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Oh, yeah. We’re doing the word-play.
So. A very, very long time ago, I had a voice teacher tell me that, when I bowed in this graceless, perfunctory manner, the message I was sending to my audience was that I felt entitled to their applause, and that it was on me to draw out that bow so that the audience could understand that I appreciated their appreciation.
Which: The reason I had been doing basically a curt nod rather than a real bow was because I hated myself and felt unworthy of that appreciation. I was intensely uncomfortable accepting praise, and I thought that by sort of rushing through that mandatory bit of the performance process, I wasn’t “taking more than I was due”.
Which I suspect my voice teacher knew.
Which is, I think, why she hit me with “You are being a jerk when you do that” because trying to convince me that I was any good at all was 100% a losing battle at that point (and, hey, it’s an uphill slog 25 years later, so here we are). Telling me I had a responsibility to the people I was interacting with to Do The Thing got me to actually Do The Thing when telling me I was worthy wasn’t getting anywhere.
 
Which… perhaps you can already guess where this is going, but we’re going to go there anyway.
 
I mentioned recently that I’ve been doing practice exercises with someone in preparation for her seeing clients as an IPSA member. One of those exercises was a body-check-in meditation that centered on actively seeking out what felt good.
This is something I’ve done before, as a self-check-in, while I was doing life coaching. Every day, several times a day, I had to bring my awareness to parts of my body that I either ignored or only paid attention to when I was scanning for pain or problems. And I had to notice what felt good in those parts of my body. There was a lot of noticing how the wind felt brushing around my bare shins, for example.
While that wasn’t always easy to do, it was self-guided and I could kind of take as long as I needed to or stop if/when things got heavy-feeling with no harm, no foul, involved.
 
In this more recent case, though, the body-check-in was guided and, when I started feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and shame-flooded (and getting a lot of pressure in my throat, which is Interesting for reasons that I’ll get into shortly), I stuck with it.
For reasons.
So let me talk about that for a minute.
The first reason is that – when we were doing the debrief, I warned her that I was going to sound like The Courage To Heal – “feeling uncomfortable is not the same as being in danger”, and I made the decision to basically lean into it and see if I could get myself through and out of my weirdo shame/overwhelm/anxiety situation while continuing with the exercise.
Which… didn’t work very well, but here we are.
The other reason, however, was that I didn’t feel justified is calling “Yellow” and asking for a slow-down or a break.
Which…
I knew that if I said “Hang on, I need to stop for a second” or similar, that she would have stopped.
I knew that I was uncomfortable. But I also knew I wasn’t actually in danger. So I didn’t feel “justified” in “demanding” a moment to come back to myself.
 
I didn’t want to interrupt.
I didn’t want to make a “big deal” out of something that I knew was… not actually dangerous, just uncomfortable.
I didn’t want to be a burden.
 
Which kind of brings me to how this experience relates to my long-ago voice teacher telling me to smarten up.
 
A LOT of my exploration/navigation of sex stuff is about giving myself permission to do things, feel things, experience things. A LOT of it is about learning how to believe I’m lovable enough to deserve/”deserve” pleasure, time, eroticism, fantasy, permission.
But there’s another side to it which is that, when I make the decision to “not be a burden” to a partner, I’m assuming that this other autonomous adult with-whom I’m interacting:
(A) Would be irritated by my changing my mind, needing to take a minute, interrupting their flow, or whatever
and
(B) Would prefer that I hide my actual experience in order to perform something gratifying but not necessarily true for them
 
And there are absolutely reasons why I make these assumptions, unconsciously or not. I’ve 100% had partners, parents, and other attachment-relations make it explicitly clear that they want to hear that I’m on board with what they want to do, whether or not that’s actually the truth.
But continuing to make those assumptions in situations where that’s not likely to still be the case means I’m… kind of operating in bad faith?
This isn’t a case of me expecting, or wanting, a partner to read my mind.
In point of fact, I’m counting on them not being able to read my mind because, if they knew “something was wrong”, I’d be upsetting them.
But… you guys, there’s a whole world of questions coming up around this like:
“Why are you assuming that You Wanting A Break would upset your partner?”
and
“Even if it does… why does that mean you can’t call for a pause. They’re grown ups. They can handle Stop and No”.
 
Betty Martin has those videos about the different quadrants of the Wheel of Consent, which I find really helpful in terms of explaining the different ways that we (can) consent to administer or accept touch. In the video on “Allowing“, she talks about how “allowing” doesn’t mean you have no limits, or that you’re not allowed to have any limits. It means you ask how the other person wants to touch you and then you get to negotiate around that. But that to do that effectively requires you to know what your limits are, to check in with yourself, and to say something when things start feeling chancy. You have to know-in-your-bones that you can – that you have permission to, and safety to, but also that you have the capability to, the agency to, the self-trust to – say No.
 
Allowing is not the same thing as enduring.
 
(I mean, yes, sure, in a BDSM context, sometimes “allowing” also involves “enduring”, but that’s a fairly specific context and I’m talking from the perspective of someone who is neither submissive nor a masochist, so that context isn’t one I’m likely to be in).
 
So. What does all this mean?
When I wrote my most recent permission slip, I said that “I have permission, and also a duty, to say what I want”.
Maybe if I remind myself that I have a responsibility to the people I’m interacting with to Do The Thing – to recognize when I’m rubbing up against and edge and call for a slow-down, to say “Okay, you want to touch me in X way. Under Y circumstances, or with Z provisions, I would legitimately enjoy you doing that” – that will actually get me to Do The Thing even under circumstances where overwhelm, anxiety, and shame-spiraling are getting in the way of me Doing The Thing for my own benefit.
 
~*~
 
Notice Pleasure: My fingers in her mouth. Snuggles on the couch. My hand on her collar. Coffee with milk and sugar. Early morning back rubs. The squeeze of her legs around my chest.

A dark grey yoga mat, with a cork block, grey-and-white bolster pillow, and folded white blanket stacked at one end

A dark grey yoga mat, with a cork block, grey-and-white bolster pillow, and folded white blanket stacked at one end


 
Okay. So… practice makes perfect, right? Or at least practice makes easier.
This whole post technically could have been put under “S” in the sense of “S is for Scheduling”, but TBH I’ve already written the “R” post and I’d like to get that up sooner, rather than later. So I decided I’d talk about this under “Q” and I’m hoping you just go with me on it.
 
Basically, I have had a LOT of resistance, over the years, to the idea of Scheduled Sex. Slightly for the usual reason of “But it’s not spontaaaaaaaaaaaaaaneous!!!” and somewhat more because I just… I spend a lot of time camped out on the Planes Of Desolation, sort of preemptively disappointed about a thing not actually happening, and the fewer opportunities I give myself – the logic goes – to end up in that place, the better. (More on that, probably, in a second). But mostly I’ve been resistant to the idea of Scheduled Sex because I have tended to react to it with: “But that’s makes sex, which I want to want, which I want to enjoy, it makes is another ‘chore’, it makes it work“.
 
So. The “This becomes a chore” thing and the “preemptive disappointment” thing are both pretty linked up, and I’m going to try to talk about that for a minute.
Quite a while ago – like… probably late in 2016? – when I was getting some life-coaching around both coming back to my body and getting it through my head that my sexually desiring my partners did not, in and of itself, make me a terrible monster, my coach gave me an assignment. Which was to ask my partner (which-ever partner I saw in person next, because YAY poly-aware practitioners) to do a specific thing to me that would feel physically pleasurable.
At this point, I don’t remember if it was supposed to be something specifically sexual, but certainly physically pleasurable. And, frankly, this is me. I’m either going to turn into a sleepy bunny or I’m going to get turned on, if someone is doing something physically pleasurable to me. So, like… 50/50 it was going to happen regardless.
Anyway. I did my assignment. And it felt like a BIG emotional risk. Even though my partner was like “Yeah, I’ll totally do that!” and was quite enthusiastic about it. It still felt like a HUGE ask, I was scared to say it out loud, the whole thing. But the hardest part, it turned out, was getting through the hour or two between making my request and actually receiving The Thing. It was so hard to hold onto hope. To not just get bogged down in “Oh, never mind, let’s not bother”. Which, itself, is kind of equal parts “I don’t want to be a burden” AND “I’m afraid of being rejected (and I’m so SURE that I’m going to be rejected that) I should just let my person off the hook”.
Which.
My partners are grown-ups with autonomy, and like… maybe I should give them the opportunity to make those decisions themselves? Even if those decisions do end up confirming my particular fears on occasion, I can’t just go around presuming to decide that for them, right?
(Okay, yes, easier said than done, but this is still a thing).
 
So one element of “Scheduling Sex turns sex into One More Thing on the To-Do List” is that, if I know I’m asking for Sex Stuff to happen, then I need to keep myself in a state of vulnerability (Why, yes, I am still reading a LOT of Brene Brown, why do you ask?) which, all by itself, is exhausting. Hope and curiosity are vulnerable states. They’re positive states. But they’re vulnerable. And – much like confidence – they are like muscles that you need to engage if you don’t want them to atrophy. Which sort of ties into the “quantity” aspect of the subject-line for this post. More on that in a bit.
 
Another element of the idea of Scheduled Sex Being Work is just that, if this is something that’s on the calendar, then it’s, like, it’s something I have to psyche myself up for, and I need to Find My Turn-On, and be ready to do all the things, and… there’s a LOT in here, for me, that’s (STILL – ye gods) looking as sex as a kind of a scripted thing. Like I have to be READY to do heavy breathing and make noise and know in advance what I want and be able to see all the pieces on the board – which… trust-falling with a partner, much like trust-falling with the universe, means letting them do their thing rather than trying to preemptively account for all of the possible things they might do. Sex is not a chess match, no matter what Broadway musicals have to say about it.
 
Anyway. Fast-forward to some time last year, when I wash chatting with a partner about long distance relationships. She commented that LDRs are basically the ultimate in Schedule Sex and I made a joke that turned out to be kind of an Aha Moment.
I said that, if schedule sex was like making a commitment to go to a yoga class once a week, then long-distance visits are like going to an ashram.
 
Which ended up being a really helpful way to think about it.
Back when I was going to regular yoga classes, they were “work” – in that they involved remembering to get my gear together and get out the door on time, and then pushing my body a little while I was there – but they were “work” that I looked forward to. They were something I wanted to do and that I got excited about. AND the actual yoga was something that I got better at as I went along. Like, don’t get me wrong, I’m still dreadful at Downward Dog, but my arms are stronger now, and at least I know it’s okay to bend my knees. Or just do Child’s Pose instead, if my shoulder aren’t up to it that day.
 
Which is kind of what I’m getting at with the “Quality and Quantity” title.
Like, I know this series is kind of all over the place and the posts tend to reflect how I’m feeling on a given day, as much as they reflect where I’m at on this particular quest (see what I did thar?) and – bonus thing I realize (or re-realized?) all of yesterday – how well I’m treating my own body, at any given time, too[1].
But like I said. Hope and curiosity – and playfulness, too – are like muscles and you have to work them to build them up if you want to be able to do anything with them for long periods of time.
Like with Downward Dog, when I first started doing yoga, I would leave the studio and feel like a wet noodle for then next day and a half. Now I can do 30-second poses (which tend to incorporate a lot of yoga poses AND tend, in my case, to involve putting a lot of weight on my arms) for an hour and a half and then just get on with my life.
I can ask a partner to do a thing now and, while four years ago I would have just been like “I should just give up” (and I do still get those feelings, don’t get me wrong), it’s a lot easier to do the asking, it’s a lot easier accept it without going into some sort of Terrible Shame Spiral for having asked, if a given partner’s not into it or changes their mind later on.
I’m finding that it’s easier to go to yoga (and “go to yoga”) every week, if I stick to it and keep going, even if my muscles are aching a little.

~*~

Notice Pleasure: Her hip under my tongue. Sleeping in as long as I want, cocooned in soft, warm blankets. Kisses. Back rubs. Shared showers. Her hands in my hair. Playing “May I / Will You” long distance. Brushing my fingertips over my arms, my legs. Dancing.

 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Seriously. I have some messed up habits, that include getting really mad at myself when I need things (and, yeah, I get where this is coming from. Some really mean part of my brain is yelling at me to stop needing things – like food and water type things – because “People Who Need Things get thrown away like garbage, so if I need thing, I must be garbage and/or am in danger of being thrown away, and do we want that?? No?? Then stop needing things!” Because I am clearly a genius. But – wow, you’ll never guess! – if I actually access what I need (a sandwich, a glass of water, a foot rub from a partner), I have a much easier time being in my skin and noticing pleasurable things. So that’s a thing.

So someone I know is doing practice exercises with partners and friends in order to prepare for eventually getting her first case as a surrogate partner therapist. As such, she did a “sexual history interview” with me a little while back.
And, let me tell you, that kind of a thing makes you say stuff in plain speech that you may have been avoiding when you try to be your own therapist.
So, hey! Guess what came up?
 
Yeah.
So a question she asked me, in the context of being with my partners, was “Can you imagine what it would be like to just enjoy the sensations you’re experiencing when your partners touch you?” and the answer, pretty starkly, was:

I have difficulty imagining a [sexual] situation where allowing myself to just be in the experience would not involve my letting someone down, or my failing a partner in some way.

 
Which.
This is the short version, right?
The long version is that, when I’m with a partner, I can end up in a head space where I’m telling myself that – unless the partner in question is telling me in words that she is doing Whatever (kissing me, snuggling me, enjoying the feel of my skin, whatever it happens to be) specifically because she thinks I’m sexy or is feeling turned on or some other specific statement that tips me off that “For me [the partner in question], this is a Sex Thing right now” – it’s up to me to intuit whether or not “this is a sex thing” because Just Asking (like a normal person) would involve putting pressure on said partner to turn this cuddly or affectionate interaction into a “sex thing” when maybe that’s not what she wanted.
 
This goes back a long way, and it’s not remotely helpful.
It’s just One More Thing where my late-arrival to How One Does Boundaries, and my deep suspicion that I don’t “deserve” good feelings/sensations/experiences, is showing up again.
A while back, I got to take a free “Find Your Sexual Voice” webinar, during-which I asked a question about the above, and – to my surprise, since I was far from the only person putting questions in the chat box – the facilitator jumped on it with “Okay, LISTEN” and proceeded to tell me about how this was all tied up with assumptions around “I’m not allowed to change my mind” and “I have to (telepathically) make decisions for other people” (See? Boundaries! Or lack there-of) and – this is the bit that hit me really hard – “I’m a burden” (See? “deserving” stuff, again).
 
I have a bad habit (deeply rooted unhealthy coping mechanism) (trauma thing) of both believing, and consistently reinforcing my belief, that the act of wanting/needing something (anything) makes me intrinsically unworthy of accessing that thing.
Doesn’t really matter what it is.
It can be sexual touch with a partner. It can be gentle affection. It can be washing my actual body so that my skin and scalp don’t feel gross. It can be movement. It can be rest. It can be something as basic as eating a food because I’m hungry.
I consistently get ANGRY at myself for wanting/needing… you know… to have my basic, normal, human survival needs …met? At all?
And the more I deny this stuff to myself, the angrier at myself I get for still persisting in needing them. Like… If it isn’t coming, shouldn’t I just be able to learn to get along without them?
 
Because, obviously, that’s how any of this works.
 

A dark hallway lit by a pink neon question mark, superimposed with the words "why am I like this?"

A dark hallway lit by a pink neon question mark, superimposed with the words “why am I like this?”


 
See. She also led me through a body-check-in meditation – one that lines up really directly with the whole “notice pleasure” theme of this particular little prompt series. And I found it very hard to accept deliberately pleasurable touch, even from just myself. I spent a large part of the meditation trying to calm myself down. Rather than trying to find the ways that I could touch my arms, my back, my sternum, my face, my feet, that felt good, I was actually trying to work through shame and overwhelm and flaring anxiety, telling myself I was “safe, good, here” and struggling to stay present.
 
And there’s absolutely stuff in there about “worthiness”.
 
The thing is, only a day or two later, I climbed into the shower with one of my partners, and we did lovely mutual maintenance for each other, washing each other’s hair and soaping each other’s backs. She went over my legs and feet with body scrub.
It felt really good, in and of itself.
But what I found, after the fact, was that it was noticeably easier for me to like being in my skin, and to be kind to my own body. I could notice the feel of my cotton t-shirt on my skin and enjoy it, rather than see it only as a way to, for example, avoid getting cold.
This is a reminder.
This is a reminder that it’s easier for me to give myself kindness when I’m already receiving it. That – much like sex – it’s easier for me to notice, seek out, ask for, and allow myself to receive/accept pleasant sensual/sensory experiences, to believe it’s okay for me to both want and to enjoy those experiences, if I believe I already have permission to do so.
 
Much earlier in this series – a little over a year ago – I wrote myself a permission slip. I want to write myself another one:

I hereby grant myself permission to receive and enjoy sexual, sensual, caring, and nurturing touch. From myself. From my partners. From my friends. I give myself permission to have the experience I’m having and to say something out loud if I want that experience to change. I have permission to change my mind. I have permission to take the time I need to figure out what kind of touch I want from a given person (including myself) at a given time, and I have permission (and a duty) to say out loud what I want.
Granted this day, April 19th, 2020, by my own holy, worthy self.

 
~*~
 
Notice Pleasure: Soft cotton on my skin. Foot massages. Warm sunlight on my tummy. Cozy snuggles in bed. Hot baths taking the weight of my body. Her gasping breath. Passing energy back and forth between us. Her smile. Her hands in my hair.

So, as-you-know-bob, I’ve been working on reconnecting with my sexuality for the better part of the past year.
That work is ongoing, and feels like it’s going well. There’s been a LOT of chakra-related energy work going on, which I continue to find very effective. I’ve recently been (re?-)introduced to the link between my second chakra (desires, boundaries, connections, exchanges, etc) and my fifth chakra (voice, truth, communication… and a lot of other Suit Of Air stuff, as it happens).
I’ve also – very recently – started working on another second chakra Thing, which is money.
 
Seriously, folks, this is even harder to talk about than sex stuff, which I at least have experience talking about after running this blog for approaching a decade.
I’m reading a bunch of “psychology of wealth” books and I’m telling you they are a mixed bag and, to one extent or another, they’ve all pushed my buttons, rubbed me the wrong way, or made my skin crawl.
Which is, tbh, as much a desperate disclaimer and/or a plea to readers not to Get Mad At Me for wanting not to be broke all the time anymore, as it is a statement of fact about how I’m reacting to what I’m reading and/or a telling look at what a lot of my “money mindset blocks” are built around.
 
But something that I’m noticing is that a lot of the stuff – the mental/emotional blocks and tendencies towards self-sabotage – that gets talked about, across this small sample of a board I’ve got going on, when it comes to money stuff are things that also turn up in books and blogs and self-help-videos about sexual empowerment AND about relationship/attachment trauma.
And that is something that I find fascinating, surprising-but-also-not-surprising-at-all, and pretty useful and relevant in terms of how I go about doing this work.
 
These connections – the stuff around shame and worthiness/unworthiness, the stuff around learning unhelpful coping mechanisms in childhood, the stuff around trust and fear – remind me of the various things I’ve heard fellow sexworkers say (and read them write) about the kinds of relationships they have with money. Stuff like this piece by Kitty Stryker or articles in $pread Magazine about calculating your rates, or about how “Everyone asks about my relationship with men, nobody asks about my relationship with money”. My own experiences earning a lot of cash in a short number of hours doing various kinds of fetish work, and the GLEE and freedom I felt doing so.
 
I can’t help seeing the connections between, say the way temp work and retail work consistently involve being undervalued (under-paid, but also treated as disposable and intentionally kept on limited and unpredictable hours) and the low self-worth that comes with it[1] versus the feelings of confidence, joy, self-worth, and personal power that come with making $120 for letting someone lick my shoes or spend half an hour as my footstool, or earning my rent by spending a few hours allowing someone the privilege of filming themselves giving me a make-believe gyno exam.
 
My Notice Pleasure Project, as well as very nearly ALL of the therapy and life-coaching I’ve had, is SO MUCH about learning how to have good boundaries, how to voice my desires, how to allow my Self and my desires to take up space (rather than making myself smaller and smaller, more and more invisible in the hopes that a starvation diet will start to feel like enough), how to say No to what doesn’t feed me, or doesn’t feed me enough, so that I can make room for the great, big, enthusiastic YES that comes for that which DOES feed me, fill me, fulfill me.
 
I felt ashamed of my sexual desires when my partners seemed to be avoiding and rejecting me.
I felt ashamed of my emotional and relational needs when the people I was involved with were emotionally unavailable or unwilling/unable to offer me mutuality in our relationships.
 
I don’t feel shame in sexually desiring my partners when my partners share and reflect that desire.
I don’t feel shame around asking for companionship and emotional intimacy when my partners are emotionally available to, and supportive of, me.
 
So it makes sense that I also feel ashamed of wanting better-than-poverty wages, of wanting my work, my time, and my considerable skills to be valued and well-compensated, when my clients and employers are actively trying to underpay and undervalue me. (See also: this whole cartoon from Eat The Rich Comic).
It makes sense that I wouldn’t feel shame about wanting my time, work, and skills to be valued and well-compensated when they’re already being valued and well-compensated.
 
Two and a half years ago, the Ask a Feelings-Witch column at GUTS Magazine received a letter from someone asking how to heal the mental disconnect they had between “wealth” (actual cash money) and “abundance” (friendship, skill-sets, sharing).
It was me. I wrote that letter.
I wrote that letter dripping with disgust and self-loathing.
When I read the response, back when it was first published, it took me a couple of tries to even be able to read it all the way through.
Fast-forward to now and, while I now have to remind myself that when someone who is (as of about six months after that article went up) a professional therapist – and as such, even with offering sliding scale rates, is still making more money per hour than I’ve personally been paid anywhere outside of sexwork – says “It is okay to want, wish for, hope for, and like money. I’m not sure I feel like there is an ethical justification for holding onto fistfulls of it[…]”, they are speaking from the position of easily making 2-5 times as much as you have ever made in a given year, and so means something different when they say “fist-fulls” than when you say it. They probably DON’T mean “It’s okay to want money, just not as much as I’m making” OR “You, Ms Syren, do not deserve nice things” …even though that’s often how I hear it.
 
Anyway. I’m going to re-read that answer, now that I’m in a headspace that’s more able to even consider this stuff, see if I can get more use of it, and see if there are any points of commonality with it and this second chakra stuff about boundaries and self-worth that I’m chewing on right now.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] When I switched from part-time retail to “full-time” temp work (full-time multi-month minimum-wage contracts, but with weeks of unemployment between contracts), the part of my contract that said “You have to submit your time sheet by X day or you won’t be paid on the next week’s payday”… I literally thought they meant they just wouldn’t pay me – like at all – for that week’s work.
That was how high my expectation of abuse was by that point[2]. And I literally just sighed, thought “Fine, whatever”, and signed the papers.
I’m happy (and relieved) to report that I haven’t felt that worthless in more than a decade. But, ye gods, what a pit that’s been to climb out of. O.O
 
[2] I was, at that point, in an abusive home relationship too, which was part of it, but still.

So, hey there! So I’ve spent the past… five? months under the impression that I’d already done “O is for [something that starts with O]”, but it turns out I didn’t! So this one’s an easy prompt to jump on. Here we go!
 
Maybe you remember this post, where I talked about orgasms being a thing that involves some active work on my part when I’m… “aiming for them”(?) with a partner.
I still feel slightly odd describing this as both “practicing” and “aiming for” Having Orgasms, in significant part because I’m trying not to think of sex – or sharing sexual experiences, if we want to be more explicitly broad about what I mean when I say “sex” – as a goal-oriented thing, because I don’t want to end up back in the headspace of “I’m going to Let Someone Down if I don’t achieve/perform/display XYZ Experience”, I am trying to think of it… I guess kind of the way I approach new knitting projects? I know. Not the sexiest thing in the known universe (even for me, and I mean…) But, when I start a new knitting project, I tend to approach it with this kind of a mindset:

We’re going to try X Thing and, if I get it right the first time? Great! But if I have to start over a few times, that’s still fine. I still get to have the fun of knitting a thing and experimenting and trying to challenge myself just a little bit while doing something I enjoy.

 
…And, when I approach sexual receptivity with this same kind of mindset, it helps me to avoid sort of… over-focusing on “I must obtain/provide X Result” and makes it much easier to enjoy my experiences. It seems to be working, at least so far, and some related good news is that I feel a lot less embarrassed about doing that physical work now!
Go me!
 
Other good news is, basically, that dental dams are the Gods’ gift to people, such as myself, who get over-stimulated really fast and benefit from having some kind of protective ozone layer between their bits and the vacuum of space a lover’s mouth. We like dental dams. Dental dams are GREAT. (PSA: If you’re in Ottawa, and have a mailing address, you can get 10 of them FOR FREE here).
 
I feel like this project is working. Like, I may or may not ever actually squirt. I think that would be really cool, I’d like to do it and, while I’m still definitely doing that “in-jaculation” thing that I (briefly) discuss here, I do think it’s a possibility. My voracious, unapologetic desire still manifests via my teeth, my guzzling, Moray of a mouth, my jaws more than my cunt, but a year into this project, and a little past the “half way point” on the alphabet prompts, I do feel like I’m making the kind of progress that I want to be making. I’m seeing encouraging results, and I’m having more fun (and more sex, which is key).
Definitely something to celebrate.
 
~*~
 
Notice Pleasure: The slide of sweaty bodies. My breath in her lungs. The swell of blood drops when the needles come out. Her cunt gripping my fingers. The muscular shift from hard work to be automatic when I get the movement of my hips just right. Hungry kisses. Her clit in my mouth. Her thighs under my feet. Her heartbeat under my tongue.

Relevant to my Notice Pleasure Project.

CaptainAwkward.com

This piece written by Cass Ball is great.

And you can safely replace “20s” with “any part of adulthood.”

Now’s the part where I physically restrain myself from quoting the entire thing:

“When I’m coming from a place of scarcity, a place where everything feels like it isn’t enough,I often feel that I’m insufficient without more experience, and therefore at risk of lowering my boundaries and putting myself in unsafe situations. Ironically, feeling like I’m “too much,” like my needs are a burden, is also a form of scarcity: it indicates that I don’t think I’m worthy of my needs being met. When I’m approaching sex from a place of abundance, I can value my needs and feel that they’re just right, and I therefore can communicate both pleasure and boundaries with equal confidence and clarity. Coming from a place of abundance means that I can be with another person…

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So I feel like I’m making some progress in terms of sorting out what’s working and, when things aren’t working, the things that I could do to get them to work better.
Stuff like:
Oh, hey, getting vigorously fucked while lying on my back can feel amazing, but sometimes it means that my hands start to go numb and/or something WEIRD starts happening with my face. Still. (This has been a thing for a looooong time, and relates to the disc problems in my lower back. I have a rough idea of how to fix that situation in the moment, but (a) it’s a pretty rough idea, and (b) it means that there are positions that make things easier for my hips that I still, unfortunately, have to avoid if I don’t want to have, like, muscle spasms in my face or difficulties controlling my jaw).
OR:
Oh, hey, orgasming is a fairly active thing that I can just “lie back” and wait to have wash over me.Oh, hey, I feel embarrassed – for some reason? – doing the visible, physical work it takes to get myself off with a partner, but it still needs doing and X position makes it much easier for me to do those things than Y position… AND ALSO: Oh, hey, there’s also a bit of a balancing act (mental? physical? emotional?) going on in order for me to both be relaxed/open/receptive enough to get turned on and to a place where orgasming is an option – as in I’m not being so, uh, “goal oriented” that I start to spin and fret about “Am I Taking Too Long” (and similar) and end up kind of jack-knifing into hypo-arousal/numbness/”I’m Just Not (sometimes literally) Feeling It” – while also being active/goal-oriented enough to recognize and do the things my body needs to do – move which muscles how? shift in which direction, when? – in order to… be able to do something with all the energy building up in my body, basically, so that I can do something voluntary and enjoyable rather than just get overwhelmed by it.
OR:
Oh, hey, mentally treating Sex With a Long-Time Partner as though it were pick-up play at a party – with explicit suggestions of activities and negotiations about how a thing is going to go – actually helps me get around some of my mental/emotional blocks when it comes to sexually engaging with someone after the NRE Hormones have quieted down and it starts getting harder (for me, in some instances) to move from fond affection (that could just as easily turn into snuggling and falling asleep) to specifically erotic affection and related Sex Things.
 
So it feels pretty good to be figuring things out.
Which… I guess might make you wonder why the heck I would have titled this blog post with “What Even Is ‘Normal’ Anyway”, right?
 
Well, part of it was just “I wanted to stick with the alphabet prompt”. For real.
The other part was, when I first started chewing on what to write for this post, I was thinking about a conversation I’ve been having – in various ways – with one of my partners and a couple of my friends, about “What does a (my?) ‘normal’ sex life look like, once the NRE calms down?” and “How much is ‘enough’ sex, both to be satiated with and to want?” but also “am I – like, me, specifically – going to stay (sexually/socially) Interesting if I’m not sluttier than I am?” and “I seem to be very interested in this stuff, and enjoy talking about it and exploring it – I mean, obviously, I’ve got a blog dedicated to it, so – but I’m worried about getting embarrassed about how much I think about this, or what I want to talk about, and find myself not-so-able to have these conversations thirty years from now…”
 
Basically… Look. I am probably over-thinking this, but I feel a bit like the two women my personal “sexual Normal” bounces off of are kind of at opposite extremes so, while I’m pretty sure that my Middle Aged Queer Lady sexuality is somewhere in the middle of the Average Allosexual Spectrum (whatever that actually is), I sometimes feel like I’m either “too slutty” OR “not slutty enough” (which, itself, is not an unusual thing for a middle-aged lady, queer or otherwise, to be feeling[1]) or, more than frequently, both at the same time.
 
So it’s nice to figure out some (more) ways to engage with, and experiment with, my partners while also kind of figuring out how to be and do the level of slutty I want, even when I’m not entirely sure what that level actually is, or if it’s going to stay more-or-less constant for the next little while.
Like, yes, I know stuff fluctuates. I know that Perimenopause, which is probably going to show up in the next 5-10 years, ye gods, is going to Make Some Changes (though who knows what direction those changes will go in). I know that NRE can sometimes be contagious, that engaging in professional exhibitionism leaves me generally feeling powerful and glamourous, and that these various reminders that I’m desirable make it easier for me to express desirousness, regardless of who I’m expressing it to.
These are good things to know.
 
A few weeks ago, I got to visit my girlfriend. Which was wonderful in many ways and, on top of all that, she sent me home with some shiny new books to read. One of them was about Sigil Magic. One of the first questions the author asks the readers is “What do you want?”
And I found myself afraid to take a really good look at myself and see what the answer was.
What if I want the “wrong” thing??
 
Between the above couple of handy discoveries and my questions about “What’s My Normal?” I find I’m having similar fears about, I don’t know… About presuming to have any idea about What I Want in any kind of long-term sense.
Which, itself, is maybe kind of weird?
Like, on the one hand, Why am I expecting myself to be able to foretell my own future like that? and, on the other hand, Why do I think that I need to?
 
Like, I’m aware that I want to get my personal “perpetual motion sexuality back up and running. I like being a person who likes, wants, and engages in sex with a moderate degree of frequency, wherein “moderate degree” is, like, 1-3 times per week… I think? With some wiggle room in there for busy/tired/sick on one end, and “going to the kink convention this weekend” at the other, without falling into entropy during the day-to-day of my real life OR relying too heavily on those annual, multi-day parties to bring that average more in line with What I Want when it comes to things like frequency and intensity.
But I’m also aware that, were I given the opportunity to get my game on multiple times per week… that I might not actually want that?
I’m literally not sure whether “1-3 times per week” is an accurate guess based on what my body/stamina is likely to be able to handle PLUS what my libido is likely to spark over, or if it’s a guess based on a certain degree of scarcity-thinking, kind of like the opening number in the Oliver! musical, or like those Early Kink Fantasies where what you imagine wanting is probably a lot more intense than what you’d want In Real Life, if Real Life was an option.
 
So while I do think I’d enjoy having a more active partnered-sex-life, I’m hesitant to be like “This is my goal!” partly because said goal, by nature, involves more than just me, but also because… what if I’m wrong?
I keep thinking about that article I read, going on 25 years ago now (the things you remember…), one night while babysitting somebody’s kids. It had a title like “We had sex every day for a year!” and how much of what stuck with me about that was just… how tedious, tiring, and annoying it became, much of the time, for the author and her monogamous partner to keep up with that commitment.
I think about how sex is no place for “should” or “must”[2] and how there’s absolutely room for – ironically, must be room for – “I don’t feel like it” or “Not right now”.
But I also think about how easily I fall into “I’m tired” as a stand-in for “I’m afraid of failure” or “I’m afraid of rejection”; about how A is for Action, how I need to relearn things again and again, and how I need to make myself keep moving, keep taking those tiny baby-steps towards who and what I want to be, and be doing, lest I stall out, get scared, get embarrassed, and run away from my hopes, dreams, and goals. (It’s one of the reasons I blog about stuff and do Projects with writing-prompts that are also action-prompts. Because it’s a way to keep myself accountable to finishing a thing, however long it takes me).
 
So I ask myself: What do I want right now?
Like the tarot cards I pulled for the recent full moon, I need to frame this as “awakening through playfulness”.
My “Normal” isn’t something I am necessarily going to be able to predict in advance. Maybe it’s something I have to track, moment to moment, and sort out after the fact.
 
~*~
 
Notice Pleasure: Kissing her collar bones. Making out in the museum stairwell. Morning snuggles. Feeding each other. Coffee on the back steps. Story Time on the front porch. Having my hair washed. Pre-planned spankings. Flirting by text. The way she shudders when I fill her lungs with my breath. The way she groans when I suck on her tits.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Which… I’ve read plenty of the “get your groove back” variety of sex-self-help books. They are primarily aimed at hetero, vanilla, monogamous people and, as such, they tend to treat “my normal” (kinky, polyamourous, bisexual), the stuff that I’m fretting about not wanting/doing/being enough of, as their target audience’s “Beyond the pale levels of Too Much” which… is alienating, to say the least.
 
[2] Outside of power play, at least. 😉

Dreaming Accountability

we carry each other

This is beautiful.

Sex Geek

killing patient zero

I just wanna tell a little story about a thing that happened during today’s HotDocs screening of the documentary Killing Patient Zero at Hart House. It’s not about the film exactly, except that it kind of is.

(The film is a devastating doc that thoroughly debunks the myth about Gaetan Dugas, supposed original spreader of HIV/AIDS. It’s kind to every source; it carefully investigates history and exonerates a man who in fact helped doctors figure out that “gay cancer” was indeed an STI. SEE IT.)

So it’s a packed house. Heavily gay / queer audience, by my read, not surprisingly. The film is about halfway through. Suddenly a woman’s voice rises in the middle of the theatre. Calling out a man’s name in increasing panic. “Are you okay? Are you okay? OMG, somebody call 911!”

Murmurs in the crowd. Lights go up, film stops. There’s a flurry of activity. Staff…

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So I just finished Amy Jo Goddard’s Woman On fire (which I received through Ontario’s now-abruptly-defunded Interlibrary Loans Program so, y’know, go scream at Doug Ford about this, please).
The book is… okay.
The first few chapters focused on terrain that I was dealing with a few years ago, so I admit I skimmed a fair bit of them. That said, they did include an exercise or two there have been proving useful and challenging, while the latter chapters are a bit more about what I was looking for (and also contain useful and challenging exercises).
 
Stuff like “Imagine – and document in some way – what your (sex) life looks like as a sexually empowered being”.
Which… Having read the whole book and, more specifically, spent most of April 29th taking notes on the last four chapters before having to return it to the library (which was immersive to say the least), I have a better idea of what that looks like. I have some thoughts on what I want to move towards as opposed to just what I want to get away from.
 
Which, as a side note? It’s been really interesting to see how my ability to even conceptualize “something to move towards” or “a positive outcome to aim for” changes depending on how much anxiety I’m feeling on a given day, even when that anxiety has 0% to do with sex or relationships.
It’s interesting. I mean, it’s also infuriating and frustrating, but at least I can recognize that it’s happening and maybe (hopefully) work around it in some way.
 
Anyway. Another thing that “M is for” is Masturbation. I feel really self-conscious about saying that so explicitly and then putting it on the internet, but here we are. I’ve been experimenting with regarding how I get myself off. And, yeah, I have concerns about being Messy. I’m a chick who wants to be able to squirt – for a lot of reasons, some of-which are tied to releasing all the shame-and-fear that are locked up in my hips, and some of-which are tied to the degree of relaxed and open and turned on that I would need to be for that kind of stimulation and response to even happen – and yet I’m also a chick who is really concerned about “ruining the mattress” to the point that it’s stressing me out and interfering with how much I let myself enjoy sexual stuff with my partners.
 
Related to this: I watched a bunch of youtube videos about things like “How To Squirt” and one of them talked about how some people – maybe even a lot of people – sort of suck all the fluid that builds up in the urethral sponge during sex, they suck it up into their bladders. The speaker called this “in-jaculation” and it got me thinking (again) about how I tend to clench, draw in and upwards, to the point that it starts having an effect on my brain. Like “Oh, our muscles are very tense. We must be in an anxiety-relevant situation”.
And I’m wondering if this clenching and pulling inwards is (a) making squirting harder to do, but more to the point (b) causing a lot of the anxiety problems I’m having in bed. Like, gods know that I’ve wound up in anxiety spirals because I’ve been doing stuff as benign as trying to make soap bubbles in the dish water. Like, my brain literally goes “We are doing an agitated motion. Perhaps we should be doing an agitated Emotion as well? Yes. I think that’s what we should be doing. Let’s get on that!”
 
My brain. It’s so fucking helpful. :-\
 
Anyway, with that in mind, I’ve been trying to keep my vaginal muscles (other muscles, not so much, but go with me) relaxed and kind of loose(?) while getting myself off with a vibrator – to mixed results – and I’ve been experimenting with “binaural beats” stuff (also on youtube – they have titles like “c-u-m in less than five minutes” and similar, and they do not function as advertised) to see how they affect my insides.
They’re definitely doing something, I’ll give them that. It’s been interesting messing around with them and experiencing vaginal stimulation via my ears, even though I have no idea how much of what I’m experiencing, physiologically, is due to the sound files themselves versus how much of it is basically a placebo effect.
 
Either way, those are some M-related things I’ve been trying.
 
Something else I recently tried was attending an Ecstatic Dance get-together in a local community center. There’s a group in town that hosts these things a couple of times a month and I thought: “Hey, I’m wanting to seek out more ecstatic experiences, why don’t I go to this thing? I like dancing”.
So I did.
 
And folks? M… is also for “Meh”.
 
I’m afraid that the event was kind of a bust.
Although that’s not the event’s fault.
 
One of the things (iirc) Barbara Carrellas says about (planned) ecstatic experiences is that you kind of can’t shunt yourself from “day-to-day” mindset into “open to ecstasy” mindset – uh, I’m definitely not direct-quoting here, fyi – without allowing adequate transition time. It’s not something you can rush.
And I had about an hour and a half between getting in the front door after work and needing to be at the event for its kick-off time.
Not ideal, particularly not when I was also kind of peopled-out from a week of temp work.
But I went to thing and, y’know, good for me.
It’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
 
I’m a white lady who does belly dance and yoga. I am one of Those People who will do grounding-and-centering type stuff at the beginning of a ritual-type endeavor, even if it’s not an official ritual. So it’s no surprise that I wasn’t the only one doing Goddess Pose or warm-up stretches or breathing audibly in the lead-up to the official start of the dance. And it was no surprise, either, when the whole thing kicked off with most people flopping around on the literal floor while they got themselves into it and let the music – which was a mix of chanting in Sanskrit and the New Age version of Christian Pop – get into them.
 
None of this was a surprise.
But it was really uncomfortable, and I left after about half an hour.
 
To my own credit, such as a it is: I gave it a shot. I showed up. I tried to get into the music. When dancing in a big room with a lot of people in it wasn’t working, I moved to the kitchen and danced by myself for a few minutes (which was great) before trying out the main room again. I tried.
There’s a non-zero chance that I’ll try again, if I find myself with a spare $15 and am in a much better frame of mine.
 
The main thing that got in the way was the very substantial possibility that, if I let myself go and just danced, I would wallop someone across the face with one of my flailing arms and/or step on (or trip over) one of the people still hanging out below knee level. Being in a crowded space when I’m longer-limbed than what people tend to expect means that sometimes people think my leg is the arm-rest of the bus seat (for example), and that’s in a situation where everyone is pretty stationary. I get that, in a dance party (ecstatic or otherwise) people do tend to have an unconscious awareness of where other people are in space, just like we do when we’re navigating a crowded sidewalk. But I’m also aware of just how much of that awareness is based on an assumption of how much space an average body is going to take up.
The other thing was just… you guys, I felt so self-conscious about the whole thing. Embarrassed and up in my head. Defensive and angry. Resentful that it cost so much and embarrassed that I’d paid the cover when I know I can go be a pillar of fire, or an energetic-filtration-fountain, at any old Homo Phono for the bargain price of $5, so why didn’t I just wait until June to go do some actually ecstatic dancing?
 
I feel stupid for trying, to be honest. I feel stupid for having tried something, and something public no less, that didn’t work out the way I wanted it to.
And that’s kind of at the root of a lot of this.
 
To bring it back to Woman On Fire for a second, there are a bunch of Confidence Types that the author talks about and where those different Types have hang-ups and fears and skill-sets they need both to develop and, in the case of the ones they already have, to use more and/or use more appropriately.
The categories I fall into? They both need to work on boundaries (surprise, surprise) and also tend to want to be seen as “having it together” and/or “not needing support”. Like, there’s a fair amount of perfectionism and performativity hiding in both of the categories I fall into, even though the reasons for those behaviours aren’t always the same.
 
I felt self-conscious and defensive at the Ecstatic Dance party because, sure, I was afraid I’d wack someone in the face. But also because “I didn’t know any of the songs”. By-which I mean “I didn’t want to look like I didn’t have it all together”, “I didn’t want to look like I was out of my depth and floundering”… and I was already feeling defensive and overwhelmed by stuff that had nothing to do with the dance I was at.
Similarly, I feel self-conscious and embarrassed and, yeah, “defensive” (in the sense of “on my guard” and “jumpy/vigilant”), when I’m bottoming in a sexual situation because, sure, Old Trauma Feels that flare up in my body when I start feeling raw and sore (see above re: clenching and drawing into myself), and because, sure, Spectatoring (which is a type of dissociation, if you’re wondering).
But also because I feel embarrassed that I don’t know my own Right Answers as a sexual bottom. I feel embarrassed when I don’t know how to recognize, let alone name, what action or position or change I need to make in order to get back to having a hot, fun, sexual time as a receptive partner. I feel embarrassed when my body is reacting unpredictably and/or in ways that don’t aim efficiently and in a straight-forward way towards… not even orgasms. Towards genuinely enthusiastic and discernible pleasure-behaviours that would gratify my partners and let them know that their efforts were not in vain. I’m embarrassed when my sexual receptivity is messy and unreliable and hard to track.
Which, itself, is frustrating – because isn’t this supposed to be something I’m doing for my own benefit in the first place? – AND which doesn’t make it any easier to track or parse or render less messy or more reliable.
 

Captain Janeway, Rolling Her Eyes

Captain Janeway, Rolling Her Eyes


 
Anyway.
Things I can do to try and deal with this:
I can shift back to topping and try bottoming again later (a different day, or in a few minutes, or whatever works) like it’s no big deal, because the only person it’s a “big deal” to is me, and maybe I can change that up a bit?
I can notice – or try to notice sooner – when I need a rest, to have 20 minutes to myself, or to wash my hands and get my hair out of my eyes, or otherwise make it easier to not get distracted, and then do those things. I know I’ve brought that one up before, but it’s very much still something I do even in non-sexual situations and, if I can notice those things and make a habit of doing something about it, I may have an easier time doing something about it in “higher stakes” situations like sex.
I can try to more consciously and reliably reframe “being sexually receptive” as “a different kind of topping” – which is something I can do when I’m not “in the moment” – in sexts and similar – just fine, but have trouble doing when I’m in a sexual situation.
 
~*~
 
Notice Pleasure: Lingering kisses. Getting my toenails painted by a partner. Slow, ambling walks on a hot spring day. Holding hands. Resting my boots in her lap. Kisses on my back and shoulders.