Sensual Evolution with Michele Lisenbury Christensen

June 10, 2012

This week at Trust Tending we’ll be nourishing trust around sensual and sexual evolution – that process of coming more sensually alive: more sexually vibrant (whether we’re having sex or not), more able to experience and sink into pleasure, more capable of blessing and appreciating our bodies-as-they-are and the bodies of those we love.

Some of us carry enough shame, woundings, or plain old naivete when it comes to sensuality that trying to evolve on this front on purpose feels scary and intimidating.

Others of us feel ready to open up to such growth, but aren’t sure where in the world to begin.

And some of us just haven’t thought a whole lot about sensuousness, but have rich inner soil ready for enlivening sensual seeds to be planted.

No matter where you find yourself (amidst these groups or beyond), I hope this week’s images and interviews feed your trust and give you greater capacity to move through and beyond your sensual fears.

Your body, with its infinite capacity for pleasure and its rich connections with your spirit, is sacred, and, I trust deeply, connected to the health of us all.

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Today Michele Lisenbury Christensen joins us to talk about the sensual evolution that led her to envision and create The Hot Love Revolution – a movement and a business on a mission to “help happy, well-loved women save the world”.

In Michele’s own words from her site:

The Hot Love Revolution isn’t for everyone. It’s just for smart, soulful, couples who can take me up on this dare: pour your passion into your monogamous relationship, demand that it excite and nourish you as much as any affair or adventure, and let yourself be transformed by the process.

SO COOL!!

I discovered Hot Love Revolution early this year and got such a jolt of YES!!! when I read its I Believe page that I wanted to shout it from rooftops. IF YOU DO NOTHING ELSE, GO READ JUST THAT.

Michele is a potent force of trust-nourishment and I hope you’ll explore her site and soak in deeply what she shares below today.

Thanks so much for being here, Michele!…and thank you Kurt (Michele’s husband) for your huge role in this revolution, too!

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1. You write at The Hot Love Revolution about a significant change in trajectory that you and your husband made in your marriage a few years ago – a change in the direction of more passion, more spice, more deep fulfillment in your monogamy. What was your tipping point for that change? How did you come to take it so seriously? It seems much more common to feel the need for such a shift but never take a conscious plunge to make it happen.

More than a tipping point, I feel like we experienced a long process of the erosion of our capacity for denial.  For many years, we had this relationship that was sort of nice (and unlike some of the people who come to me who have super-polite, tepid relationships, ours had its share of nastiness, too) and felt rooted in a shared spirituality and a deep friendship, but that just didn’t have a deep passion.  I, more than he, knew I wanted that.  I’d bring it up, and  we’d “work on it” periodically and then go back to sleep.  We were in the pattern you’re referring to:  you want it, but you don’t do a lot to bring about the change.  And we don’t, because it really does upset the apple cart to start flying into your no-fly zones, personally or within a relationship.  You ARE entering the unknown.

But I think two things happened that helped us get critical mass after so many false starts on the intimacy front:  I saw friends our age who, like us, had kids, start getting divorced.  And along with my sadness for their families, I saw – this shocked me – my own envy.  To start over, to have hope for a life with sensuality and passion and intensity.  I saw that I wanted that at a bone-deep level.  But there in my bones, too, was my profound love for Kurt and my desire to have those things WITH HIM.  And we already had Cooper, and I very much want for him to be able to live with both of us as he grows.

TOTAL SIDEBAR:  I have to say as a child of divorce:  My experience is that happy parents – especially a happy mother – are far more important for a child than an intact family.  I believe mamas have to do what it takes to be happy.  AND I believe too many of us rush toward “being away from YOU (our current partner) is what will make me happy.”  I think we do better to go for what I call “The Break-Up Effect” — you remember how life-changing it was to end a relationship, earlier in life, right? — while staying IN our relationship, if we’re with a good person who we care about and who cares about us.

… That said, there I was:  craving heat, intensity, sensual self-expression.  Devoted to my family.  Wanting a new relationship, but wanting the same man I was already with.

The second thing that happened was that we discovered Orgasmic Meditation. It’s a practice that’s not sex and it’s not silent meditation in the traditional sense… It’s a stroking practice that has given me and Kurt a place to practice the way we want to be with each other and to take off the layers of frustration, resentment, avoidance, fear, overwhelm, and inertia that cloud most long-term sexual partnerships.  We continue to practice 3-4 times a week and it continues to unfold for us.

We’ve done so many good things for our love, but when I look at the ‘tipping point’ – what helped us do enough, consistently enough, to build the bonfire that warms us today?  It’s having a practice together.

2. What were some of the beliefs you had before that shift that have changed because of your conscious attention to the hotness of your marriage?

OLD BELIEF:   It’s disloyal to be attracted to other people.
NEW BELIEF:  It’s natural to be attracted to different qualities in different people.

You may choose to act on that attraction. I choose to bring those attractions back to my committed partnership and look at ways to be the woman I think those qualities in a man would help me be, and to ask Kurt to play with ways he can explore the qualities I saw, for himself.

OLD BELIEF:  Long-term relationship invariably suffers from entropy. Boredom and less-exciting sex is natural.
NEW BELIEF:  Dust and mold are natural.  Natural don’t gotta mean “normal” in my house!  We can have relationships that are new every day.

Excitement can build on variety and not-knowing (like it does at the beginning of a relationship) or upon familiarity and discovering new things with the same person.  That’s what we’re up to now.

OLD BELIEF:  There’s something egotistical, shallow, vapid about focusing on sex when you’re pushin’ 40 and a mom of littles like I am. Grow up!
NEW BELIEF:  Sensuality is a lifelong need for all of us.  And an orgasmic mama is a happy mama is a nourishing mama.

Our world needs a next generation raised by people who are vibrantly alive, who have really GONE FOR IT in their lives.  That’s what we’re trying to be for our kids:  devoted to them, but also to the highest vision of what we can create individually and as a couple.

3. Many of my readers, like you, are still in the thick of life with young kids. What have you learned about that particular season that might address some common fears and frustrations people have around being sexual beings and sexual partners in the midst of it?

Funny.  I was answering that last question without having read this one.  Glad it’s relevant for your readers (grin).  

Well, let me normalize the experience of having your libido utterly macerated by childbirth and parenting.  This year, even after a highly sensual pregnancy and lovely birth… Kurt and I were practicing together, but I was in NO WAY interested in intercourse for many weeks after I had Mira.  And that’s with the spotlight straight on that connection!  So I’ll start with that:  it’s normal.

Second, though: there’s a way to be really powerfully generous with your partner (as distinct from being resentfully or dutifully submissive) and engaging in play together that one of you might not be motivated for but that the other might NEED.  And finding that ability to want what you don’t crave is the key to not having long dry spells punctuated by disappointment, rejection, shame, and resentment.  Keep the sensuality flowing, even if it has to be in a new way.

I’ve learned that date night is key:  if we’re not talking and being together as grownups when we’re awake, we are going to fall asleep when we get to bed.  I’ve learned that bedtime, for mommies and daddies, is a rough time for sex. You’re so wiped!  So mid-day, or afternoon while the kids are with a sitter, or early morning… Just don’t give your sex the dregs of your energy, or it won’t get any energy at all!

And I’ve learned that a mama is a sexual being in a very different way than a maiden is, just a few months earlier.  Our bodies change, we’re sharing them with our fetus and then with our breastfeeding little person… It dramatically changes what we desire and how we want to share ourselves.  I’ve learned that staying connected to my partner requires staying in deep conversation with myself and with him about what I want now and what I’ve got to give and how we can explore this new terrain with curiosity and joy, rather than with fatigue and frustration.

4. For those of us inspired by your work and revolution but unsure where to start to join it and make shifts in our own romantic relationships, can you give us a couple suggestions?

My newsletter is the best place to start. It’ll get you new videos from me a couple of times a month, links to my newest blog posts, and early registration bonuses for upcoming programs for women and men.

And if you want to jump into something right away, the Hot Love Makeover is a 28-day program for women to unilaterally make-over the sensation and passion in their relationships and lives. It starts July 8th.

Thanks again for being here, Michele!

And readers: Got questions for Michele? She’s happy to answer them in comments below!

Michele Lisenbury Christensen reclaimed her marriage from the throes of mediocrity and, with her husband Kurt, created a turned-on partnership that nourishes both of them to be lively friends, parents (of a four year old boy and a newborn girl), artists, and activists. Michele helps other utterly human women, men, and couples create lasting love, sensuality, and adventure. A regular columnist for Elephant Journal, Michele’s other turn-ons include hydrangeas, yoga, and homemade chai tea. She beckons you at Hot Love Revolution.

Are you new here? If so, welcome! This post is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. For a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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Sexuality: month-end reflections

July 30, 2011


Hi everyone!

I say that with such a swell of gladness to be with you again. It’s hard to explain the love and tenderness I feel for you and the honor it is to be here, exploring such important, tender things each month.

This month, though, while guests have so powerfully filled this space with stories and questions, I have felt personally absent on most levels. I’ve been turning more inward and further outward than I normally turn – inward to try to understand some of my fears and blocks around taking my work to the next level and outward to try to see and paint some outlines of what Life beyond MY fears might be on this front.

Dyana Valentine has been an outstanding midwife through this process, and while there have been times I’ve wished I could just say, “Here. YOU do it,” about giving the actual birth, I’m feeling deeply satisfied with the hard work I’ve done and a quiet, even reverent sense of gratitude to be both responsible for my own life, and absolutely helped with that task. I’m alone and I’m not. I’m weak and I’m strong. I’m beaten down and I’m standing up on both feet, so glad to be with you again!

On that same note, there are things I want to say as our month on sexuality closes.

First, I want to say thank you. Thank you, to all who shared posts and comments this month. What an honor for the rest of us to be given such gifts! Thank you for your courage and your willingness to be seen. Thank you for helping our own wounded places find solace in your stories and your companionship and your healing.

I’m so moved by you! – teared up as I type all this.

My own experiences this month also move me to speak to those of us who haven’t felt able to engage this topic with the type of depth or energy we might have expected to engage it with – at this site, but really much more broadly, too, beyond any thoughts of Trust Tending.

Back in January, when I created my list of topics to cover each month, I looked with so much joy and anticipation toward this one. I’ve been so aware in recent years how constricted I’ve felt my whole life, how much of my beauty and radiance and sexiness and sensuality have been hidden behind fears and insecurities…and how possible it seems to me now to move ever more into the freedom I long for. Writing posts for this site has been such a powerful source of these shifts for me that I was STOKED to get to explore sexuality here.

And then this month arrived, and beyond my kids getting sick and my husband traveling, I started my coaching with Dyana, and every available emotional resource got tied up in that work. I had no idea how deep my fears went around taking my work to it’s next natural place! I’m still baffled by it, really. But the point is that I *wanted* to be focusing on sexuality, and even felt relief at the thought of growing more trust and awareness around it, but the stars were not aligned for that to happen.

Often we hear about the sacral chakra – the power center located in our pelvis and the base of our spine – being connected with sexuality and creativity. We hear about how growth and awakening in one of these areas (sexuality, creativity) has implications for the other, since both are so connected. And as a creative person who ALSO happens to live in a culture that lauds sexual prowess and sex appeal above much else, I’ve felt a kind of urgency about getting my game on in the sexual arena (speaking broadly here to include not only sex itself, but a kind of powerful, life force energy) in order to live the creative life and creative dreams I feel are mine to live.

I’ve felt like growing in wholeness as a sexual/sensual being is my best and next route to living my best creative life.

But hell if I didn’t cover some of the most important ground this month that I could have ever covered around healing deep wounds and preparing ground for my life’s next harvest. And that ground had nothing overtly to do with sex or sensuality at all!

So I’m moved as I write this last post to shout out to those of you who feel on the outside of some important thing when it comes to body love, or sexual healing or awakening or exploration, or the capacity to even care or give attention to such things at all. If you feel on the outside of all this, and wonder whether the work in front of you – whether it be your literal job, or the parenting you’re doing, or the depression you’re experiencing, or the grief, or the anxiety about some upcoming change – whatever it is, if you’re wondering whether the work that’s in front of you right now is way off in left field – or the bleacher seats, even – of the game you think is most important to play, I want to tell you: I think it’s very much not.

Where you are RIGHT NOW is good. It’s where your path has taken you. And if that path leads on toward something that feels way more juicy and appealing and sexy and cinematic than where you are today, I’m sure that will feel great. But skipping the lessons in front of your face, or assuming those other, more appealing ones are somehow BETTER, or more POTENT than the drip drip or slog upon sloggy-slog step you’re taking right now is the very best way to miss your life’s greatest gold. The gold that actually makes your life – the whole of it – rich in the ways you most want it to be.

(I’m not talking here about staying stuck, either – about assuming that suffering is what the gods have bestowed on you and the outstretched hands or resources around you need must be snubbed. I’m talking about staying with yourself, rather than flitting off away to try to be other, or to be like someone else. I’m talking about listening more deeply than you might otherwise do to what IS, rather than leaning your ears constantly into the future to try to receive what could or might be some future version of you.)

((The secret irony here is this: your future unfolds more beautifully and richly, and with far less angst, if you get to it this way, rather than through all that leaning.))

So here’s my best advice for you and me: Do your very best to open your heart wide to the life and lessons in front of your face. If a crack in your heart’s door is all you can muster right now, that’s more than fine, too! Be unsexy for as long as you need to be. Be uncool or out of date or off the grid or on something more like a carriage ride than a fast train.

Do whatever it takes to be…you.

In almost every way, this is my biggest life’s challenge, and I’m venturing to assume it is for many of you, too.

And the more that I rise to this challenge, in the only ways I know how, the more love I feel for my life, and the more patience I feel to watch my life’s fruit in ALL of its stages – bud, flower, hard little knot, growth, expansion, ripeness, decay – rather than only the juicy, mouth-watering ones.

It may sound strange to say, but I love you. The real you. And you have my promise that I’ll do my very best to love and be and share with you the real me, too.

Yours in trust,

P.S. Though not a typical resource round-up, I want to at least document some of the resources that I know of or that some of you have sent my way for growing trust around sexual things. I hope to explore these more (or again) when the time is ripe for it.

Eleven Minutes, a novel by Paulo Cuelho
Writings and audio by David Deida
This TED talk on female orgasm
Sex for one: The joy of self-loving, a book by Betty Dodson
The Tao of Sexual Massage, a book by Stephen Russell
The Welcomed Consensus, a website with tons of resources focused on female orgasm
Sex, Love & Liberation, a website and more
Embody Tantra, classes and resources related to tantra
Breasts, a short documentary about breasts. On demand from Netflix.
All posts from Trust Tending’s sexuality theme This links to July’s theme page

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Religion and sexuality

July 28, 2011


This is a guest post by Shara (bio below).

Kristin’s note: While religion has been the seed of profound Love and awakening across time and cultures, it has also been the source of tremendous shame and wounding around bodies and sexuality. I’m grateful to Shara for telling her story here, and for the ways it opens such an important conversation around sexuality and spirituality.

I hope you’ll feel free, no matter what your perspective, to join this conversation. Truly, all are welcome. We need to hear from each other.

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My body is the only real temple there is. A site so precious that once upon a time tribes from all over the globe worshiped at its altar. Their creation story was a reflection of the womb. And sex was considered sacred, for it truly is the dance of Life.

Now it took many years to come to this path I’m on now. It’s not a typical coming of age story, but like most it has its joys and its sorrows.

By 12 I had the body of a woman and mind full of curiosity. Deep down I knew that my sexuality was a gift and my greatest source of power. I wanted to experience every aspect of it. And I did, without shame, without fear, without judgement. By 17 my explorations opened me up to a level of love that I had never known before. With this partner sex and its meaning got way deeper, and for the first time my soul was enlivened. I had experienced Love. A love that put me on the path to seek the deeper meaning of life, to discover my purpose and understand my connection with the divine. But that journey took an unfortunate detour.

As an unsuspecting teen from the North East, I had no idea that “Church” was a culture down South. Religion was never a big deal growing up and I was raised in a multi-cultural home where respect for all colors, beliefs and values was the only mantra. But I was seeking God and just happened to get accepted at a university in the Bible Belt.

So instead of finding the source of the Love that awakened my search for God in the first place, I found condemnation. I was condemned for my early healthy sexual explorations and was indoctrinated into the fact that this was the very sin that was keeping me separate from the love of God. The Church’s demand for “sexual purity” got so intense that once a Pastor declared that I had the “Spirit of Lust” on me and needed Jesus! Little by little I traded my source of power for “God’s salvation”. And for the first time in my life I viewed my body which was originally a source of so much pleasure and awakened love in my heart, as something shameful, unholy, and responsible for making men lust and fall from grace. These were dark times indeed.

Luckily my quest for Truth was stronger than doctrine and I finally left the Church. But I was left picking up the pieces of my shattered self confidence, body image, and sexual expression that Church repressed and destroyed with guilt and shame for so many years. Thankfully I recovered and truly found the love of God. I understand what Jesus meant when he said your body is a temple. And I can tell you that to call the most precious gift that the gods have ever bestowed on us sinful, is the only sin there is.

Shara is a Sensual Renegade and Performing Artist who teaches women how to release the Orgasm locked deep within their hips. Sound interesting? Connect with Shara here for the latest info on classes, workshops and online courses.

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Sexuality (description here). Click here to view and peruse past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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Early violation: A story still being written

July 21, 2011


This is a guest post by Alana Sheeren (bio below).

When I was 16 years old and stepping into my sexuality, I began seeing flashes of what I thought was a dream. It was as though the film in my mind had caught, and I could see a second or two of action before it became still again. In the first I was in a dark closet with an older cousin and he was unbuckling the button on my overalls. In the second, we were in his room, lying on his bed, and he was telling me he had a surprise for me as I squeezed my eyes shut. There’s more to it but I’ll spare you the details. Writing these words now, 35 years later, I am aware of the reactions in my body, the heat, the shame, the grief. When they first came, the intensity was overwhelming and confusing. I wanted to believe they were a dream and I did, until I saw a picture of myself in the overalls – bold stripes with big brass buckles at the shoulder. I crumbled into reality.

I dismissed the effects for another twenty years. I talked about it here and there, to people who didn’t know me well. I never used the words “sexual abuse” or “molestation”. I talked about it with one therapist who thought it of little import and another who wanted to work through it, so I quit seeing her. I pretended nothing had changed when I saw my cousin. Though opportunities presented themselves, I waited to lose my virginity to a man I loved. After four years together our relationship ended and I began a decade of unhealthy behaviors. I allowed myself to feel violated time and time again. I was tall, muscular, attractive and there was never a shortage of men interested. My boundaries were unclear. I desperately wanted to be loved. I got hurt, physically and emotionally.

It wasn’t until I was married, pregnant with my daughter and finishing my graduate degree in psychology that I put it all together. In my last quarter, I signed up for a workshop on feminism and sexuality from an LGBTQ perspective (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer/Questioning). As I listened to people share stories of oppression and shame, revelation and growth, the ground fell open in front of me and I saw the thread that wove my sexual story together. I finally understood that those years of allowing myself to be touched in ways that made me ache, of being tossed about in my own undertow, traced directly back to those early violations by a wounded teenager.

Eventually I told my mother, who knew something had happened, then my brother and sister-in-law and finally my father. There have been difficult moments as we’ve negotiated anger and forgiveness, boundaries and the birth of three granddaughters. Witnessing my child’s physical beauty and innocent explorations of her own body have brought tears to my eyes. I see myself through her and my heart breaks. I find myself vigilant where it might not be necessary and am acutely aware of what I could be passing along.

What my cousin did to me has ended up in the middle of my marriage too. The tapestry of this story continues to be woven. I am working to untangle the knots, smooth the bumps. Last night I cried. I mourned my innocence and freedom. I mourned an ease that my body has yet to know, to embody fully. I cried for the young woman I was, the shame that I have yet to shed, the memories of pain that still live in my cells. I cried because with my husband beside me, I am healing these old wounds, and because I am still raw, all these years later. As I turn myself toward trust, time and again, I can see freedom on the horizon. I can hear acceptance in the beat of my own heart.

Alana Sheeren believes in love, beauty and the transformative power of grief. She holds a Master’s degree in clinical and community psychology, which saved her from her former life as a dancer and actress. You can download her free guide Picking Up the Pieces: thoughts on grief and growth on her blog, Life After Benjamin. She lives and writes by the ocean in Ventura, CA with her husband and daughter, two cats and a dog.

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Sexuality (description here). Click here to view and peruse past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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Sexual healing: A confession of trauma

July 20, 2011


This is a guest post by Ev`Yan (bio below).

I was fifteen when I entered into a tumultuous relationship with a boy I thought I would marry. In that same year of life I gave my body to him.

In the cramped backseat of a van, as moonlight flooded through the windshield & onto our shoulders, I first experienced the fear in sex; that raw, frightening sense of vulnerability; that vicious kind of surrender, mixed with both Yes & No.

On my back, laying on top of school workbooks & baseball gloves, I winced as I braced myself with each penetration, his mouth recklessly finding mine. So many emotions were pulsating through my body: love, anxiety, excitement, dread, satisfaction, sadness… and not one ounce of pleasure.

I was confused. Was this sex? Was this what the fuss was all about? It all seemed so… careless; so meaningless. I felt my mind leave my body & it hovered over me for the next 10 minutes as I struggled with losing my innocence.

When it was over, I put on my clothes slowly. My body felt like it was vibrating; I could barely tie my shoe laces. I was trembling.

The thoughts in my mind raced as he drove me home. I sat quietly in the passenger seat, ruminating over what had just happened. My feelings were mixed: I felt violated; I felt pain, actual physical & emotional pain; I felt joy for successfully mimicking the passion & moves of a “real” woman; I felt confused; I felt lost; I felt terrifyingly exposed.

These emotions carried on into every single sexual activity he & I found ourselves in. It waxed (very seldom waned) until the day he forced me free from his grip, nearly three years later, when our relationship ended without much warning. He left me picking up the pieces of my broken heart. Many of those pieces were never found; I believe he still has them in his possession.

I have nothing of his.

Months passed.

On the telephone one evening, a friend of mine was playfully coaxing me to get into the nitty-gritty of my sexual relationships. So I told him of my ex-lover. I told him of the tears, the anxiety, the feelings of despair every time he penetrated my body. I told him of the few times I tried (& failed) to slice open my flesh after having sex with him, making thick welts on my arms that lasted for the rest of the evening — my battle scars.

I said these things lightheartedly, almost laughing, as if it were a normal part of any relationship. I’ll never forget the horror in my friend’s voice:

“My god, Ev`Yan. That’s not normal,” he said, concerned. “That was rape.”

It took my friend’s brutal honesty for me to see the sexual unhealthiness in my previous relationship. Before that, it had never entered my mind.

From that moment on, my idea of sex shifted into a place of darkness.

I suddenly found myself in a new relationship, one that thrived naturally, without any persuasion. And within weeks after meeting him, I made the conscious decision to give him my body, & we found ourselves in a shoddy motel room, hormones racing through our veins, fueled by a paroxysm of lust, & (unbeknownst to me at the time) love.

But no sooner did we tear off our clothes than my mind immediately, automatically, went back to that night in the van & all the other nights I had endured. The agony. The uncertainty. The lack of consent.

My body began to panic; my skin began to crawl. I wanted this man off of me, now. I wanted to fight back. I wanted to scream & kick & hit my way out. But I just laid there, my body fluctuating between being stiff & limp, silent tears dripping down my cheeks.

There it was. The trauma, the fear, heaving itself up & out of no where into my present situation. My mind & body flung then itself into a fit of anxiety so severe that I couldn’t breathe.

This reaction — this post-traumatic response — proceeded to happen every time I had sex with my new lover. Explaining to him brokenness didn’t come right away, but when it came it came with a barrage of tears, screams, & kicks. It came with debilitating anxiety & panic. It came with an unconscious reaction to flee.

One night, after sex left me once again broken on the bathroom floor, I finally acknowledged my pain & my defilement. And through that acknowledgment, I gave myself permission to heal.

This is my story. It is surely different from the account of my ex-lover; my truth is not his.

I have made peace with the fact that this trauma is & always will be a part of my history.

If I could have known how detrimental those sexual acts would’ve been to my inner being, I would have fought my way from underneath him; I would have said no. But I was young & stupid then. The damaging aspect of our sexual relationship was well hidden by the deep, blind infatuation we had for each other.

If I had known all of this, truly I would have spoken up.

I am speaking up now.

My story might look similar to yours, or perhaps it is completely different.

There are a lot of things that encompass sexual trauma; many emotions, actions, inner red flags. There is no linear definition of it. It is unique to the individual. Sexual trauma comes in all shapes & sizes.

Regardless of your experience, & regardless of what you choose to call it for the rest of your life — rape, abuse, an unhealthy sexual relationship, naivete, assault — one thing’s for certain:

Sex should never be damaging. Never.

It should always be freeing, beautiful, bountiful. It should lift your spirit up. It should be drenched in implicit trust with eyes wide open, not shut.

Sex should always give you pleasure, physically & emotionally.

Ev`Yan is a female liberation artist & writer. She spins unadulterated truth over at her blog, Sex, Love & Liberation. She recently wrote & self-published a book celebrating sensuality, personal freedom, & so much more. Say hello to her on Twitter.

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Sexuality (description here). Click here to view and peruse past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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Let’s talk about sex

July 15, 2011


I got a wonderful email this week that I’d love to riff with you about. Here is an excerpt (posted with the author’s gracious permission):

I don’t know anything about sex — besides the mechanics. My ‘birds & bees’ lesson went something like this, “Read this book, and if you have any questions feel free to ask.” I love & understand my parents, but learning about sex that way was extremely awkward. So much was left out.

As I grew older sex became a part of my lifestyle out of pure curiosity, and sadly enough, as a way to seal the deal on a “serious relationship.” Eventually the curiosity faded, and I was left to realize that I’ve never had sex with purpose & intention.

Kristin, I’m wondering why sex exists.

What is the purpose of this beautiful, sometimes fetishized, act? I’ve surveyed friends and gathered a few interesting answers…

  • Procreation — I don’t want children, but I do want to be married, does that mean I shouldn’t have sex with my husband?
  • Pleasure — Great, but pleasure is short-lived. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel sex is deeper than this.
  • To unite two people into one/See myself in another being/Connect on a deeper level — Umm, yeah… I don’t think so. I can accomplish this without sex. And shouldn’t all of this happen before sex is even a part of the picture?

Overall, the consensus is… “we have sex for reasons that vary depending on the time & place.” It bewilders me how most sexually active people have no clue as to why they [we!] are doing it.

Maybe I’m probing this too deep. Maybe I’m breaking ground. Maybe I’m asking the wrong question. Maybe this is an answer that will only be revealed when I’m with the person that is meant for me.

Maybe you can help?

I don’t have clear answers, but I think this is an extremely important conversation to have. The more consciousness we can raise around our actions and motivations – related to intimacy, of course, but everything else, too – the more capable we become of making choices that point us in the direction of trust. The more capable we become of creating contexts that support that growth, rather than unwittingly trample on it.

So what do you all think? Why do you have or want to have sex? Are there motives that feel more or less dangerous for perpetuating fear? More or less conducive to growing trust? Or put slightly differently: What goodness do you think can happen when two people make love, and what factors make that goodness possible? (I get from the letter above that this is the heart of what’s being asked.)

Tracy’s post from last time has me wondering whether “making love” needs, by necessity, to mean much more than intercourse alone. And I feel super aware of how prevalent sexual trauma and abuse is, so imagine the “factors” in many of our answers to the question above will include some level of healing.

(And as an aside, how does it feel to be asked such things?? Quite honestly I’m much more comfortable asking the questions than sharing my answers! But aren’t we all so curious what everyone’s thinking?? I’m going to stew on these questions and try to be brave in the next day or two and share my thoughts. I’d love to hear what you’re thinking/feeling, too!)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

P.S. Have you checked out the 30 days of free sketches yet? They’re simple sketches that finish the sentence “Trust is…”. None are overtly about sex, but I’ve had some long-time readers discover them in the sidebar recently and realize that maybe not all who would like to receive them even know they’re there!

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Sexuality (description here). Click here to view and peruse past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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Disability and Sexuality

July 12, 2011


This is a guest post by Tracy Todd. She writes beautifully, honestly, and insightfully about life in general and life as a quadriplegic at her blog, tracytodd.wordpress.com. Follow her on Twitter here.

*One quick note: comments on this sexuality series are getting kicked into my spam folder a lot. I’m going into that folder and approving them more than once a day, so if you post a comment and get told it’s spam, or simply don’t see it right away, that’s likely the reason. You’ll see it posted just as soon as I get to the spam folder to make corrections. Sorry for the hassle!

At 28 I had a successful teaching career, was happily married with a gorgeous ten-month-old son. A tragic car accident changed the course of all of our lives. I was left paralyzed from the neck down. A year later I was divorced. That was 13 years ago.

After being alone for more than a decade, I fell in love with a wonderful man and a poignant part of my existence was reawakened – my sensuality. It is a miracle because in my world love can be elusive. But, if it does happen, one can be assured that it is pure magic.

Most people react with jaw-dropping astonishment when hearing that a man – a sane and fully functioning one at that – is interested in me as a woman.

Everyone’s response is the same – he must be a very special man.

Bravely, I agree, with a smile. He is remarkable in that he has the unique, and rare, ability to look way beyond my wheelchair and see me for the person that I really am.

Facing any type of permanent disability, or even serious temporary injury, is too traumatic for most people to comprehend. Disabilities immediately evoke fears of abandonment, rejection, loneliness and frustration because that is just human nature. But, deep down inside I’m screaming: “Why does he have to be the only special one? Couldn’t it be me who is special enough?”

I have first-hand experience of what happens when one bases a relationship purely on the physical. It will eventually crumble because no human is guaranteed a life without encountering health issues like serious illness or injury, financial problems, family troubles, spiritual or philosophical differences, social dilemmas or disability. Any relationship without a spiritual and emotional connection – depth and meaning – will not survive any of life’s curve-balls. I hadn’t even thought that until my accident and consequent divorce – just to give you an indication of what a shallow life I was obliviously living.

Most people automatically assume that because I am paralyzed I am unable to have sex. That is because society has fallen into the classic – and all too common – trap of defining intimacy between two people who love one another deeply as “sex” which in my mind is “animal-like genital intercourse”.

It’s simply taken for granted that I would not be able to fulfill any man’s sexual needs and therefore would not make a suitable life partner. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many marriages fall apart because a fully functioning partner has the inability to connect physically with the other. Thus my abilities – or seemingly lack of – hold no relevance.

One cannot imagine the terrible derogatory remarks and comments I have had to endure as a direct result of these misconceptions. It just proves how ignorant and prejudiced our society really is. Sex for a quadriplegic is not impossible.
Also, no one can tell me what my body can and cannot feel. The feeling may not be exactly the same as before but, I’ve learned to recognize other sensations and signs, becoming more in tune with my body.

I managed to let go of what I thought sex was supposed to be and consider what it can be. Together, we learned to respond with a spirit of exploration rather than (for me) a sense of loss. Besides, discovering new and interesting ways of “doing it” could offer a brand-new spark to any relationship.

There are acceptable alternatives. Real intimacy is a way of expressing an innate part of who I am. I learned that kissing, cuddling, talking and fantasizing are not compromises. These “alternatives” have more erotic potential than most people care to explore or even acknowledge.

My sexuality is about so much more than just a stereotyped, and often overrated, physical act. Being an athlete in bed has nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of a committed relationship. My value extends far beyond my ability to use and feel my genitals. It should be a combination of my personality, my passion for life, my intelligence, my opinions, my sense of humor, shared interests, my heart and my light that is attractive. Those lasting qualities are most certainly what I look for in a soul-mate.

I believe that real intimacy is a basic human need. Just because I am paralyzed it does not mean that I do not have exactly the same needs as everyone else. I still need to feel attractive, to be loved, touched, hugged and kissed.

Isn’t it amazing how there was a sudden interest in my love life immediately after my accident by, mostly curious, people and a tremendous amount of concern for my husband’s needs – without any consideration whatsoever of what my needs were in that domain?

Importantly, my new relationship taught me that there is a whole new language out there – just like English, Spanish, German or French – called Sex Language. I’ve realized the importance of speaking Sex Language and all couples should be doing it.
Talking throughout our lovemaking helps to focus on the moment – and one’s imagination can obviously help make the experience far more pleasurable. Being intimate taught me the importance of using one’s mind as well – as opposed to only relying on the physical body – in order to benefit from the entire sensual experience. A woman’s most powerful sexual tool is her mind.

We all have different intimate needs, wants, desires and fantasies and one should be able to discuss those with your life partner no matter what – otherwise, what’s the point? I always thought that the “language of love” was a cliché but now I realize – and fully appreciate – how crucial it is to an exclusive intimate relationship.

Generally, society does not like to associate themselves – particularly not romantically – with people who do not appear physically whole. Ironically, I consider myself to be a far more whole person now than what I ever was.

After all, I’m still a woman. I’m still in touch with my sensuality. That is reason enough to celebrate.

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Sexuality (description here). Click here to view and peruse past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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What sexual story do you tell?

July 8, 2011


Today I’m thinking about stories. About their power to create and re-create us. About their truth, too, and how the very same facts can be woven into hundreds of stories that each, in different ways, are all true.

And of course I'm thinking about sexuality, too, and asking myself, and now you: What story are you telling yourself about your experience as a sexual being?

Is it a sad one?

Is it happy?

Is there hope of happiness some day further on?

How much shame is woven into it?

How much fear?

Are there paragraphs or lines of it that feel like trust? Feel like resting in something safe and beautiful and warm?

I have this image in my mind of a booth at a farmers market, overflowing with fruit. As buyers, none of us are obligated to buy any one piece of it. We can pick and choose to our liking.

And I wonder whether some version of this is true of the stories we tell about our sexuality. We can't choose all the facts of our lives or sexual experiences (if only we could!). But with practice, I think we CAN choose the stories we tell about those facts - the way we weave them together into some final (or at least working) form.

For a long time I've felt shame about the size of my breasts (A cup) and the fact that I have had one sexual partner my whole life through (I married my high school sweetheart). I've listened to stories about hook-ups and break-ups and one night stands and watched women "strut their stuff" and complain or rejoice about the shape and size of their cleavage, feeling always on the outside looking in, somehow shamefully sheltered, naive, and un-womanly.

But what if I start to tell a story that defines my sexuality far more broadly than the size of my breasts or the number of sexual partners I've known. A story that celebrates the sweet, sweet love I know with my beloved, and the safety we've experienced in each others' embrace. What if my story is actually just getting started, too, and what in the past I've called naivete (and felt ashamed about) could be called something more like "beginner's mind", in the very best, most sought-after sense, and the starting point for - the very heart - of more childlike wonder and discovery and even ecstasy than I could have known another way?

Your facts aren't mine, but what if you look at what they are anew this week, noticing the story you've used them to tell until now. Maybe you'll tell that same story forever. But maybe you'll realize you want to weave your facts into something totally new. Something that enlivens you in a way your old story doesn't. Something that causes your hope, and thus trust, to grow.

This month's theme at Trust Tending is Sexuality (description here). Click here to view and peruse past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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July focus: Sexuality

July 5, 2011


This month’s theme at Trust Tending is sexuality, and I want to start off, particularly for readers who may be new here, by clarifying the point of the work that happens at this site. If I could boil down the philosophy of the work that happens here into one single line, it would be this:

Fear is the problem and trust is the answer.

And by trust, I don’t mean blind willingness to assume others’ best intentions, which of course would be the last thing you’d want to do in quite a lot of cases!

By trust, I mean a worldview of hope. Which includes, among other things, things like: I’m enough, I can heal, I can grieve, I can be happy, I’m lovable, I can take risks, I can say no, I can rest, I can pursue dreams, I’m not unhelpably stuck, my body is good, my age is right, I can start exactly where I am. Trust softens us, connects us with ourselves and each other, clarifies our vision, emboldens us to name and follow dreams, and opens us up to give and receive good things (sexually and otherwise!).

Fear, of course, does the opposite of all such things: it makes us brittle and tight, it closes our hands and hearts, it shrinks us into small living (“I can make do with this life…”) or makes us pretend we’re far bigger (more competent, connected, energetic, popular, sexually alive…) than we actually are. It’s the thing that keeps us from deep, transformative peace.

And, to my mind, it’s the heart of every problem on our globe (!).

So as we look toward sexuality this month, the goal is to create conditions for shifts to happen inside of us, from places of fear and insecurity to places of greater trust.

  • I want to explore fears around sexual orientation, sexual assault and abuse and the scars left by them, sexual inexperience/naivete, and, conversely, sexual addiction and the perception of over-experience.
  • I want to name the connections between sexuality, creativity and spirituality and the fear and confusion we can experience when we find ourselves sexually attracted to people we want only to love as friends.
  • There is huge overlap between last month’s body theme and sexuality, too, so bodies will play a role here again this month, with the fears we know around being…or not feeling like…sexy or sexual selves. Or feeling like that’s all we’re appreciated for being!
  • Lastly, I’d like to devote an article to children and sexuality, and the challenge we have as adults to navigate conversations with kids around their (and our!) sexual development.

I’m so looking forward to another month here with you! And as I said last month, please let me know if there are specific topics, rituals, or songs you’d like to see covered/created here this month. I can’t promise to be able to fit every good thing in…or to feel competent, even, to do so (or to pull in the right people who ARE competent to do so)…but I’d love for this space, and this topic, to grow trust around the issues around which you most want it to grow!

If you’re new here, welcome! Each month at this site is devoted to tending trust around a different theme. Click here to view and peruse past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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