Yesterday, my beloved and I had some long-overdue quality time together. In the late afternoon, as we made headway with two delightfully obscene slices of cake in the Rainbow’s End, I found myself apologising for how low I have been over the last couple of days, and the impact that has had on our togetherness. With infinite gentleness and understanding, my beloved reminded that I have been in the dumps since the Referendum.
It’s true. And without going into why that is, I will confess that recent political events – be they the fallout from Brexit, the shootings in Orlando and those of Alton Sterling and Philado Castille, or the closing of the UK’s Department for Climate Change – have had an impact on my mood. And on our sex life. If anyone is surprised at the concept of a sex therapist facing challenges in the bedroom, let’s just say the phrase “my mess is my message” is funny because it’s true.
We were home and happily snuggled up when the news from Nice came in, swiftly followed by that from Turkey. I went to my altar, lit a candle and prayed, and felt the mixture of shock, sorrow, and powerlessness that is becoming all too familiar of late sink into my belly. When I lay down with my beloved, I suggested we take it in turns to express our thankfulness for the blessings of safety, shelter, and sheer aliveness.
And so today the only thing that feels appropriate to write about is:
How the hell do we have pleasure after grief – whether that grief be personal, political, or both?
How do we find our way back to silken-skin-skimming-sweaty-yumjoy from the mires of fear, helplessness, and the guilt of those left behind? How do we share our aliveness, rather than sinking separately into numbness? And how do we access the healing and integrating possibilities of touch and togetherness, when all that grief we’re afraid to go anywhere near is waiting for us in our bodies?
Grief can turn our bodies into the last place we want to be. So here are my top tips for enticing your beloved safely and sensually back into their own skin (these work just as well if the person you’re making love with is yourself):
When we’ve been blasted out of our body by overwhelming emotions, or fear and anxiety are keeping us locked in our heads, it can take us a while to come back into our physical selves, much less feel safe there. Reaching straight for erogenous zones, and attempting a turn-on, can often lead to greater numbing or disconnect. Instead, try starting from the extremities – hair strokes, foot rubs – and the things that you know relax your partner, and very slowly work your way in towards the heart and the sex, inviting your lover’s awareness to follow the slow sensuality of your touch back into their body. Make sure you set aside a generous swathe of time for this, when you both know there is nowhere to go, and nothing to do.
Give Each Other Permission
Make it clear with your words, with the pace and quality of your touch, and by frequently checking in, that it’s all welcome. If you or your partner needs to stop or slow down, needs to talk or cry, needs to cuddle or express a specific desire, then you both have to be safe to express that, so be sure to establish that safety before and during your session.
The deeper your breath, the bigger your chance of successfully processing, integrating, and moving through the big feelings that you are having, and the more likely you are to relax into the sensation. The more you breathe, the more you’ll feel, and the more connected you will be to your body, to the moment, and to what is happening there. If you can synchronise your breathing with your partner’s, you’ll feel more connected to them too, and you’ll remind each other to breathe more as well.
Drop the Agenda
If you have a tendency to assume erotic touch needs to lead to a specific outcome to be a “success”, you’ll need to let that assumption go for the purposes of this session (indeed, I would encourage you to let it go for every lovemaking session hereafter). A crygasm is just as likely to be the best possible outcome here as an orgasm. Your job is to keep checking in with your partner, and keep inviting them tenderly back into their body; wherever they manage to enjoy a sensation – whether that’s their shoulders, or their genitals – is a victory. Approach this as a celebration of your togetherness, not a goal-post.
Be Prepared to be Still
Anyone with holistic bodywork or erotic massage experience will tell you that it is often in the moments when we hold still that the most movement happens for the recipient. It is a profound gift to simply be held – whether that holding takes the form of a whole body hug, or a still hand placed over our genitals – and that is all the more true when we are experiencing big, uncomfortable emotions which leave us feeling isolated, ashamed, or unlovable. When someone is willing and able to be still with us, to be present to all that we are, to see us in our vulnerability, we encounter a precious mirror to our own worth, as well as to the fact that we are allowed to feel, and our feelings are sacred.
Bonus Tip – Send the Love
In June, I headed to New York to reprise my role as part of the team for the Urban Tantra Professional Training Program. I arrived at 2am after a delayed flight – and awoke five hours later to the sound of the radio bringing in the first reports of the Orlando shooting. Much of our work that week became a prayer for the victims, including a demonstration I delivered of the Erotic Awakening Massage; we dedicated the loving energy raised in the session to the community in Orlando. You too can dedicate your acts of love and pleasure to the healing of the people or places whose suffering has touched you. Simply imagine the energy you have raised flowing out of you, up into the cosmos, and then settling on the shoulders of those you are praying for, in a protective mantle of peace, comfort, and love.
Alternately, if your grief is very personal, you can imagine that same energy flowing into the parts of your body where you feel it most strongly, and simply be still, and breathe that brightness in, and out. And repeat.