Author Archive for Heather

Even when it’s scary…..

Knowing you need to have a difficult conversation is one thing.  Feeling prepared to actually have that conversation is another – and I don’t even mean a conversation in which we’re asking someone to recognize a way we’ve been hurt or telling someone we need to change our relationship.  Any conversation that pokes at our vulnerabilities, raises our insecurities or we feel invested in a particular outcome could fall under the category of difficult conversations. This includes something as “simple” as asking someone to meet our desires, or figuring out if they share our attraction.

It’s great practice to front-load our conversations by sharing our fears and asking for support before we get into the meat of the conversation, but it can be tricky to identify how to figure that our.

Start by finding a quiet space for yourself. Bring up the idea of what you need to talk about – try to avoid running the conversation in your head, or guessing at the person’s reactions. Just think in general like: I want to tell someone I like them and find out if they like me too.  Or I need to figure out how I can feel more secure in my new relationship.

Conversation by Valery Kenski

Conversation by Valery Kenski

Now that you’ve got that clear, start with the why:  Why do you want to have this conversation? To fix a problem, to figure out if you should put more energy into the connection, to feel heard so you can move past whatever’s got feeling the feels?  Clarity on why is this conversation is important can help remind you why it’ll be worth it.  Also, it’ll make sure you’re having the conversation with the right person.    Next, consider these specific questions: You might find it helpful to write out your answers in bullet form below the questions (it’s often more than one single thing)

What am I afraid of losing?
What am I afraid of being judged over?
What feels scare/in short supply?

Stop of a minute to grab a glass of water to take a few deeps breaths. It’s scary to wrangle these thoughts questions so take excellent care of you, but don’t stop yet, I’ve got 3 more questions for you:

What do I need to feel safe enough to say something scary?
What do I need to believe I’m not being judged?
What would help me believe in abundance right now?

Once that you’ve got some clarity on what’s challenging about this convo and how you can take some of the challenge away, use that information to support yourself while doing the scary thing.  If it’s starting a difficult conversation with a loved one you can use your fears to ask for compassion and specific support from the other person. If it’s less of a conversation and more of an invitation you want to give someone, use what you’ve learned to pep talk yourself around your fears and offer yourself the compassion you need.

It’s okay to still be scared when you’re having the conversation. Doing things that make us feel vulnerable or challenged are going to be uncomfortable. Become uncomfortable isn’t the same as being unsafe though, so shore up your courage, take a deep breath and go do the thing. I believe in you. ♥

Tips and Tricks: Basic Sex Ed Resources List

When you don’ t know what you don’t sex ed can feel really overwhelming –  there are so many options out there!  Each of these books are trusted and recommended by me – Either I know and trust the author, or I’ve read the books myself.

Not seeing what you want here?  Contact me directly for a recommendation.

[Those are affiliate links via amazon, so while you’re getting quality sex ed you also get to support me and the work I do – thanks!]

Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life
Emily Nagoski

Ecstasy is Necessary: A Practical Guide
Barbara Carrellas

Girls Sex 101
Allison Moon

Lesbian Sex Secrets for Men
Amy Jo Goddard

The Nice Girl’s Guide to Talking Dirty: Ignite Your Sex Life with Naughty Whispers, Hot Desires, and Screams of Passion
Dr. Ruth Neustifter

Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century
Barbara Carrellas

Being Gentle Vs Being Generous – Which Helps You More?

Exploring your sexuality is hard work.  Exploring your authenticity is hard work.  Both of these things kick up our fears an insecurities and I bet more than once you’ve heard a little voice in your head asking am I too much?  Will I ever met someone who wants me as I am?  Am I doing this whole thing wrong?  And the on top of those doubts we might give ourselves a double whammy by shaming our fears, telling ourselves that we shouldn’t be afraid of rejection or fearful that we can’t hack getting to the root of ourselves, or the worst:  If I was better, I wouldn’t be feeling this

And so we preach self care, and going slowly, and being gentle with ourselves.  But do we risk going too far with that message?  I’ve got more to say on that:

When Women Coerce – and What We Can Do About It

There is a fantastic article on ravishly right now that I truly encourage you to read.  I’m going to put the link down at the bottom of the page, because I don’t want you to be scared off by the title.  It’s about consent, and how we as women sometimes fail to practice is as well as we should, especially in our relationships with men.  So, before I send you away to read the article, I want to give you some practical solutions for tackling this and bringing the conversation of consent into your relationship.

You’ve probably been there; you want sex, but your partner is hesitant.  And while there are definitely reasons for having sex you might not be super enthusiastic about having, it’s imperative that you stay on the right side on consent here.  If your partner says no and you turn to aggressive seduction, coercion or emotional manipulation you’re on the wrong side.

Author Suzannah Weiss writes some hard truths in this piece, but I think it is so completely necessary:

The truth of the matter is, if you convince someone to sleep with you, then the sex is not 100% consensual. It’s not necessarily rape, but it is a form of misconduct…. Women especially often don’t see when we’re violating someone’s boundaries because of the myth that we’re incapable of sexual misconduct. We’re taught that men always want sex and that we’re not powerful enough to make them do anything. The media depicts women’s attempts to manipulate men into sex as cute, comical, and always welcome. That, too, is dangerous.

This concept, that women can and do (and are often socialized) to use emotional manipulation and coercive tactics to get our own way when it comes to sex is such an important part of the overall discussion about consent in our culture – the fact is that sexist double standards flow all manner of ways, and when we know better we *must* do better.

Romantic DinnerI’m a huge fan of seduction, especially if I’ve had a long day and I’m not necessarily in the mood for date night.  One of my favourite things to do is greet my lover dressed up in lingerie; or in nothing but heels and a smile.  Dressing up or playing the part of seductress helps me push the idea of Netflix and popcorn further back into my head and gears me up for the sex I really do want to be having.  But I need to make a point of being considerate of my lover and making sure they know sex doesn’t have to be on the table.  Often opening the door to high heels and sheer fabric helps connect them to the sex they really want too, but it’s so important to me that they know sex isn’t mandatory.  I’ve been fortunate to have relationships with men who were willing to be honest about their fears of having to preform the role of macho man and all the tropes that come with it.  Through their honesty we could negotiate how we could indulge my enjoyment while balancing it with their emotional security.

I want seduction to be an invitation, not an obligation.

If this article gives you feels, I encourage you not to abandon your attempts to initiate sex with your partner, but rather talk with them about how they like to be seduced. Learn when a playful push is welcome and when it isn’t, and share with them how they can communicate with you where they’re a no with minimal feelings of rejection on your part and create a go to back up plan so you two can still be intimate without the pressure of sex (my go to is snuggling and comedy; lightens the mood and we still get physical connection.

Give the article a read, and like I said, if it kicks up feelings, remember this is a moment you can grow and find ways to connect even more authentically with your lovers.  And if you need support around having this conversation, or even learning how to talk to your partner about sexuality reach out, that’s what I”m here for!

Should You Be Having Sex You Don’t Want?

Many moons ago, Psychologist Samantha Rodman wrote an article for the HufPo telling people that they should be having sex – even when they don’t want to –  for the sake of keeping intimacy alive in their long term relationships.  Today that writing made it’s way into my newsfeed, and despite being pretty tardy to the party, I wanted to write on this topic because it’s something people in long term relationships express to me often – a mixture of shame, guilt, and frustration all swirled up in this idea that they should be having sex (or more sex) with their partner.  Because that’s what wives, husbands, partners do right?

First of all, I want to be clear:  I have sympathy for the message of sometimes the relationship is more important than the individual.  I get why ‘suck it up’ can sometimes feel like the right action to take in our partnerships.  But as a standalone,  that message is riddled with problems, and at the end of the day you shouldn’t be forcing yourself to have sex out of an outdated idea of obligation to a partnership.  You never owe anyone sex – and beyond that, it’s way too easy to slip into a pattern of obligation sex without ever looking at the root of your sexual disconnection.  This often leads to further disconnection and even resentment of your partner.

What that truth doesn’t mean though, is that you’re going to wind up in a sexless long term relationship either.  Often there are a number of factors at play and getting to the root of that is paramount to moving beyond what you’re feeling challenged by, either as a couple of as individuals within a relationship.  Even becoming aware of the whys behind your actions can make a huge impact on the choices you make next , and in my work as a coach I often help people do just that.

Rodman hints throughout her article article that if you aren’t feeling the sexy right now you should press on and given what we know about spontaneous vs responsive desire (that is sexual desire pops up seemingly out no where vs. sexual desire that pops up in response to erotic things happening) there’s some serious merit to that point.  Sometimes we need context to get our libidos revved up – it’s true for most women and many men.  So if you’re willing to have sex with your partner, but not yet feeling aroused enough to do it, try one of these:

  • Ask your partner to read you some erotic or tell you about  the place they want to lick, kiss, and suck on your body
  • Have your partner put on some sexy music and light some candles while you start touching yourself in ways you really like.  Let your partner know when you’re ready for them to join in – or invite them to touch themselves and indulge in a hot and heavy mutual masturbation session!
  • Grab a couples shower and spend at least 15 minutes washing your partner down without touching their genitals.

Shifting the focus away from penetrative sex can also ease some of the uncertainty engaging in sexual activity with our partners when we aren’t feeling the connection to desire we want.  By shifting away from insert penis/toy/Tab A into vagina/ass/Slot B routine into an exploration of intimate touch – that you both can opt out of if you wish –  can give everyone more freedom and breath some much needed freshness into our intimate connections.  If you want to explore that, try any or all of these:

  • Slow dance to your favourite sultry playlist
  • Set the timer for 5 minutes and for that time your partner will only touch you in the ways you directly asked to be touched
  • Trade full body rub downs (you can switch right away or next date if you want to revel in that ooey-gooey feeling for as long as possible)
  • Five Words:  Old School Make Out Session (just keep it to third base!)
  • Make a conscious effort to talk to your partner about what you’re up for and not up for right now with regards to sex, what parts of your body are ready to be engaged, and which ones are we going to hold off on?  What parts of their body are ready to be engaged and which are we going to hold off on?  This must be a two way conversation.

I really don’t think we should be having sex when we don’t want it.  It’s not staying true to our authentic sexuality (which, you should know by now is kinda my shtick), and it leads down bad roads, but that doesn’t mean we have to opt out of sharing intimacies.  Don’t make your life more complicated by creating false dichotomies when there are so many options out there!

Lost your Mojo?

Lost that loving feeling?  Surprisingly normal!  Many people lose their connection to desire, and despite what we often get told,  it doesn’t have to mean there’s anything wrong with you.

Talking about Sex Means TALKING About Sex.

The Consent is like Tea analogy is making the rounds again, and while it’s great to see pro-consent messages floating around the tubes, this analogy falls into an oversimplification trap.  Which means when we try to apply this analogy to real life, it falls down.

Emily Nagoski over at The Dirty Normal lays the oversimplification trap out nicely, so I won’t reiterate, I’ll quote:

Photo by Flickr user  Watchable“This is how you know you have consent” doesn’t teach people to recognize what a person really wants when they say yes – and it certainly doesn’t teach either partner how to clarify.

And it just… it feel dismissive of the experience of the person being asked for consent, to say it’s as simple as wanting tea or not wanting tea, like it’s an off-switch/on-switch.

 

Emily’s right.  Sometimes sex can be a simple yes or no question, but when it’s  hook up situation?  Or a new partner?  Or trying to fuck while depressed?  Or engaging in sexual activity while living as a survivor?  Those situations can be complex and delicate and a simple yes or no isn’t going to give people what they need to feel comfortable.

I’m really into finding accessible ways for talking about sex and consent though; so what can it look like using the tea analogy to negotiate a real life sexual encounter?

A few week when I was asked if I wanted to  go somewhere a little more suitable for [drinking tea] and [share a cup], I answered with maybe.   I laid out how it’s hard me connect to drinking tea desires at certain times (like now) and I asked if we could move to the [tearoom] and play with [some cups and saucers first].  Ask about their safer [drinking] practices and expectations and shared mine.  I asked if they wanted to start by [me pouring tea for them] and I may or may not want them to [pour me tea]  The very last thing I asked was if they could [drink tea with me] and still respect me after the [tea] was done.

It worked really well because we both got to enjoy some [tea] in ways that worked for us.  I can’t speak for them, but I felt the encounter feeling really good about them, myself and our encounter and I’d like to get sexy – I mean, drink tea with them again.    It didn’t work so well because the process took so long, the[tearoom] closed before we were done [drinking] – but that isn’t anyone’s fault, it’s simply what I needed that day to feel good about what I was about to do, and my partner was cool and gracious around that.  If I hadn’t taken the time I needed, the encounter wouldn’t have happened, so while it was time consuming, it was necessary, and thus, no fault.  Building that foundation will only help in future encounters because this person has shown me their someone I can trust.

So yes, the tea analogy still works – and we can plug in any words that make people feel more comfortable when it comes to talking about sex — but we still need to talk about the acts we’re engaging in and how they affect us in all our glorious complexities if it’s going to be a happy, healthy making part of our lives.

How do you Fall More in Love with Yourself?

I want to start this post by sharing something with you.  I’m smack dab in the middle of relationship grievings.  One of the things that rarely gets talked about in polyamory and nonmonogamy is that sometimes those multiple relationship you’re in all end around the same time.  Which means all the sadness, disappointment, loneliness, uncertainty, self-blame and self-doubt hit at the same time.  Just as each relationship was unique, it comes with its own grieving process – and I’m in the swamp lands right now.

Meanwhile out in the world, it’s the season of love.  Commercialized or not, February always brings two things to my mind:  Is winter ever going to end? And love.  Rebel against the commercialization all you want (no, seriously, please do!), but a chance to celebrate love will always come down to a good thing in my books.

Fall in love with yourselfYes, even when I’m much more single than I’ve been in a while.

I posed the question How do you fall more in love with yourself over on my facebook page, and while I wanted to share an answer it’s much too long for a picture comment.

I fall more in love with myself by working on my relationship to me.  When you break that down, it’s 100 little things I do to remind myself I’m important to me, I like me, I find me attractive, I trust me, I want a future with me.  It’s basically all the things I do to grow any of my intimate connections turned inwards.

Specifically:

I speak love in a way that I can hear it.

When I want my lover to know I care, I make sure to use their love language.  When I want myself to know I care, I’m sure to speak in my love language – words of affirmation (like eye gazing with myself in the mirror and saying out loud I like you so much! Or writing love poems on my mirror to read each day) and quality time (planning solo date nights, or making time to give myself a manicure).  I had to scrap what other people told me signaled self love so I could find a way to express love in a way myself would actually hear.

I look good for me

This definitely isn’t top of the list for everyone, but as a femme I love using style to express myself and look good for myself.  That does not mean that I’m always dressed up.  Sometimes dressing for myself means giving myself an extra confidence boost; sometimes it means creating a cosy outfit when I’m feeling down or small and need to go out into the world anyways.  Style can be as much amour as it can be protection – but the key is that I’m doing it for me.

I listen to me

If something is off in my relationship with me, I need to be open to hearing that.  Just like in relationships with others you can’t burry your head in the sand and expect a problem to magically fix itself.  I check in with myself by taking note of my feelings and emotional landscape, and yes, sometimes that means sitting in some really sad feelings – but a key part of communication is listening.  And the better attention I’m paying to my own internal voice the faster I can move through bumps and continue a healthy, strong relationships with my most authentic self.  I work through my feelings and needs by journaling, reflecting to myself, and sometimes even working with a coach.

This weekend, in addition to being in the swampland of relationship grief, I’m going to spend some time loving on myself.  I’m not sure yet if that means a trip to a relaxing spa centre, enjoying wine and a candle lit dinner with myself, or even a big bowl of popcorn + Netflix marathon to finish off season 1 of Witches of East End.

How are you going to show yourself love this Valentines? Let me know in the comments, or send me an e-mail!

Body Image, Body Acceptance & Sexuality

Getting on your own side does wonders for you self confidence and your sexuality.  Check out the video below because I’m sharing my tips for how to do just that.

Comment below to let me know which dating rules you’re going to implement to get on your own side!

4 Things I Wish Sex Ed Taught Me

I’m not sure what your High School sex ed was like, but mine seemed to have been inspired by Hobbes:   nasty, brutish and short.  Over in two seventy-five minutes periods; we discussed childbirth in one and STI’s in the other.  What it lacked was some key information that I had to go out and learn for myself.  If I got a chance to rewrite the curriculum (or at least add another seventy-five minutes!) I would definitely add in these lessons: 

Calculating the Risk/Reward Ratio of Potential Partners
When we think about sex and safety STI’s and unwanted pregnancy come to mind, but don’t forget heartbreak, physical safety, performance anxiety, emotional turbulence – the list goes on.  And the rewards?  Pleasure, connection, increased intimacy, learning, ecstasy.  Now for the kicker:  we don’t automatically know which risks and rewards are present; it might be all the risk with zero reward, one or two risks with lots of rewards, or any combination in between.  Learning to spot these so we can make the best, and likely safest, choices for us is key to overall sexual health.

For My Teacher by Todd PetrieHow to Deal with Sexual Regret
We all do things in life we regret.  But when it comes to sex we regret the sting is often so much sharper!  May be it has to do with the vulnerability of letting someone see you out of control with pleasure.   Maybe it’s because, if you’re a person receiving penetration you’re literally letting someone into your body, and that’s a big deal.  Maybe you did something those conflicts with your values – or even a combination of all those things.  When these moments arise, self-compassion, clear boundaries about what is ours to own and what isn’t and non-defensive communication skills are so very important for moving through the experience into healing – for all parties.  

Bare Bones Relationships Etiquette
It’s always struck me as odd that we didn’t talk about human interaction in Sex Ed.  After all, 95% of what we talked about involved other people in some way.  I’m not expecting any huge lessons here, but basic things like as soon as one person decides the relationship is over, it’s over or perusing someone after they’ve said no is harassment.  Most people I know – myself included – have had one relationship (often when they were young) that they thought they couldn’t leave because their partner said no.   Relationships need to be mutually consensual; otherwise we’re talking about abuse.  People need to know what makes for healthy and unhealthy relationships!

Nothing Must End in Sex
When we get stuck believing all roads end in (penetrative) sex it can be really scary engaging in any kind of sexual activity unless we’re sure we want to have penetrative sex in that moment.  But is unnecessary stress!  Sexual encounters aren’t some kind of slide you can’t get off and have no choice but to fall into a sex sand pit at the bottom.  Encounters can be whatever you and your partner (or partners) want them to be and stop at whatever line you want them to stop.   Knowing that you can choose a different path at any point in your sexual activities makes it so much easier to be in the actual moment and say yes to whatever comes up that feels good for you. 

 What do you know now that you wish had been shared earlier?  Let me know in the comments below!