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Cultivating Our Sexuality II: Elements of Full Female Sexual Health and Expression

Full feminine sexual health and expression transcend orgasm or in-the-moment pleasure. They are a mirror for the health and well-being of all the Earth's natural systems. The extent to which we women are, not only merely safe, but encouraged and expected to express our pleasure, desire, radiance and power is the extent to which life in general is revered and protected; the extent to which humanity protects and tends to all life on the planet. In reality, the female body has been used as a battlefield for centuries now. Our species has attempted to control the wild, unpredictable dance of life and death and so, of course, in many cultures around the globe it has become literally deadly for a woman to express her full sexuality. As a result, authentic female sexual expression has been driven underground and woman's health and well-being have been severely compromised. Women are just as responsible for the cultivation and protection of this as are men. To resurrect feminine sexual health and expression, however, we will need more than the  so-called Sex-Positive culture, the philosophies of sex coaching and sex therapy, the vibrator or the new 'liberated woman' activities such as pole/sensual dancing classes. These represent attempts to erase the symptoms rather than respect the conditions and realities at the very root of the issue. I am certain that even were legislation to make all vibrators and pole dancing classes state funded, we would still find an increasing number of women unable to access their full orgasm or even their full voice to speak about their sexuality. Like the gender itself, female sexuality is a complex, mercurial creature, whose ever-fluctuating states depend on a multiple of variates.

This first and most important statement to make is that female sexuality cannot exist outside of intimacy. In order for a woman to access her orgasm (which is, for both men and women, a primary way in which we express our "yes" to life) in a sustainable, powerful and grounded way she needs to exist in a safe and accepting relationship with the life that is all around her. No exceptions. This includes the woman who lives with a man who finds her repulsive one week out of every month, women who live in countries where it is likely they will be stoned to death if they are raped and women who live in countries where rape and sexual torture are considered powerful strategies of war (which is happening on every continent on the planet at this point).

Sexuality is a community/communal affair as much as it is an intimate affair. After years in this field, paying close attention to the nervous systems and empathic responses of the female gender, I have adapted my private practice to incorporate a new truth about the feminine; what happens to one happens to all. A woman in Iowa who has nothing to fear in her immediate life is affected by the reality of the woman in Rwanda who has been sexually tortured and is now living with HIV. And the global message is, It is not safe to be born female. If this is true then it becomes its own kind of battle for her to express her sexuality in any way other than a truncated, constricted sliver of what is possible. And yet, the world is hungry for the full, unconstrained, joyous, deep and dark sexual truth of the feminine.

It Starts With Sisterhood Over the years I have noticed that a woman's full sexual health and expression depends on the health and vitality of her relationships with other women first and foremost. Not men. When it comes to full female sexual expression, men are the second act. This is logical if we can understand that in order for a woman to have a good experience with a man she must first have a good experience with herself as a woman. She must be allowed to fall in love with her gender, get to know, celebrate and protect her femaleness and her own erotic map before she can offer herself to a man. Women who fall in love with their gender have rich, intimate relationships with other women. A woman who shares a rich level of intimacy with other women is more likely to accept the full nature of her sexuality, which leads to clear and direct communication of her needs and desires as well as a fundamental sense of rightness that allows her not to settle for sexual contact that is disrespectful or even simply fumbling and inept. In my female sexuality classes women have the opportunity to practice speaking their desires and to present their unique erotic maps to each other so that they may learn from each other and hear themselves as they own their pleasure and honor their bodies' wisdom. Over and over women report  this is the most powerful exercise in the class.

Truth Telling In order for a woman to express herself fully she must have confronted and be comfortable with whatever is true for her, her body and her experience. It is an unacknowledged epidemic among women that we do not speak our truth. This is, of course, a by-product of a global culture in which the authentic feminine is silenced. I have spent many hours in woman's circles listening to women not tell the truth about their level of depression, longing, anger and the nature of their intimate relationships particularly with men. It is as if we imagine that by not speaking our truth we can reverse that fact that what we experience on a daily basis is egregiously unsatisfactory, requiring us to continuously settle for relationships and experiences that subtly - or not so subtly - tell us we are asking for too much or are impossible to satisfy. The most powerful way to remedy this, contrary to what our culture would have us believe, is to simply TELL THE TRUTH. There is no possible way we can honor what is right and good about our lives and relationships unless we find the courage to speak the truth about all of it, both the 'good' and the 'bad'.

merapi volcano
merapi volcano

Dark & Light In order for the feminine to reclaim her full sexual health and expression we must acknowledge that female sexuality is an expression of both the dark and the light. Sexual energy is itself an expression of both life and death. Ask any new mother and you'll hear that the process of creating new life, of gestating and birthing, is a paradoxical venture requiring a surprising amount of death (death of our former identity, death of our former physical body and experience, death of innocence, death of independence and more...). Whether or not we are making love to pro-create, these energies are quite present in every aspect of our sexuality.

Our sexual selves are our most primal selves; all our wounding, uncertainty and fear swim in the deep dark waters of our sexuality. Our sexuality becomes a marvelous stage for all the characters of us, whether we are self-pleasuring or making love with a partner. We do not get to choose the parts we like and leave the rest behind. It's all or nothing. So, in order for a woman to feel comfortable expressing her full sexual self, she must have not only explored but befriended the forces that lie deep inside her; her rage, fear, sadness, longing, beauty, resentment, innocence, wisdom and more. This includes the stories that have become part of her sexual dance as a result of unwanted physical touch, from a side-ways grope on a cross-town bus to the experience of being raped. The statistics are fierce on this front - it is estimated that nearly 75% of all women have experienced some form of physical and/or emotional abuse. These experiences get stored in our bodies and become part of the way we define ourselves as sexual beings; they help define what it means to be a female and to be sexual. They also indelibly imprint us regarding the masculine; whether or not they are protector and predator. Most of the time we do not speak the truth about these experiences because most of the time there is not safe space to allow this truth. Yet in order for us to fully express our sexuality we must allow for the many layers of these experiences that live inside us. We must allow that after all these millennia of abuse and silencing the expression of our sexuality might contain a large amount of unprocessed rage.

When women rage it can often feel like the earth itself is renting open, the damage irreparable. Of course this is not so. But it can often feel like this. The human female is much like the earth itself; constantly shifting, unfolding, folding, exploding, adapting and responding to the elemental forces within and around her. Our full sexual health and expression requires that we not be afraid of this deep expression of the feminine, which has a lot to say about what has gone on throughout human history but which, by and large, has been fairly complicit in the wrong-doings. In order for us to engage in the practice that create new life we must first address how we feel about our experience of living as females. This may seem a bit far-fetched, after all, it's just sex we're talking about. Couldn't sex be a way to just let go, relax, release and check out for a while? That is what we're told sex is good for in this culture; a release, a relaxing endeavor, a way to let go, cut loose, let off steam. In reality, for women, it is almost never this. In reality it is a portal through which we have the opportunity to reconnect to the power living inside us and swirling all around us in the wild world to create and sustain new life. Absolutely we can insist that it become simply an all-too-brief moment of release, where we're stalking our orgasm which, in response becomes short-lived but gets the job done. And yet, when I sit with women who have turned their sexuality into this, they often end up wading through swamps of resentment which often find their source back at home, with themselves, for having settled for something shallow and impotent.

The solution to our full sexual health and expression is not the right dildo or vibrator. It is not the right clothing or exercise regimen (though physical fitness is an important component of our sexual health). It is not the right man or the right techniques or the right pole dancing classes. Our journey starts deep within the relationship we have with our gender, our femaleness, and the relationship our femaleness cultivates with the larger world including the wild world. From this landscape our sexual health and its fullest unique expression unfold as by-products of our journey deep into our own experience as females on this earth.

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