply triggering, and so it’s important to work with someone who both knows what they are doing and how to do it safely, but also who works with a level of conscious awareness about our sometimes delicate inner emotional landscapes. As a conscious sexuality practitioner, for me, nothing less than that would do.

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Taking oneself into a situation like the above requires courage, a willingness to be open to oneself and a curiosity about life and the range of things we can experience in our human form. I’m a creature of the senses, so for me, having a load of things I would love to experience before I die feels totally normal, even when those experiences step outside of what may be perceived as a normal range. I’ve always been a bit of a rebel anyway to be honest so that ‘normal’ thing, well it doesn’t really work for me!

Sensate focus, or more simply put, experiencing things directly through the body and the senses is a pretty animalistic thing to do. If we then add in the capacity we have as human beings to translate those sensory experiences into a fascinating analysis of the whole range of stuff available to us to try out, then why would we get so uptight about simply allowing ourselves to experience a massively wide range of new and different things? Throw in stuff that we perceive as sexual and there it gets tricky…we get stuck on the labels, the pre-conceptions and the judgements and our pleasure becomes guarded or mono-focussed. Our experiencing becomes about the ‘what would people think’ rather than the much healthier ‘what do I feel’?

Back to my session – one thing that became very noticeable for me as the session deepened and the surrender (there really is no other option here!) dropped into a kind of easeful grace, was the similarity of the places my mind can go to in my yoga practice. Some positions I was tied into were uncomfortable at times, and in those moments my mind got really active in its dialogue about how ‘this hurts’, ‘that feels awkward’, ‘this is hard’ and ‘I think I’ll just stop now’ etc, exactly the same messages I give myself in tricky yoga asanas! The difference here was the speed at which I let go of the mind chatter knowing I was forced to stay in that posture and had temporarily agreed to give up my choice in that decision. In yoga, as long as there’s a choice to stop the pose, when the monkey mind arises, and that can often happen, then I will huff and puff and stop. Here, knowing I couldn’t meant I dropped into stillness in a way I’ve never experienced before. The sweet spot we look for was so much easier to find as I just let go, and in doing so my body became Queen of my domain rather than my mind.

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My friend, the lovely gentleman who came to work with me, claims this work saves relationships and I can see why. It can lead you to unexplored and hidden parts of yourself. It can force you to face the stuff you don’t want to look at. He has tied couples together (albeit in their willingness) to try whatever they can to create turnaround in stagnating communication and a dying marriage. Imagine being tied in a tantric yab-yum position right up close to your partner’s eye level, skin to skin, soul to soul, no running, no hiding – it’s going to shift something right? And so it does.

Another observation in the course of his work is that people stuck in what we may call good old catholic sexual guilt often find that in the act of being tied up (i.e., you are no longer responsible for what happens to you) and in relinquishing ‘choice’ they can let go of that guilt. If they’re not the ones choosing pleasure and if pleasure happens to them, then it’s ok isn’t it? Well, starting somewhere in healing those old programs is always better than never starting in my view, and I found this to be a fascinating observation.

My friend came to all of this work through his own sexual and relationship healing journey, and hearing about it was inspiring; it has grown him exponentially. By being willing to acknowledge what wasn’t working in his life in these areas, and by holding his heart open to change, his path led him from blocked and distorted expressions of sexuality, to tantra and then to kink, rope and fire play.

Many people conflate tantra, kink and BDSM with being somehow perverted or wrong, new-age or tacky, and yet find a good educator or practitioner and healing sex, intimacy and relationship can be the greatest gift you will ever give yourself. Yes there’s a lot of bullshit out there, but trust your intuition, look for people who come recommended and be willing to keep an open mind. Personally, my whole life has been invested in the exploration (willingly and unwillingly) of sex and sexuality, and the tenderness, wholeness and love I now find in my personal and professional experiences moves me every single day.

For sure, sex is confusing, loaded with mixed messages, full of disappointment and abuse but it’s also powerfully connecting, healing and tender. It’s a place where we can truly connect with our divinity and it’s a place of potential and learning too if only we can accept and understand that everything in life has it’s shadow – it’s no different to work, or family, or friendships – it’s only ever about the awareness we bring to any of these things, not how we define and limit them.

At the end of my session my friend asked if I would like to try some ‘fire play’. Me being me, I had very little hesitation in giving a resounding yes, nervousness acknowledged! I see myself as an intrepid explorer and adventurer through life; I don’t know what I don’t know and until I experience something, how can I know how I feel about it, or whether my body and spirit enjoys it or not, after all it’s just another sensation to explore. Unless I attach a pre-judged label to it or assume fire means sex, or bondage means sex, or whatever means sex then it’s just the freedom to experience something new. It only means that if I, or the person playing with me negotiate that this can become sexual that it will, and that is exactly the same if I go into a bar, throw a glance over at an attractive (to me) person and smile. That smile doesn’t mean I want to have sex with you but it may mean, hey I like your smile or I love your style. It may mean I’d love to say hello and get to know you more, or it may mean, I appreciate you right now. All of this conscious sexuality and relationship stuff is exactly the same. A rope is a rope. A flame is a flame. My body is mine unless I choose to share it with you. My boundaries are there to be respected. It’s that simple and that clear!

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The warmth from the flames on my skin was so deeply soothing its hard to express how it all felt to be honest, save to say it was deliciously divine and as an experience you may just find you like, I recommend it.

**With fire and rope play it is ENORMOUSLY important you only work with someone who knows what they’re doing! Standard hardware rope is not suitable as the fibres can lodge in your skin, and with fire, there is a specific blend of alcohol and water necessary in order to not experience burns to your body or set fire to yourself or your home. These are NOT practices you can just try at home without any knowledge so please don’t!**

The Tao of Shibari (my friend’s Facebook page – click – it’s a live link remember!) is a newly established page but he will be adding to it regularly, so if you would like to know more, please follow his work over there. His website is also coming soon and I will add the link here when that’s ready. Meanwhile, do get in touch if you want to know more about this or any of the work I, or my colleagues are offering in the field of sexuality, relating and conscious kink, and remember…. “Let’s Talk”. 

 

Steph Magenta is a shamanic sexuality practitioner with over 25 years of experience in sexual freedom exploration, activism and campaigning. She is an experienced massage and bodywork therapist who works using the body as the main vehicle for healing and trauma release. Steph has trained with a wide range of truly inspiring teachers including Shakti Tantra, Northern Drum School of Shamanic Studies, Ya’acov Darling Khan and 5 Rhythms movement practice and many more. She is currently training as an Alchemy Of Breath, dynamic breath work practitioner. For more information about her work, you can visit her website at http://www.stephmagenta.com

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