Full-length windows framed daffodil blooms bright against vibrant and deep greens. For the comfort of bare flesh, the furnace was turned up, and turned up again. As dusk gathered, six of us breathed, coming together consciously with intention. We were here to explore ourselves. Together.
Inspired by the Bodysex viewing and discussion at Portland's In Other Words Feminist Community Center in February, we were here for a Self-Pleasuring Ritual. My co-facilitator for the Bodysex event, Barbara Wynne, spearheaded, hosted, and held space for this ritual.
In the invitation to this ritual of self-pleasure, Barbara wrote:
The room was full last Friday for a public viewing of the Bodysex Workshop DVD in Portland, Oregon, where I make my home. I had hoped we'd have twenty-five people show up, and almost twice that number attended.
Many friends were in the room, and seeing their curious, supportive faces in the audience calmed my loudly thumping heart. I'd hosted a private viewing in my home last year, but this was the first time I'd shown it publicly, my own body, face, cunt, and orgasm flickering on the screen behind me.
It started with a glance that stretched into a gaze. I was looking at her, really looking, after barely-looking for months. I took the moment, savored the time.
I saw the curve of her jaw, the way her lips rested together, the tension in her forehead that smoothed out as I continued to look. We were matched, eye to eye. I noticed the red rings, the puffy places under her bottom lashes. She'd been crying.
As the gaze lingered, under the spotlights of being seen, something shifted in her eyes. She was basking in being seen as much as I relished doing the seeing. It felt like forever since we'd done this. I had missed her, missed noticing her actively, instead of just passively hauling her around my life.
The collective gasps, laughter, nods, and the rustling of audience members crossing and uncrossing their legs delight me. Attending something sexy, whether a film festival or a play or an event that is billed "sex-positive," inevitably has me smiling in appreciation at my fellow attendees. We are all there for the same reason: we are interested in sex.
In some circles, that's remarkable. Publicly admitting one is interested in sex - shocking! Or not. To me it feels like the most natural thing in the world.
You really don't want to miss this. If it is remotely possible to get yourself to a showing of Bike Smut as it crosses North America, I urge you to make it happen. Minneapolis gets it Saturday 9/22. Milwaukee gets it Thursday 9/27. Then Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, and more. In fact, you might be able to get Bike Smut to come (or cum) to you. Write them at firstname.lastname@example.org. The tour is in process. See bikeporntour for the ever-updated information.
This was my designated Summer To Get On A Bike. (Eventually I also came to think of it as Getting Off On A Bike.) Perhaps it was overdue, or perhaps it happened right on time. But early last spring I vowed that I would not go another summer without spending a significant portion of it on a bicycle.
During the first few weeks, I was sore and raw and I cringed at the prospect of mounting up. Getting my crotch accustomed to the pressure was a challenge. But in a surprisingly short period of time, long stints became much easier, even pleasurable, on my tender bits.
Part of that ease and pleasure was perseverance, as well as installing a cushy, wide saddle for my ample hips and ass. Then I got some padded shorts. I wasn't about to let soreness between my legs dissuade me from my goal.
"Pornography is inherently exploitative and damaging to women," she said, wide-eyed and earnest.
It was all I could do not to roll my eyes at this friend-of-a-friend. With as much diplomacy as I could muster, I began talking with her about pornography, feminism, and the intersection of the two.
"Oh, no, I completely disagree that all porn is exploitative and damaging," I said. "Are you aware of feminist porn?" She was not.
“I’m on the verge of getting too high to drive myself home,” she whispered. “I better come out of these ropes soon.”
Last December I attended my first rope bondage meeting. In a beginner’s class, I saw the model become visibly floaty as her arms, hands, and torso were bound. The instructor told us the body often responds to bondage by flooding the system with chemicals that give a sense of being high, or “rope-stoned.”
Enthralled, I watched the grace of the instructing rigger, deftly moving rope around the model’s body, pointing out where nerves could become compressed, offering safety protocol at every step. It’s like knitting on a big scale. It also looked intensely pleasurable. And sexy.
My mind reeled. I want to make someone feel that; I want to feel that myself.
The tension between sexuality and religion is not news.
As a person who considers herself sex-positive, and who associates with other sex-positive people on and offline, I'm well familiar with the often-justified assessments of religion as damaging when it comes to holistic health, especially as vehicles of guilt about bodies and sexuality.
The criticisms, the examinations, the tirades - I often agree with them. But I'm also left with a nagging feeling, that such categorically dismissive views on religion end up alienating people who might otherwise be allies for a saner attitude toward sex and sexuality.
Many a writing teacher told me to limit my number of sentences and paragraphs beginning with "I." Since posting here and on my own site, I've tossed that directive aside, embracing I-statements wholeheartedly.
With the lights dimmed, I sat at the back of the room. Flickering light and shadow were flung across the faces of eight women sitting on couches and chairs in an arc around the screen. It was my first time watching Bodysex with anyone other than my partner.
Yes, yes, I've heard it before. Sex is active, it's physical. So if you're in good shape, the sex will be better. There are a couple of things, though, that we should clear up. First of all, fitness and fatness are not mutually exclusive. Secondly, sex is not only for those whose "good shape" isn't fat. Sex is for everybody. Every. Body.
The pressure builds slowly, sometimes imperceptibly. I can almost forget about it. But at a certain point, the tautness can no longer be overlooked or dismissed. Lately I've conceived of this mounting pressure as a balloon filling, slowly at first, and gaining momentum as the weeks pass. By the end, before my balloon releases, the pressure demands notice, requires my attention.
Tonight I'm relishing a sensation. It's deeply rooted in my gut, the same place where the echoes of my orgasm reverberate in the bowl of my belly. Tonight's feeling isn't from orgasm. It is similar, however, being primal, older than language, shimmering under the surface of words.
Sometimes this feeling is fierce and comes like a jolt in my loins. Other times it is soft and languid, comfortable. Most often this belly-based feeling is familiar, in an elusive, smoky way. It carries with it the sense of ancient ways, of DNA linking backward and forward in time, a spiral that folds into and around itself, enveloping me in a cellular knowledge, outside my chattering brain.
(photo credit: Eric Francis)
The second of the two questions in our Bodysex circle framed my answers to both. How do I feel about my orgasm? I hadn't considered it before. At least not directly. Do I feel anything specifically about my orgasm? I asked myself. Or do I simply feel my orgasm?
The first question, how I feel about my body, was one I chewed on at length. But mulling how I felt about my orgasm was unfamiliar. Taking my time to consider the questions before, during, and now after the Bodysex filming, has in itself been enlightening.