Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Girls Just Want To….Be Women Who Can Talk About Sex

This past weekend I led a spiritual retreat for women in recovery. We talked about everything that goes with recovery: addictions, relationships, support groups, transferring addictions, “positive addictions”, prayer and God and faith and how to keep on growing and changing.

We also talked about things that women talk about when they get together: food, eating, bodies, health, shopping, shoes, money, men, partners, work, kids, careers, skincare and sex. Yes, sex.

I found myself leading a late night session about sex and aging and we talked about some of the things no one tells us about owning a female body in mid-life. What I loved about that session was that we laughed, and cried and held such a safe space for each other to talk intimately about our sexual needs and sexual dilemmas. It felt truly sacred to be with these women so openly and with so much vulnerability.

That experience triggered a memory from my childhood, which I now realize, is what gave me the confidence to create my own positive sexuality-and maybe also it gave me courage to help other women, and couples. Here is what I remembered about my mother:

When I was about 10 or 11 my mother gave me those little booklets from Kimberly Clark about my changing body and about menstruation. They were pretty risqué I guess even though they showed no actual body parts and never, ever mentioned sex at all. But just the reference to “maturity” and fallopian tubes was a big deal.

After that my mother, Florence, talked to me often about the feelings—the emotional and physical feelings—that were going to come to me as I developed physically. She told me about sex and intercourse and how babies were made yes. But she also talked about desire and the sensations I might encounter when I was attracted to a boy. No, she did not use the word orgasm, that would not have been in her vocabulary, but desire was and she wanted me to understand that desire was not a “Boys Only” experience. She wanted me to understand that I would certainly have physical desire and sensations because she didn’t want me to be surprised when that happened.

Later, when I was in my twenties my mother talked to me about this and she let me in on conversations that she had been having with the mothers of my little girl friends. Florence told me that it infuriated her when she heard women tell girls things like, “Those boys just want one thing” and “Your job is to keep a boy from touching you” and “If a boy touches you it’s all for him and not for you.”

My mother, now I realize how smart she was, told those other mothers, “You are lying to your
daughter, so the first time she feels a crush or a sensation of desire when she has a hug or kiss with a boy she will conclude one of two things: That she is a freak or that you are a liar. And if your daughter thinks you lied about feelings of desire then she will not believe the important things you told her about love and caring and deserving respect. You will have lost her trust.”

My mother told me that I would feel desire and that I might want some of that pleasure but that I would say no. Not because it was all for the boy but because I would care about myself, and I’d be careful with my feelings, and I’d want to have a good reputation. And yes, truth be told—I did hear about the milk and the cow and what happens if it is free. J

This weekend at the podium, talking to women about their bodies and self-care and the timing of female sexual response, I was recalling Florence and finally appreciating what an unusual and helpful mother I had. 

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