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.
Although I was nervous about the viewing, I went into it feeling solid about the presentation. I conducted this event in partnership with my co-facilitator, Barbara Wynne, whose sex education and intimacy coaching can be accessed through
Liberating Desire. Knowing of Barbara's many skills in teaching people, couples, and groups of all sizes, and in facilitating thoughtful discussion, I went into the evening with an underlying sense of ease and comfort. I felt confident that it would go well. And it did.
We held the discussion at In Other Words, a non-profit, volunteer-run, feminist community center. IOW is an institution in North Portland, and those who watch Portlandia will recognize it as a recurring location on the show (although the volunteers at IOW bear little resemblance to Toni and Candace in appearance or attitude). Much of what I love about Portland is reflected in the space that IOW offers for programming, organizing, and connecting as a community.
The viewing also received sponsorship support from She Bop, a female friendly sex toy boutique specializing in body safe products and education. She Bop has sponsored many sex-positive events in Portland, and their class lineup is exceptional.
The overarching theme of the Bodysex viewing and discussion was celebrating that there is no such thing as "normal." What might be usual or typical for one person is different for another, and variations make for a rich tapestry of sexuality.
We chose to show clips of the film, with discussion in small groups between. I was pleased that men attended, since honest and compassionate discussion between and among genders is something I crave and value. We offered the option to form female- or male- or genderqueer/trans/nonconforming-centered pods for discussion, but the room seemed comfortable being mixed up in self-formed small groups.
Having discussion interwoven with the viewing helped the audience stay present and open, willing to share personal perspectives or experiences, and even at times dare to be vulnerable. The choice to dare vulnerability was fostered by the tone that Barbara and I intended for the evening, and modeled by what was happening on the screen.
Invaluable were the Ground Tools ("rules are made to be broken; tools are made to be used") that Barbara outlined at the beginning: avoid interrupting or talking over each other, use "I" statements and speak from personal experience, assume that we are all here to learn about ourselves through the lens of the film, step up if you don't often speak and step back if you often speak a lot, avoid judgment.
After showing a portion of the genital show and tell, we asked the groups to talk about how closely they have looked at a partner's genitals, or their own. Between questions, we switched up the groups, so the audience was meeting and sharing with different people as the evening progressed.
Then Barbara led us in embodiment exercises, looking small group members in the eye as we thrust hips front and back and in swirls, clenched and released our assholes, engaging our PC muscles, breathing, and being conscious that we exist in bodies. We offered a handout that outlined various self-sex and embodiment techniques, online and local resources, and a guide to mindful masturbation. If you are interested in a copy, email me. I also passed around a barbell so everyone could feel the heft of it, the weighted end that allows the barbell to rest solidly against the pelvic floor.
Then came the ecstatic recess portion, seven minutes of the cast masturbating and laughing and orgasming and watching each other. As an introduction, I explained how during filming, we were encouraged to keep our masturbation as grounded in our practice as possible. We tried very hard not to make it about performance, but rather about authentic sexual expression.
The last thing we showed was the short behind-the-scenes segment, where cast members share what we hope viewers will gain from watching Bodysex, and how this experience was feeling for us, from excitement to nervousness to sadness that our time together was coming to a close.
Afterward, the audience seemed enthused and positive about what they had seen, heard, and discussed. There will be ad-hoc groups forming to practice Bodysex-style and other embodiment sexuality in a group environment. Several people expressed appreciation that there was cross-gender communication happening, that the dialog was respectful and open, that we were having conversation around topics of women's self-sexuality, and self-sexuality in general.
Holding this public event was like stepping through another threshold for me in terms of my journey toward bodylove. There will be more. This is just the beginning.