I went to a sex positivity workshop, and it was life changing

Somewhere amongst the anticlimactic story of the birds and the bees, the chapter about sex positivity got lost. I’d like to think that society has come a ways since the earth-shattering realization that many women like to have sex, and often. But for all of the recent fascination with kinks n’ things, it seems that women are still expected to be coy in the streets and uninhibited in the sheets.

As a reformed late bloomer, I spent the first 21 years of my life uncomfortable in my body — which made for a potent mix of both shame and curiosity at the notion of physical intimacy.

I’d say that, now, the curiosity has outrun the shame. My desire to engage only in sex positive experiences has replaced any grandiose expectations I once had about female sexuality.

If you’ve never stopped to contemplate sex and positivity as a unified thought, sex positivity usually “involves having positive attitudes about sex and feeling comfortable with one’s own sexual identity and with the sexual behaviors of others, according to the International Society for Sexual Medicine.

As a woman of any sexual orientation, sex positivity is essential. It gives you permission to have ~all of the sex~, and demands that your experience be mutually pleasurable — thereby dispelling the myth that women are deviants for practicing autonomy in their sex lives.

My curiosity is exactly how my friend and I ended up at my friendly neighborhood sex shop, spending 60 minutes both exploring and receiving various kinds of touch.

The particular workshop that I attended focused on mindfulness and sexuality — more specifically, the practice of sensate focus, or the idea that not all intimate touch has to have sexual undertones, and that roles should alternate between giving and receiving touch. I had always been taught to believe, by either society or by my own erroneous lady thoughts, that the goal of intimate touch is to invoke a desired reaction, usually arousal or orgasm. That thought was successfully shattered by the practice of sensate focus, which places the emphasis on how the person doing the touching feels, and vice versa.

The class was a completely judgment-free zone, and a welcome relief to the awkward sex-ed classes of yesteryear. The instructor took all of the participants through a series of different sensations, all of which could be performed between couples, friends, or solo dolo.

I’d assumed it would be strange to be in a room of fully-clothed strangers scratching, tapping, and practicing other tactile sensations on each other — but it wasn’t.

My friend and I eased seamlessly into alternating roles, and cracked inappropriate jokes. Throughout the entire exercise, pleasuring your partner was never the end goal. Rather , our goal was to be mindful of how it feels to give touch, and specifically touch parts of the body that are traditionally non-sexual, like shins.

For me the real challenge was mindfulness, a practice that far too often gets lost in a whirlwind of casual and disappointing sex. Just the act of worrying less about my partner’s pleasure and allowing myself to be present caused me to abandon the idea that intimacy is a one-sided; if there are only two people at a party and one of them isn’t having a great time, then the entire party is a no-go.

The rhetoric has always been that we, as women, are devalued when we embrace our sexuality. So when you shift the focus to what you do, and do not, want to feel in your physical experiences, it feels radical AF.

And if you have grown up as a woman in a culture of slut-shaming and victim-blaming — and the closest things you’ve seen to conversations about consent and sexual limits are found in the Fifty Shades series — then get thee to a sex positivity workshop ASAP.

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