Follow my desire
It’s all coming back to me. I’ve blocked it or perhaps I’ve shifted my focus. Ah, yes. I’ve shifted my focus from Pleaser to Pleasure. I needed to feel and embody pleasure and understand its medicine before allowing myself to remember the pain again.
The memories are surfacing encompassing my fearlessness and passion. I’m remembering The Vagina Monologues and my burning desire to perform. I started going to performances in 2001, when Eve Ensler was just beginning the V-Day movement. Over the span of a decade, I had attended many performances all over the country put on by colleges and communities. I cried and laughed every time. Each year, I related to certain monologues based on what I was experiencing in my life at the time. They moved me deeply. The entire movement buried itself in my soul.
In 2008, I didn’t know what I was creating when I was simply following, super courageously, a strong “selfish” desire to perform. It was extremely terrifying and exhilarating to imagine myself on stage performing a monologue yet I couldn’t shake the desire. I began to look for auditions in community shows in Chicago and luckily could not find any. One day I was in a park celebrating with the staff of Chicago Women’s Health Center (the BEST place for women’s health, imho, in the world) and I turned to my supervisor, Beth, and said aloud for all the Universe to hear “I’m going to organize a V-Day campaign, perform in the Vagina Monologues, and I want CWHC to be the beneficiary of whatever money I raise”. She looked at me and said “great!”
What the fuck just came out of my mouth?, I thought. I was a volunteer couples and sex therapist, board member, and patient at CWHC and their mission included providing a safe space for women and trans folks to receive quality services. They were helping women come out of the abuse and violence cycle, that kept women small and afraid, through education, outreach, empowered healthcare, therapy, and alternative medicine. They were the only place I knew of that respected women’s bodies, included women in their own healthcare (furry stirrups, warm lube, and mirrors during pelvic exams), and practiced consent and boundary setting as part of their patient care. It was an honor to be part of the staff in the organization and they happened to be entering a massive capital raising campaign. It was the perfect time for me to fundraise for them while fulfilling my dream of performing. I had close to zero experience fundraising and it made me very anxious.
Once I made the decision and the Universe heard it, EVERYTHING seamlessly and quickly fell into place. I had a full time job as a therapist at a hospital at the time and organizing the V-Day campaign took up a lot of my time and energy. It was the first time in my life I understood and felt, in my being, the power of passion and creative energy. I had asked for this all my life. I worked tirelessly. Skills revealed themselves to me that I never knew I had. I connected with a ton of people in Chicago to make the shows happen. For many years, I had thought I was an introvert and a loner. That became quickly irrelevant as I had work to do. I became unstoppable. Nothing mattered more to me than ending violence against women and girls. I became a negotiator, organizer, manager, delegator, performer, saleswoman, marketer, and boss. My V-Team was epic and came together perfectly. Every woman (and man) who showed up to build the campaign and to perform was perfect. Every kind of skill we needed was fulfilled. I didn’t have to search for any of it. It just appeared. We were all volunteers meeting weekly in the dead of Chicago winter planning, creating, and rehearsing. I met the most incredible and resilient women.
Every woman who volunteered and performed in the shows had a sexual trauma story. Every single one. That’s what attracted women to V-Day; an opportunity to tell their story in a safe way through performing monologues that represented many women’s stories. It broke my heart open in unprecedented ways. Even though I was a therapist and heard day in and day out stories of trauma, the intimacy I shared with my crew was different. I listened as a witness, not as a therapist, and that was the medicine we all needed. I needed to be seen, heard, and witnessed for my superpowers.
What I love about The Vagina Monologues is the vast array of stories: from deeply disturbing accounts of gang rape during wartime to hysterically funny accounts of unbridled pleasure and orgasm. Eve Ensler revered all of it: being a woman in all her pain and bliss, being a mother and daughter, being a sex worker, being a woman discovering her beauty thanks to a man, being a woman saved by the love of other women.
The shows we created and organized were a huge success: two sold out evenings plus a fabulous art show curated by my dear friend and colleague. My parents drove cross-country in a blizzard in February 2009 to watch me. My best friend from NYC flew in to watch me. I sold a shit ton of tickets and didn’t rest until they were all gone. There were folks of all backgrounds and ages present to watch the shows; ultra conservative people sitting next to my queer community. It was the most beautiful sight. We raised over $5000 for CWHC and a portion of that went to the women of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Almost no money came out of my pocket. The Chicago community and my friends came through for the campaign in every way possible. I felt the depth of belonging in a way I had never felt before.
Pleasure is the medicine
Ten years later, it’s returning to me. That passion and drive to end violence and abuse for women and men. Women are telling me stories and I’m listening again. I am the witness and the light for them. I feel sad and angry listening. I feel it in my body. I know I’m being given a message to return to my why. This is what Radical Pleasurist was created for. It all makes sense now.
Following my desire is following my pleasure even when I am deathly afraid. That kind of fear fuels my actions because I know it will open me to pleasure beyond my imagination. I followed my desire ten years ago and I religiously follow my desire now. That’s how I have been able to manifest everything in my life. I stopped being afraid of pleasure. That has been my awakening.
Pleasure is both the activator or trigger and the medicine. Pleasure is the antidote to pain and it is our natural state of being. We have forgotten. Pleasure has been associated with sin, guilt, and pain. Sexual trauma can be confusing for people since it both encompasses pain and sometimes, pleasure. In order to protect oneself from the extreme shame, guilt, confusion, and pain triggered by sexual trauma, the nervous system and body shut down and numb out. In trauma, the intimacy of pleasure and sex are separated from the sexual acts/behaviors and from relationship. Pleasure becomes dissociated from orgasm and climax. Orgasm and climaxing become mechanical or disappear altogether. People become extremely fearful to be in the body so they live in their heads. It all makes sense. It’s all about coping, defending, and protecting. Trauma survivors either become celibate or promiscuous. Those who have experienced sexual trauma become the ice queen/king or the pleaser
The return to the body and to feeling everything again, including pleasant and orgasmic sensations (without the goal of climax), is the medicine. The process of feeling sensations in all parts of the body, including the genitals, feeling safe to feel, and releasing past trauma from the body is the medicine. Whatever we bury, resist, or deny, even though it saved us or protected us for a long time, will resurface and once we let it all resurface, we can release it through breath, awareness, profound self-compassion, love, and pleasure. Pleasure is simply defined as feelings of happy satisfaction and joy. Surely, we deserve to feel that again in every moment of life.
Allowing ourselves to feel pleasure in every aspect of our lives, especially in the body is the gateway to deep connection with ourselves and people. It is the gateway to a sense of belonging. It is especially the gateway to ending the abuse and violence cycle so many of us find ourselves in over and over again.
Ending the abuse cycle
As we allow ourselves to feel in our bodies and to feel every feeling that arises, we begin to know ourselves again and to reprogram our nervous systems. As we know what we feel moment to moment, we are then ready to speak our desires AND our boundaries courageously. This is where the medicine of pleasure expands. It is in communicating our feelings, desires, needs, and boundaries where magic happens in relationships. This is the arena where women and men begin to confidently stand up for themselves in loving and compassionate ways. Then it becomes unnecessary to be a pleaser or ice queen/king to feel loved in the world. Feeling and truth replace the old program of fear and hiding. It is through pleasure and self-love that deep connections are forged and old beliefs and cycles of abuse are released. Self-abuse and abuse within relationships become unfamiliar as a new norm is created. No longer do we stand for being disrespected or violated. It simply stops working as we decide to choose pleasure and to feel good. Making decisions in life becomes easier and about feeling good, not avoiding pain. “Bad” habits easefully stop as they are replaced with a new program of love and pleasure.
This is the power of pleasure. It is a radical choice to feel again, to love again, to speak truthfully and lovingly again. It is the choice to feel good no matter what is happening around us. This is what Radical Pleasurist teaches: stand up for yourself against all the critics, especially the one inside of yourself, and feel good.
What happens when you allow yourself to be silent, still, and to feel your body? Comment below and let me know!
I love you fiercely. You deserve to feel pleasure. Lean in. Hear the whisper. Listen.
P.S. if you are desiring to feel your body and you are afraid or don’t know how to begin, I dedicate 30-50 minutes of listening to you and identifying your blocks to pleasure. Perhaps you are ready to feel good again and to release sexual trauma. Perhaps you want to be close to people but you don’t know how anymore. I can guide you in returning you safely to your body so you feel close to yourself and others again. Once I shine a light on your blocks, you can choose to let it go and feel freer, more joyful, and allow yourself to receive pleasure.