On 1/18/2017 I was invited to speak as part of Christine Long’s (founder of What’s In Your Box?) event at New Women Space in Williamsburg. The night was about vulnerability, closeness and feeling connected, so I gave at talk on cultivating intimacy with our sexual selves.
Here’s what I said (you know, more or less):
Intimacy is about closeness and connection. It is an essential component to strong relationships, all of them. This is no less true for our relationship with our sexual selves. But, obviously, that’s much easier said than done. There are very real barriers and challenges to accessing authentic connection- with others and with ourselves.
These biggest barriers tend to be shame and fear. Shame is that belief and feeling that you are bad. You believe that you’re bad for your desires, how much you have sex, how little experience you have and things in your past. Then there’s fear. Fear of not being enough, of being judged, or, the ultimate, fear of being rejected. We all experience shame and fear. It’s ok. They become a problem, though, when they prevent us from being connected and limiting the depth of our relationships. And though it may not seem like it, we are not born with shame and fear, and we don’t have to be restricted by them.
Shame and fear are developed from early messages we receive. The explicit messages about gender- who the “good girls,” something about cows and free milk and all of that junk about our bodies. Then there are the unspoken messages, which are also potent- not providing comprehensive sex ed in schools, using only cutsie names for our genitals, never mentioning sex at home.
These messages are reinforced by our sex-negative culture that, while may present us with an abundance of sexualized images selling us better and shinier lifestyles, it is less common to see sexuality portrayed as a normal, healthy, potentially pleasurable, potentially positive aspect of our lives, for our whole lives.
So, how do you dismantle these barriers and build intimate relationships with ourselves? Like more approaches to wellness, you want to tackle it holistically. So let’s look at three realms where we can work on cultivating intimacy: the way we think about sexuality, the way we feel about sexuality and the way we embody sexuality.
How we think about sexuality: from jump we’ve got to understand sexuality as a lifelong process with lots of components beyond doin’ it. Other things that make up our sexuality? How about body image, sexual and reproductive health, sensuality, attraction, romantic feelings and how we understand our gender, to name a few. So the first step to getting more intimate with your sexuality, paying attention to those other moving parts.
Now back to those early messages. Part of owning how you think about sexuality is exploring how those messages have shaped your worldview and deciding what of those ideas you want to take with you and which you want to leave in the past. I grew up in a family of strong, powerful women and learned that girls and women are everything. I’m going to take that with me. I also was bombarded with images of a limited, dominant ideal of beauty that led me to question my desirability. I actively reject that one on a regular basis. How about you?
(continued in next post)