Ready to explore “embodiment”? Three workshop offerings in Seattle & San Francisco in March & April

Two of my greatest queer erotic embodiment / sacred sexuality teachers, Alex Jade and Lizz Randall, are facilitating workshops at the end of March, and I have a collaboration with another mentor and friend of mine, Betty Martin, the first weekend of April.

So it’s shaping up to be an incredibly erotic and embodied spring!

I highly recommend ALL of these workshops, of course, but which one might work for YOU depends on where you’re at on your own journey, where you are, who you want to work with, and what kind of explorations you want to continue.

Lizz’s workshop Dedicated to Your Body will be an entry-level somatic embodiment experience dedicated, well, to YOUR body, where there will be a lot of temple time, deep ritual, play, somatic time, integration, and pelvic floor exploration. I just had a chat with her this morning about curriculum and I’m really excited it’s happening. I won’t be at this one, but I have known Lizz for many years and I know it’s going to be great.

Lizz’s Dedicated to Your Body workshop is for all women, meaning anybody who identifies as a woman or female and wants to do this work in a space for women-identified folks. It’s different to be in a women’s temple, and as someone who has been doing work in women’s temples for about 15 years, I highly recommend it. Because I know Lizz and her trans- and genderqueer inclusions, I know I would feel comfortable attending, as a genderqueer trans/ish butch who is probably female and definitely passes as a “woman.” Just, for the record. You butches and trans folks are invited, assuming you want to explore your connection with female and woman-ness in a women’s temple space. And, just in case it isn’t clear, it is explicitly inclusive of trans women, as the facilitator is very trans-aware and -versed, and since it’s inclusive of all women, that includes trans women. (Duh. But just being clear.)

Alex’s workshop, Tantra & SM, is in San Francisco through Flesh & Spirit. It’ll be a bit more advanced, I imagine, and delve into some kink things and shadow. I haven’t spoken with her about curriculum but I trust both Flesh & Spirit as a container and Alex as a gender-fluid SM player and as a teacher. I’m signed up and very excited to be there!

Tantra & SM is for any and all genders.

My workshop with Betty Martin is actually two linked workshops, Betty’s Learning to Touch on Saturday and my day-long workshop Playing with Power on Sunday. I am THRILLED to be playing with Betty and building off of her Learning to Touch workshop, and I’m really excited to offer some embodiment practice based in power dynamics and the embodiment of power. I can’t speak to Betty’s side as much, but my side will be about domination and submission, about power and surrender, about giving over and taking, about receiving and pulling out. It’s a combination of my Queering Power Dynamics workshop, which is more theoretical and talky-based, and my erotic ritual day-long workshops that include some small group and optional play parts.

Touch & Power will be for any and all genders and orientations, queer trans genderqueer masculine feminine straight d-type s-type, whatever. I’m hoping we’ll have a wide range of all of it, actually. I don’t expect it to be “power balanced,” meaning to have the same number of d-types as s-types, and as such we’ll ALL be exploring ALL aspects of power and surrender. It’s going to be delicious.

So, won’t you come join me in the Pacific Northwest for some erotic embodiment play this spring? I’d love to see you there.

Click on the big green plus (+) to expand the descriptions and see which one would work for you!

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Dedicated to Your Body: A Retreat for Women

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Dedicated to Your Body: A Retreat for Women
March 22-23, 2014, with Lizz Randall in Seattle

Our bodies need tending, away from lovers, partners, children and media. This retreat gives you that time.

In a safe, respectful and fun environment of women discover and connect with the aliveness and potency of your body. This workshop is designed for women interested in the conscious cultivation and exploration of embodied presence and sexuality. You will slow down enough to listen to what your body really wants and needs, to be witnessed and to witness, to receive on your terms, and go with your own flow. This retreat offers you full choice, presence, honor and permission to be where you are and go where you want.

Learn about clear boundaries and self-trust.
Connect with your erotic energy as a source of generative power
Learn how to ask for what you want.
Uncover the power of giving and receiving without losing yourself.
Explore states of embodiment, from subtle to bold, through conscious touch, movement, meditation and ritual.
Develop a relationship with your whole body that serves as a foundation for everything in your life.
Experience the potency of connecting with your eros
Come experience the healing and transformative power of this experiential work.

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DETAILS:
Location: Columbia City, Seattle
Date: Saturday, March 22 and Sunday March 23rd
Time: 9:30-5:30pm
Fee: $395 (early registration by February 15th: $350)
Pre-registration required!
To Register email [email protected] or call (619) 839-9349
Limited to 14 participants
Open to all women: gay, straight, undecided, queer, trans, genderqueer

Lizz Randall is a gifted and highly trained facilitator who has been teaching whole body workshops for over 15 years. Her work and private practice are dedicated to helping people create erotically embodied passionate lives. She has fierce trust in the body, the healing power of pleasure, and the interconnectedness of spirituality and sexuality. Lizz is a Body Electric School teacher, Sacred Intimate, tantra teacher, farmer, and parent.

Amanda Geller is a Body Electric alumni and a fellow woman on her journey. As a coach and entrepreneur she has seen the power of connecting to her body as the starting place for everything working in one’s life.

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March 22-23, 2014, with Lizz Randall in Seattle

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Tantra and SM: A Spring Equinox workshop

“] Tantra and SM: A Spring Equinox workshop
March 29 and 30, 2014, With Alex Jade in San Francisco

Once again, Alex Jade returns to us to share her unique alchemy of classical Tantra and SM. Those who have been to one of Alex’s workshops know that it is difficult to describe the magic (and fun!) that we create in our time together with Alex. We will conjure the healing power of pleasure through Tantra, SM, and more! Drawing on the power of the spring equinox as a balance point between day and night, we will explore the fertility that emerges from the riches of the dark. We will go from stillness to activation as we uncover the inner marriage of polarities.

This workshop is designed for those who have had erotic ritual or community erotic gathering experience, and who have some level of comfort and/or skill with SM. Previous experience with Tantra or with another flesh and spirit workshop is not necessary. We are happy to speak with you to explore whether this workshop would be right for you.

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DETAILS:
Date: March 29 and 30, 2014
Time: Saturday 10 AM- 6 PM, Sunday 10 AM- 6 PM
More information: http://www.fleshandspirit.org/women-s-community/35-power-of-pleasure.html

LOCATION:
A beautiful private dungeon location, SOMA, San Francisco
Details will be sent after registration
COST: $325, payment plan available.
Early bird: $250 if $75 non refundable deposit paid by February 24, 2014

ABOUT ALEX:
Alex Jade, MSW, is an erotic educator, sacred intimate, psychotherapist, and student of Tantra. She is on the faculty of the Body Electric School and has produced and taught independent workshops for over 17 years. She has mastery in clothes-off, hands-on experiential erotic education and the use of ritual as a healing tool. Alex’s specialties are gender exploration, classical Tantra, SM, and exploring with an open heart and mind.

This will be the fourth workshop Alex has led for Flesh and Spirit. We are excited to welcome her back to our sacred space!

[/toggle] March 29 and 30, 2014, With Alex Jade in San Francisco

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Learning to Touch & Playing with Power

Saturday and Sunday, April 5-6, 2014, with Betty Martin and Sinclair Sexsmith in Shoreline WA”] Learning to Touch & Playing with Power
Saturday and Sunday, April 5-6, 2014, with Betty Martin and Sinclair Sexsmith in Shoreline WA

~ Women, men, genderqueer, trans folks, singles, couples, queer, straight –
any and all genders and orientations
~ Inexperienced, wildly experienced or anywhere in between

Saturday: Learning to Touch, with Betty

Learn how to notice what it is you want, why it matters, when to bring it forward and when to set it aside. Feel the difference between receiving a gift and giving one, and what they have to do with touch, and what they don’t. And fall in love with both of them – completely and equally.

Find each of the 4 Quadrants of Receiving and Giving and what each of them can teach you. Each one is inherently pleasurable but often misunderstood and therefore sometimes difficult to find. Each of the 4 is innate to who you are as a lover and as a person, and the more you discover about yourself in each of the 4, the more freedom you have to be yourself, fully and authentically.

Sunday: Playing with Power, with Sinclair

Take what you have just learned about desire, consent and the dynamics of receiving and giving, and now expand it to play in the realm of power and power exchange. We take the skills and dynamics, and dive in a little deeper into this fascinating, fun and potentially erotic playground.

For beginners in this realm, this is the perfect way to gain a solid footing of awareness and skills. For experienced players, discover what the 4 Quadrants have to teach you that clarify your dynamics let you go even deeper.

MORE ABOUT THE CLASSES:

Saturday, April 5: Learning to Touch

At this workshop, you will:

~ Get crystal clear on Receiving and Giving – what the difference is and why it matters
~ Fall completely in love with both of them, equally
~ Find the surprising source of your confidence and creativity
~ Bring a new level of presence and sensuality to all your touch
~ Learn the Circle of Consent and the 4 Quadrants, a sensual practice that will clarify your relating on all levels
~ Learn real, tangible skills to ask for what you want, with ease and generosity

This workshop is for you if you:

~ are seeking the next level of ease, confidence and joy, wherever that is for you
~ love and care for each other, but can’t quite find the key to loving your love life
~ know there is something deeper, more meaningful in sex, but have no idea were to start looking for it
~ have been experimenting with Tantra but find it awkward and contrived
~ are not comfortable ‘receiving’ and don’t know why or what to do about it
~ want to have more fun!

Sunday, April 6, Playing with Power

At this workshop, you will:

– Practice principles of giving and receiving touch
– Feel in to your consent and agency, and more feminist foundations for power play
– Learn and explore some of the basics of domination and submission
– Experience what it’s like to tap into the great strength of vulnerability in being seen, asking for what you want, and giving yourself over
– Feel into the inherent power that is in all of us
– Deepen your connection with your own calling

This workshop is for you, if you:

– Have some experience with giving and receiving consensual touch in groups
– Trust yourself to feel in to your yes and no in the moment, and vocalize that
– Want to take your power play to a deeper, bigger, bolder, playful level
– Want to increase your capacity for asking for what you want in the moment
– Want to get more in touch with your own surrender to another’s desires, or
– Want to get more in touch with your own desires, to request them of another
– Are eager to play with power and touch

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Cost:
For one person:
One day: $120
Both days: $200

For a couple (or pair of friends):
1 day: $200
Both days: $380

Maximum class size: 14

When & Where:
Saturday and Sunday, April 5-6, 10 am – 6 pm both days
Shoreline, WA, at a private residence

TO REGISTER, visit bettymartin.com/learning-touch-playing-power or contact Sincliar!

ABOUT BETTY:

I’m Dr. Betty Martin, a Chiropractor, a Body Electric School trained Sacred Intimate, Certified Sexological Bodyworker, Foundations of Facilitation trainer, and a self-propelled erotic adventurer and intimacy coach.

Every one of these and more has contributed to my understanding of the nature of professional touch.

I’m one of those lucky people who grew up in the touch-y feel-y hippie years. Then I got serious and went to Chiropractic school and learned to touch with some clear intent.

That makes about 30 years as a hands-on professional, first in therapeutics – Chiropractic, Somato-Respiratory Integration, Educational Kinesiology, Reiki, Neuro-Emotional Integration – and later in body-based erotic education, including sensual massage, Taoist Erotic Massage, Kashmiri tantric massage and Sexological Bodywork.

I’ve taught peer counseling, gender liberation, embodiment and empowerment, fantasy play, goddess awakening and erotic massage. I’ve played with contact improv dance, Authentic Movement, Non-Violent Communication and Shaivic tantra. I am a student of The Work of Byron Katie. I am a Board member and train and certify new facilitators for a touch and communication workshop called Cuddle Party.

ABOUT SINCLAIR:

Sinclair Sexsmith, known as the “kinky queer butch top,” is an erotic coach, teacher, and writer who produces Sugarbutch Chronicles at sugarbutch.net, full of dirty stories, essays, advice, and journal entries since 2005. They travel frequently to perform and lead workshops, and to work with people one-on-one for identity puzzles and sexual experiments. Sinclair’s work is published in more than twenty anthologies, and they edited Best Lesbian Erotica 2012 and Say Please: Lesbian BDSM Erotica. They are an expert on strap-on technologies, a feminist Dominant, an identity puzzler, a classically trained poet, and a sacred intimate, and prefer the pronouns they and them.

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Saturday and Sunday, April 5-6, 2014, with Betty Martin and Sinclair Sexsmith in Shoreline WA

Harvest the wisdom of your body: Body Electric School Fall Offerings

The Body Electric School has had an incredible year, and our programming continues this fall with some rare and beautiful offerings for experiential learning. We’ve also postponed a few workshops. Here’s the news.

Celebrating the Body Erotic II and Outside the Boxes: Toronto

Sorry to report that these two workshops have been postponed. Right now, the aim is to have Celebrating the Body Erotic II for women at Easton Mountain in the winter, in January or February. I will let you know as soon as I have confirmed dates!

Outside the Boxes: Toronto has been postponed too, but we are working on securing a venue and coordinator in Toronto to help us make this workshop happen. The Outside the Boxes workshop rumored to be happening in Seattle this fall unfortunately won’t be happening either.

The good news is, we will be hosting an Outside the Boxes workshop in Philadelphia early in 2013! I will let you know as soon as we have dates.

Celebrating the Body Erotic for Women in Seattle

CBE in Seattle is happening! Join Lizz Randall October 26-28 for an incredible circle experience of depth and exploration. If you haven’t yet experienced a CBE for women, this is an extraordinary journey into your own erotic pleasure, desires, and the wisdom of the body. Contact Julie, [email protected], for more information or to sign up.

Tantra I for All Genders at Easton Mountain

Lizz Randall and Mark Fleming will be leading this remarkable journey covering the principles of Tantra. This is an excellent opportunity for folks to learn basic Tantric principles and practices in a community of conscious embodiment.

November 2-4 Tantra Level I for All Genders at Easton Mountain

These principles and practices are powerful tools for transformation. This type of Tantra teaches deeply about how to have a balanced, juicy inner marriage between our Feminine and Masculine energies. This work brings about the integration of sex, self and Spirit. During the workshop we teach ways to skillfully and playfully bring receptive and penetrative energies into harmonious relationship, within ourselves and in relationship to others. When we do not embrace these energies in ourselves we often project them out on to partners and lose the power and delight provided by these energies. This workshop will provide a fun, safe, facilitated space to explore and experiment with internal and external experiences of the Feminine and Masculine.

This weekend will also offer an opportunity to experience the healing power of pleasure. In Tantra pleasure is the most healing force in the Universe. This is a radical departure from how our society views pleasure, and can allow for amazing openings and insights. There will be many exercises to explore the pulsation between the delicious density of embodiment and more subtle energies. One reason to practice tantra is to be able to hold a larger energetic charge in the body so that erotically and otherwise we can continue to expand into ecstasy, while staying grounded in the body.

This workshop is open to those who are curious to learn more about themselves and others. Participants should be prepared to work with partners of any sex/gender.

It will happen November 2-4 at Easton Mountain near Albany, NY—you can contact me for more details about that.

Celebrating Sacred Eros: Men & Women Together at Easton Mountain

Sacred Eros is coming up quickly! If you are curious about doing this work in a mixed gender group, this is an excellent deep exploration of men’s and women’s temple.

with Emaya Dillon and William McMeniman

Women and men have so much to learn from and teach to each other. This retreat creates a temporary community that explores and celebrates the potential healing power of all human beings. We use conscious breath, nurturing and taoist erotic massage to help us remember the connection between sexual energy and spirit. In the supportive community of curious adults we explore feminine and masculine energies within the circle and within each one of us. We celebrate our bodies as the home of spirit and through our heart’s connection we will access collective wisdom that nourishes the soul and enlivens our bodies.

All genders and sexual orientation, the bold and the shy, all are welcome!

Prerequisite: None.
Tuition (includes room and board): $1295 double room with bath; $1245 quad room with bath; $1195 garden cabin (share bath in lodge).

SPECIAL OFFERS
$100 off if PAID IN FULL 2 WEEKS in advance
$100 YOUTH DISCOUNT for those under 30 (use code YOUTH100)
OFFERS CANNOT BE COMBINED

Full tuition is due two weeks before start of workshop.

17-Oct to 21-Oct, Contact the coordinator Nirmal at 347-855-7709

I return over and over to the work of Body Electric and the work of my own body and the teachings of these wise instructors to help me see in the dark. I am eager to harvest my own work from this past year, eager to take in and nourish as I send energies to my roots.

Sending many blessings and juicy explorations during this time of harvest and samhain and the oncoming winter. I hope to see you in circles soon.

eLust #38 Features “The Three Minute Game” in the Top 3

Thanks, e[lust], for featuring my recent story about the Tantra “three minute game.” I like thinking about it spreading throughout the sex blog readers and queers and kinksters, and how we can all get a little more of what we want.

Welcome to e[lust] – The only place where the smartest and hottest sex bloggers are featured under one roof every month. Whether you’re looking for sex journalism, erotic writing, relationship advice or kinky discussions it’ll be here at e[lust].  Want to be included in e[lust] #39? Start with the newly updated rules, come back August 1st to submit something and subscribe to the RSS feed for updates!

~ Top 3 ~

Wrong On Every Level – “If you wouldn’t ask them to borrow $20 bucks, how the fuck is it ok for you to ask them to fuck you? Oh right, it’s not.”

Good Girl – “She nearly melted into me. When I finally released her, she exhaled–she had been holding her breath.”

The Three Minute Game – “The timer went off and I breathed out, both a sigh of relief and disappointment that it was over.”

~ Featured Post (Picked by Lilly) ~

Bitch– “I don’t let her run the show…but she’s always around. She’s in the background saying: Bullshit”

e[lust] Editress: Dangerous Lilly

All blogs that have a submission in this edition must re-post this digest from tip-to-toe on their blogs within 7 days. Re-posting the photo is optional and the use of the “read more…” tag is allowable after this point. Thank you, and enjoy!

Dirty Queer Sex Tour in Seattle! Tomorrow

You are invited to … A night of DIRTY QUEER SEX!

Featuring readers from the SAY PLEASE: LESBIAN BDSM EROTICA anthology released by Cleis Press in April 2012, and many special guests! Performers include Miss Indigo Blue, Amy Butcher, BB Rydell, Lydia Swartz, & Elaina Ellis. Hosted by Sinclair Sexsmith, writer of the Sugarbutch Chronicles and editor of Say Please & Best Lesbian Erotica 2012.

In Say Please, Sinclair Sexsmith presents a cornucopia of queer kink—tantalizing tales rich in variety and saucy details of girls put in their place—and held there firmly. Whether readers dream of surrendering to a lover or of taking control, Say Please offers plenty of erotic inspiration and gives readers exactly what they want! Come hear authors from the book read their stories and celebrate the release of this kinky queer collection.

Sinclair Sexsmith runs the award-winning personal online writing project Sugarbutch Chronicles: The Gender, and Relationship Adventures of a Kinky Queer Butch Top at sugarbutch.net. With work published in various anthologies and websites, including Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica, she is the guest editor of Best Lesbian Erotica 2012, and her first full-length erotica anthology, Say Please: Lesbian BDSM Erotica, will be published by Cleis Press in April 2012. Mr. Sexsmith writes, teaches, and performs focusing on the subjects of sex, gender, and relationships. More information on her at mrsexsmith.com.

8pm, Wednesday May 2nd
Babeland, 707 East Pike
Seattle, WA
RSVP on Facebook
RSVP on Fetlife

ABOUT THE READERS:

Miss Indigo Blue is reigning queen of burlesque, Miss Exotic World 2011, and a Comic Queen of the New Burlesque Dancer, Teacher and Strip-Tease Artiste. Miss Indigo has performed across the globe, is a three-time award-winner at the annual Miss Exotic World competition, and currently holds the First Runner Up title from the Jenny Lee Tassel Twirling. Miss Indigo founded BurlyQ Queer Cabaret in 2002, which now has outcroppings in New York and London. Miss Indigo currently performs as a soloist *and* with the Emerald City All-Stars and the Atomic Bombshells, to be one of the most sought-after performers in the Northwest. Miss Indigo Blue is also the President and Chief Twirling Officer of TwirlyGirl.net, creating exquisite pasties for discriminating nipples, and the founder and Headmistress of the Academy of Burlesque in Seattle. She has teaches Tassel Twirling and Teasing techniques in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London and Seattle. Miss Indigo Blue is based in Seattle, WA. http://www.missindigoblue.com/

Amy Butcher is exactly that and when she isn’t wrestling with the responsibilities of that twist of nomenclatural destiny she writes, facilitates workshops and does massage in San Francisco. Her murder mystery Paws for Consideration will be published in 2012. Find her at amybutcher.com

Elaina M. Ellis is a poet, based in Seattle. In January 2010, she quit her day job. She full-time writes to worship, to recover, to seduce, to fight back, to play, to confess, and to make messes. http://www.elainaellis.com/

BB Rydell promotes queer visibility, expression and grass roots community building through writing, filmmaking and performance. This native New Yorker co-produces “Seattle Spit,” Seattle’s longest running monthly queer spoken word event, and is a member of the Producers Collective, an intentional artist and producer community that values social justice, camp, and diversity. BB is published in Tales of Travelrotica: Volume 2 and Penetalia, and has two self-published zines.

Lydia Swartz is a flaneur, novelist, pornographer, poet, performer, & hardcore introvert. She crafts idiosyncratic interactive pieces & lurks near mics toting grocery bags bulging with props. She was on the 2011 Seattle Erotic Arts Festival Literary Arts Jury & only wanked 3 times. In vanilla life, she is a propaganda minister for safety net health care. She lives with her wife of 12 years & a fucking menagerie.

Outside the Boxes: Celebrating the Queer Body Erotic in New York City May 18-20

Though it seems like all I’m doing right now is touring and releasing a book, I’m actually doing a lot of other things, including coordination for the Body Electric School, an erotic energy retreat organization with which I’ve been working for about twelve years. So much of what I know about sex, consent, embodiment, being in my body, being in touch with my gender, asking for what I want, sadism, masochism, my shadow side, breathing, and millions of other things comes from my experiences with these teachers and within the container of exploration that is these workshops.

I cannot recommend them highly enough, and I’m so thrilled that the organization is starting to open up and move beyond the ‘men’ and ‘women’ workshops into some genderqueer and trans focused territory. The new director of the school, Tom, even recognized the team of teachers and staff I’ve been involved with in creating and supporting this new Boxes workshop at the staff retreat in December.

We’re breaking some serious new ground here, and if you have any interest in being more in touch with your body, exploring your own desires, getting what you want, and doing it in a queer environment, this is an amazing opportunity.

I am so in love with this work, and I’m thrilled to be bringing it deeper into my community.

Want to come? It’s time to register. I’m glad to chat with you more (gchat, email, on the phone, skype) and tell you more about my experiences with these workshops, what it’s like, what to expect, and answer any questions you might have.

OUTSIDE THE BOXES: CELEBRATING THE QUEER BODY EROTIC
May 18-20, 2012, in New York City

Your gender. Your body. Your energy. Your beautiful self. How often has the world tried to force you into the gender binary, asked you to assure it that your pronouns matched what it saw rather than what you felt, required that your genitals conform to expectations, demanded that you deny the complexity of all that is you?

What if you could come into a community in which all expressions were possible? Where gender, sexuality and expression were aligned according to your truth? Where no one assumed what parts would go where? Welcome to Out of the Boxes: Celebrating the Queer Body Erotic!

Come explore your erotic potential through the mind, the body and the heart using conscious breath, movement, process work and massage. Awaken the erotic energy that lies within all of us. Through a queer tantra lens, explore archetypal masculine and feminine energies and the myriad ways they can be expressed. Break down silos of gender and sexuality.

This workshop focuses on the entire body and is conducted in a container that is playful, safe and reverential. Using carefully designed experiential embodiment practices participants will:

  • explore the innate wisdom of your body
  • expand awareness, sensation and pleasure through conscious breath, movement, touch, and communication, where each person’s choices and rhythms are honored
  • learn how to more deeply tune in to your body, mind, heart and spirit
  • to receive more fully from yourself and others, and to give without losing yourself
  • learn to give and receive full-body massage and to focus on the healing potential of sensual/spiritual energy
  • learn from your own and others’ unfolding, and feel awed witnessing and supporting our uniqueness and commonalities

Out of the Boxes: Celebrating the Queer Body Erotic is a 2 1/2 day workshop (Friday evening, all day Saturday and Sunday), often clothing-optional, for those who are ready to vigorously explore new levels of feeling and aliveness, both within themselves and within a community of queers.

NOTE: Couples are welcome to attend Out of the Boxes: Celebrating the Queer Body Erotic and have the option of working together or with the other participants.

Tuition: $150-495

Full tuition is due two weeks before start of workshop.

Ecstasy is Necessary! The New Book by Barbara Carrellas

I’m finishing this up from the plane, 10,000 feet above, on my way to Alaska to be with my family. Good thing I had it mostly written already. More soon.

I am a little bit in love with Barbara Carrellas, so of course I jumped on the opportunity to be part of her book tour for her new book, Ecstasy is Necessary. I admire her in lots of ways, from a presenter to an erotic energy/tantra practitioner to a badass toomuch queer to a coach. Kristen and I have worked with her—together and separately—and her interpretations of what’s going on, advice, and practical solutions are things we have widely incorporated into our relationship.

She’s kinda known for teaching (and experiencing) “energetic orgasms,” and this book takes you through that—from her experience having one in an fMRI machine to the aftercare (appendix) which takes the reader through the steps for doing it ourselves.

This book is also a workbook—or, perhaps as she’d put it, a playbook—with many small exercises for exploration. Call it “My Ecstatic Sex & Relationship Operating Manual,” she writes. So yeah, you might need a little notebook or a blog to accompany your explorations in this book, which for me was an exciting bonus. From “What do you desire?” to “If you know what you wanted, what would it be?” to BDSM yes/no/maybe lists, she takes us readers through all sorts of inner explorations with the goal of greater sexual freedom, an improved sex life, and, yeah, ecstasy.

I read quite a few erotic guides, self-help books, tantric writings, and generally whatever I can get my hands on around these self-awareness subjects, and I particularly love this one because of Barbara’s perspective. She includes all sorts of queer, kinky, gender-forward, non-monogamous, and social media-based examples and insights that really speak to me. So frequently the authorities of these subjects are so normative, and that is just not the case with Barbara.

I get a lot of questions from folks in my email inbox and in that ask me anything inbox about how to have a satisfying sex life, how to overcome shame, how to get what they really want in bed, and I gotta say, this book is an amazing place to start with that. I bet I’ll be recommending it frequently. It’s not just for beginners, though—as I went through the exercises myself, I toyed through all sorts of useful things. I love how she discusses boundaries, radical acceptance, communication, erotic risks, and safer sex; I love her weaving in of the love languages and NVC, both tools that have been very useful for me; I found myself writing down many of her book sources, thinking, “oh I want to read that too.”

Here’s the official blurb for the book, which sums it up clearly:

From Barbara Carrellas, sex expert and author of the best-selling book Urban Tantra, comes Ecstasy is Necessary. This is not your average tips-and-techniques sex book; rather it is an exploratory journey of the sexual self and the infinite possibilities of ecstatic expression. In Ecstasy is Necessary, Carrellas teaches readers how to discover, nurture, expand, and embrace their authentic, ever-evolving, sensual, sexual self.

Everyone goes through different phases of sexual expression and desire, and there are an infinite number of erotic and ecstatic possibilities available at all points along the way. The insights readers will gain in their journey with Carrellas will help them confidently approach sex and relationships in a way that works for them no matter where they are in their sexual evolution. They will get tools for solving the inevitable challenges that arise. They’ll even receive permission not to have sex at all, if that’s what’s right for them, because it is possible to create ecstatic experiences even when sex itself is not possible, available, or appropriate.

Using stories and simple exercises, Carrellas helps readers understand how they are wired for sex and relationships, what their personal warning signs look like, and what they need for optimum care. Plus, they’ll learn how to effectively communicate this information to others so that they can be loved more easily and effectively.

As readers discover their authentic sexual selves, they will learn how to create the conditions that allow more and more of their experiences and relationships to be opportunities for—and invitations to—ecstasy.

Follow along for the rest of the tour, if you are inspired, and check out the book Ecstasy is Necessary and the website ecstasyisnecessary.com for excerpts and more.

1 March Kate Bornstein : Kate Bornstein’s Blog for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws. Alternative to suicide-or simply to a really bad day. Kate’s post is titled Got Ecstasy?

2 March Viviane : Viviane’s Sex Carnival~A Blog about Sex and Sexuality. Viviane’s post is titled BarbaraCarrellas” Ecstasy is Necessary: Virtual Book Tour.

5 March Betty Herbert : Love in the Long Run Today we’ll celebrate the publication of Ecstasy is Necessary in the United Kingdom. Betty’s post is titled Ecstasy is Necessary!

6 March Bevin Branlandingham : The Queer, Fat, Femme Guide to Life. Bevin’s post is titled Get Me Embodied: Ecstasy is Necessary Book Review and Interview With Author Barbara Carrellas.

7 March Kendra Holliday: Striving to bring shy folks out of their shell, and offer a safe haven for those exploring their sexuality and creative side. Kendra’s post is titled Barbara Carrellas” Ecstasy is Necessary.

8 March Sinclair Sexsmith : The sex, gender and relationship adventures of a kinky, queer, butch top. (That’s me!)

9 March Nancy L. HillCultivating a Beautiful Life

12 March Andrea Zanin : Thought on Sex and Life

13 March Rubyyy JonesLove Lust & Light

14 March Jill Boyd: Smart-ass Virgins Make Better Whoopie

15 March Official publication date of Ecstasy is Necessary. Barbara will be live blogging with friends and fans at HealYourLife.com.

Biggest Sideshow Yet! Genderqueer Tantra! So Much To Do

This month’s Sideshow: Queer Literary Carnival is the biggest yet! We have three poets, three comics, three guest judges, one musical guest, and one host who will be joining us on Tuesday—tomorrow night!—and telling dirty jokes and funny poems for your pleasure.

If you didn’t see Cheryl B.‘s previous reading series, Poetry vs Comedy Variety Hour, you’re in for a treat!

Join us at Sideshow on May 10th for a special revival of Cheryl B.’s previous reading series, Poetry vs Comedy Variety Hour! PVC is not a typical poetry slam nor a regular stand-up comedy show. PVC is a battle of wits and Rhymes where the stanzas and the stand-ups collide.

Performers include Kit Yan, Molly “Equality” Dykeman, Sinclair Sexsmith, Paul Case, Emma Willmann, and Jessica Halem. Celebrity guest judges include Shawn Hollenbach, Livia Scott, and Amanda Goad, Esquire. Hosted by Carolyn Castiglia, this special PvC features musical guest Leibya Rogers!

Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival: POETRY vs COMEDY
Hosted by Cheryl B. & Sinclair Sexsmith
Tuesday, May 10th
at The Phoenix
447 East 13th Street at Avenue A
Doors, 7:30pm. Reading, 8pm
Free! (We’ll pass the hat for the readers)

Now, that’s on Tuesday.

On Thursday, there is a very special Lesbian Sex Mafia monthly workshop, which features my tantra mentor.

Genderqueer Tantra with Alex Jade
Thursday, May 12 8:00pm
LGBT Community Center
208 W 13th St, New York, NY
RSVP on Facebook

Tantra is a school of thought and spiritual practice that allows us to explore the multi-dimensions of spiritual energy in our bodies. Though it often emphasizes the relationship between masculine and feminine, Genderqueer Tantra allows us to PLAY with masculine and feminine energies without getting caught up in rigid gender limitations. Join Tantra and SM practitioner Alex Jade for an interactive workshop that will introduce you to the basic Tantra concepts and invite you to deepen your sexual experiences, increase awareness of the body and mind using sensations from subtle to bold.

Alex Jade, MSW is an erotic educator, sacred intimate, psychotherapist, and student of Tantra. She is on the faculty of the Body Electric School and she has produced and taught independent workshops in Seattle for over 15 years. She has mastery in clothes-off hands-on experiential erotic education and the use of ritual as a healing tool. Alex’s specialties are gender exploration, classical Tantra, SM, and exploring with an open heart and mind.

This coming weekend, after these two (HUGE) events, I will be off in the mini-mountains of the Hudson Valley exploring some shadow through some bdsm and erotic energy play. I’m really thrilled to be doing another erotic energy retreat, and so glad it has come together. It is ever hard to get people to come out to events! Women especially, it seems.

I have more to say about that, and about a dozen other topics, but my brain is kind of fried with these events. They are so time consuming. More writing soon.

Lesbian Sex Mafia Presents: Genderqueer Tantra May 12th

It is my pleasure to invite you to another event this May in NYC: Genderqueer Tantra at the LGBT Center through the Lesbian Sex Mafia.

One of my favorite mentors, Alex Jade, is going to be in town doing a retreat through the tantra school with which I study, and I asked her to make a stop off in the city and do an event with the Lesbian Sex Mafia before she heads out to the retreat center. I’m thrilled she’ll be doing an introduction to tantra.

A lot of folks aren’t quite sure what tantra is, or a cliche and stereotype comes to mind. Broadly, it’s about energy, often as applied to sexuality—but it is bigger and deeper and much more complicated than that. I’m not a tantra teacher (yet) so I’m not even sure how to describe or explain it, but hey, that’s why workshops like this are fantastic.

Plus, it’s tantra in a queer and BDSM context, which makes it all the more awesome. Hope you can come.

Genderqueer Tantra with Alex Jade

Thursday, May 12 8:00pm
LGBT Community Center
208 W 13th St, New York, NY
RSVP on Facebook

Tantra is a school of thought and spiritual practice that allows us to explore the multi-dimensions of spiritual energy in our bodies. Though it often emphasizes the relationship between masculine and feminine, Genderqueer Tantra allows us to PLAY with masculine and feminine energies without getting caught up in rigid gender limitations. Join Tantra and SM practitioner Alex Jade for an interactive workshop that will introduce yo…u to the basic Tantra concepts and invite you to deepen your sexual experiences, increase awareness of the body and mind using sensations from subtle to bold.

Alex Jade, MSW is an erotic educator, sacred intimate, psychotherapist, and student of Tantra. She is on the faculty of the Body Electric School and she has produced and taught independent workshops in Seattle for over 15 years. She has mastery in clothes-off hands-on experiential erotic education and the use of ritual as a healing tool. Alex’s specialties are gender exploration, classical Tantra, SM, and exploring with an open heart and mind.

About LSM

Founded in 1981 by Dorothy Allison and Jo Arnone, the Lesbian Sex Mafia (LSM) is the oldest continuously running women’s BDSM support and education groups in the country. We are located in New York City, with a membership primarily in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. However, we also have members along the East Coast, across the country and even in Europe!

LSM is a support and information group for all women 18 years of age or older, including transexual and intersexed women who live their daily lives as women and all female-born transgender people who feel they have a connection with and respect for the women’s community. And, who are interested in fantasy and role playing, bondage, discipline, S/M, fetishes, costumes, alternate gender identities and uninhibited sexual expression in a safe, sane, consensual and confidential way.

www.lesbiansexmafia.org

Erotic Energy Workshops for Women in May

If you read between the lines around here, you probably know I’m involved with an erotic energy school. I’ve been studying there for about ten years now. I’ve been assisting for about five, and started coordinating workshops last year.

There are two advanced retreats that I am coordinating coming up in May near Albany, NY and in July near Albuquerque, NM, and if you are experienced with erotic energy work you are invited to come join me there.

I kept writing “workshop” here, because that’s what we call them, but really they are retreats, either 3- or 5-days long.

A good friend of mine (and fellow butch!) is also coordinating the level one class in Oakland in May. Perhaps you’re a beginner, and interested in what all this subtle energy, erotic energy, tantra stuff is about? This one is perfect for you. It explores subtle and not so subtle energy in the body, as well as mapping desires, reclaiming pleasure, and healing old wounds. I’ve taken it probably ten times and it is always full of learning, fascinating, challenging, and beautiful.

I call it “level one” or sometimes even “beginner level,” but it is totally applicable to folks who have experience with this too. Kind of like how in yoga, an advanced student can come into a beginner class and still get tons and tons out of it. There is a lot of room for everyone’s experience, level of comfort, and personal life history in each of these courses and I highly encourage taking them. They have significantly changed my life in the last ten years and I have taken many, many of the foundations of my sexual self away from the teachings of these workshops, with these particular teachers.

I’m not posting all the details here, but I would be glad to send them to you if you want to know more. Email me at mrsexsmith (at) gmail.com and I will send you more information. I’m glad to answer questions you have, too.

In Honor of National Sexual Freedom Day

The Woodhull Freedom Foundation is hosting the first annual National Sexual Freedom Day today, and along with in person events in Washington, DC, there is a blog carnival you can participate in if you feel inspired to write about sexual rights and freedom.

The questions are: What does sexual freedom as a human right mean to you? and What legislative or social changes would you like to see to promote sexual freedom?

There are very few things we humans have in common. Our cultures clash, we speak different languages, we hold opposing values, we worship contradictory gods—but all of us have a body. All of us have a body with similar patterns, something vaguely person-shaped, with variable configurations of skin and size and style, with varying degrees of stamina and strength. We don’t all like to do the same things with our bodies, but we are all born, and we all die. We all experience the world through the confines of this corporeal flesh, these five senses, these minds, this aging process, these fascinating ways that our various systems—digestive, nervous, circulatory, respiratory, reproductive, endocrine—constantly work to maintain.

What we do with our bodies while we are here, while we have this lifetime to explore this world, is our choice. It is, in fact, our defining choice; what makes our lives truly ours.

The details are as variable as there are people on this planet—our genders, our sexualities, fashion tastes, what we do for work, what we do for fun, what sensations are enjoyable, how our senses function, what pleases our eyes or ears or mouths or fingertips. But that’s the fun part, isn’t it? That’s the part we get to make up as we go along, that’s the part that we get to change as frequently as we like, that’s the part we get to constantly be curious about and explore, every morning when we wake.

Some of us discovered young that we are sexual beings. That when we come, we tap in to energy beyond ourselves, we release through our muscles in ways that are inaccessible otherwise, we feel connected to ourselves, our lovers, the world around us.

The tantric belief is that this fire, this energy that we tap into when we are sexual is life itself, is life force itself, is not just sexual energy, but all energy. Sure, there are plenty of other ways to tap into that life force than to have sex—but for some of us, sex is the most fun, the most rewarding, the most liberating exploration or hobby that we can have.

Remember Dedee in the 1998 film The Opposite of Sex: “It was clever of God or evolution or whatever to hook the survival of the species to [sex], because we’re gonna screw around.” Screwing around is hardwired in these bodies of ours, especially when our hormones get going. That’s what our bodies crave, want, desire. I’m beginning to think that using sex to sell all that advertising isn’t solely as nasty or manipulative as the feminist theory says it is. Yes, this culture uses sex to sell irrelevant things, but there’s something else underneath that: everything really is about sex.

And for some of us, for me, for example, when I’m not having it, I think about it constantly. I want to know where it’ll happen next, who it will be with. I obsess, I write, I think. I crave the release that my body and mind goes through when relating to another person—another body—that way. I crave someone who is particularly aligned to my orientation so that we can fit together like puzzle pieces and start lifting each other up, taking each other higher, pushing each other’s boundaries, making it safe to do things and explore things that we haven’t otherwise done before, or perhaps that we have, but want to do again.

That’s where the body comes in: when we can strip away all of the crap that culture shoves on us about sex, all of the conflicting messages, all of the virgin/whore dichotomies, all of the macho masculinity size-king bullshit, all of the shame and guilt for our desires, we can start listening to our bodies, really listening, to what bubbles up from inside. What would feel good right now? Full body rope bondage? A Whartenberg wheel? Melting wax dripped all over your back? A really good, hard fucking, just taking your body, using it, with disregard to your pleasure? Impulsive, public displays of affection? Kissing, and more kissing, and more kissing?

What does your body crave?

I think most of us can barely answer this question honestly. Most of us would have to dig through too many layers of shame and symbols and bravado and performance to get down to what we are really craving, what we really desire, what our bodies are truly asking for.

To be able to get down to that craving, then to articulate that craving, then to have someone we could safely confide in about that craving, then to actually play with that craving—that is sexual freedom.

It could be as simple as knowing that my body is asking for a glass of water, or knowing that it’s time to rest, or it could be as complex as a type of relationship, or the physical location on the planet where I build my home. There are dozens of things related to our inabilities to listen to our bodies deepest desires, and yet so much of what keeps us from that skill is sexual shame.

What change would I like to see come of this? I would like to see people listening to their bodies. There is no way to put that through legislation, exactly. Perhaps there are more round-about ways, and for that I admire politicians who are capable of speaking the languages of government and instating laws of protection and celebration.

But the rest of us …

I think we need to keep listening, way down deep, letting desires bubble up, and practice speaking them aloud, or at least saying them to ourselves, writing them down. I want to see us all making choices which honor our unique experiences and move our bodies down the paths of our lives with less violence, less shame, less fear, less confusion, less suffering. I want to see us celebrating the deep knowing of who we are, where we’ve come from, where we’re going, who we are walking the paths with. I want to see us learn from BDSM groups and teachings about body safety, playing safely, teachings like Safe Sane Consensual or Risk Aware Consensual Kink. I want to see us learn from feminist theory about the sexualization of little girls and the commodification of women and the belittling of the power of our sexualities. I want to see us learn from trans and genderqueer communities about what is “real” and what is constructed, and keep unraveling what it means to be a human being in this world.

There has been much change in the past ten years since I’ve been heavily involved in sexual activism and studying my own culture, trying to explain the reasons so many of us are so messed up about our bodies and about our sexualities. I know there’s more change to come, and I believe this work, organizing National Sexual Freedom Day or writing online about sex and gender or exploring some new toys to enhance your own sexual play or becoming curious about your own body’s inner desires all comes down to the tiniest of moments, the tiniest of changes, in listing to oneself, and taking one’s inner wishes seriously.

What say you, folks? What does sexual freedom as a human right mean to you?

The Retreat

So I’ve just returned from a week out in the New Mexico desert, at a zen center, at a retreat with the erotic energy school with which I’ve been working for nearly ten years. This was the first time that I coordinated the retreat, meaning that I was the point person for logistical questions, I did most of the marketing and outreach, I organized the supplies that needed to be at the zen center while we were there, I registered all the participants and took care of the money. I answered last minute freak-out emails. I made sure everyone got from the airport to the zen center.

It was a hard job. I’m thrilled, on the one hand, to be doing more with the school, thrilled to be in more of a leadership role there. I’d really like to become a more formal apprentice to some of the teachers and perhaps even move into teaching this kind of thing myself. It’s a fascinating process, life-changing and delicious, and there’s not really any way to explain it in words. We just don’t have the language to describe energy and the way it moves in the body and how it connects to our emotional and erotic lives. I try, believe me I try to describe it, but I almost always fall short. Very frequently I just say it is beyond description. Something that must be experienced.

I did a similar retreat last year, it was residential and five days at the same location, but it was a completely different curriculum. Last year’s was formalized tantra. This year was just … play. The workshop title was “Pulse” and when the instructors and I were discussing it, they kept saying how much they just wanted to have fun. To move away from the classical tantra heady intellectual internal subtle stuff, but physical pleasure and release and play.

I’ve done things like this before, sure, some even in ritual space at an erotic energy workshops, but never for so many days and never quite like this. This was intense, hard, emotional, moving. And yes, lots of play.

It started out with a trip to the Georgia O’Keeffe museum in Santa Fe. No wait—scratch that. It started when I lost my wallet on the plane ride west, somewhere between JFK and ABQ. I’m not really sure what happened. When I got to Minneapolis, I didn’t have it. Thankfully, I did have my iPhone (which is kind of a miracle, since I keep it in my wallet). I was meeting two friends at the airport, two butches that I met at last year’s retreat, and we had planned to rent a car, drive up to Santa Fe to go to the museum, arrive a night early.

We still met up at the airport, but things got a bit jumbled because I’d made the reservations, and couldn’t pick up the car without a license or the credit card I’d used to make the reservation. At least I was meeting up with other people, I kept telling myself. If I’d been planning to do this alone, I don’t know what I would have done. Had someone wire me money, perhaps.

So that wallet thing put a ding on my plans. I had to deal with calling and canceling my cards, calling the airport’s lost and founds, trying not to stress about how I was going to get back on my plane to return. I had meticulously planned all the things I needed to do to get this retreat running, those 24 hours I had that were extra before the other participants arrived, so that was a stressful way to kick it off. And it’s so not like me! I kept wanting to explain that to everyone. I don’t do this kind of thing! I’m not disorganized! I don’t lose things like my wallet! Like, ever! But what could I do? I asked for what I needed, got a lot of support. And generally I was at a retreat center—I wasn’t on a shopping vacation, so I didn’t really need money. Just a few bucks here and there. It could’ve been worse.

We did make it to the Georgia O’Keeffe museum, and it was beautiful. This small little adobe building, only a few rooms, but a beautiful gallery. The other two butches and I—who everyone started calling “the fellas”—were only there for about half an hour, but we got a good sense of what was there. (It’s an exhibit I’d already seen in New York at the Guggenheim, of O’Keeffe’s abstracts, which I’d listened to the whole audio tour and spent hours in the galleries, so I felt well acquainted with most of the pieces.) Still, it was really lovely to see the museum and to see her works surrounded by the colors of the New Mexico desert.

We arrived at the zen center later than I’d planned, having been delayed by the whole wallet thing, but it was immediately a relief to be at the center, with the hummingbirds and the happy buddhist cats who live there and the hot springs and the hammock, oh the hammock, I love hammocks so much. (It kind of reminds me of Calvin & Hobbes: I just like to say hammock.)

I spent a lot of time in the Zendo (that photo on the right), which is a rather new building and is an incredibly beautiful meditation hall. The monks and residents who stay at the center get up every morning at 5am to do morning meditation, but I couldn’t bring myself to get up that early (even if it was 7am New York time) because I’d done it the year before and it wiped me out for the whole day. I wanted to be present for the workshop, much as I wanted to sit in that beautiful hall, so instead I stole into it (wearing socks to protect the tatami mats, of course) whenever I could. The zen practice is so rigid, sometimes it feels too immobile, but other times it is incredibly inspiring to clean lines and clear mind.

I miss meditating in that zendo.

The Fellas and I took over one of the rooms, the same one we’d all bunked in the year before. Since we got there so late and the participants were arriving the next day in the early afternoon, I didn’t have time to get into the hammock or go into the hot springs until after we’d already started and were dismissed for the night.

And what a delicious experience it was, when I finally lowered myself into the hot springs, walked along the bottom on all the pebbles, let the mineral waters soak into my muscles. Later, I lay in bed, my body tingling, a deep relaxation down into my bones, I could feel everything letting go, relaxing, just a little bit more. I started thinking about the abbess of the zen center, the woman who has lived there for the past thirty years. Time in the hot springs is actually listed on the daily schedule of the monks and people who come to spend time at the center. She goes into these hot springs nearly every single day for last thirty years, I thought. I would smile like her, too, if I did that.

It’s hard to describe the level of calm and relaxation that comes to me when I’m out in nature, connected to the weather and the earth and air and water, listening to the sounds of the birds and bugs and critters, paying attention to how a flower is growing. Up at Easton Mountain, where I’m coordinating another one of these retreats in November, there’s a sign in the vegetable garden that says, “The wilderness holds answers to more questions than we yet know how to ask.” —Nancy Newhail. I thought of that often when I was off on my own, sitting on a rock or in the grass or in the hammock watching the clouds, wondering if I would actually be happy if I wasn’t so connected to the heavy rhythms of the city, the culture, the events, the music and readings and bookstores and cafes and clubs. Wouldn’t I miss that? Wouldn’t I get bored? Would I really have enough fodder for my work, if I was closer to the earth and farther from people?

I don’t know. Maybe I would desperately miss the easy access to things like Thai food and dyke bars. But maybe I’d get enough of that if I kept my Internet connection (which of course would be mandatory) and kept traveling. I really don’t know.

When I visited Easton recently to get a feel for it, to see the accommodations and to be able to tell potential participants about the options and the space for the November workshop, when it came time to get back in the car and head back to the concrete urbana that is New York, I nearly teared up. I wanted to stay there. I wasn’t ready to go. I wanted to get out my computer and sit on the porch swing, or go for a walk on one of their trails. Kristen and I curled up in their hammock for a little while, but it was getting dark and it was time for dinner, so we didn’t stay long. I realized with that, though, that it’s really time to start planning my exit from the East coast and from New York City. I’ve always said I wouldn’t stay here forever, but I’ve been here more than five years now and it’s starting to feel less temporary. I don’t know if there really is somewhere better for me, but I want to look. I’m not convinced this is where I belong.

I’ve narrowed it down to somewhere along the I-5 corridor: Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, the Bay. I don’t know what will be best for me, or for Kristen, presuming that she comes along. But it’s time for me to start creating a plan.

I know I’ve been saying that for a long time, and that pretty much my entire column over on SexIs has been dedicated to reconciling with New York or, in my more city-depressed months, complaining about missing the West. But it feels different, and it’s time to start making a plan.

The retreat unfolded, as it does, with complicated emotions and things that became undone and unsure footing and practice and pleasure. The Fellas and I had a great time reconnecting and bunking together, and we often decompressed together at night after the big events of the day. There was another butch there, a leather butch also from the East coast, and along with one of the instructors and another woman who was figuring out that she was possibly queer (and, we suspect, possibly a bit masculine of center), when we finally got around to what we dubbed the Sadie Hawkins dance on the third day of the retreat, where we were all letting loose with some dancing and silliness, there were six of us up against the wall with our arms folded over our chests, saying, “I am dancing.”

It was thrilling and different to be in a women-only space with five other (or four and a half, really) masculine of center people. I struggled for a while, after I started doing work with this school, to bring my own masculinity to these women-only spaces, especially when they are focused on erotic healing and power, because much of the trauma in women’s sexualities has to do with men and, subsequently, masculinity. But since I’ve been bringing it harder into that space, not so apologetic or nervous about packing or wearing a button down or boxers, the experiences have been more about fetishizing my masculinity than about being afraid of it. Swooning over it, even, since for straight women to be in a women-only space where we’re exploring eroticism can sometimes be strange, with no one to focus their erotic attention on when they are genuinely not attracted to women. But insert a masculine woman into that equation, and it’s easier to sexualize us, easier to want us, easier to ask us to do things (like penetrate) that they would otherwise perhaps shy away from in groups of women.

I’ve never been in one of these women-only workshops that had so much heat and intensity around gender. One of The Fellas said, “I have—when I was the only butch.” And yes, I’ve been in that scenario, too, and it is also intense, but in a different way. Or maybe I was different then, or was just in a different position. This time felt different though, and at times scary. I felt like I was getting lost, being used for my masculinity, not being seen beyond my presentation. By time day four rolled around, I lost it for an afternoon, but thankfully I had so much support and many friends there, other queers who do “get” my masculinity and my presentation and weren’t just using me—or us! because of course a lot of this I ended up projecting onto those other butches, feeling like I needed to swoop in and save them, too, from being eaten up. Thank goodness they were around, and I could talk to them about what was going on for me (after freaking out a little and not knowing what was wrong).

That comes up in my life quite frequently, now that I am thinking about it, and there were plenty of other “issues” of mine that came up while in the circle, too. My relationships to community, authority, and leadership, for example, were tried and complex, and came up more than once. Being in touch with what I wanted continued to be a challenge. The distance between being in service to someone as an assistant and being seen for who I am felt fine sometimes, and terrible others. There were many moments when people asked me to clarify my gender or to explain something. “I work with a lot of trans guys, so I get gender,” one woman said to me over breakfast. “But I don’t get … ” she vaguely gestured to me. “Me?” I asked. “Yeah.” I gave a five-minute explanation of female masculinity and the identity alignment assumptions of femininity and female, masculinity and male. She seemed to get it. And it didn’t take much out of me, I’m okay with those conversations. Practiced at them. But it kept happening from all directions, throughout the retreat.

That wasn’t the only part of the retreat, though. I had some great conversations with the queers in attendance about gender, about stone identity, about masculinity and the ways we get used, about femme visibility in a women-only space, about being the “experiment.” The Fellas and I had a great conversation about male identity, where one of us said, “I’m not a ‘fella,’ I’m not a guy. I’m butch, that is my gender, and I’m woman identified.” We all nodded in agreement. In my semi-formal studies of masculinity, I’ve started getting more and more So even referring to us as “The Fellas” as I’ve done here seems not quite right, but I think of it as us, not as a male thing, and I like how it’s casual and a little dapper.

I’m so glad it was such a queer space.

There was talk about doing it again next year, and my first experience coordinating went very well. The group had a wonderful dynamic all together, and though there were some newcomers, everyone was really up for it and brought it, fully, attended and gave their all and, I think, moved mountains in their own personal erotic and emotional work.

It was beautiful to watch.

Watching the releases is my favorite part, really. It’s why I so adore doing this work, and why I crave these workshops. That level of cellular release of trauma and pain and shame is so hard to recreate one-on-one or outside of these ritual spaces, and it satisfies something deep in me. Something about healing women, about fixing what is so fucked up and wrong with this culture that does this to us.

I had a chance to chat with another woman (a queer femme in her 60s!) who does similar work coordinating workshops, and with the facilitators, and I expressed interest in doing more of this erotic healing work around genderqueer folks, butches, and anyone who consider themselves stone. I would love to get a more explicitly queer group together, even if it was just once, or once a year.

The folks who returned who had also attended last year all expressed interest in continuing this tradition, so who knows? These retreats in late summer may become an annual event, returning to the desert with a circle of women to strip ourselves bare and soak ourselves in healing waters.

I’m Off to the Desert

For the second year in a row, I’m heading out to the Southwest to do a week-long erotic energy retreat through the school I’ve been studying with for nearly ten years and two of my favorite teachers.

Photo taken by me last year

This year, it’s different because I’ve been the one who is actually coordinating the workshop, doing a lot of marketing and outreach to get participants, then answering any sorts of logistical questions that I can while attendees are planning their travels. It’s been a bit stressful, but I’ve really enjoyed it, and I’m so looking forward to being done with all the coordinating and start in on the relaxing and exploring and erotic energy depths.

I always learn so much on these retreats, about myself especially but also about energy and erotics. Remember last year, I came back with a whole new theory about yin and yang and masculinity? It’s a very different workshop this year, but I’m sure there will be something that will toss my brain inside out for a minute and help me see things anew. Or, if nothing else, to hang and share space and time and erotics with some very fantastic people.

I’m coordinating another workshop in November in New York, this one is for beginner practitioners who are interested in deepening their own connection to erotic energy. It’s a women-identified only residential weekend workshop at a gay retreat center (with a sauna, hot tub, pool, and hiking trails). The workshop itself, which I’ve done many times over the ten years I’ve been working with this school, is very powerful, sometimes life-changing, and now that I’m coordinating I’m trying to encourage lots of genderqueer and queer folks to come and take it. If you want more information about that, email me.

I’ve got a couple things scheduled to pop up while I’m gone, but know that if you contact me I likely won’t get it until I get back to work on September 1st.

Have a wonderful week, y’all, and will chat with you when I get back.

A Brief Period of Sobriety

I decided not to drink in August. I’ve done a few periodic breaks from alcohol over the last few years, but I haven’t done that recently, so it was about time to try it again.

I like to practice not drinking, not necessarily because I think I have a problem with alcohol, but because at times I can lean too heavily on it to curb the anxiety I sometimes struggle with. It does seem to work, but I’m not sure that’s the best way to deal with it. Well, I know it isn’t the best way to deal with it, but it’s an easy way, and pretty effective.

A quick whiskey on the rocks and I am good to go. That tightness in my chest, the clutch around my heart, the panic, the cloudy mind, all lighten and start disappearing.

Someone told me once that I should be medicated if New York causes me so much anxiety and stress. I snapped back that if it got to that point, it clearly wasn’t healthy for me to be here, and I would leave. And as much as I hate to ever think that she could have possibly had a point, I have to wonder if that might be true. Of course there are things one can do before one medicates. I can change my lifestyle, change my nutrition, change my daily habits, exercise more. I think I’ve been overcompensating with alcohol, trying to avoid the realities of the stress of this city and the lifestyle here.

I remember talking to my therapist about this at some point, wondering if I was drinking too much. I wondered if drinking every single night—not to the point of drunkenness, just to the point of subduing the panic—was something I should look at, be curious about. She said she was more interested in my lack of restful sleep.

Well, now I sleep restfully. Now I don’t have to get up at 7:30 am to commute to a corporate job, and I get enough sleep. The nightmares are less. The insomnia is less, usually. My mind quiets and calms at night, usually.

But I still drink.

Aside from detoxing, aside from possibly dealing more directly with my anxiety, I want to cut down on the calories I take in. You’ve probably seen Kristen’s Twitter stream, she bakes constantly, and cooks delicious food, and while that makes me very happy, it has not been wonderful to my waistline. I’m struggling to squeeze into my old jeans. I’m also 31 now, and I think something happens to the metabolism in the late twenties-ish time, and my body just doesn’t process like it used to. Plus, though I’m no longer sitting at a desk at a corporate job all day every day, that also means I’m not making time on my lunch breaks for a trip to the gym, and I think some of my habits have changed. I need some new ones. I joined a gym, I’m back to jogging and lifting weights, I’m trying to get a regular schedule going.

One of my favorite writing and life mentors, Tara Hardy, has a poem talking about her sobriety, and says “Ask yourself, what would it mean if we all got collectively un-numb? In touch with possibility daily? That’s what I’m asking. Put nothing between you and your disappointment, and your grief, and your rage, and what they want us to believe is dangerous: hope. Desire. Need. Meet your need naked.” I’m thinking about this as I’m nearing the end of week two of this cleanse, this voluntary brief temporary period of sobriety, and as I keep thinking how easy it would be to pop open that beer that’s in the fridge.

I’m experimenting with a more focused and deliberate Buddhist path, too, and one of the Five Precepts is to abstain from escaping from consciousness—traditionally, this stated as abstaining from alcohol, but it can be many things that we use to turn our brains off, from a video game to a joint to whiskey to working out to mindless tv to surfing the Internet. The sangha I attend most often has a very contemporary interpretation of the precepts, seeing them as not so much as rigid guidelines as much as attempting to see their essence, to get at what the rule was getting at, and to apply consciousness to the practice. So it’s not so much about abstaining from alcohol as it is being mindful of the reasons why we are drinking, often the same reasons why I watch episode after episode of 30 Rock, or surf around on tumblr for hours.

I know I use alcohol to escape my mind, my suffering, my emotions.

What would happen if I did that less? What would happen if I had to sit with it more directly? To sit quietly with that pain and suffering, with the dukkha?

So I guess this brief stint of sobriety is attempting to experiment with that, too.

I’m also doing a sacred intimacy/tantra workshop in the end of August, a similar one that I did last year, only this year I am coordinating the workshop and attending as a staff member. I’m thrilled about that, one of my intentions for this year was to deepen my tantra practice, and my involvement with the tantra school with which I’ve been studying for almost ten years now took a leap. Every time I do one of these workshops, they recommend doing a little bit of detox and not ingesting substances like drugs or alcohol for the few days around the workshop, and I often do about a week of sobriety leading up to one of them. This time, I figured I would extend the time to an entire month, as an experiment, and see what happens.

It’s easy to drink. It’s harder not to, it’s harder to sit with what I’m going through and harder to order club soda and lime at a bar, harder to breathe through the social anxiety or excitement or turn down a nice glass of wine at dinner with friends. But it’s temporary. And perhaps I’ll learn something.

Sweat & Summer

1.

I was being a jerk. Not sure the details are all that important, I just got up on the wrong side of the bed and everything was bothering me and it was 95 degrees outside and I was mad at the world. I made the mistake of thinking that running errands in Manhattan would make me feel better. Get some things done, knock things off the to do list. Did I forget that I don’t deal with heat well? (Can I stop complaining about the heat already?)

Plus, the errands were unsuccessful. I’m only a recent Mac owner, my MacBook is about a year old, and I’ve never had to go into the Apple Store for service before. My power cord shorted out over the weekend (anybody out there have an extra one lying around? Will trade) and I didn’t know I needed an appointment at the Genius Bar, so i just went in. Plus, my iPhone 4G, which replaced my ancient 3G since I broke the screen when I dropped it on a playground in Alaska, is getting a terrible signal and I’d just heard about the booster cases Apple is giving to 4G owners. Of course, you have to do that on the website, not at the store, and they’re unavailable/out of stock. We shall see how that goes.

Combine my disappointment, my not working cell phone, my powerless laptop, with the heat, not to mention the crowds of Soho and then Union Square, and I was ready for a drink.

What I’m saying is, I was spending all my energy trying to keep it together as Kristen and I shopped for peaches and tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market.

By the time we got home I’d picked a fight, then started to backpedal out of it. We were both upset. I was being a jerk. I couldn’t seem to calm myself down or shake this “everything sucks” mood. I apologized; I knew I was off, and I said so. I tried to state what I needed, I tried to remove myself to give myself time to calm down. I could have done better. I gave up and took a nap.

2.

Hours later I woke up a little reset, Kristen and I had a decent evening, dinner and a movie, sitting close on the couch, being more careful with each other.

Later still, after we got in bed, I pulled her close as we snuggled in together and kissed her, a physical apology for my distance that I was trying to make up for with closeness. I wanted to be closer still, feel her everywhere, make it up to her, be inside her. I still felt fragile and a little thin, but the want was growing as we kissed. I got flashes of my forearm across her chest, holding her down. Adding some extra bruises to the two on her inner thighs, which are blooming nicely. I saw flashes of fucking her fast and hard and furious and it made me hot, eager.

I kissed her again, let my hands slip under her green tank top, one fingertip into the top of her undies. She sighed, kissed me back, hands in my hair, and I felt myself melt a little into her.

“Play with me?” I asked, quiet, our mouths still nearly touching.

Her whole body responded with a flush of heat that rippled through her. “Of course baby. What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know.” C’mon, I chided myself. Say something. “I feel the instinct to be mean. But I don’t know if I can do that. I don’t know if that’d feel good, after how I treated you today.”

“You could be my mean Daddy. I like it when you do that. It would be okay.”

I was quiet. Not sure it was a good idea. I’d rather not be so torn. I’d been torn all day.

“Or you could be small,” she whispered close to my ear, stroking my hair.

Even the words felt like a relief. I nodded. “Just … take care of me for a while?” She nodded back and kissed me again, a little more commanding than usual. Her lips were sweet, tongue soft, warm, and I started to get lost in the kiss, in the feel of her next to me, touching me.

“Give me your hand,” she said, and took it up and under her shirt, to her breast, firm and round and soft in my palm. I ran my fingers over her nipple like it was a fence I was walking by, brushing it as it grew more stiff, then pinching it hard, and the arch of her back made the growl return to my stomach. Strength. Power. Maybe I need some of that. She squirmed and let out a little cry as I twisted and pulled, then took a huge handful and kissed her.

I like her nipples in my mouth. Supple and soft. I have never been, as they say, a “breast man,” never quite got it like others seem to. Don’t get me wrong, I feel and play and suck and pinch, especially when I know that’s what she likes, but maybe it’s because my own aren’t very sensitive that I didn’t used to derive a lot of my own pleasure from playing with them. Recently, though, that’s been different. (Have I written about this before?)

I was starting to salivate, to get that itch for that feeling of smallness and sucking, when she said, “Will you suck on my tities, sweet boy?” I smiled, then bit my lip to hide it. Pushed her shirt up farther and took my arm out from under her neck, lying back down over hers, a little bit of role reversal, allowing her to give me some needed comfort for perhaps the first time that day.

I lowered my mouth down to her nipple, rested my head on her arm and against her chest as her hands pulled my head closer, and sighed. Her areola puckered in my mouth, against my tongue. Her skin was sweet with that salty wisp of sweat and summer. I sucked her in deeper and used my teeth to hold her there. She gasped. I flicked my tongue, then widened it and lapped at her nipple, thick long strokes over and over.

“Ohh that’s good … that feels so good.”

I let myself get lost in the sucking. Let it feel like nourishment, let myself be filled. I pictured energy pouring out of her, down my throat, pooling in my belly, and kept drinking it in.

After a minute I shifted, brought my mouth slowly off and over to the other, brought my weight slightly over her so I could free up my right hand. I cupped her tits and kept the angle in my mouth, then dragged my hand down her stomach and hips to her thighs, which she easily parted, a nonverbal request. I slid my hand into her panties and found her wet, dipped my fingers in slow.

I lifted my mouth and looked up at her. “May I?”

“Yes, mmm yes,” she murmured, leaning back into the bed and pressing her cunt toward my hand.

I wet my fingertips and traced her lips around her clit, flicked it, stroked it. Bit at her nipple. It didn’t take long; she started writhing, breathing, “Oh that’s good, that’s my good boy, my good boy,” and came, shuddering against me.

I kissed her mouth again and she stroked my neck, held me to her. “That felt good baby.”

“I like to feel you do that. Like to touch you.”

“You made me all wet, you made me feel so good.” She kissed me again. “Suck my nipples again, sweet boy?”

I lowered my mouth again, settled next to her as she kept me cradled.

“Did that make your cock all hard?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said quietly, not looking up. “A little.”

“Did that make you want to touch it.”

I murmured something between an “um” and a “mm.” Hesitant and feeling shy. That boy-feeling of exposure, vulnerability; you can see how much I want this by the strain against my zipper, the uncomfortable hardness, the pressure.

Of course, I don’t really have that. But there are moments, like when she starts talking about it, that this feeling comes up, and this is the best I can do to explain it.

“Touch it,” she said quietly. “Touch it for me. Tell me how it feels.” She knew I wasn’t packing. She meant my cock, my other cock, my little cock I sometimes call it, my dick, my clit.

I reached down to feel under the boxers I’d pulled on to sleep in, found my cunt wet and lips swollen, my clit—my cock—hard and slick. It felt good to touch. Like I had permission, like I could take my time. Like relief from the tension that had mounted in my body during my bad mood all day. Like release.

I dragged my fingers along lazily for a minute, touching, relaxing, with a massaging touch, building arousal. I thought she might ask me to go get my big cock, so I didn’t want to come quickly. Let’s let it build.

“How does it feel?” she asked into my hair, arms still wrapped around me.

“It feels good. Hard. Thick and big.”

“Mmm. I like it when it gets hard and big. Then you put it inside me, don’t you, my sweet boy? You like to put it in my pussy.”

Quickly, the flash of pushing my cock into her, her tight resistance, the way she opens up and wraps around me was in my head. My cock pulsed harder. I could barely respond, her nipples still in my mouth, still needing the distraction and permission of sucking.

I started rubbing my clit cock faster, jerking it a little, keeping my fingertips wet. My muscles got harder, too, contracting in my thighs and ass and stomach, starting to clench down and press into my hand. My knees straightening out, toes curling, then knees opening out to the side, legs splayed.

I let it build until I was almost ready to come and then backed off, took my hand away for a second, concentrated on sucking at her tits again, a little harder, a little deeper into my mouth, tonguing her nipples and swallowing as I breathed and concentrated on the heat building between my legs.

Only a quick break, a quick moment before I reached back down and started rubbing my clit again. Moaning through my full mouth, pressing myself against her, her arms pulling me toward her chest and keeping me close to her as I got closer, closer. Stroking up and down and, if I was being really honest, I would tell you I was thinking about my other cock, my big cock, the go-to one I usually use, and whose weight I miss hanging from my hips if I don’t wear it a few times a week. The girth of it in my hand, what it’s like to slip over the head and feel the ridges, feel its tip against my palm. What it’s like to slide inside of her.

More noise from my mouth. Growls and grunts and heavy breathing and convulsions as my chest and stomach contracted.

“Are you getting closer, sweet boy? Come for me. Come on, jerk that cock for me.”

I kept my fingers low and felt the tension hard and swollen under my fingers. Just a couple more strokes, just—there—just—closer, my fingers in fierce rhythm getting harder, quicker, as fast as I could go, “Yeah, yeah, fuck,” I started trying to exhale more, I’m holding my breath, pushing my hips up to meet my strokes.

“That’s good baby, that’s so good,” she keeps murmuring.

I’m ready and it burst out of me as I pulsed and thrusted, stroking fast and hard once more, twice, three times, my body convulsing in the microseconds between, shuddering as the shock waves faded, gasping as I calmed and tried to keep letting go, still feeling ripples of release through my whole body. I realized her nipple was still in my mouth, loosely held so I could suck in air, and I let up to take a full breath, let it out slow. Still shuddering. Still tingly all over. And as I relaxed I released even more, letting something out, some tension I’d been holding on to, something bigger, who knows what, something stored deep in my muscles, and tears started rolling down my face and toward my ears, I started gulping, soft sobs between breaths. Just a few before it passed, faded, and my breath smoothed.

I turned toward her again and sighed, rested against her, kissed her. I was spent. It didn’t take long to fall asleep (in a slightly wider embrace, still affected by the heat).

I woke the next morning feeling scrubbed clean, not a trace of that bad mood left in my system, pulled her close, smelled her skin, felt her shoulder with my cheek. Everything is much better when I remember how lucky I am to wake up with this beautiful girl every day.


Have you nominated your favorite sex bloggers for the Top Sex Bloggers 2010 list yet? Just leave a comment with your favorites before July 31st.

My Evolving Masculinity, Part Four: Personal

See also: Part One, Introduction, Part Two, Yin & Yang, and Part Three: “Daddy”

I started this series in the summer, nearly six months ago now. I have already written a post about some of what I dealt with personally in the late summer and early fall, and some of my point of part four I have already gone through – some of it was about me processing through what I was struggling with in light of masculinity and the ways that thinking about maturing my gender helped me overcome some of the hardships.

There were a variety of things I was struggling with—all of the major elements in my life were shaken, just a tad, and then there was a personal crisis (related to someone who I continue, somehow, to allow to haunt me) that was the straw that broke the Jameson glass. And I kind of lost it. I was full-on in crisis, fairly unable to keep myself stable. I have a lot of tried-and-true “coping mechanisms,” tricks that make me feel whole and solid and thoroughly like myself, and are comforting and grounding, but they were failing me too. Nothing was working.

Here’s what’s interesting: everywhere I went, in my own writing, in my conversations with Kristen, in my psychotherapy work, in my bodywork, I was hearing from everyone that I needed to be stronger. To contain more, let it out less. Hold my own better. To “man up,” in other words.

Part of me oh so resented that! I mean, excuse me? I am a dyke, by definition I overprocess! Are you telling me that because of my gender? Would the universe be telling a femme the same things?

But once I got over myself a little, I thought, what the hell. I can’t keep going like this, I may as well try anything because I can’t continue this way. So I tried some new things on. I tricked myself into being stronger for a while, to see what happened.

It’s kind of the psychic equivalent of holding your breath, and letting it out in a slow, controlled stream.

But – this is a double edged sword, isn’t it, for someone masculine? Hold back your emotions? Don’t express yourself? Handle it on your own, don’t ask for help? These are classic PROBLEMS with masculinity, not necessarily what should be encouraged in someone masculine.

But despite that, I was willing to give it a try, because I could tell I was in dangerous slippery territory and needed to get myself back to somewhere stronger. Things started shifting. I attended a yoga class where the instructor spoke about making the pose effortless, and I thought: that is my problem. I extend so much effort to everything in my life. What would happen if I didn’t? I mean, do I really need to extend so much effort in getting on the subway and commuting to my job daily? Or in meeting a friend for drinks? Or in writing, or meditating, or doing yoga, or preparing food? These things could be effortless parts of my life, why do I waste so much energy thinking they are hard and require so much work? They could be easier than I let them be.

And then there was the Modern Love column in the New York Times, Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear:

You see, I’d recently committed to a non-negotiable understanding with myself. I’d committed to “The End of Suffering.” I’d finally managed to exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside my control. I’d seen the insanity of that equation and decided to take responsibility for my own happiness. And I mean all of it.

And there was Nicole Blackman’s poem, You Are Never Ready:

You must change your life. You are never ready.

There were other things, too. The new Tori Amos album was comforting. I re-read Tim Ferriss’s article on Stoicism 101 and was reminded of my coworker who used to say, “I like to be stoic about my suffering.” I re-read some of my notes from a recent Buddhist class, and meditated on suffering, and on effort, and on lovingkindness.

Something started unraveling, and my grip on whatever this suffering was started to loosen. I started thinking myself out of my fear of the forward movement, and into what is really happening for me: I’m growing. And growth requires the temporary suspension of security.

I know what I need to do to get to where I want to be. I know how I want to spend my days, I know what I want to do with my time, I know the subjects which I want to study. I have a much better idea of how to get from here to there than I ever have. I have a trajectory, I have thoughts, I have aim, I have focus. And now I need … what? Patience? Or perhaps endurance, perhaps stamina. Sometimes I need to be able to trust that when I take that leap of faith, something will catch me. That is precisely the definition of a leap of faith, after all. And grace, I need more grace, by which I mean “the ease with which one handles crisis,” I need more of that too. I pull so heavily on buddhist teachings when I get in crisis, or when those I care for are in crisis, I think I should really deepen that practice to give myself even more tools with which to deal with hardships and suffering.

I had a Part Five planned for this series, which was titled “In Which I Grow Up,” but that page has been blank since I started this series. I’m not even sure I know what I’m trying to say here. Something about how “grown up” masculinity actually is some of those things that we think are “bad” about masculinity—like stoicism or containing our emotions—and yet it is precisely that which opens up a whole new level of being, of caring for ourselves and others. Something about how that is not the negative, awful, repressive thing that, as a feminist studying masculinity, I was always taught and told. Of course, there are buckets of problems with this … but it is not so simple as just being a 100% bad thing. There are benefits, too. I’m struggling to articulate the ways that it is beneficial, I suppose we are lacking language and theory on this in general. But perhaps this small series—and, now, my Radical Masculinity column—can be a springboard to my further studies which shed more light on the ways this is useful.

Now’s the part where I ask you what you think. Please do chime in on what you think about the evolution of masculinity—your own, or those whom you have witnessed:

What has your experience been with “grown up” masculinity vs a younger masculinity?
What changed for you when you grew up?
What is different? What evolves, if anything?
What kinds of qualities would you like to see masculine folks embody as we get older?
How does masculinity evolve?

My Evolving Masculinity, Part Two: Yin & Yang

Part Two in a series of five. See also: Part One, Introduction

Beyond the Concepts of Yin & Yang

I was introduced to many new concepts at the 5-day tantra retreat I attended over the summer of 2009, but the one I’ve been constantly chewing on and talking about and sharing and using to analyze myself and others has to do with yin and yang.

Most of us are familiar with the concepts of yin and yang – and many of us who study gender may call bullshit immediately, saying it is a binaristic, dualistic system that does not account for the gray areas, just the black and white. But as much as postmodern theory wants to deconstruct the binary and create and celebrate a multitude of options, there’s a part of me that thinks outright dismissal of the binary is just unrealistic – we are bipeds, we have a long human history of constructing the world in twos, in binaries, in this-and-not-this. Yes, we need more than two options, do not get me wrong. Especially when it comes to gender, there are so many more expressions and experiences than ‘man’ and ‘woman.’ But that said, there is something basic about the binaries – light/dark, in/out, hot/cold – that is useful to structure the world around us.

Most of us are familiar at least in a broad way with the yin and yang concepts. Yin is receptive, dark, fluid; yang is penetrative, light, pointed. Yang enters, yin receives. Yang inquires, yin observes. Associating feminine and masculine with yin and yang is a challenge because I do not want to seem prescriptive – if you are feminine, you are not required to be yin, for example. Gender expression does not necessarily line up with these types of energy breakdowns.

Yin is traditionally associated with femininity, and yang masculinity. It’s probably clear why: the penis/vulva intercourse description inherent in the penetrative/receptive delineation easily dictates how the energies are divided. Together, yin and yang are called the Stabilizing Energies, as they need each other in order to be strong. Without something to hold, yin is empty; without somewhere to rest, yang cannot stand up by itself.

When broken down, yin and yang Stabilizing Energies are the Masculine Yang and the Feminine Yin.

The second type of energies, which was the part of this that is all new to me, are the Transformative Energies, which are the Masculine Yin and the Feminine Yang.

The Feminine Yang is also called spanda or shakti in tantra, the equivalent of ‘life force.’ But not life force in an ommmmm prana/breath way – more like a violent life force, the ripping open of legs and cunt to push a baby to be born. The spontaneous expressions of joy and energy that overcome us. A lava flow, a rushing river of rapids. Pure force, pure energy, intense and wild.

Her counterpart is the Masculine Yin. He is the riverbank to her river. He is the container, the thing that keeps her safe. But not in a controlling, overbearing way (that is perhaps indicative that the masculine yin in someone is imbalanced or poorly developed) but in the way a father coaxes a wild child to redirect their energy, like martial arts, taking the opponent’s force and deflecting it, using it against them. The Masculine Yin is a firm, nurturing hand, the container in which the feminine yang can rest and grow and feel safe. Without the container, she is explosive, sometimes wild. She needs the gentle guidance to be transofrmative.

Though these qualities are associated with gendered words, they are by no means prescriptive or restrictive, and in fact tantra presses that everyone needs to have a balance of all of these energies, and even has some methods by which to develop the areas where one is weaker.

Personal Revelations

Because, well, this is my personal online writing project (a.k.a. “blog”), I am going to take a minute to explore these four categories and how they relate to me and especially my evolving masculinity.

Feminine Yin – Growing up the child of two feminist hippies, and discovering things like Ms. Magazine, wicca, and feminism as a teenager, gave me a very strong base in the feminine yin. I did not grow up a tomboy like many transmasculine folks, I wore dresses and skirts and makeup (much to my feminist mother’s chagrin) in my teens. When I did begin taking on masculinity, my respect for femininity stayed steady and firm and did not really change – what changed was only my own presentation. I still saw a lot of value in the caretaking qualities of the feminine yin. In fact, perhaps more than feminism (which, one might argue, sometimes values the feminine yang over the feminine yin), my base with the feminine yin comes from my mother, who is an early childhood educator and extremely receptive, sometimes to a fault. And while there are some ways I could improve my feminine yin receptivity (i.e. sexually – though I’d rather have a different kind of sex, more on that later), for the most part my issue here is that I am too receptive, too hyper-sensitive, too eager to take in the world around me. I don’t necessarily have a deficit, then, but I do perhaps have an overabundance.

Masculine Yang – I have spent at least the last five years very intentionally developing my masculine yang. That is the energy that more than any others was left out of my family, so I didn’t know intuitively how to reproduce it, and the examples in culture are generally negative, overbearing, misogynistic, even dangerous. I took a lot of time learning how to penetrate, how to be inquisitive, how to investigate, how to externalize my desire. I even moved to arguably the most masculine yang city in the United States – New York. So much forced learning happens here, at times painfully. I don’t think New York creates problems so much as it exacerbates and explodes what is already there, and in my case, New York would not let up, would not let me turn away, and I had to develop and strengthen my masculine yang to keep myself safe and whole. I feel good about the changes I’ve made – I was clearly lacking some masculine yang, and I think I’ve adopted it in ways that are strong and stabilizing, not necessarily in offensive, violating external ways.

Masculine Yin – When I first heard about this concept, this is the one that clicked. Oh. Fuck. That’s what I need. In fact, that’s what I’ve been trying to develop recently, for a few years now even, though I never had a specific name for it. The funny thing is, I am very skilled at being a container and holding space in many aspects of my life – I would say this site does a lot of that, for example: creating a safe space for people to come and interact and explore complicated, personal ideas. I do it in my sex life all the time, pushing the girls I sleep with to a bigger, deeper release, and then holding them through it and bringing them back to a place of safety and care. This happens with Kristen especially quite often; I feel blessed and privileged that she trusts me that much, and that she’s willing to let me guide her through some of these dark, complicated, occasionally painful places, and as our sexual relationship continues to deepen I think we’ve both been able to explore the ways that I contain her and hold space for her experience in bed in bigger ways. And yet … and yet. I can’t seem to do this for myself in the ways that I want to. I sometimes get frightened of my own capacity for “big-ness” and hold back because I’m not sure I can contain it. I need to have better corral over many aspects of my life (my paperwork, my clutter, my calendaring, my obligations) and I know I need a firmer, heavier hand to come along with gentle strength and say no, no, no, to more things than I do now.

Feminine Yang – I’m not sure I trust my feminine yang. I feel it bubbling up in me sometimes, but I’m not sure I – or the world or my partner or my friends or my community – can hold the bigness and chaos that I fear will spill out of me. At the tantra retreat, for example, when I was thinking beforehand about my intention and what I wanted to get out of it, I really wanted to leave my New York crazy life behind, to forget my to do list and the million things that were weighing on my mind, and really find some deep calm and be able to be present in that new delicious space. That, however, wasn’t a problem at all – the whole world and my whole life dropped away from me as soon as I entered the beautiful zen center hot springs space, and I stepped into a deep calm and sense of self that was just under the surface. The challenge, however, was with what came out of that deep calm – this overwhelming power and strength and WHOOSH that sometimes took my breath away. I always felt like I had to back off from it, to not indulge or give in to it, but to contain and control it. I don’t think I ever quite let it out. So I do need more practice with this one, definitely.

If I think about it, it seems to make sense that in a butch top/femme bottom sexual relationship the butch top would occupy more external, explosive yang and that the femme bottom would take in the receptive, containing yin. But in our case, she is feminine in both ways, in both the reception and the explosivity, and I am masculine in both ways, in the penetration and simultaneous containing. I think this is at times one of the frustrations of our sex life, one of the ways it limits us, because I’d like to be able to be more explosive and big in the feminine yang, and for her to be able to hold me through her own masculine yin. We’ve had this conversation, we’ve discussed it in depth and it continues to come up as we explore all sorts of other things, and as I explore my evolving masculinity.

How I Need To Grow

One of the tantra teachers on the retreat shared with me this story, when I went to her specifically about the Masculine Yin, saying, that. Yes. That is what I need. How do I get that?

She said that as her masculine side was pretty weak when she began this work, and specifically did some rituals to strengthen it. At some point, after a ritual, she was so heavily embodied in the Masculine Yang that she felt like she would just fuck anything that moved. She immediately went back to her teacher and said: “help! I am definitely embodying masculine yang, but it feels like I am an out-of-control teenaged boy! How do I control and contain this? What happens between the ages of sixteen and thirty, for men, in their masculine development, that they can handle this wild energy?”

Her teacher said: we grow our balls.

That was such an A-ha! moment for me. Yes, of course: Masculine Yin is all about balls, and, as a dyke, I have a particular aversion to balls, and most of my strap-on cocks don’t include them.

Balls are the literal counter-weight to the cock, the thing that keeps the cock grounded and balanced and in check.

I know my Masculine Yang. I feel pretty good about the ways I occupy it, too. But as my masculinity is evolving, I need to move into a more adult, grounded, Masculine Yin sense of masculinity, and I think if I could embody that more completely and wholly, my masculinity would feel better, and I would feel better.

The next part of the My Evolving Masculinity series is Part Three: “Daddy”, to be posted in the next week.

The Study Date

Here is number 4 of 5 of the 2008 Sugarbutch Star stories! In case you need a reminder of the the Sugarbutch Star contest is reader-submitted outlines of fantasies which I then turn into full-length smut stories. I plan to run the contest again in August. Read up on the past stories at Sugarbutch.net/sugarbutch-star-contest.

This submission comes from Green-Eyed Girl – yes, the Green-Eyed Girl.

Sugarbutch Star: Green-Eyed Girl
THE STUDY DATE

I push her back against the door of the classroom the second she closes it, catching her jaw by surprise, my hand over her mouth. “Is this what you wanted? You want me up against you like this?”

Corinne’s knees go weak and her eyes widen, looking up at me softly under her short red hair which curled around her chin in a blunt bob, the bangs across her forehead making her look like a model from the thirties. Her ivory blouse is loose and silky against her skin, a bit fallen to one side, showing the edges of a lace camisole.

I bet she’s already wet.

“You’ve been trying to get me alone all semester. Did you think I didn’t know what you wanted, when you asked me to study with you after class?” I speak softly against her neck, let her feel my breath, hot, against her skin.

Corinne can’t speak. She had been taking up all the air in the room every day in our evening literature class, feisty and talkative, and I’ve finally caught her unprepared. I like the way she keeps glancing at me, then glancing around the room, at the windows, at the door, the small individual desk-chair sets in messy rows, as if she isn’t sure she wants to be here, now that she created this situation.

“You like the way I feel, don’t you?” I bring my hand to her waist, to the curve of her hip, to the front of her thighs, running it up her belly, to her breasts.

She gasps. Nods slowly. I let my fingers find the hem of her black pencil skirt and start tugging it up her thighs. She looks surprised and shifts her weight, her heels of her black pumps clicking on the hard classroom floor. She squirms and whimpers a little behind my hand. She’s breathing heavier and I have to let her have her mouth again in a moment.

“Getting shy now? I thought you knew who you were playing with.” Her skirt is tight and it’s hard to get it to move along her legs with just one hand, I don’t want to rip it or stretch it out, but I’m getting impatient. I push my hand between her thighs and spread my fingers to get her to open them, shove at the fabric. She sucks air in through my fingers, brings one hand to the wrist that is holding her mouth and the other to my shoulder, my chest, almost like she’s pushing me away but she’s not, she’s leaning into me. She wants more.

She sets her jaw, gets her footing, spreads her legs, locks my eye contact. Getting bolder. Caught off-guard for only a moment, she’s regaining that fierce self-resolve I’ve been fantasizing about for months: how I would unravel it, thread by thread.

I move my hand up her skirt for a surprise of my own: no panties. Her cunt is not shaven but trimmed, I can feel the soft hairs around her lips before I explore the inner contours with my fingertips. I want to plunge in. I want to catch her between my hand and the wall, feel her from inside, see how she shudders when she comes, if she can stay upright against this wall, right here.

I let up with my hand over her mouth and feather touch my fingers to her lips, red and full, her mouth gently parted, breath sliding in and out, hot, it’s getting warmer in here, I’m starting to sweat. I can feel it at the nape of my neck, on the small of my back. I’m in my favorite deep red tee shirt and broken-in jeans, but none of the windows are open and it was warm today. Temperatures are rising fast.

Her tongue is swelling in her mouth. She swallows, watches my face, I can tell my features are getting more shadowy as she’s started giving over. I tease her lips with my fingertips and slide inside her mouth and her cunt at the same moment, two fingers each, she’s wet and warm and strong and tight.

Shuddering just barely, she leans her shoulders against the wall and tilts her pelvis toward me, an offering.

You can have me.

I know.

Slow and deep, filling every inch as I move inside her. She opens and blooms between my hands, reaching into her as though I could pull some jewel out from her core, as if excavating a mine.

Show me those precious things you hide inside.

Corinne swells, clit and tongue; I wet my thumb to thrum against her. I’m holding her up and back with my hands, she’s pressing her weight into me, opening deeper. Her desire rises and I think she’s going to come, she tightens so strong around my fingers and sucks me in deep, I can barely move either hand inside her, but she doesn’t, she gasps, goes limp, releases, leans her head against the wall and opens her mouth, opens her eyes, slides them sideways to look at me. Swallows a few times.

I slide my fingers out of her beautiful tight body. We both catch our breath.

I wipe my hands on my jeans and run my fingers through my hair which is falling in my eyes. She rolls her shoulders forward and her knees together shyly, then straightens up, pulls at the hem of her skirt, and takes four swift steps over to the teacher’s desk in front of the chalkboard still covered with notes from our lit class and from the day’s use, ghostly outlines of letters.

Her hard heels against the floor click, click, click, click, and she balances perfectly on the thin tapered heels, effortless (or so it seems to me) black straps buckling around her ankles. Much too fancy for some night university class. She regains her poise and she is all grace, all pressure and granite.

Turning to look at me, she shifts her hips side to side as she works her skirt up her thighs and bunches it around her waist, watching my face as I try not to stare, then she turns, and bends over the desk with her elbows on it.
I don’t make a move. I barely breathe. I let my hungry gaze take in the curve of her ass, her pussy laid out for me, wet and open, her asshole pink, the lines of her shapely legs.

This girl knows what she wants. I love that.

She glances back over her shoulder at me hesitantly, a little shyly. I can see her wondering if she’s made a mistake, been too bold, or if I’ll give it to her.

Of course I will.

My brown loafers click too, but softer than hers, the leather warn down and smooth. I don’t go slow this time, easily shoving three fingers into her, hard enough to tip her forward farther over the desk. Her mouth opens with a quick “ah!” but she takes it. I grip her hip and slide out easy, slick, she’s so wet, so wet and easy, she guides me in and out, takes it hard, rocks against me.

In a flash she reaches down between her legs with her left hand and lays deeper onto the desk, breasts against the cool slick top of it. She lets out a moan as she flicks her clit and tightens around my fingers. I slow down, deepen, expand my fingers to fill her more. She gasps, yeah ohhh yeah yeah and I grin. There’s that tongue of hers working again.

I’ve got her perfectly at hip height and wish I had a cock with me – how was I to know she’d accost me like this? – her ass is luscious and I want to take a bite of her cheek, leave a bruise, wet my fingers and work them into her ass as I plunge my cock into her cunt. Maybe she’ll let me do this again. My free hand travels up, pulls her blouse free of her skirt and finds her nipples, one and then the other, smashing my hand between her and the desk as I keep thrusting and she keeps rubbing her clit, I’m closer to her and can hear her gasping, her hair is falling in her face and she is deliciously disheveled.

“Oh god oh god,” she mutters. No need to involve him, I want to reply, and bite my tongue thinking this is the most holy thing I’ve done in weeks, I can feel her expanding and enlivening under my fingertips, can feel her chest sweeten and swoon as her heart beats red and strong. The buttons on her blouse are popping open and her skirt is all twisted, her hair swings next to her cheeks and ears, red as the flush on her forehead and between her legs.

I want to keep her here, poised, open, fine-tuned and sailing over waves of breath and pulse. Here, it is nothing but bliss and beauty and possibility and healing, nothing but filling the cracks and broken-down machines that are our bodies, that run us, both her and I, I’m flooded with it too, she’s spilling out of herself and into me and I catch it, drink it, push myself inside her deeper to spill and capture even more. I love this part, this dance, this exchange, when we are no longer separated, one big electrical circuit, raising energy from our own bodies, flowing through us, picking up speed and momentum and density and purity as it travels between us.

But of course it doesn’t last. Like all moments of ecstasy, it is short-lived: it spills over and explodes and she comes, hard, gasping and thrusting back against me, pushing her clit so hard I can feel it inside, knees shaking, one of her feet lifting off the floor as she slides her body nearly all the way over the desk.

Her cries quiet, but I notice they bounce around the bare, hard classroom; I wonder if anyone has heard.

I’ve pressed hard against her as she collapsed and after a moment I disentangle, breathe, feel my own body attached to my own hand, contain myself again. She hums with pleasure and pushes herself up from the desk, pulls and twists her tight skirt back into place, sits on the desk and crosses her legs to rebutton her blouse and smooth her clothes. Her ankles touch and kiss, shoes barely held onto her slender feet, just a few fine straps and buckles.

She runs her fingers through her hair, tucks it behind her ear, in a gesture so sweet I stop what I’m doing and reach for her, slide my hands around her waist and she brings her arms around my neck as we kiss, soft and sweet and slow, tender, and I realize we hadn’t done this yet, am I so professional about my fucking that I don’t even kiss anymore? The kissing is the best part. I sigh into it and she grins, I feel her mouth move up at the corners.

“So,” she says, pulling back arms length from me, eyes sparkling. “No cock?”

I laugh, a low puff of air. “Caught me a bit unprepared, I guess.”

“Mmmm.” Corinne doesn’t press it.

I do. “I’ll bring it Wednesday. We are going to have to, you know, ahem, study, again, before the final on Monday, after all.”

She’s amused, still grinning. “I’ll be sure to wear a skirt,” she says, and kisses me again.

I’m On Vacation – See You Next Week!

hotsprings
(Photo reprinted without permission from A. Clauset)

I’ll be on vacation for the next five days.

I’m heading to a tantra workshop at a zen center on a hot springs, and just writing down that combination of words makes my shoulders relax and my body loosen. I have never been able to afford or make time for a long retreat like this before, it feels so indulgent (and grown-up), and I can’t wait. It’s been a long time coming and I know I can really use some reflection and protection time for me. It’s not going to be purely a vacation, since I have no doubt that this will bring up some deep psychological and spiritual things in me, but I’m hoping I can use it to reground, to solidify so many of the things I’ve been learning about myself in the recent past, and come back with my footing a little more certain, with just a little more of the noise filtered out.

Which would be nothing short of bliss.

I won’t be writing much here for the next week. I might be updating things like my twitter account and my flickr stream, no guarantees. Hopefully I’ll have some interesting things to share when I get back on Monday.

review: tantric sex for women

My Tantric Sex for Women book review went up over at Eden Fantasys today.

I really wanted to like this book, I did – I want to know more about tantra and I’m even open to the woo-woo new agey aspects of it, but I just couldn’t get over the ridiculous aspects used in the exercises in this book (which is what makes up the majority of the content). There are some interesting things, but ultimately it’s not worth it.

Read my full review, and, if you feel like helping me out by upping my “reviewer rating” by commenting on or rating my reviews, I certainly wouldn’t mind.

‘I sing the body electric’

I have yet to write up my experiences at the most recent Body Electric Celebrating the Body Erotic workshop that happened just at the end of March (I’m so behind on my writing), but I cannot recommend these highly enough. If you are in the Bay Area, or Seattle, or have access to those two places, it really is worth it.  Ask me if you have more questions, I’ll tell you all about it.


JUST ADDED – June 20-22
Seattle Celebrating the Body Erotic for Women
We heard your requests for more opportunities to experience this amazing workshop. Please come join a circle of women in a safe, serious and playful space to explore and celebrate empowered sexuality and spiritually integrated eros. Through breath, movement, communication, touch and massage:
* Feel more alive, curious and safe in your body
* Deeply tune in to your body, mind, heart and spirit
* Expand awareness, sensation and pleasure
* Receive and give without losing yourself
* Release fear, shame and negative patterns
* Communicate your desires and boundaries more clearly
* Accept yourself just as you are
* Enjoy sex more and have more fun
* Discover the healing potential of sexual/spiritual energy
This workshop starts Friday night and ends Sunday and is for women of all ages and sexual orientations who are open to learn about their own power to illuminate and enjoy sensuality and sexuality. Please share this email with any friends who might be interested.* June 20-22 – Seattle – Led by Lizz Randall – contact Robyn Lynn at 206-579-2603 or [email protected]
Tuition: $395
Take advantage of one of two offers (cannot be combined):
1. Pay in full by May 30 and receive $30 off
2. Register with a friend and you both receive a 10% reduction

Power, Surrender & Intimacy
After an absence of several years this powerful exploration into the nature of trust, exquisite attention and heightened sensations returns. Join with like-minded women who are ready to go beyond the life ordinary. In a grounded, respectful container discover and clarify edges of liberation, empowerment and embodiment. Learn to recognize aspects of yourself that are continually engaged in power dynamics, and hence become more choiceful about how you can share power with compassion and skill. Led by Alex Jade.
  * June 20-22 – New York City – Contact Debi Soler at 212-726-0679 or
  [email protected]
  Tuition: $395
  Prerequisite: Celebrating the Body Erotic
  Take advantage of one of two offers (cannot be combined):
  1. Pay in full by May 30 and receive $30 off
  2. Register with a friend and you both receive a 10% reduction

Oakland Celebrating the Body Erotic
 In addition to the upcoming Seattle CBE, you also have the option of attending a CBE in Oakland if that fits your schedule better.
* May 16-18 – Oakland – Led by Lizz Randall – Contact Ursula Goulet at 510-333-4721 or [email protected]
* October 3-5 – Oakland – Led by Elfi Dillon-Shaw – Contact Ursula Goulet at 510-333-4721 or [email protected]
Tuition: $395
Take advantage of one of two offers (cannot be combined):
1. Pay in full by April 25 (spring) or September 12 (fall) and receive $30 off
2. Register with a friend and you both receive a 10% reduction

The Body Electric School Website 
Contact Information: 510-653-1594, [email protected]