AN INTERVIEW WITH BARBARA CARRELLAS Part Two
Sex Educator, Sex Positivist and Pleasure Activist Barbara Carrellas and Celia Hutton of Wicked Women Magazine continue their conversation about celebrating the erotic body and sex as a healing tool.
Celia: Your Conscious Sex work is so powerful, how can it help genitally mutilated women reclaim their sexual identity - physically, emotionally and spiritually?
Barbara: I believe that you cannot love or connect - spiritually or emotionally - with another human being until you love yourself. In my workshops I focus on teaching you to become your own best lover. I have people write down the ten qualities their ideal lover would have, then read over their list. 99% of the people who try this exercise wind up describing themselves and their own qualities. So, I teach people to treat themselves the way they would treat someone else they were madly in love with. Our perfect lover is always within us and she has always been there Afor us. This is the one lover that is never going to leave us is and is possibly the person we treat with the least consideration and love. We need to learn to treat ourselves the way we would our ideal lovers.
In my workshops we do exercises which open up our sensuality and teach us to physically respond to that inner lover, in the way that we would respond to that ideal outer lover. I started the work I am doing now from work I was doing in metaphysics. Metaphysics teaches us to "love yourself, love yourself, love yourself." I believe that this is completely true and that verbal and mental affirmations are incredibly important because what you think and say does manifest in your life. However, in many cases the mind needs help to get to that point.
You can start looking at your life and doing physical things today to love yourself, like putting on your best underwear instead of your worst. Instead of eating out of a take away container in front of the television, try setting a beautiful table with a candle even though you are eating alone. You may still be eating take away, but you could be eating it on a lovely plate. Little things, physical things, prove to your mind that you love yourself. Another example would be making the extra effort to walk an extra block to get a particular food you really want to eat, instead of just settling for the closest thing because you are only feeding yourself and you don't matter anyway.
My teaching is focused on behaviour people can actually follow to bring more pleasure into their lives.
For women who have had horrific things happen to them - genital mutilation, other physical mutilation, emotional abuse, sexual abuse or surgical abuse, I think too often the focus is on what was taken away. While acknowledging that what was taken away from the body is important, it is also important to acknowledge that it is only a part of the body. The main techniques of Tantra and other spiritual/sexual practices show that our entire bodies are sex organs. When we accept that, then what is missing becomes a lot less important. If you know that a clitoral orgasm is only one kind of orgasm in a range of unlimited possibilities of orgasm, it gives a whole new perspective to your sexual capabilities.
Celia: Genital mutilation as a cultural practice is being imposed on women and justified by certain religious practices. It has been done for generations and generations and I believe this wounds women physically, emotionally and spiritually on a very deep level and disempowers them as a group.
Barbara: Yes. However, I do not focus on the group. I deal with individuals, so in working with a genitally mutilated woman, I would focus on what her individual experience has been. That may sound simplistic, but groups are made up of individuals. We can only change things one person at a time and everyone's healing process is different. For instance, for women who have experienced a lot of pain, the first orgasm they have by breathing may initially bring up the pain. This will come up on the breath like a huge wave will bring something up from the bottom of the sea. Women have to be reassured that after enough of that stuff comes out, pleasure comes up right behind it.
It is incredibly empowering to realise that the breath reconnects people with their spirit, their emotions, and their power. So with such a woman, I would work first with the breath, because that is where one finds one's power. Our sexual energy is in our bodies no matter what anyone has done to our genitals, our spirit, our mind. It may take some work - talking, breathing and moving - to get to that sexual energy and the process might be a little scary sometimes, but I have seen people use this breath technique to work their way through so many hideous painful experiences. And who can say whose pain was worse, or whose experience was worse, or who was tortured worse than anyone else? While they will all look different in the healing process, the process of the breath and finding your power within is the same for all of them.
There are people on the planet who have not been sexually abused (despite what the press may try to tell us!) but I don't believe that there is anybody who has not been abused for being sexual. Genitally mutilated women are abused for being sexual, or just for the fact that they are going to be one day. The experience of being abused for being sexual is not just limited to women who have had hideous genital mutilation; it is shared by all of us. We are all healing various degrees of the same issue.
Celia: So it is totally possible for women with extensive scar tissue and nerve ending damage and other physical injuries to still be orgasmic?
Barbara: Absolutely. We can use the body to transcend the experiences the body has had. If I teach you to have a breath orgasm it won't happen because of your genitals. It won't be the same as a clitoral orgasm and there will be some grieving if that type of orgasm is no longer possible. However, lots of other types of orgasm are possible.
The old view of a woman's body says that the clitoris is that little teeny bit on the outside of our body that we can see. The wonderful book, A New View of a Woman's Body shows that the clitoris goes much further. It is part of the entire urethral sponge. The G-spot, which is located on that sponge, is in fact part of the clitoral tissue. In cases where the external clitoris has been removed, there may be other ways to have a genital orgasm because there is still clitoral tissue left.
Celia: In its most extreme cases, genital mutilation involves the removal of the entire minor and major labia, the scraping away of the head of the clitoris and infibulation. The remaining sides of the vulva are stitched together to close up the vagina, except for a small opening left for urination and the passing of menstrual blood. Can you still work with such extreme cases of mutilation?
Barbara: That is extreme, but yes, I can. I want to tell you about the most wonderful woman I met on my last trip to Australia. She was a paraplegic who had no feeling at all from just below her breasts down the rest of her body. She works with other quadriplegics and paraplegics and helps them heal their sex lives. She has amazing orgasms despite having no feeling in any part of her stomach, genitals or legs, by using the parts of her body that still have feeling. She is a living embodiment of the principle, "it is what you have left, not what you have lost."
I acknowledge that you need to grieve for what is lost, but then you have to move on. Some of the sexual healing is going to be deep, but I'd like women to understand that it is not going to take forever. It just doesn't have to. I know people who have experienced sexual abuse in their past who are ten year victims of sexual abuse. I know other people who are ten year survivors. That is the choice they have made.
If women are getting pleasure or rewards from their pain, then they are going to stay there. If you can help women change their minds and convince them that there is a pleasure greater than the pleasure they are getting out of their pain, then I think most women will choose it. There are some people who want to stay where they are no matter how major or minor their issue. They choose not to change right now and it is not my business to make them do so.
Celia: Have you done any specific work with women who have had injury or disease of the breasts and/or genitals?
Barbara: Yes, I've worked with women with breast cancer, genital cancer and uterine cancer. My lover has had a mastectomy. She told me that her first thought was "well, my sex life is over now". We live in a culture with such a breast fetish. She didn't want to hang on to that belief so she changed her mind, basically in one afternoon by breathing. When you really breathe, things change. Also, when you concentrate on your breath it gives your mind something to do. You can't think two thoughts at once, so if you are thinking about your breathing, you can't be thinking about your mastectomy scar or the cancer. Conscious breathing focuses the mind on one positive thing and it also moves sexual energy up the body.
Celia: Do you believe it is possible to arrest the development of cancer through your techniques?
Barbara: I know people who have reversed cancers which doctors have told them will kill them unless major surgery is performed. I think that everyone has to find their own path, using a combination of alternative (also called complimentary) and traditional therapies. Our society says "It's not OK to be overly sexual" and "It's not OK to be ill", especially unattractively ill. When we are feeling unattractively ill, we have an entire bank of conditioning that says, "You are not a sexual being," so suggesting sex causes shock or even revulsion. Yet sexual energy is the part of the life force energy in the body that we can connect to most easily. It's the grounding part of that life force.
I have know people with life threatening cancer who have been taking morphine for their pain. I have found that when the morphine wasn't working anymore, putting on a sexually explicit video for them to watch would make them feel better. Something like a sexually explicit video can be such a mind switch. Sex heals and sex relieves pain. Even though an ill person might not feel like having sex, receiving pleasure in some gentle appropriate way will make them feel better.
I would like to see more eroticism, self sexuality and erotic massage in hospitals and hospices. I also believe that orgasm is great practice for death. I have experienced what my own death might be like while exploring erotic massage and breath orgasms. It took away so much fear of death for me.
Celia: For women who have had elective breast and genital cosmetic surgery which has gone wrong, the guilt and physical self-hatred is often great. How would you address this and a lack of sexual desire in these circumstances?
Barbara: I like that you used the phrase "lack of sexual desire". In this society, sex is really only OK if it is in a particular form and shape and size and only in one appropriate relationship. That is such a small box for such a big energy! I know that everyone's sexual evolution is individual, but nevertheless, I would begin with physical self loving, that is, masturbation. Also, an Erotic Awakening massage might be beneficial. The Erotic Awakening massage can produce full body orgasms--orgasms happening throughout the body, beyond the areas which are scarred and scary.
In workshop situations the group energy generally moves people through this process faster and people who want to change quickly are often drawn to workshop situations. When women look around the room in a workshop they realize that every woman's body is beautiful - some may weigh 200 pounds, other may have a breasts missing, stretch marks, scars, tattoos, piercings. Whatever you walked into the room thinking was not attractive - either on yourself or someone else - within a few hours becomes gorgeous. For people whou feel they are ready for it, workshop situations provide group support in feeling the body's pain and pleasure and will help them change their negative body images.
If you create a safe environment, say for 20 women, so that it is neither too personal or too impersonal, everyone winds up being each other's supporter and healer. Inner transformation occurs because you no longer feel so different. You are not the only woman who has ever done this to herself, not the only woman this has ever happened to. You realize that your problem does not seem as significant in comparison to another woman's and she is feeling the same about someone else. We keep these things so bottled up and so private that they eat away inside us like cancers. Shine a little light on them and they suddenly start evaporating. Breathe a little breath into them and they can leave the body for good.
Celia: We are so centered on the physicality of life...
Barbara: We are not just centered on the physicality of life, but on the two square inches between our legs! This is not the only source of orgasm. We have several square yards of tactile space on our bodies, not to mention invisible forces like breath which can provide just as powerful orgasm experiences. We are genitally focused because we are taught to be.
I will never forget that gorgeous woman in a wheelchair describing her orgasms. I wish she could be at every workshop I do. It would make my job so much easier. I wouldn't have to convince anyone about my techniques because she is the living embodiment of them.
We must create safe places where we can explore the outer reaches of our sexuality, the place where sex is prayer, the place where sex is healing, where pleasure is our divine right and power and our sexuality belongs to us. A place where it can't be controlled by parents, churches or teachers and where we can use it to transform ourselves and our world.
Last updated: 13/2/2005
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