I read two great articles recently. They both bust myths about what sex “should” be and what it “shouldn’t.” In doing so, they throw open the doors for all the things sex could be.
One of the main reasons I wrote my book Ecstasy is Necessary was to help people understand they they weren’t broken or weird just because their desire(s) didn’t match the standard that was being help up as normal in the media that week. In this post—The Desire Myth—noted sexologist Cyndi Darnell writes:
Please help me make sex education more inclusive of trans bodies and trans sexualities. Please take my survey and/or invite others to take it. It’s important and it’s fun!
Who is invited to take this survey?
Anyone who identifies as a trans woman, trans man, non-binary, genderqueer, or in any way agender or gender non-conforming.
Why are you asking me about my genitals?
I realize this might seem forward. Some people may not want to talk about their genitals. If this is you, just close this browser window and forget I asked. But if you are willing to tell me (anonymously, of course) a bit about how you experience your bits, it will help me gather information that can be helpful to the trans community in several ways. My intentions are:
1) First and foremost, to spark respectful, honest, thoughtful conversations among trans people (and their partners, lovers and playmates) about trans sexuality—conversations that are both empowering and loving.
2) To encourage scientific and sociological studies about how trans genitals and sexuality work, and how trans people experience their bodies, genitals and sexuality over their lifetimes. Further, I want to encourage explorations and conversations free of titillation, morbid curiosity, biological essentialism, or categorization.
3) Shame reduction. You don’t have to be trans to experience shame about your body or your sexuality. But being trans does open the door to levels of shame unique to this community. Realizing that you are not alone or weird is one of the most effective shame-reducing strategies. Sharing the results of this survey will help with this.
4) To empower and assist trans people to create better relationships—amongst themselves, and with lovers and care providers—by making it easier to talk about this stuff.
5) To provide bodyworkers and somatic sex educators with information they need to work more knowledgeably with trans bodies.
Who am I to be asking all this?
I am Barbara Carrellas, an author, sexologist and sex educator who has been working with sex and gender diverse communities for more than 25 years. I have been in a primary relationship with Kate Bornstein, a non-binary trans woman for nearly 20 years. Here’s my background: http://barbaracarrellas.com/about-barbara-carrellas/
In the mid-1990’s Chester Mainard and I created the Erotic Awakening Massages for People with Pussies and for People with Penises. These massages combined breath work and precise erotic, genital touch to create a unique erotic experience. In the course of observing and touching hundreds of genitals both in private sessions and in workshops, Chester and I became convinced that genitals themselves had no gender. They were all the same Jell-o poured into an infinite variety of Jell-o molds. We also discovered that being able to explore and discuss genitals and sexuality in safe, open spaces resulted in profound healings, shame reduction, and erotic empowerment.
This past September I premiered my Erotic Awakening Massage for Sex and Gender Diversity—essentially the same massage, but designed for people of non-binary gender. In this massage we un-gendered genitals, which ceased being markers of any gender whatsoever. Genitals and surrounding muscles, nerves and so on were all simply unique bits of erotic tissue to be explored like an undiscovered land. The result was liberation, especially for the transpeople in the room. Suddenly, the genitals of transpeople were being discussed with the same ease and wonder and depth as we had been discussing everyone else’s genitals. Further, those workshops led to discussions among transpeople themselves—and a great deal of excitement.
This is what inspired me to take this conversation to the next level with the survey.
What am I going to do with your answers?
The information provided by you and by others will help determine my decisions about how this information can best help people. My primary intention, as I have said, is to stimulate conversation on a worldwide level. I will also be using the information you give me for sex education purposes, such as workshops, books, blogs, forums, and peer education. I intend to share this information with the graduates and students of my Urban Tantra® Professional Training Program. This program has a high percentage of trans therapists, bodyworkers, sex educators, academics, artists, and other practitioners who, in turn, work with the trans community in many capacities. In general, it is my intention to make sex education more inclusive of trans bodies and trans sexualities.
When I was a kid I LOVED this week between the holidays! It was the one non-summer week when I didn’t have to do anything for anyone else. No school, no lessons, no activities. Just long hours playing with my new toys and indulging in creative projects. As an adult I have had to relearn how to use this week for creativity, play and self care. And that’s the theme of this week’s short video—self love and self care—dedicated especially to (but definitely not limited to) all of the sexuality professionals in my community.
Watch this and learn how to practice one of my favorite and most effective self-loving techniques—one you can use it all year long.
This email is also your reminder that registration is open for the Urban Tantra® Professional Training Program. For the first time in more than 5 years, I'm bringing my most intensive, in-depth program back to New York City from 11 - 16th June 2016. The first five people to register and pay before 3rd January get $200 off the registration price.
“The Urban Tantra® Professional Training Program was a major reset for me at a time when I was feeling burnt out and overwhelmed. It really helped me to focus and get motivated again to take my business to the next level." Caroline Carrington, Tantra Educator, JewelintheLotusCoaching.com
Sign up now and join me in committing to a more joyful, playful life and a more successful business in 2016.
11-16th June, 2016
New York City
I am very troubled by this weekend’s Columbus Day holiday. I have been out of the country the past few Octobers, so I have been able to avoid the feelings of shame and embarrassment I feel about living in a country that continues to dedicate a holiday to a man responsible for the enslavement, brutalization and genocide of native peoples—despite widespread knowledge that this was the case. I believe this is possible because, as a country, we invisibilize Native Americans. It’s easy to ignore or minimize the feelings and fates of people we seldom see or hear about.
In Australia, folks have created a way that everyone can show awareness and respect for Aboriginal culture and heritage and the ongoing relationship the traditional owners have with their land. My friends and colleagues are part of a movement that begins every meeting, event or gathering with an Acknowledgement of Country. At the start of the event someone stands up and says something along the lines of:
“I would like to acknowledge that this meeting is being held on Aboriginal land and recognise the strength, resilience and capacity of Aboriginal people on this land. I would like to show my respect and acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land and the elders past and present.”
Ready to start a movement?
How about starting your event in the USA with “I would like to acknowledge that this meeting is being held on Native American land and I wish to recognize the strength, resilience and capacity of Native American people on this land. I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, and show my respect to the elders past and present.”
Want more information and inspiration about Acknowledgment of Country?http://www.creativespirits.info/…/welcome-to-country-acknow…
Want to get more involved? 8 American cities have abolished Columbus Day and replaced it with Indigenous People’s Day. Your city or town could be next. Visit your next city or town council meeting and propose the change.http://usuncut.com/…/these-8-cities-just-abolished-columbu…/
Any suggestions, improvements or other ideas? Just comment below. I am hoping that we can come up with some solid practical pro-active approaches to offer people not only on Columbus Day, but also on Thanksgiving Day (which Native Americans refer to as The Day of Mourning.) Right now I'm trying to find a reputable charity that works to prevent Native American Teen Suicide. I'm also interested in Native-run substance abuse programs, especially those grounded in Native spirituality. I'm hoping to compile a list so that on "holidays" such as these we can give people something concrete to support. For example, giving the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner to a fund that supports queer Native youth.
One of my favorite observations about great sex was made by sex therapist Jack Morin, who did extensive research on peak sexual experiences. Jack said that a peak sexual experience is the result of just the right combination of safety and risk. I couldn’t agree more.
Think about a really hot sexual experience you have had. What made you feel safe enough to let go? What made it risky enough to be exciting? Learning to create sexual experiences with the perfect balance of safety and risk can transform your sexual encounters into ecstatic experiences.
Before you start taking new sexual risks you’ll want to create a safety net. This is not the kind of safety your mother meant when she called after you, “Be careful!” as you left the house. If your mother was anything like mine, that “Be careful” meant “Don’t do anything risky.” As you no doubt remember, the risky things your mom warned you about were always the most fun. In the realm of ecstatic and erotic experiences, they still are.
The kind of safety I’m talking about means being being sufficiently supported to take a risk. This level of support occurs at different lengths and depths in different situations for each individual. Safety—and what creates it—is a highly individual choice. Some people, for example, feel more comfortable learning new erotic skills with a group in a workshop setting. Others could not even imagine learning these skills in anything other than a private session with only their partner and a teacher present.
The principle of being sufficiently support to take a risk also applies to relationships. Our most successful and exciting relationships are those in which we are both supported and challenged. Whether it’s your life partner, the director of a play you’re performing in, the editor of the book you’re writing, your coach or your boss, the relationships we treasure and remember are those in which we feel closest to a perfect balance of challenge and support, risk and reward.
Once you have some idea of the nature and extent of the safety and support you need, you can begin to imagine the erotic and ecstatic adventures you’d like to take. Our fantasies are potent sources of inspiration. Certainly, we cannot live out all our fantasies. Many of our fantasies would be either dangerous or impossible to play out in real life. But our fantasies give us clues to our longings.
Set aside time to daydream erotically. Whether you lie on a beach, walk in the woods, masturbate or meditate, give yourself space to fantasize. Push beyond old familiar fantasies into something new and fresh. Breathe. Use your breath to keep your attention focused on imagining creative new sexual scenarios.
If you have trouble finding your desire, ask yourself variations on the question “If I knew what I wanted, what would it be?”, such as:
If I knew what erotic adventure I wanted to take next, what would that be?
If I knew who I wanted to take an erotic risk with, who would that be?
If I knew how I wanted to feel after my next ecstatic experience, what would that feeling be?
Listen to your body. Desire is commonly experienced as a physical longing that pulls your body toward the experience about which your mind may be hesitant. The clues to your deepest turn-ons may be physical, not mental.
Erotic adventuring may feel uncomfortable or anxiety-producing at times, particularly when you’re first imagining or discussing your fantasy or desire. Remember, nothing great, noble, profound, or ecstatic has ever been achieved by someone who is primarily concerned with staying safely within their comfort zone. Emotional uneasiness is a part of the process when we step out of that comfort zone into our as-yet-unknown “something more.” A new erotic or ecstatic activity opens us to a new level of intimacy with ourselves, and with others. Being exposed to any new levels of intensity can be scary. Just like in the gym or in yoga class, your first attempts may be stiff and awkward. However, if you take a deeper breath and allow yourself to fall further into the posture or exercise, it first becomes less painful, then less uncomfortable, and finally, perfect. The same thing is true of sexual exploring.
If you experience a feeling of anxiety shortly into the process of taking a new erotic or ecstatic risk—so long as you’re not feeling paralyzed with fear and insecurity—know that you’re on the right path. It helps to use the affirmation “I make no judgments, no comparisons, and I release my need to understand.” This affirmation helps you move out of your critical mind and into your body. Remember that an erotic or ecstatic challenge that excites you—even to the point of occasional anxiety—has the potential to be a mind-blowing sexual experience.
Someone sent in a great question for my free webinar, Urban Tantra: What's In It For You on 22 July. It was: "Can you recommend some erotic books and movies that aren't totally cheesy?"
Since this person gave me no idea of their erotic preferences, it was hard to answer. So I gave a shout out to my community—a wise, wacky, and erotically intelligent bunch they are—and asked for their favorites. What a list they created! Here's what they suggested, with their comments. If you have any favorites we didn't list here, feel free to add them in the comments.
• Anything made by Tristan Taormino .
• I have NO idea if this film is still available, but Hamlet - For the Love of Ophelia is fantastic. They spent some actual money on it. The costumes and sets are great. The scene in which Hamlet walks around talking to himself, trying to get his mother's advice about what to do with Ophelia as Gertrude has hot three-way sex on the bed behind him (he is oblivious) is hilarious. The orgy scene in the woods is just fun, fun, fun• Books: my favorites..The Beauty Trilogy by Ann Rice. Plus she's finally putting out the 4th book soon.
Stay in the present moment.
Don't try so hard.
Stay in the present moment.
Drop your expectations and your judgments.
Stay in the present moment.
Stay in the present moment.
Stay in the present moment.
Practice doing all of this throughout your holidays...
…in the present moment.
With Love and Ecstasy from Barbara Carrellas and the international Urban Tantra Team:
Hayley Caspers, Jazz Goldman, David Lola Houston, Amanda Gay Love, Tara Phillips, Calle Rebinder, Jennie Rehbinder,
Electra Amore, Catherine Carter, Cyndi Darnell,
DK Green, Rebecca Lowrie, Rowan Tinca Parkes,
Eve Minax, Mollena Williams.
I’m thrilled to announce the worldwide dates for 2015:
Copenhagen, Denmark 5-10 May 2015
Melbourne, Australia 15-20 September 2015
London, U.K. 20-25 October 2015
Register now and you’ll receive the earliest of early-bird rates available.
In addition to all you’ll learn in the training program, you’ll receive ongoing benefits as part of the Urban Tantra Community, including:
• A free listing in the Practitioner Directory on the UTPTP web site. When I am asked for referrals, this is where I send people. So do our graduates.
• Free listings for any of your Workshops and Events, worldwide.
• Membership in an extraordinarily active and supportive private Facebook group. This worldwide, safe and supportive network has helped our graduates with everything from challenging client issues, to personal creative crises, to housing support on the road.
• Visibility in the Urban Tantra Community News—a weekly online news digest dedicated to the purpose of informing the world about the amazing and life changing work that our graduates are doing.
The Urban Tantra® Professional Training Program is designed especially for—but is not limited to—people who work with sex and sexuality. This intensive workshop will give you the skills to take your practice to the next level—both personally and professionally. Whether you are a tantrika, a pro domme, a daka/dakini, a sex therapist, a sex educator, a companion, or anyone else who uses or wants to use a more conscious approach to sexuality in your practice, this program is for you.
Still unsure? Email our local coordinators and have a chat. They will explain the program in detail so you can be sure it’s right for you.
For Copenhagen contact Calle and Jennie: email@example.com
For Melbourne contact Tara: firstname.lastname@example.org
For London contact Amanda: email@example.com
I am looking forward to seeing you in 2015!
A New York Magazine pick for a perfect holiday gift!
You told me what you wanted, and I listened!
I’ve created a new series for all of you who asked for longer, more in-depth Urban Tantra workshops. The Urban Tantra Experience premieres in April at Eastover Estate and Retreat in Lenox, MA—a beautiful retreat center in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts.
Why look any further for that special holiday gift? What could be lovelier than a spring weekend of Tantra in the mountains?
The Urban Tantra Experience: Breath and Touch
Rejuvenate your relationship in the Berkshires. The Urban Tantra Experience is an approach to sacred sexuality that adapts and blends conscious sexuality practices from Tantra to BDSM into a hot and healing brand of sex for the 21st century sensualist. Learn the secrets for giving and receiving a body-melting, mind-altering, sensual and erotic massage. You’ll also learn how conscious breath and energy work can transform touch into a deeply intimate ecstatic encounter. All genders and sexual preferences welcome.
Register here: www.urbantantraexperience.com
17-18-19 April 2015
Friday 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Saturday 10 am - 5 pm
Sunday 10 am - 3 pm
$840 - $1200 (depending on choice of room) Includes food and lodging.
Last night I heard about the passing of our beloved Raelyn Gallina. Raelyn’s influence on me is so huge it’s hard to encapsulate in one post. Raelyn was (among other things) a jeweler, a piercer, a body modification artist of the hight order, a powerful priestess and a plant magician. She pierced me many times. Each was a ritual of life-altering proportions. She drove the Catholic Church out of my body once and for all. She gifted me with the most powerful protection spells I have ever used. She was my single greatest inspiration for my realization that Tantra and BDSM could be the same sacred art. Here is an excerpt from my book, Urban Tantra, which tells the story of the day Raelyn taught me one of the greatest lessons of my life:
The Needle Mudra
I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of play piercings. Play piercings are temporary piercings. The needles are usually standard hypodermic needles, minus the syringe. These are pierced through small folds of skin anywhere on the body there is no danger to any blood vessels, nerves, or tendons. They are designed to stay in the skin for a few minutes or a few hours. Sometimes, small weights are attached to the piercings; when the piercee moves or dances, the swinging weights stimulate the needles and the body produces endorphins. The high is euphoric.
In the Olympics of pain, I am more of a sprinter than a long-distance runner. I love the rush of endorphins from a permanent piercing: the feeling of fire when the big needle goes into my flesh, then the wait while the needle is left in place until the endorphins kick in. And then the best part: surfing the waves of altered consciousness in the afterglow. The long, meditative astral travels that accompany permanent piercings are better than any drug I have ever tried.
But I had never tried play piercings. To satisfy my curiosity, I attended a play piercing demonstration by my friend Raelyn Gallina, the high priestess of piercers. Voyeuring was the whole point of the event, held on the ninth floor of an undistinguished building in New York's Chelsea, accessible only by a cramped, battered elevator. On the makeshift stage of what appeared to be an abandoned off-off-Broadway theatre sat two women and Raelyn. One woman was very young, probably just eighteen, with short, dark hair. She wore dark-blue jeans and a dark teal, zip-up sweatshirt over a neat white T-shirt. The other was older, blonde, and casually elegant in black leather pants and a satin blouse. Both were perched precariously on the edge of excitement and fear.
Raelyn is calm, centered, and entirely focused on her setup: gloves, alcohol, and needles in sealed blue packets. Every imaginable safe and hygienic protocol is in place. She is ready to begin.
The younger woman removes her sweatshirt, then her T-shirt, and finally her bra. Raelyn swabs her chest with gauze soaked with alcohol. She speaks to the young woman too softly for me to hear the words. The young woman nods. Raelyn picks up the first needle. She pinches a small bit of skin on the top of the young woman’s breast near the center of her chest and pushes the needle through the flesh. The young woman winces slightly, then exhales. Raelyn waits. The young woman smiles. Two dozen needles are to follow.
One after another, Raelyn places her needles in a circular pattern, starting at the breastbone and circling down around the outer edge of the young woman’s breast, beneath her breasts, around the outer edge of the other breast, and back to the first needle at the breastbone. After each needle Raelyn waits for the young woman to take a breath, letting the endorphins catch up with the piercings. After the first few needles, though there’s no need to wait. The young woman is clearly enjoying the effect of each subsequent needle more and more. After the last needle, Raelyn picks up a spool of elastic thread. To my amazement, she weaves the thread among the needles until the young woman is wearing a beautiful white spider web of needles and thread on her chest.
Raelyn picks up a thread in the center of the mandala and gives it a tug. I gasp. The young woman seems startled, then a moment later she grins. The grin turns into a giddy giggle. Then she laughs. Happily.
Now it’s the second woman’s turn. Raelyn does exactly the same thing to her. This woman clearly has done this before. She seems less surprised by the sensations and she knows how to use her breath to increase the effect of the endorphins. It’s not that she doesn’t feel the pain; she appears quite sensitive. It’s just that she’s learned that she can play the pain like music, changing the pitch and the tone and the volume. I enjoy watching her; I know what she’s doing. I use my breath the same way to build and move sexual energy in my body. I realize I’m breathing in rhythm with her. I’m getting high.
Raelyn keeps on piercing—as focused and present and beautiful as ever. Occasionally, she pauses between needles to give a gentle tug on the first woman’s mandala to keep the endorphins flowing. Raelyn finishes the circle of needles on the second woman’s chest, then she weaves an identical elastic-thread mandala. She gives the center threads a tug. The blonde woman shivers and then smiles.
Raelyn is sitting on a chair in the center of the stage. The first woman sits facing her on her left. The blonde woman is on her right. Raelyn playfully tugs one mandala, then the other. Then she stands up, moves her chair away and asks the women to move in closer to each other until their knees are almost touching. She picks up her spool of elastic thread and my excitement grows as she ties the two webs together.
The two women are now facing each other, their chests not more than eighteen inches apart. They’re gazing into each other’s eyes. As if moved by some instinctual drive, they gently begin to rock back and forth, first toward one, then the other. As they become more confident, their gaze grows stronger, and their breathing becomes deeper and faster. They make an ahhh sound on each exhale. The rocking becomes more and more active, until I see an endless wave of energy between them. I’m knocked breathless. I’m seeing something totally familiar and something completely alien at the same time. I know this! I have never had a needle mandala on my chest, but I know exactly what they’re feeling. This is the Tantric Heart Position!
Instead of each partner touching the other’s heart with the palm of their hand, these two are connected by needles and thread! Everything else is the same: the breathing, the rocking back and forth, the eye gazing. This posture can bring up laughter or tears—both of which are happening on the stage this very moment! The young dark-haired woman is smiling through the tears flowing down her cheeks and the blonde woman is simply radiant with joy.
Raelyn had woven a physical diagram of the energy exchange. Tonight, S/M had become visible Tantra! What a mindfuck! I wanted to run out and call every Tantrika I knew and tell them of my most amazing discovery. Both Tantra and this kind of S/M employ the same magic ingredients of sexual energy, endorphins, ritual, and consciousness to attain transcended states of ecstatic connection. This was Tantra concretized. Tantra for the concrete. Urban Tantra! My head and my cunt exploded with the possibilities
Suddenly S/M made sense to me in a way it never had before. I certainly understood that S/M ran on sexual energy and endorphins. But until tonight I had never understood that it could be a sacred practice. But why not? The guiding principle of Tantra is “Do everything you want to do so long as you do not knowingly harm another or interfere with their spiritual growth.” The guiding principle of BDSM (Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission and Sadism/Masochism) is, “Do everything you want to do so long as it’s safe, sane, and consensual.” The defining core of both practices is consciousness and the awareness that you are setting up a powerful dynamic for erotic or spiritual purposes. When we see both Tantra and BDSM as sacred sex, we step into the totality of possibilities of sensation and eroticism.