I hope you’ve had a great couple of weeks! You may have noticed that I didn’t show up in your inbox last Wednesday. This is because I’m shifting to an every-other-Wednesday email routine. This change may be temporary or it may last for a good long while. I appreciate your patience as I change up our rhythm!
With that, I have a quick announcement to make. On Friday, March 8th, from 3 to 4pm ET, I’m leading a free call on the Self-Care of Early Motherhood. As Jonah is about to turn 18 months, I’m finally ready to talk more formally about the ways I’ve navigated my self-care during early motherhood. I’m so excited to share the self-care that sustained me through this tender, transformational time and help us all do our best to support new mothers!
Interested in joining the call? Please sign up here.
With that, I’m focusing today on the self-care of feeling sexy in oneself. This topic has been brewing for a while in my mind, but came into sharper focus last week when a reporter for Oprah Magazine emailed me to ask if I would be a source in an article she was writing on self-care.
I wrote her back immediately and said of course. I mean, it’s Oprah! She replied with a few question prompts and mentioned that her article was on masturbation as a form of self-care.
Reading this, I sat back. My excitement shifted to a slight tinge of discomfort. It’s not that I don’t believe in masturbation as a form of self-care (it’s a go-to energizing self-care practice for me), it’s more that I didn’t see myself as someone who could hold any kind of authority when it comes to talking about sex.
Despite enjoying sex, I still have a hard time seeing myself as a sexual being. Sexual beings lounge around in silk underwear or have drawers full of kinky toys. As a feminine-leaning hetero, cisgender white woman, I feel pretty vanilla when it comes to most things, including sex. I buy packs of cotton underwear because I’ve heard it’s better for vaginal health. I own exactly one vibrator. I dig monogamy. I don’t really enjoy watching porn.
I want to stress that I don’t do these things because I think there is anything wrong with them. In fact, it’s pretty much the opposite. Role-playing and polyamory seem like glamorous forms of sexual self-care when other people tell me about them. But the truth is that they just aren’t me.
During this moment of sexual exploration and the expansion of our sexual norms, it’s hard for me not to feel repressed and/or boring. And yet, the same way someone can’t turn off their authentic sexual attractions, I can’t change the fact that my inclinations pretty match up with the prescribed norms.
It’s important to recognize that my culturally-approved sexual identity affords me a lot of privileges in society. I try to stay aware of this power and use it to create social change.
(With this, have you added your pronouns to your email signature yet? This is a simple way to help all non-cisgender people normalize their sharing of their preferred pronouns. It’s super easy. Do it today! Example: Gracy Obuchowicz, preferred pronouns: she/her/hers.)
So, yeah. That’s me. I’m pretty vanilla, and this blandness was why I was shrinking back not just from the reporter’s questions, but from feeling like I have any authority to talk or teach about sexual self-care in general.
Still conflicted, I decided to answer the Oprah reporter’s questions, as well as put her in touch with another client of mine (the amazing Reba the Diva) who does wonderful sex education work. I figured after the reporter read my answers, she just wouldn’t include anything I said.
But I was wrong! This weekend, a friend sent me the full article which is pretty amazing and has my endorsement for masturbation as a form of self-care. Check it out here.
The next day, I brought all this up with my amazing therapist and she asked me to consider that perhaps I am a sexual authority. She prompted me to explore how my vanilla-sex-enjoying, cotton-underwear-wearing self could be its own kind of powerful sexual being. Then, we discussed how others out there might relate to feeling pretty boring and yet still authentic when it comes to sex these days.
I left our session wanting to say more, especially as we approached Valentine’s Day, with its outward focus on giving and receiving love. I always want to make sure we’re including self-love in the conversation, as self-love feels like both the path to and a final goal of a self-care practice.
This year, I’m realizing that I don’t think I can practice authentic self-love if I’m not working to accept who I am sexually. Our sexuality is an extremely personal and vulnerable layer of our sense of selves. If we’re holding back because we think something is wrong with our inclinations or that we have to be like someone else to be considered “sexy,” I don’t think we are practicing authentic self-love.
So today, with as much sexual authority as I can muster, I’m here to say:
You’re sexy if you’re into whips and chains.
You’re sexy if you like the missionary position.
You’re sexy if you have a husband and a girlfriend.
You’re sexy if you’ve been sleeping with one other person for decades.
You’re sexy if you love being single.
You’re sexy if you’re frustrated about being single.
You’re sexy when you masturbate alone.
You’re sexy when you masturbate with others.
You’re sexy when you ask for more intimacy.
You’re sexy when you recognize that you don’t enjoy physical touch.
You’re sexy if you don’t know what you want and just feel confused about sex.
You’re sexy when you let your inclinations change with experience and time (as mine might!).
As long as your sexual inclinations are not hurting or exploiting another person without their consent, they’re pretty alright in my book.
Taking it further, how might embracing ourselves as sexy, exactly as we are, help us save our world? Well, if we can’t embrace our sexual realities and authentic desires as sexy, then we are probably operating from a framework of sexual shame.
At it’s best, this kind of chronic shame will make us shy away from meaningful intimacy and the chance to be accepted for our authentic selves. At worst, we will judge others for their sexual choices or perhaps event resort to violence as a way to diffuse the poisonous energy of shame. The man who murdered two women at the Tallahassee yoga studio was part of an online community of men that blame women for not having sex with them.
When we feel good about ourselves sexually, chances are that we’re feeling good about almost every other aspect of our being. Getting the support we need to understand and accept our sexuality is a supremely good investment, not just for our own self-care but for that of our world.
So my dear ones, this is your assignment: Take a sexual inventory of how you most authentically show up sexually in your life. Breathe as you do this. Then, see if you can slap a big glittery sticker that says “Sexy as Hell” on top of whatever you find. If you can’t slap that sticker on, consider getting compassionate professional support until you can. After, take all this sexy self-acceptance into world. Spread your own self-love as kindness wherever you go and see how much others need this balm.
With that, all you sexy beasts, have an an amazing Valentine’s Day! Be yourself, love yourself, and share all that beauty with our world!