Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What It Means to Be Sex Positive

As I was pulling educational materials together for the Carnal-Val event last month, I pulled together definitions of what it means to be sex positive.

This is one of the most comprehensive definitions I've found as stated by the Executive Director of the Center for Sex Positive Culture in Seattle...

Sex-positive is a cultural philosophy that understands sexuality as a positive force in personal development and society. To be sex-positive is to believe that…

Consensual sexual expression is a basic human right regardless of the form that expression takes.

People have the right to accurate and straightforward sexual health information.

It is not appropriate to judge others consensual choices regarding how to have sex, who to have sex with, and how one defines their sexual orientation and identity.

It is equally important to focus on the positive aspects of sexuality, like sexual pleasure, and not just disease prevention, prevention of sexual assault and unwanted pregnancy.

Sexuality is largely socially constructed, and there are few if any essential truths about sex.

As I reflected on this definition, I realized that I have not been practicing sex positivity with myself.

Because I am very literally surrounded by people who explore and encourage casual sex and relationship in various ways, whether they are couples or single, I have assumed that sex positive means being open to casual interaction. I have felt pressure as a sex positive leader to explore sexual openness through ethical sluttiness, especially within the poly relationship that I attempted with Knight.

The truth is that I have lacked a sex positive attitude towards my own natural sexual tendencies because they are very different than most of the people I know. I have doubted myself and tried to tell different stories about who I am in order to fit into other people's ideas of open sexuality. While open-minded exploration of my own edges in order to determine who I am and what I desire is a positive thing, doubting/distrusting myself is not.

Over the summer I explored the possibility of being an ethical slut and pursuing casual sexual and power exchange encounters. While I had conversations with several people, I only had one casual encounter, which was fun but less than fulfilling. In my explorations I discovered that I have no desire to connect with someone sexually if I do not connect with them intellectually and emotionally. I don't experience excitement from encounters with (near) strangers like many of my friends. I don't experience excitement from sexual chemistry alone.

I experience excitement in connecting with people at multiple levels, at having my mind, heart and body stimulated simultaneously. Being sex positive is accepting that that it is all right to only desire deeper connection with my sexual partners.

While I am a lusty woman who can get down and dirty in all kinds of ways, the truth is that sex is a sacred act in my life. I am learning to accept that the fullest expression of my sexuality is intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical. Anything less is not in integrity with who I am or what I desire.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Love and Fear

"Her wounds came from the same source as her power."
Adrienne Rich

I have been passionately interested in love and healthy relationship since I was a teenager. I don't mean romantic love, although I have had typical obsessions with romantic relationship over the years. I mean the Big Love, the Love that is the life's blood of the Universe, the Love believed by all the world's religions. The sort of love represented in the story of the sacrifice of Jesus' life for humanity. When I was a practicing Christian (ages 3-20), I was deeply touched by the story of Jesus and his immense love for us all. I desired to feel that love in my own life and be that love with other people.

I started reading Leo Buscaglia, the first university professor to teach love, when I was 15. I started working on my self development with Scott Peck's The Road Less Travelled when I was 16. Even in the midst of living with my mother's narcissism, addictions and emotional abuse, my stepfather's alcoholism, and my father's neglect I knew there was a happier way to live and I knew it was based in love.

Back then I perceived it as God's Love. As my understanding of God, religion/spirituality and love have grown over years of intellectual study and experiential living, what remains is this knowing deep in my heart that we are capable of living with so much more love than we do. We are so afraid, afraid every day in so many ways. I seem to have been born with an innate awareness of, and drive to create, the Love filled lives that we are capable of living. I can feel the potential of it and everything in my life is motivated towards growing deeper in love for myself and others. My deepest desire for relationship is to find others who will go to the depths of love with me, who will choose to face our shadows together and work to heal into greater experiences of love together.

There is very little black-and-white duality sort of thinking that I invest in anymore, but I do believe that all of our emotions and choices, big or small, are based in either love or fear. Love leads to expansion, fear leads to contraction. Love allows us to be big and shine our lights for one another, fear causes us to shrink into the shadows. Love leads to Oneness, fear leads to separation/isolation.

It seems that part of my ability as an intuitive/empath is to feel when people are making love or fear based choices. I just know, even when they aren't necessarily conscious of their own motivations. I also tend to have intuition about what a person could do to choose love rather than continue in a fear-based pattern. That isn't just intuition, I have a 15 year self education in self development, psychology, philosophy, religion and spirituality. I have a pretty good understanding of how the human heart and mind work (based on our current collective understanding, of course we still have much to learn).

It very literally hurts my heart to witness/feel people choose fear. Because it hurts, I judge it as bad. I don't know how to change that. I don't know that I should. I watched fear slowly kill my mother. Her fear eventually grew so big that she became psychotic with delusions. I watch my ex-husband sit day after day for 7 years in his bedroom in front of his computer because he was too afraid to interact with the world. He lives a very small and depressed life (and I lived that life with him for awhile because I was afraid to give up my delusions about our so-called partnership and be on my own again). I've felt the big impact fear can have, and I see it's little impact in people's lives every day (including my own).

For a long time I have struggled with the story that my mom, my ex, and others chose fear over their love for me. Because I chose my children when fear could have ruled my life, I have told myself the story that my mother chose her fear, her addictions, and her narcissism over me, as if it was a conscious decision she made very day. Same with my ex-husband. I believed he chose his fear over our family. I made it personal and I am working on changing that. It isn't ever about me, it's about their own relationship to love and fear. But even if I take myself out of it, the reality is that it hurts to watch the people I love suffer from fear based choices.


"Closing the heart is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we close it, we attract more reasons to keep it closed. Opening the heart is a soul-fulfilling prophecy. When we open it, we attract blessings." Jeff Brown

Part of my grief process right now is accepting that Knight made a fear based choice four months ago (and actively maintained since) that prevents our relationship from being what it could be. It has nothing to do with poly. It has to do with what is, or isn't, between us by his choice. He told me this when we came back together, but I didn't want to believe it. I chose to hope for the potential for great love I could feel between us. I poured my whole heart into our relationship. But he did not do the same. And now I know that I can't be in a relationship that isn't whole. I can't be in a relationship where fear prevents love from flowing and healing from taking place.

The struggle I am having right now is with the story that Knight chose his fear over his love for me. I don't know how not to take it personally, how not to feel rejected. I realize that the bigness of my grief, and my anger towards Knight, come from the history of the people I love choosing their fear. This is a pattern in my life.

The struggle I am having right now is with my own fear. My fear tells me that I will always feel rejected in his presence. My fear tells me that I can never be emotionally intimate with him again, even as friends. My fear tells me that I am not strong enough to bear watching him having other relationships in this community, relationships that I have to watch unfold and be expressed through BDSM and sex in public, in front of me at the parties that I help create.

I am scared. I am scared of how much more this is going to hurt. I am scared that it will hurt too much. My fear tells me to shut down, to shut him out, to try and make myself cold so that I don't feel it. My fear tells me to stay angry so that I can fall out of love with him.

Now I face the choice between fear and love. What are the loving choices for myself and towards Knight as we transition away from a romantic relationship to each other? What is the most loving choice for the community as I try to navigate my grief as we approach a big party? Can I be a positive role-model by making it about love, by embracing Knight as my friend and his other relationships as part of his joy? I desire more than anything for him to be happy. I just wanted him to be happy going to the depths of love with me.


It isn't about being fearless. Most of us will struggle with fear all our lives. We're evolutionarily conditioned for it and it's something we have to change as a species.

It's a matter of being willing to face our fear, to shine the light on our shadows in order to experience deeper joy, love, and intimacy. Most of us run from our shadows, especially in relationship. Yet there is nothing more intimate than sharing the evolutionary process with another person and actively choosing love in the face of fear together. There is nothing more vulnerable than exposing your darkest shadows to each other, forgive yourself and the other, and to choose to heal through conscious action to be happier and more loving together.