How Masturbation Expanded Me

My darling reader:

I hope you, yes YOU, get something from this blog post. Something amazing and profound, something that makes you feel extra good about being you! First though, we have to wade through some shit. I’m tempted to apologize, but you know as well as I do that sometimes you just have to get dirty ;) – You got to go through some shit to get to the other side. I promise we’ll clean up so we can get “down and dirty” – the naughty, fun kind, and back to feeling amazing about ourselves in just a few minutes!

Here’s the skinny- today I want to talk about a difficult subject; something many of us have shame around. Like some of you, I’ve struggled with my body image. By this I mean that I never really liked my body. More than that, I actually actively sort of loathed it. Maybe you can relate. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but my poor body image generated a kind of shame. The kind of shame that makes you want to crawl under a rock and hide at times. I felt bigger than “normal”. Not that I knew what that was, I just knew it was skinnier and cuter and more beautiful than me. This kind of shame makes you feel unworthy, like if you exposed it to sunlight people would run screaming from the monster – cue campy horror film now!

Maybe all shame is like this. It prevents us from living the life we could, it keeps us from making connections and living lightly. If you haven’t listened to Brene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability, do that next! It’s taken me many years to turn the corner on this, so, my darlings, I’m hoping my story will resonate for some of you and help you into the light a bit earlier as a result.

I won't bore you with all the details, but I have been a little "fluffy" from my teen years on. Around 8th grade, I started sneaking cookies and candy to my room to avoid being told not to eat them. I don’t remember exactly when I started feeling fat, but when I look back at family pictures I can hear my mom telling me to pull in my stomach for the photo. I still am though – if not exactly fat, definitely fluffy. It sounds so much better, doesn’t it? And on occasion I still reflexively suck in my stomach.

How bad was my view of my own body? It pains me to say that my 14 year old self, a confident girl in most ways, bound her breasts with cloth and safety pins so they looked smaller. This had the desired effect of making me look thinner. Unfortunately it was also a little physically painful (what’s a little pain in the name of vanity though, right?) and time consuming, and of course certainly didn’t help with my growing body shame.

When I started dating the prince who was still a frog, but unbeknownst to me would someday transform into my husband, I was just 19 years old, and not much improved in terms of confidence about my body. I insisted on sex with the lights out. He complied, telling me all the while how beautiful I was. When he asked me to shower with him, I said ok, but only if it was dark. This negative view of my body was so pervasive that I couldn’t comfortably enjoy oral sex. I mean, what if he looked up and saw my big stomach and unflattering chin from that angle?

Eventually I had sex with the lights on, but my discomfort with receiving oral sex never went away. Nor did the feeling that I was fat and in some ways “less”. Less attractive. Less deserving. Despite being told repeatedly by my now husband over the 20+ years we’ve been together how beautiful I was, I just couldn’t believe it. And I was too busy with all the other more important things to take time out to talk about something I didn’t believe was really a problem. Life just happened.

My prince and I had sex a lot. At least, I thought it was a lot. About twice a week. He always initiated, not because I didn’t like it, but because his sex drive was much bigger than mine and not enough time went by for me to feel like initiating. This mismatch in libido was the thorn in our rose bed. We didn’t fight about money. We didn’t fight about family or children or child raising. But we did fight about sex. Or, more specifically, how often we did or didn’t have it.

A few things happened in succession to change my attitude and make me ready – ready to start to heal my negative body image issues, and ready to open myself up sexually. The first and truly tragic event was my mother’s unexpected and early death from lung cancer. My mom went from really never being sick, she was healthy and exercised and watched her weight, to dying in a matter of 3 short months. This not only left a huge hole in our tight-knit family, it caused me to re-evaluate my own life.

I was orgasming regularly with my husband, who had taken many years to learn my turn-ons and my body. My lack of verbal communication meant he had to learn to read my non-verbal cues. How my body responded to touch, what my mood was, when I was ready for more and when he needed to step back and slow down. I was lucky, he took the time to care and to learn. How much easier it would have been if I had been comfortable with myself, in touch with my desires and able to communicate?!

Hoping to spice things up in our marriage, we attended a tantric couples workshop. This truly terrified me, but I wanted to live passionately, so I was trying to face my fears. We spent the whole weekend in hippie dippy land, complete with meditation and sarongs and sacred circles. Plus lots of amazing breath work and really cool exercises. Just as I was thinking, ok, I got this – I heard our instructors tell us to get into a group of four and get naked. What??? Had I known about this, I never would have signed up! As if my body fears weren’t enough, I had been in an accident the week before and was completely covered in bruises. I looked worse than normal! Of course I was going last, if I went at all!

And then it was my turn. My turn to stand up in our little circle, with my prince and two relative strangers looking up at me. My turn to talk about what I liked, and what I didn’t like about my body – two minutes on each. Holy shit! Have you any idea how fucking long two minutes can be? I surprised myself by talking about how I know it doesn’t look like it, but I have an athlete’s body. I talked about liking my strong legs and my smile. I explained where a scar came from. And looked down on this little group and talked about having a big stomach and body shame, all the while trying not to worry about how things must look to them as they looked UP at me – past my big stomach and my double chin. Kind of like my worst nightmare, but minus the slightly uncomfortable cunnilingus! Then I stood there and received their observations and positive affirmation. It felt surprisingly good. Better than good; it felt empowering. I had stood naked in front of my beloved and two strangers, in a room full of others doing the same. And not only had I survived, but something shifted in me at that moment. I felt stronger. Somehow the very act of talking about my body while standing naked, being as vulnerable as I could possibly be about the very issue I carried the most shame around, cracked it and me open. The shame just poof – up and disappeared. My body stayed the same. But my heart and mind changed.    

Now, with a renewed interest in reclaiming myself, I started to masturbate again. Something I hadn’t really done since childhood. Unsurprisingly, I found I couldn’t make myself orgasm. All those years of partner-sex had made me reliant on someone else for my own pleasure. How sad!

I needed to re-wire my brain and dust off the pleasure pathways I hadn’t been interested in engaging on my own for years. I started to regularly practice masturbating, and soon learned I needed waaaay more clitoral stimulation than I had imagined. Hello and I LOVE YOU Betty Dodson, her Rock ‘n Roll technique and the Magic Wand!! I was also shocked to realize that I could apply this practice makes possible concept to my fantasy life. I tend to rely more on touch and feelings, being more sensate focused than visual. Happily I learned that it’s not that I can’t fantasize, I was just out of practice!

Masturbation truly has changed my life. It freed me from my reliance on someone else for my pleasure, and opened me – literally cracked my being open to a whole new me. Someone who didn’t exist before. It was almost as if I had cut off my own arm and forgotten that I even had an arm. Now I am discovering and recreating myself. The best part is that the adventure and journey continues! From rationalizing that “sex isn’t all that important” to self-awareness, and sexual exploration and freedom and power. Also to a better sex life than ever. And to finally feeling better, dare I say good, about my own body. Rock ‘n Roll, darlings! Rock ‘ Roll!

Happy Orgasms & Much Joy,