Tag Archives: sexuality

We deserve to be celebrated

Good morning good morning. This morning I was up early, at quarter to five, and managed to actually pull my body from the bed in order to write. Yesterday, too. Maybe I am entering a new (old) creative circadian rhythm. Time will tell.

This morning I am feeling deep and quiet with a kind of appreciation that maybe I should better call reverence.  I want us to celebrate anyone who is doing any work to connect to the real and authentic heart of their sex, their desire, their erotic self. We as a culture do not encourage this kind of work, and we don’t make space for it. We want sex to be business or irony or easy; we don’t have a lot of room for real sex.

If you know anyone doing this sort of work for themselves — for example, reconnecting to a traumatized sexuality, taking steps to manifest a long hidden or silenced desire, or trying something that they’ve always wanted to try but have been deeply afraid of, saying what they really want, knowing what they really want, saying yes as well as no, reembodying during sex, allowing themselves to have a body during sex — I want you to celebrate them. If you are doing this work, I want you to celebrate yourself. This labor is deeply powerful — it transforms our relationship to our whole lives, not just to our sex lives — and it is so often unwitnessed and unreverenced.

There are so many reasons not to do this work, so many very good reasons to walk away from sex forever. But we don’t, many of us. We don’t. We want to know what all the fuss is about. We want our bodies to know this joy. We take classes and we read books; we try to learn the languages that the untraumatized around us seem to speak with ease — with ease, can you imagine?

We talk to therapists, we sign up for groups, we risk saying aloud what it is that we want. It seems so simple and small to write it here, and I keep pausing as I type, wanting something more profound to say. But this is it: I’m grateful to you. I honor the work you are doing. I recognize the struggle, and I want to celebrate with you your successes. Where do we get to be witnessed in the work of our body’s unlearning trauma and reengaging the language of yes and hope? Where do we get to be met on this path? So many of us have our eyes cast downward, we are not supposed to be seen: this is shameful work. Sex is shameful stuff. We all know that. We know that we’re supposed to be able to do all this sex stuff naturally, that the normal and healthy people can do it naturally, that if we were normal and healthy and untraumatized, we would only have ease and delight in our sex. Isn’t this what we know?

Of course it isn’t true — one doesn’t have to be a survivor of sexual violence or molestation to grow up with confusing and damaging ideas about sex in this culture. But we who did have to walk through the land of erotic loss, those of us who did have to unlatch our skins from our psyches in order to survive into adulthood, we assume we are alone on the path that leads us back into the delight of the body. We certainly don’t see anyone else walking with us. All of us keep our eyes cast down and our mouths shut when we are in public– and often when we are in private, too. We know about shame, and we certainly don’t want anyone else to be embarrassed or uncomfortable. We don’t want other people to know that we don’t have all the answers already, we don’t want people to know that we are broken.

But how long does it take for us to realize that many, many people feel broken; that many, many people feel lost and confused around sex; that many, many people want more from their erotic life but are too afraid or ashamed or embarrassed to reach for change?

The fact that you are doing so is cause for celebration. The fact that you are making room for your grief and loss, as well as for new ideas and possibility, deserves recognition. The fact that you want to be all the way in your skin — with or without another person nearby — is a holy thing. It’s magnificent. It’s beautiful and life-affirming, not to put too fine a fucking point on it, and I am grateful for you today. We have every reason in the world not to want anything to do with sex. We have every reason to put sex down and never pick it up again. But you decided to pick it up again. You decided to put it back in your mouth and against your cheek. You decided to take the risk of imagining, dreaming, fantasizing. You put to your lips the words for what you want. You allowed yourself even to want. You know what an extraordinary thing that is. I know, too. Today I want to celebrate you. I want to celebrate every person I’ve written with or spoken to who has undertaken the private, gorgeous labor of untangling their erotic from their trauma, of untangling their bodies from the mouth of history. You deserve a cheering crowd. You deserve confetti and a marching band. You deserve witness and withness. You help make the body of this world more inhabitable. Thank you. Keep going, ok? Please don’t stop.

sometimes, her sexy is ready for you

woman's back, the bones of wings protouding from her shoulder blades, a red scarf wrapped around her neck and mouthGood morning and happy Friday! Just a quick prompt post today, ’cause then I’m off to the cafe for some notebook writing…

Here’s the prompt: Create two lists — ways that you/s/he/they are beautiful and/or sexy, and then, ways that you/s/he/they are not beautiful and/or sexy. Take a few minutes to create each list, separately.

Then combine both lists into the first one: both lists are ways that you/s/he/they are beautiful and/or sexy —  in all their complications. Start you writing using an item from each list, thinking about what beautiful or sexy means… and follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Here’s my response to this exercise from last night’s Declaring Our Erotic workshop:

This is what her sexy means — she will remember exactly what you did in the kitchen about the dishes and the cleaning up and there’s no way she’s going to spread her lips or legs or anything until you talk it through — it’s the most ingrained lesbian thing about her, regardless of the gender of the person she’s fucking: processing as foreplay. Although, to be honest, she probably learned that from her stepfather — and that’s another thing she’s going to invite you to consider sexy: the possibility of a reference to incest at any given moment, because it’s of the air she breathes, and she sometimes can’t remember that it’s not the air everyone breathes, consciously, all the time.

Her sexy is broad-thighed and sharp-tongued, it’s round and furred and unslinky, it protrudes and gets hard and slick at all the same time. Her sexy is loud, it’s chatty, though it doesn’t always tell you what it wants — but it’ll write it down for you, though. Just give her a pen or an eyebrow pencil and she’ll happily straddle your ass, bend down over you til her tits just brush at your flesh, and then scrawl out the longing that’s so licking at her fantasy. Only thing is, you’ll have to find a way to read it yourself.

Her sexy is frustrating and complicated, likes to be snared in a puzzle, likes to think something through: that extra effort, it helps to still the parts of her mind that otherwise go lifting back to the first time she did whatever she’s doing with you, since the first time she did just about anything she could do with you she did with him (or rather, he did to her) many years ago. It’s just that way.

Her sexy is confounded and confounding, lost and found in used denim and hand-me-down tank tops, it’s unjeweled and a little glittery and it likes to eat, is covered with ink stains, is often happier curled up with a good dense book than stepping through the land-mine field that is her sex — but then sometimes, sometimes, her sexy is ready for you, unabashed and plain, her sexy is wearing regular old underpants and nothing fancy anywhere and you’ll wonder where that illumination is coming from, you’ll wonder why your heart is pounding, you’ll find yourself suddenly trying to figure out if she’ll let you slide the palms of your hands anywhere against her skin.

Her sexy is too self-conscious and then also entirely uncoordinated, is the wrong shoes to go with that bag, is last season’s last season and doesn’t really even know what that means, is too brash and hairy and tangled with brawn and you’re trying to determine where the grace came from. Her sexy is taking with its mouth full, her sexy is untamed and unnameable, her sexy isn’t the part that wears the ring but is the part that runs rungs around any attempt to classify or condone, is impolite and doesn’t even know the meaning of ladylike, is sweaty and bleeds on the sheets, is too busy for you until she stops and puts her back against the wall, or to rock you back there with one fine kiss — and then her sexy has eyes you thought you knew but are razoring through your frustrations, loosening that ricocheting and complicated need that you, too, have had tangled and lost, thick, inside.

Thank you for your words today, for the ways you step into and embrace your complications. I’m so grateful for you.

DOE: what if we took back our dangerousness

neighborhood passion flower in the late morning San Rafael sun

neighborhood passion flower in the late morning San Rafael sun

It’s a Wednesday, which is a Declaring Our Erotic day!

Today I’m thinking about the idea of safety, of the psychic/emotional kind — not of the “please don’t tie me up with nylon panty hose because those dig deep into my skin when I pull at them” sort.

This idea of emotional safety, around sex and otherwise, particularly for survivors of sexual trauma, is important, and worth nudging into some.

What is safe? There’s physical safety, and then there’s emotional or psychic safety — there’s knowing that I’m unlikely to get beat when I walk out the door, or when I walk back in, right? There’s knowing, and attending to with enormous gratitude, that there aren’t bombs falling from the sky where I walk to the bus, there are no mines lining the roads that the bus drives to get me to my work, there are no check points, no guards, no ‘insurgents’ — and, too, there’s the fact that in the years that I broke away from my stepfather, there’s been no assault in the night, no agents sent to harm me or those I love — all of which I absolutely feared. There’s knowing there’s a roof over the place I sleep, that I have stability with that place, that there’s food in my cupboard and refrigerator, there’s a bed and a door that locks — these are all markers of physical safety. I can walk around the neighborhood without being worried about stray gunshots from police weapons or other weapons. The amount of privilege I have to be able to say all of this is astounding — to just step back and be aware — measures and measures of physical safety.

(Am I still conscientious and aware when I walk out into the day? Yes. Do I still often walk out into my day with my ears buttoned up with headphones and music?  Yes — another layer of physical safety.)

And so it is that the sort of safety I tend more to be concerned about is of the verbal, emotional or psychic sort, having to do with triggers and rememberings, having to do with communication, how what you say, and how you say what you say, impacts me, and, too, how what I say, and how I say what I say, impacts others. I think about being a ‘safe place’ for other folks, and wanting other folks to be a ‘safe place’ for me, especially my friends and my spouse. That I need them to be safe so that I will be safe —

But yesterday, when I was journaling, I wrote:

What if I’m putting too much energy on safe — on how often I need to be safe, on where safe resides. Can safe be in me, no matter what the other person is doing? How do I step into that place? Safe is in me, of me — that’s a significant shift.

What if there were a way that I knew I was ok, now, in this time, no matter what the person I was with was saying — or, let’s say the person I’m with is doing something that I find triggering, that reminds me of something my stepfather would do: what if that was no threat to my emotional, inherent safety?

I’m not talking about asserting that I’m safe even when I’m getting nonconsensually hit. I’m talking about emotional or psychic safety being something I have access to, even during sex, even when I risk asking my lover for something new or different, even when the other person doesn’t respond the way I hoped they would (or, maybe even worse, when they do respond positively!) — what if that didn’t compromise my sense of safety, my sense of being-ok-ness?

The word safe means, variously, not in danger or likely to be harmed; not dangerous or likely to cause harm; not harmed or damaged; something that does not involve any risk.

And so that last: there again, to my question above about whether I’m putting too much energy on being safe: do I really want a life that doesn’t involve any risk? I actually want to take more risks. What if safe is a knot I’ve tied myself into, this idea that I need or am supposed to be safe all the time: what if I were to let that go, find another word for my emotional wellness that didn’t tie into not taking any risks.

And what about this ideas that girls are supposed to be safe: not dangerous or likely to cause harm.  Sugar and spice and everything nice, all that: what happens when we shove at that idea, some, crumble it, take back our dangerousness?

Safe can be a trap, for me. (It’s a privilege to get to say that, to get to be aware that I want more risk in my life.) Safe, too, can be a way that I control others: what you’re doing/saying makes me feel unsafe.  How often have white women used that to turn a dialogue away from talking about racism, for example?

Sex, for me, always requires risk — and so is never safe, just by definition. What if that’s ok?

Erotic writing has been a way for me to negotiate that risk, that space between safety and desire, a way for me to feel it in my body before I put my body against someone else.  And can help me step off the page, too.

I’m asking this question today: what if I’m ok even if I’m not completely safe — that is, even if I’m taking risks and I can’t know or control the outcome.  What would I do, who would I be, if I didn’t always have to be safe?

What about you?

Thanks for your fierce questioning, the generous work you did yesterday, the kindness you’re going to offer to the world today.

embodiment: the power and use of writing about sex

heart graffiti with hand and love emerging from the top valves...

image via travelingbeard.com

Good morning!  A morning write, and then it’s off and out into the world — I’ve got spiced decaf this morning instead of tea and why am I telling you this?

This is about getting the words started.  This is about saying whatever will move the fingers across the keyboard so I can get to whatever comes next.  Sometimes you have to write the stuff that will move you to and into what you needed to write — that doesn’t mean that the stuff that you wrote first was bad or  wrong.  In fact, that stuff was necessary: it got you to the other part, the part you most wanted to say.

The people across the street at the concrete place are using a loud mechanical saw already — it’s barely 6:30.  Do they think everyone;s already up and going, or they just don’t care? I think I need more coffee. Funny how I can say that about this little cup of spiced decaf. Today’s spices are cardamom and cloves: add a little sugar (still no milk-like product around the house) and hum.

Ok — if I go with the little  blog-topic calendar I came up with yesterday, that means, since it’s Wednesday, it’s a Declaring Our Erotic (DOE) day. What can I tell you about DOE?  Right now, there’s no erotic writing workshop happening, but this fall, I’m going to be offering the DOE workshop to all queer survivors of sexual trauma — that means folks of many different genders in one room, writing about sexuality and desire, and sharing it aloud with folks who we’ve been trained to believe won’t understand anything about us and our sexuality, because they’re different from us.

It’s not like that belief doesn’t come grounded in some reality or experience for some of us, but that’s not what I want to talk about today.  What I want to talk about is the joy that passes across the room when we open the thickness of ourselves onto the page. What I want to write about is the power and use of writing about sex.

There are times when writing about sex is the only sex I’m having.  Don’t make a sad face for me — that’s often not a bad thing. In fact, it’s often very good: writing has been the way for me to keep hold of at least one thread of my sexuality during times when “real life” sex isn’t possible: when it’s just to triggering, too negative and scary.

Here’s what can be true for me: writing itself is an embodied process. I use my body to do the work, to type the words or move the pen across the page. Writing about sex is rarely triggering for me — and that’s just for me, I know it could be different for others —  but there’s something powerful about the one-step-removed, the I’m just writing this down, I don’t have to do it, the this is someone else’s fantasy and life I’m stepping into right now.

There’s something powerful in writing someone else’s desire, moving into fiction, taking this character and asking, OK, what happens now if we try this? And I get to see what it’s like for her, and wonder (maybe, sometimes, I can let myself wonder), Would it be like this if I did it myself?

Other times I can just write someone else’s story and feel the desire rush through me as I write and not have to move myself into the imagined storyline — it’s enough to let this character have all her desire and her risk and bravery and fear and shame and orgasms (or not) and feel it as I’m writing. Writing sex is sexy, is scary, sometimes, but also powerful and em-power-ing.

If you’re just getting started writing sex, be gentle with yourself — let yourself write into strong sensory detail, what something tastes like, what a certain texture feels like against your or your character’s skin, what a favorite piece of music sounds like or feels like against the ear: that’s all embodied writing.  Erotic writing doesn’t have to be carnal: erotic writing, by my estimation and experience, is embodied writing.  Writing that’s in and of the body — of the character’s body and of the writer’s body.

Here’s one of my favorite exercises to do with a group of writers. Let yourself make a list of first times (and, in this case, I’m thinking about consensual first times) — remember that there are many many erotic/sexual first-times: first crush, their first kiss with a new somebody, their first time with a silk scarf wrapped around their wrists, their first massage, their first time showering with someone, their first time masturbating with a new something or other… let yourself generate this list, and then notice which first is most drawing your attention. It might be a first you’ve experienced or have wanted to experience, or it might be a first you’re curious about but not necessarily something you want to consider outside of fantasy or off the page — for whatever reason, let yourself be drawn to that first and start writing from there. Put your writing in the first person, using I, or in the second, using you, or the third person, using he or she or ze — whatever feels most right to you as you’re writing. Don’t worry about punctuation or verb tense or any grammar stuff: just let the words flow!  Give yourself 10 minutes, say, after you generate your list, to bring this first time out onto the page.  What happens in your body as you write?

Send me your thoughts, if you want to, or leave a comment below (the little captcha thing is weird, I know, but if you click where the text says to click, a cursor will appear above the letters you’re supposed to type, and then you can enter them –)

Thank you for being there, for reading, for doing all the amazing work you do.

crime scenes and containers of consciousness

body in gas mask and rubber gloves -- graffitiNote: this morning’s write contains info about my personal sex life, and stuff about incest. Just a heads-up. xox, Jen

I woke up this morning coming.  It keeps repeating in my head, that phrase, those words, over and over. (Maybe I won’t post this, but I still need to write it.  I want to learn to use the computer like I use my notebook, writing without editing, writing just as fast, writing like my heart and life depended on it, writing honest and alongside fear.)

I woke up this morning coming.  I’d been awake not long before that, I think. It was 4:29, realized I could get up if I wanted to, could get up and have even more dark good time here at my writing desk.  But I closed my eyes, also realizing I could sleep more. And what happened then was I woke up with a strange sensation in my body, like something letting lose, something clamping down, something weird.  I didn’t know what it was at first.

I would like to tell you my history with orgasms but it’s an unpleasant one. What I will say is that they’ve grown out of incest, they come up through that soil, even now. Maybe now that earth (and by that I mean my body) is not quite so toxic, orgasms are some levels layers generations removed from the ones I had at 20, those awful tight frantic releases still living inside incest’s –what– its constraints and formations—not like the ones I have now, although still nearly every time I have sex (has there been a time when this hasn’t happened? Do I really get to use that nearly so casually?), I have to wash through some memory, some bodily sense, some understanding of my self, my sexual self, as having been shaped by that time. Maybe I’m reminded by some fantasy that I embedded 20 years ago or more, to save myself. Maybe reminded by an actual memory of him, his physical presence, his face up in my face. Maybe just reminded by my very own smell, the fact of my own body, being, for me, an artifact of incest.  (our bodies being the sites of our trauma, being the crime scenes)

But it’s not like I haven’t had many many (many) consensual orgasms—it’s just that they’re nearly all brought about by my own hand, my agency, my intervention.

So this morning there was the contracting, the restricting, the thing just centralized deep down, no radiating emotion or nerves. That localization is what fooled me: what’s going on? I hadn’t been dreaming about sex. In fact, I’d been having pretty intricate dreams about a couple different groups of friends involved in some sort of criminal activity for which we were now going to be hounded by police—righteous criminal activity, I’m sure—in the last one, at first, I’d thought I’d have to walk home, hundreds of miles, maybe more, then I realized I could take a plane.

I want to say more about the dreams, but they’ve faded, fragmented, shredded enough in my consciousness that I can’t grab them—clouds, you know, like clouds, gone rent in the wind, that high up wind you can’t feel, you can just see its aftereffects

And so this strange early morning orgasm – I realized, maybe partway through (and let’s recognize that it went on, what, some 30 seconds?) what was happening: oh. Oh! And I felt glad, surprised but not shocked, and could sort of just experience it.  Thinking back on it now (though I wasn’t aware of this while it was going on), I was somewhat detached: there was the part of me experiencing these contractions, and the part of me trying to figure out what was going on, and I have a real sense of disconnect about them now, a split. Once I figured out what was going on, I kept on observing for a moment, but then sort of reconnected, came back together, felt my own self.  Felt my whole self. And then I think I slept some more.

The thing is, I don’t come un-manually very often (this is maybe too personal to share – but it feels important to me). I didn’t come with lovers at all for a long time, while my stepfather was still abusing me and after – orgasms were things that I had to do with him.  They were a space of deep dissociation, deep split for me.  A place of just awful disconnect, where I had to both be absolutely be in my body (in order to do this thing, in order to come) and where I worked to be as out of my body as possible (through fantasy, being as fully in some imaginary other people’s experience) at the same time. Coming wasn’t something I wanted to do with my lovers, because I wanted to stay in the room with them.  So I didn’t fake it exactly – I just didn’t do what I had to do to come.  It took a lot of years of reorienting myself, and I don’t want to get into all that here, but what I do want to say is that I did have some self-hate for awhile that the only person I ‘came’ with was the man who was raping me – and so I wanted that to change.

I get it that coming is a physiological process: I get it that it’s kind of mechanical, in terms of this bundle of nerves, stimulated enough, sets off this series of contractions.  I also get it that it’s psychological; our minds are heavily involved. I get it that I have the capacity to come under someone’s ministrations, without having to use my own hands, without doing it myself.  I’ve had that experience maybe five times in my life. It always surprises and sort of unnerves me when it happens, whether it’s in/via a dream or during partner sex. And when it’s with a lover that I experience this non-manual orgasm, this orgasm that I didn’t minister to with my own fingers, that I didn’t have to tend and knead to life (along with help, let’s say, from my lover), I feel proud, out of control, ashamed and dirty, and a great deal of pressure to do it again.  If I could just stop at those first two on the list, maybe it’d be easier to have it happen more often – but the out of control thing is a tough one.  It’s just not something I’m all that happy about in sex.  Being out of control in sex scares the hell out of me, to be honest with you.

So, here’s the sort of erotic writing I’m doing these days – some of the writing I needed to read when I was first coming out as an incest survivor, as someone who wanted to have sex still, have a lot of sex, someone who adored sex-positive folks and who also felt altogether crazy in those communities because those folks just seemed to be having such a good goddamn time all the time and never had any issues with sex, didn’t get triggered or scared or upset—or didn’t talk about how they dealt with those triggers, if they did experience them. And here I was, both sex positive and triggered every single time I had sex.  I find community through books, find shared experience, find a decreased solitude through reading others’ experiences – I wanted to read about other survivors, other people who’d had awful things happen to them via sex, folks who’d found a way through, who’d navigated this stunning(ly) awful road of sex, who’d found ways to survive in their erotic bodies, these crimes scenes that trap us inside and are at the same time the sites of the most extraordinary release, this container of consciousness and joy.

The little orgasm didn’t last that long this morning, a handful of contractions, a sense of awareness and awe that my body had this capacity when there was nothing sexual happening to me: no sex dreams, no nothing (at least that I’m conscious of now). I felt grateful toward my strange body, toward this cunt that really only knows its work, doesn’t know about ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ orgasms, just knows about stimulation and response, physiological chains of events. It was a little orgasm, as my orgasms go, and was, too, quite percussive, rippling in its impact. I’m still feeling its aftereffects, still a bit electrified, still grateful and here.

Bearing my chest to the mouth of the world

The prompt was “a love letter to the body.” Folks can interpret this all sorts of ways — I often find myself offering these letters to one part of my body or another, usually some part that I feel (especially) complicated about. This time, well, I think you can pretty quickly tell which part I’m needing to send some love to.

It’s true that I have been grateful for your heft and weight ever since you had any heft and weight. I should apologize now for those months, just as you were budding, that I squeezed you (well, us) into two sizes too-small tube tops (wasn’t that one kind of a grassy green, and ribbed or ruffly or something?) in front of the full-length mirror in the basement of mom’s duplex apartment on California Street — you were all stifled, unable to breathe, but I puffed you out and paraded like a girl was supposed to, bent my arms back like not-yet-broken wings and posed for the dank and empty room while little sqares of sunlight flowed in from the small windows high up on the cement wall. I was trying to hurry you along, wanted the big, full curves of Farrah Fawcett, maybe, or HotLips Houlihan, or, yeah, Daisy Duke — who else would I/we have been inspired by back then? Maybe elementary school teachers, and a couple of classmates whose development had already, well, developed. We didn’t have anything especial to show the world for some time, though, did we? Just a flush roundness that seemed small compared to everything we noted, the girls who wore tight t-shirts, the porn underneath my parent’s bed.

When did you flesh out so nice for me? By the time I was in college, I was cupping you in fine fake lace (remember that one green bra? a grown up version of that tube top, now with something to form itself around) and offering you more readily to others’ eyes. We wore frills under leather jackets or oxford shirts and admired the contrast. I was just learning how to appreciate all the curves I’d longed for back a decade earlier, but then it became much safer to flatten you down beneath sports bras, to clothe my own self in boy garb and butch realness, though even then I just couldn’t cotton to how the guys wanted to do away with their girl bits, from their tits on down, the guys who’d been horrified at how girl developed over and onto their bodies, the bodies they’d just learned to be comfortable in as little boys — but not me, remember? This was something I kept my mouth closed about, lest I reveal myself (even further) as not a real butch: I adored my breasts. Even as I reached out toward transitioning, set my safety against the idea of walking in the world only as male, what stopped me was this: how could I give you up? I cupped my hands around you, when I was alone, and couldn’t reconcile these realities.

You put up with this hemming in and hewing out, how I lavished attention on you during sex (wither alone or with others), but otherwise kept you battened down like all the rest of my hatches. You showed me off to be a girl, I suppose, as breasts are wont to do, and I loved you then as I do now, though I was so scared of what it meant that I was, in fact, a girl (goddamnit).

It took a long time to let you back out again, and one of the first things we did as a way to lay our claim again in girlhood was put aside the smashing-down sports bras and accept ones that showed you as you truly are.

I think sometimes I’m still awful ambivalent about you, not giving you the caressing, the (yes) tongue-baths, the suckling, the snaring and snarling, the pinching and piercing, the laving, the oiling, the tenderness and sweet meanness you deserve because of the nerve memory you still store in your cells, because of the remembering I do every time you’re stroked, because of how his mouth still lives there, always the first.

You remind me now that all of our cells die and are replaced, that every seven years or so we are new — so that you are two and close to three times renewed since the last unasked-for, unwelcomed touch. When will you let me be free, you ask me, and I hold onto the question like something untethered from history, something solely possible, something like bearing my chest to the mouth of the world.

reminder: Queering Sexual Violence submissions due 5/1!

(reposting — and please pass the word! –xox, Jen)

It is getting down to the last few days for submissions, however, I will accept them throughout the month of May. I have some people who needed extensions so I can wait a bit if you need one as well. Also, if you have a piece that has been published before that can be reused that you think might be perfect, please feel free to submit that as well! Hope to get a piece from you!!

Queering Sexual Violence

An anthology of LGBTQ writers, survivors and activists confronting heterosexual privilege and the gender binary system while creating a dialog about the limitations of the anti-sexual violence movement.

Edited by Jennifer Patterson

Queering Sexual Violence seeks 20- 25 LGBTQ writers who are interested in submitting pieces that confront the current state of our anti- sexual violence climate. Part memoir/ part criticism/ part call to action, this anthology seeks to address the limitations of a society that is not only unequipped to deal with rape culture but also unable to look at it without the lens of heterosexual privilege and through the interests of a gender binary system. The anthology seeks to address the holes in anti- sexual violence prevention, organizing and recovery work while motivating the community to embrace a more radical perspective, in order to foster sustainable change.

For general purposes, the definition of Sexual Violence defined in this anthology is as follows:

Sexual Violence is an unwanted or non- consensual act, whether completed or not, that is sexual in nature and violates a person physically, emotionally, spiritually and/or politically.

To be more clear, Sexual Violence can be a range of non-consensual sexual exchanges, from unwanted interactions on the street, to rape (from either a stranger or within a relationship) to incest to invasive sexually based comments in regards to ones gender presentation or identity, among many other things.

The pieces submitted should be of the writer’s personal experience and explore the intersections of ability, sexuality, race, class, religion, citizenship, gender identity, sex, age, ethnicity and how these either magnify or minimize your experience/ work and your history with sexual violence.

I believe that organizing from the center of our many different and overlapping marginalized communities could do nothing but improve the current anti- sexual violence movement.

Possible Ideas for Pieces:

What does consent mean to you and how do you explore it in your sexual experiences? Has your experience shaped the ways in which you navigate your present relationships?

Did you come out after you experienced sexual violence? What kind of impact did this have on your future relationships or anti-sexual violence work?

How do you think transphobia and homophobia play out in sexual violence and what kind of impact does this have on mainstream organizing?

Do people often attribute your queer identity to the fact that you have experienced sexual violence or abuse before coming out? Or has it never been an issue? How can we begin to have conversations that include primary prevention for people of queer identity that allow them to claim their identity separate from sexual violence?

How does your expression of gender being questioned or threatened lead to feeling sexually violated?

Have you worked in anti- sexual violence organizing? What kind of experience was it for you and did you feel you were able to be both queer and an active participant? Did you feel welcomed and/ or valued in the process?

Have you experienced more “casual”, day to day sexual violations that have been threatening because of your sexual orientation or because you don’t fit traditional gender roles?

How does your race complicate your role as a survivor and/or community organizer? Where do you feel most at home?

What do you imagine is necessary for the future of anti- sexual violence work? What needs to change in the language, direction of prevention etc. in order for the work to be more inclusive and queer issues to be more centralized?

Do you find yourself drawn to larger non- profit organizations or grassroots efforts? Will we be able to create widespread change through one of the other more effectively?

When do you feel burnt out? When do you quit? And how do you start again?

I am looking for pieces 1200- 2000 words, Times New Roman Size 12, double-spaced in length. Upon publication, I will supply moderate compensation for pieces picked. Also, please provide a short bio (150 words or less) with your submission.

Please send submissions and/ or questions to queeringsexualviolence@gmail.com by May 1, 2010. For extension requests, please write.

Please also repost and circulate widely.

Putting words where her body ought to be able to be

This is a write from last night’s workshop — we were responding to one of the following fragments:
– back she went to her own country
– it is the thing you do
– I put my body where my words are (Luisa Valenzuela)

She wants to put her body where her words are, fully into the flavor of sex, stunned with the liquid of meaning and possibility, and the most hostile vulnerability ever. This is the skin I settle into, the girl behind the screen, the safely ensconced in pixels or pencils / and yes, writing is an embodying affair / it sloshes your stones with hopes / it asks your nerves to show up for the aching / but I can forget how to breathe today / and I would almost always rather write than fuck / because behind the skin of my page I can just be that free woman / the one with no safety dug and scabbed beneath her nails / the one whose triggers are taxidermied and mounted on the wall for all to see / to gnash teeth at / to chuckle over / but they are quiet behind glass when she is writing and cannot startle or snare anybody — not there. There, her triggers become works of art, almost admirable / almost

See, that one looks like her sister’s face cluttered over with fallen feathers, the plucked body of a girlchild / and / that one is a diorama of her high school, cardboard cutouts of her graduating class cluttering the forefront, the teenagers’ faces all stained a kind of rakish purple that meant they had eaten the fruit of tomorrow and lived / (Her face is stained only an off-shore eggshell white with what she had to swallow, and there is no tomorrow for her in that picture) / in this one, the boys are all backhanded, they each have a piece of her virginity poking out of their ragged back pockets, though the full flesh of it lives at her house, in her parents’ room / there’s its carapace, over in the far corner / there are diagrams — this one here, and that one — of the ceilings she shut her eyes to, and then studied and tried to find shapes in

All these pieces so containable when she writes, when she writes about sex, she can shut the door to this exhibition / leave it for the curator and night staff to tend to its reedy exhalations and stains of saliva / when she’s writing sex, she doesn’t feel them on her body / she puts words where her / body / ought to be able to be

Writing Ourselves Whole – early 2010 schedule!

one of the little altars in the workshop space

Happy 2010, all!

Here’s a short list of what’s coming for me/writing ourselves whole for the first part of the year — starting next week!

Send me a note for more info (jennifer@writingourselveswhole.org)! (I, on the other hand, commence the deep breathing. 🙂



Begins next Monday! Winter 2010: Write Whole: Survivors Write. Open to all women survivors of sexual trauma. (8 Monday evenings beginning 1/11) $225-300, sliding scale

Winter 2010: Healing Through Writing: a workshop for folks living with cancer. Through the UCSF Mt. Zion Art for Recovery program. (7 Thursday mornings, begins 1/21) Contact Cindy Perlis for more info:Cynthia.Perlis@ucsfmedctr.org

Jan 30, 2010 (1-4pm): Declaring Our Erotic: a queer women’s erotic writing workshop (In honor of the Body Heat Femme Porn Tour!), at the writing ourselves whole workshop space, $20

Jan 29-30, 2010 8pm, $10-15: Body Heat at the Center for Sex and Culture! Join us for one of these SNEAK PEEK pre-Tour shows! Jan 29: Carol Queen / Kathleen Delaney / Jen Cross / Madison Young /Vixen Noir aka Veronica Combs / Amelia Mae Paradise from Diamond Daggers; Jan 30: Shar Rednour / Daphne Gottlieb / Kathleen Delaney / Jen Cross / Alex Cafarelli / Lady Fantastique)

Feb 2010: Declaring Our Erotic: a writing workshop for ALL queer survivors of sexual trauma (4 Tuesday evenings, beginning 2/2, at Modern Times Bookstore. $50-100, sliding scale)

Feb 10, 5:30-6:30: Quick-n-Dirty Erotic Writing happy hour at Good Vibes, Polk St! Free! http://events.goodvibes.com

Feb 13, 12:00-4:00pm: Write Whole with Survivorship. Survivorship is an amazing and community-led org for folks who are survivors of ritual or cult abuse. Free!

March 10-27: Body Heat: Femme Porn Tour. The cross-country extravaganza! In this our fourth installment, Kathleen Delaney (Atlanta, GA.), Diana Cage (NYC), Meliza Bañales (San Francisco, CA), Jen Cross (San Francisco, CA), Nicky Click (Durham, NH),Gigi Frost (Boston, MA), Sossity Chiricuzio (Portland, OR.), Alex Cafarelli (San Francisco, CA.), and Al Schlong (Atlanta, GA) are prepared to rock off all your socks. We begin in Boston and our finale is scheduled for Vancouver! (Visit my website or myspace.com/femmeporntour FMI!

Spring 2010: Write Whole: Survivors Write – for women survivors of sexual trauma (8 Monday evenings beginning 4/5) $225-300, sliding scale

Spring 2010: Declaring Our Erotic: an erotic writing workshop open to everyone! (8 Tuesday evenings beginning 4/6) $225-300, sliding scale

Spring 2010: Healing Through Writing: a workshop for folks living with cancer. Through the UCSF Mt. Zion Art for Recovery program. (8 Thursday mornings, begins in April, date not yet confirmed) Contact Cindy Perlis for more info:Cynthia.Perlis@ucsfmedctr.org


Want more info? Check out www.writingourselveswhole.org!