"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."
I have been teaching a workshop at numerous colleges in the past year called Fucking With Gender, which refers to both fucking with gender, as in messing around with it, and fucking with gender, as in the act of fucking with gender involved. This is generally queer-oriented, as you’d probably expect from me.
The workshop came from, and is designed around my own personal experiences with lesbian bed death, and not getting the sex that I needed from a former relationship. Four years later, I’m having the best sex I have ever experienced, and I’m encouraging others to get on that journey and explore their own sexual, sensual pleasure, too—if that is something they are interested in doing.
While many sex educators focus on the physical acts of sex, such as which positions are the best for mutual pleasure, which vibrators will have just the right speed or vibrational power or rhythm, or how to strap on a cock like a pro, I’m interested in another piece of it: the psychological. Which is not to say that learning all those things aren’t valuable, they are! I’m extremely grateful to sex educators for continuing to encourage and enhance my own sexual explorations by explaining skills and tools to do it better.
In major cities, like New York, especially those with the beautiful and radical feminist and queer sex toyshops, of which we have a few, these workshops and this information is copious and easily accessible. Even if you’re not in a major metropolis, it is relatively easy to access sex education in all kinds of other ways, not the least of which is right where you are: on the Internet.
But there’s a step before the access of all this delicious sex enlightenment, before the skills and the tools and the time when you begin setting aside a sex toy budget every month, before you’re obsessing over the Savage Love Podcast with your weekly brunch buddies and pausing after the called-in questions are asked to chime in your own answers, before you are such a regular at your local sex toy store that other shoppers there start to mistake you for a staff person. The step before all of that is to begin to strip away the heaps and heaps of sexual shame, misinformation, and guilt that our culture heaps upon us.
I wish somone could say, “Now wait just a minute, there is no misinformation about sex! There is no cultural guilt and shame around sensuality and bodily pleasure!” But at this point, the way I see it, that is just a fact. Sex is everywhere in our culture, used to sell and to titilate and to divide, but we are not taught that our desires are valid, that our bodies have a unique vibrational frequency and an individual life history that has led us to this moment, this particular wiring. Our special snowflake version of lust gets charged by certain visuals, aural sounds, tastes, touches, sensations, outfits, shoes, archetypes, or words, and whatever that is, that’s okay, that’s beautiful, even. Western culture does not teach us that our fetishes or kinks are acceptable, or something worth exploring. Instead, we repress, keeping a dualistic fascination with sex: We are repulsed by it, and we want it. We want to control it, and we let it control us.
New York City’s barrage of advertisements on every street corner, on bus stops, on the subways, on the sides of buses, on billboards, spray-painted on the sidewalk or on sides of buildings, feature so many scantily-clad women, just the sheer number of visual stimulations walking around Manhattan makes my head spin. It’s like going through my Tumblr dashboard more than once a day—my eyes get clogged by the sight of so many polished, tawdry images of sex, sex, sex.
But how many people are really having a satisfying sex life? How many couples create long-lasting, growing, building, deepening explorations of their own and their partners’ sexualities? And my God, how is it not more of a problem?
Say you’re a sexually liberated, sexually active person. You’re into sex, you read SexIs and you shop at Eden, you know what’s going down. You have a pretty regular sex partner, maybe a girlfriend, maybe a boyfriend, maybe a fuck buddy with whom your boundaries and respect and communication are mutual and working, and you’re both GGG—good in bed, giving equal time and equal pleasure, and game for just about anything.
But, there are a few more things that you’d like to try, but you just can’t get yourself to ask for them. You’re shy about them, for some reason. You feel ashamed of your own desires.
And you want a way out of that. You want to undo this shame, and go after your pleasure like you grab your lover’s hair during heated, passionate lovemaking. How do you do it?
You must believe, really believe, that you deserve pleasure. Somewhere in your brain, do the teachings of Original Sin lurk? Do you believe this body to be dirty, naughty, bad? You must believe you have a right to ask for it from your lover. You must believe this is one of the reasons you have a body in the first place: this messy, bloody, corporeal body that you get to drive around this lifetime, that you get to keep control of and protect, that you get to feed and nourish, and that in return gives you your senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing, sight. You get to choose what feels pleasurable. You get to choose what feels boring, or terrible, or unstimulating, and choose whether or not to participate in those things. You get to choose who you go to bed with, who you open yourself up to, who you invite inside, literally, who can touch you beyond the very specific boundary of your skin.
I think it might even come down to some sort of spiritual belief, for me at least. The belief that this body, this form I am taking, has a right to certain experiences. The belief that I am here to learn, to learn about the natural and social and human world around me, and to learn about myself, to unlearn all the blocks I’ve built against love and against pleasure, to heal the wounds that keep me from joy and passion and happiness.
Being a spiritual person, but not religious whatsoever, I’m not sure how one develops and enhances spiritual beliefs. I’m not even sure exactly where that one came from, for me. But I do know that it informs everything else I do about sex, and that since I’ve been able to see that belief and let it rest gently in the palm of my hand, I’ve been better able to articulate the unraveling process around shame and guilt and sex. And really, isn’t that what’s standing in our way of improving our sex lives? Shouldn’t that be what we are aiming for?