Last night I was privileged to attend a workshop at the CSPC in Seattle called “Owning Your Birthday Suit: Embodiment for Queers,” facilitated by Sinclair Sexsmith (of Sugarbutch) and Amy Butcher. It was designed to be a safe space for kinksters, freaks, and sexual outlaws to explore the powerful connection between genitals, heart, and mind. This workshop borrowed principles from Tantra and The Body Electric, in both of which the presenters have a strong background. As serious and hardcore as this all sounds, I had a lot of fun.
The bulk of our time was spent on experiential exercises. With a different partner each time, we explored eye contact, saying no, giving an authentic yes/no answer, feeling where energy is blocked in our bodies, sensing where the erotic lives in the body, our genital/heart connection, and connection to each other. We experimented with asking for touch that we wanted then receiving it, as well as giving touch to someone else in the manner they desired.
Sinclair and Amy suggested that erotic play could be approached as a series of experiments, with no commitment to outcomes. I love this! This is totally how I handle sex. It’s so much less stressful to simply try something out to see how it works. Approaching new things this way has opened up many doors for me that I might not have otherwise explored.
I also liked their many suggestions for ways to be mindful or embodied. Things like, breathe and go outdoors. I think staying connected to life helps in staying connected to the erotic. Also, daily meditative practice. Which can include mindful masturbation. I can get behind that!
All night long, the back of my brain has been assimilating everything I learned at this workshop. We drove directly home, discussing the experience on the way, then we went right to bed. I thought about what my body wanted and asked Harold to hold me, rather than getting into my side of the bed. I tumbled into his arms and burst into tears. It was the culmination of a full day, with difficult medical procedures early on, but also just the sheer kindness of being held. Harold holding that space for me and giving me the touch I needed, opened me up to release the sadness I had been holding in my body. I felt that I was truly owning my birthday suit.
In the middle of the night I lay awake thinking about how much embodiment informs my parenting style. There are so many things that parents must say no to for safety reasons: no, don’t touch the hot stove; no, don’t poke your brother with that stick; no, you can’t sleep over at your friend’s house because her parents are alcoholic and abusive. I try to think of all of the ways that I can say yes. Maybe I can let my children help me come up with alternatives that are acceptable to everyone: wow, feel how hot the stove is from here; let’s sword-fight with sticks instead of poking; why don’t we have your friend come over here? I want my children to really listen when I have to say no. The rest of the time, I want them to feel that they own themselves.
This plays into mindfulness in parenting. Mindfulness is really being present in the moment – awareness. I realize that I am very busy and tend to start ordering things around my children, without really seeing them. So, I mindfully practice embodiment by spending time with each child, every day by meeting them where they are. It’s not always easy. I tend to want to think about a work problem rather than making the elephant talk or hearing about what elves do, but my children are really interesting people. They deserve my consciousness. This means that I love and accept them (and give them attention) for who they are.
Embodiment also affects my parenting in terms of physical affection. My children know that they own their bodies in a way that I did not. They ask for touch that they want: give me a hug, blow on my tummy, kiss my owie. And my kids feel comfortable telling me no: aw, Mom, stop hugging me! Sometimes they suggest something else: Momma, you can pat my back. On my part, I work to not endure touch that is uncomfortable for me. For example, when the little one needs to be held in the middle of the night, I happily give my love, but I also make sure that I am comfortable. I don’t need a crick in my neck or a sore back.
I guess all of this parenting stuff is alive for me because if we all grew up knowing that our bodies belong to us, without shame for our sexuality, that we could say yes or no as we desired, feeling in our bones that we are worthy of respect – would we need workshops like the one I attended last night? The term birthday suit reminds us that we are born in perfection. It’s all of the things that wound us as children that take the rest of our lives to unlearn. I’ve spent my entire adult life working on owning my birthday suit, yet I continually learn more. It was an amazing workshop. I just want to be carrying this message forward.
Owning Your Birthday Suit: Embodiment for Queers is really just the briefest of introductions to a whole world of erotic study, but I feel that Sinclair and Amy did a fabulous job at making it fun, relevant, and accessible. This queer grrrl is feeling both embodied and empowered.
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