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Is It Too Late To Let Go of My Shyness?

Question via Tumblr: Hello, My name is Dave. I’m 50 years old l’m and still a virgin. I’ve been overweight since puberty and underwent extreme mental and emotional abuse all through school because of it. In short, I was treated like crap. People I went to school with were very arrogant. I was raised by an anti social, over protective mother. I suffered extreme shyness until really only the last few years. I was never able to have any kind of life and now I think I’m too old to try to start one now. Am I past help.

Hi Dave, nice to “meet” you. Thanks for being patience in waiting for a response, I wanted to make sure I could give it the attention you deserve. It sounds like you’ve experienced some tough shit in your life, and it will probably take you some time to sort through it and grow past it. Childhood stuff is tough because we’re still forming our ideas about who we are, and if we see negativity reflected back to us, we assume that we’re somehow defective ourselves – as opposed to seeing others behavior or your environment as fucked up. What you experienced as a young child was particularly formative, because I’ve read that until the age of 7 or so, kids are ego-centric, meaning they think everything that happens in their life is in some way because of them. As adults we can understand others motivations and actions but as kids we think everything was our fault. And if those things never get resolved in us, we’ll continue to go through life as if its shit because we don’t deserve any better.

The fact that you wrote to me shows that you know its not too late to change your life. You’re only too old if you believe you are. I think a lot of people your age would say they are, even though they still have half their lives left!

You might be surprised to know, I’ve struggled with shyness and social anxiety most my life. As a child, I can’t remember NOT feeling that way. At age 4, my parents took me to a psychiatrist because I wouldn’t talk to anyone except my family & a couple close friends. He diagnosed me with ‘selective mutism,’ which meant I would only talk to select people, though (of course) I wouldn’t talk to him either so he couldn’t really help beyond that. Kids in school would make fun of me and ask me if I knew how to talk, which was humiliating, and funny enough my attitude-ridden ‘YES!’ were some of the few words they ever heard from me. My mom (who is also pretty shy) read me this book called Its Okay to Be Shy to try and help, though the way I felt was absolutely was NOT okay. It was horribly painful and made dread school and every day social situations. Of course, I couldn’t tell anyone that because I was so shy, so I remained in my shell. Anytime I had to talk to someone, my mind would run rampant with how stupid I am, how there must be something wrong with me. I would be so frozen I literally had nothing to say most of the time.

Coming out of that has taken time, patience, numerous therapists, books, writing, personal development seminars, spiritual exploration, and honestly, experiences on illicit substances that shifted my perspective on myself and the world (I’d say this was one of the most important things, all the other work grew from and supported these experiences). I still have difficulty communicating, I still get frustrated, anxious and frozen – but in time I’ve created new patterns of behavior and learned to deal with my emotions enough that comfort zone has gotten much bigger. Most people I meet would never guess I used to be so shy.

Change isn’t linear, in my experience it happens in steps. You’ll make some progress, then plateau. And when that happens, you’ll probably go all “poor me, my life sucks, I’m a loser [or whatever your personal insult of choice is], nothing will ever change.” But take enough steps and eventually you’ll come to accept the plateaus as important as the progress. Its when you take stock, see how things have changed, and whatever needs to be dealt with next will come up.

If you’re a reader, I’d suggest the book Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. It comes from a Buddhist perspective, but you don’t need to be into Buddhism to appreciate it. Its written in plain English and is very easy to digest. I’m reading it right now.

Otherwise, a therapist would be most people’s first stop. Try one. Or two. Or three. Try a few out and see whether you click with them. There are so many different approaches to therapy and some will work better for you than others, and depending on what issues are most pertinent at the moment.

Basically you’re embarking on a journey to explore yourself, learn that you’re an awesome person, and how to share your awesomeness with others (and appreciate others’ awesomeness in your life). The more you can approach it as a game, an exploration, the chance to learn something new and fun and interesting about yourself and life more broadly – the better the trip will be and the more likely you’ll learn to live life on your own terms.

I hope this helps :)

Edited: November 4th, 2014

Screaming in Silence

Last night I was sorting through boxes in my closet, when I came across one full of “memory stuff.” Old movie tickets (why did I save the ticket stub from Mean Girls?), faded airplane tickets, keepsakes (like the rocks I saved from Israel or the keychains my dad brought me from his business trips around the globe), random funny shit (such as a button reading, “I want to watch gay sex, can you help?” that a friend of mine actually wore to a local burning man event in 100% seriousness).

And cards. More than anything, the cards got me. Birthdays, graduations, Bat Mitzvah (which I did in college). I even found an anniversary card my grandma sent to my high school boyfriend and I; she still sent my parents cards on the anniversary of their first date, and so she continued the tradition with me and my boyfriend’s 5-year relationship. She LOVED him and thought we were going to get married (so did we).

I came across cards from the first (and only) woman I’ve truly loved. Telling me, “You are a wonderful, and intelligent person who is willing to be herself regardless of what anyone else thinks, and we wouldn’t want you any other way.”

I sorted through the few material objects left from earlier chapters of my life with mixed emotion. I was overwhelmed with the amount of love in my life. Maybe I was never the cool kid in school or the life of the party, but I’ve always had people around me who loved and cared.

I felt overwhelmed because at the time, there was always a part of me that felt unloved and unloveable.

And I see why. Despite my relationships with these people who cared for me, there was always something missing. I didn’t know what, exactly. All I knew is that a good deal of the time, I felt like I wanted to scream – but couldn’t. Nobody knew anything was missing because I didn’t – couldn’t – tell them. I didn’t know how to articulate what was wrong. No matter though, because I was terrified.

Almost every relationship (friendship or romantic) ended feeling as if the person didn’t really know me. How could they? I didn’t really know me. I struggled, diving first into my Jewish identity, then creating an academic identity and finally a feminist identity to define myself. And I found a part of myself in each of these environments, but none of them could ever explain the whole of me. Each ended feeling as though I either had to cut off the parts of my self that didn’t fit into the mold to cram myself in, or say fuck off entirely.

That thing that was missing is the part of me that decided one anxious sleepless night that yes, I would start a fetish website. It is the part of me that found freedom in the rave scene. The part that loves to dance, feeling the bass pounding through my body, hair flying in my face like a cavewoman, sweat dripping down my back, to electronic music that compels my muscles to move from deep within, mostly absent words to distract my mind. Its the piece that goes to pole dancing, learning to feel comfortable moving my body sensually, gracefully, to perform erotically (in my own eroticism) in front of others eyes. The parts of me that desire both worship and degradation, pleasure as well as pain – physically, emotionally, psychologically. The side that required altered states of consciousness to even access, at first. Its the part of me that craves adventure and exploration as much as grounding and depth.

Simply put: I did not feel ALIVE in my body. I primarily occupied my mind – a busy, anxious, categorizing, judging, evaluating, critiquing, weighing and measuring space.

I had people who cared for me – the me I was able to be at the time – but I was only partially there. Relationships can only be as deep as the people in them, and while all of my relationships have had those moments of seeing, I was too scared and lacked the emotional skills needed for intimacy to be the rule, not the exception. The logical, rational good student side was well known and praised, but just being her was not fulfilling in itself. She was successful, from a social perspective. She amassed a long list of internships, volunteer positions, conference presentations and grants. She felt proud of her accomplishments yet worried they were never enough and anxiously feared failing, as her worth was based largely on the grades on her papers, lists of accolades, and praise from parents, teachers and other figures of authority.

It could only be that way, because that’s what I allowed – that’s all I COULD allow – to exist. As much as I longed to feel life pulsing through my veins, I was scared, and frankly had no clue how that happened or if it was even possible.

It was confusing. Everybody around me seemed content to do those normal things we’re “supposed” to do. Nobody else appeared to be struggling, at least not at the depth I felt. But then, without having the words to describe, and too scared to even try, how could I have known that? I assumed based on what I observed. Maybe they couldn’t explain it either.

I believe this “journey” of exploring my sexuality has been mostly about bringing out that part of me that wants to feel alive. Its about sex, but its more than that, its about the person who comes to the sex and how she relates to it. Its about how I meet those feelings of desire and what I do with it. Its about creativity and femininity. Its about sensuality and experience. Its making friends with those parts of myself and allowing them to come out and play.

It is not logical or rational and I will never receive a good grade for it. And that is exactly why it means so much more. It is not that I disavow my intellect, but rather that the ‘good/smart girl’ isn’t who I am, its simply a role I played for many years and the vehicle through which I related to most people in my life. Yet I am also NOT asserting that this newer, more adventurous part is “really me.” Replacing one limiting identity with another only repeats the problem, just from the other side. The “real me” is made up of both. And probably other parts yet to be discovered.

My goals now entail some mix of stability with adventure. Mind with body. I want to organize my life so I can spend 2-3 hours a day reading and writing. I want to make the space for yoga or meditation every day to simply ‘be.’ And at the same time, I want to expand into ‘performing’ for other porn companies, fetish and mainstream. I want to feature dance. I want to create the sex education/porn site I was originally aiming to turn this blog into. And I’m planning a wedding at Electric Daisy Carnival in 2016.

Simply put: I want to live my life as myself, doing things that I want to do, with awesome people around me. And I am willing to do the work to make those things happen.

With sexual anorexia, or any type of “anorexic” behavior, people frequently ping pong between hyper-control and completely out of control. Just like the addict may go back and forth between life off the rails and Jesus. My concern has been that my desires aren’t “real,” that they’re just part of a cycle that will end up as unfulfilling as the intellectual-control side. That they’re a reaction to feeling stifled, not true desires. That’s been my fear, still feeling that I “should” live a more normal life (never mind that statistically normal is unhealthy, unhappy and in debt). I’ve been afraid, most basically, that my desires are wrong because they’re not validated by any of my typical mechanisms I’ve gone to for approval. But desire doesn’t care about rules, such is its nature.

What tells me this is “real” and not reaction is that having ALL of these things together gives me a sense of balance. I am equally “out there” as I am “in here,” only now both are increasingly grounded. Meaning I do not feel overly controlled with the associated mental, emotional and physical tension. Nor does it feel out of control with the associated anxiety and shame. It feels as if I am standing on solid ground, and the space is free for me to use as I like.

That space is simply life.

Edited: October 10th, 2014

What Triggers Your Shame?

So awhile ago I talked about shame. These were some of my most popular podcasts. And I was surprised. I wasn’t sure if talking about feeling like shit would be all that compelling. But apparently it is! If you can relate to my version of shittiness, that is. And I think most people can, in one form or another.

So I promised I’d talk about shame more about as I learn how to deal with it, let it go, overcome, or whatever happens such that its not the prevalent emotion in my life anymore.

Even Cats Feel Shame...

Even Cats Feel Shame...

And almost 6 months later, its largely not. Its not gone, but its not the #1 thing I feel when I wake up in the morning. That’s new and different. Almost uneasy, because while the shame felt terrible, it was familiar.

So here’s something I’ve realized – shame is an emotion. Emotions come and go. But feelings don’t just come from nowhere, something triggers them, whether or not we’re aware. (And most people are unaware, I was up until recently… and still sometimes.)

Which to me means identifying when the feeling of shame is triggered and what did I see/do/hear/say/remember that brought up that emotion.

And it turns out there are some sexual things that used to cause me a lot of shame. But that really don’t anymore.

At the same time, there are some sexual things that I still do feel ashamed of. Even when my logical brain says everything’s fine, and I wouldn’t judge anyone else for it.

So today I talk more about what I’ve noticed about shame, how it comes and goes, and what I’ve done to let it go.

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Edited: June 3rd, 2014

Remember This When You Feel Pain, Shame, or Fear…

Whether you’re scared your partner won’t accept your fantasies, worried about how your body looks, feel deep shame from a religious upbringing, or any million other things that could be a “problem” in your sex life – remember these words…

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know…nothing ever really attacks us except our own confusion. Perhaps there is no solid obstacle except our own need to protect ourselves from being touched. Maybe the only enemy is that we don’t like the way reality is now and therefore wish it would go away fast. But what we find as practitioners is that nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. If we run a hundred miles an hour to the other end of the continent in order to get away from the obstacle, we find the very same problem waiting for us when we arrive. It just keeps returning with new names, forms, manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves. ”

— Pema Chödrön

Edited: June 1st, 2014

My Sexual Secrets: How I Discovered I Have “Sexual Anorexia”

When I said I was nervous about posting something the other day, this podcast is what I was referring to.

My work may often require nudity, but being honest feels even more naked.

Because secrets secrets are no fun, secrets secrets hurt someone. Yeah. ME. And probably most people I’ve been in a relationship with. Sorry guys. & gals. It wasn’t you. It really WAS me.

Am I being vague enough?

I guess I should come out and say it, so at least you’ll know what the topic of this podcast is really about. I’ve recently discovered what was REALLY behind my motivation to research sexuality and work in the porn industry to explore this corner of the universe.

Sexual anorexia. Apparently, its a thing. You’ve heard of sex addiction – this is the flip side. The anorexic to the overeater. Denial, avoidance and overcontrol vs. out of control indulgence.

I’ve been reading this book and discussing it in therapy. It 100% describes my very confusing and painful sexual history. And while I’ve made a lot of progress since I even started this blog in 2011, sex can still be very difficult at times. What astounds me most is that I’ve been working in the field of sexuality in one form or another for almost 10 years now. And I’ve only just heard of this.

I thought I was crazy. I’ve never heard of anyone having the same sexual issues as me. If I read one more sex advice article for women that says to stimulate the clitoris during sex or buy a vibrator or communicate with my partner, I might punch someone in the face. Um. I’ve tried that. Thanks.

Though may put on an act of confidence, beneath it all I’ve still felt there was something wrong with me. Which seemed logical since 90% of what various “sex experts” have suggested hasn’t worked on me. If everyone else seems so happy, the problem must be me, right? Why after all this effort, is sex sometimes REALLY difficult for me? Why, when I want it most, does my body shut off and barely respond? Why is asking for what I want sometimes so terrifying its easier for me to pour myself into work that isn’t even necessary, just to avoid dealing with it?

Why have I felt like the cursed skeleton-pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean, unable to enjoy my physical body?

“…the drink would not satisfy, food turned to ash in our mouths, and all the pleasurable company in the world could not slake our lust…” – Captain Barbossa

Only mine has not been a curse of greed. More a curse of denial, that I did all to myself.

So this is my story. Hope listening to it helps you in some way. If you’d like to share any part of your own sexual struggles, feel free to email me here. I promise I’ll respond.

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Edited: February 21st, 2014

Sometimes Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder…

Sometimes its not easy to be so open about my sexuality. Sometimes its not easy to be dealing with my sexuality at all. Even in private.

Sometimes I get really nervous about things I want to say here, in writing or in the podcast. I’m afraid of being so vulnerable – so publicly – and afraid of being judged.

Sometimes I get emails from readers, listeners & fans of my adult work who comment on my confidence and ballsyness. Underneath that is fear. Yet I believe what I do is important, is necessary, is something I really really want to be doing. And much more you’ve yet to see.

Sometimes it takes a little while to find the courage. That’s where I’ve been. I mean, I’ve been busy shooting videos for our websites and working on other tasks. But how long does it really take to make a few posts of content I’ve already created? Not long. Its the emotional hurdle that’s far bigger than the work of writing a blog or recording a podcast.

Some things I’m not ready to say yet. Others you’ll see on this blog soon.

In the meantime, I’ve already posted this video previously but its so on point I had to share it again. Vulnerability. That’s what makes really good sex. And a really happy relationship. And if you’re anything like me, it can be a huge challenge. But also one that’s really worth undertaking…

Edited: February 19th, 2014

Be a Weirdo!

Everyone’s so concerned about being NORMAL. I spent most my life trying really hard to be what everyone else said I should. Thankfully I met someone who showed me I didn’t need to be normal — I needed to be ME. (You wouldn’t be reading this otherwise!)

I’m not normal. And neither are you. Maybe its your sexual fantasies (“You pervert.”). Perhaps its your obsessive Barbie doll collection (“Aren’t you too old for that?”). Or a preference for ketchup on your pancakes (“That’s just disgusting.”).

Philosopher and ordained Jewish Rabbi, Dr. Marc Gafni says, “There’s nothing more attractive to a partner than the experience of YOU living your unique self.”

So why are you pretending to be anyone but?

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Edited: June 4th, 2013

How to Be Happy: FEEL GOOD. Period.

A man going through a midlife crisis wrote to me – and his words echo what I’ve struggled with especially in the last few years:

I’ve spent a lot of my life wanting stuff and feeling bad for it.

I either need to feel GOOD about doing the right thing, staying the course, walking the straight and narrow path, or I need to feel GOOD about just being who the fuck I am. Either way, I need to FEEL GOOD.

Feeling like shit because I really don’t want to walk the straight and narrow path, and hating myself because I must be broken or a bad person or have sold my soul to the devil… Well, it just fucking sucks not feeling good.

Learning to love yourself and be true to your desires is an ongoing process, particularly when who you are and what you want is not what’s ‘normal’ or ‘expected.’ I don’t write or talk about it publicly much, but I still have moments of panic where I ask myself, “What the fuck am I doing?” But instead of occurring on a near-daily basis (as it did when I began my fetish website), it happens every few weeks or once a month (often related to my menstrual cycle, hormones, and diet). Instead of an all-encompassing fear that feels like it’ll never end, its short-lived event that I know I’ll get through, because I’ve gotten through much worse so many times before.

I continue along this path, with big plans for the future, because it makes me feel good. Wholesomely good, ironic in what’s seen from the outside as a seedy environment. And it keeps feeling better. We can’t use external measures like social norms and what everybody else is doing to tell us what’s right for us individually. Most people don’t make feeling good a priority – its about getting by, doing what they have to do, what they should do. So how do you know if you’re doing the right thing (for you)? If it feels good and if its not hurting anyone, then its right. What’s the point of life if not to feel good? If you disagree, check out this documentary: Happy.

I told him, “Keep at it…it gets easier.” That line isn’t just for gay kids. Its for all of us who want to be true to our desires, whether sexual or otherwise.

Edited: May 10th, 2013

Why is Sex So Important?

Hunger, poverty, environmental destruction and disease are ravaging the modern world. But you’re here reading about sex. What’s so important about sex?

After all, we don’t NEED one another to get off – that’s why “God” invented masturbation (thanks!).

Its simple: To experience our living, breathing bodies in the height of pleasure…together. To connect to another human being, whether spouse or casual hookup.

But life gets busy. It can be a challenge to find the time and energy to connect with others. What do you do to stay in tune with your partner? What have you done in the past? Or what have you learned from previous mis-connections? Please share.

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Edited: September 5th, 2012

Want Passionate Sex? Live a Passionate Life

Passion.

In my experience, all great sex is fueled by passion.

Passionate Sex

So is a great life. It comes from the same place within us.

Ever have that feeling when you’re excited to be alive? When you wake up and can’t wait to live your day? Have a flash of inspiration you couldn’t wait to take action on? A sense that THIS (whatever it is) is what life is all about?

That’s passion. You can’t fake passion (watch a craptastic porn and that’s all the evidence you need).

Passion is emotion so intense you feel it coursing through your veins. Your body trembles with excitement. You want to scream from a mountaintop. You feel like a kid again, maybe like this one:

If your relationship is lacking passionate sex, there’s a good chance passion is missing elsewhere. Life is “holistic” – your sex life is connected to your relationships, finances, health. Passion, I believe, is what is referred to as “life force energy” in tantric circles – the energy that drives us to create, be it new life, a business, friendship, or a painting.

Taylore Ashlie and Susie Bright have both written about how sexuality and creativity emerge from the same part of our being. When you let life run you, when you’re victim to circumstance, its the opposite of creation. Self-helpers like to say, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” I’d add, if you’re not creating, you’re dying.

I believe we’re all here for a purpose, but in US culture we’re not encouraged to discover it – or create it – for ourselves. People slog through life like a shift at a minimum wage job, dying without ever living. We each have unique gifts, and we all have the capacity to make the world a better place. And I believe most of us have the desire – but we lack the faith, confidence in ourselves.

The mental-physical-emotional-spiritual experience of passion is what connects us to the deepest levels of ourselves. It creates union among friends, couples, groups. Its what gives life meaning. The passion lying in each of us is beautifully unique, yet when we come together the effect is exponential. Two separate beings have the capacity to join and birth new life. And that life may further create life, and further, and further. We are constantly re-creating the world, yet we’re ALL linked by the magic of life and that something inside that gets us out of bed each morning.

Passion is not for the weak of spirit. To fully feel passion is to surrender, to trust your intuition, and be swept away by the high of life.

Passionate Sex

Want an amazing sex life? Step out of the cubicle, get out from behind the counter, pull your ass off the couch. Do something you care about, no matter how small. Do it every day, even if its only for 5 minutes. As you raise your energy outside the bedroom (or wherever you like to fuck), you grow your sexual energy inside.

A passionate sex life is a passionate life.

Edited: January 17th, 2012