A poem for you in the midst of everything happening right now.
O’Donohue, J. (2008). To bless the space beween us: A book of blessings. USA: DoubleDay.
Some of you will lean in closer after you read the title of this blog, and some of you will lean away. Guess what, both are normal reactions to talking, reading, or discussing anything related to female sexuality. Any woman knows that female sexuality is something that everyone has an opinion about. Morality of what is “appropriate” or good or bad often stop women from getting to know their sexuality in a deeper way. This is a detriment to ourselves and to our partners. If you can, for the remainder of this article (and maybe beyond), gather any self-judgments or opinions from your family, friends, and community and put them on a shelf as you learn a little more in one of these books.
I remember in Highschool during a biology dissection we had to go up to the teacher and label where the female genitalia was located on whatever poor creature we were dissecting. Only one woman in the room got it right, and it wasn’t me. The teacher marvelled out loud that so many women got it wrong. For many women, this story will probably not shock you in any sort of way, because we were never encouraged to become friends with our anatomy. If you grew up in a school that promoted abstinence (like mine), then this experience was probably even more likely. Can you think of any positive stories about female sexuality shared by family, educators or in the media growing up? I can’t think of a single one. That is highly concerning.
For fun I’ve put each of the Sex and the City characters with each book to give you sense of what you might be drawn to. I miss that show.
If you want me to choose one book for you to read, start with this one. This should be required for any person coming into their sexuality.
“What it comes down to is that a lot of women trust their bodies less than they trust what they’ve been taught, culturally, about their bodies. But culture has taught you stuff that is both incorrect and just wrong.” Emily Nagoski (p. 164)
Emily is a sex-educator in the USA with a plethora of degrees and experience. This books is based on science and psychology. There is way too much in this book to give a summary that will do it justice, but here are a few nuggets. This book is not heteronormative and includes discussion about experiences for someone who is intersex. Her examples are inclusive of the LGTBQI community.
This book is not going to be for everyone, first because you’ll probably have a reaction to the title that again will have you lean in to read more or lean away because of your judgment about the word pussy. The author too started her journey cringing at the word pussy and over decades Regena decided to reclaim this word. She fully embodies a woman who owns and takes pleasure in her sexuality. She was tired of the patriarchal world-view of sexuality in which someone who has “balls” is someone who has courage and someone who is a “pussy” is a wimp. She takes the word pussy and reclaims it in a powerful and provactive way. She is highly regarded by such feminists as Christine Northrup, Eve Ensler, Kris Carr, & Gabrielle Bernstein, and it’s easy to see why.
I felt nauseous after reading the first half of this book because her reclamation spoke to me as truth and how polar opposite it is to the current patriarchal worldview and my experience growing up. Like the book Come as You Are, this book encourages women to get to know their anatomy, explore their desire and own their sexuality. Regena gives many ideas for women to start relaiming their sexuality at the pace that is right for you.
This non-fiction book is one of those rare books that gives you a glimpse into the lives of female sexuality of three different American women. All are heteronormative relationships. One is the experience of a woman who was seduced by a highschool teacher when she was a teenager and all the different emotions she felt during and after she brought him to court and he was found to be not guilty. Another is the experience of a conservative woman in a relationship with a man who does not want to be with her sexually. She reconnects with a married man who she dated in highschool. The third is a woman who is in an open-relationship and enjoys sex on a daily basis. She is empowered in some ways, but in many ways it is a big challenge for her to own her actions and be with the judgment she experiences from herself and others.
It is saddening, but not surprising that none of the women are sexually empowered in this book. All of the women have the context of living in a patriarchal society and experience the invalidation that occurs to women by both the men and women in their lives.
It would’ve been great to have a one of the women be in a relationship that wasn’t heteronormative or if the author could’ve written about a female who was empowered in her sexuality like Regena Thomashauer (author of Pussy: A Reclamation). Maybe Lisa Taddeo could write a sequal?
All of these books gave me food for thought about my own sexuality, validation for my experience living in a patriarchal culture, and gratefulness for those times when I feel like I’ve embodied my sexuality. Three Women is a great overview of what it is often like to be a woman in a patriarchal culture. Come As You Are will encourage you to change that world-view with concrete suggestions and 21st century information about female sexuality. Pussy: A Reclamation is the frontier of what is possible for a woman to experience when she reclaims her sexuality and power. Have you read any of these books? Or what book will you start with?
A quick quote from one the inspirational author of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. More on The Artist’s Way coming soon…
During the open house of my new office location, I was inspired to offer a presence experiment. A friend gave me the idea as inspired by the performance artist Marina Abramović . Marina sat for 7 hours a day for 100 days at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010. She sat silently in a wooden chair with an open invitation for people to sit across from her as she gazed at them.
Thinking that calling it the “Psychotherapist is Present” might be a little too intimidating, I called it the Presence Experiment. I invited people to come in to my space and sit across from me for 5 minutes. People were invited to come in by themselves or with others and were told that I’d silently gaze at them for 5 minutes and they were welcome to return my gaze or not. The timer was put on and we began.
In all honesty, while being excited about doing this experiment, I was also really nervous. I both hoped and didn’t hope for people to participate. In the end I sat with around 25 people and when I went home, my husband commented about how present I was with him.
I was lucky to have my landlord Tracy and her husband as my first participants. Afterwards we all commented that we felt calmer and more present. Whereas I am more of an introvert and would wait for people to come and find me, Tracy is an extrovert and started to send people my way to try it out. So the part of me that wanted to hide during the event didn’t get a chance.
I sat with all kinds of different people of different ages, races, and genders. Most people sat as a group and some people sat on their own. Some people returned my gaze, some experimented with holding my gaze and some closed their eyes. Some people giggled, and others felt annoyed if I spent more time gazing at one person over an another. As a whole the response was very positive.
Sometimes 5 minutes could feel like 30 minutes and sometimes it felt like 3 minutes. Afterwards I felt more grounded, connected and present with others and myself.
For variation # 1, I encourage you try it exactly as I listed out in this article with a friend or family member.
For variation #2, I encourage you to simply be present with a child, pet, a plant, a loved one, or yourself for 5 minutes.
Psychotherapy involves presence, sometimes with silence and sometimes without silence. Presence as a concept can be felt and experienced by anyone, wherever and however they choose to feel it. If you notice that you struggle with being present, you’re not alone. I doubt that 5 years ago I could’ve intentionally sat with a person in silence for 5 minutes, it felt like too much. So start with the variation that feels best for you. Let me know how it goes!
It’s always so exciting when scientific research deepens and enters into new horizons. Kelly Noonan Gores created a thought-provoking documentary, Heal that highlights research that shows that our bodies have the capacity to heal from life-threatening prognosis. She weaves in stories of her own journey and other women and men she has met who are either starting their healing journey or have healed from their disease. It is now available on Netflix.
Research is showing that our bodies have the capacity to heal from any diagnoses. She interviews Kelly Turner, Ph.D. (author of Radical remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds) who has found 9 things that people have in common in situations where they have healed from life-threatening prognosis.
Kelly notes that only 2 of these items are physically related – #1 Radically Changing Your Diet and # 4 Using Herbs and Supplements. Ongoing research is being done to look into tangible steps for the emotional and spiritually related items.
The movie also explores how some people heal, and some people do not and how painful this can be when a person has invested time, money, energy, and spirit into their healing journey. Often times individuals can either judge themselves, or feel the judgment of others (if they are members of the complementary health community). The journey towards healing or acceptance of an illness is a very personal one to be met with curiosity and compassion. For more of my contemplations on this read my blog post
How Energy Healing Helps Heal Physical Illness.
I liked how this movie also pointed out the importance of working together with the medical community. As a person who has worked in a hospital, and who also has children who have the hospital staff to thank for both life-saving care and healing for minor injuries, I know from first-hand experience that both medical and complementary health care have their place. You can read more about the importance of both in the highlighted blog post above.
Even if you don’t have an illness, one can see how incorporating any of these 9 Things in our lives would be beneficial to our health. Which of the 9 Things are you already incorporating into your life? Or have you found one to be especially helpful for you?
While sifting through many quotes today, I found this quote that resonated with me about authenticity. One of the benefits of psychotherapy is helping you connect to the deeper parts of yourself, perhaps to a place that can feel lost, hazy, or buried. Many problems can occur in our lives when we lose connection with this part of ourselves.
Have you listened to that deeper part of yourself recently?