I’m ready to remove fear from our conversations on pleasure. I’m ready to work to help others heal their trauma, to rewrite their scripts, to enter into relationship consciously, to both seek out pleasure beyond sexuality, and to dive into bliss within sexuality. To use eroticism to generate compassion and love. I’m ready to stop infusing my touch with Worry. I’m ready to live in world where every single persons autonomy is respected, valued, and all touch is touch that is desired, wanted and needed. I’m ready to take touch off the pressure cooker of Only Within Sexual Containers and even then Not The Touch I Was Looking For. I’m ready to bring consensual, enthusiastic Happy Touch into my life, into the world.
I’m ecstatic to be on the forefront of this new healing modality. I’m ecstatic to change the landscape of touch interactions in our culture. Let’s bring pleasure, delight and bliss back into our bodies. Follow the Happy Touch Movement on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“How would you like to be touched?”
The Happy Touch Movement is a global phenomenon. Pleasure is your birthright. Consensual and pleasurable touch is an inherent component of our wellbeing and thriving health. Every body is capable of experiencing ecstatic joy and abundant bliss. We are committed to changing the landscape of pleasure; in your body, in your relationships, in the cities and cultures around us.
With training and tools from The Somatic Sex Educators Association, the Institute of Sexuality Education & Enlightenment, the International Professional Surrogates Association, and the brilliant Betty Martin, Happy Touch offers workshops, services for individuals and couples, and group retreats; all with the goal of bringing more pleasure into your life.
Our work is client-centred, trauma-informed and encompasses one-way touch (the practitioner is always fully clothed and only uses their hands). We use research from scientific studies, the innate wisdom of the bodies biology and physiology, communication and boundary exercises, embodiment practices, playfulness, consensual touch, and relaxation techniques to aid you in building and enhancing your daily experience of pleasure and happiness.
I have felt the build up of unwanted touch stick to me and follow me for weeks, an infringement on my personhood. The texture of my body not being My Body, and pulling all resources I could find within myself to rebuild and defend my boundaries.
And in this acknowledgement, I also want to acknowledge that I have been on the other side of the coin. I have been the person to take advantage, to cross boundaries, to touch in ways that were not spoken about or agreed upon beforehand. I have felt the looming weight of understanding that I was the person to make someone else feel unsafe, and knowing that as much as I apologized and held myself accountable, I can’t take back that experience for the other person. Messages given to me by a culture I hadn’t had a chance to critically analyze, nor knew how to do so. Messages that because I was a small, female human, that I could touch in whatever ways I wanted to touch; that my touch could never be predatory.
I am now a person who has been professionally trained to touch people for a living. I can see how much information and education is missing from our culture, from our systems. How my assaulters were acting in accordance with the only examples of masculinity and touch interactions given to them. How even if they didn’t feel good about how they were acting, the actions for alternative engagement had not been provided to them. I see my acquiescence, my enduring, my tolerating, and not understanding how my voice in certain situations could be the pillar for personal autonomy as it is now. So often I didn’t even know my assault was happening until years later in reflection… and if I didn’t know it was happening, the chances are high my assaulter didn’t either.
This is not all interactions, this is not everyones experience. This is just a particular expression of this particular learning and noticing. I want to be accountable to myself, I want to showcase that these actions of my past allow me to be the person who chooses to facilitate consent workshops, who chooses to not let those experiences fade into the background as Mistakes I Made, but Grand Learnings that Ensure there will be Love in My Actions moving forward.
The most effective teaching of consent structures I have found is the Wheel of Consent by the eminent Betty Martin. Betty offers numerous free resources on her website, bettymartin.org — To those who are asking how they can do better, how they can be accountable, I would highly recommend checking out this diagram.
An excerpt I posted in June 2017 after my training with the International Professional Surrogates Association…
This is Lyron. Lyron has been my practice partner for my training with IPSA (the International Professional Surrogates Association) and has consented to me sharing this.
Lyron is 50 years old. He has a teenage daughter. He used to be a Jehovah’s Witness minister (he no longer practices any religion). Needless to say, he and I come from two very different places.
This training is intense. Everyday Lyron and I engaged in various sorts of activities that were a progression of intimate exercises designed to build up a relationship between us. We were partnered together based on nothing but our coinciding orientations (I am queer – open to everybody, Lyron is a straight man).
As Lyron generously, sensitively navigated a wall I was keeping around myself – a guard, a protection. I asked him, coming to almost the end of our training, what his perception of me was. His answers were genuine, and also tentative. We were lying in bed together, fully clothed, trying to figure out the thing that wasn’t quite working. He felt as if he was walking on eggshells, hoping he would not accidentally ignite a trigger point he was unaware of. He didn’t want to be a source of upset for me and yet felt like he couldn’t avoid it.
I feel like I have gone through a therapeutic bootcamp. My brain and my heart feel like they have been lifting weights for 12 days straight and here we are at the end of it all. If you were to talk to me before this training, I wouldn’t have seen any of the things that wound up being sources of inhibition, resistance, hesitation… Hostility.
Outside of this training, I know that continuing in my day to day in my comfortable little cozy bubble in Toronto, I would not have recognized how deeply hurt I continue to be by the actions of “men” – this immense generalization and hostility towards any desire or attention that does not fit the boxes of what I have marked as “appropriate” or by the people I have not chosen; ignoring the humanity of the person from which it is coming. Just because it is not perfect for me does not mean there were any ill intentions.
This man is extraordinary. This training is not easy to get into and even harder to go through. It shook everything I thought I knew about myself and hung it up to dry, staring me down in the blazing heat of California. He said to me this morning, self-reflectively, “How are others making meaning of me?”
It is such a beautiful question, and I feel so guilty for ever assuming anything but good intentions, respect and appreciation. In his hesitation with me, I saw all of my history with people who are cis-men come pouring out of my interactions; and even with the compassion that is burning inside me, I am defensive, I am scared, I am not giving others the meaning I hope to be making. I do not want to continue to vilify ‘men.’ I do not want to continue to assume the worst of someone just because of their gender identity; especially knowing that gender is mostly a social construct.
I am a woman, and although I identify as queer, most of my intimate and sexual interactions are with men; inside me is a arduous affection, and also a well of experiences that have left an impression that results in a hostility; resulting in my coming across to others how I do not want to come across.
I have the strength to do better.
We have heard story upon story of surrogate-client relationships over the past 12 days. The majority of which have been with men as clients and a female as the surrogate.
I want to do this work to heal where others are hurting. I cannot do this work if I cannot find compassion for my clients; the clients who will most likely be men, the clients who do not know how to flirt or socialize or kiss or communicate feelings.
This training has opened my heart, it has opened my eyes. And I am in immense gratitude to this man who has stuck with me through all of it, who has been receptive to my hesitation and resistance. He came towards me gently and with caution and in this I was able to see myself clearly through his eyes. He has been fierce for me, and I hope to do the same for others. He has been a pillar to my growth and I will never forget this bizarre and magical 12 day training with him.
Day 1: Our classroom is a plounge couch. The four of us sprawl while our generous and kind-hearted teacher imparts years of wisdom on us.
We take each other’s histories and only touch the surface of who we are, wishing we had more time.
We decorate our binders in stickers and eat popcorn while we watch a documentary. We learn the importance of calling ourselves “Surrogate Partners” not “Sex Surrogates” because it has very little to do with actual genital sex when it comes down to it (compared to the social, emotional, and intimate learning components).
The day ends and I call my partner back home and cry some more and do some things that need to get done, worrying about time and self-care amidst this intensive.
I go back downstairs to find dinner ready and everyone jubilantly drinking by a fire outside.
It is a very good group of humans.
Day 2: The simplicities and complexities of touch; how histories lie in our bodies and how to navigate trauma, fears, and shame within the surrogate partnership. How important it is to stay in your pleasure, otherwise this work will not work. I am in awe of the power of this process, the immense amount of love and presence that must come with it.
Day 3, 4 & 5: STC’s and contraception, anatomy & physiology. We recognize what relaxing feels like in the body and how to teach others to notice it.
We lightly drag our fingers around our partners faces for our own pleasure. It is to help them notice sensation and to model how to touch.
The next day we undress. A brave woman in her 60s runs our body image exercise. She is nervous but certain; she gives of herself generously and we are all captivated. Completely naked, we give the histories of our bodies.
We do more Touching For Our Pleasure and receive this Touch from others. In these exercises, we learn to feel touch that is not how we would touch. We learn to feel pleasure where we might not know to look.
The next day our relationships escalate. We are fully nude and fully body touching. The boundary between acquaintance and lover is crossed from long distances; but there is no insincerity, the relationship develops in the stages they have supplied. It is a dynamic with another person I have never had in my life and navigation is difficult and messy.
In between exercises we listen to stories. Stories upon stories upon stories. I am rapt with stories and what learning they contain. I begin to recognize that this work is for those who need it most. This work is not for easy pleasures or simple solutions. This work is for those who cannot touch. For those who it might take years to achieve a goal. For those whose pasts are dense and never knew how to move forward.
Day 6: Three men stare into the depths of my pussy to see a cervix up close and personal. It is my first time seeing my cervix, too. It looks, hysterically, like the head of a penis. I show my practice partner my vulva and go through the anatomy, the history, the feelings. I show him how I touch myself and invite him to explore. He does the same for me with his penis.
Day 7: It is a day off and we have a family outing to a nearby beach. It is overcast but warm. It is reflective but social. It is much needed and well used.
We live together, there is little separation. Each night we all eat together. Sometimes we watch a movie. I kind of feel like I’m on a Reality TV show but there are no cameras and the drama is pretty much non-existent; everyone is a lovely human.
Day 8: These weird little dynamics of our partnership are at pressure points. The time and place where we cross from the easy places of caressing, into the harder places of genital touch and arousal. We touch to touch, we touch for our pleasure, we touch for the other persons pleasure. A lot of feelings come up; feelings that we have to examine and dig into and “therapize” ourselves; the ultimate goal is to be as mindful and aware of our own reactions and the effect we are bringing to this dynamic. It is hard. It is reading my body, my brain, my feelings in ways I have never even considered. This person who is not chosen, this person who is not client, this person who is very close now all of a sudden. This is the work we seek out to do when we leave this training. How to be genuine, how to be in your pleasure, and be a sensitive partner.
Day 9: I realize that we have just undergone a very systematic training to be very good at sex – it is foreplay, but the concept of foreplay is silly, so it is sex, but with no penetration. We are allowed to create our own sessions with our partners based on everything we have done so far, the only rule is that we cannot go further. There are resistances, there are conversations, there are touches. This is a most fascinating and bizarre experience. My brain is expanding in directions I didn’t know existed.
Day 10: We discover and break down the concept of “mutuality” and what it means within the context of sensuality. Kissing, hand-holding, spooning, fucking; two-way street enjoyment. We do a simple exercise, dancing together with our eyes closed, and it is vulnerable and intimate and tentative; a wall is slowly coming down and I can choose to either lean into it to see how far it will fall, or try to cement it back together.
Day 11:Today we talk about Resistance and I learn something scary and vulnerable about myself. Resistance is an attempt to hold onto familiar patterns; the comfortable ways we have learned to relate to the world and your entire way of being is threatened. I sit out in the sun at lunch and feel my brain working out at high cardio rates and feel my heart becoming expansive; I feel light-headed, I feel nauseous. I see my own patterns: 9 times out of 10, sex has come before intimacy. And I see my own patterns of how intensely these two things are connected for me, and suddenly it dawns on me that I must practice intimacy before sex and that feels terrifying and completely nerve-racking. But if I want to do this work (and I really want to do this work), and if I want to be good at this work (and I really want to be good at this work), then I know what I need to practice.
Day 12: We practice Closure and we say Goodbye to each other. We acknowledge the relationship was always going to end, and consciously uncouple ourselves and review all that has happened, all we have done. “Don’t forget: this really happened. This was always supposed to end, but it was real, and it was meaningful.” I practice intimacy in ways that make my heart race, but the results will forever stay with me; it is the beginning.
I am sitting spread-eagled in a chair, my feet up against the walls either side of the mirror I am staring into, vulva exposed, tummy lines creased, boobs sloping to the sides. I am crying as something inside of me says aloud to myself “Your sadness is beautiful… Your loneliness is beautiful… What a magnificent gift to know what this heartache feels like.”
I am laughing while sobbing while talking to myself as I would my little sister, my clients, my best friend, my partner. I am caring for myself with the same love and intention as I would everyone else in my life… And doing it all while I’m rubbing my inner labia softly in a circle and using a vibrator to vibrate my calve lightly, just because it feels good.
I can only imagine it sounds like I’m attempting to describe the world’s worst porno… “Sad Girl Laugh-Crys Masturbating While Saying Mantras in a Mirror”.
It’s about 7 PM on a Tuesday. The deep and penetrating love I found for a human who lives on the West coast happened less than two weeks ago. This cellular, woven-into-the-air sort of love that filled us both with Lightness. In a threesome we had at the end of our time together, the third told us after watching us kiss, “I usually don’t particularly enjoy watching people, but watching you two is like watching you breath each other’s souls.”
I am sad because for the first time since part of my heart left to go back home, I feel the immensity of my longing for him. I am alone at home; I am not lonely, I am the opposite of lonely. I have just spent three full days with other people whom I love, I am Ecstatic to be alone. The thought of seeing anyone feels downright exhausting. Yet, here I am, alone on my couch and then I notice he is gone. And Oh Does It Make Me Feel my body. I feel my centre-brow release tension while my head gently sways slightly to the side and back, and there is this o-shaped hole in my chest that pulls outwards beyond me; the loneliness of heartache hits.
The sensation of my heart reaching out in every which direction and not finding what it is looking for; a waywardness; like trying to attain a goal in a dream and being wholly confused as to why it seems to be unattainable.
As I found myself melting into my couch, foreseeing the pattern of managing of this heartache with mindless staring into the abyss of my phone (infinite distraction that never quite leaves me feeling fuller) and also the ceiling. I am not enjoying this; it both feels like I am having a feeling and not having a feeling… In a state of non-feeling. So I run through my mind with the newly accumulated knowledge I have gained in my summer of Becoming Embodied.
Let the body have it’s experience. So I sit and look at myself in the mirror and tell myself: “These Feelings Are Beautiful. Look at How Deeply your Heart Can Love! What an incredible and powerful feeling to feel this sadness. What a blessing it is to know this love in this lifetime.” And out come the tears as I speak these mantras of assurance to myself (and then also laugh at how hysterical the whole experience is).
I am fully capable of self-regulation. I know that if I purposefully set aside time to be in a place of genuine and authentic pleasure and care that I am able to give my body, my brain, my nervous system the natural hormones, chemicals, neurotransmitters that will allow for me to come into a long-term place that equates to feeling as calm, steady, restful, reflective, flow-state as I usually do for the short-term space of being post-orgasmic. I am who I have been looking for.
The practice of mindful masturbation has endless positive effects on my life. In saying this I would first like to remove the relegation of masturbation as genital touch to orgasm. I would like to reframe masturbation as deep and committed self-love. The self being the body from toes to crown, the emotional and psychological capacity contained within this body, and whatever framing of consciousness or soul you are privy to.
My mindful masturbation is sometimes just me dancing in the sun at the park for 30 minutes with myself. Sometimes it is pouring myself a coconut oil and lavender bath and gently massaging my entire body for an hour in the dark. Sometimes it is moments on the bus when I am feeling dis-embodied and will just lightly touch my arm, my leg, my face, to bring myself back into myself; to come home to myself. And then yes, sometimes it is a wild adventure with every toy in my toy box, sexy music and animalistic sounds and movements.
There’s this neat new science out that talks about how we are naturally pre-disposed to negative experiences (here are the references from the book I got this info from). The way our human brains have evolved are to be like velcro for bad things; we notice them, we feel them, we become immersed in them and our brains fire off a bunch of neurotransmitters that form pathways that, over the course of time forge deeper and deeper ways of existing. Positive experiences to our brains are more like throwing ping-pong balls against a wall. They hit, they make a sound, you may even notice that it has happened, but they don’t make any sort of lasting impression.
Rick Hanson’s book “Hardwiring Happiness” talks endlessly about our capacity and ability to create and notice positive experiences in our minds and our bodies using the acronym HEAL:
“Have a positive experience: Notice a positive experience that’s already present, such as physical pleasure, a sense of determination or feeling close to someone. Or create a positive experience for yourself. Help these ideas become emotional experiences; otherwise it’s merely positive thinking, which is usually wasted on the brain.
Enrich it: Stay with the positive experience for five to 10 seconds or longer. Open to it emotionally and try to sense it in your body, let it fill your mind, enjoy it… get those neurons firing, so they’ll really wire together.
Absorb it: Intend and sense that the experience is sinking into you as you sink into it. Let it really land in your mind.
Link positive and negative material: While you have a vivid and stable sense of a positive experience in the foreground of awareness, be aware if there’s something negative in the background. For instance, when you are feeling included and liked, imagine this experience making contact with past feelings of loneliness.”
When we make a dedicated effort to have, enrich, absorb positive experiences and override the negative ones, we are giving our brains a natural neurochemical bath that puts us into a calm, happy, blissful state of being On The Regular.
Here’s the kicker… In his entire book, the Entire book, there is not one single mention of the immense physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual pleasure derived from sexual and erotic pleasure. I’ve spoken to a few people who have confirmed that it is difficult to get hard science on this, as measuring sexual pleasure in the brain involves being strapped down in an MRI machine. BUT: IT MAKES SENSE. Take the most immersive pleasurable experience our bodies are capable of, ENRICH IT, ABSORB IT, and LINK IT.
As a culture so far we have just been coming to terms with Being Okay. Even in the brilliance of Gabor Mate’s “When The Body Says No” the focus is on what’s happening to our health when we ignore the body. My question to you is, what happens when we not only listen to the body, but treat it as lusciously and delectably as we would our idols? What happens When The Body Says YES?
This might feel overwhelming. Your cup may be past empty; it may be difficult to notice it filling. Like a bank account in overdraft; you may deposit $200, but if you are $2,000 in debt, it will be hard to feel the difference. You aren’t going to stop making deposits though, because even if it takes a long time, you will eventually hit $0 and the moment you make a $5 deposit you will finally begin to notice what it feels like to not be in debt; maybe even a whisper of what it feels like to have abundance, perhaps.
Your body, your nervous system, your brain may all be in overdraft; this is beautiful and okay. If the idea of sitting down and trying to find pleasure in massaging yourself is Too Much; amazing. Listen to that. Pleasure won’t be pleasurable if its not pleasurable; go figure. I learned and laughed many times when I realized I was quite frequently enduring my own touch because I thought I Had to do this (Who’s it for?!). Start small, but start noticing.
Here are the suggestions:
Break your patterns. The goal is to create as many neurological pathways in our brains for understanding pleasure; the more pathways, the more normalized pleasure becomes in our brains, bodies and nervous systems.
Seek out your pleasure; if something you’re doing doesn’t feel good, make changes to see if you can find what does.
Practice mindfulness in your self-love. We practice presence with our work, our friends, our partners, our projects. Be fully present with yourself and your pleasure. If you notice your mind wandering, just be like “I see you, sneaky and playful monkey mind, I know that’s fun for you but let’s come back to this again.”
Love the journey. It will be hard to break your patterns, frustrating even. How we feel about our feelings is the most detrimental to our growth. If you feel Sad, Feel Sad. When you feel ashamed or guilty about feeling Sad, the Sad can’t come out. A thought that has been useful for me here is: What a joy that I get to be completely aware and present for this discovery of my body, in learning what feels good in ways that I never knew before. What a wild ride it is to discover new erogenous zones as an adult, like Who’s Body Has This Been???
The suggested practice is 30 minutes for 30 days. Just like, you know. Try it. And see. You can incorporate intentions, breathing exercises, movement (dancing/stretching), sound (music/your own voice), PC muscle clenches.
End each self-love session with 5 minutes of stillness. Just like in yoga’s Shavassna, give your body the time and space to let these positive, glorious feelings imprint in your nervous system and brain.
I have developed a new practice of masturbating in a chair in front of this full length mirror. In the plan to break my pattern of needing to be lying back down, legs spread on the bed in order to masturbate, I had explored variations of positions, and this one in the chair, feet up against the wall, legs spread, staring myself in the eye has become one of my ultimate favourites.
This juicy self-worship that was almost Too Good for me to even do it; as soon as I started I had this overwhelming sense of “Oh, no, that’s definitely not allowed. I’m definitely not allowed to enjoy my own image, my own body, my own pleasure Quite This Much.” And then I noticed my thought and realized this is the sort of feeling I train other people to obtain, so I Lean Into It, smirking at myself in the mirror, lock eyes, and reach orgasm with the thought of self-worship. Wow wow wow. How powerful to be thinking about self-worship while fucking yourself to yourself. Orgasm is a POWERFUL REINFORCER.
You are who you’ve been waiting for.
Masturbation coaching is one of my favourite things to do. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com to book a Skype or phone session.
If you are curious for more, here is a video of my journey with mindful masturbation:
MAY IS MASTURBATION MONTH! Hear me out for a hot sec. As part of my bodywork training I have to mindfully masturbate for at least 30 minutes everyday for 30 days. This has been one of the most selfish and indulgent experiences of my life, and FUCK has it been worth it.
I’m a busy person. I have a hard time saying no to new exciting projects, new exciting people, making other people happy, seeking out information, having sex, quality time, movies, good food, puppies. I want it all, all of the time. Which makes time a very limited resource; taking the time out of my day to do more than just rub one out seemed excessive, to say the least.
But I’m dedicated and passionate about this little big path I am on so I hunkered down with the information given to me and started mindfully masturbating. For closer to an hour everyday for almost two weeks now.
I want to be very clear about something. I knew I had to do this 30 day practice before signing up, and in my head I thought “Oh, that’ll be easy enough. I’m a masturbatin’ champ. No one can give me orgasms like I give myself. EASY PEASY PUMPKIN SQUEEZY.”
Little did I know. This post is going to be very succinct compared to the giant pile of feelings and experiences that have occurred to/within me, but here goes:
– As one of my cohorts so aptly put it, I realized that I have been “mindlessly” masturbating for… lord knows how long.
– My mind becomes engulfed in fantasy, pushing myself to peak arousal as fast as I can. This isn’t a bad thing. BUT…
– I’m not present in my body during this. Haven’t been for years. Maybe not ever.
– Mindful masturbation is comprised of multiple variations of touch, movement, sound, kegels, breathing, and basically whatever creative things your mind can come up with.
– In doing some weird, beautiful, creative things to myself, I have begun to slowly train myself and my body to feel pleasure, to seek pleasure, to acknowledge pleasure. I DIDN’T KNOW HOW MUCH I WASN’T FEELING. I anticipate that this will only increase with practice.
– I’ve had a couple really intense orgasms. These have come up in the past couple of days compared to the first week or so of this all. But the orgasms aren’t the point. You needn’t orgasm at all for this.
– Science thing: something about emotional affects on the brain during reward experiences (science doesn’t stick as well to my brain as other things, sorry). One is “interest-excitement:” this is what happens when we watch porn, or see someone hot, or think of a fantasy. It’s an INCREASE in neural firing that’s like PEW PEW PEW SEX SEX SEX and then you orgasm and it’s over (this isn’t a bad thing, btw, just usually the only thing). The other is “enjoyment-joy:” which is a DECREASE in neural firing, akin to how you feel during a head rub or after you cum, it’s that “shit I feel real good right now” feeling, very trance-statey, relaxed. The practice I’ve been engaging in is bringing in the enjoyment-joy to sexual experiences. WHY, might you ask?
– My brain feels incredible. I feel like I could do a million things more than I would ever do on a day before I started this practice. My body just like FEELS NICE, just as a neutral state of being. The fact that I’m even noticing how my body feels speaks wonders — it’s like all of a sudden I’m tapped into the rest of my personhood, not just my brain and clit. I massaged my tummy the other day and started crying it felt so good. Then I cried more because no one has ever really massaged my tummy and how sad it was that I’ve gone 27 years and just now my tummy gets to feel pleasure.
– I broke my habits and now don’t NEED to masturbate in a certain position, thinking about certain things, touching myself a certain way. More than those specific things feel nice.
– I could never really figure my body out when I was young. I knew I had bundles of sexual energy inside me. All I could think about was other people and being close to them. But alone I couldn’t figure out how to tap into this to bring it to the surface. This practice is what I wanted when I was 12.
There is so much more then these things, but I will leave it at all of this for MASTURBATION MAY.
“If you want to change your life, change the way you masturbate.”
*Presented at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Pleasure Week, February 2017
Kink has been a part of my life longer than I have understood what kink is.
Things I wish someone would’ve told me:
That I would not become a raging, hedonistic, deviant shadow-version of myself. These were my mother’s whispers of her past partners and their ‘dark’ and ‘secret’ selves that they kept hidden in a cupboard in the basement. She would tell me she always had an inkling that those shadows were there and knew that her partners were struggling with their demons. The demons, I wish someone had told me earlier, were not because of the demons of whips and chains, or latex and knives, but the demons of guilt, shame and fear surrounding the symbolic whips and chains of whichever kinks we are drawn to.
I wish I knew sooner that ‘being kinky’ is a far reaching spectrum that can range from something as simple as the sensation of someone whispering in your ear, a hand on the back of your neck directing you as you walk, following a direction from a friend without question: Go put the kettle on, choose your tea and wait for me to get back from the store.
That kink is not only relegated to sexual relationships, but can touch into any interaction in whatever way you might like it to. That my inability to be dominant in my sexual relationships allowed for me to be dominant in my friendships with friends who are indecisive, friends who are going through a hard time and need someone to walk them through certain situations, colleagues who overwork themselves. Sometimes the only thing I crave when I want to fall into submission is for someone else to take the reins, and take my body through the motions so that I can turn off my brain for a period of time. Kink can be an excellent way of building intimacy in non-sexual relationships.
I wish someone had told me that the kinks we are drawn to do not define us as moral or immoral humans. I wish someone had told me that while it might be fun to ponder about some of the origins of my kinks, in reality it is often futile to nail it down to either nature or nurture. That while it is totally possible that my first consumption of porn may have shaped my desire to be more submissive in sexual relationships, I can point to even earlier recollections of being drawn to men in power, older men, and I have no clue where those desires came from.
At this point I’ve resigned myself to just accepting my weird brain as it is and just roll with it; it is far more fun this way.
I wish I knew earlier that if I am kinky one way with one person, it does not mean I have to be kinky in the same way with every person. And that while I am a queer woman, my submission specifically comes out only when I am around certain cis-men, and I become more dominant with partners of other genders.
I wish someone would’ve told me that kink is really just play time for grown ups. That the physical playground of childhood turns into the desires of the mind and the sensations of the body. That sexuality is dynamic and you get to choose your own limits. And when you find someone who likes to play the same games you like to play, it is super duper fun.
I wish someone had told me that I didn’t have to prove my kinkiness to anyone, to prove how sex-positive I was, how in charge of my sexuality I was, how bold I was. That I didn’t need to lay everything on the table for anyone who asked. So many countless men insisting on knowing whether or not I liked to be tied up or choked before finding out what my last name was. Not that this can’t have it’s own place in time, I just wish I knew sooner that I am the gatekeeper of my own desires and I am the only one that gets to choose who I share those desires with.
I wish someone had told me just because someone calls themselves ‘kinky’ does NOT mean that they are good at it. There are aspects of BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission, Sadomasochism) that require heaps of research before you go ahead and write your paper. And while it might sound fun and dandy if someone says they want to tie you to a post, blindfold you and treat you like an object, it does not necessarily mean that they have any idea what they are doing, or if they are doing it safely.
I wish someone told me that BDSM and forms of kink play can cause trauma, in both the head and the body. I wish someone had told me that as a submissive person, I have ALL of the power, and any dom who believes otherwise is one helluva a giant red flag. BDSM without the research and prep work is nothing shy of assault. Assault covered up in kink.
I wish someone had told me how to have the conversations about my submission so I didn’t have to rely on other people shaping those experiences for me. It was not enough to say to someone older than me, someone stronger than me “I want you to be rough with me.”
I also really wish I was able to forgive myself sooner for pushing myself beyond my own boundaries and not speaking up about them. I wish I knew how empowering it was just to say ‘no’ without any excuse or reasoning; you do not need one, the no suffices.
I wish someone had told me that the best play partners are the ones who hold the most respect for you and put your needs and requirements on the highest pedestal. The ones who ask what your safe words are before any play starts. The ones who negotiate boundaries prior to getting naked and then continuously during. The ones who want to keep learning and growing and recognize when they fuck up, too, so that you know and feel comfortable in them being able to see their own strength and their own boundaries. It is one thing when someone chokes to hard and you tell them, it is another when they continue to do it without change.
There are many times where I wish someone had stopped after starting something I was no longer comfortable with but believed I had to sit through it because I had already consented.
The best play partners are the ones who create containers that allow you to feel safe to communicate. The ones who, after getting your permission, will slap you across the face and then ask you “Where was that from 1-10?” and wait for your answer and then ask again “How hard are you okay with me going?” And if you say “don’t go harder than a 3” they hear that, respect that, and don’t go harder than 3.
The partners who check in, read your body language and ask “Would you like to use a colour?”
The colours, respectively, are Green, Yellow and Red.
Green, as you might guess, means All Systems Go, Keep Going, Don’t Stop, I’m Really, Really Enjoying This even if it looks like I’m in a great deal of pain or distress. Green is the ever joyful: I’m on board with this, whatever ‘this’ is.
Asking for a colour is a moment of stepping back into reality to ensure that everything you are doing continues to be consensual.
Sometimes, when in sub-space, you don’t even know where you’re at or how you’re doing unless someone comes and pulls you out for a moment to bring you back into the present: how is your body? how is your head? Sometimes this doesn’t even work…
“During the scene, the intense experiences of both pain and pleasure trigger a sympathetic nervous system response, [… a] part of the fight or flight response, produc[ing] the same effect as a morphine-like drug, increasing the pain tolerance of the submissive as the scene becomes more intense. Since the increase of hormones and chemicals produces a sort of trance-like state, the submissive starts to feel out-of-body, detached from reality, and as the high comes down, and the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, a deep exhaustion, as well as incoherence. Many submissives, upon reaching a height of subspace, will lose all sensation of pain, as any stimulus causes the period to prolong.” – http://www.submissiveguide.com/encyclopedia/subspace/
Yellow hits pause. Yellow is the beautiful space of taking a moment to check in with each other. Yellow can mean various things to various people so always requires a conversation, no matter how small. Yellow might mean ‘less pain’ or ‘loosen your grip’ or ‘slow down’ or ‘we need to move onto something else’ or ‘I’m done with the paddle, but I’d be really into the whip’ or ‘let’s do you now.’
Attention to someone’s yellow is when kink play benefits both people. Attention to someones ‘yellow’ is attention to the details of their reactions, their bodies, their mental state. Whoever is momentarily in charge (the person acting as ‘dom’) is held to paying a great deal of mindfulness to a situation that might take you away.
Red is the immediate STOP. This is it, this is all. Release your hold, cut your ropes, stop your movement. Do not do ~one more spank~. Do not ever continue whatever it is you are doing. BDSM play can only function enjoyably if your partner KNOWS that their hard lines will be respected. Red is a good safe word. “Safe word” is also a good safe word. My partner and I made up our own safe word because it was romantic. I was supposed to say ‘dust bunnies’ but in a moment of panic, not able to breath properly, unable to recollect what stupid word we had romantically settled on, all I could say was “safe word.”
Safe words are also good for many other things. Like being tickled. This has been a good way to practice with my partner.
I wish someone had told me it isn’t always quite as simple as you might hope it would be. Just when you’ve become comfortable with exploring a certain area or realm of kink, something new sparks interest in your brain that confuses you just as much as the first one did. I wish someone had told me that this is totally normal and completely fine.
Only a couple of years ago did I finally feel safe and welcome entering into the kink community: I am a bold personality, I am assertive, I am probably a little too confident. I did not feel that I was allowed to call myself “submissive,” because I am not and did not want to be known as such. I had to hear from another, powerful and impressive woman, that she held her submission in her own way, just as her soft-spoken and kind partner held his domination in his own way. There is room for me in this community; no one will define your role or what you want and how you want it, but you. I can be stubborn and assertive and confident, and still want to be pushed into submission. There is room for you if you want it.
When I was 19, I had already become a self-proclaimed Slut. I held this title proudly (as I still do, but with far more understanding of what it means to me personally).
At 19, I tore through sex partners like it was my god damn life force. I went to Irish pubs downtown, I would get wasted off beer and tequila shots, wear short skirts that rode up over my ass, dance to Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy, and I would wait patiently until 1 or 2 in the morning when I would vacate the premises with some random boy. I was so proud of my achievements… like each different penis that entered my body was a notch I could carve into my Professional Wall of Fuckery, and, with this, each notch had the magical ability to give me a golden star of self-worth and desirability (shout out to society for this fucked up psychological training).
This is where the grey area starts and I feel like such giant outcome of everything our Westernized culture has told me I should be and I am enraged.
I have an unusually high sex drive. I knew this at 19 and I know this now. I was working with the information I had at my disposal to achieve the goals I wanted to reach: have as much sex as I could.
If I hadn’t been ferociously recording everything in journals, I would’ve told you that I rocked that shit. That I was the one in power in those situations and that sure, the men folk were using me, but I was also using them. The playing field was level. After I realized how easy it was to get laid, I upped the ante and often orchestrated these intensely intricate dates in order to not only bed the men, but get them “hooked”. I got high off seducing men that held more power than I did: older, *better* looking, wealthy, teacher, CEO, etc.
The experiences I was living empowered me. The experiences I am re-recalling shatter my heart because I know now I could not tell where being empowered stopped and being accommodating started.
What do you mean, Caitlin? I will give you an example dear reader.
One evening at Grace O’Malleys, all dolled-up real good, I went to the bar to get a Corona. The bar was busy and a friendly, 40-something old man who was sitting watching sports very politely and non-presumptively called the bartender over to our area so I could order. I teased him about wearing a baseball cap inside, and he revealed a totally bald head underneath and let me know it was because his head got cold otherwise. He was not hitting on me in any way shape or form – which I was confused by. He continued to help me get the attention of the bartender throughout the night, not once making any sort of sexual advance. At 1 or 2 in the morning, when I came up to the bar again, he asked me why I wasn’t dancing. I held out my hand, prompting him to come dance with me. He seemed astonished, but indulged me and lugged himself out to the dance floor where I pushed him up against a wall and started grinding on him, taking his hands and placing them on my young 19-year-old hips, my face tilted down, eyes staring up at him. After I lured him into making out with me for 15 minutes, I asked him to invite me back to his hotel room. He promptly complied.
I seem in charge so far, don’t I? Stupid, perhaps, going back to a 40-year-old strangers hotel room after I had inhaled 4 or 5 drinks (a lot, for me), without getting any of his information to give to my friends. But nonetheless, I set this situation up for myself. Of course, we fucked. It was fine, I’m sure. After he had finished (I couldn’t orgasm during partnered sex at this point so never even tried), I was lying naked on top of him, being coy with pillow talk and astonishing him with my real age which he had never inquired about. When, hard again, he inserted his penis without a condom into my vagina. I hesitantly accommodated. He came inside me without any warning. My reaction: a slightly inconvenienced “ugh, now I have to get Plan B tomorrow”.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME???This 40-year-old man came inside a 19-year-old strange girl without any follow up conversation and I was under the impression that my reaction needed to be neutral.
So here we have a slew of things:
From this experience, I walked away feeling powerful because I felt hugely desirable. My Professional Wall of Fuckery notched this achievement of seducing a male in a position of power (because bedding men is hard…).
And also this intensely problematic pandering and accommodating to said male in position of power.
At 19 I built up a tower of self-worth through sexual conquests because I recognized that this was how I could become powerful. I was utilizing femininity to my direct benefit. This is what society, my childhood, my education, my culture told me: Be desired and be worthy. And I played and enjoyed the game because it directly benefitted me: I got laid.
Now, as I re-read all of my old journals, my sense of proud Sluttishness is mixed with a dense sadness for respect I did not get and did not know to ask for. For a deep love for my young self for fighting against gender stereotypes with bold sexuality but an immediate and intense empathy for the unrecognized and unseen trauma my body knows but I did not.
How many times I gave men access to my body and never stopped to recognize at which point I was being taken advantage of. I have so much fear and sorrow for the countless amount of young women who also don’t know where these differences lie because, as a society, we are letting our youth down because we are too scared to talk to them about sex.
At 25, this past year, I learnt that I am an accommodating person. Through no fault of my own, I was hand-crafted and sculpted into a beautiful statue of ~always putting other people first~. There is fine line between trying to better yourself as a human by humbling oneself and always thinking about other people (which is an actual thing I convinced myself I was doing – just ~being chill~ man), but realizing that you are realistically allowing people to wipe their shoes on your back as they tread through your life is a very sudden and horrific realization.
I don’t know how I can completely undo this. There is too much. So many interactions I did record, but so many I did not, and I am nearing the hundreds in regards to how many male partners I have had. And hundreds of experiences that I never directly understood as negatively until now is… too much… How much of myself have I indirectly given away? I don’t even know if I can wholly appreciate how it has effected me beyond having a deeply penetrating empathy for a completely different person that holds space in my past. And now I can’t unsee where this embedded accommodating comes up.
Am I doing myself a disservice when I choose not to speak up? Can I see clearly when I am allowing myself to be used? Am I using kink as a coping mechanism to deal with years of being used by men? Do I have a realistic standard to which I can understand power and when to utilize my own or not? I both feel as though I should brandish power in every instance because I was not given it, but equally understand how often power hinders conversation from moving forward.
Almost as soon as I was struck with this hard, deep truth, I made a vow to myself I would not compromise on my needs, wants or desires in order to accommodate another person, specifically a male person that I might be dating or fucking. I’ve begun to accumulate an elaborate list of things I will no longer tolerate:
– not checking in with myself and clarifying exactly what is is I need and want; and holding myself accountable for finding the time, space and energy to communicate these things.
– countless last minute cancelations:my time is worthy and important. I’m a fucking busy person running so much shit. I have no time to put up with your flakiness.
– not coming during partnered sex: I now push this portion to last longer often because I feel as though I need to make up for years of saying ‘oh, don’t worry about it’.
– sudden halts in communication followed by a highly expectant late night “sup?” (Read this fucking awesome article by Jess Beaulieu about Actions Speaking Louder Than Words.)
– catering to the men I was sleeping within order to “get” to keep sleeping with them (because apparently dicks are a godsend in short supply and I should be so lucky??)
– giving an endless supply of energy into relationships that do not mirror back that energy (going through the trouble to do human-care for another person: cooking, touching, kindness, listening, and not receiving these things back without any expectation on my part).
– not being frank and honest about where the fuck you are at; omission counts as miscommunication.
Amongst other things. This new self-imposed rule has deeply and positively changed the foundation for my life and my relationships. I’ve forced myself to speak up for myself in situations I feel are being mishandled due to poor communication. I’ve actually sat down with myself to figure out what the fuck I want and how do I even go about doing that…
This weight is with me. This weight will never leave me. It is this weight that will constantly keep my fire burning to fight for better sex ed so I don’t have to worry about other young women not finding value outside of a physical body, outside of sex, outside of being desirable. This slut is still a proud slut, but now my pride comes from the energy I’ve put into investing in myself and my life experiences.
At 5, my mother asked me if I knew how to play the piano. I said “Yes, of course.” I had never touched a piano before in my young, naive life, yet remained boldly confident that my brain and hands would figure it out because where else would this information come from?
I also believed I could fly, speak several languages and that my younger sister was my personal stepping stool.
It’s possible this big-thinkin’ could’ve turned me into the child prodigy I never was if just maybe my parents had a little more faith that, DUH, of course I could play the piano without any training whatsoever.
(Also: flying? I have that shit FIGURED out so hard in my dreams that I can literally [*what meaning does ‘literally’ have within a dream context?] just START FLYING whenever I want. I can physically feel what it muscles need to move and now it’s like riding a bike. Gravity is much more flexible in my subconscious…).
I have no clue where this innate insistence on being all-knowing came from… A combination of having stubborn-as-fuck parents and the privileges I gained from being raised in a middle-class, white family, I’m sure. Anyway, I can’t play the piano and I do not know how to speak any other languages.
I did, however, carry this absurdly brazzen confidence into my teen years and early twenties. With a very small amount of information, I nixed my University education and delved forth into proclaiming myself a “Sex Educator”.
Now, this probably had about 20% more merit to it than telling people I am pianist… I had boldly bared my naked, non-sexualized bod to be eternalized on the internet, I had read maybe two or three books about porn and non-monogamy, I was having a rampant amount of sex (that I now recognized as confused and vaguely problematic) and I had a pile of self-assurance sitting atop my self-constructed pedestal.
Thus the birth of this blog. And ya know, it hasn’t been for naught and sometimes you just gotta start somewhere. But after 5 years of navigating this world I man-spreaded myself into, I can very accurately tell you I was usually not totally right, often mis-spoke and was poorly informed despite my best intentions.
At some point around 2 or 3 years ago, I recognized the immense amount of information I did not know and how irrelevant my voice was and that there were SO MANY OTHER PEOPLE that were doing a better job than I was and whose voices I valued more than my own on the topics at hand… And I kind of just shut up. Not totally… I still had the absurd amount of stubborn confidence to start a porn company and run queer events (neither of which I had had any training in), but my blog has kind of withered into a ghost of what it was: slightly relevant, humorous (at times), wrought with poor grammar and largely misinformed.
During the past few years, I feel it’s safe to say that I’m putting in the research and reading and learning to actually refer to myself as a “Sex Educator” – if I stand on my toes I can just touch it. And I do largely believe I MAY have something to add to the discourses happening and reach at least SOME people who don’t have access to listening to the same voices I do. But where is all of your ~educating~ happening, Caitlin? It’s a nice title and all, but how exactly do you think you’re informing anyone? Just hoping that the thoughts in your head permeate into the minds of those around the world? Yeah, neat.
Thus, I will have to begin to write again instead of just sharing articles on Facebook and debating with people I know too well. And 19-year-old Caitlin is jumping in her seat because that tattoo of a quill on my back promising to ‘always be a writer’ might not just be a pretty design anymore.
To start, things I have begun to understand that I have not talked about in the past three years (amongst other things):
My own queerness and my own fluid gender expression
My preferred lovestyle and how to navigate authentically through that
Speaking up for myself in moments I have been taught not to – to hold space where I have often been ignored or undervalued
Intersectional feminism and how to actively be anti-oppressive to those who don’t hold the same privileges I do
My privilege & I are now very well-acquainted
What consent is. Slapped in the face with it and figured out how to be an active participant with it.
A deeper appreciation for bodies and minds that are different than mine and that I cannot be a spokesperson for anyone except myself.
So, with this, here is my official “I’m back for To Be A Slut 2.0” and I’m going to be less wrong about more things. Hopefully.
It happened guys. I got my first STI (note: this post is reeeeaaal personal, you’ve been warned). Realistically, given the amount of sexual encounters I’ve had within the last ten years of being sexually active, I’ve been continuously amazed at my general vaginal health. As a sex educator I am painfully aware of the risks involved in banging, let alone condomless banging. Our fragile human bods are capable of catching all sorts of things when we mash ourselves against another person. But duh, this doesn’t stop us.
Now, even as a sex educator, the logic in my brain can go into a spiralling deficit of hormones when in the midst of heavy-petting with someone I’m into. At this point in my life I’m fine to own up to the fact that I’ve definitely overlooked condom usage a handful of times. It’s fine. It happens. Like, you shouldn’t do it. But it happens.
This is where the kicker comes in… I got the STI that is also not an STI. Molluscum Contagiosum is common in children and can be transmitted through water, gyms, changing areas at pools (some websites claim pools themselves, but there is a whole lot of chlorine in most pools) and yes, also from skin-to-skin contact.
So while there is a possibility that someone in the last two weeks to six months (molluscum has a long incubation period) gave me molluscum from unprotected sex, there is also a high possibility that I contracted the skin virus from working at camp, from sharing a towel, from sitting nude on a surface at a sex club, or even from holding hands/hugging with someone who actively (and, hopefully, unknowingly) had the virus on their skin.
Fun stuff, right?
Like. Meh. I could do without it though.
You’re probably wondering why I am sharing the details of my genital health all over the internet. Accessible to… well… everyone (hi Mom…). Because in the moment of diagnosis I felt wholly and completely: gross, isolated, unloveable, alone, unworthy, dirty, sad, angry, depressed, anxious, unfixable. You name it. It was a fun night…
I’m writing this on the tail end of healing up, so I am in a considerably better headspace than I was a week ago. But having people that I could talk to (also, send them heaps of really gross and unflattering pictures just to get a second opinion) 1000% saved me from drowning in a pit of sadness.
I LOVE my genitalia. The whole shebang. My entire life is a testament to how much I enjoying utilizing my erogenous zones. So when I read on the internet (thanks, internet) that molluscum, while not harmful (no itching, no pain, no nothing, just little inconspicuous bumps that are contagious) will leave the bodies system on its own in 6 months to 2 years I almost barfed. TWO FUCKING YEARS. HAHAHAAHAHAHAHAH.
The longest I’ve gone without sex since I was 19 is probably about 3 weeks, tops (this blog isn’t called ‘to be a slut’ for naught). This potential 2 years of no sex was absolutely not a thing I was down to swallow (pun intended). Not even just the no sex part – the potential of having an intimate relationship with someone would just not even be an option. That’s SAD. STI’s are SAD. But they don’t have to be AS sad if we can talk about them openly and reduce the stigma attached to them.
For 3 days, I lived on the internet, scouring every corner to find a solution. There are creams and lotions and potions you can get (that apparently costs lots of money and do not work). You can go and get them frozen off, but there are always a bunch of dormant ones under the skin that haven’t surfaced, so this is an unnecessary amount of pain to go through. Or you can just wait two years and then get on with your life.
And then I found this heavenly little nook on a blog. The post has comments from the past 4 years of people going through the same problem and finding an actual, quick solution: Apple Cider Vinegar baths (or direct application).
The vinegar burns the bumps from molluscum virus so they turn into scabs and DIE. The baths also bring out any dormant bumps that haven’t surfaced yet, so you have the added benefit of making sure you get everything (although quite a horrifying site if you are not prepared for the surplus).
I smelt like salad dressing for a few days. It could’ve been worse.
I also accidentally burnt some of my vulva with too much vinegar (over-sharing ftw, if this happens to you, potential molluscum-virus-holder, coconut oil is super restorative, but use it sparingly as it can spread the molluscum).
I have been overwhelmed at the incredible quality of people I have in my life. While a good handful of the people I sought comfort from are also involved in sexual health (and therefore, typically have good knowledge of STI stigma), a good handful of them don’t know anything about sexual health at all and they were just really wonderful. A massive shout out to the lady who stared into my butthole for me without even questioning it for a moment (I’ll stare into your butthole any day, girl).
The startling realization that never in my life had I had the opportunity (or even desire) to not have sex with someone I was dating was daunting. While I had never even given my high sex-drive a second thought in regards to dating, all of a sudden I was immensely reassured that I held value as a person. Something that I KNEW (I’m a pretty confident person, she says humbly), but I had never actually experienced it so directly.
This is not the reality for most people. For good reasons people generally like to keep their health issues to themselves. I was very dubious about posting this out of fear of becoming the poster girl for molluscum (whatever. It’s fine). I was skeptical about posting this out of fear of my peers deeming me sexually unappealing or continuously contagious. Or causing previous sex partners to worry about their status (I didn’t give you anything, don’t worry, but you may have given it to me, so you may want to get checked). I didn’t want to have to bear the front of any of my friends or family not knowing enough about sexual health and then having to over-educate far too many people in my immediate life. (I was about to write “worried about job opportunities”, but really, Caitlin? There are FAR more reasons that someone wouldn’t hire you other than the over-sharing about your STI… [*ahem, porn*]. But this may be a reality for other people.)
My week long battle with molluscum has come to an end. It has been emotionally, physically and mentally exhausting. Quite frankly: it fucking sucked. But I am here, at the other end, and I’m FINE and it’s completely because I had people to talk to openly and honestly about it all.
So… If you’ve had or have an STI and want to write about it, you can send it to me and I will post it here, anonymously. For an entire week I was bursting with things to say/write, I can’t imagine I am the only one.