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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Boundaries, it’s all about the boundaries

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Today sees your hostess discussing boundaries. It’s been on my mind a fair bit this last week, ever since my weekend immersion in a conscious kink workshop to be fair, but beyond that, something I’ve been reflecting on beyond that most obvious reason.

Boundaries are something we should all naturally foster only it’s not quite that simple is it? If we’ve been abused or violated in our formative years our sense of holding good, clear boundaries may be diminished and is often something we really have to work at. If our self esteem is poor, we may be inclined to allow more than is good for us to pass our very permeable no-go line. If we’ve been hurt, our boundaries may be too rigid, forged more from armour than from a healthy knowing of what we desire to let in, and if we’ve been conditioned by the strong opinions of those closest to us, then we may know that something does or does not feel right for us, but feel confusion when that doesn’t fit with those conditioned responses.

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Some kinds of conditioning are easier to spot than others, however just because it’s obvious, that doesn’t mean it will have any more or less impact on our lives as we confront what doesn’t work for us. It can be tough to break free from generational or societal boundaries which have been placed upon us when we come to realise something isn’t sitting right with us. For most of us, religion, sex, gender, class and culture are where our greatest boundary challenges lie. Self awareness is the thing that will save us – radical, deep and lasting self knowing. Knowing who you are will save you a whole lot of heartache and suffering, and being willing to remain open to change will also help!

I’ve seen a lot of people challenged lately – challenged in their inner worlds, challenged to hold their centre in the midst of turbulence and confusion, and challenged by their exterior circumstances too. The way to deal with that from where I’m sitting seems to be to really keep our boundaries strong whilst holding our hearts open at the same time…paradox? Not at all – a saving grace in fact! But what happens when we have no idea what those boundaries are, why we have them, or have no consistency in maintaining them? We become like ships on a stormy sea at the mercy of the tides and the winds; rudderless, without a map and confused, in fact it’s fair to say we’re not even steering our own ship any more.

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So how do we find and maintain healthy boundaries? We practice, and sex, relationship and intimacy are one fantastic place to practice all of this stuff! Any relationship will do this for us, some more than others, but rather than enter into them all waiting until your boundaries are royally tested, why not get some practice in beforehand.

One of the best places to explore this I’ve ever come across is in fetish and kink spaces where the invisible needs to be made visible fast, and so negotiating boundaries clearly and openly is crucial. Without this, violations easily happen and this is where trauma sets in, however most of us have been traumatised around boundaries for years without even knowing how or why.

At my recent kink weekend, one of the key exercises was the ‘yes/no/maybe’ game. In this game, you get to practice setting your boundaries with another person by exploring clearly a range of possibilities to may want to try out. Staying open, you just get to trust your natural instincts and respond a partner you’re paired up with in the moment – it may sound like this –  ‘yes, keep going’ ‘maybe….but not like that’ or a ‘no, that’s a definite no for me’, and if you’re with a person (or you’re the person) who can’t find their/your no, then how can you trust their/your yes?

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So boundaries emerge from exploration and openness, self love and trust, integrity and self awareness. They don’t usually emerge in a healthy way from conditioning and fear, ignorance or shame, guilt or repression, so it makes sense that these aren’t the places where you will be able to find and hold yours in any way that is likely to bring you lasting contentment and peace of mind.

Ok, not everyone will want to get kinky to find their boundaries (boo!) but however you decide to find yours, just be sure you are supported, you trust the people you explore with, and you see those people emulating the kind of healthy boundaries you aspire to.

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To discover more:

http://www.schooloferoticmysteries.com

http://www.seanilove.com

http://rosieheart.com

http://sacredpleasures.co.uk

http://newmanalexander.com

http://barbaracarrellas.com


What We Resist Persists.

3721a9d64927362a60afa1735989a6e3When your inner world is like a Sumo wrestling match.

I was in a breath work session this morning as part of my teacher training with the Alchemy Of Breath  – an amazing body of teachings I highly recommend and endorse. It’s over a year since I first experienced the healing power of the breath in this way, and still, it blows me away and takes me by surprise on each session. The times when I expect nothing, I often experience great breakthroughs, and paradoxically, the times I expect the breakthroughs, I may experience a much softer, lighter journey, and perhaps that in itself is the breakthrough…

In today’s session, breathing into my restlessness and a few body aches and pains, I began to observe something….that deep down in my body, emotion was surfacing, at first anger in my belly which quickly transformed into grief. What was this beyond the pure feeling? Without questioning in the moment, I just continued to breathe as a series of memory flashbacks presented themselves to me, like fleeting impressions of times long gone, nevertheless vivid and seemingly unconnected. I recalled a moment when I’d been locked out of my own home by a greedy landlord who refused to give me any of my belongings back. I recalled a moment when I experienced over a prolonged period, eczema like rashes over my eyelids, never knowing when it would come or why it was there. It left after many, many years as silently as it arrived, but here it was again, showing itself to me. I recalled a moment when my first ever boyfriend cheated on me with my best friend of the time, and in each of the memories surfacing, I began to notice a thread linking them all together – the moments when my skin became that little bit thicker. My tough-as-nails exterior covering a soft and vulnerable interior world.

I began to track these moments and that thread holding them complicit in some part of my psyche, and I discovered a great fear of loss which had manifested in a way I had never actually brought to full awareness before; that of always holding something back in my relating, born of this deep, root chakra primal fear that I would lose it anyway, so I’d better prepare for the worst and hold some back in reserve! This was a major breakthrough for me.

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What I also learnt about myself is that many of these repressed feelings will try and surface, or will surface regardless of my desire to contain them, in other ways, in less clean and less conscious ways. I also realised with a great ‘a-ha!’ that my journey through sexual freedom and sexual expression has a large and significant place in this process. Through sex and in particular through tantra and kink, I have found myself able to explore shadow parts of myself and in doing so, reclaim my power, re-connect to that which was lost. In some ways I realised this is why I’ve often been afraid of surrendering to this as my life’s work – because of the very fact that I would have to face my shadows in those connections, and the ego does a great job of protecting me from that. I also realised that I no longer need protecting from that as this journey of discovery is now a ship at which I am firmly and most securely at the helm. I control the speed at which I go, the direction and timing of when to set sail, when to dock, when to risk choppy seas and when to rest on the shore for a while. The pain has become my medicine.

When we resist our personal shows, or demons, or call them what you will, in general they simply find other ways out. Controlling behaviour, manipulating behaviour, hiding, running away, denial, numbing out, and more. The range is as limitless as the original feeling may be, but we can thank these parts that have endeavoured to keep us safe, and recognise that they are not the sum of us, they never were, they are just the guardians and protectors of some old, core wounds and have done us a great service in many ways…as long as they don’t take up residency and dominate the landscape that is.

Life does not have to look or feel like a Sumo wrestling match between your perceived ‘good’ side or ‘bad’ side, your shadow and your light, but more that it’s the place where these aspects meet that really holds our freedom. If you are curious about what breath work can do for you, Alchemy of Breath host weekly online breath webinars, or you can work one to one or in groups with trained facilitators. If you are curious about exploring your shadow through your sexuality, again, there are teachers and facilitators I recommend for this kind of work. Please get in touch about either of these to learn more. Meanwhile, go find your balance and embrace your vulnerability….it will likely hold the treasure you seek.

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Tied Up In Knots

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My tantalising taste of Shibari.

This weekend just gone, I got to tick off a bucket list wish thanks to a friend of mine who offers Shibari, an ancient Japanese form of rope bondage.

“The origin of Shibari comes from Hojo-jutsu, the martial art of restraining captives. In Japan from 1400 to 1700, while the local police and Samurai used Hojo-jutsu as a form of imprisonment and torture, the honor of these ancient Samurai warriors required them to treat their prisoners well. So, they used different techniques to tie their prisoners, showing the honor and status of their captured prisoner.

In the late 1800′s and early 1900′s a new form of erotic Hojo-justu evolved, called Kinbaku, the art of erotic bondage. Today, particularly in the west, the art of erotic bondage is typically called Shibari, which is an art of erotic spirituality, not a martial art.”

So whilst originally this form originates from a martial art, it’s now become synonymous with an eroticised practice of being held in a sensual and vulnerable space, allowing the mind to still and the body to surrender.

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I’ve wanted to experience this for a while now, loving both the visual beauty of it, and the idea of exploring complete and safe surrender in this way. To me, it’s no different than my desire to also experience plant medicines, shamanism, trance dance, floatation tanks (another thing I am currently loving!) and more, insofar as it speaks to the many parts of my desire to experience my human form and consciousness in as many ways as possible. That doesn’t mean foolishly, or naively, it means with conscious intention, safe practice and trust in the person, place or thing that will be holding me in my exploration.

Kinky folk will (hopefully) already understand the importance of negotiating boundaries and consent. Tantric folk will (hopefully) already know the importance of breath, presence and voice, and people who are present to their own self identity and how that’s been constructed will hopefully know their personal limits and be able to navigate around these well. Personally speaking, I trust myself, and I trust in my instinct and ability to ask the questions that will lead me to a yes/no/maybe call in any situation where I am either handing over, or taking power over mine or someone else’s experiences for a moment or three.

Now, back to my bucket list – Shibari was most definitely on it and had been for some time since I first saw it at the Night Of The Senses Erotic Awards Ball in 2012. Having experienced a small moment of this wonderful art at the weekend, it’s now staying on my ‘try that one again’ list!

This weekend, when the opportunity to ask for what I wanted (within a particular context) came about, and I happened to know I was in a group with a person who offers Shibari, I found the voice to put out my question – “I’ve wanted to experience this for a long time, do you have a yes to offer that to me tonight?” The answer was affirmative; my heart leapt a little inside, my cells got very excited and I took a deep breath, nervousness and excitement collided inside me. Those moments when a dream is about to be realised are well worth savouring.

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It’s important to say here that not everyone is ‘safe’ in this kinky, tantric, sexual adventuring world. If the person you are facing doesn’t have the first clue about negotiating your boundaries, discussing informed consent, or conduct themselves in a way that is respecting of you or others in their day to day demeanour, stay well away! Seriously, I cannot stress this enough…there’s a ton of shadow in this world, and you really don’t need to rub up against that when exposing your vulnerability. Find communities of practice where consent is not just a glib ‘are you ready then’? but is more of a complex set of negotiations that take time, that co-create a safe system and therefore space in which to explore, and if that’s in place – have fun!

So back to my experience: As the ropes started to surround and encase me, their soft fibres (please don’t use ordinary DIY rope as the fibres can get embedded into the skin and they’re not designed for rope play) taught against my skin, I could feel a feeling I can only describe as being like a long out breath – I guess this was the beginning of the ‘surrender’ if you like. The more the rope tightened, the more bound I felt, the more I let go. I began to feel very still internally, my mind chatter was disappearing fast, and my breath became slow, steady and effortlessly rhythmic. This experience was a gift from the practitioner to me – the person holding the space was offering their skill and knowledge to totally create this space for me, and I loved that. Yes, it was an erotic experience for sure, but it’s not really what it’s all about, this surrendering works on so many levels, as does eroticism in general. It’s definitely an experience I hope to repeat for much longer very soon. I don’t easily let go of control, so Shibari for me was a perfect way to do this, to drop into the releasing of responsibility and explore instead my response-ability. I recommend this work highly…..mmmmmnnnnn, I really do!

In Shibari, the giving is selfless and yet the experience is one of mutual pleasure and so captivated was I by this profound feeling, that I intend to learn more. I’m seeking out lessons so that I can offer this to others too, because in having seen and felt the beauty and purity of that held surrender, I think many others would love it too. The photo below is my first set of practice knots on a willing volunteer’s arm and I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out. Rope bondage doesn’t have to be this complex to be effective by the way, and if exploring with someone, always be respectful of the person for whom you are holding that space of letting go; re-traumatising people by being a dickhead is not cool – ever!

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Bucket lists are great; they are things that get to teach you about yourself. They can teach you about your comfort zones and how to go beyond them. They can teach you things about yourself you never knew, both in getting to see your unknown potential and in realising also when you don’t want what you thought you wanted at all – in other words, experiencing life this way is your teacher, and as one workshop participant so succinctly put it “every moment is a guru

Play safe, be kind, love more, reject judgement, be open to life and to other people’s experience of life and go live well. Oh…and do get yourself tied up in knots from time to time!


Did you see what he/she/they did there…

635903228801749258-748903870_image-genderqueerGender Fluidity and what it means.

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately; it’s my new thing. I’m literally flooding my system with as much knowledge around sexuality, intimacy and relating as I can in order to turbo charge my work, and of course to make myself as aware as possible about life in order to be the best human being I can possibly be. I’ll list a few of my favourites at the end of this post, but for now, I want to talk about gender and why we get so hung up on it. Why can women wear suits but put a man in a dress and he’ll likely come in for all kinds of abuse. Why can men go topless on a hot day but when a women does the same it’s “indecent” – just why?

I was watching an episode of Naked Attraction recently, it’s a dating programme where all participants are, well…naked! so the person choosing their date is doing so on pure, raw, naked attraction. I rarely watch television, but I’d turned on one evening to relax after a particularly challenging day, and there was this funky blue haired woman, describing herself as ‘pansexual’ and choosing from 6 potential partners based on her pre-outlined preferences. These people are at first concealed and then little by little revealed as the contestant doing the picking evaluates how they feel in response to what they see. The blue haired woman had 2 men, 2 women, 1 woman transitioning to be a man and 1 man transitioning to be a woman in her ‘boxes’. The two people in transition were at different stages of hormone treatment and their bodies reflected this part way stage.

72abc375595657e5a6390f8d1eb4d3f5.pngHere is the woman in question with the male to female transition contestant who was one of the final two from whom she chose her date. This woman’s attitude was that love and attraction go way beyond gender norms or what society dictates that a body should look like or a male or female should behave like or present themselves as. I got excited by TV for the first time in a long time! A mainstream channel offering alternative ways of viewing gender and sexuality, and in a good, strong way? Yes!

It’s interesting to me as so many of us have experienced trauma around our sexual expression or the physical representations of our gender (or chosen gender). Children born with genitalia that don’t fit one gender or the other (in the past known as hermaphrodites, now known as intersex), were operated on without consent to make them one clear gender or the other, often with dire consequences for that person in the shaping of their identity and the conflicting experiences, emotions, thoughts and feelings that decision brought in its wake.

So here for your help are some commonly used terms that you may or may not be aware of, and what they mean, shared because the more we own ourselves and inform ourselves, hopefully the less likely others are to suffer as a result of our ignorance:

CIS gender – a person who lives in alignment with the gender they were assigned at birth. This term came about as a result of non-binary (ie., male or female being the only options) gender people being tired of being ‘othered’, in other words, let’s create a space where there is no ‘other’ or outsider.

Intersex – a person born with reproductive organs that don’t easily fit into standard expectations of one sex or the other, and who may be influenced by those hormones and chromosomes (and let’s not forget choices) to have many different aspects of their sexuality present in life.

Trans – trans is an umbrella term used to describe people with a gender identity and /or gender expression different to their sex assigned at birth. It may be used to encompass many identities that are outside of a cisgender identity. Transgender may not be the same as transexual. Trans people can be lesbian, gay, bi, straight, pansexual, etc.

Transexual – when a person chooses to use a combination of things like hormone replacement and/or surgery or other to fully transition into becoming the sex not assigned to them at birth.

LGBT – an umbrella term for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender which encompasses the many and varied expressions of our sexual communication and experience.

Pansexual – not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity. Pansexual people are usually open to any partner of any sexual determination.

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Many trans people prefer the pronoun ‘they’ to describe them rather than the binary use of he or she. Our sexuality is so often compartmentalised into binary determinations that it becomes really hard for people who do not sit within that experience. For me, binary expression is dangerous and can lead to serious abuse towards what is perceived as ‘different’ or ‘other’, remember the awful case of the trans person assaulted in a McDonalds washroom for using the toilets designated as women’s? A real and horribly violent reaction to prejudice, bigotry and judgement surfacing as a result of ignorance and fear.

What can you do? You can ask a person by which pronoun do they choose to be referred to. Do NOT ask them highly personal and sensitive questions like “so what parts have you got now?” or “so how far are are you” – these kind of questions are insensitive, offensive and inappropriate in the extreme. We are all entitled to sexual privacy! Never ‘out’ a person by thinking it’s ok to gossip about their process, or share images of them as they were or are, if you have no idea how ‘out’ they are or wish to be. Take your head out of your own a$$ and think outside that box! Gender is not something fixed and static….most of us have a range of feelings and experiences here, and sadly much of that has become co-opted and overtly sexualised by the mainstream. You only have to think about how many men want to see their female partners ‘get off’ with another woman, just for thrills to know that, and it’s not that there’s an inherent problem with that of course, but there most definitely is a problem if the person lusting after that experience is being a judgemental bigot when it comes to any other person’s sexual choices not being the same as theirs.

Educate yourself: There are many resources online where you can learn more. There’s no harm in not knowing as long as you are willing to be open to learning more. Everyone starts somewhere. Explore your own prejudices and perhaps your own sexuality more.

Here’s a couple of podcasts I recommend:

http://www.pleasuremechanics.com/the-podcast/

https://tantrapunk.com/category/podcast/

Challenge gender stereotyping, call b/s when you hear it, and reject violence of thought, word and action.

Talk more! Opening dialogue creates communities of understanding.

Thanks for joining me today, leave me your comments and chat and “let’s talk” – SM.

 


6 Simple Keys To Intimacy

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And how to apply them daily…

Life is a magical, beautiful journey of soul and spirit. Sometimes gnarly and tricky, sometimes easeful and gracious, but always full of contrast, and it is these contrasts which allow us to grow.

What can we learn in the avoidance of pain or suffering? We may learn how to protect our vulnerable hearts but we certainly won’t learn how to expand into them. We may become adept at the avoidance of confronting our fears and escaping our triggers, but in doing so we will never learn mastery over them, so what do we do? We embrace being human and we embrace imperfection. We recognise this dance between light and dark, summer and winter, ease and struggle, effort and grace. We honour our lessons and how they present themselves to us, and we bow down to our teachers in all of their forms. In this way of truth, and only in this way, can we begin to discover true intimacy.

True intimacy is not the avoidance of pain or the rejection of imperfection, but the allowing of it all; the entire palette of life – gloriously imperfect life! We allow the cracks which are here to teach us how to let in the light, and we bow to life’s technicolor imaginings.

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I’m currently reading the Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche, inspired by Shakti Sundari’s daily readings of them in my Facebook newsfeed. These sutras are the foundations of the sanskrit tantric teachings in their most ancient forms. How beautiful they are; exquisitely poignant with a bittersweet beauty transmitted in their mystery, and I am hooked. I am in the falling in love phase of my relationship with them and it’s exciting!

Words are to me like good pornography may be to others…they are erotic and exciting, tantalising and enticing, and the Sutras remind me of the full potency of life.

My mother taught me the pleasures of language and words. Every day from the age of one, she read aloud a new word from the Thesaurus, and at bedtime would choose to read us the dark and wonderful tales of classic Greek mythology instead of modern children’s books. As a result of her love of language and her natural desire to share that, by the time I entered pre-school, my literacy levels were strong and the seeds of my passion were sown, and it’s a love affair that has lasted – I love words, they turn me on!

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So, here with this theme of unbridled, unrestrained erotic joy for life are some of my basic tips for increasing intimacy in yours…

  1. Slow down! Really slow down. Do you know what that feels like or even means? It means to relish the myriad of delights presenting to you in any moment, to be present to them and to be able to sit with them without thought of the next moment or thing interrupting and cauterising the experience you are having right here, right now.
  2. Learn to live well in that moment by truly understanding that it’s all we ever have. It becomes easier to do that as you get older; something about the closer proximity of death I think, the increased awareness of the value of a mortal life. When pulled out of the moment, use the breath to come back to it – over and over and over.
  3. Become a great listener, and I mean really listen. Don’t listen with a response brewing even as you listen. Don’t listen with your defences at the ready. Just listen and learn to receive another human being’s experience into your own, asking only “how can I meet you in this place in which you are?”
  4. Know sex is not the same as intimacy but that it can be! Value tenderness, communication and connection as much as a ‘sexy’ body or the goal of an earth shattering climax. Be willing to learn how to make love by simply putting love into the space between you, and once it’s there, sex and intimacy can have any face you like.
  5. Detox from technology as a regular devotional practice and instead pick up a book, go for a walk, meet a friend, have a difficult conversation or a joyful one, but just switch off from comparison and not-enoughness. Regularly switching off from EMFs also helps the body to come back into balance which will massively help grow intimacy – win-win!
  6. Breathe more deeply and consciously because the breath truly is “the greatest medicine and the greatest nutrient” available to us and it’s free! the union of