A bit about my story and the journey that’s brought me to where I am today…
As an awkward teenager I distinctly remember getting my first period - my menarche - and getting by for a while using the sample sanitary pads we’d received in a little sex-ed kit at school until they ran out. Then I resorted to begging supplies from friends at school.
And all this to avoid telling my mother what had happened because for some reason I was too embarrassed. On one level I felt a twinge of excitement at joining the ranks of bleeding women and being part of some sort of universal club where we all shared this common experience. On another level I resented the inconvenience and dreaded having to tell an adult.
Eventually I had no choice but to go to Mum with the news. I recall being acutely uncomfortable with bringing up the conversation; eager to get it over with, secure the necessary items, and carry on as though nothing had happened.
This theme of deep shame and discomfort surrounding my body and sexuality carried on over the years and manifested in some rather unusual behaviour!
When my pubescent breasts started budding I altered my posture when I was at home, hunching my shoulders so my top would hang in a way that hid my chest. But when I was at school, among my peers (and boys whom I had crushes on!) I would wear overly-padded bras that I didn’t need and short dresses in an attempt to appear ‘sexy’ and womanly. All the while feeling cripplingly self conscious about the fact that those bra cups I strapped onto my chest were virtually hollow.
When others my age would talk about sex I would listen in fascination, but when a boy I liked wanted to kiss me I would flee in terror and avoid him thereafter.
When I first explored self pleasuring, I enjoyed the result it gave me but felt so confronted and squeamish about my own body that I used Glad Wrap to protect my fingers from skin-to-skin contact with what I felt was a disgusting part of my body!
These are just a few examples of how my utterly confused, suppressed, and conflicted attitudes toward sexuality played out in my teenage years through to early adulthood.
A result of some pretty vicious cultural conditioning; from growing up in a society that possesses unhealthy and unhelpful beliefs regarding sex; living in an environment with external influences that simultaneously shame, suppress, and neglect sexuality, whilst being sex obsessed and using it to sell everything. We become voyeurs, rather than empowered participants.
These conflicting messages about such an important, natural, and fundamental part of ourselves - and from such a delicate and impressionable age - have a detrimental effect on individuals and the broader community as they hypersexualise with one hand, and shut down healthy sexual identity and expression with the other.
Fast forward to my mid-twenties, when after a couple of years of deep personal development and inner work I’d finally arrived at a point where I could no longer ignore my sexuality and the numerous barriers that prevented me from embracing it. It was time. This last terrifying frontier - I knew I had to face it.
Next minute, I’m in a room surrounded by people disrobing one item of clothing at a time, speaking aloud the limitations and unhealthy beliefs they were intentionally letting go of with each piece of fabric dropped to the floor. Being witnessed with respect and love by near strangers in my complete and vulnerable nakedness.
On other occasions finding myself experiencing feelings of freedom and empowerment as I use colourful body paint to brush exquisite artworks on fellow women’s bodies while we bask in the sun, finally and blessedly comfortable with our nudity. Or in a workshop talking frankly about genitals and orgasm, learning about anatomy and sexual techniques as other participants ask questions that we’ve all wondered about. Or at a retreat where we are being taught how to communicate our needs, desires and boundaries with others, and massage techniques that we can use on ourselves or a lover.
I tried a LOT of different things.
An open mind was the only way with which to approach this journey borne from a determination to change my patterns around sexuality. Because by golly was it a wild and challenging ride!
Finally, I stumbled across ‘Yoni Mapping Therapy’ - a holistic healing modality for women, created by Bonnie Bliss, who later became my teacher and is often referred to affectionately as “The Vagina Lady”.
YMT involves private one on one sessions for women that include talk therapy, sexuality coaching and education, homeplay practices and resources given, full body massage, yoni massage and vaginal mapping.
A woman might come for a session if she has had sexual or medical trauma in her past; if she has a lack of sensation in her vagina, numbness or difficulty orgasming; if she has pelvic floor issues or scar tissue post-birth; if she wants to simply know more about her body, where everything is down there, feel more pleasure, and connect more deeply to her yoni and sexuality. The list is extensive, but one of the biggest gifts this modality gave me was the embodied experience of having another person touch me in that area - an area of a woman’s body that is usually only touched in sexual or medical contexts, and associated with expectations on her - with only nurturing, conscious, and respectful presence. With no expectations of me to perform, no pressure to return the touch or give back in any way, no need to do anything at all but completely receive and enjoy touch. It felt safe, held, and pure. Without the other variables that are present in a sexual context with a partner, I was able to observe everything that went on in my body and witness all the subtle sensations, emotions, and holding patterns within me. To be touched with no goal or undercurrent of expectancy, to feel safe to surrender and be fully present in my body, was one of the most healing things of all.
YMT as a stepping stone on my healing journey, and my training to become a practitioner of this unique modality changed the game for me.
Mine is a classic story of turning your biggest weakness into your greatest strength - or in my case, my biggest fear into my greatest passion.
Sexuality had been an area rife with fear, shame pollution and imbalance in my life.
Until one day when I looked around and took stock - I was now the one sitting at the front delivering a workshop on pleasure anatomy, speaking with ease, passion and comfort about topics that, in the past, would have made me shudder to hear uttered aloud. I was the one holding space for women who’d suffered sexual trauma as a child, or mothers who were wanting help preparing for birth. I was the one educating others on sexual techniques, relationship dynamics, and self pleasuring practices..
Facing my fears and exposing to the light areas that I’d drawn the curtains on my whole life has been an eye-opening and revelationary process.
Of course, when it comes to your unique healing journey, every individual will face different challenges and set out on their own special and epic plight. As the old saying goes; “different strokes for different folks”. But regardless of how you go about it, the rewards are enormous and expansive.
And when it comes to sex, I believe most people can relate to experiencing a few challenges in that realm, and having a few wounds that might need looking at.
I don’t think we talk about sex enough in the right ways, and the stigma and taboo shrouding this essentially human part of us will continue to do damage if we don’t actively change how we interact with it in our society. So I start conversations about it wherever possible, and try to provoke people to think and speak about it more openly. I write this article and share bits of my story for the same reason.
Healing our communication around sex is the first step.
So my challenge to you:
Bring it out of the shadows and have a convo with someone about sex today!