LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX: Coping with fear of rejection

There are many advantages to getting older, and one of them is the simple joy of growing up emotionally and outgrowing needs from childhood that no longer pertain. One of those is the constant need for approval, to be perfect, and the fear of rejection. When you are a child, you are dependent on others for crucial needs. It is a matter of survival. And it is understandable for a child to fear rejection or abandonment by his mother, lest he not survive.

As an adult, those needs are no longer essential for survival. Fear of rejection is a holdover from childhood. Perhaps something happened once, and we made it a rule. Then rule-making became a habit. If you know that fear of rejection is a major factor that holds you back from connecting with others, congratulations. That self-knowledge provides a golden opportunity. It is an invitation to spend the next year of your life making it a priority to get bigger than your fear of rejection.

One bold method is to make it a project to collect rejections. Go out asking for things and try to get ten nos. Make it a triumph to hear no. I promise you, you will survive and be stronger. Yes and no are matters of preference to a mature adult. They are a referendum on your worth as a human being.

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But the task that is at the heart of Authentic Eros — real intimacy, true connection — is to show up with all your desires activated, for the sheer pleasure and joy and wisdom of honoring your desire body. It will bring your vitality to the forefront.

A lot of times we hang back socially, romantically, physically, thinking: If I just sit here and do everything right and perfect, somebody will notice me and love me and give me what I want. That is the child mentality, the good child, the best little boy, the seeker for validation. There’s a fear that if I display my desires and they go unfulfilled, then I look like a fool, or I feel like a fool, and I will crumple up and die.

What if that’s not so? What if your desires are indeed a show of vitality? More is possible if you show up ready to go, your desires radiating from your being like a peacock’s feathers. Then you give others a point of contract or several points of contact. Then you’re ready to share, to live.

Those desires don’t have to be the deepest or most intimate to be desires. They just need to be active, actionable. As the famous Mary Oliver poem says: You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees/for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting./You only have to let the soft animal of your body/love what it loves.

To be an active receiver is to let the world know in no uncertain terms what pleasure or pleasures you are available to receive. Try it on. Let yourself be a love-dog. Dogs will let you know without words, without a doubt, when they want to be fed, walked, petted, left alone.

 

EVENTS: Sessions Live 2019 with Esther Perel

I had the pleasure last weekend of participating in “Sessions Live 2019: In Search of Eros,” an all-day gathering convened and hosted by Esther Perel, who’s probably the most famous sex-and-relationship therapist in the world right now. Her books (Mating in Captivity and The State of Affairs) and her TED talks (on desire and infidelity) have acquired a passionate following worldwide, as evidenced by the sold-out crowd of 400 who showed for the live event November 9 in midtown Manhattan (many of whom flew in from other countries) and the 1200 people viewing at home via Livestream.

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A New York resident born in Belgium and educated in Israel, Esther brings a distinctly European flavor to her work, so what might have been a typical therapy conference with parade of academic talking heads became something else – a lively salon with a dynamic array of speakers presenting in a variety of formats with a very engaged audience,  fueled by delicious food.

The morning began with an on-your-feet warm-up conducted by Esther along with 5 Rhythms teacher Amber Ryan, psychoanalyst Aviva Gitlin, and therapist-performer-ritualist Paul Browde. Esther gave an opening talk called “Finding the Erotic Self:  A Journey for Practitioners,” which included dialogue with Alexandra Solomon. Before lunch, Holly Richmond talked about her work helping trauma survivors recover their sexuality, and I spoke about my own concentration on healing through pleasure.

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After lunch Sara Nasserzadeh led the participants through a modified Sexual Attitudes Reassessment. Then there were presentations about erotic obstacles by Ian Kerner (author of She Comes First), psychologist Guy Winch, and the two young co-founders of the St. Louis-based educational company Afrosexology, Dalychia Saah and Rafaella Fiallo. The last hour brought a free-flow of questions and commentary from audience members both in the room and watching via Livestream.

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Women dominate the field of therapy and social work, and certainly Esther’s audience was 75-80% women (as became clear at the reception she hosted the night before — above), which is why she asked me to address the issues that men bring to a sex therapist. I talked about the dance between performance anxiety and being present for pleasure, the lessons I learned about erotic energy from Joseph Kramer and the Body Electric School, the paradox of pornography as liberator and oppressor, and my own formula for satisfying sexual encounters (PCM: your own Pleasure, Connection with your partner, and the Mechanics of what goes up and down, in and out).

For the rest of the day, I spent every break being pulled aside by people saying, “Do you have a minute? I have a question about…” I heard very touching stories from men who hailed from Iceland, Poland, and China, and female therapists who work with very specific populations (Catholic priests, homeless mentally ill, Jersey guys).

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I walked away from the event feeling nourished by the high level of powerful questions that the day generated: What’s the difference between sex and eroticism? If I’m struggling to figure out what I want, what happens if I ask myself “What am I missing?” Which of the senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell) is most erotic to me? Which ones do I need to ramp up in my life? How do we teach vulnerability to young men who have no experience of that? How do we deal with different stages of erotic life?

MEDIA: “Sessions Live” with Esther Perel November 9

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On Saturday, November 9, I’ll be speaking at Sessions Live 2019, an annual clinical event hosted by Esther Perel. I invite you to join me and this year’s esteemed guests for an invigorating day of learning online.

Click here to purchase your Livestream ticket for $99

Sessions Live is a one-day event dedicated to providing an opportunity for professionals in the field of mental health to come together to learn and challenge each other around a relevant topic in the field of modern relationships.

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This year, Esther invites us to explore the topic of Eros, also known as eroticism. We’ll look at eroticism as a quality of aliveness, vibrancy and vitality that is critical to both life and the clinical relationship. It goes far beyond a repertoire of sexual techniques. It’s a sense of creativity, agency and pleasure that we often aim for in our clients but neglect within ourselves.

Learn more about Sessions Live 2019: Finding Eros Livestream

Together, we’ll answer the questions:

  • ●  What does erotic intelligence mean to us as therapists, coaches, and relationship professionals?
  • ●  How do we help our clients cultivate a feeling of vitality?
  • ●  How do we sustain energy and aliveness in our work and in our own lives?
  • ●  What does recovery from trauma look like when it includes re-engaging with pleasure and vibrancy?
  • ●  And much more.

Your livestream ticket includes:

  • ●  Online access to the live full-day training on November 9th
  • ●  All archived recordings to view on demand after the event – the content is yours to watch when and where you please
  • ●  CE credits available for an additional cost

 

Purchase your Livestream ticket​ today and use code bodyandsoul​ for a special discount.

Join us online for a day of learning that will help you expand your definition of eroticism and increase your confidence in helping your clients tackle issues of love’s challenges and love’s celebrations.

illustration by Natalia Ramos (IG @natalia_ramas)

photo by Kathryn Wirsing

QUOTE OF THE DAY: EROTIC

“How To Turn Off The Erotic In Five Easy Steps”
1. Hurry, Feel Rushed or Pressured. Your sexual soul wants nothing to do with feeling hurried or pressured around pleasure.
2. Make sex into work.
3. Make orgasm the point. Orgasm is pleasure that last for a few seconds to minutes. The erotic pleasure can last a whole lot longer.
4. Worry about “doing it right”. Sex is not a performance art, it is a feeling experience.
5. Worry about how you look, taste and smell.

Bully the erotic and you may find that it will walk out on you.

–Pamela Madsen (author of Shameless)

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THE PARADOX OF PORN: Update

I’m pleased to note that, a year after its publication, my book The Paradox of Porn: Notes on Gay Male Sexual Culture, continues to have an impact on the population for whom it was intended.

In mid-June, I gave a presentation on the subject matter of the book at the annual conference of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) in Philadelphia, whose theme this year — Let the Body Rejoice!” — was right up my alley.

At the end of July, I gave a reading from the book at Easton Mountain Retreat in upstate New York as part of the annual Gay Spirit Camp, and I also conducted a workshop called “Writing from the Erotic Body.”

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I recently received this five-star review on Amazon.com:

If you’re a gay man who wants a more exciting, pleasurable, meaningful, and fulfilling sex life;
if you struggle with sexual shame;
if you’ve found porn both liberatory & oppressive;
if you believe in sexual freedom & liberation but feel ambivalent, dissatisfied, or downright depressed about how those ideals play out in most gay male sexual culture;
if you can’t help comparing yourself to the men depicted in gay porn and feeling you don’t measure up in stamina, technique, repertoire, attitude, muscle size, dick size, body type, facial features, ejaculatory ability, or age;
if the simultaneously sex-obsessed and erotophobic society in which we live has negatively impacted your sexuality;
or if you simply enjoy reading smart, entertaining, skillful writing on sex and culture,
then this book is for you!

In the category of You Learn Something New Every Day, I recently encountered a definition of pornography I had never heard before. Philosopher Michael Rea theorizes that an image is sexual pornography when we use it for immediate gratification, while avoiding the complexities of actual sexual relationships like physical intimacy, emotional connection and romantic interaction. Sounds reasonable to me — what do you think?

 

 

 

 

LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX: Joseph Kramer – Portrait of a Sexual Healer

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In the spring of 1992, I interviewed Joseph Kramer, the founder of the Body Electric School, for an article that was published in the April 21 edition of the Village Voice (“Sexual Healing: Joseph Kramer Sings the Body Electric”). I used only a few brief excerpts from the interview in the published article. But the conversation with Kramer covered a lot of territory above and beyond the “Celebrating the Body Erotic” workshop. He spoke in much greater detail about his own background, the evolution of the workshops he taught, his vision of the vocation he named “sacred intimate,” Andrew Ramer’s notion of the “consciousness scout,” and his own understanding of the erotic consciousness scout and its function in society, among other topics.

I’ve come to view this interview as a historical document, so I’m publishing the complete transcript here for the first time, edited only in order to be comprehensible.