We may think of coming out of the closet as a singular event, and, certainly, an unprecedented moment of truth occurs when we say “yes” to our emergent identities. At that point in time, we move forward into the freedom of being who we really are. Except that, who we really are includes everything that has happened to us along the way to coming out. Often, what we have left behind can be too painful to revisit until we are ready to reclaim the energy that we are losing by storing up the past in an unusable closet full of junk. With effective tools and supportive community, I believe that we can unpack the closet, toss out what we don’t need, and stock it full of the kind of experiences that further our individual and collective evolution.
What do we keep in the closet? Well, that depends on the baggage that you, personally, carry. Though, many of us can relate to the general residue of shame. Maybe we don’t know how to deal with memories of childhood trauma, or our secret delights that necessitate a deep sense of dishonesty, or confusing desires that make us feel really uncomfortable with ourselves. W may make excuses for avoiding necessary conversations with lovers, horde stockpiles of bodily inhibitions, perfect the personas that we rely upon in order to feel comfortable, struggle over habits with substances that–on some level–we know are hurting our bodies and relationships. I could go on and on; I am my own worst critic. In fact, if you’re like me, you might notice a continual trend towards tearing yourself down. I’m imagining that you might be able to do so, too. On some level, we often already know our own inner struggles and can make sense of them if we can brave tuning-in to the chatter inside of us. We actually have to practice skills in order to scour from ourselves what we’ve absorbed from perhaps well-intentioned families, cultures, and gods. It’s tough to fully enjoy sex while dragging around a ton of conditioning that makes us act out in ways that belie our professed freedom. I’m suggesting that we really aren’t free until we release the ways in which we beat ourselves up trying to be perfect. It can be liberating to accept being a beginner. At that point, we can seek out tools and resources designed to help us be great lovers.
In a prolific study of long-term erotic couples, spectacular sex researcher Peggy Kleinplatz concludes that amazing sex has little to do with two (or many!) hot bodies banging. Instead, great sex comes down to the following ingredients.
- Being fully present in the body
- Intense emotionality as the underlying drivers of the experiences
- Sexual/erotic intimacy – Essentially “sharing one’s full self” with another, not withholding.
- Stellar communication – Being able to really talk about what one wants. This requires some risk in opening up.
- Exploration, play, risk-taking!!
- Vulnerably & surrender – Being able to lose one’s self in the experience vs. performing and indexing pleasure to “am I doing this right??” or “Is he/she/they doing it right??”
- Transcendence – The creation of an experience that is greater than the sum of the parts.
To me, self-pleasure is a window into the baggage that I’m still carrying as well as an opportunity to practice repatterning the ways in which I show up as an erotic being. How we engage with pleasure is potentially illustrative of the stacks of psychosexual clutter that we harbor. At the same time, we can integrate pleasure as a transformative practice: the Erotic guiding us into deeper truth in order to look at our broken relationships to power, our insistence on beauty at all costs, our wounds that need love, and our aspirations that are beckoning us towards deeper fulfillment.