Copyright ©1998 by Eric Francis
Guilt about sex is guilt about life. Guilt about your own sexuality and shame around your pleasure mean that you are struggling for life. Give up the struggle. Just come into yourself and be alive. In this article, I will give some suggestions for how you can practice doing this in some really fun ways.
I recognize that many of us are in some kind of crisis, living in a state of overload or feeling out of control; many of us are looking for direction, and in response, we're seeking some form of spiritual enlightenment.
Virtually all enlightenment programs teach that love is the answer to everything, and many speak about loving yourself as the essential ingredient to this state of mind. The Golden Rule is to "love thy neighbor as thyself," but notice that nowhere is there mention of physical self-love and self-pleasuring. Of course, if religion let on that giving yourself great orgasms was the easiest way to find God, love and freedom, you would probably have reasons for knocking on your neighbor's door other than borrowing a cup of sugar.
And you'd have more creative things to do on a lovely Sunday morning than sit in a dark building hearing about what a bad person you are.
Have you ever noticed that the basis of organized religion is limiting, banning or attacking sexuality? Is this a ridiculous question? From Judaism to Christianity, from Islam to many Eastern brands of wisdom, repressive ideas are the core message. They include mandatory separation of the sexes, intentionally treating women like garbage, preaching that lust is evil, teaching that the body is ungodly, demanding strict adherence to the traditions of the past, banning even casual physical contact (the orthodox Jewish cashier must lay the change on the counter, so as not to touch the hand of the male customer), restraining desire, not ejaculating, prohibiting nudity, and a stupendous assortment of poisonous notions all of which say that sex and sexual feelings are sinful, shameful, selfish, possibly OK in rare circumstances, bad, terrible, or generally horrible.
Among the allegedly most dark, shameful and diabolical of all sexual activities is masturbation. In almost all spiritual teachings, physical self-love is either shunned, ignored or strictly forbidden. And the secular community is about as enlightened. As of 1971, the Oxford English Dictionary defined masturbation as "self-abuse" and gave examples only in a psychiatric context, never alluding to any concept of pleasure. You may think things have changed, but it was only a couple of years ago that Jocelyn Elders was fired as Surgeon General after putting forth the shocking notion that masturbation was a good alternative to getting AIDS and dying. Isn't this strange? Have you ever wondered what the big deal is all about?
Banning pleasure is a brilliant business plan. You feel sexuality as a natural part of being alive. Since (according to the priest, minister, rabbi, guru, independent counsel, or whoever) sexuality is very, very bad, you will naturally feel guilty and shameful. Therefore, you need religion or products to save you. And then you are under control, making regular donations, and spreading The Word rather than the revolution.
The formula is simple: If you want to control a person, control their sexuality. If you want to control a society, make sex a crime or a disease. If you're a modern business, such as a clothing, liquor, car or cigarette company, and you want to make a lot (I mean a lot) of money, tap into the endless well of deeply-ingrained religious repression, and sell people back an illusion of their sexuality. Use their insatiable desire, put a sexy woman next to the car or posing with the cigarette, and promise deep and total fulfillment. Then watch your stocks go up.
Advertising pumps out repetitive messages, called "memes." The one thing most memes have in common is the running theme, "You are not good enough the way you are. You are insecure. You suck. You are not popular / cool / hot / hip / beautiful enough. You smell, you're not sexy, you're really ugly and you should really hate yourself. But if you buy this product, you will be fine."
The product, by the way, is always death. Christianity is a death-cult, as evidenced by its logo (an execution). Corporations that sell illusions of sex are the same ones that exploit and destroy the biosphere for profit. Have you considered that one form of death-pollution led directly to the other? That sexual repression is the core issue in environmental destruction?
If we want a revolution, liberating our sexuality is the place to start. No matter what else people do to wage political or social rebellion - be it from oppressive governments, the psychology of advertising, racism, sexism, repressive religion, or corporations that are rapidly colonizing our minds and destroying the planet - any revolution that is not a sexual revolution at its heart will fail. Sex energy is the spark of life. It is the calling of eternity. Sex energy is the infallible compass within us always pointing in the direction of life and freedom, orienting us toward reality. Here are some simple techniques that have worked for me and many people I know.
A lot of people share stories of their sexual experiences with me, and I am continuously reminded how many people have never experienced orgasm, much less a deep orgasm. Women seem to be more conscious of this than men, and more willing to experiment, learn and share experiences with each other.
No matter how old you are, no matter how much you have struggled or how hung-up you think you are, you can learn to feel yourself. I suggest you learn by yourself. I agree with Betty Dodson, the world's foremost (and perhaps only) orgasm coach, that it's better not to expect your lover to "give you" your first orgasm. This is your experience; give it to yourself, then, when you feel ready, share it with other people.
I've noticed that a lot of people withhold orgasm from themselves. This is the best way to become a control freak, and the experience is not pleasant. Orgasm, which is surrender, is the opposite of control. Control is what the church does.
Orgasms are fun, but they're valuable as more than just pleasurable. They are experiences of surrendering the tightly-strung conscious mind and remembering a much vaster, freer aspect of self. We can enter the space of orgasm and loosen our desperate grip on life. We allow change and flow into our lives. Orgasm seems to open up a psychic door to another sphere of consciousness, one that in my experience exists all the time, but which we only reach momentarily with each burst of ecstasy. If you want to be free and feel your human power, practice experiencing deep experiences of sexual surrender, and this place will not seem so far away.
I have also encountered people who tell me they have no sexual fantasies. I have always found this difficult to believe, but trusted the people who were telling me. It's OK to open your mind and dream and desire. Your sexual fantasies will lead the way to deeper sexual realities. In your fantasy life, allow yourself total uncensored freedom to think about or imagine anything you want, which is another fine exercise in your divine right to be on alive the planet.
Through the Looking Glass
One of the most powerful memes, or repeated messages of both religion and advertising is, "You are incomplete and you need another person." So, very early in life, we are cast off from ourselves and embark on an endless quest of finding the perfect other. And it turns out to be a pretty hopeless search for most people, wrought with endless pain and loss, which ferments into resentment and hatred. You will not find anyone outside yourself until you have found you deep within yourself. Our culture pushes the idea of monogamy, but we forget that "mono" means ONE. You are the one.
Mirror masturbation is a confrontation with your essential self, your uncluttered beauty and your most real sexuality. This is the basic exercise in authentic self-expression. It may seem shameful at first, and you may be repulsed by the idea. You may think, "Why would I want to do that?" or immediately conclude that it's stupid or disgusting; you may feel a shot of fear course through your body, perhaps the fear that you'll get caught, or that someone else will know. Or you may be thrilled at the prospect of such an adventure.
Masturbation is about being your own lover, and mirror masturbation is a very direct and obvious way to experience this.
"As soon as I start touching me, this face changes," my friend Maria wrote to me yesterday. "There is my lover looking at me. It is Him, Her. I feel myself being very soft, feeling what I feel, slowly, deep. No pressure, no force, no fear. Nothing but listening and watching. And I know I am in love with my soul, eyes, my face, the warmth of my body. I am becoming my own lover. I have found my way back home."
The fact that so many people are repulsed or would never dare to talk or think about masturbating passionately and lovingly in front of a mirror is an indication of its power. The veil is shame. Shame is powerful; it is a door. Where you feel embarrassment, you are holding back energy, and you will release your strength as you do. Shame is the map to your strength.
Go through the door and find out what is on the other side. In any aspect of sexuality, the stronger the shame, the more pleasure and power it conceals. Sexual shame conceals a deeper shame of being alive. Often a great well of guilt is veiled as "a little guilt," and I suggest you explore this possibility. If you have any lingering traces of resistance or guilt around your existence, here is where you'll uncover them, and where you're likely to let them go - in front of a mirror.
Some people suffering from self-hatred in the form of "body image" issues, like not being good-looking enough, feeling overweight, awkward or otherwise unsexy, are likely to resist the most strongly, and, by no coincidence, find the greatest relief and healing.
We are taught that our self-image is something we put on. I would propose it's something that's far better taken off. All the bullshit loaded on us by religion and advertising and ex-lovers about how ugly we are can drop off like silk. You will feel better for doing this. Your life will change.
You'll need two mirrors, a little one to get a close-up look at what your genitals and face look like in a state of ecstasy, and a larger one for the full body view. Sex books and Our Bodies, Our Selves have been recommending the make-up mirror routine to women forever, but largely as an anatomical exercise; finally, in Sex for One, masturbation pioneer Betty Dodson turned it into an artistic experience of seeing how beautiful your genitals are.
The large mirror is best floor-length, and better if it's wide enough to see your feet. You need to be close enough to make clear eye contact with yourself. I suggest something that touches the floor, and can be angled; then sit on the floor, where you have room to spread out. However, any mirror will do.
The idea is not just to see what you look like masturbating, but rather to see what you look like feeling what you're feeling, and to witness the beauty of this. Stay with you. Remain aware. At times masturbating in front of mirrors, I have barely recognized the sight of my own face, and seen many expressions for the first time. These are not the faces I put on for the world; I have had to get used to what I really looked like in a state of openness and release rather than in "personality mode."I have seen in my own eyes the expression of loneliness and sexual deprivation, and watched it melt away as I drew closer to myself. In one experience, green spirals shot between my eyes and the reflection of my eyes as I went into my orgasm.
I suggest you watch yourself undress, exploring the visual impression of your body, and witness your physical responses as you get turned on; watch as you explore your pleasure, and dare to explore yourself a little deeper. As you witness this, tune into the feeling of compassion for yourself. There is a lot of passion in compassion, and this is where you will find it. Move into a safe space of total love and acceptance of yourself; it's easy; brush away the veils; see yourself beautiful. You are.
Feel your erotic self. Then watch yourself fuck yourself, taste yourself, scream in pleasure or whatever it is that turns you on. Then, I suggest you watch as you completely surrender to the experience and your orgasm looking directly into your eyes. This is difficult at first for some people; if you find that it is, keep practicing and you'll get it.
The idea is to literally come into yourself. Fill your entire consciousness with yourself; come, become, and be free.
These experiences will begin to make a lasting visual and emotional impression on your psyche, and you will start to see yourself differently and exist more comfortably and naturally. You will breathe more naturally within your own being. You will become more comfortable with change. Ecstasy means ex-stasis, or freedom from being stuck. We need this desperately. As you leave behind your guilt and shame about self-love, you will begin to let go of all other kinds of psychological resistances to who you are. You will start to feel who you are, and who you are is strong and wonderful. Keep experimenting. You might want to keep a diary of your trip into yourself.
What you really sound like in a state of ecstasy is as beautiful as what you look like. Many of us hold back on vocalizing out of shame or fear of being heard; in this experience, you will explore just what you sound like as you record yourself masturbating and experiencing orgasm. And you will be able to listen attentively in normal states of consciousness, and in states of sexual ecstasy.
Modern technology has just about guaranteed that there is a tape recorder in every house. Many boomboxes record in stereo. The basic idea is that you start the tape, and then masturbate making a lot of noise. Talk, breathe, moan, groan, describe, explain, fantasize out loud, and otherwise express in sound. This is likely to feel somewhat strange at first; but keep going, it's worth it.
Let your passion build. Watch in a mirror if you want. Tell yourself you love yourself. Say it out loud, again and again: "I love you _______" (your name).
Note any embarrassment you might feel. Isn't it amazing that we can experience a trace of shame around self-love? Well, it's more amazing to let it go. Remember to keep doing what embarrasses you the most, because this is where the pleasure and power of who you are hidden.
Drag the experience out. Keep your voice going, breathe deeply, and take up a lot of tape. Then when you're ready, have a roaring, singing, crying, explosive and otherwise vocally free orgasm. Let it out. This is your primal voice, the voice from which all others emanate.
Now for part two: Rewind the tape and listen to it. Use headphones if you want full fidelity and a sense of privacy, or put the tape in your stereo and turn up the speaker volume and advertise to the whole house.
Explore and study yourself. Rewind and playback interesting sequences of the tape. Listen to your process of negotiating your surrender. Listen to how beautiful you are; how human; how necessary. You're likely to feel some inclination to go for it again, a rumbling of deep and unusual desire for yourself to explore new and uncharted regions of your reality. You're now experiencing yourself in a different kind of mirror, an auditory psychic and emotional reflection pool. Take a swim.
Listen to what it sounds like to hear yourself telling yourself you love yourself. Orgasm with yourself as you listen. Feel how much deeper you can go as you use this to enhance your sense of your own reality and presence. Rewind the tape and do it again; let go into other parts of the tape, exploring subtle nuances that you discover turn you on. Or play it over and over and see how you feel and what you learn about yourself.
I've discovered the advanced version of this experience. First, I recorded a tape of myself masturbating, then played it back and made love to myself out loud, listening to the sounds of my own pleasure - and recorded this whole experience in another tape machine. What I ended up with was a wildly erotic recording of two people passionately loving each other, both of whom were the same gender, and both of whom happened to be me. Anyone who is bi-curious will find this a particularly exciting piece of recorded art. You will start to get a feeling for what you're so curious about.
This double recording may seem like a major technical feat; actually, it's easy. All you need is an extra tape and some other machine that plays tapes, such as a stereo. You only need one machine that records. It will be worth the effort, of that I can assure you.
You might be afraid that someone will discover this project. If you're feeling this, following the "use your embarrassment as power" principle, I suggest you share it with someone you trust. It might be a close friend, of the same or opposite sex. If you have a lover, they are probably a good candidate. It may be very erotic to play the tape of yourself while you are having sex with your partner; maybe they will go into the recording studio next.
Once you are comfortable having genuine, passionate sex with yourself, or at least on your way there, I suggest you expand the experience to include other people. Human beings make powerful mirrors.
Masturbation is usually considered a lonely activity. Yet particularly among heterosexual adults, is considered one of the most private and shameful activities. Perhaps there is a connection. Kids do it together all the time, but then the scourge of grownupness sets in, and that means a rigid ego structure, and that means repression and pain. Experiencing how shame is power becomes very obvious when someone is watching you masturbate.
We are taught to shun "exhibitionism," and we associate it with Pee Wee Herman and the guy in the overcoat in the park. But as the Solo web page explains, we all have a legitimate psychological need to be seen and appreciated for who we authentically are, and this is especially true of our sexuality, where so much disapproval is stored up. And we are naturally curious about other peoples' inner dynamics and their relationships with themselves. The cloak of guilt is so heavy, all we want to do is let it down.
Many college roommates live with an almost constant sexual tension; they have to live with the fact that they masturbate, and they may hear or see one another doing it secretly; it's only a small step to bringing it together and making the experience conscious.
Best friends, new friends, same-sex friends, opposite-sex friends, new lovers and old lovers: anyone is a possibility, as long as they're into it. If you're too shy to ask, show them this article and see how they react.
Gay men have invented something called jackoff buddies, who are essentially self-love lovers; lots of women do it together, though you probably don't hear about it much. Cousins and siblings seem to do this quite a lot. I'm not a shrink, but these sexual experiences seem to be quite normal and popular. Communities of interest are forming. Club Stroke and the Solo web page have many stories about shared masturbation experiences. There are personal ads and places to swap videos and still photographs. Club Stroke has a photo gallery of home photos of men and women masturbating. It is very liberating to see the variety of people and ways in which they express their self-love. Membership is $12 a year, but you get a free year if they accept one of your photos for publication.
Because I am not monogamous, I experience new lovers on a fairly regular basis. What I've found is that sexual relationships unfold much more naturally after we've masturbated together, and the reason is that we're expressing the fact that genuine affection for one another emerges from self-love. This experience is a great dissolver of boundaries, vanity and false modesty that drive many relationships apart. I am reluctant to have sex with someone before we have masturbated together for these reasons.
I've had friends who were primarily masturbation partners; sometimes it's a natural direction for sexual relationships to take, particularly if they are growing in the direction of independence.
Many people have discovered that it turns them on to watch their lover masturbating, or that they love to be witnessed. This is one of the most profound experiences of self-disclosure available. If you the one showing, really allow your partner to see how much you love yourself. If you are watching, just pay attention -- don't touch. I have found that this experience is the strongest when there is no contact between the people; let your lover be independent and autonomous, while you simply see, feel and listen.
I strongly suggest you experiment with mirror masturbation with your partner, which is surely one good, healthy expression of "going the whole way" with self-love in front of someone you love. One way to do this is to masturbate in front of a large mirror while your partner watches. The other way is to use a small, hand-held mirror. The partner who is watching then holds the mirror in front of the one who is masturbating.
If you have a lover, here is a radical honesty exercise you can share with him or her. One person masturbates; the other watches and listens as their partner sets forth an uncensored, stream-of-consciousness roll of sexual fantasy. Agree in the beginning on full amnesty; agree for the purposes of this game that anyone or anything is subject to enter the picture. The purpose is telling the uncensored truth about your inner sexual life, being unconditionally received, and taking it all the way to orgasm. Some interesting things will come out in the wash, and you will feel much cleaner, clearer and more integrated for having done this. Then, trade places with your partner and do it again. You will be astonished at how much intimacy this opens up between you, and how great it feels to have no sexual secrets.
One last experience I will share along this thread is group masturbation. Otherwise known as the masturbation orgy, it may sound like a pretty wild fantasy. However, I recently participated in one at the recent Loving More magazine conference, a twice-annual event for people committed to living a conscious, non-monogamous lifestyle. The masturbation orgy was an unofficial event, not listed on the conference program, but it was quite popular. For the past couple of years, I've been going to sexuality and relationship conferences, and I each time I rediscover that the main thing missing is any emphasis on self-love, physical or otherwise.
So I took some initiative. First, I proposed the idea to one of my partners who was there. She agreed, and had actually been to a "Jack- and Jill-Off" (as she called them) before. We then talked to another male-female couple willing to be co-conspirators. We all agreed on the place (our room) and the time (after the end of all conference activities, at around midnight). With the four of us down, we knew that something interesting would happen. We then spread the word. Just inviting people, one by one, was a thrill in itself; I approached every person I liked or considered remotely attractive. We didn't ask anyone to promise anything, we just invited people we liked, and waited to see who would show up.
The resulting party was quite a celebration. About fifteen people (about 10% of the total conference) packed into our little room; the price of admission was undressing. With a gang of nude, sex-positive people committed to masturbating together all stuffed into one place, it wasn't long before things got going, and it was three hours before everyone left. It was both fascinating and beautiful to watch people pleasure themselves in front of others with the full approval, cheers and emotional support of everyone. I can hardly imagine anything else being so empowering and so humbling at the same time.
Well, as I reread these words, it seems like we have come through the looking glass. I can feel the power of unconditional self-approval, and the joy of spreading these ideas and experiences to you.
It took many years for me to figure out that guilt is useless, it is toxic and it kills us. These experiences will help you free yourself from the guilt of being who you are, and teach you about who that person is. Self-knowledge is a dangerous thing. People who know themselves cannot be bullshitted by anyone else. They are unlikely to fall for the sick preachings of religion. Once you have experienced life free from guilt, you will never want it again.
But remember guilt has a purpose: our guilt is the means by which other people control us. Self-disparaging people are easy to control. Being around other people who do not thrive on guilt and self-attack can take some getting used to, because they are free, and they challenge us to be free. And when we drop our guilt and can no longer be shamed, the people around us may initially react negatively because we're not leaving them any convenient handles to yank us around with. We give up our guilt; they lose their power; everyone is happier. So it goes on the way to freedom.
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