Tuesday, November 03, 2009

yOni goes to Sexpo

I approached attending the Sydney Sexpo with a bit of trepidation. I was not at all sure what to expect and I had heard some accounts which didn’t sound too promising. However the stall fee was paid for (and not by me) and the flights booked so, equipped with some yOni.com products, my researchers hat and a healthy curiosity about exactly what a sexuality lifestyle expo would consist off, I headed off to Sydney, open to being pleasantly surprised.

The expo was vast, filling both the Hordern Pavilion and the Royal Hall of Industries. There were three stages on which, the program told me, there would be shows by a range of gorgeous guys and gals designed to tease, titillate and tantalise. The brief glimpse that I managed to get of one of these confirmed my suspicion that I wasn’t missing a great deal. Both the act and the girls themselves were incredibly fake. In fact the enormous number of manufactured bodies was one of the most disturbing things for me about the whole event. Silicone boobs, botoxed lips and fake tans were the order of the day. I conducted a small survey of the guys in the stalls around to find out if they enjoyed these ‘perfect’ bodies. To a man, they replied to ‘No!’. Which makes me wonder exactly who does!

The Sexpo clientele was varied. There were lots of groups of young guys, many of them Asian, eager to check it all out. And there were almost as many groups of young women on a similar mission. They ranged in their openness. Some seemed to slink down the centre of the aisles hardly daring to look to the left or right. They made me wonder what had prompted them to come in the first place. Some were fascinated by every stall and more than ready to party. There was a lot of alcohol consumed which, combined with the mounting sexual tension, did create a slightly ugly atmosphere at times.

And then there were my favourite group - couples of all ages, mostly enjoying themselves and open to exploring and whatever tips or tools they might find. They struck me as having the most fun and mainly using the energy to enhance their sex lives and their relationship.

As you might expect there were sex toys at every corner, from the super crass to the very classy. On the classy end, the new We-Vibe was available and the phthalate free manufacturers, Lelo, Fun Factory and Vibratex all had a presence. At the other end of the scale there were show bags stuffed with dildos, condoms and porn for $20 a pop. There were lingerie and costumes in abundance and a number of stalls promoting, spa’s, saunas and massage tools. There was soap and lollies both genitally and conventionally shaped! Something for everyone!?

Two stalls caught my attention and approval! The Tantric Breather is a small device designed to give you an auditory and kinesthetic experience of the depth of your breath, and to allow you to deepen your breathing and synchronise more effectively with a partner. And at the Clitoraid stall you could adopt a clitoris and support the creation of a hospital in Africa were surgeons will reconstruct the pleasure centre for women who have been subjected to genital mutilation.

Other than these two, what seemed to be sadly missing was any actual information about sexuality and sexual health. As the mango juicer was one of our products I found myself giving hundreds of impromptu talks on locating the g-spot. Invariably a crowd would gather. Also noticeably lacking was anyone, other than myself and the Tanric Breather guy, representing or promoting conscious, spiritual sexuality. If I go again next year I’d like to fill that gap. If you have courses or products related to sacred sexuality that you’d like me to promote then please get in touch.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Wondrous Vulva puppets in Mt Isa

Last night the puppets had their first stage outing at the Piano bar in the Irish Club in Mt Isa. It was a hoot and wonderful to finally show the crew what I do. The feedback was great and at I am delighted that we have established our place in the doco.

We did a short piece and a song and were planning to do more later - but within 15 minutes the management had shut us down. They’d belatedly cottoned on to the function of the Mango Juicer and felt it was inappropriate to sell pleasure toys in a family club. Later after some more conversations they apologised and invited us back for another time.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who is mutilating now?

Mango Tour - Day the 4th

Not long out of Winton, birthplace of Waltzing Matilda, and we are traveling through huge tracts of flat dry grass. In some places there is not a tree or a shrub in sight in any direction. Occasionally we pass small herds of cattle, clustered around a water hole or gathering in the meagre shade of one of the few remaining trees. It is hard for me to imagine why any one would think that cattle don’t need any shade.

Arriving at Mt Isa is a bit of a shock. After 2000 km of amazing countryside a massive smoke stack rises up over the hillside. The town is completely dominated by the mine, a black industrial scar on this incredible landscape. The words on a roadside monument marking the transition from one language country to another land summed it up so well.


Here in the dusty red earth of the great mother Australia I saw a poignant parallel between the scarred, gouged earth I was witnessing and the mutilation of the feminine that is the topic of our journey.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Vulva Puppets on Mango Tour with Vagina Doctor

The Mango Tour consisting of two Winnebagos, one Jucy Campa, a purple ute full of cameras and a slightly dodgy looking Mazda van, took off from Burleigh Heads at around 10.00 am - rather later than most people seemed to hope. Most of us had not actually seen an itinerary – although it appeared that one existed. The general plan seems to be to head for Mount Isa where we were booked to throw a Mango juicer party in the pub, then across to Townsville for another party and back down the coast to Burleigh with more parties down the coast, Part of what held us up leaving was the need to shoot packing the van from three or four angles – and in reverse! I could already detect a slight variation in agendas in the frustration that this incurred in some quarters.

Our Winnie was the advance guard. Driven by Nick – bagpipe player extraordinaire and owner of the Mango Juicer rights in Australia, with co-pilot Joleen mango juicer enthusiast and sunglass saleswoman, entertainment coordinator Aaron (Azza), babe magnet & Brad Pitt look alike with possibly even better muscles, yours truly and a troupe of Wondrous Vulva puppets! Along the way we picked up Kat and Kat’s cameras.

We laughed, chatted, read, nibbled treats, listen to great tunes, played cards and laughed more. It was a great ride to Roma.

Laura-Doe and puppets to join Mango Tour to raise awareness about FGM

Stop press - The wondrous vulva puppets and I have just been invited to go on the Mango Tour with Samantha Backman (the Vagina Doctor) to film a doco and TV show in order to raise awareness about FGM

What's the Mango tour I hear you ask! It seems the plan is to drive a convoy of entertainers with a passion for women's rights and a camera crew up the centre of Queensland to Mt Isa, east to Townsville and back down the to the Gold Coast. The purpose? ... to shoot a doco to raise awareness about Female Genital Mutilation.
If you don't know about Female Genital Mutilation read more here.
And watch this space!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reclaiming the Magic of the Vulva

Give me a topic and I’ll find a way to fit in a yoni! Actually it isn’t a hard ask to find the connection between Magic and the Vulva so when She de Montford asked me to write an article for her magazine Spellcraft I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover that what I produced could pretty much serve as a ‘manifesto’ for my work with yOni.com. This article was first published in the summer edition of the ‘definitive guide to Magick in the Southern Hemisphere’....

I am a collector (and a purveyor) of Vulvic Art. My home is adorned with sumptuous silk and velvet vulva pillows, fluffy vulva purses, vulva pens, vulva jewellery and more. Some people are shocked when they see my collection, some are delighted but most ask “Why?”. I tell them that I believe the vulva is a wonderous and magical place, worthy of the utmost respect and the most beautiful artistic representations.

Anyone who has witnessed the natural entry of a child into this world would find it hard to deny the incredible qualities of the vulva. From a purely physical perspective her ability to stretch to accommodate the head of the newborn is nothing short of awe inspiring. Alas few of us have had the privilege to attend such a moving and fundamental event.

This was not always the case. Respect for the Vulva as the portal between the worlds was widespread in ancient times. And so was Vulvic Art.

Sheila na Gigs (or Sheelah-na-Gigs) are figurative carvings of naked women displaying an exaggerated vulva. They are found on churches, castles and other buildings, particularly in Ireland and Britain.

In the prestigious "Encyclopedia of Religion," (Eliade, Mircea. (Editor),1987) there are references to Sheila na Gigs

"The obvious life-giving and growth-promoting powers of the vulva and its secretions have given rise to a widespread use of representations of the female genitalia as apotropaic (intended to "ward off evil") devices. …. An apotropaic function seems to have prompted the placing of squatting female figures prominently exposing their open vulvas on the key of arches at church entrances in Ireland, Great Britain, and German Switzerland…. Most such figures were removed from churches in the nineteenth century.”

And a little farther down in the same article:

"A remarkable parallel to the Celtic Sheelagh-na-gig is found in the Palauan archipelago. The wooden figure of a nude woman, prominently exposing her vulva by sitting with legs wide apart and extended to either side of the body, is placed on the eastern gable of each village's chiefly meeting house. Such figures are called dilugai…These female figures protect the villagers' health and ward off all evil spirits as well. They are constructed by ritual specialists according to strict rules, which if broken would result in the specialist's as well as the chiefs death. It is not coincidental that each example of signs representing the female genitalia used as apotropaic devices are found on gates. The vulva is the primordial gate, the mysterious divide between nonlife and life" (Encyclopedia of Religion, article YONI, Vol.15, p.534).

I believe that much healing can be achieved through reclaiming the magic of the Vulva in our modern world. However, to do so we need first to inspect our current cultural attitudes to this most glorious and sacred part of the body.

Not only do we have no respectful representations of the Vulva, many of us are uncomfortable even talking about her. Last year the Weekend Australian ran an article about three US students who were suspended from high school for disobeying teachers and uttering the word “vagina” during a reading from the Eve Ensler’s ‘Vagina Monologues’.

In one research study, only 7% of respondents considered the vagina a body part that is freely mentionable (Allan & Burridge, 1991). Another survey found that 53% of women "felt some discomfort using the word vagina" (Bulletin, 1994, p. 10). And both women and gynecologists have been shown to rarely mention the word vagina (or even a synonym) during gynecological consultations (Weijts, Houtcoop, & Mullen, 1993).

And there are certainly plenty of synonyms to choose from! In my workshops I ask women to remember the name that they were given for their vulva as a child. I always hear something new. Rarely do I hear either vulva or vagina (which is technically the canal between the external genitalia, the vulva, and the womb). More distressing to me is that about one quarter of the woman were given no name at all to use. The area was just not mentioned. At all!

Why is this important? I believe that if women are uncomfortable with speaking about a part of their body which determines their femininity, which is a source of incredible creativity, pleasure and delight (the clitoris being the only body organ with the sole purpose of providing pleasure) and which is the gateway through which every one of us, in the normal run of things, enters this world, if we can’t name this part of us with ease and consider it with comfort then there is a dangerous void in our sense of ourselves as women.

And if we can’t talk about it then we cannot be given important information regarding our genital health. Woman of all ages can benefit from exercising the pelvic floor. In fact one source suggests that pelvic floor squeezes (or kegels) are the single most important exercise for a woman’s long term emotional and physical health. But most of us do not even hear about the possibility until we are pregnant (if then.) Kegels can be done anywhere, any time. Apart from being pleasurable for many woman (especially the more you practice!) kegeling increases blood flow and muscle tone, enhances sexual pleasure and reduces the likelihood of incontinence after childbirth.

I suggest that it is of the utmost importance to investigate and work towards healing any disempowering attitudes we have had foisted onto us about our most glorious and sacred feminine parts. By doing so women will feel better about themselves, boost their self-esteem, reduce depression and increase respect for the feminine in our society.

There are three simple steps we can take to start to reclaim the magic of the vulva:

Luscious yOni pendant available from yOni.com
1. We can use vulvic imagery as a powerful talisman. This need not be overt. The mandorla and even the V, or the cleft V are time honoured symbols for the vulva and can easily be incorporated into jewellery, art or even scribbles on a post-it note!

2. We can practice using her name. It may take time to become comfortable but it is unlikely to happen unless we start.

3. And thirdly, if we were lucky enough to be born in a woman’s body, we can kegel. Anywhere, any time! And while that enigmatic Mona Lisa smile creeps over our faces we can affirm the wonder and the power of feminine nature.

Visit www.yoni.com to see some of Laura-Doe's vulvic art collection and www.dothekegel.com for her squeeze along song to get you kegeling and for more information about pelvic floor exercise. Laura-Doe also runs workshops for women through the yOniversity® and provides comic info/entertainment on all things vulvic using her comic cabaret characters from Vaudeville of the Vulva. Please use the comments area to get in touch if you'd like to host a workshop or talk further about a performance.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Ayurvedic oil drizzling

I’m on to my third day of oil drizzling. The treatment rooms are in a separate building near the cottages. You can see it to the right in this picture from my veranda.

My treatment usually happens in the late afternoon. First Dr Asha gives me an oil massage using warm oil infused with particular herbs to support my out of balance doshas. For the first seven days the massage was followed by a body dhara with warm medicated water. For the body dhara the doctor uses a vessel like a bulbous vase with a hole in the bottom to pour the water in a specific pattern over the body. They tell me it is designed to open up blockages in the channels that eliminate toxins from the body. It feels very yummy and relaxing although it took a while to get the temperature just right for me. The first one was a bit too hot and left me rather drained and dehydrated. Once the treatment is over the lovely washer lady (mine is called Vigaylakshmi) comes in and washes off all the oil with a special body scrub. It’s like being a baby again being washed and dried and once you get over the strangeness it is also extremely relaxing!

After the series of body dharas were competed I had one day of basti. The oil massage came first as per usual and then I was put in the steam box – like a little sauna with a hole for your head to poke out of – for a few minutes and then back into the treatment room for the basti. The basti is effectively an enema with medicated liquid but there are a variety of different types of basti and their intent and effect are quite different from traditional enemas. This one was apparently designed to give me specific herbs to be absorbed by the colon.

And now I’m on the oil drizzling (or body dhara with oil) which is very similar to the other dhara but with warm oil. As the oil is much more viscous than the water the warmth spreads deliciously and lingers on the body. It is very relaxing and very very oily!

When I’m not in treatment the big decision is whether to do nothing or very little! After my morning routine of herbs, nasya (warm medicated oil in the nostrils to eliminate kapha – mucous – from the head) and yoga – either in my room or with the teacher, the day is punctuated by the delivery of meals, drinks and a visit from the coconut man. He is in the picture above too and he brings around young coconuts and cuts them open to give us the juice and the delicious soft young coconut flesh. Mmmm!

Here is one of the breakfasts – I call it wiggly iddlies but that’s probably not the name!

I have a variety of ‘doing very little’ options. I’ve got some great books - both fiction that I brought with me and some on Ayurveda and tantra from the library here. I’m really enjoying colouring in the mandalas in the book that I got for Christmas and I’ve been getting creative with papier maché, inspired by the desire not to waste the Indian papers that get delivered each morning.

There is a TV in my room and I occasionally watch a movie. One day when I didn’t have treatment (there’s no treatment on Sundays) I went for a short walk in the evening. But I got back so hot and bothered and dehydrated I decided not to do that again!

The other guests here are lovely and every now and then someone pops by for a chat. I quite often go up to the canteen for a more social dinner with a couple of the women who are staying upstairs in the hospital. One is also English but living in Oz and the other is Russian and living in UAE. We have quite a giggle together.

On Saturday there was a big event. Puja was held in the temple for the healing of the patients. It was very spectacular and included some special mantras designed to remove any negative effects of the planets on our healing. This picture shows the Brahmin priest (who is also a doctor at the asram) in front of the image they created representing all the planets.

Friday, February 20, 2009

LD turns 50!

I wake up to the buzz and flash of my mobile phone with that feeling of excitement that often comes for me when waking before dawn. Six am is medicine time and the recommended rising time for patients at the Poonthottam Ayurvedic Asram. I am about 5 days into a special treatment called a Panchakama that I have treated myself to as my 50th birthday present.

I light a couple of candles which I had been burning the night before and then add a few more for good birthday measure. The lights work fine but it feels nice to forgo the harshness of the electric light for the warm glow of the candles. By the time I have finished my yoga the sun will have risen in any case.

I drink my medicine (not pleasant but not disgusting) and roll out my yoga mat. I have already established a gentle morning routine of a few sun salutations and a series of asana that the book my neighbour lent me suggested were particularly supportive to the Panchakama process. I finish with some pranayama and a short meditation and wander onto my veranda to absorb the morning.

The view from my cottage is delicious - a huge variety of greens in a base of creamy brown ochre. The six cottages are on a terrace overlooking a little valley with several separate areas of plantings. Some of the hospital’s vege and herb gardens are to the right, a ploughed area that probably grows rice in the wet season straight ahead and bananas to the left. Across the valley are more bananas, coconuts and other trees rising up to the skyline. The first morning as I sat and marveled at the peace and beauty of it, the landscape that had seemed to me quite unpopulated, suddenly started to come alive. First two ochre dogs exactly the same colour as the soil materialized out of it and started bounding around the paddy field. Then a man with a water buffalo emerged out of the trees and then I realized there were several more people in the forest cutting down coconuts.

And then there are the birds – brilliant blue and vivid yellow, tiny dainty little birds that dart and flutter in the bushes, huge eagles soaring high in the blue sky and glorious peacocks strutting and pecking in the gardens. Between them they make a positive symphony of sound – especially at dawn!

After a suitable time congratulating myself on arranging such a great environment for my birthday morning, I put a light jacket over my singlet - sleeveless and therefore somewhat immodest by Keralan standards - in order to wander up the hill and seek out the yoga teacher that I had been told offered classes to those that wished. Dr Ravi had pronounced my desire to do yoga during my treatment a ‘very wise move’ but so far the yoga teacher had not made it down to my cottage to talk to me about classes. I thought I’d take matters into my own hands.

There is a steep staircase leading up from the cottage area to the main hospital and a longer route that winds through the trees. Mindful of the frequent instructions to avoid exertion and ‘take rest’ whenever possible I meander up the longer route admiring more of the unfamiliar vegetation. There are quite a number of trees along the path that have been scored in a spiral and have coconut shell cups attached at the base of the trunk to collect the sap. I have a tentative sniff at the white gooey stuff collected but it had no smell that I could identify. I decided not to risk tasting it! I must ask someone what it is.

The yoga hall cum temple cum theatre cum library is a large building with and impressive entrance – a wide staircase leading up to huge carved wooden doors. I leave my sandals at the bottom of the stairs where a small collection of other footwear suggested that that was the thing to do and made my way up. Peeking inside the doors I see a yoga class in progress so I wait and watch to see what was happening. Before long the teacher sees me and beckons me inside and invites me to join. It seems churlish to say “I’ve already done mine” so I find a mat and join in with the rest of the class. His yoga involves a great deal more exertion than mine had done but I have since checked with the doctors and yoga exertion is considered perfectly kosha during treatment – or would it be halal!?

After (second) yoga I cruise back down the hill to the canteen that sits on another terrace above the cottages. The canteen is a buzz of breakfast time activity with head cook presiding over the making of today’s dosas. Breakfast varies each day and dosas are my favourite. These yummy crispy pancakes are made from a mix of rice and black dahl, ground to a paste and fermented overnight. For breakfast they are served with a liquid coconut paste. Actually dosas are the bigger flat type and today we had a smaller concave kind which may be called something quite different. Just as yummy though!

After breakfast I have a quick check of my emails to see if there are any birthday wishes waiting. Phew – there are! And alas some work related things that need sorting. They don’t take long though and my good mood it too good to be dented by working on my birthday.

Back at my cabin I have a shower - Indian style which means filling a big bucket with warm water and pouring jugs full over myself with gay abandon. Then I dress myself to greet the day and my second half-century on this glorious planet.