Jungle sexuality part 2: Mentoring sex
After a few months of hosting visitors, I decided that for ease of orienting people and figuring out roles and tasks on the farm, I’d try something new and have a bunch come at the same time rather than all scattered start times. A group assembles, and it is amazing. Six people including me, the magic number, all with such chemistry and excitement. One of the best group dynamics we’ve ever had here. Very quickly we’re all affectionate, touchy. All feeling nourished and bright, complimenting and receiving and smiling. Sometimes at night after we circle many of us stay to cuddle. And it’s often arousing cuddling.
And of course this is happening, because I had just done some major major inner work, getting to the other side of the shame where I could speak my desire for more physical intimacy in the community. So this is what pops out next.
After a few days of this cuddling organically occurring and seeming a bit directional, I, you know, call a meeting, as any reasonable part-sex-exploration-facilitator-part-mom would, to acknowledge it and speak directly about what we do and don’t want to be doing. But a lot more joyful than that. Speaking to the size of the opportunity before us. Something like, “what within the theme of intimacy are you wanting to explore, that this open space and loving group could support you in learning and playing with. Think big.” Picture my arms floating open above me, a lotus flower of potential before us all. And everyone said their stuff, and it was all inspiring. Starting with where we want to be going and how to support each other in getting there. Then what we definitely don’t want to happen, what boundaries we want to set at the forefront. And, of course, a promise to keep the conversation going throughout.
A beautiful mix of answers. One is celibate but open to non-sexual intimacy of all sorts, one practices tantra and never releases sexual fluids, two are open to sexual exploration, as well as expanding on non-sexual touch and intimacy. One woman, the youngest, expresses having had bad sexual experiences with men, resulting in hesitancy. When she speaks, I feel her trauma in my womb and sit up straight, switching even farther from orgy-conductor to mom (which, May I Always Live On This Spectrum). Maybe big sister is more accurate. With everything I’ve got, leaving no room for doubt, I assure her squarely that nothing will happen that she doesn’t want to happen here.
The days and weeks go on and it is beautiful. We can all be found flitting around, kissing each other’s shoulders as we cook, the hugs are abundant. With the young woman, I am at a distance during touching times. At one point I pull her aside to make explicit, lest she take it personally, that I am very intentionally not initiating anything physical with her, that I want to be available as a resource should she be uncomfortable at any point, and not compromise that. She says she’s getting more comfortable and that that really isn’t necessary. I say “still.”
A few days later I wonder if in doing so I am holding her to a past she wants to move forward from. We talk again, say perhaps we move forward together, hand in hand—the parts of us that connected around that trauma. We agree. Certainly I have been on the younger woman side of the dynamic of an older, more traumatized woman insisting on painful narratives, enough to not inflict it on someone else.
Last year sometime, when I was first traveling and the parts of my brain that connect me to other moments in time were opening, I was in another wave of feeling called towards sexual healing work, and feeling all the shame and hesitation.
I was sleeping in a tent, my body directly on the Earth, and it felt safe enough to go into some of that shame. One evening during a connective session I accessed a memory around which I held the tightest shame in my whole body. It was sometime during the middle ages, and I was something like a nun in a church. And I played the same role then that I play now and have for many lifetimes—this connector to the metaphysical feminine, doing magic work and connection work, made political by silly institutions that want to bottleneck power. The holder of a tradition and a lineage, working in secret to keep it alive. In this scene I was in a small room with a small girl, and I was teaching her. I had sensed something in her that indicated to me that she also held this tradition, this power in her body, and I was teaching her how to touch her clitoris to access other planes. And it was joyful, as it should be. With a pureness that children bring to any situation. And it was deeply not allowed. But it was important, and I wasn’t going to let this young girl be denied access to her own power or her own pleasure, growing up in the church where both were criminal. And so I took the risk.
And I have other memories of doing sex magic with women in similar time periods, having orgasms together hidden in the forests to create freer realities for future generations than the ones we were living. And those I look back on as badass. But this one was surrounded with so much shame because it’s still considered wrong now. To teach children about sexual pleasure. To share pleasure with children. To teach children about their own power. To share power with children.
And if sex is a bad thing we want to protect children from, this makes sense. And if it’s a thing that could be good but is usually harmful, still makes sense. But if it’s the source of being able to feel our own desires, and with them take up our space in the world and take ownership over our lives as creators, then it’s pretty damn abusive. And probably not neutral in intention by those at the top deciding to prohibit it.
When I say “top”, of course there’s no real top. I see these imagined pyramids, these big hierarchies with people “at the top” working hard to keep everyone else sending their life force energy up the chain. And, at the very same time, there’s also just a circle. A globe. All of us living here, a global society, everyone with their role to play, completely interconnected. With our own sources of energy to send or not send, wherever we want, whenever we want. And so they’re up on some pedestal yelling (you can often tell by the way they physically prop their bodies up above others) because they seem to have forgotten about the circle, where the abundance is, and they think they need everyone else’s energy because they can’t find their own. And others of us are just chilling on the floor, sitting in our circles, keeping everyone else’s spots warm because we have more than enough to go around. And it isn’t that effortful, we don’t have to yell; we’re not at war. And everyone gets to choose where they put their attention: do you see the pyramid or do you see the circle? Which do you want to participate in? Could you imagine that they coexist and that you only have to choose which to tune into? You don’t even have to move your head, just your eyes. Though if you look, you may be inspired to move your whole body.
Anyway. Certainly our mainstream culture around sex, being minutes into even recognizing consent as a concept, with no tools for communication whatsoever, chastising desire and treating sex as capital to collect and buy and sell, is nothing to teach to children. I agree.
But I also think there is a place for real education around pleasure, and that in fact there must be a place for it. And that necessarily, it will have to involve children and it will have to involve adults. And the teaching will be mutual. And I’m interested in how we get to that place.
It doesn’t take a mass cultural appropriation of the chakras to see the connection between erotic energy and creative energy. The same energy that is powerful enough to call another human into form, that life force that lives in our lower bellies, that’s the powerful stuff of reality-making. And the desire that comes from that place, unearthed and all the rust melted away, can be our deepest, soul-based desires. I think we culturally have a sense that sexual energy is powerful but neither the tools nor the environment nor the knowledge of how to work with it.
I have a few tools, developing more every day. A whole lot of knowledge, and quite the environment to work with it. Surrounded by the buzzing, supportive eroticism of nature, with very little pyramidal law around to distract us from ourselves.
So un-pause. I’m being cautious for this young woman, because I know the possible harms well, but I’m also being cautious for myself. I know that in my culture it is not allowed to do sexuality in a mentoring relationship. To do sexuality in any sort of teaching capacity whatsoever. To have sex education.
“Let them experience the same harms we did and join us in our pain and bitterness when they’re old enough.” Imagine sharing the tools we’ve developed with them, and letting them share their natural creativity with us.
In our “meeting” here, when it was my turn to say what I was excited to explore within intimacy, I sat squarely over my hips, and my arms moved without my thinking, just danced around me as I spoke from a place of joy and liberation.
And this young woman saw that.
We talk about the feelings of mentorship between us. We sit in my treehouse and she expresses a feeling of “looking up to.” I try to express “look forward, not up.” A sentiment that’s been reflected to me by the best of mentors: what you’re seeing in me is something you recognize in yourself, and want to expand in you more fully. I try to assess whether this feeling is making her feel smaller, shyer, more self-conscious. We talk about it, we both have awareness, it all feels very safe.
As I’m writing this it feels insane that I worry to the extent that I do about abusing power, because I’m so attuned to the smallest of power differentials, it’s almost debilitating. But that was the lesson I had to work through with this younger woman. Power differentials are not a stopping point. I need to learn to do more than just have awareness of them. You don’t stop being in relationship, in working relationship, in decision-making relationship, in sexual relationship, in working towards co-creative power-sharing, just because you start with differences. In fact, there it’s even more important. How do we share power from different locations. I was about to say “how do we get ourselves to the same playing field” but I think that isn’t even the point. I think we have to be able to honor the locations we’re in without trying to change them. How do you share power across difference?
I soften and I’m more affectionate with her, having spoken about what’s between us. I feel safe that we are both expressing ourselves quite fully, and that nothing is getting pushed into back corners. I think the importance of this learning for both of us is more important than what it might look like from the outside, and the weight of the voices in my head switch.
We have our vulva-witnessing evening. It is beautiful, it is painful, it leaves me to regroup. After it, we are even softer and even more intimate on a day-to-day basis.
Some weeks later. I have a male lover here who is so different from me that it requires a type of love I’m not sure I’ve ever engaged with before. He is not oriented like I’m used to, so very few of my expectations can apply, and I love him the way you would love a wild animal who’s nearby but who you know you can’t just go walk up to. Watching them frolic in their natural environment with admiration and awe. Knowing they’ll come over to visit when they feel good but are easily spooked, and so it requires a peace and a patience.
He doesn’t speak when he doesn’t have to. He listens a lot, is constantly observing everything around him, and can sit quietly in nature for a very long time. When we put our bodies together I feel the Earth very directly through him because his connection is so strong. (I like to think that he can feel the stars through me because my connection is so strong, and that feels like a gender variation that’s new and stimulating. His name also abbreviates to a female name in English, which, in the deadly absence of a queer community in this small town, at least lets me pretend.)
When we first started our relationship we were lying down on my floor one evening next to each other, silent. We’d done a creative project together, our hands and faces very close earlier in the day, drilling one piece of metal to another, and an erotic buzz was flowing between us. I, being extremely verbal, wanted to fill that silence, but every idea that came into my head to say was useless. They were all questions, it seemed in that moment, to put him into one box or another. All questions to help my brain understand this new creature by associating him with well-worn stories from the past. Is he this or is he that. Will I have to protect myself in this way or that way. Nothing that came seemed kind, with the time and space that this silence allowed to consider it. He seemed comfortable, in his resting place; my mind was running a mile a minute.
A lot of time passes. Eventually he breaks the silence to ask, of all things, “how tall are you?” and I laugh out loud that that’s the best we could come up with between the two of us. But I only knew feet and he only knew meters and so we couldn’t even meet there. And then we both laughed, and commented on how silly the whole thing was because I’m right next to him and so he already knows in a lived way exactly how tall I am. I sigh into language being so limited, he acted to break the silence, and somehow we’ve both moved a step towards each other and I’m able to relax into that. And from there, we meet.
Nine months later, we’re still finding our way. I am constantly fighting off American romance narratives about how he’s not “showing up” in the ways I want and therefore “not for me”. But those same narratives are all about achieving the attainment of one person who can do everything you want of them. And I don’t want to “attain” anyone, and I don’t want just one person. I want a diverse, loving collection of people, and I want him to be a part of it in ways that work for everyone. (Eventually I’d like to be able to call that collection “The Earth”, but for now, a small group of earnest tender people doing some experimental sex stuff in the jungle will do.) I want to love him as he is, and when I do, I want it to reflect my ability to love myself as I am. When I have partners around who are much more similar to me, who enjoy spending their time putting new words to feelings and thinking across genres, it is easy to appreciate him, and I overflow with kind words for him that he returns in different forms of love and presence. When I’m lonely, it’s extremely hard, and sometimes I do catch myself wanting things from him that aren’t for him to give. This type of love feels new and stimulating, and worth the discomfort. I’m learning a lot.
He comes to the farm sometimes, especially when we’re playing music. Recently he and this young woman had been spending more talking and touching time together. She checks in with me of course, about their developing intimacy, and despite things not being perfect between him and I, I am all for it. He is kind and soft and sensual, likes to move even slower than I do. Never in a rush, never pushing. Present. With him I feel safe, and she feels it too, and I want that for her. I wanted to share that with her.
One day he’s over and the two are on the balcony talking, and I’m in a great mood and my hair is especially bouncy, and it came completely spontaneously: “hey…do you guys have plans tonight?” And they understood and we all looked at each other and smiled, and they said “yup. Sure.”
After feeling into “I don’t want to only put my sexual energy towards other people’s learning”, I had to really check in with myself about where my learning was. What were the new terrains I wanted to be exploring, and how could I make sure that was my priority. And it was about working with interdimensionality. Combining the parts of myself that vibrate high when I’m alone and channeling, with sexuality and with other people. I wanted to explore the overlaps, the common spaces.
So when we gathered that evening, surrounded by candle light, I asked if I could start there. They said yes of course. I laid down and went into my connective space, and vibrated high, and held their hands to share it with them. And they were in a meditative state, and she said later that it had her consciousness far above her body and she was watching us from the ceiling. Cool! And we began.
And it was lovely. And she had orgasms, her first. And it was an incredible feeling to watch how my pleasure affected her. To have created the space safe enough, intentional enough, consensual enough, to share the freedom, safety, joy with a younger woman on a similar course, that I’ve been able to find for myself after years of trauma. To invite her in and watch her light up. To have my torch light hers. To share, and to receive it back in the most beautiful form.
AND, as if I wasn’t learning enough already, during, I got upset! I felt undernourished, that he was paying more attention to her than to me and it affected me enough for me to say something. That had never happened before and it felt very hard to say. The “say something” muscle was still new, and while he lay in silence processing, feeling that he’d done something wrong and going to wherever he goes mentally when he feels that and then coming back, she, the angel that she is, took my forearms and looked me directly in the eyes and said “thank you for saying something.” She held space through my new scary explorations as I held space for hers. He took his time, and we were kind to him, explaining that there is no right or wrong here, and we all reunited, more honest, more rich, after working through it together.
It was his first time being in bed with more than one person and though I’ve done it a ton, it’s usually with people who do it regularly, or are generally thinking about polyamory and have an awareness and intentionality about where they place their attention, their gaze, their time. And he’s someone whose attention is naturally more focused than wide. He can really focus into one thing for a long time, and he’s very good at what he does. I’m the opposite, keeping track of many people and things, feeling into any energetic disturbances in a large energetic field. It’s hard for me to keep my attention on just one thing. Aside from being new to the physical acts of poly, he was also new to the amount of conversation it requires, the amount of negotiation and regrouping and emotional diving, and that’s certainly not his orientation. He’s a quiet person. To say nothing of huge cultural differences. He and I didn’t have a strong enough foundation of communication, frankly, to be inviting others in, without having our foundational holes be present. So they were present. And that was ok. That’s where we all met that night. It was a very honest inviting in into the totality of our relationship. A love and smoothness and comfort; a long process of understanding each other through huge differences that I hope we’re only at the beginning of. It led to her and I finding and providing our own stability between us.
In our initial meeting, when she expressed a fear of being triggered around sex, one of the things I said to her privately later is that getting to hold someone through the cycle of sexual waves is very similar to getting to hold someone through the cycle of being triggered and returning. Both are a gift and if it happened, we’d be honored to hold her in it. It didn’t happen, but we did both get to hold someone else through his dive and back, together.
With the lover, I continue to adjust to get more comfortable in our differences. I catch myself falling into a female victimhood when I feel disappointment, and am getting faster at snapping back out to constructively view what I want and how to communicate it. Even harder, how my past communications contributed to the disappointment. It’s much easier with all the difference between us to see when my communication isn’t clear, because we have less shared backup information, and miscommunications get spit out at us more quickly.
On her last day before continuing on with her travels, the young woman and I went back up to the treehouse. Saying “see you soon” to each other, and doing one last connective session with the ancestors we’d summoned during her time here, we both felt like the mentor/mentee dynamic had come to an end, and now we were just colleagues. When I felt ready to start inviting people to live here, she was the first I called. I’m excited to see where we go next.