Self-touch that’s not genital. 45 minutes. Movement. Music. Coconut oil. Body devotion.
Photos by Brooklyn Bujold
a Toronto-based sexuality blog by Caitlin K. Roberts
Self-touch that’s not genital. 45 minutes. Movement. Music. Coconut oil. Body devotion.
Photos by Brooklyn Bujold
I’m ready to remove fear from our conversations on pleasure. I’m ready to work to help others heal their trauma, to rewrite their scripts, to enter into relationship consciously, to both seek out pleasure beyond sexuality, and to dive into bliss within sexuality. To use eroticism to generate compassion and love. I’m ready to stop infusing my touch with Worry. I’m ready to live in world where every single persons autonomy is respected, valued, and all touch is touch that is desired, wanted and needed. I’m ready to take touch off the pressure cooker of Only Within Sexual Containers and even then Not The Touch I Was Looking For. I’m ready to bring consensual, enthusiastic Happy Touch into my life, into the world.
I’m ecstatic to be on the forefront of this new healing modality. I’m ecstatic to change the landscape of touch interactions in our culture. Let’s bring pleasure, delight and bliss back into our bodies. Follow the Happy Touch Movement on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“How would you like to be touched?”
The Happy Touch Movement is a global phenomenon. Pleasure is your birthright. Consensual and pleasurable touch is an inherent component of our wellbeing and thriving health. Every body is capable of experiencing ecstatic joy and abundant bliss. We are committed to changing the landscape of pleasure; in your body, in your relationships, in the cities and cultures around us.
With training and tools from The Somatic Sex Educators Association, the Institute of Sexuality Education & Enlightenment, the International Professional Surrogates Association, and the brilliant Betty Martin, Happy Touch offers workshops, services for individuals and couples, and group retreats; all with the goal of bringing more pleasure into your life.
Our work is client-centred, trauma-informed and encompasses one-way touch (the practitioner is always fully clothed and only uses their hands). We use research from scientific studies, the innate wisdom of the bodies biology and physiology, communication and boundary exercises, embodiment practices, playfulness, consensual touch, and relaxation techniques to aid you in building and enhancing your daily experience of pleasure and happiness.
#MeToo cw: assault
I have felt the build up of unwanted touch stick to me and follow me for weeks, an infringement on my personhood. The texture of my body not being My Body, and pulling all resources I could find within myself to rebuild and defend my boundaries.
And in this acknowledgement, I also want to acknowledge that I have been on the other side of the coin. I have been the person to take advantage, to cross boundaries, to touch in ways that were not spoken about or agreed upon beforehand. I have felt the looming weight of understanding that I was the person to make someone else feel unsafe, and knowing that as much as I apologized and held myself accountable, I can’t take back that experience for the other person. Messages given to me by a culture I hadn’t had a chance to critically analyze, nor knew how to do so. Messages that because I was a small, female human, that I could touch in whatever ways I wanted to touch; that my touch could never be predatory.
I am now a person who has been professionally trained to touch people for a living. I can see how much information and education is missing from our culture, from our systems. How my assaulters were acting in accordance with the only examples of masculinity and touch interactions given to them. How even if they didn’t feel good about how they were acting, the actions for alternative engagement had not been provided to them. I see my acquiescence, my enduring, my tolerating, and not understanding how my voice in certain situations could be the pillar for personal autonomy as it is now. So often I didn’t even know my assault was happening until years later in reflection… and if I didn’t know it was happening, the chances are high my assaulter didn’t either.
This is not all interactions, this is not everyones experience. This is just a particular expression of this particular learning and noticing. I want to be accountable to myself, I want to showcase that these actions of my past allow me to be the person who chooses to facilitate consent workshops, who chooses to not let those experiences fade into the background as Mistakes I Made, but Grand Learnings that Ensure there will be Love in My Actions moving forward.
The most effective teaching of consent structures I have found is the Wheel of Consent by the eminent Betty Martin. Betty offers numerous free resources on her website, bettymartin.org — To those who are asking how they can do better, how they can be accountable, I would highly recommend checking out this diagram.
An excerpt I posted in June 2017 after my training with the International Professional Surrogates Association…
This is Lyron. Lyron has been my practice partner for my training with IPSA (the International Professional Surrogates Association) and has consented to me sharing this.
Lyron is 50 years old. He has a teenage daughter. He used to be a Jehovah’s Witness minister (he no longer practices any religion). Needless to say, he and I come from two very different places.
This training is intense. Everyday Lyron and I engaged in various sorts of activities that were a progression of intimate exercises designed to build up a relationship between us. We were partnered together based on nothing but our coinciding orientations (I am queer – open to everybody, Lyron is a straight man).
As Lyron generously, sensitively navigated a wall I was keeping around myself – a guard, a protection. I asked him, coming to almost the end of our training, what his perception of me was. His answers were genuine, and also tentative. We were lying in bed together, fully clothed, trying to figure out the thing that wasn’t quite working. He felt as if he was walking on eggshells, hoping he would not accidentally ignite a trigger point he was unaware of. He didn’t want to be a source of upset for me and yet felt like he couldn’t avoid it.
I feel like I have gone through a therapeutic bootcamp. My brain and my heart feel like they have been lifting weights for 12 days straight and here we are at the end of it all. If you were to talk to me before this training, I wouldn’t have seen any of the things that wound up being sources of inhibition, resistance, hesitation… Hostility.
Outside of this training, I know that continuing in my day to day in my comfortable little cozy bubble in Toronto, I would not have recognized how deeply hurt I continue to be by the actions of “men” – this immense generalization and hostility towards any desire or attention that does not fit the boxes of what I have marked as “appropriate” or by the people I have not chosen; ignoring the humanity of the person from which it is coming. Just because it is not perfect for me does not mean there were any ill intentions.
This man is extraordinary. This training is not easy to get into and even harder to go through. It shook everything I thought I knew about myself and hung it up to dry, staring me down in the blazing heat of California. He said to me this morning, self-reflectively, “How are others making meaning of me?”
It is such a beautiful question, and I feel so guilty for ever assuming anything but good intentions, respect and appreciation. In his hesitation with me, I saw all of my history with people who are cis-men come pouring out of my interactions; and even with the compassion that is burning inside me, I am defensive, I am scared, I am not giving others the meaning I hope to be making. I do not want to continue to vilify ‘men.’ I do not want to continue to assume the worst of someone just because of their gender identity; especially knowing that gender is mostly a social construct.
I am a woman, and although I identify as queer, most of my intimate and sexual interactions are with men; inside me is a arduous affection, and also a well of experiences that have left an impression that results in a hostility; resulting in my coming across to others how I do not want to come across.
I have the strength to do better.
We have heard story upon story of surrogate-client relationships over the past 12 days. The majority of which have been with men as clients and a female as the surrogate.
I want to do this work to heal where others are hurting. I cannot do this work if I cannot find compassion for my clients; the clients who will most likely be men, the clients who do not know how to flirt or socialize or kiss or communicate feelings.
This training has opened my heart, it has opened my eyes. And I am in immense gratitude to this man who has stuck with me through all of it, who has been receptive to my hesitation and resistance. He came towards me gently and with caution and in this I was able to see myself clearly through his eyes. He has been fierce for me, and I hope to do the same for others. He has been a pillar to my growth and I will never forget this bizarre and magical 12 day training with him.
Day 1: Our classroom is a plounge couch. The four of us sprawl while our generous and kind-hearted teacher imparts years of wisdom on us.
We take each other’s histories and only touch the surface of who we are, wishing we had more time.
We decorate our binders in stickers and eat popcorn while we watch a documentary. We learn the importance of calling ourselves “Surrogate Partners” not “Sex Surrogates” because it has very little to do with actual genital sex when it comes down to it (compared to the social, emotional, and intimate learning components).
The day ends and I call my partner back home and cry some more and do some things that need to get done, worrying about time and self-care amidst this intensive.
I go back downstairs to find dinner ready and everyone jubilantly drinking by a fire outside.
It is a very good group of humans.
Day 2: The simplicities and complexities of touch; how histories lie in our bodies and how to navigate trauma, fears, and shame within the surrogate partnership. How important it is to stay in your pleasure, otherwise this work will not work. I am in awe of the power of this process, the immense amount of love and presence that must come with it.
Day 3, 4 & 5: STC’s and contraception, anatomy & physiology. We recognize what relaxing feels like in the body and how to teach others to notice it.
We lightly drag our fingers around our partners faces for our own pleasure. It is to help them notice sensation and to model how to touch.
The next day we undress. A brave woman in her 60s runs our body image exercise. She is nervous but certain; she gives of herself generously and we are all captivated. Completely naked, we give the histories of our bodies.
We do more Touching For Our Pleasure and receive this Touch from others. In these exercises, we learn to feel touch that is not how we would touch. We learn to feel pleasure where we might not know to look.
The next day our relationships escalate. We are fully nude and fully body touching. The boundary between acquaintance and lover is crossed from long distances; but there is no insincerity, the relationship develops in the stages they have supplied. It is a dynamic with another person I have never had in my life and navigation is difficult and messy.
In between exercises we listen to stories. Stories upon stories upon stories. I am rapt with stories and what learning they contain. I begin to recognize that this work is for those who need it most. This work is not for easy pleasures or simple solutions. This work is for those who cannot touch. For those who it might take years to achieve a goal. For those whose pasts are dense and never knew how to move forward.
Day 6: Three men stare into the depths of my pussy to see a cervix up close and personal. It is my first time seeing my cervix, too. It looks, hysterically, like the head of a penis. I show my practice partner my vulva and go through the anatomy, the history, the feelings. I show him how I touch myself and invite him to explore. He does the same for me with his penis.
Day 7: It is a day off and we have a family outing to a nearby beach. It is overcast but warm. It is reflective but social. It is much needed and well used.
We live together, there is little separation. Each night we all eat together. Sometimes we watch a movie. I kind of feel like I’m on a Reality TV show but there are no cameras and the drama is pretty much non-existent; everyone is a lovely human.
Day 8: These weird little dynamics of our partnership are at pressure points. The time and place where we cross from the easy places of caressing, into the harder places of genital touch and arousal. We touch to touch, we touch for our pleasure, we touch for the other persons pleasure. A lot of feelings come up; feelings that we have to examine and dig into and “therapize” ourselves; the ultimate goal is to be as mindful and aware of our own reactions and the effect we are bringing to this dynamic. It is hard. It is reading my body, my brain, my feelings in ways I have never even considered. This person who is not chosen, this person who is not client, this person who is very close now all of a sudden. This is the work we seek out to do when we leave this training. How to be genuine, how to be in your pleasure, and be a sensitive partner.
Day 9: I realize that we have just undergone a very systematic training to be very good at sex – it is foreplay, but the concept of foreplay is silly, so it is sex, but with no penetration. We are allowed to create our own sessions with our partners based on everything we have done so far, the only rule is that we cannot go further. There are resistances, there are conversations, there are touches. This is a most fascinating and bizarre experience. My brain is expanding in directions I didn’t know existed.
Day 10: We discover and break down the concept of “mutuality” and what it means within the context of sensuality. Kissing, hand-holding, spooning, fucking; two-way street enjoyment. We do a simple exercise, dancing together with our eyes closed, and it is vulnerable and intimate and tentative; a wall is slowly coming down and I can choose to either lean into it to see how far it will fall, or try to cement it back together.
Day 11: Today we talk about Resistance and I learn something scary and vulnerable about myself. Resistance is an attempt to hold onto familiar patterns; the comfortable ways we have learned to relate to the world and your entire way of being is threatened. I sit out in the sun at lunch and feel my brain working out at high cardio rates and feel my heart becoming expansive; I feel light-headed, I feel nauseous. I see my own patterns: 9 times out of 10, sex has come before intimacy. And I see my own patterns of how intensely these two things are connected for me, and suddenly it dawns on me that I must practice intimacy before sex and that feels terrifying and completely nerve-racking. But if I want to do this work (and I really want to do this work), and if I want to be good at this work (and I really want to be good at this work), then I know what I need to practice.
Day 12: We practice Closure and we say Goodbye to each other. We acknowledge the relationship was always going to end, and consciously uncouple ourselves and review all that has happened, all we have done. “Don’t forget: this really happened. This was always supposed to end, but it was real, and it was meaningful.” I practice intimacy in ways that make my heart race, but the results will forever stay with me; it is the beginning.
“We will embark on a process of getting close.”
I am sitting spread-eagled in a chair, my feet up against the walls either side of the mirror I am staring into, vulva exposed, tummy lines creased, boobs sloping to the sides. I am crying as something inside of me says aloud to myself “Your sadness is beautiful… Your loneliness is beautiful… What a magnificent gift to know what this heartache feels like.”
I am laughing while sobbing while talking to myself as I would my little sister, my clients, my best friend, my partner. I am caring for myself with the same love and intention as I would everyone else in my life… And doing it all while I’m rubbing my inner labia softly in a circle and using a vibrator to vibrate my calve lightly, just because it feels good.
I can only imagine it sounds like I’m attempting to describe the world’s worst porno… “Sad Girl Laugh-Crys Masturbating While Saying Mantras in a Mirror”.
It’s about 7 PM on a Tuesday. The deep and penetrating love I found for a human who lives on the West coast happened less than two weeks ago. This cellular, woven-into-the-air sort of love that filled us both with Lightness. In a threesome we had at the end of our time together, the third told us after watching us kiss, “I usually don’t particularly enjoy watching people, but watching you two is like watching you breath each other’s souls.”
I am sad because for the first time since part of my heart left to go back home, I feel the immensity of my longing for him. I am alone at home; I am not lonely, I am the opposite of lonely. I have just spent three full days with other people whom I love, I am Ecstatic to be alone. The thought of seeing anyone feels downright exhausting. Yet, here I am, alone on my couch and then I notice he is gone. And Oh Does It Make Me Feel my body. I feel my centre-brow release tension while my head gently sways slightly to the side and back, and there is this o-shaped hole in my chest that pulls outwards beyond me; the loneliness of heartache hits.
The sensation of my heart reaching out in every which direction and not finding what it is looking for; a waywardness; like trying to attain a goal in a dream and being wholly confused as to why it seems to be unattainable.
As I found myself melting into my couch, foreseeing the pattern of managing of this heartache with mindless staring into the abyss of my phone (infinite distraction that never quite leaves me feeling fuller) and also the ceiling. I am not enjoying this; it both feels like I am having a feeling and not having a feeling… In a state of non-feeling. So I run through my mind with the newly accumulated knowledge I have gained in my summer of Becoming Embodied.
The practice of mindful masturbation has endless positive effects on my life. In saying this I would first like to remove the relegation of masturbation as genital touch to orgasm. I would like to reframe masturbation as deep and committed self-love. The self being the body from toes to crown, the emotional and psychological capacity contained within this body, and whatever framing of consciousness or soul you are privy to.
My mindful masturbation is sometimes just me dancing in the sun at the park for 30 minutes with myself. Sometimes it is pouring myself a coconut oil and lavender bath and gently massaging my entire body for an hour in the dark. Sometimes it is moments on the bus when I am feeling dis-embodied and will just lightly touch my arm, my leg, my face, to bring myself back into myself; to come home to myself. And then yes, sometimes it is a wild adventure with every toy in my toy box, sexy music and animalistic sounds and movements.
There’s this neat new science out that talks about how we are naturally pre-disposed to negative experiences (here are the references from the book I got this info from). The way our human brains have evolved are to be like velcro for bad things; we notice them, we feel them, we become immersed in them and our brains fire off a bunch of neurotransmitters that form pathways that, over the course of time forge deeper and deeper ways of existing. Positive experiences to our brains are more like throwing ping-pong balls against a wall. They hit, they make a sound, you may even notice that it has happened, but they don’t make any sort of lasting impression.
Rick Hanson’s book “Hardwiring Happiness” talks endlessly about our capacity and ability to create and notice positive experiences in our minds and our bodies using the acronym HEAL:
“Have a positive experience: Notice a positive experience that’s already present, such as physical pleasure, a sense of determination or feeling close to someone. Or create a positive experience for yourself. Help these ideas become emotional experiences; otherwise it’s merely positive thinking, which is usually wasted on the brain.
Enrich it: Stay with the positive experience for five to 10 seconds or longer. Open to it emotionally and try to sense it in your body, let it fill your mind, enjoy it… get those neurons firing, so they’ll really wire together.
Absorb it: Intend and sense that the experience is sinking into you as you sink into it. Let it really land in your mind.
Link positive and negative material: While you have a vivid and stable sense of a positive experience in the foreground of awareness, be aware if there’s something negative in the background. For instance, when you are feeling included and liked, imagine this experience making contact with past feelings of loneliness.”
When we make a dedicated effort to have, enrich, absorb positive experiences and override the negative ones, we are giving our brains a natural neurochemical bath that puts us into a calm, happy, blissful state of being On The Regular.
Here’s the kicker… In his entire book, the Entire book, there is not one single mention of the immense physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual pleasure derived from sexual and erotic pleasure. I’ve spoken to a few people who have confirmed that it is difficult to get hard science on this, as measuring sexual pleasure in the brain involves being strapped down in an MRI machine. BUT: IT MAKES SENSE. Take the most immersive pleasurable experience our bodies are capable of, ENRICH IT, ABSORB IT, and LINK IT.
As a culture so far we have just been coming to terms with Being Okay. Even in the brilliance of Gabor Mate’s “When The Body Says No” the focus is on what’s happening to our health when we ignore the body. My question to you is, what happens when we not only listen to the body, but treat it as lusciously and delectably as we would our idols? What happens When The Body Says YES?
This might feel overwhelming. Your cup may be past empty; it may be difficult to notice it filling. Like a bank account in overdraft; you may deposit $200, but if you are $2,000 in debt, it will be hard to feel the difference. You aren’t going to stop making deposits though, because even if it takes a long time, you will eventually hit $0 and the moment you make a $5 deposit you will finally begin to notice what it feels like to not be in debt; maybe even a whisper of what it feels like to have abundance, perhaps.
Your body, your nervous system, your brain may all be in overdraft; this is beautiful and okay. If the idea of sitting down and trying to find pleasure in massaging yourself is Too Much; amazing. Listen to that. Pleasure won’t be pleasurable if its not pleasurable; go figure. I learned and laughed many times when I realized I was quite frequently enduring my own touch because I thought I Had to do this (Who’s it for?!). Start small, but start noticing.
Here are the suggestions:
I have developed a new practice of masturbating in a chair in front of this full length mirror. In the plan to break my pattern of needing to be lying back down, legs spread on the bed in order to masturbate, I had explored variations of positions, and this one in the chair, feet up against the wall, legs spread, staring myself in the eye has become one of my ultimate favourites.
This juicy self-worship that was almost Too Good for me to even do it; as soon as I started I had this overwhelming sense of “Oh, no, that’s definitely not allowed. I’m definitely not allowed to enjoy my own image, my own body, my own pleasure Quite This Much.” And then I noticed my thought and realized this is the sort of feeling I train other people to obtain, so I Lean Into It, smirking at myself in the mirror, lock eyes, and reach orgasm with the thought of self-worship. Wow wow wow. How powerful to be thinking about self-worship while fucking yourself to yourself. Orgasm is a POWERFUL REINFORCER.
You are who you’ve been waiting for.
Masturbation coaching is one of my favourite things to do. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a Skype or phone session.
If you are curious for more, here is a video of my journey with mindful masturbation: