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Guest Posts, Intimacy, Sex

Sex, Intimacy, and Genetic Incompatibility

April 28, 2017
intimacy

By Becky Benson

The first time it happened I thought it was great.  Easier, less messy, a change up from the norm.  Win/win for me.  I didn’t particularly like condoms; the feel, the smell, the timeout in the heat of the moment while fumbling over a loudly crackling wrapper.  How romantic.  And I’m sure my husband was no fan of them, but it did make it better for me once we were done.  He’d just pull it off and toss it in the trash.  I didn’t have to lay there waiting for him to throw me his t-shirt to clean up with, I could just happily roll over and drift off to sleep.

The only problem with this scenario:  we needed them, which made it feel less like a novelty, a change up from the norm, and more like a reminder of what we were now facing, and how in so many ways, our relationship; our sex life would never be the same.

In 2009 my husband, Loren and I had been happily married for six and a half years.  Loving, committed, stable.  We had two beautiful daughters, Skylar, five, and Miss Elliott, ten months, when we learned that we were carriers of Tay-Sachs Disease.  We had no idea this genetic mutation existed in our lineage or that we had passed it on to our youngest daughter, who at this point was beginning to shows signs of missing her milestones as she grew.  Watching my seemingly healthy infant unable to master age appropriate tasks such as crawling, holding her bottle, and or imitating our speech, I suspected something much more was going on beside the usual variances in development, and unfortunately I was right.  With no treatment or cure, this neurodegenerative disorder would rob her of all of her physical and mental functioning before finally taking her life by the age of four. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Relationships, Sex

When It’s Not Love You Want

March 5, 2017
sex

By Kerry Neville

The first time I had sex was with my summer-before-college boyfriend on his gurgly waterbed in his dank, basement bedroom.  His mother winked at us as she left the house, and said, “Be careful, you two.”  She was a dancer, so maybe more open to bodies moving and touching and wrapping around each other than my own Catholic mother who counseled me on the sanctity of my body and warned that when you sleep with someone, you sleep with everyone they slept with before, a forbidding chain of penises-in-vaginas stretching back to the Neolithic Age.  I fell somewhere between Momma as condom dispenser and Momma as abstinence advocate: I was ready for sex but in order to make it happen, I needed to chug Budweisers.  More than one.  So the boy and I sat on the edge of the waterbed which sloshed beneath us like it had gastrointestinal issues, and polished off a few quick cans of beer.

My body was ready.  After all, I’d been studying my father’s old Playboys in the attic since I was eight, taking note of the rounded slopes of butts and boobs, and glossy lips parted mid-sigh. Also, years of self-practice, so just a matter of alignment.  And there was pleasure, sort of.  It wasn’t his first time, so things went where they were supposed to instead of say, misfiring into my armpit.  The problem though, was when we were done and rolled away from each other.  I wiped my eyeliner smudges with the back of my hand, and he shimmied back into his jeans, and I decided to be even braver: “I love you,” I said, with a desperate kind of hope.

He was quiet, and my heart whoosh-thumped in my ears because I knew he wasn’t going to say what I wanted him to say.  “I’m sorry,” he said.  “I don’t feel that way.”

My little eighteen year old heart dissolved in shame.  I’d assumed mutual feeling inside that mutualish pleasure.  The three beers not only loosened my jeans but my words, too.  Meaning making where there was no meaning other than two bodies reaching their expected conclusions. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Marriage, Sex

Sex Should Satisfy You Both

February 10, 2016

By Anonymous

This is a very real subject for me. I grew up with a narcissist mother who made me feel like I was not enough, worse, that I would never be enough. My first marriage happened mainly because I was pregnant and ended because we never should have been married. I finally met someone, a man who was kind and honest and everything I needed.

We got married and soon after, I became aware that, like lots of men, he had watched some porn. But it was more than that, what he watched dominated what he wanted in the bedroom. This wonderful man who was great husband and provider outside of the bedroom, wanted me in 6 inch stripper heels and making up stories about me fucking other men in the bedroom. It was baffling. I went along.

I had been so screwed up that I actually thought it wasn’t a big deal at first. But then, it became every time. Every time. There were dildos, butt plugs, costumes, outrageous shoes purchased for me by him. He also took me on romantic vacations where outside the hotel, we were happy and normal. In the hotel, it was filthy town. I never said no. I thought I must have done something to make him think I wanted this. It had to be my fault. My fault.

I finally said I hated it and now I am in therapy learning lots about myself and why I let this continue for years. YEARS. I never thought I could just say no, because him wanting this made sense to me, because it was ingrained in me that I was not enough. That was the insecurity planted in me from a young age by my mother. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Intimacy, Self Image, Sex, Sexuality

Ripe: Flaunting My Desire

January 17, 2016

By Andrea Jarrell

When I was ten, my mother declared me old enough to stay on my own between the time school let out and the time her Buick Skylark would roll up from work, tucking in behind our modest apartment near the Pacific Ocean. She tested me first, made me run a mock fire drill and a bad-guy-at-the-door drill. After passing her gauntlet, I was liberated from my babysitter, the muumuu-wearing, horn-toenailed Mrs. Carmichael.

Although we never would have referred to me as a latchkey kid (my mother forbade me to wear a key around my neck), that’s what I was. During those witching hours growing up in 1970s Los Angeles, I banded together with other untethered children. We dared each other to jump from my second story bedroom window into thick ivy below. We roamed the neighborhood on our bikes, stole candy from the supermarket, and tried out the confessional box at St. Bernard’s even though we weren’t Catholic.

But sometime during sixth grade, that daring girl I’d been just the year before turned inward. Unlike my classmates, I’d begun to look more woman than girl. Boys who had once been friends accused me of stuffing my bra; they taunted and grabbed me. Too much engine under the hood for the girl I was, I didn’t know how to respond. I was ashamed of their attentions mostly because my body seemed to be complicit, revealing new desires I wanted to keep secret. Only after school was out, left to my own devices and free to discover the rev and purr of my body, could I appreciate my full breasts in the mirror.

When I wasn’t lost in myself, I escaped into television. This was before VCRs and TiVo. My options were soap operas, bad cartoons, game shows, and my favorite, Westerns. I liked the old ones made before I was born:  Gunsmoke, Wagon Train and The Rifleman. At that age, I vacillated between wanting the rifle-wielding Chuck Connors for myself and wanting him to ride up on his horse and rescue my single mother.

One memorable commercial peppered these shows. Voiced by spokesman James Garner, the ad provoked a longing in me I’ve not forgotten, both a yearning and an urge to act.

The ad was for strawberries, sponsored by the California Strawberry Growers Association.

Just as there was no on-demand television then, fruits had strict seasons that lasted only a few months. Over photos of sliced berries garnishing piping hot oatmeal and piled high on waffles laced with maple syrup, Mr. Garner teased: “Imagine strawberries on a crisp autumn or cold winter morning?” His closing pitch: “Why now? Because they’re here now.”

It was the here now that pierced me. Come October and December, I would want those strawberries, yet they would be an impossibility. The memory of May’s shortcake would be my only salve.

Wise to the growing number of latchkey kids, television executives started creating programming just for us. The ABC Afterschool Special dove deep into taboo topics that called to me. By the time my mother came home, my nose was pressed against a glass of teen sex, runaways, anorexia, alcoholism, and feminism.

Even by high school, though, when the bodies of my classmates had caught up to mine, I had yet to act – to delve into real sex, to drink, to stay out late, to speak out for causes I believed in, to flout authority in any way. Not wanting to risk the judgment of others, I sat on the sidelines hungry for a taste of the grown up things I longed to do.

***

I have a man between my thighs, but it’s not what you think.

I’ve just swung my leg over the back of his Ninja sport bike and tucked my hands into the front pockets of his leather jacket. Pulling away from the curb, already the seat vibrates my most secret places. As we take off down the block, my knees press into his hips, giving me the illusion I’m in control and steering, but with the pavement so close my life is in his hands.

The sun is neon orange and low. It’s Friday evening in early September, technically still summer, the air buttery soft around me. I live on the other side of the country now, just outside of Washington, D.C. My local grocer carries strawberries year round. Not a girl anymore, I’ve been married to my husband Brad for over twenty years. Our daughter is in college and our son has just started his senior year in high school.

The year before our girl went away, I was overcome with fits of crying. Like a wave I could see off in the distance from shore, our life as a family of four was coming to an end. Scared the bittersweetness of it all might pull me under, I braced myself to ride it out. That was a couple of years ago. Now with our son’s departure only a year off, instead of an end it feels like a beginning.

Earlier in the afternoon, I texted Brad, “How about a motorcycle ride?”

We leave our neighborhood behind, heading upcountry on roads whose names—Lost Knife, Old Gunpowder, Bowie Mill, Goshen—inspire the storyteller in me. Sitting at a stoplight, waiting for green, I glance at the people around us, car windows open, heading into their weekends. Two girls in a black SUV are laughing and singing to the radio. They beam smiles our way. Brad reaches back to pat my thigh, his hand lingering. The light changes and we’re gone.

Merging into traffic, we bullet forward. I fly back a little and grip his middle tighter. Who are we to offer up our fragile Humpty Dumpty heads like this? I think. A boy in his last year of high school still needs us. I see my daughter in her twenties and remember myself at that age. They both still need us. I see my mother, my in-laws, our friends and neighbors at our imagined funeral, shaking their heads and saying, Why would they be so stupid, so careless to ride like that?

I’m not sure what Brad feels about this impending time when it will be just us again; I’ve been afraid to ask, and now I’m not sure I want to know. For all the time we’ve been together, part of me has always been on the lookout for that moment when the music will stop and harsh lights will be abruptly cast on the glow of our party.

But on this September evening, I feel freer than I have in years. As we accelerate, I don’t worry about crashing and burning amidst the cars around us, even after I catch sight of a dead fawn on the shoulder, legs mangled, white belly exposed, the burnt-leaf scent of its baking carcass sharp in my nostrils. I relax, the way I learned to float as a child: lying back on the surface of the water, trusting it would hold me.

We ride for miles, as I duck down behind Brad to keep us streamlined and fast. We lean in unison as we take the curve of a freeway onramp to head for home. Shifting lanes, I instinctively turn my head as he does, looking over our shoulders in sync, as if we’re part of a movie’s chase scene, staying just ahead of what’s after us.

Back home, we make love as we both knew we would. After all, that’s what my invitation for the ride was all about. Lately, we’ve been having more sex than ever. The sex has always been good, but something has changed and I think it’s me.

Despite having had my fair share of lovers before I married and a robust sex life with my husband, for all these years I’ve still been shy about revealing the magnitude of my desire. Pleasing someone else is easy for me, but enjoying my own pleasure takes a different kind of letting go. Especially without the tried-and-true de-inhibitor of alcohol. Shortly after we married, my husband quit drinking. In solidarity with his sobriety, so did I.

Yet lately, clear-eyed and sober, I flaunt my desire for him.

Walking naked into our room, no need for the cover of darkness, Feast your eyes on me, I’m finally eager to say. I am that girl in front of the mirror again, reveling in her own body, inviting my husband to be equally seduced. I’ve shed my youthful need to look perfect. I don’t see thighs I once thought too big. Instead I appreciate slim hips and sexy shoulders. I’m grateful for the way my body makes me feel, the way it makes him feel. No longer encumbered by all the pressures and worries of raising children, now my job is to move forward, to keep living.

* * *

The morning after our ride, Brad gets up early as he does every Saturday morning. While I’m still sleeping, he’s opening the doors of a church basement, turning on the lights, getting the coffee ready for the AA meeting ahead. Afterwards, he calls me and laughs as he says, “I kept thinking about last night. During the Lord’s Prayer I was afraid I was going to groan or say something I was thinking out loud.”

After we hang up, I text him, “Come home to me. I’m not sure why, but my breasts are big and beautiful right now. We should enjoy them while we can.”

I don’t tell him that I know exactly why I’ve recently gained more than a cupsize. I’d lost my ample breasts after nursing two kids, but now, in perimenopause, they are larger and firmer. Once again they are the breasts I hid from the boys in school forty years ago.

Our son is on his way to a friend’s soccer game. As soon as he leaves, Brad comes to me, kisses my neck as he lifts my shirt.

“I wonder if kids know their parents are waiting for them to leave the house so they can have sex,” he says as we lie in bed afterwards.

“No, they’re just thinking about their own escape and the sex they want to have,” I say, laughing.

But even as I say this, the knowledge that next year will be different hangs over us. There will be no son down the hall, no children at home, and my full, ripe breasts may wane again for good. Gazing into my husband’s blue eyes, I push such worries from my mind. Determined to seize this season and savor it, I run my hand along his thigh.

Jarrell_Headshot

Andrea Jarrell’s essays have appeared in The New York Times “Modern Love” column; Narrative Magazine; Full Grown People; Brain, Child; The Washington Post and several anthologies, sites and publications. Her memoir I’m the One Who Got Away will be published in 2016 by Booktrope. 

Join Jen for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016. Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was? Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty. Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

Join Jen for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016.
Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was?
Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty.
Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

Addiction, Alcoholism, Binders, Guest Posts, Intimacy, Sex

Facts of Life

October 15, 2015

By Carol Weis

You discover your daughter has learned the facts of life. She is only seven when this profound experience occurs. Your husband has taken over this duty you thought would be yours. One your mother never shared with either you or your sister. You’d find out from your cousin when you were both nine. An image that would repulse you for a very long time. Your anger and grief about losing this right of passage with your daughter, your only child, becomes just another sticker in your already thorny side.

Sex is a thing that is hard to think about. It was your husband’s last straw, and one you have no interest in sharing with anyone but yourself. You occasionally flirt with guys at AA meetings, with no intention of going anywhere with it.

A habit that lingers from your drinking years.

And then the day comes in therapy, when it seems that your therapist might be at her wits end with both of you. She suggests you go on an overnight date, away for a night without your daughter, sleeping in the same bed without having her around.

It’s not that you haven’t tried a version of this before. Since your separation, you’ve slept overnight at his apartment, with ground rules about sleeping in the same bed. If he makes advances when you feel you’re not ready, he has to respect what you say. You’re more like a brother and sister right now, laying next to each other in your parent’s double bed.

His attempts at intimacy are always turned down. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Relationships, Sex

Meditations on Desire

September 23, 2015

By Caroline Kessler

 

It scares me sometimes how automatic my body is. When I get too drunk, body takes me home, puts my hands and face under warm water, plucks my contacts from my eyes. Sometimes body remembers to brush my teeth but not always.

They’ll tell you that drinking will kill your liver and that’s probably true but not-drinking will kill a different part of you. Not drinking means I don’t get the stories like when I was studying in India or working in Poland or daydreaming on a train through Hungary—the stories of meeting someone new, picking them up, having them pick me up.

The drinking will say, go for it! Do it all, it doesn’t matter, you charming thing. The drinking will say you’ve never looked this gorgeous, your hair all crazy and your dress all short. For a while, the drinking makes me sharp but then it makes me slow. Slow tongue in my mouth, thick against my teeth, words clanking around like cans in a gutter.

_________

One summer during college, I live in Warsaw, where I have an airy studio apartment all to myself and I can walk to my non-profit job. It is the first time I have ever lived alone and I bask in doing whatever I want.

There is a bar near my apartment frequented by ex-pats, which is where I first meet Daniel. We mumble through an attempt at an introduction: bardzo mi miło / nice to meet you. I give in and switch to English and it turns out he’s fluent and half-Jewish, nearly six feet tall but with bad posture so he doesn’t tower over me. He wears a black motorcycle jacket although he doesn’t drive a motorcycle. We don’t talk about our Jewishness but it is there, the wandering-exiled-questioning-impulse.

His speech is strange, full of language from all the other places he’s lived, Miami and Glasgow and Aalborg. He says what’s the crack? as a greeting and throws around that hurts like silver teeth a lot. When I find out his first language is Danish, I make him speak to me, enjoying the flawless music of it, even though I don’t understand a thing. While he talks, I wonder if I could be with someone who wasn’t able to speak their first language with me—would we ever truly understand each other?

After six years of medical school in Warsaw, he claims he has only learned useless Polish. What could be useless? I say. Let me listen to your lungs, his voice emerges over the din of the bar, first in Polish, then in English. Pozwól mi słuchać płuc. I study his broad shoulders and slight belly, his dark jeans and shiny European shoes. He is attractive enough, I decide. This is the moment when everything shifts.

We leave the bar for a nearby fountain, a block of quiet, because I said I was tired of being in the bar and he is going along with what I’m saying, how I’m gesturing. We decide to keep drinking. He ducks into a small store and I wait outside, feeling too indecisive to be surrounded by merchandise in a language I can’t read. He emerges with a plastic bag nearly breaking with beer bottles. I try to give him a few folded złotys but he refuses, waving them away like it’s silly I’m even offering. We settle near the burbling water. I got a sampler, he says, because you should try a bunch while you’re here this summer.

We keep talking, and he drinks quickly, picking up his third beer while I’m still on my first. The drinking urges me onward: this will make things easier. When he pauses, I put my hand to his breastbone, trying to figure out where his lungs are, huge and honeycombed.

Later, when we are in bed, I put my ear to his chest. Pozwól mi słuchać płuc. I say to his cavernous face, open your mouth. Turn over. He does—and then, he lifts me off of him, pushes my arms open until I am airborne.

Early the next morning, on the tram heading back to my apartment, tiny purse resting in my lap, the sun is blinding. I press my shoulders into the crease of the window. What am I doing? I ask the looming H&M billboards, the massive Palace of Culture and Science, the plastic orange seats in front of me.

_________

After college, I move to San Francisco and I meet so many men. They are everywhere, in their flannel button-downs and hooded sweatshirts, on their bikes or in their cars. I feel surrounded by masculinity. One night, my friend E. and I are at Zeitgeist in the Mission, having abandoned our guy friends we were with earlier that night, at a Shabbat dinner. We sip beers at the only open table, which is near the speaker, so we have to shout over the punk music.

She tells me about the different people she’s dating, the co-worker she’s in love with, her housemate who she “loves” and is moving out soon and I’m curious—so what do you really want? I shout.

Her eyes open wide, so genuine. I just want to love someone, she shouts back. The desire is the hands on a watch, pointing directly to the hour, minute, second.

Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Sex, Sexuality

The Near Miss

July 19, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Lindsay Miller

When I was in high school, I dated an appalling-in-retrospect string of men five years or more my senior. I met most of them at the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which was where my friends and I spent our adolescent Saturday nights. The twentysomething men who hung out there treated us like adults, or what we imagined that to mean at fifteen: they smiled and nodded thoughtfully when we spoke, leaned in as though our every stray thought was fascinating. They made us feel respected, intelligent, mature.

I knew, abstractly, that older men who dated younger women – not women but girls, high school girls, girls not even old enough to drive – were creepy and better avoided. But for some reason it never occurred to me that that applied to my own life. The guys my friends and I dated made it seem like there was nothing strange about men in their twenties sexually pursuing teenage girls – after all, we were so old for our age. We were so wise. They had never met girls like us, girls who knew so much, girls who understood them so well. They told us this over and over, every one of them, like reading from a script: You’re so cool. You’re so different from all the others. When I was young, I didn’t understand that as an insult, lifting girls up in the singular while putting us down in the plural. I was dying to feel older, which I accomplished by wearing impossibly short skirts and sky-high platform shoes, carrying a tiny knife disguised as a tube of lipstick in my purse and feeling sly and dangerous. I wanted to feel desired, and the men I met were more than happy to comply – to tell me I was beautiful in my Hot Topic bustiers, breasts hiked to the collarbone, boots laced up to the knee.

On Saturday nights in high school, my curfew was five a.m. I told my parents that I spent those early morning hours hanging out in a diner with my friends, girls a year or two older than me who would drive me home. Some nights that was true. Some nights, though, I caught rides with men I’d never met before, circled the city endlessly or found places to park where the streetlights didn’t reach. Or my friends and I ended up back at someone’s house, one of those horrible shared houses that all men in their twenties seemed to live in: broken furniture, cigarette butts in beer bottles, nothing in the refrigerator. We sat awkwardly on lopsided couches making tense small talk while one girl or another disappeared into a bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom, giggling, hand in hand with a man five, seven, ten years her senior.

When I was fifteen, I dated a man named Michael. He was twenty-three and already divorced, had fled the state of Texas to get away from his ex-wife, who he said had broken his heart so badly he didn’t know if he could go on living. I found this tragically romantic, imagining I might be the one to heal his wounded soul. On Valentine’s Day, he gave me a rose, already wilting. He offered to buy me a cell phone so that he would be able to hear my voice whenever he wanted.

Later that year there was Steven. I don’t remember exactly how old he was, but he must have been at least twenty. The night we met, he pulled me away from my friends, around the dark side of a building into an alley where he pushed me up against a wall and kissed me so hard it made my teeth hurt. In the gray early morning hours, he took my friend Jocelyn and me back to his apartment, where we sat on the edge of a filthy couch watching Steven and his roommates smoke cigarettes and complain about their jobs. I can see now that their lives were small and grimy, with little joy besides driving fast and listening to loud music, playing pool in bars where the very air felt gritty and making out with girls too young to know better. But to me, back then, it seemed glamorous and important. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Sex

That Was 22

June 22, 2015

By Janet Frishberg

Don’t worry, that was just 22. You walked this city wanting love and not knowing where to find it. Not truly believing it would ever happen, and still hoping it would. Wanting someone, a sage or a wizened ancient, to tell you: you will find it. And thinking, this cannot be all there is. These cannot be the only jobs.

Don’t worry, that was 22: picking at your skin and then healing it, biting your nails down to the bloody edges. Obsessing over every single thing you bought as though it would lead directly to your financial ruin.

Don’t worry, these bars, these nights that led to nowhere but sore feet and sour mouth taste, and left you wiggling under the comforter emptier than before you walked out of the house, that was 22.

Paying too much for bad food, accepting invitations to dates and parties you didn’t actually want to go to, taking the bus home alone at one a.m. with your shoulders held tight because you didn’t have money for a cab—that was 22.

This night was 22, when you walked from bar to bar with a group of seven friends and wondered who you’d meet while out, even as you suspected the answer would be the same as it usually was: no one. Or at least no one who would matter.

Tonight, over drinks, curled in a row around the L-shaped edge of the bar, your friends asked about your weekend and you told them you weren’t sure how, but you slept with him again, that guy from last summer. It started with drinks this past weekend, plans to meet friends at a new wine bar. You realized what was going to happen when he kissed you while you two waited in line. The kiss was a surprise; you’d had no agenda. (This was rare.) You smiled on the sidewalk with his lips pressing on yours; it felt all the same between the two of you as during summer: just for fun, casual. Friendly, you could say. You were glad for the comfort. You didn’t even really mind that you hadn’t shaved your legs since you couldn’t remember when. Continue Reading…

Dear Life., Guest Posts, Sex, Sexuality

Dear Life: I’ve Never Been Laid. Seeking Advice!

April 8, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to  Email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com to submit a letter. Please make it as detailed as possible) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by author Emily Kramer, whom I had the pleasure of meeting when she attended the Writing & The Body Retreat I led with Lidia Yuknavitch. This is the second take on this letter by a different author than last time. The first one went viral (Read it here.) Hot topic, I guess!

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy. 

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter

See you at a workshop/retreat soon!! xo 

 

Dear Life,

I am a 34 year old virgin.

I have no conservative religious beliefs and I’m not steadfastly “saving myself” for marriage. I just haven’t had sex….ever.

I have spent my life lying to the world, and myself, pretending to be something I’m not….or, more accurately, pretending to have done something I haven’t. People just assume that I’ve had sex and so I haven’t bothered to correct them. I feel like a fraud and a liar and so disconnected from one of life’s most basic human experiences. Stronger still are the feelings of shame and embarrassment and feeling like I’ve not only missed the boat, but am nowhere even near the water to have any hope of getting on board.

“BUT I’M NOT NAÏVE OR A PRUDE!!” I want to scream out in my defense, both to those who assume wrongly and to those who might suspect. But my scream has long been silenced by the fear of judgment, of criticism, of rejection. Why do I need to scream anyway?

I have “fooled around” with a couple of guys in my life. The first one, at age 19, was my university lecturer. He was probably triple my age but I let him touch me because I was in such desperate need of attention and care amongst the chaos of my life at the time. I hated his hands on my body and his lips on mine. Initially I said nothing and went along with whatever he wanted. When he tried to fuck me, I had to tell him that I’d never been this close before. He was going to figure it out pretty soon anyway, right? But, he just rolled over, his back to me and never touched me again. That was the end of that.

For the next 12 years I said nothing to no-one. No guy was even on my radar, let alone close enough for intimacy. I was confused, depressed and held myself hostage to my own walls, the ones I’d carefully built up to buffer myself against further rejection. I thought maybe I was a lesbian, cos I hated that man’s touch, yet I was not sexually attracted to women. So, I decided I must be asexual and concluded that love (and sex) just wasn’t for me. I didn’t need it. Instead, I threw myself into my nursing career and my travels and buried any questioning feelings with food.

Then, while travelling aimlessly around Africa searching for my soul, I unexpectedly fell head over heels for a bad-ass Kenyan guy with a good heart. He was not my type at all. But, how did I even know if I had a “type”? Regardless, our hearts connected and things went further. I loved how he touched me and how his lips felt on mine. Then, almost at the point of no return I dropped the V-bomb on him also. He had a similar reaction to the lecturer, though perhaps not so harsh. But, while it still hurt like hell, I became even more attracted to him, mostly because he had rejected me less. Then I had to return home to Australia, to reality.

In the three years since Kenyan-Guy and only a handful of awkward, ill-fitting dates, I haven’t had to think much about sex. But, now I think I’ve met a guy. I am attracted to his energetic spirit, his humour, his eyes. I don’t know if anything will even happen. But regardless, my virginity fears are oozing to the surface. I want a real, honest and loving relationship involving growth and connection on all levels, including intimacy and sex. But, in order for this to happen, I need to have a rather challenging conversation with the guy, whether it’s with this guy or someone else. Where do I even start? How do I explain myself? Will any guy even want me once they find out? I am so scared of being rejected again that I’m teetering on the edge of resigning myself to voluntary singledom forever. That scares me as well, because I can’t shake that deep desire for just a chance at real love. But, how do I begin to move forward and tolerate being a virgin in a non-virgin world?

Sincerely,

Never Been Laid

Join Jen Pastiloff  and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

Join Jen Pastiloff and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

Dear Never Been Laid,

Let’s start with something from the old horse’s mouth shall we? “I want a real, honest and loving relationship involving growth and connection on all levels, including intimacy and sex.” Congratulations! I’m proud of you for writing this down and announcing it to me, to the readers and most importantly yourself. Now go download as many woo-woo, hippie-dippie, self-love meditations as you can (my favorite is Loving Kindness with Sharon Salzberg) and promise to go on a listening binge of at least one a day until you develop said relationship with, you guessed it, yourself.

As for this conversation you feel compelled to have with this “new guy or someone else,” let me be the first to say SOMEONE ELSE!, and by that I mean, yes you guess it again, yourself. Here’s a writing assignment. At the top of a page scratch out the following question: What exactly am I waiting for? And then be really really honest with yourself about answer. Because as one who has spread her legs for the cause, I can tell you that virginity never got me anywhere, least of all a quality relationship.

So now that we know that one’s status, as far as past proximity to a penis goes, has no bearing on whether or not one gets to fall in love, let’s explore the former, shall we? I hereby release you from the obligation to tell anyone else whether or not you’ve been intimately involved with a one or not, or by how much or when and with which one and so forth. These details belong in your private domain and do not necessarily need to be released to anyone at any specific time, least of all to a man who you might want to get it on with later. Which is not to say it can’t be shared, but rather to say it’s not a requirement.

Now this might be controversial, because doesn’t a loving relationship include baring witness to each other’s every thought, fear and potential future hurt? To this I answer with a resounding, NO. Instead, may I suggest that it is your business to decide when you want to make advances to the penis and how close and in what order. It is the owner of that penis’ business to treat your body and his with decency and care. As for this virginity thing, it is simply besides the point, not to put too fine a tip on it.

I hate to be such a feminist about this, but if we want to be historically accurate, the very idea of virginity requires us to look at a woman from the outside, to judge her as having or not having a certain objective value, as if that exists, and in that sense, has little to do with being the owner of the body of the woman herself. Now, you might say, that body cares about virginity if the first time is going to be painful. But if you ask me, losing your virginity is about as monumental as eating at a restaurant that you are not dying to return to but didn’t mind having eaten at to begin with. No more, or less. Sorry to disappoint.

No, NBL, what I’m more concerned with is your deprivation attitude about touch, whether it be from a man, a woman or a hard boiled egg. This black and whiteness about your external status has robbed you of all the glorious in betweens, of sweaty palms and panting kisses and hot rubbing between the legs. These little under-the-covers activities, my curious friend, are where you want to start.

In the meantime, remove the V word from your vocabulary all together. It’s doing you no good, and it’s separating you from the rest of your kind. Meaning, US! All the sexually active in some way shape or form woman who are no more close to an unattainable perfect virgin or an unforgivably fallen whore, than you, dear NBL. In fact, let’s just call you Newly Blossomed Love instead, for the relationship you’ve formed with yourself as a result of writing this deeply telling and emotionally cleansing letter. Again, we’re proud of you for knowing what you need. Now go out and get some!

 

Lots of Love,

Life (aka Emily)

Emily Scarlet Kramer is the co-author of The Hot Woman’s Handbook: The CAKE Guide to Female Sexual Pleasure.

Please note: Advice given in Dear Life is not meant to take the place of therapy or any other professional advice. The opinions or views offered by columnists are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician or mental health professional. Columnists acting on behalf of Dear Life are not responsible for the outcome or results of following their advice in any given situation.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her 2nd annual Manifestation Retreat Sep 26-Oct 3 (ONE SPOT LEFT.) Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! It is LIFE CHANGING!

Featured image courtesy of Robert Bejil Photography

Binders, Dear Life., Guest Posts, Sex

Dear Life: I’m The 34 Year Old Virgin.

April 2, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

 

Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions.  (Email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by the amazing Amanda Miska.

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter.

See you at a workshop soon!

Dear Life,

I am a 34 year old virgin.

I have no conservative religious beliefs and I’m not steadfastly “saving myself” for marriage. I just haven’t had sex….ever.

I have spent my life lying to the world, and myself, pretending to be something I’m not….or, more accurately, pretending to have done something I haven’t. People just assume that I’ve had sex and so I haven’t bothered to correct them. I feel like a fraud and a liar and so disconnected from one of life’s most basic human experiences. Stronger still are the feelings of shame and embarrassment and feeling like I’ve not only missed the boat, but am nowhere even near the water to have any hope of getting on board.

“BUT I’M NOT NAÏVE OR A PRUDE!!” I want to scream out in my defense, both to those who assume wrongly and to those who might suspect. But my scream has long been silenced by the fear of judgment, of criticism, of rejection. Why do I need to scream anyway?

I have “fooled around” with a couple of guys in my life. The first one, at age 19, was my university lecturer. He was probably triple my age but I let him touch me because I was in such desperate need of attention and care amongst the chaos of my life at the time. I hated his hands on my body and his lips on mine. Initially I said nothing and went along with whatever he wanted. When he tried to fuck me, I had to tell him that I’d never been this close before. He was going to figure it out pretty soon anyway, right? But, he just rolled over, his back to me and never touched me again. That was the end of that.

For the next 12 years I said nothing to no-one. No guy was even on my radar, let alone close enough for intimacy. I was confused, depressed and held myself hostage to my own walls, the ones I’d carefully built up to buffer myself against further rejection. I thought maybe I was a lesbian, cos I hated that man’s touch, yet I was not sexually attracted to women. So, I decided I must be asexual and concluded that love (and sex) just wasn’t for me. I didn’t need it. Instead, I threw myself into my nursing career and my travels and buried any questioning feelings with food.

Then, while travelling aimlessly around Africa searching for my soul, I unexpectedly fell head over heels for a bad-ass Kenyan guy with a good heart. He was not my type at all. But, how did I even know if I had a “type”? Regardless, our hearts connected and things went further. I loved how he touched me and how his lips felt on mine. Then, almost at the point of no return I dropped the V-bomb on him also. He had a similar reaction to the lecturer, though perhaps not so harsh. But, while it still hurt like hell, I became even more attracted to him, mostly because he had rejected me less. Then I had to return home to Australia, to reality.

In the three years since Kenyan-Guy and only a handful of awkward, ill-fitting dates, I haven’t had to think much about sex. But, now I think I’ve met a guy. I am attracted to his energetic spirit, his humour, his eyes. I don’t know if anything will even happen. But regardless, my virginity fears are oozing to the surface. I want a real, honest and loving relationship involving growth and connection on all levels, including intimacy and sex. But, in order for this to happen, I need to have a rather challenging conversation with the guy, whether it’s with this guy or someone else. Where do I even start? How do I explain myself? Will any guy even want me once they find out? I am so scared of being rejected again that I’m teetering on the edge of resigning myself to voluntary singledom forever. That scares me as well, because I can’t shake that deep desire for just a chance at real love. But, how do I begin to move forward and tolerate being a virgin in a non-virgin world?

Sincerely,

Never Been Laid

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

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Delight, Guest Posts, Sex

Is Tango Better Than Sex?

February 4, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Sasha Cagen.

I did not go out looking for tango. The dance came to me. I was living in Cali, Colombia, for two months in 2010 during fourteen months of solo travel in South America. I left a dry life in Silicon Valley where I was parched in pretty much every way, in dating, work, creativity.

First I went to Brazil. Finding good-looking, charming men to make out or have sex with in Brazil was fun, and to be honest, easy (if you want to up your sexual energy and get a self-esteem boost, I suggest dispatching to Brazil immediately). But I had not yet found what I wanted on a deeper level, something I could take home with me, my flow, my passion, something that would make me happy that I could make my own (a Brazilian man had not appeared as a keeper). I continued on to Colombia hoping I would find my flow there. Note: flow, not man. I was done with men for a while then.

It was in Cali, Colombia, the world capital of salsa, where everyone dances, that I saw tango for the first time. A blonde Belgian woman Griet who was also staying at my hostel invited me to come out with her to a club, and there, I saw a tango show at a club called La Matraca and felt something in my body across the room.

Tango was nothing like the image I had mysteriously developed of the dance, the march of a man and a woman their arms outstretched across the room, the woman with a rose clenched between her teeth. (Where did I get that image? Later I looked on the Internet and found no definitive answers.)

These two people were connected. There was a palpable, mesmerizing physics between them, every step he took invading her space caused her to walk backwards, every movement so closely coordinated. It wasn’t like salsa, all happy-happy. It was like watching the hologram of a connection. Even then, without knowing everything I know now from experience, some tiny part of me inside might have asked, is tango better than sex?

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

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Guest Posts, Sex, Sexuality, Truth

Wild: A Non Cautionary Tale of One Crazy Summer.

January 26, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Kathleen Emmets.

I firmly believe everyone should have a period in their life where they can look back and say, “Damn, I was wild.” A reckless, free experience they can call upon during their most mundane moments. When life is filled with mortgage payments, sick babies and arguments over who’s turn it is to empty the dishwasher, you can stop and remember a time when you gave zero fucks and ran wild with desire.

Mine was one summer in a dive bar in Brooklyn.

I was 17 years old and already looking for a way out. Out of my house, my life, my own head. As a child, there was an emptiness inside me that I could never quite fill. A void I can’t remember ever living without. I never truly felt like I belonged anywhere, so I tried to fit in everywhere.

I wasn’t driven enough for the nerds, not cool enough for the ‘Mean Girls.’ I’ve always had a wicked sense of humor, which probably saved me from being a complete social pariah, but school was tough for me. Deep insecurities would rear their ugly heads and I would find myself locked behind a bathroom stall in a state of panic, swearing no one liked me because I was such a loser. I couldn’t wait to graduate and move on to something else; to what, I had no idea. I just knew I wanted out.

One night in my senior year, my older brother invited me to a birthday party at a bar in our old neighborhood. It was for a close friend of his, a kid my parents knew very well so they didn’t have a problem letting me go. What could possibly happen, right? So off I went with a $20 bill my dad have given me to a bar I’d heard about for years. I have to add this was pre-gentrification Brooklyn; when what is now referred to as Kensington was called Flatbush and it was pretty sketchy. Not an area you’d walk around in at night. And this bar, well, if you didn’t know it was there…you’d never know it was there. The front entrance faced the train tracks, the back door led to an oft-deserted street. It had stools, a dartboard and the most amazing jukebox I’d ever heard. I’ve been to many bars since and still have not found a better one. It was dark. It was dingy. And it was perfect: the kind of place where a lost 17-year-old girl could raise some hell and find some trouble.

My brother and his gang of friends were regulars there, and I tagged along whenever he would let me. Soon enough, I didn’t need him to bring me anymore because I became friendly with one of the owners. Seventeen-year-old girls don’t realize bar owners are ‘friendly’ with all the pretty jailbait. I’d find this out much later. The first time I went there without my brother, I brought a friend. The owner asked what we were drinking. I probably said something lame like a Sea breeze. He, ignoring my order, proceeded to pour out shots for us. “They taste like bubblegum,” he said. They did, so we had two more. Then two more. We started talking to two guys I had met there a few times before. We ordered more drinks. My head was spinning. The night ended with us getting sick in the bathroom and grabbing a cab from a (thankfully) very trustworthy driver. I woke up the next morning with a hangover that could have killed a horse and a smile that lasted several days. I decided then and there that drinking was fun and something I wanted to do more of. Ahhh youth.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it's magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it’s magical.

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Dear Life., Guest Posts, Relationships, Sex

Dear Life: Please Help Me Find a Way To Be A Good Friend.

January 15, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by Nanea Hoffman, founder of the fabulous site Sweatpants & Coffee!

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. ps, I will see you in Vancouver in a couple weeks! My first workshop there! 

 

VANCOUVER! The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 17th. Book here. No yoga experience required. Only requirement is to  be a human being. This Saturday!

VANCOUVER! The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 17th. Book here. No yoga experience required. Only requirement is to be a human being. This Saturday!

Dear Life,

My friend of six years is a warm, intelligent, empathetic person. We are both writers who are committed to the ideals of social justice. Until recently, I’ve never had a reason to question her character. A few days ago, she told me that she has been cheating on her partner of two decades with a series of one-night stands — and he is completely in the dark about her infidelities. She has no intention of telling him because when she raised the subject of her unhappiness with their sex life, he was not interested in an open relationship. She says there is no guilt on her part and that she would not be okay with him cheating on her. I consider myself to be a fairly open-minded and liberal person, but this information is testing the limits of my beliefs. This seems very wrong. I know how difficult monogamy is and yet I feel like her decision to gaslight her partner on this matter is selfish and destined to end in heartbreak. I am seriously questioning how much of a friendship I want to maintain going forward. I care for her deeply, but I cannot see my way around this. Please help me find a way to be a good friend.

Love,
Questioning Friend

 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

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Beating Fear with a Stick, Guest Posts, R Rated, Sex

I Chose The Wave.

August 20, 2014

By Amy Botula.

Leave it to high school juniors to determine what their English teacher needed. I was invited to the School of Rock Showcase only to discover later my students had appointed themselves yentas. It had taken 14 years to happen, this gesture of match-making. Not when I was teaching elementary school in a mostly Mormon community, still in my twenties, and reminding parents to refer to me as “Ms.” Not when I taught middle school and was settling into my thirties. But now, at 40, courtesy of three shaggy punk rock kids.

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