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Backstage pass to Eros

Abandoned backstage entrance of an old Vaudeville house. Photo by Eric Francis.

Whether to have sex may have been a bigger question for me than it was for Amanda, but let’s call it equal: she’s a thoughtful person and does not usually jump into things without a bit of pondering. For my part, I was wondering whether I had abstained from sex for long enough. This phase was like a condensed review course of everything I’ve studied, explored and learned about erotic reality my whole life, and I’ve been paying attention for a while.

To review for a moment, I had made a series of choices leading me to take contact sex, that is, intercourse and oral sex, out of my life for a while, and I was taking this in 45 day experiences that went from a cross-quarter day (starting at Sahwen or Halloween) to the winter solstice to Imbolc to the equinox and so on. This had gone on for about six months, and I was now at a point of continuing or making a change.

Beltane was a compelling juncture because the essence of my particular form of Goddess worship involves celebrating sexuality at this particular time of year. Since I started doing this, I’ve been blessed with the right woman or women just at the right time, and it is very much about fulfilling a mutual purpose: to praise the Goddess of love and abundance. Being with the right partner implies awareness of why it’s meaningful as a ritual and celebration of existence and not ‘just sex’.

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LIberation Central

Neisha, in a photo for Book of Blue by Eric Francis.

Before I move onto a series about the cosmic wonders of the vulva, I’m here to lay another cornerstone in the foundation of the universe. That is: masturbation is the core of sexual reality. As such, it often becomes the place where nearly all shame, guilt, embarrassment and humiliation around sexuality come home to roost. While this is not consciously true for everyone, it is so pervasive that it’s worth checking for in everyone.

Cheers from the roof if you’ve made masturbation an authentic delve into selflove; you who have contacted and grown the inner relationship aspect. Who have made friends with yourself and your needs; anyone who takes refuge there, relationshipless, but actually not lonely.

Hello to everyone less confident. Masturbation is (by the generic rules of our society) literally shadow sex. It is the sex we tend to hide; to not want to openly do or talk about. This is no great shock; there is a ban on the topic.

Strange, though, in a society that is also defined as uniquely narcissistic. Given how much we’re allegedly into ourselves, it’s amazing anyone at all possesses misgivings, and amazing that we do so much seeking of the other. But we are conditioned – read up and you’ll see. Part of the suspected danger of masturbation to society, the reason for the clampdown, is the anarchistic nature of fantasy, which knows no social taboos and doesn’t care about the gay marriage debate. I believe it’s fantasy that’s taboo more than the actual jack or jill-off. Cus’ as you know, you never know who could come up. Plenty of early anti-masturbation literature raises this point. Morals and the imagination do not mix.

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Our secret face

Dixie, the mirror and the Sybian; photo by Eric Francis.

It’s possible to analyze shame and get some understanding of it, but at a certain point we must move from the concealed stage into the exposed stage, where healing can occur. Shame is easier to understand if we remember that it’s about hiding, and that means mainly hiding one’s own existence. Along with that, we tend to hide the source of the shame, the stories about the injuries, and the pain that they cause us. Revealing all of this, to ourselves and to select others, is part of healing the damage.

Everyone has their own secrets and their own secret face of shame, but the truth is we all share the same face.

By revealing that face that we open up the way to healing. Witnessing others and learning to hold space for their process is an essential part of this; whether we are the ones revealing ourselves, or witnessing, the process is similar, but I think that we must explore both sides of the equation. Both involve taking a risk. Both take us through different facets of the experiences of shame, embarrassment, humiliation and guilt. There is a risk, in this vulnerable space, that new injuries can occur – that is often the case in a healing process, and care must be taken to avoid this.

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Rose, in a photo for Book of Blue by Eric Francis.

I emerged from six months of conscious celibacy with one thing mainly, which is confidence. I recognize it because it’s confidence that I’ve never felt before; in Hakomi therapy I learned to identify a missing experience when I was having one, and this counts.

Six months is not long; it was an experiment, but for the prior couple of years, most of that time in a long-distance monogamous relationship, I had been grooming my erotic life in that direction. Along that journey I explored many of the same modalities that I chose to work with exclusively between Sahwen and Beltane. These were nearly all experiments in relationship and how I perceive it; in relationship and how sexuality integrates with it.

The deepest of these were two in nature: confronting female sexual power, and learning sexual self-reliance. By confronting female sexual power, I specifically mean two things: one is the prerogative of women to make sexual choices; and confronting my usual state of feeling inferior to women, and subjected to their power based exclusively on their sexuality. There are few better ways to level the field than by figuring out how to not need something that someone else has. Sexual power is based on perceived need. Rampant abuse of that need-based power turns sex into something that it is not, and if you were to parse out many problems that we face in our relationships, I believe that would be at the core of most of them.

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