I still remember once in high school, in the car with my mom, talking about the pleasure of sex.
(Yes we really talked about stuff like this.) I had told her I was afraid I was a nymphomaniac, because even right after having sex I still wanted more.
She asked me if I orgasmed, and I said “ummm… I mean, I think so.”
She asked me if I enjoyed it. I said something like “well duh Mom it’s sex. Everyone enjoys it.”
She clarified: Does sex feel good to you? Do you get pleasure from it?
I thought about it, and said that yes it felt good, but that it was more like scratching an itch than actual pleasure. In all honesty, I didn’t really feel much.
She asked what I meant by not feeling much, and I gave the example of my nipples. I told her, when my boyfriend was touching my nipples I didn’t feel anything at all, like he wasn’t even touching them. They were totally numb.
I remember her getting quiet and kind of sad after I said that, and I realized I must have said something much more revealing than I meant to.
It took me 15 years after that conversation to fully realize that my sexual experience had been only a sliver of what sex could be. I suspected I wasn’t getting what I wanted years before, but it was hard to put into words. I told a boyfriend at some point in adulthood that I wanted sex to be… more.
“More what?” He asked.
More… I don’t know. More feeling? I want to feel it more.
He told me it sounded like I needed therapy. I went. I also started actively diving into my sexual history and uncovering the many reasons I wasn’t able to be fully present in bed.
It turned out, it was for the same reason I wasn’t able to be fully present anywhere.
It’s because I was wearing so much goddamn armor that I couldn’t fully experience anything. Not friendship, not connection with strangers, not romantic love, and certainly not intimate touch.
I felt unsafe to just be me, so I went around wearing a fuck-ton of armor to protect myself.
That armor, worn in bed, kept me from feeling everything the way I wanted to.
When I look back, I realize I spent most of my life somewhat disembodied. It had become clear that my body wasn’t a safe place to be, so the “real me” kind of hovered around nearby, watching my body do stuff, and not getting involved.
In bed, I was always kind of performing; spectatoring; unable to let go. What would a girl who was turned on do? What would a girl who was experiencing pleasure sound like?
When I started finally climbing back into my body again, it was as though my nerve endings were thawing out after a 20 year sleep. I could feel things, and most of what I felt was… awful. So much pain, both physical and emotional, was the first stuff that thawed out and needed to be addressed and healed.
But later on there was pleasure. Oh my goodness, the pleasure. Pleasure beyond anything I had ever imagined was possible, practically spilling out of my skin while I was dancing, meditating, writing, connecting, and yes (finally!) having sex! Colors were brighter, food tasted better, and music was a whole new experience.
It was like, for the first time, I was right there inside my body as I experienced everything, and it was absolute ecstasy.
I’ve been talking a lot about armor lately, and the reason is this: our armor might seem to protect us from the bad and scary stuff, but it also “protects” us from the good stuff. It keeps us from experiencing the full range of anything.
Which means you’re missing out on pleasure. Joy. Connection. Presence. Sensation.
Being embodied means you agree to be there in your body for all of it: the good and the bad.
Are you willing to face your dark material bravely, without numbing it? Are you willing to climb back into your body, knowing that there will probably be pain before there is pleasure?
To me, the answer was simple. YES. I want to feel it. I want to feel all of it.
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