My Sexual Identity
To me, sex is steeped in unconsciousness. Though on a spiritual path for the last 11 years, sexual healing isn’t something I intentionally held space for in my process until recently. I feel fine to share that I’ve generally enjoyed a pretty healthy sex life and never had any major issues around it until a few years ago (which I will get into in a bit). I am a white, cis-gendered mostly hetero woman, which means I enjoy a lot of privilege when it comes to sex and see things through my lens.
Growing up as a dancer and then studying yoga in my early 20s, I always felt pretty comfortable in my body.While I’ve withstood the occasional grope on the train and inappropriate sexual advance in the office, no one’s ever laid a finger on me in a way that has caused me significant harm. However, emotionally, I feel I haven’t enjoyed the most supportive environment for healthy sexual development. For instance, growing up in a conservative Catholic culture, I was almost suspended for wearing too-short shorts to school, but was then encouraged to wear even skimpier clothing to cheer for the boys—a mixed and confusing message. Later, when I was about 17, I felt depressed and went to a “Christian” counselor who informed me I was probably depressed because I was sexually active. So these kinds of experiences were all around during my adolescence and the message was the same: You should be ashamed of your body and your sexuality. Oh, and you should be thin, beautiful, and submissive in order to receive love and approval.
Additionally, I hold the sexual trauma of the collective: of my friends, of my clients, of my sisters and brothers. We all hold this collective trauma, and reclaiming and rediscovering our sexual selves requires an examination of both the systems we participate in and where we have the opportunity to make different choices.
What even is a healthy sexual identity? What’s “normal”? With the BDSM and sex workers’ awareness movements, we are learning that a healthy sex life can take many forms. As the traditional binary systems continue to breakdown, we are challenging the often-harmful male-female dynamic and creating space for more diversity and inclusivity. As this is happening, it feels there is more room for a dialogue about one’s sexual identity, needs, and desires.
I always knew that there was a dimension of myself that hadn’t been fully realized around my sexuality. And this is the process of waking up, becoming more and more your authentic self. Sexual energy isn’t exclusively about attraction and arousal. It’s our pure vital essence. It’s feeling blissed-out, turned on, enraptured with life. It is an infinite wellspring of energy. Tapping into this part of life and ourselves is our right as humans, and we all deserve a safe and supportive space for this process.
Our Sexual Stories
About 5 years ago, despite being in a loving relationship to someone I am attracted to, I started to become disinterested in sex. This was, in part, because I was in the middle of a depressive time in my life. But there was also a physiological layer, and I discovered that my hormones were a mess after being on birth control for 17 years. (What a cruel irony—we give women the right to birth control, only so it can wreak havoc on our endocrine systems.) I was hypothyroid and had no libido for years. It sucked. I felt embarrassed that I didn’t feel sexual anymore, like there was something wrong with me.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, approximately 27-34 percent of women suffer from low sexual desire (Clay, 2009). Sadly, there are virtually no options for women suffering from decreased sexual desire in mainstream medicine, unlike for men. Hilariously, my OBGYN had no encouragement for me and suggested I go back on the pill. But luckily, I had the support of my partner and found some wonderful practitioners to help me figure out a plan. Getting my groove back wasn’t as simple as putting some Maca in my morning smoothie. It required a deeper examination of what was going on. For me, I needed to do three things: 1) spend some time understanding how I had been conditioned by my family and culture to feel badly about sex; 2) accept that I was in a process of feeling unsexual; 3) connect with supportive resources and formulate a healing plan.
I’ve spoken to other folks who are in similar situations, perhaps because they tend to fall more on the asexual end of the spectrum, or because they have recently become mothers, gone through menopause, or haven’t yet addressed some sexual trauma. Our culture shows us the sexual ideal is being hypersexual. It can actually be liberating to not have sex on the brain all the time—it frees up time and energy for other things. We might not always feel super sexual, and that’s ok, too.
Some Beginning Steps
As I said, I am not a sexual health expert or tantrika (someone who is trained as a guide to assist in the sexual awakening process), however, I do feel my story, experience, and associated healing work are valuable to share. When we heal ourselves, we heal others and the planet. This extends to our sexual healing as well—it’s quantum. It’s pretty radical to allow for a deeper sexual integration and it’s not something most of us have been conditioned to do, so it might feel scary and unfamiliar at first.
Saying No and the Function of the Second Chakra
In infancy and into childhood, our chakras grow in tandem with our development. Our second chakra, which is located just below the navel, is connected to our sexual organs. It goes online around the time we learn to say “no.” In a healthy family system, a child is encouraged to learn how to say no and learn to differentiate between their own needs and the needs of others. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t conditioned with the healthiest of boundaries and never truly learn how to say no. Saying no happens from the sexual center. If you are a sexual trauma survivor, as an adult you may struggle with consciously saying no and feeling safe in romantic relationships.
In my clinical experience, I’ve found that people generally have an easier time in their own sexuality and in sexual relationships when they are able to trust themselves enough to know when to say no. The sex organs actually hold a consciousness and it is possible to set up a dialogue with this part of your body. In Focusing, the type of somatic modality I use in practice, we invite a connection with various “felt senses” within the body. Safety is crucial in sexual healing, and connecting with the part of you that can say no is imperative so you can proceed at your own pace.
Seeking Outside Support
How does one approach supporting a sexual awakening? Who needs sexual healing? Even though I’m connected to a comprehensive network of healers and practitioners, it was difficult for me to even know where to turn for help. Fortunately, there are people out there offering different approaches to support your sexual healing and awakening. I’ve listed some at the end of this post.
Sometimes there aren’t finite answers to our questions and it’s more helpful to be in the inquiry. Here are some additional questions that may be useful as you consider what kind of support you need:
Do you feel you’re allowed to feel good about sex?
Do you feel you have any barriers to experiencing pleasure?
Do you feel uncomfortable in your body? Do you feel uncomfortable having an orgasm with yourself or with someone else?
Do you have any emotional or physical sexual trauma that may need to be addressed?
Do you have any gender/non-gender binary or sexual orientation inquiries?
Are you terrified of intimacy and enjoying sex because it makes you feel vulnerable?
What kind of support do you feel you need to explore your sexuality?
It sounds so basic, but many of us are not accessing true relaxation. I’m not talking about mindlessly scrolling through Instagram to unwind. I’m talking about deep, theta-brain-waves, shavasana-gong-meditation, sleeping-in-a-cabin-in-the-woods relaxation. You have to be able to relax to enjoy sex. If you’re new to sex and want to explore what intimacy in a relationship feels like—you have to relax. If you’re interested in studying tantric sex and kundalini because you want to learn how to ejaculate and have multiple orgasms, then guess what? Relaxing is the first step there, too.
In her book, Pussy, Regena Thomashauer says that the absence of the feminine is the absence of pleasure. Many of us are not very comfortable being relaxed and feeling pleasure. We think we want it, but it’s actually a difficult state for us to experience. The more you can support your parasympathetic nervous system (our rest and digest system) the easier it will be to begin your journey. Perhaps you have an aversion to relaxing. Certainly, in NYC it’s easier said than done. It’s easier to relax when you feel safe. It’s easier to access relaxation in nature, so spend some time in a park or near a body of water, which can be particularly therapeutic. If you need help making a practice of relaxing it could be a perfect opportunity to up your self-care and work with an alternative healthcare practitioner.