An elder student of mine told me the other day that she thought I started the Metoo movement. (??????) . In part because of a Metoo exercise I have been leading in Kohenet for years. And that her daughter posted a Metoo and she wondered how we had met. Not me. The movement comes from Tarana Burke, bless her. This student also - after expressing much profuse gratitude for Kohehet - expressed concern we aren't delving into sexual priestessing anywhere near enough. I breathed deeply, stayed quiet and heard her. I heard, too, the student who'd called me less than 48 hours before that to express concern that we are too sexually open as a community. The truth from where I sit lands somewhere simply and complexly in the middle, in the bodies and boundaries and pleasures of each of those who weave our community, as well as we who build the loom.
In the quiet aftermath of metoo and of these recent conversations, my attention keeps turning to slutshaming. How to counter it in myself, and in those around me. Noticing myriad ways so many of us both carry and are impacted by it.
My jaw dropped when one of my best friends first told me that the sex education she received from her mom - a widely published feminist writer & scholar - encouraged her to be proud of 'having a high number.'" So many women are taught to keep the number of people they have shared sexual intimacy with small in order to be respectable. My dear friend indeed loves and is proud of her number - 'high for a woman' by some standards - and celebrates the great experiences of pleasure that this number represents for her.
The first time I was explicitly slutshamed was by a doctor who didn't believe what I was telling him. The second time was in a poetry class I took as part of my undergrad Ivy League education. I was nineteen or twenty, and so excited to take my craft more seriously. The first poem I submitted was one that had my then 'number' - not for sex, but for a different aspect of erotic intimacy which I dramatically chronicled. It was a list poem: X who were this, X who were this, X who were this. If you knew me back in that day you might not be surprised that it included categories like pro ballers, a set of brothers, those whose names I no longer remembered, one on parole.
I never said what it was a list of - my professor, Dr. Djanikian, assumed it meant sex. It didn't. And it was a list of erotic significance to me. He gave me such a bad grade. His primary feedback: This poem is not believable. No woman would be with this many men. Work to make your next piece more realistic.
I wanted to scream at him, This poem is about me. This is about my choices, my conditioning, my adventures, my independence, my biochemistry, my body, and my heart. But I was dumbfounded by his response. I stayed silent. I didn't submit any pieces that mattered to me for the rest of the semester.
This weekend I attended a gorgeous wedding in the mountains - the fabulous couple are proudly on the wild end of the spectrum and work to create sex positivity in the world. The ceremony balanced strong strands of liberation within their commitments. Their kiss lasted for so long, and we hooted and howled at them so much as they sweetly devoured each other. I watched myself working hard not to feel shy or to look at their kids or parents to see their response.
I was shocked to cry during the tear-jerk music at the very end of the ceremony. Weddings are my least favorite ritual. They so often weave non-tended ancestral lineages - without asking permission or blessing- into direct contact for the first time. It can get so uncomfortable in my energy body. This wedding held that so explicitly well.
An aspect of most weddings I also rail against stems from my confusion at people choosing a system that has been one of oppression in so many ways and for so long. My body recoils as if yoked by the thought of it. Yes to the many people who are creating liberatory love inside of marriage commitments - like my friends who wholly, complexly and hedonistically rocked the thing. And yes to the many of us who love far and fully beyond that box.
My unexpected tears at the end of the ceremony were because of how different I felt from so many who choose to love within system. I went directly from the ceremony to soak in the hot springs on the land. The one who slid into the water next to me - a dear new friend who is a sexological bodyworker & an ancestral lineage healing colleague - heard the edge I was riding and affirmed it, too, as her own.
We spoke of the power in loving ourselves, and loving others from that deep well. We spoke of pleasure and of dropping the shackles of slutshaming inside of ourselves before we can support anyone else in doing it.
I am aware that because I am in some ways a public person - in my teaching, the albums, books and the movement I co-built and tend - people often assume they know way more about me than they do.
Yes, I share in personal ways here, and to a greater degree, in my class settings. Offering from experience is at the crux of how I teach. If you read or listen to me, assume there is much you do actually know about me and how I move in my life. And assume that there is so much you don't know. And that I prefer it that way. My favorite concert moment ever was Sade's entrance - behind a screen, silhouette slinking slightly with each vocalization. Twenty thousand of us entranced by, hanging on, the shadowed shape of her hip. The dance of so much visible & so much behind the veil is one I slide into with ease.
Three years ago in my birthday post, I invited people to ask me questions. A good friend - we recorded two albums and went on a lil tour together - wrote: In all the years I've known you I've never heard you speak about any romantic or intimate relationships. Why? Do you have a partner? Partners? Are you single? Dating? Why don't I know about any of this? I'm so curious.
I smiled, looked at his question long and hard and left the response blank. It almost said #tantrika or #kedeisha or some such thing. It almost said, I love your curiosity, but you are right, I rarely speak of this.
In fact, I speak of this all the time to those are listening for it, but I have no taste for labels or for discussing details with ones not deeply co-weaving life with me or who don't really need to learn from my journey to help them rock their lives. I write this yet again from an airplane, soaring beyond borders toward an immersion in cultivating nuanced, sustainable pleasure. Knowing that somewhere, in the exquisite sacred space beyond categories of monogamy and polyamory, in a language which has the same gorgeous word for virgin and whore, in a land where Eros is well-tended, pulsing and easeful, Goddess thrives.