New Year, New You?

joy1New Year New You? That’s what all the advertisements say right now.

It’s a new year, you should lose weight.
It’s a new year, you should make more money.
It’s a new year, it’s time to finally find a partner.
It’s a new year, better buy a house. Or a car. Or some bedding or something.

The ads say once you do all these things, then you can finally be happy.

What. A load. Of crap.

I love the new year, but I hate all the emotional manipulation that goes with it.

You don’t need to change who you are to be happy.

And you DON’T need to accomplish a bunch of stuff that may not even be what matters to you in order to deserve happiness.

In fact, trying to achieve happiness through goals that aren’t even your own is the surest path to dissatisfaction.

Now I’m not saying don’t set goals. I love goal-setting and right now I’m in the middle of setting my own 2016 goals and intentions.

But your resolutions, goals, and intentions for the new year need to be about who you are, what you want and what actually lights you up and turns you on. When you include the things you care about — not what you were told to do or what you should want — your goals may be odd and a little surprising, but they will lead you to a kind of happiness not found in the gym or with a financial planner.

So as you figure out what you want your 2016 to be like, here are some questions to consider:

Is this goal based on a felt desire within myself? One that I can feel in my body? Is there an internal yearning for this? Or is this a goal I’ve been told to want, feel like I should want or feel like I should do?

For years, I set financial goals for myself that I failed to meet. “Pay off all your credit card debt. Save 20% of your income.” Reasonable stuff like that. It took me a while to realize that the reason I failed wasn’t because of some horrible flaw in myself. It was because I hadn’t connected my financial goals to the rest of my values and my life. Once I set financial goals that were connected to things that genuinely excited me (instead of just doing what I was told I should do), my finances suddenly and sharply improved — because my reasons were intimately connected to my values.

Similarly, I never got much traction on any “exercise more” goals, but when it became about “having fun in my own skin,” suddenly dancing, hiking, swimming and sailing on a regular basis naturally followed.

What do I want my goals to feel like when I achieve them? Are the things I’ve written down for 2016 things that will lead to me feeling that way?

Have you ever accomplished something, and when it was all over wondered, “Is that all there is?” Sometimes we become so focused on WHAT we’re trying to accomplish that we lose track of why we even started in the first place, or whether we should have changed course in the middle. Connecting your goals with how you want it to feel will keep your life from just being a giant checklist.

Do my goals encompass all parts of me? Or just the parts that I feel are acceptable to pursue?

It’s easy to be ambitious about things that your family, your friends or your society rewards you for. But what about the things that the people around you don’t understand or don’t ever talk about? Over a decade ago, I decided my annual intention-setting needed to include goals about developing my relationship to my own sexuality. At the time, I knew no one who did such a thing and it felt incredibly risky to even write it down in my own journal. But now I enjoy so much spaciousness, self-knowledge, autonomy, pleasure and freedom that I want to go back and give my younger self a giant high five. What parts of yourself (sexually, creatively, financially, relationally) feel similarly risky to have goals or intentions around? What baby step can you take this year to include that in your goal-setting?

Dream big this year if you want. Or don’t. Try something bold this year. Or don’t. It’s not about what it looks like on the outside, and it’s certainly not about pleasing other people.

Make a life for yourself this year that is about you and your heart… I bet it will be extraordinary.

 

Mighty fine thanks to Martin Talbot for the photo.

27 Alternatives To Asking “Is This Okay?”


When it comes to sexytimes, we all want to know if what we’re doing in bed is working for our partner. Unfortunately, knowing what or how to ask doesn’t always come as second nature. You fumble, try to read clues and more often than not, “Is this okay?” tumbles out of your mouth.

Last week I wrote about why “Okay” is a four-letter word and encouraged you to break the habit of asking about it. To do so, you need different, more precise questions to ask, ones that actually get at the thing you want to know.

Pair a good question with a sexy voice and some genuine curiosity, and some serious magic will happen.

Next time you and your sweetie are about to get down, try these instead:

Yes/No questions

As we discussed in the last post, “Okay” is a maddeningly unclear (and rather low) standard for your sex life. If you are asking yes or no questions, be sure to ask about what you actually want to know. Much of the time, we want to know if we’re doing a good job, but “good job” is also not particularly well-defined. When in doubt, center your questions around pleasure, satisfaction and desire. If nothing else, it lets your partner know that you really want them to have a good time. Here are some examples:

Before

  • 8180474158_495134d66c_zWould you like it if…?
  • Would it please you if…?
  • Would you enjoy it if…?
  • Would it rock your world if…?

During

  • Are you enjoying this?
  • Do you want more of this?
  • Is this good for you?
  • Does this work for you?
  • Do you want something different?

After

  • Did you enjoy it when…?
  • Was it pleasurable to you when…?
  • Did it work for your when…?

Personally, I’m not a big fan of Yes/No questions, because I like to find out more about what makes my partner tick. But these kinds of questions can be handy if your partner isn’t good at articulating what they like, when you’re caught up in the heat of the moment, or when you just need a quick snippet of feedback to see if things are on track.

Either/Or questions

Most people are not very good at saying what they want. If you are trying to find out what your partner likes, trying something and then asking “Is this okay?” is unlikely to tell you what they prefer. But an open-ended question may cause your sweetie to freeze like a deer in the headlights. This is a great chance to give your partner options!

decisions-patrice-koerper-life-coach-motivational-speakerEither/or questions can help you and your partner figure out which general direction to head in, without having to over-think things or be able to articulate everything in advance.

  • Do you prefer a firmer or gentler touch?
  • Do you like it when I move slower or faster?
  • Do you want sexy snuggles or sleepy snuggles?
  • Do you want more tongue or less when I kiss you?
  • Would you like the rope tighter or looser?
  • Do you want me to be more allowing or more assertive [in this activity]?
  • Do you like spankings to be more “golf clap” or more “rock concert”?*

Either/or questions can be particularly helpful when trying out a new activity, when you’re trying to figure out the flavor of something your partner has asked for, or when you really want to dial in exactly what turns them on.

Open Ended Questions

Sometimes, you just need a lot more information than “Is this okay?” or “Are you okay?” will give you. You might feel emotionally adrift in an interaction, or totally unable to read your partner’s cues. In this case, open ended questions are the way to go! They can be good to ask during a lull in the action, when something seems to be off-track but you can’t tell what, or during a sexual debrief after sexytimes.

193853038_bc19cfb4a2_zHere are some examples:

  • How do you feel about what’s happening right now?
  • What would rock your world right now?
  • What would feel good to you right now?
  • How are you doing?
  • What’s going on over there?
  • How would it be for you if…?
  • How was that to hear?
  • What’s your level of interest in that?

The answer you get to a sexual question depends on what you ask. Sexual communication (like all communication) is a bit of an art form, and you’ll discover what works best for you and your partner over time. Experiment with all three kinds of questions until you discover a new standard of sexual satisfaction for you and your partner. 

* Thanks to my pal Midori for the golf clap suggestion.
Photo credit.
Photo credit.
Photo credit.

How to Give Feedback During Sexytimes

So there you are, in bed, having an…. okay time. It’s not that there’s anything wrong exactly. It’s just not… right either.

Telling your partner you want something different during sex than what they’re doing can be terrifying. You don’t want to criticize. You don’t want them to stop. What if they think you’re too much? What if it sounds demanding? It seems “good enough.” They’re trying. “Why rock the boat?”

But good sex only happens when your partner knows what you want. And sometimes, the only way they’ll know is if you speak up and say something. Here’s how to use your words without killing the mood:

Start with the positive.

No one likes to hear that they suck at something. Even a comment as innocent as “Hey, can you move a little to the left” by itself can leave your partner wondering if you’re enjoying yourself. Start with what’s what’s working. Even an “Oh my god, yes!” before “Oooh, a little to the left,” can clarify where you’re at and what you want.

The challenge for you is to notice what feels good. Too often when something isn’t quite right, our attention only goes to “what’s wrong.” By putting your attention on what is giving you pleasure, the focus stays on pleasure. And, when you let your partner know what’s working, they will know what to keep doing. Otherwise, they may stop altogether, and that’s not the goal at the moment.

Say what you want.

Slower. Different position. Less tongue. More lube. Pin me down. Doggy style. Look me in the eye. Breath with me. Smack my bottom. Get a condom. Hold me. Harder. Softer. Faster. Less. More. Here. Like this.

Tell your partner what you want so they know what to do.

Not what you don’t want.

It’s tempting to tell your partner what’s not working for you, but if you do so, you run the risk of 1. killing the mood and 2. not actually getting what you want.

“That’s too much tongue.”
“Stop touching me like that.”
“I don’t want to do missionary.”
“Too fast.”

None of these let your partner know what you want. On top of that, they just sound like you are complaining. Your partner may try to guess what it is you’re asking for, but activities don’t always have a natural opposite, so there’s a decent chance your partner will just end up at a loss.

Affirm the attempt.

It’s pretty common for lovers to miss the mark the first few tries, especially when you’re trying something new. Whether or not your partner “gets it,” each time you speak up, give them positive feedback for trying.

This is sometimes the hardest thing to do, especially when you don’t want to give your partner the impression they’re doing what you want when they aren’t there yet.

But sex is vulnerable. Imagine the roles were flipped. Hearing that you aren’t doing something your partner wants can be scary. Say “Yes” or “Thank you” or “mmHmm…” or “OMG EXACTLY LIKE THAT” after your partner tries to please you is both good manners and more likely to lead you to where you want to ultimately be.

This is what it sounds like.

“Oh my god, yes… A little to the left…. yes. Yes.”

“That pressure is so good. Mmm hmmm… can you go a little slower? That’s great.”

“Ooh I like that look in your eyes. Pin me down? Mmm… fuck yes.”

“I sooo want to fuck you right now. Grab a condom…. Thank you.”

“I like that whimper… If you like what I’m doing, keep making noise.. yes, like that….”

Rinse and repeat, as needed.

Sometimes, you just have to keep asking to get what you want (and even then, asking doesn’t always mean you’ll get it.) There’s nothing wrong with speaking up a lot, slowing down as needed, taking breaks, shifting to something different and otherwise mixing it up. By beginning and ending with positives, even asking over and over for something can be sexy and hot.

What it sounds like:

“Your hand feels so good on me…. More pressure please?… mmhmmm… yes… Oh, I love being close to you… a little more pressure… Yes, yes… that’s it. … … … Oh god your fingers feel so good.. Yes.. Even more pressure. That’s it.”

“Ooh I like that look in your eyes. Pin me down? Mmm… I like that…. I like you on top of me. Pin my wrists tighter? Yes. Thank you. Yes.”

“I like the way your fingers are skating over my skin. That feels so good… ooh, less scratching please… oh that’s good…. You make me shiver…. I love the lightness of that… fewer fingernails… yes… mmmm… yess… THANK you… mmmm….”

Afterward

If you’re new to speaking up like this in bed, you may be feeling insecure about how it went, or what your partner was thinking. It can be helpful to check in afterward to find out. Ask open-ended questions (not “Was that okay?”) and listen for the answer. Both sides of sexual communication are vulnerable, so give your partner space to share their side of things.

What it sounds like:

“So I was talking more in bed this last time… how was that for you?”

“I love being close to you during sex and I want to make sure that you know I’m having a good time and when something’s not working for me. How do you like to hear feedback?”

“Talking like that was pretty edgy for me. I could use some reassurance, and also, what did you think about that kind of talk?”

Practice, Practice, Practice.

Communicating well during sex takes practice, but as you continue to explore, you’ll find that not only are you getting more of what you want in bed, but you’re both having more fun as you go.

Getting to “Fuck Yes”: Clear Communication for the Bedroom

Do 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 live call, 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.

Sex Culture Revolutionary: An Interview with Polly Superstar

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.

Continue reading “Sex Culture Revolutionary: An Interview with Polly Superstar”

Relationship Survival At Burning Man – What You Need To Know

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

16 Ways to Talk About Consent (That Are Pretty Sexy…)

yesbymadhavaHere’s a stack of wonderful ways to check in with your partner, to find out more of what they want, and to communicate your own desires. Try some today!

  1. “Do you like when I…?”
  2. “I like when you…”
  3. “Will you…?”
  4. “How does this feel?”
  5. “Do you want me to…?”
  6. “Do you want to…?”
  7. “Is there anything you want to try?”
  8. “Show me what you like.”
  9. “Do you want to go further?”
  10. “Do you want to stop?”
  11. “Can I…?”
  12. “Does this feel good?”
  13. “Are you happy?”
  14. “Are you comfortable?”
  15. “Are you having a good time?”
  16. “Is this good for you?”

* I found this floating around the internet without citation. If you know who gets original credit for this, please let me know!

 Mighty fine thanks to Madhava for the pic.

What’s Stopping You Around Money and Sex?

Amy_Jo-222_LowResI’m really excited to let you know about a bonus interview I did with my colleague and friend, Amy Jo Goddard — an amazing sexual empowerment coach and sexuality educator based in Napa, CA. Amy Jo helps women and couples have more pleasure, better sex, and deeper intimacy in their relationships… and lately, she’s bringing in a whole new piece around money and business.

We dug deep into the patterns and beliefs that many women carry about money and sex without realizing it. She’s gave a seriously interesting head’s up about upcoming work in the Napa Valley that you won’t want to miss!

Listen in to find out:

  • what is money shame… and how does it impact intimate relationships
  • the cultural socialization around sex, relationships and money that specificallylimits women
  • why women have such a hard time asking for what they want
  • the hidden archetype that blocks women around money and sex

Click here to listen.

Are You Letting Yourself Get What You Want?

Sick couple resting in bedI see this way too often: A couple loves each other. They communicate pretty well. Sex has been hot before. But something’s just not… going right.

You want to make your partner writhe with pleasure, and if all goes well, give them a pretty fantastic orgasm.

This sounds like a good thing. I mean, what could possibly be wrong with THAT?

Nothing, except… GIVING your partner a good time is only half of the equation.

The problem, far too often, is that both partners are trying to please each other AT THE SAME TIME.

Which means there’s no receiver.

Which means no one is GETTING what they want.

It’s not that either of you are “giving too much.” It’s that there’s no one there to appreciate the gift.

For most people, it’s less vulnerable to give than it is to put your desire out there. If you let your desires be known, you may risk rejection. So many of us just give and give, in order to stay safe.

After a while of this, it might start to feel like you’re going through the motions. “I just want to make you happy” is not a recipe for bedroom success. If it goes on too long, resentment can build.

So how do you change that? Practice receiving.

Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Slow down. Breathe into the sensations and allow yourself to feel them.
  • Let yourself enjoy what is happening without doing anything in response.
  • Ride the edge where it feels like you’re being “selfish”… and let yourself be.
  • If there’s something you like and want more of, say so.
  • Acknowledge and thank your partner for their attention, their desire, their touch.
  • Explore taking what you want sexually.
  • If you don’t know what your partner’s boundaries are, ask! (When you know where the line is, you can go all the way up to it, and that’s hot!)

touch-compassionhands-404x297Opening up to your desires can feel edgy, and accepting your partner’s sexual gifts can feel selfish. Yet without some selfishness, the sex can end up feeling blah. So push that edge a little, be receptive, and see what happens!

 

 

Assume Everyone Is Sexual

On the last page of Susie Bright’s fantastic book Full Exposure, there is a list that has stuck with me since the first time I read it 10 years ago. It goes like this:

“Assume Everyone Is Sexual”
To ever imagine otherwise is one of the most profound and ignorant forms of discrimination.

Your momma is sexual,
Your great-grandma who you never knew,
Her husband too —
Your precious baby, and every other precious baby,
That twisted up guy in a wheelchair,
The thirteen-year-old with thick glasses and orthopedic shoes,
The incredibly homely person that you crossed the street to get away from,
weird anorexic supermodels too —
Anyone you don’t desire,
and anyone you’ve ever put on a pedestal.
EVERYONE.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how our culture seems to tell us at every turn that sex is only for the young and the pretty, and the toll that takes on the rest of us. (Or really, all of us.)

Being sexual is confused with being sexually desirable, which is confused with being lovable. But none of these are the same thing.

You have a sexuality regardless of who you are, what you look like and whether someone else likes it.

Your sexuality is worth recognizing and loving.

One of the easiest ways I’ve found to love my own sexuality is to recognize that everyone is sexual. By taking the attention off myself, and learning to consider (and maybe even love) the otherwise invisible sexuality of everyone else around me, it becomes just a weird quirk that we humans all have.

Something I get to have.

Something YOU get to have.

All of us.

So today, assume everyone is sexual. And let me know in the comments what happens.