Just in time for the new year, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite sex and relationship related books that I have read this year. This will be a multiple post article, so let’s start you off with three beautiful books that can help you deepen your connection to yourself and others:
Urban Tantra – Barbara Carellas (forward by Annie Sprinkle)
If you ever thought there must be more to sex than stumbling around in the dark, this book is for you. Tantra is not just complicated sex positions, it is a whole way of experiencing touch and intimacy that incorporate our entire senses and connect us with ourselves and others on a deeper level. Barbara Carellas provides an amazing introduction to the world of tantra that anyone can incorporate into their busy lives, even including ideas for 15-minute exercises you can do at home. Carellas’ casual writing style and the countless examples she gives from her personal life is really what takes this book to the next level for me, and makes it such a great read that you can keep on your bookshelf forever. (Shout out to Other Nature, Berlin, where I first saw this gem).
Orgasms for Two – Betty Dodson, PhD
Betty Dodson is a fabulous, fabulous person, a talented artist, and a die-hard champion of female masturbation. This book is filled with great stories, creative ideas for the bedroom, and beautiful illustrations. A friend of mine recently discovered this book in my library and has been having a good ole’ time reading it with her husband. Unfortunately, paperback copies are hard to find, but kindle and ebook or borrowing from your local library are great options. (Shout out to Smitten Kitten, Minneapolis, where I first borrowed this book from).
Daring Greatly – Brene Brown Ph.D, LMSW
Vulnerability is an essential part of intimacy, yet it is something we often try to avoid or overlook. In this book Brene Brown gives us the tools and motivations to embrace vulnerability, imperfection, and live our lives more courageously with higher enjoyment and fulfillment. This is a great book for anyone interested in living their life more fully and letting go of shame and stifling patterns in relationship, work, family, and more. If you want a preview of what will be in this book, you can check out Brown’s Ted talk on “The power of vulnerability”, which should give you a pretty good idea if this is a topic you’d want to read more about. (Shoutout to Dawn Serra and her podcast “Sex Gets Real” for introducing me to Brene Brown).
Cuddle up with a book and let us know what you think! Do you have any favorite books you’d recommend? We would love to hear from you. Till next time…
“Do I need to come to your workshop with unresolved feelings?” I asked Megan, an LA-based artist, and her gracious mother Dorothy during Megan’s opening at Raw Art Gallery in Tel Aviv. Megan Whitmarsh’s first solo show in Israel, titled “Not New Just Changed (A New Time is No Matter)” and curated by Leah Abir, combines grounded feminist homage with loaded apocalyptic dreams, ambiguous time travel, and eco-sensual imagery in a soft-sculpture installation. The show features several series of works by Megan, as well as a large centerpiece that is a larger-than-life hand-embroidered replica of a Pastelegram art magazine issue the artist co-edited, and was funded by the Pastelegram non-profit organizaiton.
As part of the exhibition, Megan led two participatory workshops with her mother, “Light on the Path”, which I would describe as a guided group self-inquiry meditation practice, and a “Feminist T-shirt Workshop”, which became a surprisingly familial affair on a Friday afternoon.
Megan’s large dream-journals embroideries were amongst my favorite pieces. They felt incredibly intimate and revealing without revealing anything. Although the stories include detailed descriptions of real characters in Megan’s life, the distortion of time, space, and reality makes their plots too surreal for interpretation. On one hand, they read like vulnerable confessions, but on the other, they are totally illogical, abstract, and impermeable. The fabric that they are embroidered on look like giant, hanging pillowcases, and the writing itself retains a spontaneous and urgent just-got-out-of-bed feel despite the labored and thoughtful process.
Pastelegram: “Women on the Edge of Time”
Patelegram is an annual publication that explores visual communities and the relationship between artworks and ideas. Their sixth issue,”Women on the Edge of Time”, which Megan co-edited, is dedicated to “crafting communities through time travel” and explores intersectional feminism through time, medium, and space. Megan brought a few copies with her to Israel, and although the publication was not an official part of the show and separately funded, it really enhanced my experience and understanding of Megan’s works as well as the creative community she operates within.
It starts off with a wonderful essay by Amanda Ackerman, Counting Backyards, where she discusses the female body’s ability (or inability) to inhabit not just physical space, but the present moment itself. Our bodies are constantly conceptualized as either a point of origin -“the infinite return” – or a vision for the future – “a body concerned with making the world better than what it currently is.” Stated in her own words, “the feminine is relegated to that which is not spatially-temporally here.”
Next Marisa Williamson charts the transition from “Here/Now” to “There/Freedom” in her powerful essay/poem Sally Heming’s Map to Freedom which begins:”Start where you are. Figure out what white people like. Figure out what white people like in black people.” Leah Modigliana writes a powerfully contemporary and relevant call and warming of a revolution in Sleeping on a Volcano: “Do you not hear them [the working-class] repeating unceasingly that all that is above them is incapable and unworthy of governing them; that the distribution of goods prevalent until now throughout the world is unjust; that property rests on a foundation that is not an equitable one?”
Other gems in this issue include Stretching with Amy Sedaris, Crystal Healing with Azalea Lee, and an essay on Menopause and Kundalini energy by Susun S. Weed. The publication itself is filled with small illustrations, diagrams, and quotes scattered throughout the text. Trinie Dalton’s El Jefe is a beautiful and personal meditation on the idea of god, and what it means to feel it inside of us:
God is not some sky-clad bearded dude in a robe. God is here and now, in me, with big everything – big tits, dick, hips, lips, hands, all enormous glad, busting with both exquisite bejeweled beauty and sour despicable ugliness… Why would women worship god as a man, why would queer people worship a god who isn’t gay; if god’s physicality is a metaphor for the energy that resides within each of us, why wouldn’t god mirror each of us, changeable and motley?…
Some nights I get off in the bubble bath, feeling multiple gods in every iridescent bubble. Thank you bubble gods for enveloping me in hot water and giving me a place to de-stress. Got not in eroticized taboo, but in my freedom of choice, my body. Kama sutra. I always suspected god was in sex and love, like tantra, leading us on a mandala-mapped road trip towards death.
Light on the Path
Why do you care?
Why is it important to you?
Why does it matter to you?
What does it mean to you?
What are you really wanting?
What are you looking for?
These are the questions Dorothy asked us to answer in the “Light on the Path” workshop (the one to come to with unresolved feelings). We each wrote about something that “bugged us”, and at the beginning of the exercise, two people volunteered to share their dilemmas with the whole group. Dorothy directed a question and answer activity that modeled the type of open-ended self-inquiry we were aiming at. Many of us chose to focus on issues regarding our parents or immediate family. It was both interesting and healing to watch people engage with their personal issues and share our process. There was an emphasis on reaching collective understanding rather than uncovering a practical answer. Dorothy described it very beautifully when she said, “as I ask you questions about your situation, your understanding grows at the same time that my understanding does”. Therefore, we reach mutual understanding and knowledge.
After two people shared openly, we silently wrote down our answers to the above questions. While the questions look very similar, their nuances are significant and may help you reach a better understanding of your true feelings and motivations when it comes to resolving an unpleasant situation. The biggest lesson I took away from the exercise is to practice non-attachment to other people’s transformations.
Later, we sat at a local bar and talked about the Quaker origins of the communal ritual we just participated in. Dorothy teaches peace and environmental and social justice at a Quaker school, and Megan is a member of a Quaker meeting in LA. Quakers gather in a decentralized religious and spiritual practice of sitting together in silence (or worship) and allowing each member to stand up and speak. They explained that the core values that guide their faith are what they call the “S.P.I.C.E.S.” of life:
Stewardship (mostly interpreted as environmental protection)
Integrity (“what is inside is reflected on the outside”)
Their practice inhabits a belief that by sharing our personal truths within a community, a collective truth can emerge.
Feminist T-shirt Workshop
The Friday afternoon Feminist T-shirt workshop was a lively affair, with half the group comprised of 20-something-year-old women and the rest of multi-gender teenage kids with their awesome moms. Megan brought all of her best supplies as she demonstrated the various sewing and iron-on techniques she uses to create her T-shirts. She showed us some examples of past Tshirts she’s done and related imagery we can use as inspiration. I made a T-shirt with a cat condo illustration that said “PUSSY PALACE” and a grocery bag with some veggies that says “EAT IT”(so happy!). I even found time to make a little pin that says “NO.” (“No” is a complete sentence, ya know?). It was a really fun activity and a great opportunity for DIY radness. I could have continued making pins forever.
Megan Whitmarsh‘s “Not New Just Changed (A New Time is No Matter)” runs for another week at Raw Art Gallery, Tel Aviv until the 19th of November, on Shvil Ha’Meretz st. 3, Tue-Thu: 12:00 – 18:00 and Fri-Sat: 11:00 – 14:00.
There are so many reasons I love using a menstrual cup and why I recommend it to others. Menstrual cups are better for the environment, cost less money over time, and don’t expose you to toxic chemicals like many other “feminine hygiene” products. (They’ve been in use since the 1930s, and for good reason!) These arguments are not really in question. When I meet somebody who is hesitant to try menstrual cups, they don’t need convincing that they lower your carbon footprint or are easier on the wallet. The biggest reservation people have about using menstrual cups is interacting with their periods in a hands-on way.
Disposable tampons and pads have conditioned us to create a mental and emotional link between our periods and the trash can. They are literally called “sanitary” devices — our period blood rots in a trash can while our vaginas are sanitized by bleached cotton mini-dildos. We are all familiar with the unmistakable smell of a tampon that has been sitting in a public toilet trashcan for too long. And for those of us that have experienced cleaning public bathrooms, it is not a pleasant encounter. As a whole, we prefer to close our eyes, yank it out, wrap it around a fuckton of tissue paper and throw it in the trash. Applicators, for example, are designed for us to have a hands-free experience inserting our tampon. No fuss, no mess.
Well, I’m here to say yes to the mess! I take care of my menstrual cup, I wash it with soap and water and leave it to dry on a shelf. I carry it in a small closing pouch, and once in a while I actually boil it in the same pot that I make pasta in. I love seeing how much blood it has collected throughout the day, and I love that while it collects my blood, it doesn’t dry out my vagina. I respect the effort and ritual it takes me to put it in and take it out. It is an opportunity to check in with myself and get just a little bit more hands-on with my body.
Some practical things you might want to keep in mind:
Menstrual cups are made from medical grade non-porous silicone
You can wear yours up to 12 hours in a row, for up to 10 years with proper care (these are guidelines, not hard rules)
Wash it with warm water and gentle soap between uses. You can boil it for 5-10 minutes between cycles for extra cleanliness.
(I get asked this question a lot) If you do not have access to a sink and want to change your cup, simply take it out, dump out the blood (in the toilet or in nature), and wipe it clean with toilet paper before reinserting. Wash it at the next convenient time.
It takes some practice. Don’t be discouraged. You can use a bit of water-based lubricant, cocoa butter, or coconut/almond oil to insert it if it makes the process more comfortable. (I just saw that the Diva Cup website recommends against this but I am for it as long as you don’t use silicone-based lubes as they will degrade the cup).
In conclusion, menstrual cups are awesome. Still don’t believe me? Just ask Buzzfeed or Bustle. I own a Diva Cup, which I bought for $25 dollars 5 years ago on Amazon. Diva cups come with a cute little cup-sized travel pouch that says “Diva” all over it (*swoons*). I would also recommend buying a Ruby Cup, which come in all sorts of fun colors and have the added benefit of being a social impact business – whenever you buy one, the company donates another to a girl in Eastern Africa. Period on!