EVENTS: “The 30-Day Porn Cleanse: The Pause That Refreshes”

In my experience and observation, many if not most guys look at some version of porn on a regular basis, whether viewing XTube sites, pic-swapping on hookup apps, or scrolling through Twitter/Tumblr/Reddit feeds. But we hardly ever talk about it or compare notes with others.

Last year Craig Cullinane and I conducted a five-week Zoom class called “The 30-Day Porn Cleanse,” inviting men to undertake an inquiry into their consumption of pornogaphy. It turned out to be a rich and productive experience, so we’re bringing it back this year for five weeks, March 5- April 2.

What would it be like to take a break to evaluate and refine your porn practice?

“The 30-Day Porn Cleanse” is an opportunity to consider the Marie Kondo principles: how does porn bring me joy, and how does it not? How does it expand my erotic imagination, and how does it constrict it?

Using my book “The Paradox Of Porn: Notes on Gay Male Sexual Culture” as a jumping-off point, Craig and I invite you to examine your relationship with pornography in a non-judgmental and supportive environment.

This is not about “treating porn addiction” – this course views erotic imagery as a portal to pleasure and self-discovery and offers “the pause that refreshes,” so you can return with mindfulness and choice to the porn-watching practice that serves you best.

For more information and/or to sign up for the class, go here.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me directly.

EVENTS: Anniversary of Body and Soul Work

On this day in 1993, I hung out my shingle and launched the practice I call Body and Soul Work. I was ostensibly offering massage. In my heart I knew I was offering sacred intimacy, a term then virtually unknown outside the world of the Body Electric School and its devotees. Twenty-seven years later, I remain committed to this transformational work. I have had many teachers and have studied numerous additional modalities since then. But today I primarily want to thank the teachers that led me to my practice: Joseph Kramer, Keith Hennessy, Doug Fraser (RIP), Chester Mainard (RIP), and Irene Smith. And much gratitude to the clients who have honored me with their trust and openness, in whose presence I have learned and grown. (P.S. don’t try calling the number on the flyer — I got rid of my landline ages ago!)

first BSW flyer

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.

11-9 in search of eros

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.

11-9 esther and don onstage

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.

11-8 reception at esthers

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).

11-9 group shot

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?

EVENTS: 2018 Horizons Conference in New York City

Psychedelic science and exploration, which is currently undergoing a renaissance (chronicled in Michael Pollan’s best-selling How To Change Your Mind), has long been dominated – like the rest of the world – by straight white men. Horizons, the annual “Perspectives on Psychedelics” conference held in New York City every October for the last 12 years, is no exception. This year, things changed, as the conference dealt with its own #MeToo situation. Neal Goldsmith, a key organizer and frequently MC for the conference, was removed from the board of Horizons Media in response to multiple reports of sexual misconduct. Founder and director Kevin Balktick really stepped up not only by putting in place a lengthy and explicit “Code of Conduct and Safer Space Policy” but also by exponentially increasing the presence of authorities in the field who were women and people of color, which made for a terrific conference (October 5-7 at Cooper Union), best of the three I’ve attended.

Saturday’s program, focusing on science and medicine, was hosted by Dr. Julie Holland, author of many books, including Ecstasy: The Complete Guide. Highlights of the first day, which culminated in the rock-star appearance of Michael Pollan, included Sophia Korb’s report on the latest research results on microdosing (based on 8000 people from 59 countries using 18 different substances) and Monnica Williams’s incisive talk “Race-Based Trauma: The Challenge and Promise of MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy.” Also useful: Peter Hendricks and Sara Lappan reporting on psilocybin to treat cocaine dependence and “New Findings on the Therapeutic Potential of Ayahuasca” by Brazilian neuroscientist Dráulio Barros de Araújo (below), who memorably proclaimed, “The placebo effect is a beautiful thing!”

Brazilian plant medicine specialist Bia Labate MC’d Sunday’s events, which centered on culture and philosophy. I had to leave early but got to hear two terrific presentations. Besides reading entertaining excerpts from The Wild Kindness: Between Sacred and Secular in the New Mushroom Underground, her queer psychedelic memoir, Bett Williams paid tribute to Kai Wingo, charismatic leader of a high-dose psilocybin Afro-futurist community in Cleveland, who sadly died in 2016 at the age of 43.

Event producer and human rights activist Annie Oak delivered a talk on “Building Risk Reduction and Community Safety Systems in Festival Environments” that was so clear, so sensible, and so visionary that one of the first questions from the audience was “Have you considered running for the Senate?” Oak, a member of the Women’s Visionary Council and founder of the Full Circle Teahouse, an alcohol-free chill space at Burning Man, tossed out one plain-spoken truth after another. “The majority of people who use these [psychedelic] substances will not use them in controlled settings… but rather (will be engaged in) ‘unsupervised self-experimentation’…Having women as leaders is automatically risk reduction…If you want to change the world, throw a better party.” Not a huge fan of social media, she pointed out that “Facebook is an insecure platform that sells your data.” And she shared, point by point, a list of “Safety Tips for Participating in Ceremonies that Use Psychoactive Substances” that the WVC created in 2014. You can find it online here – I encourage you to check it out and let me know what you think.


EVENTS: book launch for THE PARADOX OF PORN in New York City September 22

One big event of the summer season for me was the publication of my new book, THE PARADOX OF PORN: Notes on Gay Male Sexual Culture.

Based on my twenty years of experience as a sex therapist/educator and pleasure activist, this book-length essay explores the topic of pornography from a unique, specifically gay male perspective, surveying in depth what’s valuable and what’s problematic about the ubiquitous forms of erotic imagery we encounter on a daily basis.

My intention in writing the book is the same one that drives my professional practice: to encourage and support gay men in having more pleasurable and more satisfying sex. I would like to share more widely the questions, discoveries, curiosities, and wisdom that I encounter every day of my working life.

The book has been receiving some gratifying positive attention. Kirkus Reviews, which is aimed primarily at libraries and booksellers, called it “A relatable, timely analysis of pornography’s history and its effect on the mindset of the gay community.” The Bay Area Reporter said, “Given how pervasive porn is in the gay male world, it’s encouraging to read a thoughtful and clear-eyed analysis of how it impacts and shapes our sexual lives.” The Advocate published an excerpt from the book, and Edge Media interviewed me, calling the book “an enlightening and useful meditation on pornography.”

Some writers I admire have offered words of praise. Michael Bronski, author of A Queer History of the United States, said “The Paradox of Porn is the best book about pornography, the lives and imaginations of gay men, and state of erotic gay culture written to date.” Novelist Andrew Holleran called it “sane, helpful, and fascinating.” Journalist and commentator Jay Michaelson said, “Don Shewey’s book is wise, informed, and fearless. The Paradox of Porn busts through several closet doors and explodes taboos. A rich and rewarding read.”

I hope you’ll check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.

If you’re in New York on Saturday September 22, I invite you to join me in celebrating the publication of The Paradox of Porn at a book launch event called “Written on the Body/Queer*Sex*Life” at the Bureau of General Services Queer Division, the bookstore located in Room 210 at the LGBTQ Community Center, 208 W. 13th Street.

I will be appearing with my friend Ishmael Houston-Jones (above), the super-talented dancer-choreographer who has just published his terrific first book, FAT and other stories: some writing about sex. We will be reading from our work, answering deeply personal questions, and selling and signing copies of our books. I’ll also have a big box of vintage porn to give away. The event starts at 6:00 pm with an informal reception. The reading will begin at 6:30, and we will be done by 8:00. Please come!

If you can’t join us for the book launch, you always order my book online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble, though if you prefer to patronize independent booksellers, you can find one here and ask them to order the book for you if they don’t already stock it.


EVENTS: STRETCH Festival in Berlin, April 3-5, 2015

Last year my friend and Authentic Eros teaching partner Kai Ehrhardt conceived and coordinated STRETCH, a weekend-long festival of workshops and performances for gay/bi/trans/queer men, in his hometown, Berlin. It was a big hit, so he has scheduled a second annual STRETCH Festival for Easter weekend this year.

stretch festival

This year I will be among the staff of teachers presenting an array of interactive experiences along the spectrum from yoga to music to breathwork to experimental performance to sexuality workshops. If you’re looking for a good excuse to visit Berlin and/or commune with a vibrant population of European gay/queer guys, here’s a good one.

Here’s how the festival describes itself:

STRETCH is a three-day festival for men in the heart of Berlin. It features 36 miniworkshops, performances, dance, time to socialize and mingle in order to inspire and experience a deeper, wider, more soul- and playful connection to one another and to life itself.
Expert teachers, practitioners, therapists, healers, renegades and artists invite you to this second gathering exploring the interface of bodywork, mindfulness, art, movement, sexuality, psychology, spirituality, gender, identity, ritual, performance and social engagement.
We are looking forward to welcome interested and curious participants: use this chance to discover and explore new things and to get nourished from body to soul.

You can check out the calendar of events online here and see if any of it calls out to you.

EVENTS: erotic massage class at MMX

A class for men led by Don Shewey at MMX (Male Massage Exchange) in New York City
Four evenings: June 12th, 19th, 26th, and July 10th
7:30 -10 pm.

In this series, you will learn the art, the technique, and the energy to give and receive a REAL Erotic Massage.

For some people, erotic massage is a shady step-brother to legitimate massage – some version of a half-assed backrub and a handjob. But there is a higher octave of erotic massage that can be a transformational experience. What makes an erotic massage extraordinary isn’t just the sensual bits but the acknowledgement of the whole person. It’s an opportunity to connect the dots between the physical and the emotional, the erotic and the spiritual.

In this four-part training with an erotic massage master, you will learn to give a full-body erotic massage that is skillful, pleasurable, energizing, and soul-nourishing.

June 12th:  WEEK 1 Simple Touch

Simple, nurturing touch is so important. Massage that includes genital touch plus breath plus presence feels like acceptance. Especially for gay men, it’s very meaningful to get permission and encouragement to receive pleasure, to feel your whole body, to speak desires, to bring consciousness to sex and touch, to live your spirituality without blocking your sexuality and vice versa, to be seen naked, to see another man naked. All these are opportunities to heal shame, isolation, erotic malnutrition, and touch deprivation.

This class will focus on some basic massage moves designed to put someone at ease, help him arrive in his body, and let go of stress and tension. We will work on the back, neck, shoulders, legs, and feet, not so much focused on the medical or sports massage fix-it model but more in the direction of pleasure, relaxation, and connection.

June 19th: WEEK 2 Tantric Massage

The essence of tantra has to do with understanding erotic interaction as a metaphor for union with the divine.

MMX massage 1
The intention of tantric massage is to open the heart, to cultivate your own orgasmic capacity, and to experience sexuality as energy. This class will demonstrate and teach how to skillfully integrate touch, breath, and erotic energy into a full-body massage. You will get to observe and then practice giving and receiving a series of cock-massage strokes intended to raise and circulate erotic energy around the body so it’s a full-body experience, culminating in an exercise in conscious breathing called The Big Draw. You may be surprised to discover how pleasurable and nourishing it is to relish arousal without the goal of ejaculation.

June 26th:  WEEK 3 Butt Pleasure

Here’s one area of the body that is a major pleasure center for many guys but that traditional massage virtually never addresses. This class will provide a safe playground to explore the rich territory of pelvic massage, focusing on the buttocks, the anus, and the perineum for pleasure and relaxation. There will be a demonstration of the variety of ways to touch, knead, manipulate, and caress every part of a man’s rear end for pleasure and relaxation. The instruction will include “rosebud” massage (external) as well as sphincter and prostate stimulation (internal). You will have the opportunity to give and receive butt massage, at whatever pace and level you and your partner feel comfortable with (which may or may not include internal massage). You will get to practice not just the touch aspects but also how to verbally communicate with your partner about what feels good, what doesn’t, and what edges you’re willing to explore. We will use disposable gloves and observe hygiene protocols so the exploration will be completely safe for all participants. Discover the sometimes subtle delights available in the nether regions when the agenda is run by pleasure rather than the requirement of penetration.

MMX massage 2

July 10th:  WEEK 4 Putting It All Together

What really makes an erotic massage satisfying is the full-body experience. In this session we will put together the pieces we learned and practiced in the earlier sessions, with some instruction and guidance in transitions. You will get the opportunity to give and receive a luscious full-body massage that includes erotic touch. Part of the practice involves tuning into the specific partner you’re with and tailoring your touch and your attention to his individual body and his pleasure.

The class is geared toward healthy holistic healers, trainers, dancers, and athletes – people who work with body and energy and are height/weight proportionate.

Discounts for under 30, premium members, and bodyworkers.
Questions or More Info:

EVENTS: Living Soulfully, Sunday April 6, 4-6 PM

I will be the guest speaker this Sunday April 6 at Living Soulfully, the monthly gathering of local guys who have been to Easton Mountain Retreat Center in upstate New York or who have an interest in belonging to the extended community of soulful gay men.

My topic is CREATING RITUALS FOR INTIMACY AND CONNECTION. Habits, patterns, and routines bring comfort and stability to our everyday lives. But what happens when those routines grow stale and we feel trapped in same-old same-old? Whether you’re partnered and puzzling over how to keep sex juicy or single and pondering new ways to make contact, what does it take to “get outside the box”?


In this lively interactive presentation (a preview of the workshop I’ll be conducting at Easton Mountain April 24-27), I’ll talk about using creativity to devise rituals that enliven intimacy and promote connection. Although often associated with religious services, a ritual can be any kind of intentional ceremony. It can be cooked up on the spur of the moment and be done in ten minutes, or it can involve elaborate preparation and go on for days. I’ll talk about what goes into creating a powerful ritual, then together we will explore how to identify habits we have and things we do that don’t serve us anymore and practice imagining new ways of connecting with each other that involve verbal communication, and touch, and artistic expression (music, movement, pictures).

photo by Adam Seymour

photo by Adam Seymour

Living Soulfully usually meets at the LGBT Community Center on West 13th Street, but because of construction, the meeting will take place at Ripley Grier Studios 520 Eighth Ave. 16th floor,
(8th Ave. b/w 36th and 37th Street). Tell the desk you are going to Ripley-Grier and proceed to the 16th Floor. Living Soulfully’s room will be listed on their board. The meeting goes on from 4:00 to 6:00. Newcomers are welcome. Bring a friend. See you there!

EVENTS: the creative use of ritual

What is the difference between a habit, a pattern, a routine, and a ritual? They exist along a spectrum of behavior, but a key distinction is that habits, patterns, and routines tend to be self-perpetuating to the point where they happen without effort or conscious choice. A ritual, on the other hand, is a ceremony with a specific intention to create or honor a special occasion.

1-19 birthday cake
A birthday, for example. There are a bunch of traditional ways we celebrate birthdays — with gifts, a cake, making a wish, and blowing out candles (not to mention, these days, the cascade of Facebook greetings). It can be fun and fulfilling to embrace the traditional birthday celebration. But I had a lovely experience this week with a friend who wanted to acknowledge his birthday in a different way. He asked me to co-create a ritual with him acknowledging and honoring his family heritage. He was very specific about verbalizing his intention:

“I would love to have you witness and respond to meeting and seeing the menfolk ancestors that created the lineage that I followed down onto our Earth plane and then have you meet my womenfolk and childhood in an historic way. To reflect, shed, illuminate and strengthen my ability to heal/transform. I don’t quite know what this all means, but I am compelled at the moment to acknowledge and honor the life that is past, mine and theirs. ”

I was thrilled and honored to be invited to share his birthday this way. He arrived at my house with a shopping bag of materials. I’d laid out a table covered with a colorful fabric on which to create an altar for the occasion of this ritual. He brought some gems that were meaningful to him and some aromatic wood to burn. And then we spent an hour looking at pictures of his parents, his grandparents, his great-grandparents, and some other relatives. He said their names out loud and told stories about how they were related to each other and what impact they’d had on him growing up, and he showed me some pictures I’d never seen of himself as a child. And he read aloud a beautiful poem of birthday blessings that another friend had e-mailed him just that morning. I gave him a hand-written card I’d made and a wrapped present of a music DVD that I thought he would enjoy.

It was amazingly fun. I learned a lot about my friend that I didn’t already know, and there was a sweetness and intimacy because we took the time to do something out of the ordinary, using pictures, storytelling, beautiful objects, sensory enhancements, and meditative awareness very simply to create some magic and to deepen our connection.

This is exactly the kind of experience that is at the heart of “THAT’S AMORE! — Creative Rituals for Intimacy and Connection,” the workshop for gay men that I will be conducting at Easton Mountain Retreat in upstate New York April 24-27.  In the course of three days together, I will be teaching the basic skills of creating ritual space and then guiding participants through the process of devising a whole string of intentional ceremonies to explore intimacy and connection through verbal communication, physical touch, and the use of artistic imagination (involving music, writing, movement, photography, meditation, food, and the natural environment).

The workshop is the evolutionary product of my private therapy practice — offering sex and intimacy coaching to individuals and couples — and “Authentic Eros,” the workshop I taught for many years with my friend Kai Ehrhardt. It’s especially designed for the benefit of two kinds of people:  partnered guys in long, loving relationships whose physical/erotic/emotional intimacy has gone somewhat dormant and wants to wake up; and single guys who really want to be in a relationship but can’t seem to get past the second date and want to discover some new ways to build intimacy and connection over time. It’s my intention for each participant to leave with not only tools for connecting more deeply with other men but also a great appreciation for yourself as a lover.  The cost of the workshop is $495-695 depending on accommodations.

For more information and registration, go to:


EVENTS: “That’s Amore!” at Easton Mountain, April 24-27, 2014

This spring I will be conducting a workshop for gay men called “THAT’S AMORE! — Creative Rituals for Intimacy and Connection” at Easton Mountain Retreat in upstate New York.


For busy, active adults in committed relationships, it’s often amazingly difficult to make time to enjoy each other’s company in a relaxed and intimate way. Professional responsibilities, family obligations, and housekeeping get the attention they demand – but what about exploring and growing together, erotic play, Quality Time For Us? For single guys, it’s relatively simple to organize fleeting sexual encounters in the monosyllabic parlance of social-networking apps (Top? Bottom? Hung? Stats?), but negotiating the steps that lead from a quick hookup to a sustained, mutually satisfying relationship can be mystifying. In this weekend retreat for gay men, participants will gain instruction and practice in creating simple, elegant, and fun ceremonies intended to foster intimacy and connection.

1-10 workshop altar

We’ll begin with practical instruction on the rudiments of creating ritual space: using sacred objects, formulating intentions, making time commitments. Rituals can be simple outlines for intentional actions, devised on the spur of the moment, that employ whatever is at hand and finish up in 10 minutes – or they can involve elaborate preparation and go on for hours. We’ll experiment with many variations over the course of a weekend. Each day we’ll explore ceremonies based on verbal communication and physical touch as well as the creative use of music, words, photography, movement, touch, meditation, food, and the natural environment.

12-3 001

The program is intended for single or partnered gay men who would enjoy spending a weekend in a structured environment that supports the quest for authentic love and affection. My intention is for each participant to leave with not only tools for connecting more deeply with other men but also a greater appreciation for yourself as a lover.

The workshop will begin at dinnertime Thursday April 24 and end at lunchtime Sunday April 27. The cost for the workshop is $495-695 (depending on your choice of accommodations).

Here’s a video of me talking a little more about the program. For more information, or to register for the workshop, go to Easton Mountain’s website here.