Welcome to Sing With Your Feet, the podcast in which we take a few minutes to consider our Ideal Life and try to look for untrodden paths to help us get there.
The podcast in which we consider the overlapping sections in the gorgeous Venn Diagrams that make up our lives, even when it makes us a bit squeamish.
The podcast in which we are willing, in the privacy of our own thoughts…consider uncomfortable or awkward topics for just a few minutes.
My name is Lily Fields, and I’m going to be your Fairy Godmother for the next half-hour or so.
Now now now, Lily Fields, Oh–that’s you. In my mind, you sound like a Southern Belle. Look at you in that hoop skirt, mint julep in hand…You are perfectly adorable.
You’re making me nervous, Lily. What is it that we are going to be talking about that will make me squeamish?
Funny you should ask, my favorite country bumpkin. Today, we are going to talk about sex. Well…sexuality, at least. The subject is remarkably vast, and goes way deeper than just the act of sex.
Yes, but Lily, are you going to bore us with those Venn Diagrams again?
Oh my goodness yes. I am an unabashed fan of the Venn Diagram. You see, I like to picture my life as a Venn Diagram, with 19 overlapping and intersecting circles. Each one of those circles is a category, or a theme of my Ideal Life. The way those circles overlap–along with the size of each of the circles and the extent to which they intersect–that is the blueprint for my life.
Fine, all right. But Lily Fields, but you aren’t doling out sex advice today are you?
Ha! Me? You know I hate to give advice. On the other hand, your wicked stepsister, LiElla is here. And she is going to be talking about an incredibly thought-provoking subject that comes with an uncomfortable piece of advice you’ll want to tuck away for future use.
For the last several weeks, and throughout the summer, we will be talking about those 19 Ideal Life Categories. If you’ll remember with me, The Ideal Life Exercise is a way to, every single day, five to fifteen minutes at a time, check our progress towards living our Ideal Life.
If, when I say the words “Ideal Life” you are unclear as to what I’m talking about, go back to the early episodes of the podcast, during which I walked you through the first, very basic steps of the Ideal Life Exercise. The essence of those early steps is to articulate the kind of person we would need to be to live our Ideal Life
We did this by finishing one simple prompt, as many times as we needed to. The prompt went like this:
In my Ideal Life, I am a person who…
The ways you completed this sentence will be unique to you. But overall, you will find that there are themes to the ways you see your Ideal Life. Your themes may be different from mine, and that is great!! Your Venn Diagram will create a fabulous blueprint that is uniquely you. The important thing is to learn the process of articulating who we want to become in order to live out our Ideal Life, and making tiny steps towards becoming the person we need to be to live our Ideal Life.
In order to check our progress each day, we lift out one of just those circles from the Venn Diagram and answer a few questions about it.
These are the questions: What is working? What isn’t working? What do I need to think about? What do I need to do?
So far this season, we have gone in-depth about the themes of our Bodies and our Health, Work, Scheduling and Planning, Parenting, Keeping a Clean House and Spirituality.
I have a million thoughts on Sexuality that I want to share with you, but I’m going to try to keep them focused on the areas in which Sexuality overlaps with themes we’ve already talked about.
All right. Are you ready? Let’s talk about sex, baby.
In my Ideal Life, I am a person who…
If you’ve got them handy, return to your Ideal Life Statements, and see if you have any that pertain to sexuality, your sex life, conversations around sex. Here are some of mine:
In my Ideal LIfe I am a person who:
- isn’t afraid of her own body
- can regulate her passions, but doesn’t need to
- is always willing to try new things
- knows how to ask for what she wants
- gets everything she asks for sexually
- doesn’t get too caught up in her thoughts
- can have open, honest conversations about sexuality with her partner
- is a sex-positive parent
- keeps an open mind to ideas about identity and expression
- is always an ally
- never judges another person’s lifestyle
Well. I mean, sex is awesome, that’s why.
I am a natural enthusiast. When I like something, or when an idea scratches a creative itch in the back of my brain, I can get into a groove and become a little bit obsessed. This happens in little things (as witnessed by my rainbow dress fascination), and in bigger things, for example, writing unceasingly, literally non-stop, when I have an idea, to the point of not eating or sleeping until I get out a first draft. I just have to get the words out of my brain, like they were sand under my eyelids.
I have had two distinct thoughts about sex that I remember having in my life: one when I was young, maybe twelve or thirteen. We had been given some sort of sex-ed talk in our health class. There was lots of “and it is dangerous because you could get pregnant” and also, “you could get a disease,” and at some point, someone in the class mentioned that “some people might find it pleasurable.” My instinctive reaction was to riposte, in my itty-bitty adolescent brain with the thought, “then I shouldn’t ever do that…”
What I knew about myself then is what I know about myself now: I do not moderate well. When I find something I like, I tend to binge on it. This is as true of chocolate chip cookies as it is for rainbow dresses as it is for a new sewing technique. So if something was pleasurable and dangerous, then I needed to stay as far away from it as possible.
I did say that there were two distinct thoughts I have entertained about sex. The second one came some twenty five years after the first.
I’m certainly no angel, but I am nothing if not absolutely faithful to the rules I set out for myself. I sometimes test my own rules and limits, but since I can only thrive with guardrails and rules, yet also have a distinct distrust of authority figures who try to impose rules, the only person I am ever really willing to accept rules from is myself. This requires some mental gymnastics, being at once the benevolent dictator who sets rules to regulate my behavior, and being the one who must live by the rules.
That little thought I had after our middle school health class became a default rule for myself that I set in place. Without knowing it, I set myself up for a lifetime of vaginismus. Look it up. It sucks.
Fast-forward to a honeymoon during which that little rule remained ingrained in my mind and wrapped up in my body, even when the context should have permitted the rule to be moot.
Fast-forward to any number of embarrassing attempts to get the ball rolling. Nuthin’. The benevolent dictator would not let go of her firm grip.
Fast-forward some fourteen years to meeting with a counselor who finally took me seriously and gave me some exercises I needed to do in order to make penetration possible. This was to come face to face with the dictator who had set the rules, and openly defy her and it was terrifying. My body had wholly submitted to her dictatorship all those years, and unlearning her rules was painful.
Fast-forward a few months after that when I started to make progress.
Enter thought number two: “What if this is something that actually feels good?
Point One: A sex-positive parent
As a young person, there was no one thought that skeezed me out as much as the thought of my parents having sex. I am certain that for you it is the same.
I’m pretty sure we aren’t the only ones. It’s kind of like when our parents want to talk about planning their funerals. Those are just conversations our brains are wired to want to avoid at all cost.
And yet, as a parent, because of my rather unlikely relationship with sexuality which I explained earlier, it was incredibly important to me that I provide an environment for my children in which they knowledgeable and respectful of their own bodies, and are never shamed for their interest in their bodies or their curiosity about sex.
I guess… you know… as a boymom and a woman of the #metoo generation, it is of primordial importance to me to raise boys who will not be predators. I hate it that I even had to say that sentence out loud, but I can only imagine that the mothers of the Harvey Weinsteins or Jeffrey Epsteins of the world did not consciously say to themselves “I want to raise a sexual predator.” It somehow just….happened.
Well, inasmuch as it depends on me, I want to raise boys with a healthy relationship to their bodies, their desires, and critically important, to consent. I want them to feel comfortable expressing what they like and what they don’t like. I want them to know how to set limits, and know how to respect limits set by others.
If those last sentences didn’t sound explicitly sexual, that’s because, they aren’t.
But their implications, in the long run, can be. Boys who are uncomfortable with their bodies or their desires will find ways to pursue these interests secretly. Privacy is great. Secrecy is less great. Secrecy can push boys to start accessing things like porn, which will give them unrealistic expectations of sex. I’m not completely anti-porn. But I don’t want my boys turning to porn to learn about sex, because what they will be learning won’t help them in real life.
Asking for and receiving consent is a huge deal in my house. This is as little a thing as me asking permission to kiss the cheek of one of my boys. If they aren’t in the mood for it, then they need to learn that they can say “no” and their “no” will be respected…also, that when they give consent, it makes them enjoy the kiss all the more (and me too, incidentally!)
This of course, has digressed into becoming most recently my youngest standing next to me while I was doing the dishes saying, “Mama, may I please spank your butt?” which, I’ll admit sounds a bit strange, but it is by far not the strangest thing you will hear from me this episode!
If it has to do with one of us wanting to touch another, we make sure we ask first. And believe it or not, after a while, it becomes natural and almost kind of fun.
I genuinely want my boys to grow up to be great partners for whoever they end up with, and I believe with all my heart that these skills will serve them well. Their partners can thank me later.
The ways we fail…
I mentioned in the episode about Parenting that the ways in which we fail are not cause for regret, but things we can laugh at as if they were a Pinterest Cake Fail.
Well, let me share one of those with you, just to prove my point.
My boys and I were in the car on our way to school. I have taken to saying, “Autobots, Roll out” when I pull out of the driveway, inspired by something I heard on my favorite podcast ever, called My Brother my Brother and Me. My scalawags are not amused by my new tagline. I’ve also tried, “Rescue Bots, Roll to the Rescue,” but, same thing. They just ain’t having it.
So I said, “Well, anyway, have I ever said anything funny? I mean, mom’s aren’t funny, right?”
And my eldest started guffawing and said, “There was that time you told me I had a beautiful penis!”
And my heart stopped. I said that? What in the world? When did I say that?
Oh dear. “I said that?” I asked, hoping that no one would ever hear this conversation.
“You did!” piped in the littlest one. “You said I did too!”
And then the conversation came back to me. My boys were in one of their pre-getting-into-their-pyjamas moments of complete craziness. They get naked and run around…ugh. It’s one of my least favorite moments of the day.
Well. One of them said something to the other like, “Your feet are weird.”
And I said, “No, his feet are beautiful. Every single part of him is beautiful.”
Which then led to them asking me, “Are my elbows beautiful? My nostrils? My belly button?”
And, of course, you guessed it, “My penis?”
To which, probably rather distractedly, I would have responded, “Yes, dear, your penis is beautiful.”
And there you have it. You see, I was trying so hard to make sure they weren’t body shaming each other (oooh…yet again another point of overlap in my Venn Diagram…parenting and Body positivity), that I inadvertently created a comically awful opportunity for my boys, one day, to tell someone, “My mom thinks my penis is beautiful.”
Lord have mercy. I literally cannot think of something I would rather die than have my children repeat out of context.
Pinterest Cake Fail, or Lily Fields failing at being an open-minded parent, who wore it best?
Point Two: Spirituality and Sexuality
Many episodes ago, I mentioned in an offhand way that I believed that God cared deeply about sexuality, and that I had proof of this.
Well, again, I don’t want to get too weird in all this conversation about spirituality, but I do believe that God created people. I don’t know all the details, but it is simply something I have chosen to believe.
But when I stop to think about the fact that our bodies are capable of knowing such mind-blowing sensations, or the range of emotional pleasures that comes from sexual connection…I just have to believe that God must really really like us.
And, particularly, he must really like women, because he gave us this one little organ that exists for only one purpose, that purpose being to give us a few seconds of amazing delight. I mean, it does absolutely nothing else, nothing else but pleasure.
In spite of all the misogyny inherited from generations past, from the traditions, both religious and cultural, that have sought to subjugate women, I cannot help but believe God’s eye sparkles a little bit when he thinks about that little tiny gift he gave us women. Living free from oppression is great…but do you have a clitoris?
I believe this in a rather general way, for all women. But I also see how the blueprint of my life has made it possible for me to discover more about who God is and the kind of relationship he wants with me the more I learn about my sexuality.
As an enthusiast and a creative person, I have all kinds of ideas about what I want for my own sexuality. Without getting into kinks or fantasies or specific turn-ons as a rabbit hole from which we are unlikely find our way back, I do believe that there is a spiritual element to these.
I read a fascinating book recently called “Unwanted” by Jay Stringer, in which he talks about the relationship between spirituality and undesirable sexual behaviors. These unwated behaviors, like viewing porn or buying sex (which are problematic when they cause relational trouble or a person gets in legal trouble for it), can be coping mechanisms formed in childhood that are then sexualized to help a person manage anxiety.
Our willingness to examine these behaviors and to bring our concerns about them to God can help us first deal with the initial anxiety-causing situations, and even, eventually releasing behaviors that we view as undesirable. I love the idea of this, especially considering that I have read recently that the average age for boys to be first exposed to porn is ten years old.
This idea that God cares about our sexuality is profoundly beautiful to me. It’s another facet of the relationship I have with God, and it makes it possible for me to address my frustrations or uncertainties about my sexuality with the person who made the blueprint for my life.
Point Three: Sexual Bereavement
I treat sexuality as a separate topic from my marriage because of the two reasons I mentioned, that being, that it is part of my life as a parent, and it also overlaps with spirituality.
But of course, sexuality overlaps with marriage. It also overlaps with friendships.
LiElla Kelly, Death Doula and your wicked stepsister, is going to share about how sexuality can overlap with friendships.
LiElla, the floor is yours.
Lily had had all sorts of things to say about sex. And you know me, the Wicked Step Sister, I talk all about death. Do you see where I’m going with this? You guessed it…sex and death.
Alice Radosh is a Doctor of Neuropsychology. After losing her husband of 40 years, she felt like she could cope. She had the skills and support system she needed to navigate her loss…or so she thought. She was comfortable handling finances, car maintenance, and household repairs. She had family and friends who allowed her to openly talk about her loss. She had found comfort in memoirs like Joan Didion’s popular, The Year of Magical Thinking—a book I really loved, by the way. With all these tools at her disposal, she said she was blindsided. There was something she hadn’t considered, sexual bereavement, a grief associated with the loss of sexual intimacy. She explained, “Gone was the appreciation and understanding of bodies that had aged together, the decades of shared humor and pillow talk that were intertwined with sexual enjoyment. I was unprepared for the depth of this loss.” From her explanation, it’s clear that this grief could not be easily fixed. It was a complicated combination of emotional, cognitive and physical needs. Take just a minute to let that sink in—the loss she experienced wasn’t just one thing. It was shared experiences, mutual understanding and a physical relationship, interwoven.
Where can a person turn to cope with the complexities of this form of grief? Well, that gets a little tricky. Research has revealed that negative attitudes toward later life sexuality still exist within the medical and therapeutic professions. Should these negative attitudes still exist? Should this really be an awkward topic? I’m going to say, No…and this is my evidence, Bob Dole. Yes, Bob Dole, the Senator who lost the Presidential election to Bill Clinton. Over 20 years ago, at the age of 75, he appeared in ad for Viagra, a little blue pill that exploded onto the scene becoming the fastest selling drug in history. Doesn’t that say a little something about sex in later life?
So back to Alice and her complex loss. Where could she turn? Being adept at research, she and her team surveyed 158 women who were 55 years and older. The results were revealing, 72% presumed they would miss sex if their partner died. Most women thought they would want to talk with friends about this aspect of their grief, but more said that they would rather their friend raise the topic first. Despite this preference, more that half said it would not occur to them to bring up this topic with a widowed friend, and even if they did think of it, they’d probably be too embarrassed, even with a close friend.
Ok, so what have we learned? It seems that people want to talk about the grief they’re experiencing related to the loss of sexual intimacy, but don’t feel supported enough to address it either with medical professionals or close friends. And this is a problem because of something called, disenfranchised grief. WebMD says this, “disenfranchised grief is when your grieving doesn’t fit in with your larger society’s attitude about dealing with death and loss. The lack of support you get during your grieving process can prolong emotional pain”—end quote.
Prolong emotional pain? We don’t want that. We all want healthy, well adjusted, emotionally balanced lives for ourselves and our loved ones, no matter our age or circumstances. The vast majority of us aren’t therapists or medical professionals. They definitely have their place in the grief puzzle, but you and I, we are people who love other people. That puts us in a position to support our loved ones. Did you notice what the research revealed about what women needed from others? They wanted to be able to talk about their grief. They needed others to listen and acknowledge their loss. Could you set your own awkwardness aside and be that listening ear? The more conversations we have about grief, loss and death, the more we will learn about supporting others and in turn, others will know how to support us when we face these challenges.
Remember, talking about death, even death and sex, won’t kill you. I promise.
Thank you LiElla. That’s another one of those conversations you hope you never have to have with anyone…but with what you’ve shared, we are armed to better support the people we love.
I’ll include a link to the book LiElla talked about and to LiElla’s website in the show notes.
So let’s take a minute to review the four questions we ask for each of our Ideal Life Categories:
What is working? Have you been having great sex lately? Did you ask for something in the bedroom that you got and you are over the moon happy about it? Did you have a great parenting moment where you were able to demystify where babies came from? Good for you!
What isn’t working? Go ahead and be honest. There might be more than one thing not working. Did something just not click last night between the sheets? Are you feeling uncomfortable in your body, and this is having an impact on your desire? Are you struggling with unwanted sexual behaviors? All of those things are okay. Just state the facts.
What do you need to think about? How could you address what didn’t work last night with your partner? Is your body image issue a health problem, or a question of body positivity? Would you be willing to be curious about the origin of your unwanted sexual behaviors? Speaking of which, I’ll put a link to that book I talked about in the show notes, too.
What one small thing can you do today to get you closer to your Ideal Sexual Life?
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: seeking to live your Ideal Life is an act of self-love. Taking your sexuality seriously, being curious about your sexuality is an act of self-love. Taking a few minutes each day to consider these four questions is a way to pursue your Ideal Life.
You are an amazing human being, and you deserve more little beads of joy on the necklace of your life. Do not relegate your Sexuality to between the sheets, when the implications of a healthy relationship with sex can positively impact your friendships, your parenting, your body, your spirituality and your marriage. Think of all those gorgeous, mind blowing beads of joy this category has the potential to provide!!! This world needs more joy. Sexuality can be a phenomenal source of joy!
Thank you so much for listening to the podcast.
This summer, I’ll be putting together a few episode highlights that should be easily shareable on YouTube and social media, for when you want to share the podcast with a friend. If you have any favorite segments that you would like me to include, please drop me a line: email@example.com, or on Facebook or Instagram.
I have been also posting the full audio on YouTube, in a version that might be easier to share with people unfamiliar with the wonderful world of podcasts. I’ll put the link to the YouTube Channel in the Show Notes.
If you haven’t already, make sure that you subscribe to the podcast on your podcast platform so you don’t miss an episode!
A great big thank you to Seven Productions here in Mulhouse France for the use of the song La Joie for the Intro and Outtro to the show. Also, thanks to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.
This is your Fairy Godmother signing off. Just remember, it is never too late to start singing with your feet.
Talking Points: Sex-Positive Parenting; God, Sex, and the Clitoris; Sexual Bereavement
Episode 21: Sex is Like a Box of Chocolates is part of our series on the Ideal Life Categories, this week’s theme being “Sexuality.” The series began with Episode 15: The One About Our Bodies, in case you want to get caught up!
A great big thank you to Seven Productions, https://7prod.fr/, here in Mulhouse France for the use of the song La Joie for the Intro and Outtro to the show. Also, thanks to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.