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.