by Caffyn Jesse – www.erospirit.ca
So much of the world outside and inside us militates against erotic aliveness. We become numb, turned-off, frozen. We may feel shut down and unwilling to cultivate and explore our erotic capacities. We may get stuck in habitual patterns of erotic expression that leave us yearning for something more. We may feel angry at partners who seem to act as gatekeepers to our erotic fulfillment.
Whether you are inside or outside of relationship, you deserve the joy you are capable of. With help, education, self-acceptance, healing and love, we can come home to the ecstasy that is our birthright.
The world needs this! In a world of environmental degradation, economic upheaval, inequality and violence, looking after our erotic well-being is a powerful – and empowering – act of resistance. Erotically alive people cannot be tyrannized. We cannot be squeezed into boxes, or convinced to hate those who are different from us. We know, with Barbara Deming, that “Our own pulse beats in every stranger’s throat, and also there within the flowered ground beneath our feet.” Erotically alive people find joy in the physical world. We are kin with plants, animals, fields and seas. We are at home in the wild.
Erotically alive people are empowered to drop out of consumer culture. We touch, savour and delight. We become playful. We make a conscious choice to live slowly and mindfully, engaging all our senses.
“In touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.” (From Audre Lorde: Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power)
In staggering numbers, we are sexually, physically and emotionally abused as children – betrayed by the adults we rely on to survive. In later years, many of us experience unwanted sex, rape, and sexual violence. We hurt other people. We frighten ourselves. We are hated and punished for our sexual choices. And when people don’t have sex by the rules (and that means almost everyone), the punishments are real and they are terrible. Simply living in a sex-negative culture – where desire is so often shamed – profoundly wounds this most sacred, secret part of us.
We can become numb, psychically and physically. We can disassociate from our erotic capacities. Some people experience chronic pelvic constriction and pain. Some have little or no feeling in their genitals. Some respond to arousal by “shutting down” emotionally or physically. Some of us become hypersexual. Some feel we can only be aroused by extreme experiences or violent fantasies that cut through the numbness and allow our erotic feelings to unfold. Shame about our histories, bodies, (dis)abilities, desires and needs keep us isolated and untouched. So often, eroticism becomes entwined with self-hatred. Our lives and loves are distorted by self-defeating behaviors, obsessions, compulsions, and painful attachments.
Jack Morin describes what happens when negative core beliefs distort erotic experiences. They disrupt our ability to accept sexual pleasure. They draw us into self-defeating situations. They can create overwhelming, intense compulsions and obsessions that we feel unable to resist. And they restrain us from developing our full potential – not just sexually, but in other areas as well (The Erotic Mind, p. 226).
Sexual healing begins with acceptance – both self-acceptance, and the unconditional positive regard of another person. With self-acceptance and loving touch, we can become re-embodied, and allow the fullness of our erotic capacities to unfold. Compassion and self-affirmation expand as we make small and large decisions that promote our own best interests and nourish our respect for self and others.
Morin invites us to ask “What would my eroticism be without self-deprecation and fear as guiding principles?”
The answers may be astounding!
COMING TO OUR SENSES
The beginning of “coming to our senses” as erotic beings is to recognize that intercourse with a beloved partner is only one of many hundreds of possibilities for erotic interaction. We can learn to be playful. We can let go of empty and habitual approaches to sex. Instead of being run by the “drunken monkey of the mind,” we can bring our attention to the sensual, physical world of shape, texture, movement, and the force of aliveness within us. “Coming to our senses” means becoming mindful of our skin, our heartbeat, our breath, and the amazing intricacy of all we touch, see, smell, hear and taste – including our own bodies, and those of our lovers and friends.
My teacher Joseph Kramer writes that as erotic educators we “assist individuals, couples and groups to be mindful of sex (to feel and to savor one’s own aroused body). We also assist individuals to sense the variety of their erotic feeling states, to note the different qualities in those erotic trance states, and to become aware of the benefits of those states. In this way, we can nourish ourselves and others with our sexual arousal. We can awaken wisdom–individual and communal–with our sexual arousal. We can expand our empathic capacities through the use of erotic trance states. We can use our erotic embodiment to unleash creativity and playfulness in ourselves and in others. We can love ourselves, others and the planet. We can mindfully evolve–both individually and communally. This is why somatic sex education is so crucial right now. Mindful learning of erotic yoga practices and erotic massage connects us to our selves, our partners, our communities and all of life. This erotic self knowledge is a crucial yet squandered resource in the human community.”
SENSATE FOCUS EXERCISES
Sensate Focus exercises are a series of specific exercises that can be used by all who wish to enhance our capacities for “coming to our senses.” The exercises are widely used in sex therapy with couples. They can be adapted for self-pleasuring.
It is suggested that people keep silent during these exercises, simply focusing on the sensations of touching and being touched. Intercourse and orgasm are not part of these exercises and should never be the goal of this work. Don’t go for arousal. Don’t get distracted by genitals, breasts or anal areas – explore elbows, knees and toes with equal care and attention. Use of a massage oil (unscented organic coconut oil is my favorite) can make this experience even sweeter. The ambient temperature needs to be quite warm. An electric heating pad can help the person being touched stay warm while inactive. (You may wish to buy a massage-table-sized electric heating pad – I use one in my practice and find it invaluable.)
THE FIRST STAGE OF SENSATE FOCUS: Allowing Wonder
Dedicate twenty minutes or more to simply touching your partner’s body with your hands and other body parts. Touch for your own pleasure. Start noticing, becoming sensitized to all the textures, temperatures and contours of the body while doing the touching. If you are being touched, simply be aware of the sensations. The person doing the touching can adopt a “beginner’s mind.” Touch as if you have no idea of moral or cultural categories that ascribe meaning to certain body parts. Allow your wonderment to unfold. Touch on the basis of what interests you, not on any guesses about what your partner likes or doesn’t like. (In traditional sensate focus exercises, genital touch is “prohibited” at this stage. I prefer to see genital touch integrated, without ever becoming a focus of the session.)
Do this exercise at least twice, for twenty minutes on separate days, before proceeding to stage 2.
THE SECOND STAGE OF SENSATE FOCUS: Reinforcing Pleasure
In the next stage of sensate focus, you again make a dedicated time to either giving or receiving touch. At this stage, you can add a “hand riding” technique as a means of nonverbal communication. By placing one hand on top of the partner’s hand while being touched, one can indicate if he or she would like more or less pressure, a faster or slower pace, or a change to a different spot. These nonverbal messages should be conveyed in such a way that the person being touched does not take over full control, but simply adds some additional input to the touching, which is still primarily done based on the interests of the toucher.
Do this exercise at least twice, for twenty minutes on separate days, before proceeding to subsequent stages.
SUBSEQUENT STAGES OF SENSATE FOCUS: Integrating the Whole Body
Subsequent stages of sensate focus involve touching with other parts of the body, as well as hands. People with pussies can rub their clitoral region, vulva and vaginal opening on a partner’s body. People with penises can use them inventively – whether they are hard or soft. Toes, elbows, buttocks and tongues can be used to touch ears, knees and anuses. Mutual touch can be explored. Outside the goal of arousal or intercourse, a universe of sensation unfolds. It often becomes possible to feel old wounds and explore resistances to erotic well-being. A couple can develop a large vocabulary for erotic pleasure in this simple way.
See Great Sex without Intercourse: Exploring the Erotic Galaxy
How to Get Sexual Confidence
Whether or not we have a lover – no matter what our age, sexual preferences or gender – we can live a more joyful, conscious life by learning how to consciously conjure erotic energy. We don’t have to wait until we have a lover, lose ten pounds, or heal all our wounds to feel sexual confidence and experience erotic embodiment. Sexological Bodyworkers and teachers Celeste and Danielle tell us how. Erotic embodiment is a way of life. It brings a sense of peace, and lets you flirt with the world. From the New School of Erotic Touch Website.
“Being touched is essential to our physical welfare, our emotional vitality, and our spiritual growth. However, none of us would thrive if our being touched remained dependent on the love of others – the love of our self is prerequisite….
Self-pleasuring is the foundation of our potential to love and be loved.
Self-administrated touch integrates, soothes or comforts, and gives us a psychologically fundamental sense of worthiness and competence – which is commonly called ‘self-esteem.’ It is the antidote to shame”
From the book Sexual Health and Erotic Freedom by Barnaby Barratt Ph.D.
SEX FOR ONE
For more than 30 years, Betty Dodson has been dedicated to taking the shame out of masturbation, showing it to be a vital and joyful form of sexual expression. In her classic book Sex for One, Dodson explains how anyone can learn to fully enjoy the pleasures of self-love, pointing out that masturbation is still the safest sex. While sweethearts and spouses come and go, you always can be your own best lover.
Dodson advocates the use of a vibrator for clitoral stimulation as an integral aspect of self-pleasuring and during partner sex. Her preferred vibrator is the Hitachi Magic Wand. This very strong – and rather loud – plug-in vibrator can be used for an hour or two without burning up or running down (in contradiction to the manufacturer’s directors, which suggest a 20-minute maximum). It can be laid into a pillow and “ridden” or applied to the clitoris while lying on the back. It is pleasurable to vibrate the entire body, from feet to crown – being careful to vibrate very tender areas, like the throat, only through your hand or several layers of cloth. Attachments are available to allow simultaneous penetration/vibration with the device.
Another vibrator that is excellent and very quiet is the battery-powered, waterproof “Mystic Wand” vibrator. A high-quality motor features six different vibration modes that let you choose from mild, strong, and stronger vibrations plus three pulse intensities.
For adding penetration to clitoral vibration, Betty Dodson suggests that women try out vegetables carved into different shapes to see how they fit before investing in a dildo. She adds a whole new dimension to the produce aisle by seeing it as the place she can pick out a lover for the night.
For men, an excellent toy is the Fleshlight. It looks like a flashight on the outside, but inside a soft silicone sleeve feels like flesh. You can choose anal or vaginal-style openings. The nice thing about a fleshlight is that you can secure it to a table at penis-level, and thrust into it with your hands free. This form of masturbation can be a dance and heart-opening meditation that connects you with your body’s capacity for extended pleasure.
MEDITATION WITH MASTURBATION
Artist and sex educator Annie Sprinkle talks about her practice of combining meditation with masturbation. She calls the practice: “Medabation”. See her demonstrate the practice on video (available on line at the New School of Erotic Touch).
EVOLUTIONARY MASTURBATION FOR MEN
“What part of the male anatomy gets the most touch with the least creativity? If you want to expand what is erotically possible, this class will teach you more than twenty innovative masturbation strokes that awaken self-love, creativity and heightened pleasure. The class also explores cock reflexology, self-massage, solo sex magic, erotic breathing rhythms and prolonging orgasm.”
You can also find extensive resources on anal pleasures at the New School of Erotic Touch, including anal pleasures during masturbation.
Many women worry that they are not orgasmic, or not orgasmic “enough,” or that they do not orgasm quickly enough, often enough, or long enough. Recent attention to female ejaculation has added a whole new category for women to worry about. Men with also worry that they orgasm too quickly or too slowly, or that they cannot separate orgasm from ejaculation. Transgender people have more worries to add – that they cannot orgasm “correctly” with constructed genitalia. All these worries seem to me to be part of the self-defeating patterns of anti-eroticism imposed on us by a sex-negative culture.
SOME TIPS FOR THE NON-ORGASMIC
If you have a clitoris, vibrate it with a good-quality electric vibrator like the Hitachi Magic Wand or the “Mystic Wand” vibrator. Use the vibrator during partner sex. (This is not cheating! Research shows that women who use vibrators to orgasm are also more likely to orgasm in other ways.)
Take your time. The number one reason why women do not orgasm is that they don’t spend enough time pleasuring the whole clitoral complex.
If you have a penis, understand that you can experience orgasm without erection and ejaculation.
Come to your senses – let the sensations of touching and being touched fill your body and quiet your mind.
Use lots of oil or lube (oil dissolves latex, so be sure to use non-latex condoms and gloves when you use oil).
Find, read and watch erotica that stimulates sexual feeling.
Fantasize! Your fantasies are safe places to explore the unlived life and the unacknowledged parts of the self.
Expand the definition of orgasm. Include all sensations of “climax,” fulfillment and release – both inside and outside of genital sex.
Explore the joys of non-orgasmic sexuality
Celeste and Danielle comment, “To awaken the center of your eroticism, you must breathe deep into the parts of your body from which your most erotic energy is generated. The breath is an inner masseuse that connects us with our intelligence, voice, empathy, power, and passion, while at the same time bringing all of these important aspects of our selves together.”
The following exercises can help with the process of bringing mindful attention to the erotic aliveness that pulses within us.
“KISS THE EARTH” BREATH
Close your eyes and turn inward to feel your heartbeat, or attend to another pulsation in your body. Find the rhythm. Measure the duration of your in breath and your out breath according to this pulse. Modify your breathing pattern to equalize the number of beats in inhalation and exhalation. On the in breath, let the air press down into your pelvic floor, so that it flexes out, kissing the earth. On the out breath, let your pelvis spring back up, as you attend to the sensations. Continue ten or more minutes with an occasional Kegel (squeeze of the PC muscles, as if to stop yourself from peeing) on the exhale.
Variation: Add two beats to the inhalation and exhalation. After a few minutes, add two more beats. Continue adding beats up to the resilient edge of resistance. Effort is fine, but strain is counterproductive.
CHARGING HANDS BREATH
Sitting with eyes closed, hold your hands with the palms facing each other and about 6 inches apart. When you inhale, imagine energy coming up from the core of the earth, through your perineum/root chakra, up the centre of your body and out the top of your head. On the out breath, visualize energy travelling back down through the top of your head, down your neck, through the shoulders, through the arms and into the hands. After some time, note that you are holding a ball of energy held between your hands, a ball that becomes more and more charged, glowing and bright. Repeat 50 times.
With eyes closed, being very aware of any sensation – or warmth or coolness, of push or pull, tingling:
Slowly separate and move your palms back and forth toward each other about an inch.
Come to stillness.
Move one hand up and the other down, back and forth.
Come to stillness.
Move them around each other.
Come to stillness.
Very, very, very slowly, bring the palms together. Be aware of the moment before, during and after they first touch. Let the hands stroke each other for a minute, and then touch your face.
Begin by paying attention to sensation in the feet, and gradually come up through the entire body to the head. Immerse yourself in awareness of a particular sensation. Imagine the sensation is expanding from the centre outward, throughout your whole body and then your energy field.
Written by Caffyn Jesse
Salt Spring Island, Canada
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