I didn’t know I was experiencing subtle, but growing, orgasms until I was 32 years old. I knew I enjoyed touch and sex very much but I never experienced the dramatic, head thrown back in a scream of ecstasy climax that I had seen throughout my entire life in the media, mainstream or Red Tube. I thought something was just wrong with me. It wasn’t until life intervened in numerous ways and I was called to heal my fundamental misunderstandings of what an orgasm is, how to connect to my body, how to focus on sensation, and how to believe I was worthy to receive pleasure, that I started to wake up to my sexual potential.

A new book, Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape, from bestselling author Peggy Orenstein touches on how young girls are “impersonating sexiness” in a culture of “hooking up” in order to please boys rather than authentically know and own their own pleasure and sexuality. After interviewing 70 young women between the ages of 15 and 20 she writes, “Young women go into their sexual experiences and we expect them to be able to have some sense of entitlement, some sense of knowledge, to be able to assert themselves, to have some sense of equality, and it’s just not realistic that that’s going to happen.” Insert knowing cringe.

In my mid-twenties I remember hooking up with an older man (late 30s, ha!) who asked me, mid-make out, what I liked or what I wanted. I was shocked. We had only known each other for a few hours and this hot, volleyball-playing jock from a bar in Manhattan Beach was asking me to communicate?! What was wrong with him?! I have never! I froze and smiled and watched myself turn into a confused little girl, mumbling: “Whatever you want.” It was a self-proclaimed feminist’s worst nightmare. He paused and said, “You need to figure out what you like and learn what makes you feel good.” He was right.

At age 31, I found myself in a conference room at the Ramada in San Francisco filming a short video for TIME Magazine about author and female orgasm enthusiast, Nicole Daedone. She stood at the front of a room of workshop attendees and spoke about a practice called Orgasmic Meditation. “Orgasmic Meditation is a 15 minute timed practice where your partner will stroke the upper left hand quadrant of your clitoris very, very lightly. Women, your only job is focus on the sensation in your body, surrender, and let everything go. There is no goal, nowhere to get to. Just melt and silence your mind.” I actually felt nauseous.

“Wait a minute, we just lie there and surrender and don’t give anything back to him. What about him? No goal? There is ALWAYS a goal! This is completely selfish!” It felt like something inside of me was being assaulted. The very notion of a practice that focused solely on female pleasure felt selfish. The very thought itself made me feel selfish. Hold on. I’m not even doing it and I feel selfish? Wait a minute. I feel selfish for wanting pleasure, for wanting focus on my pleasure, for shifting the focus from his pleasure? Holy shit. Unconscious programming feels like truth until it hits the light of awareness. Slowly, slowly I started to see the ways I was pretending, not only in bed, but in other parts of my life. It was all completely innocent and motivated by a genuine desire to be a good human being. As long as I was externally referenced, then I was good. Salute, Judeo-Christian conditioning! To look within, to focus on myself, to gaze at the ol’ navel, oh no! Not good.

Alas, the desire was too great, and six years later I am thrilled to report that I continue to be blown away by the nuance, subtlety, and infinite sensation this body has to offer. G-spot orgasms are real y’all. Like your relationship to God, relationship to pleasure is one to explore for yourself in whatever way pleases YOU. Underneath all that shame and fear is just a curious human who likes to feel. Once I forgave myself for buying into the belief that focusing on and receiving pleasure was selfish, the old conditioning code running my sexual operating system could finally be rewritten. To this day, it can still be awkward and vulnerable to ask for what I want mid-make out, but I’m finding the irony in all of this is that the more I am in my own body and not worrying about him, the more pleasure and connection we both feel. So get on with your bad, selfish self and go celebrate that body God gave you.

P.S. Did you know the clitoris is ten times larger than what you can see with your eye? There is an artist by the name of Sophia Wallace, who is actually spray painting clitori all over New York City in an effort to educate us all. You can actually ride a giant, gold sculpture of a clitoris at her collaborative art project, “The Clit Rodeo.”

P.P.S. “For Prince the love of God and the sexual urges we feel are one and the same somehow. For him it all comes from the same root inside a human being. God planted these urges and it’s never wrong to feel that way. The urge itself is a holy urge.” – Prince via his Tour

Artwork by Michelle Favin of Whys LA for Poppy & Seed. Connect with her @whyslosangeles.

Bristol Baughan is an Emmy-winning and Oscar-Nominated filmmaker, author, and private coach. She is a TED Fellow and Founder of Inner Astronauts, a custom experience and private coaching company supporting people in coming more fully alive in service to the world. Bristol holds a B.A. in International Studies from the American University School of International Service and an M.A. in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica.

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