She buzzes me up. I’m sweaty from the bike ride. I can tell by the sound of her voice she is annoyed at me for being late. It’s taking place in a highrise and it took me 15 minutes to navigate the voice activated entry system- not my fault. I go up to the 20th floor and she lets me into a tiny studio apartment crammed with women sitting on cushions on the floor. There is sushi, chocolates and wine. To get us in the mood I suppose? The room is (in my small town opinion) gauche. A white fake fur rug, red satin pillows, gold cord wrapped around the sheer drapes. It looks like an early 90s concubine’s lair in outer suburbia. No one bothers to move over for me so I squish myself in between two ladies. It’s only after the 12 women are staring at me do I remember to take my bike helmet off.
I act cool. Whatever, I’m late. Deal with it. I start shoving sushi and chocolate in my mouth. I’m starving. You’re charging me $150 bucks for this 3-hour workshop. I can eat.
She begins, “Vaginal weightlifting dates back 1000s of years to the Emperor’s Concubines in China.” Aha! I knew it! “Concubines were highly respected for their art. They would teach the Emperor how to pleasure his many woman, how to give and receive multiple orgasms and how not to come.”
Oh God. She said it. She said a sex word. I flush red hot. Holy shit here we go.
She continues. “Nowadays vaginal weightlifting is used post-birth to re-strengthen your vaginal muscles. It’s used to prevent incontinence in old age and it’s also used as a sexual empowerment tool for women.”
The last reason is why I am taking the class. I am 33. I’m very adventurous in all aspects of my life. I take big risks in my career, I yell at people on my bike, I don’t really give a shit and I sometimes even look for trouble. But I’m a total prude when it comes to the making of love. Don’t get me wrong, I can get crazy. I’ve done it outside. I’ve done it in a public bathroom. I’ve even had a one-night stand (yes, I know these 3 examples are done by 14 year olds worldwide and I am a loser for thinking it’s badass) but put on a movie with two people kissing and I shut my eyes till it’s over. I can’t explain why I’m so prim when it comes to watching sexy-time happen. I find it equally hard to watch violence on TV. I suppose it’s my intuition’s last stand. It’s my hearts way of saying “you are a just a soft little human and intense things still effect you.”
I figure it’s about time I get to know myself better down there. I figure if I’m more comfortable with myself then I’ll be more comfortable with my partner and with boobs on TV. Right?
After the facilitator titillates herself for a while, saying words like “lubrication” and visually demonstrating “cowgirl style” she gets into the session.
“Before we begin let’s have a check-in, shall we. Why are you all here?”
One woman tells the group that after 30 years of marriage and 3 children she’s dating a younger man. She wants to be able to pleasure him. The facilitator describes Thai women who have such control over their vaginal muscles they can put ping pong balls numbered 1, 2 and 3 inside their vaginas and then pop out the appropriate ball depending on what number is yelled from the audience.
One woman just a bit older than me pees her pants when she jogs and this has got to stop. The facilitator tells her that the world record for vaginal weightlifting is 34 pounds. So if she practices she will never piss her pants again. I think to myself “and she’ll also be able to carry a medium sized border collie inside her when she runs”.
I’m half humiliated and half amazed. I love it that I’m in a room full of strangers talking about our most intimate issues. I love it that there’s still a place in the world for sexual education but I’m also peeking into this woman’s bedroom thinking “she shows people how to give blowjobs in there.” I am living a contradiction because on one hand I long to learn more about sacredness of sex. I deeply respect the wisdom of Dakinis (sexual healers) and I’m saving money to study abroad with a Taoist scholar but as I snoop in her off-white boudoir I think to myself “is nothing private? Aren’t there just some things we should plug our ears, close our eyes, dump people because of and move on?”
The teacher passes around the jade eggs.
So how it works is you take a rock made of jade in the shape of an egg (because jade is carbon neutral for the body or something) and you put a string through the hole in the centre of the egg. Then you weight the end of the string with a bag full of rocks, seashells, a cell phone or whatever you have lying around.
I’m getting ahead of myself, I’ll back track a bit.
So, in this tiny room we stand together in a circle and she begins with breast self-massage. She puts on some David Gray, (you remember David Gray?) yeah, she put on that CD and she begins rubbing her breasts clockwise and then counterclockwise from the nipple outwards and then back in towards the nipple again. We all try to follow along. It’s really hard to do. Try it sometime. It’s ridiculously impossible.
This is just horrible for me. Doing breast self-massage in a room full of strangers listening to David Gray… oh wait, now it's the Dave Matthews Band. We’re all looking intently out the window or at each other’s left ear, or top of shoulder. No eye contact. I feel a protective glaze wash over me. The baby curled up inside the innermost corner of my soul is very uncomfortable right now.
Then comes the vocal coaching. “Just let any sound come out that you want.” So of course we have to make a sound come out because if a sound doesn't come out, that means you are totally repressed. So I begin faking these breathy oooooo’s and mmmmmm’s and focusing on the one last piece of chocolate on the wicker table in the centre of the room.
She takes the egg and licks it first to “lubricate it” then she lifts up her skirt and slips it in. She inserts it so cavalierly I swear to God this woman is getting off on making me uncomfortable. Now the cell phone she’s attached to the string that’s attached to the egg inside of her is dangling between her legs and she begins her vaginal weight lifting exercises. “Squeeze the egg at the base of your vaginal opening so it feels like it is just about to poke out, then tug at the weight between your legs, not too hard now, for a count of 1, 2, 3, and relax.”
We rush to catch up. We were told to wear long skirts. It’s amazing to me that most women there, myself included, are wearing those crinkle skirts we all wore in the early 90s, the light paisley fabric ones with tiny bells on the drawstring.
I spit on my egg a bit and squat down and shove it not at all gracefully up and then look for something to weight it with. The rest of the ladies are pushing theirs up too, one woman needs to put her leg on the ottoman to get it in. I find some rocks and put them in the little baggy dangling between my legs. They all start doing figure eights with their hips. I copy the women’s movement and think that for me, doing “hip squares” would be a more visually accurate term. I bump knees with the women next to me. Her egg drops out. Plop, bump, bump, bump. She tiptoes across the circle “excuse me, pardon me” she says as she reaches between another woman’s legs to retrieve it. I don't think my rocks are heavy enough. I look around the apartment for something heavier. The teacher is massaging her breasts, moaning and now winging her cell phone back and forth like a child on a swing. “Go look in my bathroom” she calls out to me with her eyes closed.
I keep circling/squaring/triangling my hips as I edge myself into the bathroom, egg still tight in place. I go through her medicine cabinet and find a bottle of cough syrup. I slip it into the bag. I feel the tug on my vagina. I clench and it drops out, clunk, bump, bump, bump. I pour half the syrup down the drain and re-insert. I clench and it stays put. Perfect. I waddle back into the circle and begin the ‘child on a swing’ action. I notice now that I do in fact have the biggest weight at the end of my string. My knees bump my neighbor again and again an egg plops, drops and rolls across the room and lands near a faux fur pillow.
We all start laughing now, at the absurdity of this picture, at the desperate intimacy. We cannot help ourselves. We’re a room full of clucking hens laying eggs in a highrise and the ruler of the roost might be a sex-addict. The teacher seems un-fazed by our giggling though. Her eyes are still closed. She doesn’t react to our levity. I hope she remembers that we are all still here.
I’m laughing but I’m also secretly burning up with shame. I am supposed to be the radical feminist. I’m supposed to be comfortable with my body. Why is it that I can yell at my man that he needs to walk the dog now but I don’t feel capable of telling him I want lighter pressure, or more force in bed? Why am I happy to publicly fillet the stranger who butts in line at the mini-donut stand but I cannot speak my most private fantasies to the man I’m going to spend the rest of my life with? And now I’m thinking about this so much I’m becoming frozen. I’m so scared. What’s wrong with me that I think something is so wrong with me that I need to be here in the first place?
No one else I know is in this workshop. My best friend pushed out 3 kids and has a husband and she doesn’t feel compelled to go to this class? Is she too shy? I had a friend recently describe to me in detail the contents of her feces but I know nothing about her sex life. I have another friend who has not slept with her husband in years, but have we discussed why? Do we nut it out the way we nut out her new hair color? No. And it’s not because we’re shallow. It’s because it’s really fucking shitty that she doesn’t want to have sex with her man anymore and I have no idea how to help her.
Why is complete sexual transparency between partners and friends still so ugly and terrifying?
And ironically, what I’m struggling with most is all this focus on sex. I know that my vagina has sex but its purpose doesn’t stop and end there and I’m frustrated with the relentless driving home of the idea that I have to have a tight, well functioning pussy that always wants to screw and if I don’t I damn well better give someone some money to fix it. My vagina does a lot of things. She bleeds, sometimes she itches and smells bad, when I got a Brazillian wax, she cried. One day she’ll birth a baby. My vagina is not just a hole to keep in shape for a cock to pound on and I resent the fact that this course is once again reminding me that that is her highest function. I thought this class was about my body. I thought I was going to learn the proper names for all my bits. I thought we were going to get down and dirty with each other. I wanted a ritual.
I do not trust this woman. If I was learning this shit from a Taoist master who has dedicated their whole life to studying the subtle energy body and how we can turn our Chi into raw sexual healing magma- then I would listen closely. But this lady is spouting chapter headings from books I’ve already read and pawning herself off like she invented the microcosmic orbit. This form of mastery takes a lifetime of study and I do not dig her modern take on the whole shebang. I mean the power point presentation photos she showed us at the beginning of the class about how good your sex life gets after jade egg practice were homogenous and stock boring. I didn’t get to see two regular fat people slipping around and playing together. Instead she showed us a photoshoot of golden supermodel sucking and licking a hard dudes hairless chest.
This isn’t me. This isn’t how I feel. I feel scared in bed. I feel shy. I feel randy. I like to giggle. Sometimes I feel turned off and annoyed. I want a class that has power point pictures of a really big pock-marked ass and I get to ask the questions “Is this all there is? Is something wrong with me? Why do I sometimes feel dead inside? How can I stop blaming him?” I want a sex class that addresses my fear and uncertainty and shame.
I love my partner deeply. If he asked me to marry him I’d say yes. And it’s for so many reasons, our beautiful sex life included but with all these visual aids of soft core porn and our facilitator talking about how much she loves to give head and that she never wears any underwear and how her tight little pussy can make a man cum instantly just by clenching his cock with her vaginal muscles (that’s a quote) I’m left feeling a little inadequate. What does this mean about my relationship? Why is sexy not always so easy for me? What can I do?
And yes I have talked with my man about all this and the guy is a superhero. He doesn’t take it on. He tells me that our lives together are constantly changing and growing and not to hold on too tightly to stories and it’s okay if I don’t know why and it’s okay if I’m frustrated and every night he cuddles up next to me and I can feel his love. And that’s what turns me on the most, when sex isn’t expected of me. When I don’t have to perform. When my yoni is tired and sleepy and he finds a way to wake her up or he doesn’t- and both are okay. I’m so sick of having to fuck dudes to make them love me and finally with this one I don’t and I am getting some much needed rest.
Finally, two hours later I get to stop rubbing my breasts.
Finally, I get to push out the egg.
Finally, I get to put my bike helmet on and get ready to go home.
“How was that for you all?” She asks us as we are putting on our coats. She wants to get testimonial quotes for her website.
“Liberating” says a single mom who wants to learn more about self-pleasure.
“Empowering” says a flushed 65-year-old woman as she dons her hand-knit cardigan.
It dawns on me now why I’ve been so annoyed. I was longing for a class that was not so penetration focused. I wanted to slip into a cave. I wanted to move slowly, I wanted to take my time, years perhaps, with no goal but breath and patience. I wanted to go back 1000s of years and study with a Concubine who is respected for her art.
“Hilarious” I respond.
Because sex is hilarious and worrying about sex this much is hilarious and I need to chill the fuck out (literally).
I sent my Jade Egg to a friend who had a baby recently and her uterus is falling out so she wants to tighten up.
I, on the other hand, want to lighten up.
Does anyone have a workshop for that?