The Initiation and the Work

Witches by Hans Baldung. Woodcut, 1508

At Betty’s apartment, she told us all we are priestesses. “Yes, that. That’s what I want to be,” said a voice inside me. A priestess. Not a saint or a martyr. A powerful woman, not a victim of circumstance. That’s what the tattoo on my belly means. I’ve had it since I was 18 — the triple moon symbolizing the goddess, the divine feminine principle, shakti. We are priestesses not for any religion or god but for truth as we see it and know it with our hearts. With that first tattoo, I was claiming my body as my own, no matter what — mine to mark, and mine to wear. It was the first permanent decoration for my temple, and the first step toward the priestess taking up residence. I awakened the wise woman within me, with her roots that reach back to all the wise women who went before. And even though I was young and lost, she was with me.

It was that same wise woman I sensed that afternoon last year surrounded by the faces of so many radiant, orgasmic women including our teachers and initiators, Betty and Carlin. She was older, her voice had grown stronger, and she was smiling directly at me through the women in the circle. We entered as seekers, and we left as priestesses, and now I want to know how to spread the word.

I believe the world needs more shakti right now. We need more women who are powerful and confident.We need women who own their sexuality, who refuse to be victims, who speak their truth and honor their bodies. We need to give our daughters every opportunity we give our sons. We need lovers who do not fear us, who are not mystified when we bleed, who want nothing more than to praise our bodies with kisses. We need to be loved, and it starts with loving ourselves.

I used to think Betty’s message was all about the orgasm, and I’ll tell ya that is a truly wonderful thing, but at the end of the day, whether you’re practicing self-love or playing with a friend, it’s not about how many times you came, it’s about how much fun you had. Did you love, or were you afraid? Was it a celebration or a sacrifice? Did you revel in every amazing moment or did you beat yourself up with thoughts self-loathing and undeservingness? It’s easy to apply these questions not just to sex but to an entire approach to life.

It’s been nearly a year since my first workshop at Betty’s apartment. The message of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-pleasure has found its way into my whole mindset. Now I’m looking for how I can bring that message back out into the world — how do I embody those principles in my life and my work? And is teaching Bodysex Workshops the right next step for me? I don’t like to think of myself as the “radical self love” type with all the cutesy trappings of the blogosphere, but I do believe that teaching women to love and accept themselves will change the world.

Unsurprisingly, being able to speak the lessons I’ve learned requires me to integrate them on a whole new level, so I find myself facing a lot of work. Doesn’t that just always seem to be the case? I wonder if there will ever come a time when I don’t feel like I have a whole damn lot to learn.

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Pornographic, Offensive, or Just a Naked Body?

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Last week, when I posted this article on Facebook, a couple of my guy friends expressed their discomfort with the art work I used. Several of my girlfriends defended the image. There was a debate about whether Facebook’s terms of service explicitly forbade all nudity or just pornography and whether this piece of art crossed the line into being pornography. You can read all the comments here.

As I pondered how to respond, I scrolled around clicking “like” on my friends’ clever witticisms and taking personality quizzes (I’m Bjork, according to Buzzfeed). And then I stumbled across a photo of a man I’ve never met naked in a bathtub eating a burrito.

Now… let’s talk about what’s pornographic and what’s offensive. The idea of pornography is that it’s intended to be used as masturbatory material. That is the supposed difference between porn and art. Of course, it’s also possible that a piece of fine art could arouse the viewer, and maybe the artist even created it with that intention. In those cases, the quality of the work is often what determines the difference. If the artist is good enough, the sexy painting ends up in a museum. If not, it goes in a closet.

For something to be offensive, on the other hand, is more serious. I’m not offended by things I simply disagree with, though. I am offended by sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of hate. Hate is the only thing I find truly offensive. Everything else is usually a matter of taste.

If you label something offensive just because you don’t agree with it, what you’re engaging in is not morality, it’s censorship. You are not “protecting the children” by shielding their eyes from a perfectly healthy image of a woman looking at her body in a mirror. Our society largely invalidates brilliant art work because we’re uncomfortable with the fact that it turns us on, or might turn someone on, or maybe just reminds us a little too much of sex.

To be clear, the picture I posted was of a woman looking at her vulva with a mirror. As my friend Krista said, “our necks don’t bend enough to see all the good stuff.” The woman is learning about her body and admiring it. She is smiling into the mirror. She loves herself. I don’t find anything offensive about that idea or the picture, and in fact the whole damn thing makes me happy.

As for the guy in the bath tub photo, that I didn’t want to see. I’ll admit I’ve posted a dorky selfie or two, but what the hell man? Actually, the photo was taken and posted by bathtub guy’s friend (who is my friend, hence me seeing the photo). I can’t quite imagine the circumstances that lead to this photo being taken, but I’m sure it was hilarious for the two of them. However, if any of my friends posted something that unflattering of me on the internet, we wouldn’t be friends anymore. But I’m still not offended by the photo. Furthermore, I doubt anyone will complain to my friend about the picture because we know him and his weird sense of humor. Everyone will roll their eyes and laugh about it. Facebook will not take down the post. It’s just a naked guy in a bathtub eating a burrito.

What’s wrong with that?

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Content Update: Good Girls, Bad Girls and Intimate Self Reflection

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Things are getting ready to change here at MissDirt.net. It’ll start small, and I don’t know where it’ll lead, but this is your heads up warning.

Just shy of a year ago, I participated in a Bodysex workshop with Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross. You can read all about my experience with that right here. Recently, Betty and Carlin have announced a Bodysex Certification program to train women to run the workshops all over the world. My interest was piqued immediately, of course, but I haven’t decided if the certification is right for me. As you’ve come to expect, I’m beginning down this uncertain path the same way I begin everything else in my life: I’m gonna blog about it.

Since the workshop, my life has continued to change in subtle and profound ways, and I’m not entirely capable of explaining it all just yet. There is no doubt in my mind that the experience I had in Betty’s apartment helped me learn to accept myself, increase the joy in my life, and vastly improve my communication with my husband. I’ve always considered myself a sex-positive feminist, but over the past year, I’ve been able to let go a lot of the negativity I’d been carrying around from my Catholic education and small-town upbringing. I’ve been feeling a pull to write more about sex, self-acceptance, body positivity, and yes masturbation and orgasms. These are all tricky subjects for me to talk about in public because I do feel like they’re still taboos, and talking about them makes me feel really vulnerable.

On the other hand, I think our cultural conditioning teaches women not to talk about sex and to feel shame about it, which is bullshit. I believe that if we continue to be prim and proper in a society that says only bad girls like sex, then we’re just contributing to the root of rape culture. In reality, there’s no such thing as a bad girl and our sexuality is an integral and beautiful part of being human. That being the case, I definitely want to incorporate the principles Betty teaches into my work more. That may come in the form of Bodysex Workshops (hey, Annapolis, are you ready for that?) or … who knows what else?

Right now, I don’t feel even remotely ready to run a workshop the way Betty and Carlin do. And if I were running workshops, I’m not sure I would want to do it precisely the same way they do. Granted, I wasn’t ready to teach yoga when I started my teacher training, either, but I figured it out along the way. These are all things I have to consider, and I’m hoping writing about it here will help me figure out where I’m heading. Don’t worry, this isn’t turning into a porn blog, but I’m ready to take a little bit more of a risk in what I write here, so I hope you’re down for the adventure.

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I Love Margaret Cho

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“These days, I strive to be a bitch, because not being one sucks. Not being a bitch means not having your voice heard. Not being a bitch means you agree with all the bullshit. Not being a bitch means you don’t appreciate all the other bitches who have come before you. Not being a bitch means since Eve ate that apple, we will forever have to pay for her bitchiness with complacence, obedience, acceptance, closed eyes, and opened legs.”
Margaret Cho, from the forward to Bitchfest

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I Love Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross

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“The characters in Sex and the City were all scrambling for a man-I don’t call that a good message for women. Couldn’t just one of them say Look, I prefer to masturbate than go out with another one of these jerks?”
Betty Dodson

 

“Many women feel that porn is degrading. Some feminists would argue that porn is a direct threat to the status of women in the culture. If we want to understand why some women hate porn, we need to understand that the majority of porn depicts the male model of sexual response. Taken as a whole, the sex acts depicted are the sex acts that bring men to orgasm, not women. Only about 20 percent of women achieve orgasm from vaginal penetration alone. The majority of women need direct clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm.”
Carlin Ross

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