Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On wombs, grief and talking to children about sexuality

Last night I sat in a room filled with parents, mainly mothers, who had come to hear me discuss how best to talk to their children about sexuality. Studies show that children who report having easy, open conversations about sex with mum and/or dad are more likely to do what most parents want for them; delay sexual activity, have fewer partners, and use contraceptives when they do have sex. However, when parents feel discomfort, shame or embarrassment on the topic, young people are left to learn about sexuality from friends, television, music, advertisements and the internet. These are sources which can present a skewed and at times even dangerous perspective. 

So how do we create the environment for these conversations, especially when most of us had very little effective modelling to draw upon? For many of us this calls us to attend to whatever remains of our discomfort around our own sexuality. More on this later.

This morning I've been reading an excellent book called Wild Feminine by Tami Lynn Kent. I'm at the chapter on mothering and the womb and, as with much of what Tami writes, her words resonate beautifully with my own understandings and experience. 
She speaks of the capacity of the womb to hold (create) and release energy and also of the depth of grief that she has encountered while working with women in their pelvic bowl. I'm well aware of the capacity of the sensitive tissues of the pelvis to hold and store unprocessed memory and emotions and the possibility of release with tender, loving touch, focused attention and breath.

The light that went on for me was when she spoke about the lack of grieving rituals in our culture. Not only do we not have a time or place set aside to grieve the small and the large losses of our lives, most 'modern' women do their best to ignore, cover up or minimise their body's monthly release of her womb's lining. And in doing so we miss this natural opportunity for grieving and letting go of whatever has passed in the previous month. Little wonder that so many of our bodies respond with pelvic and uterine issues, both those that involve heaviness, holding and unwanted growths and those that result in weakness and excessive release.

How would things change, I pondered, if we devoted just one hour of each menstrual flow to allowing ourselves to grieve for the losses and deaths of the previous month, both our own and those of our family, our nearest and dearest? For women after menopause and for people without wombs the natural timing for this would be the dark moon. The human body responds to the moon's cycles even without a womb lining that waxes and wanes.

Which brings me back to the parents meeting. I find that a good part of what colours our views on sexuality and thus what we present to our children is determined by our own experiences. Often the bad ones. The process of cleaning the slate so we can be clear about what we want to pass on can be well served by reviewing and taking time to grieve and let go of losses and disappointments in our own sexual history.

Although, for some this can be a more lengthy journey, a simple ritual with a clear intention can be very helpful. Here's a suggestion, that could be used, both for this process or as regular monthly ritual.

Take some time to reflect on and write down those events from your sexual experiences (or those of the past month) that are unresolved within you. Allow yourself to feel the feelings that arise. Give your self permission to grieve these losses. Self soothe with gentle touch and let the tears flow if they are there. When you feel complete then simply take the pieces of paper and throw them into a river or stream of moving water or burn them in a fire and watch them being released or carried away. 

And if you are considering how best to talk to your children about sex then I recommend that you give yourself a couple of days and then ask yourself the question 'What does my child need to know to have a happy and fulfilling sexual life?'. Guided by this reflection, your conversations will be more likely to contain what kids say they want from their parents - honest guidance about values and feelings. 

I'd love to know if this is useful - do let me know how you go.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Adventures of a Vulvalicious Cushion (or Vere's Vulva?)

Earlier this year my fabulous sex geek colleagues Deej and Uma of the Institute of Somatic Sexology took off on their world tour to facilitate the Sexological Bodywork training in the UK as well as educating folks in a few other places en route. Part of their 'must have' training equipment was a Mini Vulvalicious Cushion (code name Vere). The Absolutely Vulvalicious Cushions are anatomically accurate fabric art works, designed by yours truly and constructed by amazing Maggie. Using the latest anatomy research they demonstrate the elegant, intricate, but poorly understood arousal structures within a vulva owners pelvis. 
In this video you can see some exhibition visitors exploring the delights of the cushions on show at Celebration of the Female Form. 

Designed to travel, Vere is a Mini Vulvalicious, little sister to the Absolutelys, but absolutely equipped with the important bits. She's got a taste for adventure and ends up in some interesting places. Check out her world tour!

Deej, Uma, Vere and yours truly at the send off party

On the plane - ready for takeoff

Checking into the Dusit Thani in Bangkok with her entourage. She's always wanted to stay there!

At the food market off Silom - she lives for this!

And onwards towards London - Bangkok was fun. Now for some culture?

Colour co-ordinated with a lovely London bus

Shopping? Look what the new season has brought to Harrods

Hanging out with the boys!

Hanging out with the girls!

So that's what the ugly duckling turned into?

Tea for two in Hyde Park

Vere's vulva?

Nice colours!

Packing for the Embodiment Intensive

Breakfast with Sexological Bodywork Godfather, Joseph Kramer

Meeting old friends

Making new friends 

With her people

Vere's vulva now? 
As of 16/8/14 Deej is still offering a Certified Sex Geek t-shirt to the first to find her it.

Tired but thoroughly embodied - heading back to London

Instead of deciding who to go with - OMG - she's cloned herself! 

Oo la la! Quelle rivière belle.

And a fairly hefty phallic symbol!

Our Vulvalicious Lady

Friend is 'ami' in French

And 'amic' in Catalan

Relaxing in Barcelona

A bit of unfinished business

 And finally, back home in Brisbane, in the 'bosom' of her family.

Find out more about the Vulvalicious cushions at The yOniversity website. You can meet and connect with them by attending one of our workshops or you might like to join the Vulva Underground and get your very own here

Friday, May 09, 2014

Looking at libido myths

I saw a discussion on Facebook today in which vulva cancer survivor and unstoppable gynae awareness advocate, Kath Mazalla, posted about a radio show she had listened to.  In this program, men, she reported, were saying that they had more urges than women, and women are becoming more accepting of husbands/partners having affairs in order to keep their man happy. Kath questioned whether most women would accept this.

What I question is the first suggestion that men have 'more urges than women'.
To start with it simply doesn't make sense to me, on an evolutionary level, that the gender responsible for growing the next generation in their bellies would be distinctly 'ho hum' about the act that starts the whole process. Did nature decide to rely on 'male urges' in combination with the masculine's generally superior strength to propagate our species?
I don't think so!

I believe that during centuries of male dominated society, we in the minority ('western') world, have been sold this myth. And many of us have come to believe it.

Prior to the 18th century it was thought that both the man and the woman needed to achieve orgasm for conception to take place. Once scientists discovered this was not the case interest in accurate education about feminine sexual pleasure dwindled dramatically. It has been suggested that information about women's arousal anatomy has been systematically removed from medical textbooks after this time. Women's natural urges have certainly been socially, morally and spiritually condemned, with those who enjoy sex becoming branded as whores and the only really acceptable archetype's available being the chaste maiden or devoted (and asexual) mother

However there are numerous countries in Africa and many Muslim communities who consider a woman’s sex drive to be extremely powerful. So powerful in fact that young girls genitals are quite literally cut out to preserve their moral values. Female Genital Mutilation affects an estimated 140 million women worldwide. It describes a range of practices in which all or part of a girls vulva is cut, sewn or removed. Fran Hosken's ground breaking report on FGM was published in 1979 and was influential in persuading the World Health Organization, to make efforts to end the practice. She reports that FGM is said to 'protect a women against her over sexed nature, saving her from temptation, suspicion and disgrace while preserving her chastity'. For these people a woman's 'urges' are considered to be so intense, both for her and for her community, that they must be extremely controlled.

And now lets look back at European history.
During the systematic persecution and execution of 'witches' in the Middle Ages chief inquisitor Heinrich Kramer wrote his notorious Malleus Maleficarum which became a handbook for secular courts throughout Renaissance Europe. In Section 1 he says "all witchcraft comes from carnal lust which is in women insatiable".
Insatiable, huh!
So why is it that we believe that men 'have more urges than women'? In part, possibly, because so many of our ancestors who dared to delight in their natural expressions of pleasure were burnt at the stake.

And now the pharmaceutical companies have jumped in on the act, where the church left off. They have created a medical 'disorder' called Female Sexual Dysfunction in order to attempt to repeat the unprecedented financial success of Viagra.
Viagra, the first oral treatment for erectile dysfunction was developed accidentally by scientists at Pfizer Laboratories and was greenlighted for use by the FDA on March 27, 1998. It was a huge success and has made billions of dollars for the company.
In that very same year, sex experts came together at the pharmaceutical industry-funded International Consensus Development Conference of Female Sexual Dysfunction to craft a new classification system. Because, guess what, unless you have a dysfunction, you can sell a cure.

In my practice I find that many women's issues around lack of desire and enjoyment of sex simply arise from lack of understanding of our arousal needs and how they differ from men's. This simple lack of knowledge in both partners has resulted in uncomfortable intercourse, before a woman is fully ready, which, over time, becomes extremely disheartening and quite literally numbs a woman's capacity for sensation. And with nowhere to go for information (other than internet porn which portrays a limited and unrealistic view of female sexuality) many women just give up and resign themselves to believing the myth.

What I believe we need is to lift the taboos, so that sex can be discussed, to educate openly and accurately and to support women to rediscover our natural, delightful, healing & empowering capacity for pleasure.
This is my mission and my passion. If it interests you please check out my new DVD -The Art & Science of Female Arousal or visit my teaching website or FB page to find out more.