Tag Archive: Notice Pleasure

Hello! It’s been a long while since I last posted something for my Notice Pleasure project but it is, in fact, still happening. Welcome back!

So. Some stuff that came up for me recently:

  • The importance of having back-up plans – these the “substitute” in my alliterative, alphabetical titling practice
  • The idea that it’s actually okay to give up when something’s isn’t working how you wanted it to

In my last post under this tag, I talked about having the responsibility to (a) not assume what my partner wants from/of/with me, and (b) communicate what I actually want/need in the moment rather than… defaulting(?) to pushing through something that was uncomfortable just because it wasn’t dangerous. And this sort of relates to that, as well as to the permission slip I granted to myself about three years ago.

I have a habit of pushing through stuff that’s uncomfortable in order to not inconvenience or disappoint the other people who are involved in whatever-it-is… but also to… not disappoint myself?

  • Voicing that my hips are sore and I’ll need to stop/rest soon, but downplaying how sore they are or exactly how close to the line between “my hips hurt all the time, I can keep going” and “No, I seriously need to sit/lie down immediately” I likely am.
  • Trying to work around muscle cramps or emotional distress because I really want to try XYZ activity, or stay present for the whole group ritual, even though the physical/emotional discomfort is making that really difficult and I’m not getting as much out of the activity or the ritual or whatever because of this other thing I’m going through.
  • Pushing through pain or fatigue or whatever because I want to get to a particular “finish line”. Yes, sometimes that’s “If I keep doing this for a little longer, my partner might get off”. But sometimes it “If I keep doing this for a little longer, I can say I rode my bicycle the whole way home rather than getting off and walking the last three blocks”.

Which is to say: Sure, some of this is “I don’t want to disappoint someone else” but a LOT of it is “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take / coffee is for closers / Quitters never win”.

And, yeah, I recognize that the language I’m using there is the kind of stuff that shows up in the kind of motivational speaking that’s basically just capitalist apologetics. But I’m also kind of coming at it from the perspective of someone who has always had trouble with momentum and finishing things and who, frankly, uses long-form blogging as an accountability buddy (thanks everyone!) to make myself keep taking concrete, measurable steps towards any given goal.

It’s very, very easy to give up. Especially when you’re a white, middle-class, cis woman who mostly had Gay Rights by the time she figured out they applied to her. That Banksy quote – “Learn how to rest, not how to quit” – applies here pretty heavily.

I’ve known for years – thanks mostly to Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and the late Corey Alexander – that people take rest breaks during sex. That this is normal and enjoyable and makes sex a lot more fun. But embracing it as a thing that I can do – a thing that I’m “allowed” to do – has been a lot harder. And, just like the option of taking a rest break has been difficult to embrace, it’s also been hard to accept, and encourage, things like “changing position just because my leg is cramping” or whatever.

But there’s a point where I go from “let’s see if this irons itself out” to “everything is terrible and I hate this and am miserable” and… there’s not a lot of room between those two points. Which means that, particularly in contexts where I’m trying something new that’s supposed to be fun, it’s worth it to – yes, sure, challenge myself, BUT – get comfortable with stopping a thing before I hit “everything sucks”.

If I keep things on “easy mode”, stick to the bike paths, pre-plan spots where it will be easy and comfortable to get off the bike and rest for 10 minutes, or where it will be more comfortable to walk my bike than try to keep pedaling… I’m more likely to enjoy going for bike rides, and I’m more likely to build up the strength and endurance that will get me to the point that pedaling up that hill, or breezing right by that rest stop… feel fine. Maybe even good.

And, like… in a sexual context, the goal isn’t like “faster, stronger, etc” the way it might be with biking or weight training or whatever. But there’s definitely a carry-over there. So, for example, I got to spend Beltane with a partner in a fancy rented chalet the woods north of Ottawa. Which was wonderful (tehre was a sauna!) but which was also the woods north of Ottawa during the last weekend of April: Meaning that it was bucketing down rain and not very far above freezing for most of the time we were there.

I think a lot of what made that weekend as great as it was boiled down to our having made some back-up plans for how to accomplish x, y, or z ritual intention if our plans for how, or even where, to conduct the ritual… weren’t working. We can’t do a burnt offering in the fire pit or the outdoor wood stove, because it’s 3C and pouring rain. But we can burn things in the firebox of the wood-burning sauna, and then hang out in front of the gas fireplace and light some candles. We can’t make waffles Florentine for Beltane breakfast because I left a couple of necessary tools at home, but we can do poached eggs and goat cheese and steamed spinach on back-up crumpets.

I have – as I’ve surely said before – a terrible habit of treating “X didn’t work the way I wanted it to” as “I have FAILED at X”. And just… WOW is it easier (not easy, but easy-ER) to not feel like a total failure when you build a back-up into your plans.

Like: If I don’t have to tools/time to make waffles, I can still make pancakes using the waffle batter.

Like: I want to do this yab-yum kind of eye-gazing, grinding, sex thing but if my hips and knees can’t handle it, this alternative position will still get our hearts lined up in a way that will help us energetically accomplish what I’m going for.

Like: Can you bring your ankle cuffs so that we have an extra option, just in case the rope tie that I practiced on myself turns out to be massively uncomfortable for your feet.

So what’s my take-away here?

Building in room for adaptive devices, back-up positions, rest breaks, and alternatives makes it easier to experiment and try new things in a sexual (or non-sexual) context, because I am less likely to put a bucket of pressure on myself to have The Thing work perfectly[2] the first time I/we try it out.

Which, itself, makes experimenting more fun and less emotionally fraught, which means (I think) I’m more likely to experiment, take little risks, and see what happens.

Which, on the whole, I think is a good way to go.

Notice Pleasure: The smell of crab apple blossoms on the hot, sunny, Saturday breeze. Her head pillowed on my shoulder. Making out. Doing a guided meditation and just letting my hands wander over my body as they’re inclined rather than trying to keep them still. First ice cream cone of the season. Heat and sunshine after two weeks of cold and rain. Floating in a hot tub and having the heat and weightlessness take the pressure off my hips for the first time in 48 hours. The smell of her neck. Relaxing into the coast of a down-hill stretch, no work and all speed. The way their bodies fit into my arms differently but both just right.


Ms Syren.

[1] For real. I may not be able to do much with the kind of stripper pole I have in terms of dancing – I’m probably about 60-70 pounds heavier than it can handle, and I’m definitely eight inches (or more) taller than the users it’s actually built for – but it’s great for things like getting up out of a lunge, stepping over a big suitcase, or other things where balance and/or weight distribution are a factor in how well I can do them.

[2] For a given value of “perfectly”, I know. But I’m also a giant perfectionist, so “perfectly” is pretty reliably going to be defined as “unreasonably high expectations for sexual pleasure emotional connection, and a lack of physical pain”. Which: That might be something I talk more about in a different post, but who know.

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.
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
(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?”
“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”.
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.

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?
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.

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, 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.

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).
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.
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.
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. 😉

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

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.

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?
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂