Saturday, February 13, 2010

Good Touch / Bad Touch (Part 2)

Part 2: Good Touch

As a culture, we tend to believe that being a good lover is instinctual -- either you've got "it," or you don't.

I think this is a load of hooey.

Everyone has the ability to be an amazing lover. Everyone. All it takes is confidence and communication.

The challenge is that "confidence" and "communication" are much like the ol' chicken and egg.
- If you have confidence in your ability to pleasure your partner(s) you're more likely to feel comfortable communicating with them.
- At the same time, communicating with your partner(s) will increase your ability to pleasure them and, thus, boost your confidence.

So where do you start?!

The answer: start wherever you're at. If the idea of talking to your partner about sex makes you break into hives and cold sweats, it's probably best to start slowly.

So, first-and-foremost: be kind to yourself. Don't beat yourself up if this is difficult for you. Being a pleasing lover isn't instinctual, and neither is the ability to talk openly about sex. After all, we only know what we're taught. And most of us have not been taught to have open dialogs about our sexuality. So take it easy on yourself. Just that fact that you're open enough to consider talking to your partner is a pretty awesome step. So kudos to you!

Secondly, always be honest about your pleasure. This means never, ever fake it. I understand wanting to boost your partner's ego (or in certain cases, wanting to get it over with) but you do everyone involved a disservice if you mislead your partner regarding how much you enjoy their touch. If you'd like your sex life to flourish, you must be able to take for granted that you and your partner are honest with one another about pleasure.

If you've been faking it, it's time to come clean. If it's a "casual" partner, perhaps it's time to move on. If it's a long term partner, coming clean will likely cause short term problems in your relationship. But it will open you up for long-term satisfaction. (And isn't the definition of maturity something about "delayed gratification?"...)

Third, start small. You don't have to sit down with your partner(s) and draw a diagram. Inserting a sexy moan or suggestive phrase can put you on the right track. Or perhaps, send a link of this or another sex-positive blog to your partner and use it to trigger conversation.

Enthusiastic consent is the goal here. Enthusiastic consent assures you that your partner is into what you're doing together. It is important for at least two reasons:
1) It will help you have amazing, communicative, hot sex.
2) It eliminates the possibility of sexual assault.

Good touches make you feel good or happy. So if a touch feels good to you speak up! Be kind to your self, honest with your partner(s) and move at a pace that is comfortable for everyone involved. You are an amazing lover, or at the very least, you will be.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Good Touch / Bad Touch (part 1)

Part 1 - Bad Touch

During classroom presentations, I tell first-graders the following[1]:

Good touches make you feel good or happy. Bad touches make you feel bad or uncomfortable. Sometimes a bad touch gives you the "uh-oh feeling." It's important to listen to that "uh-oh feeling." It is there to protect you and keep you safe.

Once they understand these concepts, I continue with the following:

It's always up to the person receiving the touch to decide if it's good or bad. That means, even if your auntie pinches your cheek because she loves you, if it feels bad or uncomfortable to you, it's a bad touch.

The terms good touch, bad touch and uh-oh feeling are -- admittedly -- juvenile. But I'm learning that the concepts behind them are anything but.

I don't know whether good touch / bad touch was taught while I was in elementary school. But I am certain it wasn't taught when my parents were children. And even today it is not standard curriculum. This is worrisome. Because if we're not taught to differentiate between good touches and bad touches when we're young - when are we taught this invaluable lesson? For many Americans, the answer is: never. And for those who do learn it, it's likely the bi-product if a painful trial-and-error process.

Have you ever had someone brush up against you or lightly grope you, but ignore the icky feeling by convincing yourself it was an accident? Have you ever had a partner touch you in a way you didn't like at that moment, but kept your mouth shut so's not to offend? Have you ever stayed longer than you felt comfortable in a sexual situation in which nothing is particularly wrong, but certainly something is not right? I'm guessing many readers -- particularly female and women-identified readers -- can answer "yes" to all these questions. I'd love your feedback to tell me if my hunch is correct.

Ignoring "bad touches" or the "uh-oh" feeling that often results is routine to many folks. When the stranger on the bus or in the bar brushes up against us, it's easier not to cause a scene. When your partner persuades you to move faster than you're comfortable with, it's easiest to say "they love me and wouldn't do anything to harm me." And while it's true, they probably do love you and probably don't want to harm you, they are capable of causing unintended, negative consequences.

Here's the big what: regardless of the toucher's intentions, it's always up to the person receiving the touch to decide if it's good or bad. Even if that person loves you and wants to show it through physical attention, you always have the right to move at your own pace. You always have the right to say "yes," and you always have the right to say "no." Furthermore, saying "no" when you feel uncomfortable is not a reflection of your feelings for your partner. It is a reflection of your ability to respect yourself and your feelings.

This must be said: no one ever has the right to touch you in a way you do not like. If this occurs, regardless of if you said "no," it is not your fault. Sexual harassment, abuse and assault are never the fault of the person receiving the attention or advances. No exceptions. It doesn't matter:

  • where you were
  • what you were wearing
  • what you were doing
  • who you were doing it with
  • whether you'd done it before
  • whether you were engaged in illegal activity
  • whether you were drunk or high
  • whether you voluntarily put yourself in a "dangerous" situation
  • whether you lied about your age or marital status
Sexual assault, abuse and harassment are NEVER the victim's fault. Period.

So please do not confuse my message here. The point of this entry is decidedly not to put the onus on a victim to not be abused, assaulted or harassed. Rather, it is to point out the following:

Good touches make you feel good or happy. Bad touches make you feel bad or uncomfortable. Sometimes a bad touch gives you the "uh-oh feeling." It's important to listen to that "uh-oh feeling." It is there to protect you and keep you safe.

It's okay to assert yourself. It's okay to leave the room. It's okay to call security. It's okay to "make a scene." Because, in the end, your body is infinately more important that keeping the peace, not offending or being the source of gossip. The fact that many of us were taught that being inoffensive is more important than our bodies is frankly, completely bonkers. The good news is: it's not too late to learn it now.

We've almost all been told the following message: you don't matter. Whether directly by an abuser, indirectly by disrespectful treatment from a teacher or boss, or by images of our race/gender/people with our abilities/class/religion/citizenship status/sexual orientation or identity being shown as unimportant. We've almost all been trained not to speak up -- to keep the peace, not to cause problems.

But you and I are too important for that. You and I are precious. We matter. Our bodies matter. Our opinions matter. Our senses of humor matter. Our intelligence matters. Our desires for pleasure matter. Our feelings matter. Remember that next time you that "uh-oh" feeling. And respond to it, it's there to protect you and keep you safe.

[1] I have Carrie Wachter and Imagination Theatre's "No Secrets" Program to thank for the "Good Touch/Bad Touch" curriculum in italics.