Do you discuss your self-pleasure practices with your close friends and loved ones? Of all the possible topics, even sexual ones, masturbation is often the last thing people talk about. If sex is intimate and personal, self-pleasure is even more, perhaps the most intimate and personal act. We all know it’s good for physical and mental wellbeing and even relationship health, but it’s still something we often shy away from discussing.
“Masturbation is our first and natural form of sexual activity and if that’s inhibited or damaged, then we suffer for the rest of our lives.” ~Betty Dodson
Betty Dodson was one of my early mentors. Early in my career, I wanted to learn techniques and tools to coach women, but what I learned from Betty was way more important. Betty created women’s circles not only for women to talk about sex, but to masturbate together, and that was radical at the time. I remember she used to insist that everyone at her workshops stand up and speak into the microphone. “Hold it close to your mouth, and speak loud and clear” She would say, and I thought, I came here to learn about self-pleasure, not self-expression, but she taught me how they are inextricable. Betty was insistent that being able to speak about sex, opens your throat chakra, and only then can we tell other people what feels good and what does.
Ironically, now, so many years later, science is just starting to prove the connection:
The female genitals and orgasm are so shamed in society, that a lot of women don’t even know what they look like, and can’t even access their pleasure. And it’s true that the female anatomy is mysterious and orgasms can be elusive. But, Betty was always saying we have to come back to pleasure and give each other permission to talk about our fears and our vulnerability. That’s what’s missing in mainstream society. Culture at large is running away from uncomfortable conversations which keep our sex suppressed. The shame and guilt continue as long as sex is taboo to talk about.
Further, many feminists were straying away from toys and dildos or anything that looked like dicks, because they didn’t want to emulate male sexuality, and so at the time vibrators were considered too phallic-centered, too patriarchal. But Betty popularized the vibrator. Especially the Hitachi magic wand. Betty was like ‘Hey, if it gets you off, use it’. Nobody should ever deny your pleasures. That’s what I loved about her, she was always giving permission to the taboo.
“My whole purpose is to bring what’s hidden out in the open so people can look at it and discuss it. And sexually-oriented material is very important to study in an academic setting. Controversy is part of the fun.”
Annie Sprinkle was another one of my early influences. As an art activist (pornstar turned eco sex filmmaker) she inspired both sexual liberation and self-expression. She was a mentor and muse for my one-person show: The Sacred Slut Series, where I performed a ritual that she created called: The Legend of the Ancient Sacred Prostitute, in which I self pleasured as a “sex magic” ritual on stage.
The intention was to take prayers from the audience and transmute them to the heavens. Based on all the feedback I got, the result was truly empowering. I showed my audience the holy nature of self-pleasuring and gave them permission to feel and dream and fantasize.
One of the biggest reasons people don’t talk about their self-pleasure practice is because they are afraid to share what they are fantasizing about. People fear that if they revealed that if they have dark kink, rape, or fetish fantasies then others will know how dark their inner world is. Or they will think something is wrong with them.
The Importance of Fantasy
On a conscious level, everyone understands that fantasies are natural and universal. But subconsciously we are afraid to admit what we fantasize about because for many years we’ve been taught not to talk about it and just to do it in private. That’s why it’s essential to surround yourself with positive people who are giving permission to talk about it freely. Now, we’re creating an environment where we can unlearn the negative programming and the fear that still lies underneath it.
Part of the core wound of separation is people worrying that who they are at their core is somehow broken or bad or unlovable, and nothing touches our core more than our own self-pleasure in practice. The reason for it is because it’s so idiosyncratic, critically private to us. Once we start sharing about it, there’s a fear that other people will find out you’re broken, bad, unlovable, wrong, or whatever your core wound is, right?
If we are going to create a sex-positive culture, where our friends and family feel safe to talk about sex, then we need to make the important distinction that all fantasies are welcome, and that it’s OK for fantasies to be different than our behavior. In fact, some fantasies are better left unrealized. For example, if you are monogamous, it’s ok to fantasize about people other than your partner, threesomes and/or group sex. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to act on it. To be sex-positive we must understand and accept the difference between thought and action. And give people permission to have a gap between their thoughts and actions.
People also fear that talking about our fantasies means that we are one step closer to making them come true, and although it may be true that learning to talk about our fantasies can help us better negotiate a sexual scene, it could just be hot to share the fantasy and it could be fun to role play, but that does not mean you are going to act out anything that is illegal or immoral. These thoughts need to be normalized because when we don’t talk about them, they can pathologize.
So if you’re genuinely like don’t want to reveal too much because of that fear that your partner will find something wrong with you. Then the really important conversations about our preferences and aversions will never happen. This blocks growth, intimacy, and healing. Risk-taking and vulnerability are necessary in order for us to become better lovers. we need to talk more freely about masturbation and ask questions such as ‘What kind of lubrication do you use?’ or ‘Tell me about your sexual arousal cycles and what makes you climax?’
I’m a huge advocate for increasing permission, even within monogamous relationships. Speaking your truth is only dangerous territory, if and when you want to act on your fantasies. In order to expand the relationship, you can share your fantasies, talk dirty about being at a strip club, or the lifeguard you saw at the beach, your favorite celebrity, or flirtations you had with the wait staff, or the guy at the carwash.
These conversations can enhance our permission for pleasure, and keep our self-pleasuring practice really, really hot. Giving people permission to fantasize, gives them permission to accept their erotic nature, their essential life force, whether or not they ever intend to act on it.
“Self-pleasuring is a spiritual discipline, it should be normalized and practiced daily, like yoga or any other health or hygiene routine.”
If you’re curious to learn about our sexuality, check out my upcoming ISTA events, and let’s work together to evolve this beautiful spiritual discipline!