8172104432_c513e02472_zThe world is not friendly to our desires.

In over a decade of relationship coaching and sex ed, I’ve talked with thousands of people about why they don’t ask for what they want. Reasons include: not knowing what to want, not having the language to ask, and “why rock the boat when it’s good enough?”

But by and large, the main reason we don’t ask for what we want is fear.

Fear of rejection, humiliation, and judgment.

Fear of disappointment, shame, loss, or guilt.

Fear of repeating the past, missing out, hurting your partner, or feeling like a failure.

Fear of “what they will think,” not getting what you want, or putting too much at stake.

Fear rules our desires.

You know to be afraid of these things because you’ve experienced them.

  • The look of disdain on some adult’s face when you expressed curiosity about masturbation.
  • Being laughed at for your youthful eagerness and enthusiasm.
  • Hearing someone say “Ewww” after you shared a vulnerable truth.
  • Watching helplessly as a friend got judged for wanting something that seemed just a little “outside the box.”
  • Seeing people’s hearts be torn apart on reality TV, and their imperfections shredded to bits on the internet.

The world is hostile to the sweet, fumbling, imperfect nature of desire.

And so, to cope, we hide our desires from ourselves and from the people we love. And in the process, we become desire smugglers.

Desire Smuggling: Hiding what you really want from yourself or a loved one, then finding covert strategies to get pieces of what you want
We do it to stay safe. It’s a reasonable response to a toxic environment of shame and judgment.

At the same time, desire is powerful. Even in the face of fear, rejection, guilt, loss… we want what we want. And through better or worse means, we will try to get it.

Desire smuggling is something that we all do. The stakes are high around what you truly want, and being direct can seem outright terrifying in the face of these (often well-justified) fears.

What does it look like?

How to Spot Desire Smuggling

When I teach about smuggling desire, a class of 20 people can easily come up with 50-80 examples of ways we try to get what we want when we think it’s not available. From the merely annoying to the truly toxic, techniques of smuggling desire are endlessly creative.

desirepersistantDesire is persistent and will not be denied. When it doesn’t feel safe to want what you want, you will try to get it anyway. Here are some things you might do:

  • Expect telepathy
  • Make wishes
  • Fake spontaneity
  • Get drunk/high to remove inhibitions
  • Hint
  • Ask if the other person wants the thing you want
  • Rationalize cost/benefit
  • Emotional withdrawal
  • Send articles about the thing
  • Give statistics about the thing
  • Say “people like…” (instead of owning it yourself)
  • Try to convince
  • Try to get the other person to say it
  • Complain that you don’t get it
  • Be “nice” and hope to be rewarded
  • Make unspoken deals
  • Issue ultimatums
  • Emotional blackmail
  • Tack on obligation to a “gift”
  • Minimize by saying “just” or “only”
  • Guilt-trip
  • Be passive-aggressive
  • Blame
  • Want the other person to guess
  • Wait for the right time
  • Wait for a sign
  • Buy into a romance myth (“If you really loved me…”)
  • Assume they should “just know”
  • Withhold
  • Force
  • Non-consensual taking
  • Be macho
  • Be loud and bombastic
  • Punish your partner for not giving it to you
  • Attack/judge someone asking for what you want
  • Attack/judge someone getting what you want
  • Look for other, less-scary places to get it
  • Shame yourself for having that desire
  • Shame others with the same desire
  • Avoid it altogether
  • Make sugar-coated demands
  • Compromise
  • “Purchase” it by doing other things
  • Get needs met without owning them
  • Tell a story about the thing desire
  • Martyr yourself in hopes of getting it
  • Substitute something else
  • Don’t explore internal dissonance
  • Bully
  • Criticize after the fact
  • Spiritually bypass
  • Settle
  • Play options roulette (where one option is the one you want)

Desire smuggling is a clue.

Looking at this list, it’s easy to criticize, blame or shame yourself (or your partner) for doing these things. After all, some of them are pretty shitty behavior, and others are just not terribly effective for getting what you want.

When you catch yourself (or someone you love) smuggling desire, the last thing you want to do is to criticize. Instead, have some compassion for yourself, and recognize two things:

  1. These behaviors are a totally sane and rational response to an environment where desire is discounted, rejected, ridiculed, shamed and otherwise devalued.
  2. Desire smuggling is a clue that there’s something you want.

When you catch this clue, then you can do something more effective with your desire. You can ask for what you want. You can bring it to a community of trust where your desire will be celebrated and you can explore it safely. You can apologize for not being straightforward and find new ways of creating connection with the people you love.

When it’s safe to have desire, you no longer have to smuggle it. 

photo credits: OUCHcharley, Ray_from_LA

For community and coaching that holds and celebrates your tender desires, check out The Big Feast.

1Do you often find yourself less than satisfied with what you receive from your partner(s) and other relationships?

Do you hide what you really want from your partner, or even yourself?

Would you like to learn how to ask so that you get a “FUCK YEAH!” instead of an “OKAY, SURE”?

In this recording of a call I did earlier this month, we unravel and discuss the murky and mysterious issues around desire and communication, including

  • Why we don’t ask & what we do instead
  • Desire smuggling (what it is and why it matters)
  • Why “Is this okay?” is NOT the question to ask (and what to ask instead)
  • Why “Do you want to ___?” is only 1/4 of the equation of asking
  • How to make room for fun experimentation in bed

Plus, despite some minor technical issues, we got some GREAT questions, including:

  • What do you do when your partner doesn’t “get it” and you don’t know how to describe it?
  • Given common gender dynamics, as a man, how can you make sure your female parters don’t just “go along with it” when you ask for something?
  • How do you talk about something that you want to do often, without it feeling pressured or bringing it up at a bad time?

You can listen to the whole thing here:

Or, right click to download.

8 Ways to Hear a No Gracefully

February 18, 2015

The more you ask for what you want in your intimate life and daily life, the more you’re likely to hear both yesses and nos. Rejection can sting, but there’s also an opportunity to build connection when you can hear a no gracefully, especially in your intimate relationships.

Sometimes, the “No” is direct. More often, it’s difficult for people to say no directly and it may be unclear what’s going on. As an advocate for clear communication and consent, I suggest that you take ambiguity as a No. (This will either be received gratefully, or be a gentle reminder to your loved one to communicate their desires more clearly.)

Regardless of what kind of a No you get, here are some ways to HEAR a no gracefully:

Ways to Hear No Gracefully (3)

(Download a printable, poster-sized PDF version of this graphic here.)

Remember:

  • Accepting a no doesn’t mean you have to be happy about it.
  • You’re allowed to feel sad, disappointed, angry, etc.
  • When you can radically accept boundaries (your own and others’) a space for creating new possibilities opens up that didn’t exist before.
  • In the long run, gracefully accepting other people’s nos builds trust.

“Beyond Monogamy” on KQED

February 13, 2015

kqedThis morning, I had the pleasure of being interviewed on KQED’s Forum today, along with local sexaratti William Winters, Polly Superstar and Pepper Mint, about polyamory in the Bay Area.

We hit on some common misconceptions about polyamory, mistakes people make, why we do it, and a bunch more. You can listen here.

(I also learned that you’re not allowed to talk about sex toys on public radio! Oops!)

og-forum

Grace: (n)simple elegance or refinement of movement; courteous goodwill.

We all want connection. Saying no can feel terrifying, especially if you are afraid of losing connection with someone you care about. Rejecting someone you love sucks.

In many cases, even if we don’t know the person, we want to avoid rocking the boat. But “not really saying no, and then hoping that the other person will somehow magically abide by it anyway” is not an effective strategy for maintaining your boundaries OR getting what you want.

Here are a bunch of ways to say no to loved ones, strangers, people selling you things, coworkers, lovers and everyone in between. Practice them all, and find the versions that work best for you.

No Thank You final

(Download a printable, poster-sized PDF version of this graphic here.)

Remember:

  • You don’t have to justify your no. Resist the temptation to explain why it’s not a good fit, why you feel stomach-churny, or why you need to build more trust. Avoid making excuses.
  • When you state what’s true about your experience, it’s harder to argue with you.
  • You get to have boundaries.
  • “No” is a complete sentence.
  • When you say what you do want instead, it gives you both something to work from (if you want that.)

business-19156_1280So we’re a few weeks into the new year, and by now your goals/resolutions/intentions are either sticking, or they’re not.

If they are, great! Gold stars all around!

If they’re not, it might be because you haven’t made room for them. There’s just too much stuff on the table. You know that feeling of overwhelm and too many demands?

Yeah that.

The easiest way to make room for what you want, is to stop tolerating things you don’t.

Toleration: (n) the people, events or situations that you put up with, that drain your energy.

Tolerating things is a waste of time and effort. They keep you from being yourself and enjoying life to the fullest. Generally, it’s a fast-track to anger, frustration and irritability, and almost everyone does too much of this. 

We do it because we don’t want to make a fuss.

We do it because it’s easier to just put up with it.

We do it because “Who has the time?”

But tolerations add up. They’re like holes your personal happiness cup. You put happiness in, but you end up feeling drained anyway. Every little thing that doesn’t matter that much, but makes you a little bit annoyed (or downright grumpy) is something you’re tolerating, and if you’re like most people, I bet you have dozens, if not hundreds, of them.

On top of that, we tell ourselves little lies to make it seem okay:

128H“It’s not a big deal.”
“He didn’t mean it that way.”
“I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Or big ones:

“I’m not good enough to have that.”
“I don’t deserve that.”
“If I were really enlightened, this wouldn’t bother me.”

So not only are you putting up with things that don’t work for you, you’re also confusing yourself about what’s actually reality.

From there, it’s almost impossible to know what you actually want, much less make it happen.

So, for the new year, here are 21 things to stop tolerating.

  1. Relationships that drain you
  2. A work environment or career that you hate
  3. Work that isn’t aligned with your worth
  4. Uncomfortable beds, shoes or chairs
  5. Not having the right tools for the job
  6. Making plans with people you don’t really want to see, or to do things you don’t really want to do
  7. That voice in your head that tells you “you suck”
  8. Other people’s negativity
  9. Not getting enough sleep
  10. Sitting too much
  11. Not drinking enough water
  12. Trying to make everyone happy all the time / what other people think of you
  13. Keeping up with the Joneses
  14. Thinking that perfect exists
  15. Bad sex
  16. Unfinished business
  17. Dishonesty
  18. Lack of intimacy
  19. Constantly managing your emotional state to “okay”
  20. Not getting the help you need
  21. Not saying what you need

Because we’re so used to putting up with stuff, it may be hard to even see it at first. I invite you to lean into your self-honesty here, and ask yourself:

What am I tolerating?
What is this costing me?
Why have I been tolerating it? (i.e., What’s the payoff been?)
What’s actually true about what I want?
What is one small but powerful step I can take toward the truth?

Then write it down, and share it here:

I will no longer tolerate …
Instead, I choose to…

 

For more on tolerations, download my free ebook: Good Girl Gone Bad (where I share over 50 things I’ve been tolerating.)

Just before Christmas, I had the pleasure to be involved with three other remarkable women in a panel discussion on practical, effective tools for talking with people you love about Ferguson, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, race and #blacklivesmatter. In less than 24 hours, we put out an invitation for people to listen in and send their comments… and over 150 people did. Here is the original invitation, a recording of the panel and the resources we put together, for you to use in your own conversations with your loved ones.

blmtalk3

The Original Invitation

from Kimberly McCrae, Amber Butts, Tatyana Brown and Marcia Baczynski

The violence feels like it’s escalating. Or maybe you know that we’re finally starting to pay attention to a crisis that’s been taking lives for centuries. Between the non-indictments, the marches in the streets, and the mounting list of names of black people needlessly murdered by police officers and vigilantes, the impulse to do something (ANYTHING) to help has become urgent and impossible to ignore.

But it’s not just the big “political” gestures that can shift our culture towards justice — it’s individual, careful conversations with people who trust and love each other enough to listen even when it’s painful and scary. As baffling as it might be, it’s important to realize that there are still people who don’t see the problem. Some of them sit at the same dinner table as we do during the holidays.

These are the people that each of us have the most potential to reach.

[read more…]

575482_10151062257366271_489183581_nI first met Polly Superstar in early 2008, when I was visiting San Francisco from New York. Scheduled to be there for nine weeks while teaching and taking classes, I somehow landed at (and basically moved into) Mission Control, a sex-positive arty sexy space, co-created by a brassy Brit with big boobs named Polly.

Over the following year, as I gradually made my permanent move to the Bay, Polly was a constant fixture in my life, inviting me to strange events, letting me couch surf for weeks at a time, and captivating my attention with her ability to find play and inspiration at every possible turn.

But 2008 wasn’t all fun and games. As much as it marked a turning point in my life, Polly and Mission Control were in the midst of a transition that year too. The burden of running such a culturally important yet day-to-day grinding organization were becoming too much for Polly and her partner Scott. This beloved sanctuary of freakishness and fabulosity was threatening to take them under, and it wasn’t clear how it was all going to play out.

[read more…]

Embodiment for Brainiacs

November 8, 2014

rodin-thinkerDesire. Bodies. Feelings. Pleasure.

Some of us look at these things with a skeptical eye.

Others run screaming in the other direction.

For a lot of us, phrases like “Listen to your intuition,” “Trust your body,” and “What does your gut say?” sound like gibberish at best, or an invitation to disaster at worst.

But for heady people who have learned to listen to their bodies, the intuitive and gut-level is additional information that can help you navigate your world more gracefully and intelligently.

It’s just information. It’s all information.

And we all know that knowledge is power.

0622130850My friend Leela Sinha and I know this, because we’ve been there. Coming from families of engineers, mathematicians and medical professionals, we both learned from an early age to value the life of the mind, and to “figure things out.” As adults, though, we’ve each come to discover that there’s a lot more to creating a life you love than you can “figure out.”

Sometimes your gut has a lot to say, and it’s worth listening.

We recently got together to talk about this and got into the nitty gritty details of:

  • What it means, practically speaking, to be “embodied” and why it’s useful
  • How to use your body to figure out what you really want (in life, love, work and in the bedroom)
  • Simple practices for listening to your body and figuring out what it wants
  • What “intuition” is really about
  • How to use your body’s wisdom to help your mind make better life decisions
  • And loads more…

It was awesome! Lucky for you, we recorded it.

You can listen right here (right click to download)

bmcoupleDear Marcia,

I’m going to Burning Man this year for the first time with my partner and I want to make sure our relationship doesn’t implode. What are some things we should watch out for?

– Playa Bound

Dear Playa Bound,

Burning Man is a weird and wonderful place where all sorts of mind-blowing stuff can happen. However, some things are predictable. Here’s what to know ahead of time. 

You will fight and it will probably be because you’re dehydrated. If you catch yourselves fighting doesn’t assume it mean the end of the world, and instead check your self-care. My camp has a rule that if you saw two people getting snippy with each other, separate them and make them drink water and sit in the shade for a bit. This rule saved several relationships that I know of. Make it your own. 

Time works differently on the playa. When you’re making dates with your sweetie, try to schedule them according to the sun, rather than the clock. It’s much easier to meet up back at camp “around sunset” than to try to do something at 4pm. Clocks have little meaning in an environment of immediacy, and you’ll only cause yourself frustration if you try to keep both of you on some sort of schedule. 

Expectations will fuck you up. If you think something is going to be a certain way, or your sweetie is going to do a certain thing, you will almost always be disappointed. It is far better to set some intentions, do the best you can, assume others are doing the best they can, take responsibility for getting your own needs met, and then roll with whatever shows up.

Mushroom People at Burning Man 2010There will be eye-candy. Lots of it. Sweaty, scantily-clad eye candy. Get clear ahead of time what is and isn’t okay, and what your intentions are in regards to this eye candy. Do you want to make out with strangers together on Threesome Thursday? Look but don’t touch? Plan one day where you go your separate ways and whatever happens happens? Talk ahead of time about what you each want, but don’t push each other’s boundaries. Burning Man is a strange, magical place, but you want to be on speaking terms when you leave. Respect your boundaries and agreements. 

You will need lube. It’s the desert. When it’s time for the two of you to make sweet, sweet love, make sure you have lube, water, condoms and baby wipes ready to go. 

For more handy tips, check out the Burning Man Relationship Survival Guide.

Talk things through ahead of time, but stay flexible and spontaneous. Be nice to each other and enjoy the ride! 

Love,

Marcia

photos courtesy quantamlars and michael holden via flickr