Latest Entries »

Handy! And I’ll be blogging about my own related experiences shortly, so here’s some pre-reading, if you will. 😉

Let's Queer Things Up!

I’ve learned in life that when you observe a pattern about yourself, it might be worth examining (okay, this is an understatement — I can pretty much guarantee you that you’ll come out wiser).

One of my big “aha” moments this year was around a relationship pattern that I hadn’t noticed before. I realized that I’m a people-pleaser.

Being liked by others, especially in my personal life, came at the expense of voicing my true feelings and needs. It was more important to be liked than it was to have relationships that felt honest and nourishing.

And it’s a lonely place to be — it can feel like no one knows your true feelings or self, and that you are secondary in relationships that should feel equal. Unsurprisingly, this can lead to a hell of a lot of resentment.

And thus… a pattern emerged.

My favorite kind of person to…

View original post 1,881 more words

Okay. So it’s been a couple of weeks, as planned, and I’m continuing my Notice Pleasure practice/series. The point of this is to get myself to a place where I can reliably either (a) just not freak out, but more likely (b) get myself out of a shame/shut-down/panic kind of situation during sex. I want sex to be fun. I want to be able to bottom sexually and enjoy it. And part of that is trying to develop some shame-resilience by doing an explicitly sex-and-pleasure-focused gratitude practice (see the actual Notice Pleasure section at the bottom of these posts) that is also kind of part mindfulness practice as well. It’s making a point of noticing what feels good/hot/yummy/sexy/fun/pleasurable. It’s making a point of paying attention to that and (hopefully – this is definitely a work in progress) following those tasty feelings towards more of them. With any luck, this will help me develop a bit of a compass or a roadmap or…something so that, if I get a little lost while engaging with a partner, I have a better shot at finding my way back to the fun, the pleasure, and the connection[1] without derailing everything due to Feeeeelings.
And, like everything I do, this is basically a practice that mixes blogging (processing my experiences enough to turn them into words), magic, and physically doing The Thing.
My wife tells that I do “cognitive behavioural witchcraft” and… she is not wrong.
 
Anyway. So: What have I been doing for the past two weeks in the name of magic, blogging (well… not so much the blogging, that’s happening right now), and physically doing The Thing?
 
Whelp. Due, in substantial part, to these experiences, I’ve been doing a lot of yoga (thence the alphabet prompt of “lift and lengthen”).
I’ve been making a point of directing my attention to my perineum and doing Bottom Breathing (this sort of relaxed “open” deep breaths that people do as a matter of course while sleeping, and that “engages the pelvic floor”), both in ritual contexts and just as a sort of mindfulness practice that I do multiple times a day.
I’ve been doing (for a few days) instructed yoga, via youtube. Doing routines that the instructor designs with one’s root chakra or pelvic floor or hips-and-heart in mind. Doing Moon Salutation[2] (and also dancing to pop music) in the mornings, because I wake up in my body when I dance or otherwise unlock the knot at the base of my spine.
I feel silly as heck saying this, but I’ve been… “jerking off mindfully” (I’ll probably talk more about that when I do the “M” prompt, so… sit tight, I guess), if I can put it that way, doing something that is sort of related to Mula Bandha but isn’t exactly that.
As far as actually “lengthening and lifting” go, other than striving for a really good, grounded lift when I’m doing poses like Bridge and Bow, I’m trying – and often failing – to keep a bright, dicernable connection between my root chakra and my heart chakra when I’m doing, in particular, seated or squatting poses.
I’m finding that I can either keep my focus in the bowl of my pelvis OR I can put my focus higher up. But trying to keep a connection going is difficult, and sometimes… gives me weird, cramping shoulder pain??
Which, tbh, is reminding me of the body feelings I had twenty years ago when singing started getting hard.
 
Anecdote Time!
So. I have sung all my life. There is a recording of me, as a toddler, successfully and intentionally carrying a recognizable tune.
I started taking singing lessons when I was seven. (When you’re seven, singing lessons are as much about learning to love the learning process & keeping music fun as much as they’re about actually learning technique). Seven years later, in my early teens, I switched teachers, and started shifting – because my body was literally, finally, getting physically mature enough to handle doing this – towards a more intense and thoughtful practice.
Seven years after that, my Dad died of cancer, and about a year after that, I stopped singing.
Not just “I stopped taking singing lessons”.
I. Stopped. Singing.
 
And I only really went actually silent for about six months.
But that was still pretty close to twenty years ago, and coming back to my voice has been a difficult and on-going process that has a lot of self-consciousness around “making noise” and shame around having “left” in the first place tied up with it.
 
One of the things that happened… around that… was that I found I couldn’t take proper singers’ breaths without getting a sharp pain in/across my middle trapezius.
Now, I have no idea what was going on there.
But it still happens.
When I try to deep breathe low into my abdomen and fill my lungs up all the way, while also trying to maintain good, upright singing (or “lengthen and lift through the chest”) posture, I am still getting that sharp pain in my traps.
Maybe this is due to just… not breathing right? Like, am I over-filling my upper chest instead of filling my lungs all the way down? Maybe I need to engage my core muscles more?
I have no idea. But it’s a thing and I’m noticing it happening during these yoga routines when I’m trying to sit up tall AND keep my roots in the ground at the same time.
 
Hopefully I’ll get better at this with time and practice?
Hopefully.
Hopefully.
 
Anyway. That’s what I’ve been doing, for the most part. I’ve also been doing some experiments with using anointing oils[3] on my body, asking for things I want to take (in the Wheel Of Consent sense of the word “take” – see link – which is not the same as asking for things that I want to receive, because in these instances I’m still doing the doing, but it’s still an important thing to keep up), and trying to be more active in my glamour practice which, itself, pertains to the whole Union Of Opposites thing I talked about here.
But, mostly, it’s been yoga.
 
~*~
 
Notice Pleasure: Puddles of warm sunshine coming through the kitchen window. The sound of water running in the street as the snow melts. The thwack of flogger-falls against skin. Naked snuggling. Touching feet. The joy that courses through me when I’m dirty-dancing with the door-frame for support and able to throw my weight around because I can trust my house to not fall apart on me and let it take my weight.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] That’s Brenee Brown again. The whole “spectrum of vulnerability” where shame is at one end and connection is at the other, and where – essentially – feeling down on myself because of Whatever is going to impede my connection to other people. Which, like… I “do” sex with partners because I want emotional (and physical, but my main love-language is touch, so the physical is still emotional for me) connections with them.
 
[2] For reasons that have nothing directly to do with my sexual-emotional health, but which involve a lot of squats and back bends and pelvic lifts, all of-which should help my lumbar region get stronger and, ideally, less constantly-in-pain. And that’s not going to hurt my quest to more readily and easily access my own Sexy. So.
 
[3] This is what I do with my perfumes, now that I tend not to wear them out of the house. Now You Know.

So. If you’ve read this blog at all – even just the sub-heading on the banner – you know that I’m kinky. I know I’m kinky. What’s funny is that I sometimes forget just how integral to my sexuality – and possibly my well-being? – my sadism is.
Some of that, probably, is just (“just”) intense body-engagement. I refer to myself as a “teeth and nails sadist” so the more intense involvement of hands and jaws and muscles in general is probably relevant just in-and-of itself. (You’d think I’d be into climbing or something, but…?)
But, in the context of removing/deconstructing my own mental blocks around sexual engagement, it’s dawning on me that there’s more going on here.
 
I’ve been listening to a podcast wherein Cleo Dubois mentions – almost in passing, about halfway through – that BDSM is about “being in our bodies”.
And… no shit.
But also… when I thought about it? I realized that I tend to translate this in my own head as “BDSM is about masochists being in their bodies”. That it’s about rooting your willing victim in their bodies through pain and breath and intensity and fear. That BDSM is, y’know, fun as heck. But it’s not about me being in my body, as the top.
It’s an internalized variation on the trope of “The top does, the bottom feels”, if you will.
 
But here I am, doing this whole Project to practice being in my body, experiencing pleasurable things, and leaning into my own sexuality, and I’m starting to think about embodied sadism.
 
It’s not the first time I’ve thought about this. But I think it’s the first time I’ve thought about it this directly. Usually, when I think about my own breath, my own body-stuff, in the context of sadism, it’s being done along the lines of “How do I keep my energy up?” and “How do I avoid letting my partner down?” rather than a question of how sadism brings me into my own body and enlivens me.
What I said, above, about “just” intense body-engagement? There’s no “just” about it.
I know I’ve been kind of weirded out by how I get (the thing that might be called “top space”, but I sort of hope not) when I’m engaging in sadism. I get to a point where I’m entirely up in my head. Like, my body is doing things – some of which I’m in charge of, like placing needles or aiming a cane; and some of which I’m not, like my cunt running like a faucet – but the “I Am” of myself is very disconnected from all of it. I’m in the control booth behind my eyes, and everything else is… present but unattached.
It’s fucking weird, and I feel really ambivalent about it.
 
And, to be fair, it’s been a couple of years since I experienced my sadism like this. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a regular occurrence during the time (uh… 11 years?) I’ve been a practicing kinkster. And I don’t know how much of that is floaty-dreamy “time has no meaning” stuff (definitely some of it) vs how much of it is some kind of dissociation.
 
So! Embodied sadism.
What am I even talking about here?
 
I had the good fortune, a couple of years ago, to access a couple of months of free life coaching that, among other things, brought up the reality that a lot of my bodily awareness, at the time, was centered on monitoring for, and compensating for, physical pain[1]. My awareness of sensation is broader now, but in sexual situations, that’s frequently still where my awareness goes. Are my arms burning? Am I getting nerve compression through my elbows or wrists? Is my back about to spasm? Can I stay on my feet long enough to get this scene to a point where I can wind it down? Are my hands getting shaky? Can my shoulder keep this up for much longer?
And, yeah. There’s a whole lot of stuff built into that about whose needs and desires are centered in kink play more broadly, and whether or not I’m comfortable claiming and centering my own wants, needs, experiences, and desires in sexual (or non-sexual) contexts[2].
 
But what I mean by embodied sadism is… a bit like that?
It’s brining my awareness to what feels good, physically/sexually, when engaging in sadism.
It’s recognizing how alive and awake I feel when I’ve been biting someone. Or that when I’m sexually excited, I tend to growl, bite, and dig my nails in. It’s acknowledging the part of me that wants to slurp up someone else’s blood and drool it into their mouth – even when I can’t actually do so, and recognizing where that desire sits in my actual body. (Uh… lower jaw + somewhere between my sternum and my clavicle… I think?) It’s noticing which parts of my body clench – fist, stomach, cunt – when my partner tells me she’s turned on thinking about doing XYZ with me, and recognizing that reaction as a positive, welcome thing rather than something to tone down or keep hidden.
 
I know that sadism – when I’m actually doing it, rather than “facilitating an experience” at a tasting station or similar, where I tend to keep a lid on that part of things – is heavily connected to my sexuality. So maybe, by engaging with my sadism in this embodied way, I can help create and/or reinforce the neural pathways that let me engage with sexual pleasure as well?
Worth a shot!
 
~*~
 
Notice Pleasure: The way she yelps when I bite her, and the way it makes me grin. How strong I feel when I dig my fingers into someone’s thighs. The taste of smoked salmon. The way clit wakes up when she tells me she’s fantasizing about me. The way she moans, when I play with her clit, the way it makes my stomach clench and my breath race to hear it.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Heather, the life coach, actually designed some practices for me that had me bringing my awareness to various parts of my body specifically to notice and acknowledge things that felt nice – a little bit like my Notice Pleasure journaling practice (see above), but combined with a broader spectrum and some mindfulness techniques. I still use those practices on days when I’m particularly stuck in my stuff, and they still help bring me back into my body and my sense of power. So.
Official plug: Give her a try, if you’re looking for a life coach in Ottawa. She was very helpful and patient, and made sure I kept Doing The Thing even when we had to go in baby steps. Recommended.
 
[2] Spoiler: Still not. But, y’know. Working on it.

Okay. So, yes, a substantial portion of my friends are either literally KonMari-ing their homes right now, or else riffing on the whole “does X spark joy” question for everything from city snow-removal to gender assignments, so I guess here we are, and the answer to my mother’s question is “Yes, in fact, I probably would jump off that cliff… At least a little bit”.
 
There’s a story that goes “You have to be getting something out of this in order to keep it going”.
The “this” in question is usually a behaviour pattern or, sometimes, a relationship. It’s generally something that, to anyone outside of your own skull, looks like a seriously detrimental thing that doesn’t make a lot of sense or do you a lot of good.
What you might be “getting” can be a lot of things. It can be “feelings of superiority” or “a metaphorical/literal sugar high” or “reliable access to housing” or “spiritual fulfillment” or “a reminder that I’ve Still Got It” or “affirmation of bonds with my attachment-person” or “reassurance that I am still unworthy of love and belonging and, as such, the world is still functioning as I expect it to and chaos has not recently staged a coup”.
It can be a lot of different things.
 
So. I know that the behaviours I’m trying to work through and examine via this little blog project of mine are… “not sparking joy”, so to speak. Feelings of shame and anxiety are not making me happy, they’re not facilitating emotional connection or erotic communion with my partners, and they are probably contributing to my lower back and hip pain if recent experiences are anything to go by.
 
So I have to ask myself: What the heck am I (still) getting out of this crap???
 
Well, let’s dig into that.
A long time ago, during a situation that was heavily outside of my control, I made a bunch of active choices in order to try and mitigate what I thought was going on.
What I did, actively, was I conditioned myself (more Emily Nagoski here, if you’re wondering) to hit the “breaks” instead of the “gas” – to turn away from, rather than turn towards, my desires – when I felt sexual attraction to my partner.
 
That was a dumb fucking idea, let me tell you.
 
But it was the best – wherein “best” means “likely to result in the least… difficult-to-endure kind of emotional pain”[1] – option I had right at that moment. Or at least I thought it was. I didn’t want to be a pest or otherwise put pressure on my partner, I didn’t want to keep experiencing the pain of rejection, so I decided, in a fairly conscious way, that it would be better (or at least more appropriate, behavior-wise) if I just stopped experiencing that desire.
I literally made myself have a avoidance/stress response to my gorgeous, sexy person (combined with a big, old shame response for any desirous feelings that showed up) instead of an interest/curiosity response. (Ha! And then was surprised when it didn’t just go away or auto-reverse or something when it was no-longer required…)
Like I said, it was dumb.
And, in doing so, I did a bunch of damage to myself[2] which I’m now trying to undo.
 
Because I’m still having those responses. As mentioned in this recent post, I’ve been having a hard time believing that it’s okay, and even encouraged, to have sexually-charged thoughts about my various sweethearts. And, yeah, sure. NRE can, and does, mitigate or override some of those responses. But NRE also doesn’t last forever. Heck, my ovaries and their wonderful, magical hormones are not going to last forever.
I would like to be an erotic, sexual woman long after menopause has done its thing… and I feel like I’m running out of time. I’ll be forty before the year is out. Menopause may still be a fair ways off, but I’d like to instill some better habits, and a more pleasurable, joyful sense of “my normal” before I get there.
 
So I have to ask myself: What am I getting out of this, if I’m still doing it?
 
And… I don’t really know?
I mean, probably? I’m probably getting a sense of “avoiding something that will hurt” from still doing this. I’m probably getting some kind if “Phew! Crisis averted!” feeling from still doing this, if only because sitting in my desire, and the uncertainty around it, feels so risky and dangerous and… forbidden.
 
And, yes. I wrote myself a permission slip to help me allow myself to feel those things, to lean into my desires, to enjoy and explore them as they happen. And, no, I’m not expecting to have a sudden, shocking turn-around on this, I’m expecting it to take practice and time[3].
But if I’m only still doing this because I’m trying to avoid some kind of pain… and it’s hurting me[4] anyway? Then it’s time to release it and let it go.
 
Emily Nagoski – as linked in that video, above – talks about how “confidence” and “joy” are the two keys to getting the kind of sex you want, and defines “Joy” specifically as “loving what’s true”.
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha talks about a sort of radical self-compassion where you treat your traumatized, constantly-pain-carrying, femme body as being worthy as-is, of pleasure and desire and fulfillment.
 
A major goal of this whole project is to get myself into the habit of noticing things that feel good, in particular things that feel arousing or sexually pleasurable, even if I’m not limiting my “notice pleasure” lists to that. My hope is that, by doing this (and various other things) I’ll develop some shame-resilience and be better-equipped to deal with the discomfort and vulnerability that comes with opening myself up to desire & desiring, and also that I’ll actually give myself some practice feeling my way through “Oh, this feels good. It’s okay to want, and pursue, more of that thing that feels good”. Right?
That’s the plan, anyway.
 
So. While I’m not sure there are ways to love what’s true about my own decision to mess myself up fairly badly here… Are there ways to love what’s true otherwise? (Seriously, kids? I googled “how to write an affirmation” for this one):
 
I am feeling my way into, and through, my sexual desires and the emotional wobbles I have around them, and I love that about myself.
 
I am learning to be comfortable with, and in, my desires, and I love that about myself.
 
I am acting on my attractions to my gorgeous, sexy romantic partners, and I love that about myself.
 
~*~
 
Notice Pleasure: My fingers working my scalp while washing my hair. Kisses along my back and shoulders. Fingernails light along my ribs. Foot massages.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Which is a very, very odd way to define “best”, but here we are.
 
[2] And, probably, at least some damage to my partner and to that relationship.
 
[3] Which is not to say that I’m not also kind of getting my hopes up here, but hopefully not for naught, you know? I’m trying to take a balanced approach to this stuff. Here’s hoping it works.
 
[4] Not just me, either, but one of my partners made a point of explicitly telling me, the other day, that I can be doing this important self-work just because I want to have fun, fulfilling, intimate, playful, ecstatic sexual experiences – that I deserve that, in and of myself – and that I don’t have to justify doing the work, or committing the time, energy, and attention to it, by viewing it through the lens of “wanting to be a better lover” for/to other people. So we’re going to focus on the “me” part of that equation for this one. Okay? Okay. 🙂

I’m writing this post early. A little bit because I’d like to create a bit of a backlog, in case I have a busy week or something, and in part because I want to keep the momentum going a little longer before I let myself slow down. In this particular case, though, it’s also because I’m writing about something that’s harder for me to talk about and I want to get it written while I’ve… while I’ve kind of got the guts to do it?
 
I feel pretty messed up around this. It’s one of the reasons why it’s been so long since I wrote porn, tbh. Just because so much of what went into my stories had its jumping off point somewhere in my own fantasy life.
But here it is: I’ve spent a lot of years feeling like I’m doing something wrong – like “committing a violation” levels of wrong – by fantasizing about my partners.
 
To pick an easy, fairly innocuous example: If I have a partner who’s not super into deep kissing, I feel like I’m doing something wrong, bad, unwanted by imagining making out with them.
Even just writing down that “I think about making out with my partner, despite knowing they wouldn’t be into it if I tried to initiate that in real life” feels like I’m confessing to a horrible thing that should get me thrown out of my community or similar.
And I don’t really have a metric for sorting out when that feeling is accurate or not.
 
Like, part of me is actively worried that I’m condoning, and/or confessing to, rape or sexual assault when I talk about wanting to fantasize about my partners’ bodies.
And part of me is… pretty sure I’m not? But, like… not entirely.
 
So talking about this feels very dangerous.
 
But, none the less, here we go.
 
Okay.
So I’m trying to give myself permission to fantasize about my partners.
And, you guys, it is not easy.
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha talks – I think in “Gonna Get My Girl Body Back: This Is A Work In Progress” (in Brazen Femme) – about “In my dreams, I was free”, about being able to fantasize about awesome, wonderful sex before ever being able to stay in-body long enough or well enough to experience it for real.
In my dreams, so to speak, I catch myself reaching and I yank myself back hard.
I’ve spent a lot of years slapping my own metaphorical hand away from even considering that I might want to try X activity with Y partner, to the point that I have weird physiological reactions when I try to lean into those thoughts now.
 
A case-in-point is that I spent maybe two seconds thinking about kissing a partner’s breasts, before I ran away from the thought. I felt a current in my upper arms and upper chest, something that was at once giddy-excited and terribly nervous.
Two seconds, and suddenly I was all up in my chest, shallow-breathing and anxious. I tried to do my little root chakra exercise this morning, and I had to do anxiety-calming exercises before I could even start. I had to work hard to get back into my body-below-the-under-arms even intermittently. Feeling my feet was a challenge, and I still have to wiggle my toes – two hours later – to remind myself that they’re there. My whole body is cold and my feet, when I feel them, are painful blocks of ice.
For two seconds of letting myself contemplate something good.
 
I think I actually hate this? Not the work of trying to get my own girl body back, so to speak. That feels hopeful and like a really worthwhile task. But just… How the heck am I supposed to be able to engage sexually with my partners in a way that’s joyful and authentic and connected and all that other good stuff that I want, if I can’t even think about it without just… impaling myself on the three of swords, basically. All that shame. All that heartache. All that weirdly literal freezing.
 
Barbara Carrellas and Dawn Serra and a whole bunch of other people in the Sex Therapy World do a thing where they get their clients (or their readers, or their Summit participants) to write themselves permission slips.
My partners are consistently telling me (and sometimes, but not always, showing me – which I admit works a little better on me) that I “have permission”. To touch them or want them or initiate things with them.
But I don’t have that permission from myself.
 
So. The goal and the plan: I want to lean into those fantasies. I want to stay with the thought and let myself “dream myself free”, little by little. And so I’m Doing The Thing – even though I feel silly doing it – and writing myself a literal permission slip. Can’t hurt. It might even help.
Here goes:
 
~*~

I hereby grant myself permission to fantasize about my partners, to imagine sexual interactions with them in detail, not just intellectualized, but every sight, every sound, every touch, every smell, every taste, every breath, every flutter. I have permission to dream these beautiful interactions into being, any time I want to.
Granted this day, March 4th, 2019, by my own holy, worthy self.

~*~
 
Notice Pleasure: The part of that feeling in my chest that was giddy-excitement. The though of her perfect skin, the soft-sold shape of her nipple under my tongue. Sinking my teeth into her shoulders. The shudder-gasp of her breath.

Head Over Heart Over Hips

Okay, the subject-line of this post is a slight paraphrasing of something that Adrien – of Yoga With Adrien – says in order to get her watchers/students to get their spines aligned nicely. (It’s a very different thing for me to hear “head over heart, heart over hips” or similar than to hear the bark of “Sit up straight!” which… semantics, but also maybe somatics? Like, it’s helping, so I’m going with it).
 
As-you-know-bob, I’m pretty damn woo. I’m also a singer who accidentally learned how to do chakra-based energy work while learning how to support and project my voice in my teens. If my teacher knew that she was also teaching me how to spin my personal energy centers while she was teaching me vocal technique, she didn’t bring it up. And I sure as heck didn’t know I was doing it until Someone Who Can See That Stuff (I am a concrete bunker, essentially) said to me: “So, did you know that, when you’re preparing your body to sing [as in: perform], your chakras are lighting up one by one, in order, from root to crown?”
And I was, like, “Oh. … Well I guess that explains a couple of things”.
And here we are.
 
I read my latest tarotscope, which was super-relevant to this whole Notice Pleasure alphabetical prompts “heal your sexuality” project I’ve got going on. Nice. And I took its advice – sort of – and looked up a quicky little Root Chakra Meditation video and followed the instructions in a kind of approximate way while doing some humming low in my vocal range and… I keep coming back to this stuff for a reason, apparently.
 
Because something happened.
 
Like, it wasn’t anything big. It was just… “Oh. There’s movement here. Oh. Something is kind of freeing up in a way that I was really not expecting here. Oh.”
 
And so I looked up some related stuff. I looked up “root chakra yoga poses” and, among other things, found out that a lot of my go-to “ten minutes a day” yoga poses are ones for opening up and balancing your roots. Poses like Bridge and Warrior 2 and Child’s Pose. Wide-legged forward folds and deep squats. And I started watching the Grounding Into Gratitude Yoga With Adrien video (because see last post, basically) and she did that initial spinal alignment pose – which I did in a modified way, because I’m sitting in a chair for this – and… I started laughing. Like, laughing with delight and also feeling a bit weepy?
And… here’s the bit that is kind of weird? My vaginal muscles started doing things. Like, this kind of rhythmic, involuntary squeezing? And I started getting, like… wet, leaky, something?
And… I mean, I wouldn’t call it orgasmic, by any stretch of the imagination. But it was definitely a tension-release that, in a different context, could have been very sexual.
Which. Huh…
That’s pretty relevant to my interests over here.
 
So. Okay. Message received. I’ll just keep doing the thing, then?
Heh. A friend of mine talks about how, when she’s on the right track, The Universe tends to let her know in some fairly specific ways.
But I’m kind of having A Feeling about this?
Like, maybe the message is literally just “Oh, hey. Don’t twist your spine into a pretzel for ¾ of your waking hours” with a side order of “Reminder: You actually do have to feel safe and secure on a physical level BEFORE you can start having these vulnerable energetic communions with other people, and that’s not actually weird or broken, that’s just good sense”.
 
But I’m going to keep doing this. Head over Heart over Hips. It makes me think of the Land, Sea, and Sky souls in Ecstatic Witchcraft. Which… maybe it’s time to look that up again? Maybe?
Just maybe.
But for sure: More humming. More extending my roots down into the ground. More breathing into my root chakra. More spinal alignment. More.
 
~*~
 
Notice Pleasure: Well, those vaginal contractions probably qualify. Other than that? Flutter of kisses across my ribs in the morning. Dark chocolate melting on my tongue. The smell and taste of summer veggies – especially red peppers – pulled out of the freezer and roasted with salt and sage a white wine. Receiving love letters full of supportive words. Taking a minute to call up the remembered scent of roses. The brush of my long hair against my bare back.

So… it’s been a few days, and maybe you’re picking up on this whole Alphabetical Prompts Series that I’ve been doing.
It’s a series of my own devising, so the “alphabet” part, while handy, is meant more as a jumping off point than a requirement. Not every single thing is going to have a sequentially alphabetical subject line (which should help me avoid awkward titles where I try to shoe-horn an “X” in there, or similar).
As it happens, the main goal of these posts is the “notice pleasure” portion at the bottom of them, and the rest is more of an excuse to make this a regular/semi-scheduled kind of thing.
 
See. I know (this is more Brené Brown) that one way to develop shame-resilience[1] is to practice gratitude around the areas where you feel that shame. So I thought, “Oh, hey. I have a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge vat of shame around sex stuff”. Just massive heaps of “I’m not worthy” and “I’m so bad at this” and “Stop pestering people” and “I’m a bad lover” and all the rest of that crap. And it gets in the damn way when I’m trying to do things.
Things like flirting, or getting fisted, or getting off with a partner, or initiating sex, or whatever. It gets in the way, and I get kind of tangled up in it, and trying to get out again is this whole separate mess from the actual difficulties that I have around things like navigating my over-active trauma responses (for example) and kind of just make everything worse and harder to deal with.
 
Because the trauma stuff happened quite a while ago now. And, yeah, I know that Healing Isn’t Linear and stuff is going to keep on resurfacing whether I like it or not and sometimes it’s going to surprise me or catch me off guard, and other times it’s going to leave me the heck alone, and still other times it’s just going to be, like, “Oh. Hey trauma. You’re coming along on this ride, are you?” and it’s just going to be a thing…
But it would still be nice if it was just navigating the hiccoughs of “Oh, my limbic system is having a moment” rather than it being, like, “Oh. My limbic system is having a moment, and now I have all these FEEEEELINGS about that, and I have to stop everything and PROCESS”.
Which.
I’m allowed to stop everything and process?
But also I would like to not have to.
 
So I thought that maybe I could develop some resilience around pleasure-and-sex-related shame specifically by starting a gratitude practice where I notice pleasure – both broadly physical/emotional and more specifically sexual – in my day-to-day life. Maybe being more explicit about things that feel pleasurable, particularly (but not exclusively) sexually pleasurable, in this really public (but also protected, because it’s in writing and you-all are on the other side of the internet) way will also help me to get comfortable with both recognizing and naming what I enjoy.
 
And I thought: Oh hey, maybe I can also use those posts to write about stuff that relates directly, or less-directly, to my relationship with my own sexuality. Because it’s not like this blog doesn’t need some attention and, hey, maybe if I’m thinking about it – especially if I’m making a point of thinking about it in a pro-active, positive kind of way – maybe that will help things along, too.
 
So. Here I am.
I’m going kind of hard right now, partly because it’s Explore More Week – so I’ve got lots of stuff to chew on – and partly because I’ve got a lot of time at home to devote to it right now. Plus, I’m on Week Twelve of my Empress Project and, you know, I’d like to have something to report. >.>
But, after the impending new moon, this will most-likely switch to being an “every two weeks” kind of longer-term deal.
We shall seen.
Regardless, here’s hoping it helps.
 
~*~
 
Notice Pleasure: Home-made cookies. Rubbing my wife’s calves (and my hands) with birch & black pepper Muscle Rub ointment – the way it makes my hands warm and how the smell (which is very minty) makes me aware of my deep breaths. Casually nattering about plants and seeds and creative projects with friends I haven’t seen in a while. Hot, greasy pizza with extra cheese and really good bacon. Waking up slowly and being affectionate with a partner. Feeling the promise of spring in (relatively) warm air & humid air and longer hours of daylight.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] It’s not that you stop feeling shame, or even that you stop feeling shame about specific things (although… sometimes?), it’s that you get better at navigating shame and at not getting stuck in it, and you recover more quickly when you do. That’s shame-resilience.

Fucking Into Femme

So, about six months ago (maybe a little more) I got a book in the mail. Becoming Dangerous: Witchy Femmes, Queer Conjurers, and Magical Rebels on Summoning the Power to Resist. It’s a book of essays that touch on glamour magic, space claiming, and all sorts of good stuff.
The first essay in the book is by Cara Ellison, and it’s called “Unfuckable”.
 
It’s an essay about independence. It’s an essay about being so ferociously autonomous that you are utterly free and no-one can hurt you.
It’s… Okay, from my perspective as an insecure anxious-preoccupied attacher? The sheer glee of the author when she chants “I don’t. Fucking. Need you” is… deeply fucked up. It’s the chant of someone who is at the other extreme of insecure attachment. For whom relying on people, that vulnerability, is nothing but a trap.
 
It’s flip-side of my own trap, the one that says “If they need you, if you make yourself indispensable, they won’t abandon you”.
 
I was talking to my wife about this essay earlier today, and about how, thirteen or so years ago, I was very, very stuck in a sexual paradigm where EITHER (a) I could be touched, and could have moments of feeling worthy and loveable, but only within a context where I knew I was fundamentally worthless and disposable, OR (b) I could have something like intrinsic value, but only by being untouchable, only by allowing my own loneliness and skin-hunger to gnaw and gnaw and hollow me out on the inside.
 
In “Unfuckable”, the author visits the ruins of an old castle, the rumoured home of an ancient warrior queen who trained heroes and had no fucks to give about anything.
Her autonomy is legendary and, to the author’s delight, she finds a well – still brimming with clean, potable water, at the center of the former Great Hall. She could have outlasted a siege in there.
 
Thirteen years ago, I felt like I was under siege. I wasn’t safe in my own home. And I wasn’t safe outside of it. Thirteen years ago I was in my mid-twenties. I must have had “easy target” written on my forehead because the sexual harassment never let up, and the assaults – at home, at work, on the damn bus, you name it – were happening too frequently to just ignore and brush off.
When I separated from my then-husband, sold the marital home, and moved into a not-great-but-available one bedroom apartment, something changed.
I had a door of my own that I could lock.
Inside of a year later, someone told me that I had a “don’t fuck with me” bubble surrounding me at all times.
So I’m not knocking that independence, the “I don’t fucking need you” of being able to make rent without room-mates or live-in partners who had, up to that point, only ever been a bad idea. Sometimes that’s what we need to keep ourselves safe.
 
But, for me, it’s not sustainable, and it can feel desperately lonely. It can be desperately lonely.
 
A long time ago, I read a collection of essays called Fem(me): Feminists, Lesbians, and Bad Girls. One of my favourite authors has a piece in there called “On Being a Bisexual Femme”. That book was the first time I’d seen “femme” as a concept at all but it was almost entirely in the sense of “feminine monosexual lesbians who are attracted, specifically and exclusively, to masculine women”. So finding an essay that explicitly said that one could be femme and also be involved with dudes – which I was doing at the time – was such a relief.
I wanted femme.
I wanted it because it meant I could be a Real Queer™ without having to be something that I wasn’t – that being butch or masculine. And I wanted it because it meant I could have physical and sexual autonomy, could be the actual owner of my own damn body, without having to be masculine, too.
 
So. Femme.
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, the author of the above-mentioned essay, has written a zillion things on being a multiple-gender-attracted femme survivor of sexual abuse. I get a lot out of those essays and poems, believe me.
And one thing that comes up over and over is the idea of being able to be sexually receptive is a way that is authentic (rather than performative) and… “successful” in the sense of “When I do receptive sex like this, I can and do experience it as fun, pleasurable, intimate, enjoyable, hot” and all those other good things.
 
This is something I want.
This is something I want, and I am part of the way there.
But I get in my own way a lot.
 
There was a time when I tried on the word “stone”, like Amber Dawn did. A femme top who didn’t let her lovers touch her sexually.
But that isn’t actually me.
I’m touch-hungry. I want to top my lovers with my whole body, not just the outsides of it.
I want to be fuckable.
 
Not in the sense of gross dudes rating someone’s “fuckability”, or of Hollywood actresses having the choice of being either Hellen Mirin / Judy Dench / Meryl Streep or of being unemployable after they’ve aged out of the narrow margins of “young, hot, fresh” sexual desirability.
But in the sense of being able to unhinge my jaw and swallow the world, of being able to open, and open, and open. I wrote a poem, ten years ago, called “Swallow” about eating out my girlfriend while she fucked me with her hands, and how “I do not feel invaded. I feel enormous”.
If you’ve ever read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods? I felt like Bilquis in her temple.
 
I mean “fuckable” in the sense of Ann Cvetkovitch saying, in An Archive of Feeling, “Femme sexuality is about voracious desire for-which no apologies are necessary”.
 
Like, I’d like to be the kind of woman who can, and does, have gushing, squirting, g-spot orgasms. Partly because I know I’ve got the capacity to do that[1]. Partly because I think it would just be kind of cool and fun? And partly because I keep hearing (from writers like Poplar Rose and Sophie Saint Thomas) that squirting is remarkably effective at unlocking trauma-based/trauma-related tensions and blockages in one’s hips and lower back where, oh hey, I’ve been having problems since right around that time, 13 years ago, when my body was under siege. (Look at that, why don’t you…)
 
And that means I need to find that internal sense of safety so that I can access it when I want to, rather than it being just sort of… a matter of luck and chance as to whether or not I can do a thing that I would really, really, really like to do.
 
I tried something a day or two ago.
I’m on my period, so I did this with a diva cup firmly in place, which is maybe relevant (or not). But I slid one of my fingers into my vagina. And, yeah, things felt… kind of out of place, but… see above re: diva cup.
What was… relevant, I guess, is that I realized I was holding my breath while I did it.
Like “holding my breath”, not in the sense of “doing stuff with my pelvic floor to build tension” or “intentionally doing low-risk solo breath play”, but in the sense of “Oh, shit. I forgot to breath. Again.”
I was holding my breath because I was “freezing” myself, just a little bit.
 
Like, I was making a decision to do something to my own body with my own body – like two parts of myself that are both connected to the same central nervous system, and the same damn brain. And my limbic system still said “Hey… Now might be a good time to maybe start shutting down, since horrible, painful death is probably immanent and there’s a slim chance you can avoid it – or at least avoid feeling it while it’s happening – if you shut down all systems and play dead”.
A rabbit trying not to be noticed by a predator that is part of itself.
 
Which… Just… Really???
Thanks. That’s just great.
 
It’s not that I was dissociating. Exactly. But something was definitely going on.
And I would like to figure out how to… how to get out of my own way. And how to do it, well… quickly.
Which is maybe not the best goal to have, I do realize.
But… I get that, very probably, this thing where “staying with the feeling” in sexually-receptive situations is probably going to be a thing that I have to make conscious decisions about for the rest of my life. Like, it’s probably not going to be automatic/reflexive. (This is more Leah stuff, tbh. About how “healing” doesn’t mean “you become like someone who was never hurt” it means “you learn how to navigate your own unique circumstances with radical love and self-compassion and as big a bag of workable tricks and tools and you can create and continue to add to”. Which: okay. I’m into it. Even if it’s frustrating sometimes).
So I’d like to know how to… get myself out of Anxiety Brain – and the kind of cascade of other crap around danger but also around unworthiness and around what I “should” be doing or be capable of receiving or what have you – quickly, but in ways that don’t dissipate any sexual excitement that I had, there-to-fore, managed to build up[2]. Or at least in ways that let me view that drop in excitement as an opportunity for Edging[3] rather than some horrible failure or, like, “Oh, great. How am I ever going to get back to where I was when I’m right back at the beginning again?”
 
I want to be able to invite my partners into my body. To enjoy my own strength and to be fed – like nourishing and delicious! – by those experiences. Because I know I can be. I want to laugh that deep, satisfied laugh again. I want to hit my high notes again. I want to roar again.
I want it back.
To that end, I’m re-reading Ecstasy Is Necessary and listening to the Afrosexology duo talk about “orgasmic living” and how to stop self-sabotaging when it comes to everything from creative self-care to one’s sexual needs and wants. Here’s hoping I pick some stuff up.
 
~*~
 
Notice Pleasure: Feeling graceful while doing back bends and other pole-dancing floor tricks. Fizzy bath bombs that stain the water rose-red and smell like fruity candy. A clean sink. Watching my partner being in her own pleasure. Deep conversations that make my brain fizz. Laughing freely from deep in my body. The semi-weightless cradling of resting in warm water. Moments of silence and the peace that comes with them.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Ha… because it happened once, embarrassingly, while I was working in art class. See also: Reasons why I knew I had to at least give this age play business a try. >.>
 
[2] Right now, I have a wonderful technique for stopping an anxiety spiral while it’s still small. And it’s great! The ratio breathing of “in-for-four, out-for-eight” (a) means I’m never holding my breath, but also (b) calms my fear-stuff right the heck down. It’s fantastic. BUT it calms everything down. Curious-and-excited happens in the same part of your brain (big surprise – Hi, Limbic System!) as Fearful-and-avoidant. And my brain is… funny… and doesn’t necessarily separate the two very well. (Sort of like when I realized that, when I’m experiencing an agitated motion – like when I’m stirring up the soap bubbles before doing the dishes – my Very Smart Brain decides that this means I should also be experiencing agitated emotions. I’m a genius, I swear).
 
[3] Where you build up to a very sexually excited, eager state, and then let things drop back to a more calm state, and then build things up a little farther, and let them drop back (but not quite as far), and then build yourself up again… and you get the idea.

I’ve got a bunch of books on my shelf that have the “ecstasy” or “ecstatic” in their titles. Ecstasy Is Necessary. Ecstatic Witchcraft. Radical Ecstasy.
Ecstasy is – maybe, by one definition of ecstatic ritual (Adrian Harris and M. Macha NightMare[1]) – a means of reconnecting with the other-than-human world as well as with “the wisdom of the body”. A way of allowing oneself the vulnerability of deep connection with something else.
Which… When I pull on Esther Perel again, actually puts itself in opposition (dynamic tension?) with her idea of erotic as “The ability to stay connected to oneself in the presence of another”.
 
I’m… interested in a few things here. I’m interested in cultivating ecstatic states – even if I find the notion of all those blurred boundaries to be liiiittle scary – but I’m also interested in… how to build those kinds of deep connections without losing my sense of self.
I’ve experienced senses of timelessness – SM scenes that felt like 30-40 minutes and turned out to be 3-4 hours long. Dancing in a crowd for hours when, usually, I’m tired after a song or two – but I don’t know that I’ve experienced that kind of… self-dissolving connectivity that I think might be related to ecstatic states.
 
I’m signed up to the Explore More Summit (again) and, on Day One, I got to listen to the Nagoski Sisters talk about connection as a cure for burnout. And they described something that they called “the magic trick” – getting 300 very intense university students to sing “Let It Go” together in a lecture hall – and which I recognized as an ecstatic experience. I really appreciated how they sort of… gave an ingredients list for “ecstatic experience” (without ever once calling it that, because though they are both PhDs, neither of them is a religious scholar) and then talked about what happens during those experiences, neurologically. One of them (Emily) said that ecstatic experiences are such a literal experience of connectivity with The Other (<– I’m paraphrasing very hard right there) that there’s a neurological bridge that happens between you (The Other could be other humans participating in the same rock concert, it could also be a deity, or more than one. There are options) such that your minds are not entirely inside your own bodies during those experiences.
Which is HELLA COOL!
 
(Just be being a big nerd there for a second).
 
I keep thinking about how, like, Brené Brown talks about the way shame and connection are the two ends of the vulnerability spectrum. How easy it is for me to flip into shame and how hard it is for me to stay with connection.
And I wonder if there’s something in here, in “practicing ecstasy[2]”, that can… help?
 
Look. Ages ago, Andrea Zanin wrote a blog post about the energetic exchange that happens – intentionally or not – when our skin is broken by someone else. (It popped up on my timeline the other day, which is what’s got me thinking of it now).
 
As a blood-play top, I “puncture [other people’s] tank” through cuttings and piercings (and I would include brandings here, too, tbh) with a fair amount of intentionality. The content of that intention varies wildly. From “I’m actively keeping specific types of my own energy out of the mix here” (because I’m running a “tasting table” for people who’ve never been pierced before, and want to see what it’s like, but didn’t necessarily sign up for a side-order of my personal dominance and sadism) all the way to “every cut I make in this stylized lotus chakra image over your sternum is actually me energetically opening up your heart and putting Ms Syen’s Special Blend of Self directly into you” (because we both want that level of connection and intimacy and this will strengthen the bonds that are already there).
 
While I’m not one to pierce myself – let alone let someone else do it, at least not outside of a blood-test situation – there are definitely other ways of piercing my own tank.
I can’t help thinking that this is one of the reasons why being on the receiving side of penetrative sex is such a difficult thing for me (at least some of the time). How it can be restorative and wonderful, but can also leave me feeling worse than before, if I’m experiencing it while feeling shaky or “leaky” or disconnected already.
 
I know I’ve done solo sex using a toy to get inside myself, and felt just awful after the fact – probably due to the headspace I was in when I started.
But I’m wondering if I can… if I can use this whole “pierce your own tank” thing, by using toys on myself, to release some of the shame-stuff I’m holding onto – just let it leak out – and intentionally fill the resulting space back up with something more positive, more connective.
It may or may not help me be more receptive, or more open to ecstatic experiences, but I figure, if nothing else, it’s worth a shot.
 
Notice Pleasure: Skin brushing skin. Rubbing noses. Chocolate truffle ice cream. Hot sunshine through a winter window. Making out. The way glass will hold the heat of my body, the reminder that I’ve got all that warmth inside me. The arch of someone’s back. Being able to move and rise, even when I’m stiff and sore, with something approaching grace.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] The above is a paraphrasing of a quotation I found here which, I think is lifted from their essay “New and Alternative Religions in the United States: Ritual and Neopaganism” in Gallagher’ and Ashcraft’s Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America).
 
[2] How? Singing? Dancing? Harvesting wild fruit? Star-gazing, falling into the northern lights? How much of this is ecstasy and how much of this is wonderment and how much overlap is there between the two? And, maybe more to the point, how much is it possible to do this on one’s own?

In a TED talk I watched recently, Esther Perel talks about the poetics of sex, the ingredients of desire. Meaning: novelty, curiosity, playfulness, imagination, and mystery. In the video, she talks about looking at a particular population of trauma survivors and she said that this group could be divided into “the people who didn’t die, and the people who came back to life”.
What she said was that “the people who didn’t die”, specifically because of the hyper-vigilance and the anxiety (the PTSD, by the sounds of it) that they couldn’t process or mitigate, these folks weren’t able to access the ecstasy (my word, here) of the erotic. They couldn’t fly.
Whereas “the people who came back to life”, she said they understood the erotic “as an antidote to death” and were able to reconnect to their own vitality, vibrancy, renewal and so-on.
And, I mean, I think she’s using “erotic” in a broader sense than specifically and only being about sexuality – maybe more like Audre Lorde does when she talks about “the erotic as power”:
 

“The erotic is a measure between our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. […] For the erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing. Once we know the extent to which we are capable of feeling that sense of satisfaction and completion, we can then observe which of our various life endeavors bring us closest to that fullness.”
Audre Lorde – “Uses of The Erotic: The Erotic as Power”

 
But either way. It’s this idea that this thing, this experience, of connection and flow, playfulness and vitality, is a thing you can consciously turn towards?
I mean… when I try to do this in an active way, the results are pretty unreliable. But in theory, once we’ve experienced the level of satisfaction that comes with so fully engaging our whole selves, we can find the way through to experiencing it again.
I think.
…I think.
 
Anyway. Esther Perel – who is defining “erotic” as “The ability to stay connected to oneself in the presence of another” – took the above observation about “the people who came back to life” and started asking her sex-therapy clients some questions.
Which I’m going to try to answer, for myself, right here and right now. And I’m going to try not to be so self-defeating about it all.
 
I shut myself off when: I feel dread. I’m afraid I’m taking (or will take) too long to respond in ways that are satisfying for my partner. I’m afraid of rejection. I think my desires or my sexual responsiveness is insufficient. My body hurts. Things get too intense (or too intense, too fast) and I don’t know what to do with the excess energy.
 
I turn off my desires when: I think my desires will be threatening to my partner. I think my advances would be unwanted. I think my partner’s invitations are insincere/performative/duty-bound/”just-being-nice”. I think my desires are inappropriate, outsized, or too much. I’m embarrassed by my… wantonness(?) or I’m ashamed that my desires/arousal is outpacing that of the person/people I’m with.
 
So that was the sort of easy bit? Like those are what I came up with without really having to think too hard about it.
This next bit is… a little bit harder.
 
I turn on my desires when: I’m by myself. A chosen partner expresses desire in/for me through their actions. I believably (uh…?) have permission from a given partner to express my desire for them. I feel wanted and wantable. I think my desires are socially acceptable? (Yeah, there’s a question mark on that one, because it’s not always the case). I’m not afraid. I know there’s a limit to what will be expected of me (I’m not sure this is the best way to put this? But I’m going with it for now) sexually.
 
I “wake up” in my body when: I dance. I feel good in my body/skin. There’s no pressure (I get that this is generally internally-generated pressure) on me to rush into something involving my own genitals, but I’m engaging with someone sexually/erotically (making out is an amazing example of this). I eat really tasty food and give myself time to actually enjoy what I’m eating. I’m being touched firmly but gently in ways that cover a lot of surface area (this could be sitting in a hot tub or it could be receiving a body-slide, there are options). When I feel strong and aware of what my body is doing (uh… I’m thinking of certain figure modeling poses here, tbh. Like… ones that look really graceful, but involve a small degree of core-strength engagement and awareness, but that don’t need to be held for more than about 15 minutes, so there’s low-to-no risk of nerve compression). When I do kundalini yoga. When I have a really good vocal warm-up.
 
Which… Like, there’s a lot more stuff on that second list than I was expecting there to be.
That’s a nice thing.
Maybe I need to get the stripper pole out of the corner and try some of those (very, very basic) tricks I learned 10 years ago… Ha… But it could be a fun thing to do.
 
~*~
 
Notice Pleasure: long kisses, long hugs, the quiet humid dark of a sanctuary bath, being noticed by people whose attention I want, soft warm bedsheets, hours of snuggling, slow-build sex with a reactive partner, flirting.