Celebrate Love…Self-Love That Is!

So…it’s Valentine’s Day weekend.

Seems like a good time to talk about love.

But don’t worry. I’m not going to rehash all of the tired tropes about obligatory, commercialistic love that tends to dominate this time of year.

Instead, I want to turn my attention to a topic that is at the foundation of every relationship but rarely gets talked about: self-love.

Also, don’t worry. While I could spend a good deal of time talking about ways to love ourselves by liking ourselves better, I’m actually here to talk about loving ourselves by…doing ourselves better.

Yup! This week, Valentine’s Day, I’m going to write about masturbation and how fucking awesome it is!

I’m taking a class on sex and sexuality right now, and we’ve been going over some really important shit about couples and relationships. I’m sure I’ll use the information, treatments, and resources that I’m collecting…but I noticed that something was missing from the discussion that seems far more foundational to sexuality than the dozens of different ways to treat erectile dysfunction.

Take a moment and think about the way that you think about masturbation.

Is it something you were taught was shameful and dirty?

Is it something you see as “sub-par” to other forms of sex? The thing you turn to for a quick release when you can’t get laid?

Is it something you “get over” and do quickly?

Most likely, it’s not something that you celebrate or think of as super special.

And I was right there with you several years ago. Never would I have chosen to have an evening with myself and my vibrator over a partner. At least, not until I read Sheri Winston’s fantastic books on sexuality.

The way that Sheri approached sexuality was transformative for me. She wasn’t the first to introduce me to the idea of using masturbation to explore what I liked and to learn about my body…but she was the first that I’ve encountered who portrayed sexuality as primarily about my relationship to myself. And she was the first to open my eyes to the potential of self-pleasure to be a sacred, powerful experience.

So, in protest to both the cultural hype around what Valentine’s Day should be and the cultural bullshit about sex being something primarily shared between people, I am going to list my reasons for why we should all rub one out for ourselves this weekend.

  1. Health benefits: Orgasm is freaking good for you, for your heart, your stress levels, your sleep, your mental health. While partnered sex might have some things to offer that masturbation doesn’t, one of the consistent things with both (if the partnered sex is done well) is that you still get the health benefits.
  2. Self-focus: Some might say that masturbation is actually wrong because it focuses solely on the self and its pleasure; however, for me, that’s a big reason why it’s so fucking right! Partnered sex can be amazing. It can be so rewarding to give pleasure to someone else that you care about. It can be really rewarding to have a sense of mutuality in bed. But sometimes you just need to be a recipient and not a giver. During those times when life just seems to be over-extending your resources, masturbation is one way that you can give give give to yourself, taking as much time as you want or need to linger over the pleasure, come as many times as you want, and never have to worry about whether anyone else involved is bored, tired, etc. because there is no one else involved.
  3. Creativity: One of the most interesting things I learned from Naomi Wolf’s book Vagina was that sexuality can heavily influence creativity. If that’s not a reason to rub one out frequently, then I don’t know what is.
  4. Better Partnered Sex: If you don’t know yourself, it’s going to be hard to communicate what makes you really tick with a partner. Masturbation is like doing dance drills in between ballet class. Sure, you can still make it through class if you don’t practice at home, but you’ll be far better if you do.
  5. Spirituality: If you’ve never masturbated while meditating, you seriously need to try it! Like, right now! There’s nothing quite like having a spiritual experience while you’re having an orgasm. And, as with numbers 1 and 3, spiritual experiences can also happen with partnered sex, it’s a different kind of spiritual experience. It’s the kind that is shared and connected to things outside of you. Orgasmic meditation and spiritual masturbation are the intense spiritual experiences that take you deeper into yourself where you can connect with and meet parts of yourself normally inaccessible. Sheri Winston even talks about using the energy of orgasm for healing purposes.
  6. Independence: This is one of the most important reasons, in my mind, especially given the context of when this post is being written. Single people often feel like absolute shit on Valentine’s Day. And so far with my sexuality class, no one has mentioned the possibility of a single person coming into therapy to grow their sense of sexuality. And it’s bullshit! You don’t need a partner to be sexual or sexy. The same goes for married people who may feel like their sexuality is defined and/or controlled by their partner/s. Just as a person’s sense of self shouldn’t reside in whether they do or don’t have a relationship, their sense of sexuality shouldn’t reside in whether they do or don’t have partnered sex.

So whether you are celebrating Valentine’s Day with a significant other or trying to celebrate being single, give yourself a little attention this weekend…and actually make it momentous. Light some candles and incense. Put on your sex music. Say your own name. Let yourself be the best you’ve ever had.


Belly Dancing for that Special Someone

I’m spending Valentine’s Day just me and a bottle of wine…and of course the Internet. I feel like I should feel like a loser for that, with all the societal pressure to make this day about romance…or obligation and outlandish gifts, but I actually don’t feel like a loser.

Instead, I’m finding that it’s a great time to unwind from all the head stuff that has been clogging my time lately and get back into my body—which is a part of me, despite what the rest of the world might say (I’m looking at you, patriarchy and modesty culture and feminism.)

What does a girl do on Valentine’s Day to reconnect with her body?

Belly dancing!

That’s right. I’m standing in my room—coin skirt jingling—shimmying, undulating, and bumping to traditional and non-traditional tunes.

It’s pretty damn sexy (with some awkward mixed in to add charm), but it’s not something I started learning to spice up my sex life. Although I might give my partner a show a little bit later, I’m not doing it so I can tantalize him.

I’m doing it for me…because I enjoy feeling sexy, strong, and embodied, even when I’m spending Valentine’s Day alone.

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to take pleasure in my body. I’ve been so swamped with cerebral things like grad school applications, research, and general everyday stress that fitting in time to enjoy the unique abilities and movements of my body has been the last thing on my mind.

And I’m not exactly in the place where I naturally look at myself and thing, “Damn, you and I should have a sexy night in, baby!” With recovering from an injury, my physical activities have been limited. Only recently have I been given the go-ahead from doctors to start a more strenuous work-out routine (omg, I forgot how much fun it is to run!). I’m happy to be active again, but I’m far from feeling like I want to throw on a sequined bra and short skirt and hit the streets.

That’s what is so wonderful about belly dancing! While the rest of the world is trying to convince women that dancing is for others’ pleasure and that looking good is key, belly dancing is there to tell women that dancing is about a sacred moment with yourself. It’s about giving yourself love, acceptance, and sensuality for sensuality’s sake.

What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than by reaffirming that I am an embodied, sensual being who isn’t just here for the relationship and pleasure of another?

Be sure to check out the amazing video I found of a belly dance interpreting the Tarot card “Justice!” I’m lost in the beauty of it right now.