Why Sex Divides Us

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Sex.

We use the word so often and yet we never really stop to ask what it means or where it came from. Does it really describe what we’re trying to convey? How is it different than making love, knocking boots, coitus or f***ing? What has the word done to the meaning of two people coming together for an intimate exchange of energy?

The word sex comes from the Latin word sexus meaning the state of being either male or female. So it has absolutely nothing to do with arousal, giving and receiving pleasure, sacred union, or anything else that we associate with the modern day use of sex. It is also connected to secare “to divide or cut” showing further that the word accentuates our differences and only strengthens a gender binary, or the division between men and women.  The word sex was first recorded in the 1520s, but it didn’t find popular usage until the early 20th Century when terms like sex appeal (1904), sexual intercourse (1929), sex drive (1918), sex object (1901) and sex symbol (used in anthropology starting in 1871, but first applied to a person, Marilyn Monroe, in 1959) came into being. The term sex therapist appeared as late as 1974.

So we see that the word “sex” was never meant to convey connection, love, lust, desire, union, or any of the other beautiful, dark, sweet or mysterious aspects of intimate connection with another human being. It is also genital based, our sex, as they still say in French, and it reflects only the union of a man and a woman, both big limitations to put on human sexuality which is much more than genital contact between a man and a woman.

But what can we say if we don’t say sex? 

It is impossible to throw out the word sex altogether, but it’s exciting to think what might happen if we brought more consciousness to how we communicate about it. I think we use unclear language or umbrella-like phrases when it’s something we feel fear or shame about. So saying things like, “We had sex” or “I want to have sex with you” are in fact ways of avoiding communicating what we truly feel, want and desire. The word sex is a cover-up for who and what we really are and how we’re expressing that.

So the next time you’re talking about the subject, try to explore what you’re really wanting to say under the vague use of the overused word sex:

“I really want to touch your body with my hands.”

“I literally lost my mind with pleasure last night.”

“I want you deep inside of me right now.”

“The attraction was so intense, I was wet before they even touched me.”

How else can you talk about the experiences you’re having without using the word sex?

We came together. We devoured each other. He gave me pleasure for hours. She would just breathe and I would tremble. We made love. We fucked our brains out. We were naked for hours. We never left the house.

Now doesn’t that sound even better than s-e-x?

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Return of the Lube

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I love my life.

I can honestly say that this is the happiest I have ever been.

Even with relationship pains, and problems that seem unsolvable, and fears that come and go with the days, there is a steady, pulsing happiness that flows through my life now.

I had never felt this happy for this length of time before I had a baby. For the past twenty years I experienced spurts of happiness that would last for three months, if that, before depression would inevitably return. And yet, it’s been almost nine months since the birth of my daughter, and the only depression I’ve felt has been mild and never lasted more than a day.

And one could assume a lot from this. Was having a baby so central to my existence that it cleared my depression? Or was my depression a product of my broken family that was no longer broken after Svea was born? Was my depression a product of my “depressed womb”  that was healed through the painful journey of growing and birthing human life? Or did growing a baby fulfill some biological need of my body that balanced out my chemistry?

I think it’s just all the cuddles I get.

I cuddle morning, noon and night.

We kiss and touch and play and hug and shower and eat and then do it all over again.

I’ve never been touched so much in my life. 

Was it only the touch that was missing? Was that why I felt such relief with each sexual encounter during my depression? Relief that would usually last for three days as I once again felt inspired and joyful and “filled-up.” And did this explain the depression that would return when reaching out for touch, not relationship, just touch, I would be met with, “Oh, I can’t see you till next week” and I would fall back into despair?

I think I need much more touch than the average person.

My grandmother on my father’s side used to tell me that her mother would kiss all six of her children all day long. My great-grandmother spent much of her adult life ill and in bed, but that apparently didn’t stop her from swooping up the children and cuddling them until they turned blue. My grandmother also loved to cuddle. And so did my parents. Perhaps a need to cuddle is in our family’s DNA.

And of course I met a professional cuddler this week. She runs something called the Cuddle Sanctuary in Venice Beach, which I must definitely go and visit. I wish that something like that had existed when I was living in Paris, desperate for human contact, looking down on the streets from the 6th floor of my gorgeous Parisian flat holding cigarettes to my mouth instead of what I really longed for. Just speaking with her was a transformational, somatic experience. Although we weren’t touching, the membranes of our cells must have opened to each other, because this exchange of energy and information took place so much so that I have not stopped writing since.

Well, except to cuddle.

And the writing is just flowing. Like lube, it flows when you’re open and turned-on. When you’re so filled up with love/passion/touch, that it can’t help but overflow. There’s a hormone shift, too, like when you have a baby, or fall in love, or get together with another creative person. The juices start flowing.

Around seven months after I gave birth, the lube returned.

I think that’s nature’s way of saying that it is time to return to myself a little more. Svea is amassing greater independence, and my body is becoming my own again. Which means there is more time for creativity and sex and things that Lauren likes to do. The turn-on is taking me places. . .

Where is that river of turn-on taking you?

Where all rivers take us.

To the ocean of ourselves.

 

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Hanukkah Magic

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We went out for pizza on the first night of Hanukkah. It was my mother’s idea.

Her, the baby and I left the house on foot, and in the three blocks between the Fresh Brother’s on San Vicente and my humble Brentwood townhouse, we were stopped by two young men who politely asked, “Excuse me, are you Jewish?”

“No,” was my startled response, “But Happy Hanukkah!” I suddenly  remembered. They walked away as I thought that what I should have said to their inquiry was, “I wish.” I would love to be Jewish.

Having lived in LA, Paris and New York, I have known a lot of Jewish people. I have learned a lot about the culture. I have even dated my share of Jewish men. I could go on and on about what I admire about this tradition and its people.

But what I’m especially jealous of, is Hanukkah magic. You know, the holiday that is all about miracles? The eight days and nights of presents, food, candles and celebration? I wanted a little Hanukkah magic of my own.

Earlier that day I had been speaking with a client about a man she was in love with that she hadn’t seen, and had only recently heard from, in a very long time. I sensed their was a message for her in her Jewish culture, a culture she had very little connection with. “What’s the message of Hanukkah?” I asked her.

“It’s about miracles and about God providing when it seems like there’s not going to be enough.”

And later that day, she texted me that her lover had reached out again in a romantic way after almost zero contact for seven months. It was Hanukkah magic! Her very own Hanukkah miracle had come true.

So I sat down to eat my pizza, filled with thoughts of celebration and remembrance, of family and light, of God providing, and the stillness of quiet reflection, and I open that box of pizza to my own small Hanukkah miracle:

the crust of my pizza had risen up into the shape of a penis

Yes, I couldn’t make that sort of thing up. And before I ate it, I took a picture as proof. I mean, what are the odds of penis-shaped Hanukkah pizza dough? Was God trying to get a message to me?

It is said that God speaks to each of us in our own way. And for me, that meant phallic-shaped pizza dough. Because the penis is not just about sex; it has been worshipped by cultures across the world (Asia, Africa, Central America) for representing fertility, harvest, pleasure, safety, orgasm and abundance (remind me to tell you about my trip to the fertility festival in Japan one day).

If I got a penis in my pizza, clearly there was Hanukkah magic for Jews and non-Jews alike this year. And aren’t we all looking to amplify these qualities in our lives? The more penises, the better, I say! And pleasure, love and abundance for us all. I think the Jews would agree with me. This is the magic of Hanukkah.

Happy Hanukkah to you and yours.

X

 

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The Sexy Life of Plants

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I was speaking with a plant scientist in his garden on Sunday.

He told me that plants are busy getting it on . . . with everything.

I mean, just look at that come-hither look; that flirtatious stare. Anyone that tells you that lust is unnatural, or even merely human, has never studied the natural world. We are designed to be attracted and to attract. We are designed to be pulled in by each other. We’re designed to share our genes.

Plants reproduce through sex.  Flowering plants bring together a sperm and an egg cell to create a zygote (seed). The sperm cells are found in pollen which is carried to the female flower by bees, wasps, moths, butterflies, birds, animals, and even the wind. The flower pulls the pollen into her ovaries where the eggs are and this is where fertilization takes place, deep within the flower.

Plants that depend on living creatures to transfer their pollen have evolved colorful flowers, shapes, and energy-rich nectar to lure in the many carriers of sperm cells. Hmm, sound familiar?

But where it gets interesting is that flowering plants can pollinate themselves, but cross-pollination is preferred because it promotes genetic diversity or the spreading of pro-survival genes. It’s all about gene sharing! Some plants even have an anti-self-pollination mechanism, or grow separate male and female flowers or plants to prevent self-pollination. Nature prefers we get it on with others.

Plants without flowers can also reproduce asexually by cloning themselves via their bulbs, stems, roots or leaves. But it doesn’t mean they don’t interact with other plants. It’s been discovered that genes can be “horizontally transferred“. Scientists don’t understand it yet, but they suspect it is transmitted via a parasite or pathogen, like a virus or a sap-sucking insect. Interesting because we view parasites and pathogens as negative entities, but they actually are contributing to the evolution of our genetics. . . it’s all a part of sharing.

As I stood in that garden filled with long-stem roses and succulents of every size, shape and color, I couldn’t help but marvel at the life force present in those plants. As he spoke of DNA being altered by the climate and the sun and all the gene sharing between species, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of what was taking place. What looked so stagnant at first glance was anything but stagnant. Tiny miracles were taking place everywhere. Life was interacting with everything in its environment . . including me. We were changing each other. Wasn’t that what love was?

I also couldn’t help but ponder the whole act of making love. Especially the flower and her many, many lovers. She could do it on her own, but life propelled her outwards. Were we very different from the flower? Didn’t our interactions, and especially those with our lovers, aid our growth and evolution? The flowers never stopped making love. Was there a message for us in that?

Sharing love is how we grow and evolve. Whether it’s an interaction between sexual partners, friends, enemies, babies, the sun or even a friendly observer, we are meant to share and exchange with each other. For better or worse, life is evolving through us. She propels us outwards. Love is a part of that. And desire is a part of that, too. Life is happening through us. We are simply along for the ride.

Just look at the sexy life of plants. . . they have so much to teach us.

 

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I Cheated on my Baby

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I’ve had this idea for some time now.

I wanted to nurse someone else’s baby.

I know that may sound weird, but the idea of a wet nurse was always so interesting to me. Especially since it was completely normal to breastfeed someone else’s child until the mid-1800s when people started to find it morally wrong. Before that women could easily nurse each other’s babies, either for money or because the mother was sick or absent.

These days mothers are concerned about the spreading of disease, but every woman in a developed country has undergone extensive blood tests during pregnancy for anything that could possibly be passed to a baby during breastfeeding, including HIV. So this means that new mothers (unless they’ve been exposed to something they believe to be contagious) can safely nurse another woman’s child. Salma Hayek obviously knew this when she famously nursed an infant in Sierra Leone during a UNICEF goodwill trip in 2008, and I knew it, too.

So there I was at this woman’s house who had posted on Facebook that she was in need of a wet nurse. She wanted a night out with her husband and her four month old baby absolutely refused to take a bottle. Another woman had volunteered for the job before me, so I was surprised when I was invited over. But over to her house I went, to greet her, the four month old and the energetic, redheaded one-year-old for a wild night of babysitting with some wet-nursing on the side.

Two hours into the non-stop action of watching someone else’s children, the baby finally makes those same little sounds that my five month old makes when she wants some milk. And so I picked her up, put her to my breast (feeling a little uneasy, but obviously competent) and she latched. I could feel the milk moving through my body and into hers and the first thought I had was, I’m cheating on my baby. 

So this got me thinking about our culture of ownership and all the other things we claim to be “ours”. Our baby, our job, our stuff. Especially our sexual partners. And that my current partner and I have this ongoing conversation about whether we can open up the relationship, if we can overcome our cultural conditioning for jealousy, and just how much we can love each other and still let each other be free. Can we overcome something so deep in our consciousness as ownership?

And outside the issue of ownership, there was also an issue of sexuality it seemed. Was wet-nursing forbidden because it involved a part of the body that we in the West consider to be sexual? And why did Life design nursing to involve two such intimate parts of the body as the mouth and nipple? Did Life intend for a small degree of sexual energy to be a part of giving life-force to a child? Or was sexual not even the correct word? Was it sensuality? And why the heck are nipples erogenous zones anyway?

I don’t have the answers. But I fed that baby twice that night. And after the first feeding, the one-year-old stood up at my feet and said, “I want milk.” to which I replied, “Oh, um, do you still drink milk?”

“Milk.” she said, pulling at my shirt.

And since her mom had texted me that her cell phone battery had died, I made the best choice I could make at the time, and nursed her. Never have I been so intimidated by a mouth full of teeth, but those twenty minutes of nursing were the calmest of the entire this-is-so-stressful-looking-after-two-kids-night, during which she easily and gently drifted off to sweet and perfect sleep.

Peace at last.

Wet-nursing, it seemed, was a win-win for us all.

 

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Sex and Motherhood

There are few things I enjoy more than sharing my body in the pursuit of pleasure.

Hugs, cuddles, sex, oral sex, dancing in front of an audience, kissing just about anywhere, wrestling, floating in the ocean, diving under waves, chewing, swallowing, sipping- these are just some of the ways I share and engage my body with the world. And these days, there’s someone new I share my body with: my baby.

Breastfeeding has got to be one of the most beautiful and pleasurable designs of motherhood. What pleasure there is in having breasts! They have always brought me pleasure, but now they bring me even more when my baby is snuggled up so close to me, relaxed and taking in her favorite food: her milky-milk, as we call it.

And yet, I hear many new mothers say that the pleasure of being with their new baby has replaced the pleasure of sexuality. Sex with their partners, for many new to motherhood, becomes non-existent. And I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Sex is so good for our bodies, minds, relationships, and especially our post-baby pelvic floors- should we be concerned that so many women are opting out of post-baby sex?

There is, of course, the issue of lack of lubrication. The hormones that produce breastmilk also dry up your vaginal lubrication as if life itself is saying, “No sex for you, missy.” And the sleep deprivation that increases with every week, until it gets better, only to get worse again, before it gets better again doesn’t leave much energy for sex either. And then there’s the baby who sometimes wakes up right in the middle of sex and demands, in cries or tears, to be paid attention to, or picked up, or fed. Maybe life does want us to stop having sex when we have babies?

I’m sure many would argue that this is the case. One of my new mom friends recently referenced a magazine cover that she saw in line at the supermarket. Sex after a baby, it read. “It’s not if sex after a baby is possible, it’s why would you want to?” she argued over lunch. I nodded my head without saying anything and continued to wonder what was going on with sex and motherhood. Why did my sexual libido come back 5 days after giving birth when hers was still absent 7 months later?

I’m certainly not the only one having sex after childbirth. But sometimes it feels like I am since absolutely nobody is talking about it. So I have a theory. . .

My theory is that it is a combination of factors that allowed my sexuality to stick around after birthing my baby. Those factors included my natural, gentle home birth (read: no tearing), my great relationship with my boyfriend, the super-nurturing cooking and support of my mother, the robustness of my new baby, the timeout I get from being a new mom each day while my baby is with her father (usually to sleep!), my general comfort and knowledge of babies, birthing and breastfeeding, and most importantly, my super solid relationship with my own sexuality. Sexuality is where I come home to. It’s my spiritual practice. And it’s one of my favorite ways to connect with my partner.

Is my sexual energy the same as a new mother? Yes. Is my vagina the same? Yes. Is my experience of sex the same? For the most part. I think what’s changed is that some of my sexual energy has been diverted to nursing and loving my baby. I’d say it’s around 20%. I have 20% less interest, desire and energy for my own sexuality. And I’m okay with that for now. Do I miss anything about sex before the motherhood? Yes. I miss lubrication. I know it will come back one day, but man, I really miss that oh-so-simple ingredient of sexuality. A bottle of lube just does not feel the same as getting wet when you’re turned on. . .

So sex and motherhood, ya, I guess we’re all on our own path with it. But for me, sex is still a daily part of my life. I look forward to how it will continue to evolve and change and transform after I finish breastfeeding, if I have more children, and so on and so on. And I must say that I am super grateful for the role that sex plays in my life, creativity and relationships. It nourishes me, relaxes me, and heals me. And I’m loving what has been the most sensual, sexual, sweet and delicious time of my life: motherhood. The beauty of every day overwhelms and inspires me. It’s so simple, and yet so perfect. Just like sex. Of course they go together then.

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So who out there, like me, has some good news to share about sex and motherhood? Do tell!! Now I want to hear your stories. How soon did sex resume after giving birth? What was it like for you?

P.S. I decided to make two YouTube video series: “Sex and Pregnancy” and “Sex and Motherhood” to share what I learned about sexuality during pregnancy and postpartum. Check them out here!

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