Come As You Are

I started and finished Emily Nagoski’s book this past week, and it was incredibly refreshing. While there were pieces here and there that did not resonate with my experience or perspectives, overall her thesis validated some of the twists and turns that I have been experiencing with my sex life recently.

Her book is intended for cisgender women, as most of the research she pulls from uses cis women as participants. I think the information is likely interesting to many people.

Helpful and interesting pieces worth sharing (some of which are completely obvious but were inspiring to read nonetheless):

  • Her book encourages the reader to explore some of their greatest and less-great sexual experiences and to identify specific pieces that made those experiences great and less-great. While I have a fairly deep awareness of what gets me going, it was nice to see so many similarities across my experiences: newness, sex outside, built-up attraction and desire, and deep emotional connection to my partner. Not all of those things need to be present for me at all, but they are some of the foundational characteristics of a great sexual encounter for me.
  • The book is based on the dual control mode of sexual desire. Different from Masters and Johnson’s four phase model and Kaplan’s triphasic model, the dual control model recognizes that one must have desire before one can become aroused and experience any kind of climax. It conceptualizes desire as a system of brakes and accelerators: we all have the same parts organized in different ways which means that we all have different experiences with what will hit our brakes and hit our accelerators. Stress, both from internal and external sources, hits the brakes for most people.
  • She discusses the concepts of expectedness, enjoyment, and eagerness as distinct components of sexual arousal and desire. We will see, smell, hear a sexual stimulus and our body will expect sex, but this does not mean we enjoy it or are eager for it. We become desirous when we expect, enjoy, and are eager for something sexy.
  • Many more women than men (according to her research) experience responsive desire as opposed to spontaneous desire. Others experience context-dependent desire, or a mix of responsive and context-dependent desire. This piece in particular was very validating for me: recognizing that it is perfectly normal that I have to work to and have help from a partner to create a context and environment that eases up on my brakes and hits my accelerators more. For me, this means time to nurture our emotional and mental connection and to reconnect emotionally, physical touch that isn’t necessarily sexual, and letting go of daily stress together. I think I have always had these tendencies, but it is relatively new that I’m needing this kind of intentionality more and more.
  • Reading this book further emphasized to me that I feel sexier and more in the mood for sex when I feel good about myself, physically and emotionally. This is something that I’m still working on, and expect that I will always be working on.
  • Her book emphasizes mindfulness, emotion coaching, and the Health at Every Size movement as lenses through which to gain self awareness and self compassion, thereby decreasing stress and increasing desire. All are highly valuable concepts.

I wish that she had the space in the book to address the ebb and flow of desire in nonmonogamous relationships, or to touch more on casual sex. Otherwise, it is a great read. Please comment if you have read it and what you thought!

Superstitious

I’m sitting/sweating in my 83* kitchen, with a bowl of orange chicken courtesy of Costco, listening to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious.”

Something deep has shifted for me this summer. Something deep inside has shifted in a way that will never shift back to a “before.” There is only “now” (and the “future,” which I could never predict anyway).

This week I’ve eaten: Chicken burrito. BshelovesmeshelovesmenotBQ kettle chips. A truly insane amount of 85% dark chocolate. Green chile chicken sausages. A disgusting amount of mac ‘n cheese. Malted ice cream. And now the orange chicken. I’m PMSing, to be sure, but also going through the most unique “break up” that I’ve experienced.

Pretty much everyone who cares about me could have (and did) predicted that I’d be here now, three months later, a bit heartbroken and (yes, still) confused as fuck. It was still worth it, and maybe it’s not entirely over. (If she’d text me back, I could get on with that conversation).

Besides feeling heartbreak over someone who didn’t even think of us as “dating,” (despite sleepovers, falling asleep in each other’s arms, kissing, having emotionally and mentally intimate conversations, and being treated like each other’s “daters”- introductions to friends and families and touching lower backs in front of people) this summer has also been a witness to:

-My desire to have my own bedroom. I’m moving up into the attic! J, you can do whatever you want with that front bedroom.

-Conversations with our best friends about them moving into our basement. Communal living has never been more appealing to me.

-My concrete realization that touch and time are too important to me to go without in relationships.

-My sister and her girlfriend becoming engaged, and several other friends getting married or engaged.

-My decision to leave my full time job in lieu of teaching (continuing on with Human Sexuality and adding Women’s Reproductive Health) and dancing and continuing on with school.

-Intense community (dis)engagement in my local sex worker community.

-The closing of Club Sesso in Portland. So so so so much sadness over that.

-Further questioning of what it means to be queer, poly, communicative, assertive, and respectful. Why have I now met so many, and felt the attitude from others, that you can’t really be a woman who loves other women if you also love men? I don’t like it.

-Questioning unhealthy and abusive dynamics in relationships that are close to me.

-Some continued self-acceptance, appreciation, and love for myself and my physical body.

-Questioning of the importance of sex (shocking perhaps- especially if you are a longtime reader of mine). Specifically- witnessing the development of the feeling of romantic love without sex happening in a relationship. I’m still letting that sift through my brain.

-Reading a few books, all of which I would recommend- Janet Mock’s memoir on growing up trans, Redefining Realness; Sarah Katherine Lewis’ memoir on her work in the sex industry, Indecent; and local Sarah Mirk’s Sex From Scratch. I’m also in the middle of both of Brene Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly.

-My overhaul of my OKC account. I even bought the stupid A-list membership so I could change my username.

When I opened my computer, I felt excited- I haven’t let myself have this kind of down-time in so long. And enough down-time to where I have the energy and interest in blogging. I want to do it like I used to do it. And maybe I will, but like I said at the beginning, there can never be a “before.” There is only “now,” and for today, right now I am doing this thing that I love.

I hope all of your summers have been rich and full heart-achey and full of learning and longing and love. Hopefully I will see you all soon.

Integration, Disassociation, Connection

I keep wanting to write, and then feel overwhelmed by my lack of presence. So I’ll just start with where things are now, and the missing pieces from the past several months will filter their way in. Writing and sharing is too therapeutic for me not to do it, so I’m going to try to do it more.

I remember writing a post way-back-when on anal sex, and the hang-ups I have around it. I remember writing about the non-consensual anal sex that my high school boyfriend had with me. That’s called rape, by the way, and I can type it but I can hardly say it out loud (I’ve said it once now). For some reason (I don’t know what the reason is; if I did, I think it might help in processing all of this), this memory and experience bubbled up and had been sitting for the past few weeks, until coming over the edge yesterday.

The part that is getting me the most is the realization that I have been doing the same stuff that most survivors of this kind of trauma do: making excuses for the person, blaming myself, etc. He must have not realized he shoved his cock in the wrong hole. I didn’t tell him to stop. He loved me so he couldn’t have done this. I have been having flashbacks to the day after that incident: I was so terrified that my parents would find out I had been having sex and I spent all of my time trying to prepare to defend my actions. I left myself absolutely no room to feel how I really felt: betrayed, violated, unheard, and hurt.

For some reason, all of my life since that day has just been swimming through me since yesterday, when I had this meltdown. All of the times I haven’t been able to say what I really wanted, how I really wanted it, when I really wanted it, why I really wanted it. Every time with a friend or a partner or a lover or a customer in the club I haven’t been able to speak and hold a boundary of mine. How much I sway to expectation and pressure and history. How often I have put other people before myself.

It’s too overwhelming, frankly.

Somehow, though, after crying on the couch yesterday in the early evening, I managed to get myself showered and dressed and to the club for my shift. I don’t know how I did it, but somehow, I took all of that shit and created this bubble around myself, and I looked at all of the people in the club and just thought: You can’t hurt me. I don’t care what you fucking think. I’m going to have fun, I am going to do my job, and I am going to make the money I came here to make. And it worked. I’m still not sure how, but it did.

I woke up today, though, feeling low, and my mood has only really gone down today. I feel this weight on me, and I don’t know what to do or where to go or who to talk to. Nobody can fix that experience, no one or anything can make it better.

One of my friends, who happens to be a sex worker, maintains that she hates white straight cis men because they haven’t experienced oppression. I get what she means- it’s hard to feel understood by someone who hasn’t directly experienced being oppressed. I don’t hate men. I hate the system that has been created, and while many men (and other people) perpetuate it in many ways, I don’t think individuals are to blame. Especially, and at least, people who are at least aware of the privileges they embody and do their best to mitigate how they operate in the world. I also don’t think someone needs to have an experience themselves in order to to offer genuine support and empathy.

But I also just keep feeling this sense of utter violation, simply because I have this receptive sexual and reproductive system. I can’t penetrate anyone in the way that someone with a penis can penetrate me. I’m suddenly shocked by the deep sense of trust I grant, pretty freely, to male bodied sexual partners to penetrate my body. And how insanely lucky I am that I have had just the one experience that left me feeling totally violated. (And what a fucked up thing that I feel “lucky.” It should be the standard to not be violated.) Just that one experience is now rendering me depressed and numb. And overwhelmed.

The idea of creating feminist relationships also keeps creeping up as I spin in circles about this. How do two or more people create a relationship that truly takes into account the needs and desires of each person, while making sure that boundaries and agreements are equitable and fair? I want to surround myself with people who want to make space for everyone in the room, not just in their hearts but with their body language and the way they talk and the way they offer themselves.

I also want and hope that I continue to use all of this to my advantage when I go to work in the club. This mixture of anger and despair, I hope, can help me to be extra clear about my boundaries: It’s about the money. It’s a job. No, I won’t go on a date with you. No, you can’t have my number. You can’t talk to me about how you hate Black people or gay people or any other oppressed group. Fuck you, with a smile.

My birthday is this week. And I am praying that come Friday, I can get dressed up and have a snazzy fun time at our favorite place, and that come Saturday, I can dance the night away while people pay to see my pussy and tits. And furthermore, I hope that when my people come to see me dance, from my full time work and my school and my friends, they see me as the whole person that I am. Lastly, I hope I can see that myself soon, hurt and healing and all.

Women in Crossfit

Last week I was at the gym and was completely captivated watching the women crossfit games on the TV. It was like something shifted deeply inside my gut watching buff, strong, muscle-y women lift weights, run, and be all-around bad asses. I am so used to the small and petite women gymnasts, ice skaters, cheerleaders. While I know buff women athletes abound during the Olympics, it’s something different to watch women do typical “manly” exercises like lift massive amounts of weight versus running around a track or swimming. I just loved watching these super fit, but not tiny, women compete with one another. That whole mantra, Fit is the new skinny, could be the tagline for crossfit. It’s not just “fit,” though- it’s “built.” It was inspiring.

Another experience from the week that I felt was worth sharing: I didn’t wear a bra to work one day. I don’t have large breasts, and so I know it’s far less noticeable, but I felt self-conscious the whole day. Upon telling J this via text, he responded with the best thing: “Just treat it like a feminist thing and be proud! You shouldn’t have to wear a bra to make other people comfortable.” When I read that, I sat up a bunch straighter, and felt immediately better. Yeah! Thanks J!

And, for the second very noticeable time in the past couple of weeks, I had an experience that is hammering home one of my most salient personal lessons right now: I’m not the center of attention all the time. I know that sounds juvenile and dumb, but that’s often where personal insecurities lie at their root I suppose. They are complaints from being two years old that have never quite grown up. Realizing that a new love has other new loves and isn’t as interested in creating something deep, and realizing that a new flame has other connections right now- examples of experiences that are hard for me to digest. But the simplicity of being honest about these feelings has helped immensely. I have just felt for moments here and there like this: What? What about me? Pay attention to ME! Hey, come on! I’m not the center of your world?! And then moments later, I snap out of it. It’s embarrassing, but it’s the truth. It is helpful to meditate on the scarcity versus plenty model of life, but only after I’ve snapped out of it.

Besides all that, my fabulous weekend consisted of yummy, hot casual sex, seeing friends, painting, dancing for buku bucks, and beaching. Thank goodness for ten hours of sleep last night!

Kindness, Beauty, Poly

The importance of kindness and “turning toward” in maintaining healthy and positive long-term relationships: Masters of Love

Conversation-starter and thought-provoking ad campaign to address the messages we send about what “beautiful” is: the review on HuffPost and the website itself- Stop the Beauty Madness Ad Campaign

Fearless self-love: My “Naked” Truth

Older article, but well written and articulated; on how polyamory is bigger than coupledom: Polyamorous Relationships Are About More Than Just Couples

 

Femme, Breakups, and Trans* Prisoners

Some media for you, that particularly intrigued me this past week:

Photo Series Explores The Sad Beauty Of Breakups

What Does “Femme” Look Like?

If “Real Men” Posed in Underwear Ads

Penned In: Letters Reveal the Lives of Transgender Women in Prison

Dan Savage on gender politics: ‘We all get to stand up and scream and yell’

Life is Full and Delicious

Crazy past week: life is zooming ahead!

I am starting a new job soon- with the same agency but in a different role. It’s going to be far busier than what I have been doing and I think it will be a positive shift in my day-to-day. I hope I can manage a full work load and school in the fall.

I had a major freak out last week. I found out that somehow I had linked my blog (yes, this blog) to my main Google plus profile. Which means I had been sharing all of my blog posts with people in my circles- some random acquaintances from college and grad school, some family members, some friends. So Mom, Dad, other family, and people on the periphery of my life: if you’ve been following me along, that is totally fine. The irony of this situation is not lost on me. If you ever want to talk to me about stuff you’ve read on here, I am happy to talk. If not, that’s fine too. But I know that you know. So we’re good.

Some old news: that poly speed dating event J and I went to was cool! It was super well coordinated and there were about 100 people there! I definitely recommend going to the next one.

I’m excited about my next open women’s group. We are doing an activity where we will feed one another in silence for a little while- I think it will be a nice, intimate thing to do with one another. And I am looking forward to a new kind of touch and intimacy with some of my best woman friends.

My bestie and her fiance were in town this past weekend with us! It was fabulous, especially since I hadn’t seen her since October. We even took them to our fave nude beach, and they even got naked. I was extremely impressed- they had never been around any other naked people before. Wahoo, vanilla friends gettin’ a little spicy!

[My crummy part of the week: getting totally triggered by a comment a friend made yesterday about someone’s “perfect breasts.” No one is perfect, right? I vented to J several times throughout the evening, and told myself last night as I was trying to fall asleep that I would wake up feeling better. And I did. So I am making some progress on managing my negative thoughts.]

Stay cool this week; it’s warming way up!

Life is Fun in the Sun

My life updates!

-I’m almost done with counseling for my BDD. It’s made a difference. Lots of other things have improved my symptoms the past month, too… like, having J home more, having a new fun workout to do, having some good social time, and feeling like our house projects are coming along.

-I had a lovely massage on Saturday, and then we had a fabulous time at Sesso this past weekend. And then we hosted an awesome party with like 40 people yesterday. Next time, I think I’ll opt to invite a few less people so that I connect with more people. I kind of just walked around, smiling at everyone there! Which is fun, too, but I think I probably looked a little overwhelmed or frazzled or scattered (which I was all of those things at different times). But we got to use our new fire pit and roast s’mores and eat way too many chips. And I loved introducing new friends to old friends and watching connections happen.

-My best friend and her BF and their two puppies from CA are visiting this weekend! I haven’t seen her since October! I am so excited!

-My CA girlfriend and her BF are (hopefully!) visiting the following weekend and going backpacking with us! I want some wilderness time, and having it with such open-hearted, goofy, and loving people sounds so fun.

-We have a trip planned to go visit family in a couple of weeks, and I am so looking forward to getting out of Portland for a few days.

-And, ready for this?? Our three year plan is to: MOVE TO HAWAII. There, I said it! Now y’all can hold us accountable. It’s happening.

-Tomorrow it will be 95 in Portland. Ninety-five. I’m pretty sure my kombucha is going to turn to vinegar in a day from how warm it will get in our house.

What’s new in your world?

End of Week Links

Honorary degrees for legendary pornstars

St. James Infirmary: I am in awe of this organization. I wish I had known about it sooner! It is an occupational safety organization for sex workers. They have an amazing handbook for workers, they employ workers on their staff, they do harm reduction and outreach services, and provide free healthcare to workers… all in SF. It would be so amazing to have something like this in Portland.

Beware the Kerkeslager Effect

What Happened When One Woman Had Her Picture Photoshopped In 25 Different Countries

Back Online

I stopped writing for a little bit, but I’m back now. I had an internally tumultuous couple of weeks, and the thought of sharing all of that felt far from helpful. Things are better now and I’m back online 🙂

Life highlights:

J graduated from his work training program!

My little sister graduated from college!

We now have a bathroom mirror!

I make rockin’ kombucha!

We’re having a party with all of our friends soon!

I had pizza last night!

We are getting so close to ripping up the disgusting carpets!

Sex and relationship highlights:

J and I had yummy, rough sex this past weekend. Throat, tit, leg- all roughly handled. Dirty talk. Delicious.

The anxiety and uncertainty related to relationships that had been building for the past couple of months has faded away over the past week or so. I’m not sure what or how- but it has largely melted away. J and I have had some clear conversations about my anxiety and about where we’re both at, and I feel at ease and happy with everything.

I’m reading Franklin Veaux’s book, “More Than Two” and it’s really great. At times I have felt on edge and defensive reading it, because I have oftentimes felt like a shitty poly person. Other times, I have felt secure and excited reading it. But there are many gems within it, and I look forward to writing a more full review soon.

The relationship I have to myself is coming into clearer focus. I articulated today, talking with my counselor, that the vast majority of the insecurity I have felt before in my relationship with J is due to the insecurity I feel with myself. And the vast majority of the insecurity I feel with myself is BDD related. So I am fucking excited to get my BDD even more under control.

My commitment to masturbation helped me immensely last week. Keep masturbating, yo!

J and I are going to a poly speed dating event tomorrow. I’ll report back.

How is your June going? Has anyone else had a noticeable shift in mood and attitude over the past week?