Turning My Sensuality On

Lately, I’ve been feeling disconnected from my own sensuality and needing a way to plug back into that part of myself. I figured what better way to re-spark that inner connection than to take a sensual movement class.

I didn’t tell my boyfriend that I was going because I needed this experience to be just for me. We’ve been living together for a few months now, and while I love him truly, madly, and deeply, I suspect that being with him is the reason that I’ve shut down my connection to my sensuality.

Growing up, I’d internalized the idea that it’s okay to feel sensual and sexual in my body whenever I feel like as long as I’m not in an exclusive relationship. But now that I am in one, those aspects of myself are only “supposed” to be expressed and enjoyed when I’m with my significant other.

I believe that Catholicism, which (at least when I was growing up and filtered through my Filipina upbringing) advocates for a woman to save herself exclusively for one man, has been an influence. Mainstream culture’s limited view of what sensuality is, tying it primarily to the obviously sexual, is another.

To me, my sensuality is so much more. It’s also about feeling ignited, alive, and juiced up to be in my body, which is the opposite of how I’ve been feeling lately. Instead, inhabiting my own skin has felt blechy and uninspired. Then again, is it no wonder that I feel this way since I purposely—albeit unconsciously—shut off from my own sensuality?

Disconnecting from my sensuality when I’m in a relationship isn’t new for me. I’ve certainly done this before. All those other times it was easier to put at least half if not more of the blame on the other person—wrong guy, bad relationship. It’s only when ending those relationships that I would plug back into my sensual nature. I suspect though, that even when I was single, my activated sensuality  was more for attracting men than about me.

This time around, I can see that the disengagement is my doing. I want to be able to keep both my sensual spark and my guy without having to let go of one to have the other.

I know that reactivating my connection to my sensuality is an inside job and I’m the only one who can do this for me. And it’s likely a process—more time for self-care, paying more attention to how I look and feel, slowing down, getting re-grounded in my body, staying present to the moment, etc. Still, what better way to jumpstart my sensual spark than by going to a class that is all about feminine sensual movement?

Danaë by Gustav Klimt http://tinyurl.com/6gj2bst (wikimedia commons) Transcendence and Ecstasy Come Together in The Female Body

The class I attend is taught by Rie Katagiri, a movement coach, choreographer, and dancer. Rie and I have belonged to the same women’s circle for years.

There are several of us in the room—all women, most of us in yoga clothes. After a short body warm up that includes stretching and yoga to open and prepare our bodies for movement, I find myself standing alone with a pole—the kind of pole used for pole dancing.

This is a pole that I grow to quickly dislike when, after Rie demonstrates how to stroll around it—she is graceful as a gazelle—I find myself awkwardly circling said pole like I’ve forgotten how to walk straight.

By the time Rie has me and the other women attempt a simple spin around our respective poles, I’ve emotionally regressed. I feel like I’m in the third grade again and it’s the first day of gymnastics class. I’m standing in front of the uneven parallel bars and I don’t know what to do with my body.

Strutting with one hand holding onto the pole feels like an exercise in ungainliness. Even my default hip-wiggling walk, the one that I developed when peddling my sensual wiles back in the day has left me.

The tail end of class is the “play” period, when we get to move with the pole however we want. And it’s only then, as I let go of any expectations and lean into the pole, my back against it, that I relax.

I let out a loud exhale and close my eyes. My shoulders go from scrunched up to more laid back. Nectary, sexy sounding music starts to blasts through the room. I sway slowly to the rhythm, feeling…. Feeling…. Feee-ling what it is like to move my pelvis in small circular motions, sway my hips from side to side, arch my back, undulate my spine…

I run my fingers through  my hair… so soft… across my cheek… I turn to face the pole, pressing my chest and pelvis against it and—and, then I remember I’m not the only one in the room and I stop. I open my eyes, let go of the pole, and stand upright.

Waves of shame and self-consciousness wash through me.

I look around. The other women aren’t paying attention to me. They’re too absorbed in their own experiences, their own bodies.

I’m surprised at my reaction. Goddess forbid that someone witness me in an act of sensual surrender.

Now there are tears. Because if I’d immediately reigned myself in after barely touching the tip of my own experience, what else must there be for me to revel in, to feel, were I to drop in and let go?

I need to have me some more.

73 Comments on “Turning My Sensuality On”

  1. menomama3 says:

    Is sexuality the same as sensuality? I ask because up her in the Great White North (Canada), the national broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), is running a program tonight called “The Truth about Female Desire”. Here’s the link. You can probably stream it. http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/episodes/the-truth-about-female-desire
    I applaud your desire to amp up your sensuality because I believe, no matter what age, sensuality is an essential component of a full life. Dance on, Diahann!

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thanks for sharing the link. It sounds like it would be an interesting program. I will see if I can get it. In my opinion I believe the two are very much connected /part of each other- but just not in the limited ways that society typically views either. What say you?

  2. menomama3 says:

    I agree – the ways of being sensual/sexual are probably as varied as people.Finding a way to express yourself comfortably is hard because there’s a world of judgement out there.

  3. alohaleya says:

    now you’ve got me wanting to take one of these classes! i want to discover those untapped worlds and realms within. i’m just so used to living on the surface that i’ve forgotten they exist. time for some discovery…
    thank you for this powerful reminder! ❤ aleya

  4. BroadBlogs says:

    It’s too bad we’ve got such a screwed up culture that makes it so difficult for so many of us to be in touch with our sexual/sensual pleasure. Thanks for sharing your experience. Hopefully, we can all learn from each other.

  5. Alice says:

    I hadn’t before thought about how or why one might consciously tamp down her own sensuality/sexuality specifically as a reaction to being in an exclusive (and enjoyable!) relationship. But once you explained how this played out for you, I understood the internal dynamics at once. Cultural myths pitting “good girl” vs “bad,” or “virgin” vs “whore,” can have tremendous influence in any woman’s development, even more so when she is raised in a Catholic family, I suspect.

    I am glad you are taking steps to reconnect with yourself (and *for* yourself). Which is also, I take from your description, giving you an opportunity to confront another ugly implant from patriarchy: that self-consciousness we all(?? I suspect) carry, that way we learn to experience ourselves as always an object being observed. How we internalize being objects of the gaze, as if that’s more important than the actual being.

    Thank you for sharing. A moving piece, especially through the lens of the “masturbation story” story of yours I just read.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Alice. Interesting- I hadn’t thought of that part of my self-consciousness could be tied to learning to experience myself as an object of gaze… I think that is very rich and I will have to ponder that some more, so thank you for that, too. I do have a feeling the whole tamping down in relationship is definitely more common than we speak about – and one reason that relationships can sometimes feel unsatisfying. I believe if we could resolve that dynamic in general, it would benefit not just the individuals both the couples involved.

  6. reocochran says:

    I like being aware of my senses and enjoying being a woman, too. It is a special way to connect with our lives. Dancing and sensual movement sound like a wonderful way to celebrate winter! Instead of myself, going from work to library to blog, then home to become a couch potato! smiles!

    • diahannreyes says:

      Definitely a great way to heat up winter, Robin 🙂 I do find myself more like a bear in the winter, hibernating, even if it isn’t “really” winter in California- so couch potato-ing seems very cozy and nourishing in its own way, too.

      • reocochran says:

        I was going to say, “Please don’t feel shame.” I know Catholicism and our different senses of what is right and wrong sometime shade and create doubt within our own sensuality. But believe me, everyone in the class is closing their eyes and maybe wondering if they should release their inhibitions. I am older and wiser, so let me be ‘bossy’ and say, relax and express your sensuality and yourself, any way you wish to (but don’t get arrested… ha ha!)

  7. Fascinating and thought-provoking and fun. THANK you for making us think about our own sensuality. I’m ‘aging’ like Rene Russo, yet I feel and hopefully act half my age. Because what is age? Sensuality certainly doesn’t decline because we’re not 30 anymore. I recently moved to Boston from SF (my most favorite place in the world), afraid of the cold and the dark, but I found a dance class called “Nia, Yoga and Me” in which we all dance like we’re sensual beings to incredible music. You want to know how old I feel when I leave an hour later? Like a teenager! 🙂

    • Lorien says:

      This made me smile. 🙂 I want to find such a class.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Pam! And also for this reminder: “Sensuality certainly doesn’t decline because we’re not 30 anymore.” (Someone told me that it actually grows as we get older. A lot of women are just conditioned to thinking that it is supposed to wane.) Congrats on your move. SF is such a great city. The class sounds amazing. I can visualize the class just bathed in sensuality…. perhaps sensuality is a fountain of vitality… I wonder….

  8. Very revealing dear..

  9. Lorien says:

    Wow! Such a gift to witness your courage and your willingness to be vulnerable in sharing this experience with us. I can completely relate to finding a microsecond of complete surrender, and then all of a sudden like a switch those delicious feelings are turned off and sucked back into some kind of deep dark cave of my psyche. I can relate to tears also, when realizing that there is so much more to me and wondering how I will ever gain access to my whole self. I can also relate to being more in tune with my sensual self when I was on the hunt for a man, and how being in a long-term monogamous relationship has challenged me to find ways to stay in tune with my body, my senses, my sexuality. I have no answers, only a resounding “I GET IT!” Thanks for taking the time to write and share this; it means a lot to me, gives me much to think about, and most important–it’s proof that I am not alone in this struggle, this exploration. Thank you, friend.

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Lorien, for sharing here too. I really wonder that there are more of us who feel this than we think. And to me that is evidence that if its collective we can shift it.

      • Lorien says:

        YES! YES! We can shift it! In a beautiful dance with open hearts, in a laugh that is allowed to bubble up unhindered, in each acknowledgement that our needs are valid and we have the means to get them fulfilled, we can shift it! 🙂 ❤

        • alaina says:

          “In each acknowledgement that our needs are valid and we have the means to get them fulfilled” Can I borrow that and have it tattooed across my forehead I really need that reminder every time I look in the mirror:) Thank you.

  10. I love your last line. I’m going to pondering that one for awhile.

  11. Tony Single says:

    I’m not in touch with my sensuality/sexuality, and it makes me angry. It is the same for my wife. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s like this for a lot of people. You have to wonder how we all got to this point, huh?

    • diahannreyes says:

      Hi Tony, what you said really struck me. I don’t even know that I’ve heard or read anything about men in relation to their sensuality and the desire to stay plugged in to that as well. I think this is a very potent and untapped area and I wish that the “untapped” part would change. I feel like men and woman really would benefit for themselves and with each other if we could all be plugged into sensuality/sexuality and then be with each other from that connected place. I wish more people would be angry about the existing lack.

      • Tony Single says:

        I wonder if more people are angry about it than are willing to admit. Perhaps we’re all afraid to admit it. I agree with you. It’s a sad case of affairs.

        Women aren’t encouraged to own their sexuality, and it’s becoming clearer to me that even men aren’t encouraged to own theirs either. Men certainly have more scope to act on it, but it does seem as though we’re not permitted to be anything more than a caricature when it comes to sex/sensuality. We’re either “on” or “off” like a battery operated sex toy – a blunt instrument if you will. And that’s pretty sad.

        I mean, where’s the joy of discovery in that? Where’s the experimentation? The fun? The intimacy? No, we’re just expected to be pig dogs in the board room and the bed room, and I think we men buy into that lie all too easily because it strokes our egos (when in fact all it does is shrivel our love lives). Honestly, that’s not good enough. We need to do better.

        • diahannreyes says:

          I agree, Tony! That men aren’t given the space to express their sensuality and sexuality beyond the caricature is hurting both genders. Thank you so much for articulating your desires here. It’s important to know what men really want beyond the caricatures that society boxes them into.

          I think that it is important for both men and women to give men the space to go beyond the stereotypes of masculinity – just as much as it is important for both to give women that similar space when it comes to femininity.

  12. 2bsisters says:

    Reblogged this on Live your life; Don't just survive… and commented:
    The average person often has difficulty embracing their sexuality on a regular basis. Add to that a traumatic experience and it is twice as hard. But, it is a necessary part of empowerment and self-esteem. For one reason or another, and often supported by religions and social beliefs, we deny ourselves an essential part of personal power. Here is one way to dial back in…re-connect.

  13. A neat journey into your SELF, D. And tapping your inner peace, beauty, and acceptance.

  14. vnp1210 says:

    If there’s a class specifically geared for this experience, never feel self conscious! Nobody is there to judge you. They too are seeking their own sensuality. Also, I love the idea of “nectary” music!

    • diahannreyes says:

      I so agree.. it was definitely my own judgment coming up– dang that old conditioning. Yes, nectary sounding music… I can still feel the song playing in my body and it’s been a couple of weeks.

  15. Ramy Hermano says:

    really cool!

    ciao, t. ramy

  16. Is that why they say ‘ Dance like nobody is watching you.’ Do we mould our every move consciously or otherwise as dictated by ‘what others may think of me’?

  17. Jenn Berney says:

    “I know that reactivating my connection to my sensuality is an inside job and I’m the only one who can do this for me.” Oh, this hit a nerve for me. I’ve been with my current partner for nearly fifteen years, but every year it seems I must re-learn this lesson–that the way to intimacy, sensuality, etc. is through deeper connection to my own self.

    • diahannreyes says:

      It really is amazing that going inward is the key, isn’t it- although sometimes easier said than done.

      I feel like this is related to what you’ve been speaking about on your blog about self-care.

  18. This is a great post, Diahann. It made me realize how out of touch I am with my sensuality, how I depend on a man to make me feel like a woman.
    Just after reading your post I found myself walking differently, lighter and more in tuned with my body as I went to make myself a cup of tea.
    Thanks so much for the spark! 🙂

  19. Katy says:

    This really resonated well with me… the voluntary shutting down, undeniable knowing and need for sensuality; whats right, whats wrong…whats really not wrong but still our cells hold that ‘old’, blocking information. For us to unlock. As a 23yo I’m happy I stumbled upon these belly stories 🙂 Thanks for unlocking and sharing! K

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Katy! Based on your response here and that of a few others, it really strikes me that this is definitely in the collective for women and men. And yes, “for us to unlock” – I love how you worded that…

  20. Aquileana says:

    Your words really resonated with me… I much agree with you in your insights with regard to what Sensuality means… And well these excerpt in particular could have been written by me (Sigh, my story too): “Disconnecting from my sensuality when I’m in a relationship isn’t new for me. I’ve certainly done this before”… It has happened to me many times too… I feel that, to tell you the truth I turn off as soon as I enter a more serious relationship… I also like to live freely and sometimes I feel that it is all about making the other person feel well and at the end it is quite compliant attitude… My best lovers were never result of stable couple, but rather the opposite, accidental, random sex.
    As to the last paragraphs… I’d say you are ready for tantric sex! (which is something I am fully curious about)…
    Great post, my friend ⭐ Hugs & All the best to you!, Aquilena 😀

    • diahannreyes says:

      Tantric sex definitely sounds like cosmic 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experience here, too, Aquilena. I have a feeling that instant disconnection we are both speaking about can definitely play a part in any dissatisfaction (and now I’m talking about myself) in that department, among other reasons. I have often had to leave to find that freer me that I feel like is me in my fullness so I get that, too. All the best to you, too!

  21. livelytwist says:

    An interesting experience Diahann, thanks for sharing. I would be uncomfortable in such a class. Now I need to find out why . . .

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Timi. What you said, “now I need to find out why…” such exciting possibilities there in my opinion… and I’m convinced, more liberation of the self for sure.

  22. SirenaTales says:

    Sorry I am so late to this interesting, honest post, Diahann! Thank you, once again, for your honesty and courage. The lively conversation above underscores that you’ve hit a nerve. I am happy for you both that you realized your disconnect (and some of its sources) AND got yourself some inspiration.

    Your observations make me appreciate all the more my dancing and my cooking–two treasured outlets and sparks for sensual experience that I love, but now realize I haven’t valued enough. I definitely get the “blechy” feeling, but dancing and whipping up tasty and aromatic creations in the kitchen certainly juice things up, to use your vivid phrase :). I believe you are spot on in your insight and guidance: When we feel uninspired and “bleach,” it’s our job to revitalize, re-ground, and sizzling the senses is a surefire way to enliven ourselves.

    Thanks for the gorgeousness! xxo

    • SirenaTales says:

      P.s. On a related note, I thought of you today when I was reading about photography shows of women with disabilities (“A Different Lens,” O, The Oprah Magazine, March 2015, p.26). One of the organizers/models, Wendy Crawford, says, “People have told me they never saw women with disabilities as sensual-until viewing these pictures….” Wow, REALLY?!

      But if you see the few photos of these gorgeous women, you know the (obvious) truth that “…beauty isn’t determined by ability.” Nor, equally obviously, is sensuality. Just thought you might appreciate. Shine on….

      • diahannreyes says:

        I wish the images were available online. Sounds like they transmit something beautiful about women and their bodies and their sensuality. If only people could see beyond our physical plane… yes, there is so much beauty and ability there but there’s a whole universe within that remains unexplored and it fleshes out our fullness too. I agree w/ you- I think the adage that beauty is from within, the same can be said with sensuality. Thanks for thinking of me and sharing, Chloe. xo

        • SirenaTales says:

          Ugh, my “oldfashionedness” is showing by giving you the hard copy cite…to view images from The Raw Beauty Project NYC (a spin-off of “Uncensored Life: Raw Beauty” which I believe had the portraits I alluded to) visit http://rawbeautynyc.com. I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet. Thanks for the inspiration and conversation….

    • diahannreyes says:

      Chloe, the way you describe not just dancing but cooking- I know I said this before on your blog, but you really make me thinking of cooking now as an embodied practice. For me, it has been this head thing, following recipes and not connecting at all to what I’m creating. You are making me think about it differently. Also, I love that both-especially your dancing- keep you always plugged in and sparked. I truly belief that both people in a relationship benefit when hopefully each one knows how to turn themselves on… and I don’t just mean that sexually 🙂

      • SirenaTales says:

        Oh, absolutely: cooking as an embodied practice! Heady aromas, luscious tastes, visual feasting, and a you’ve pointed out before, the actual movement of stirring, peeling, slicing, pouring, and the moving around the kitchen….A juicy festival for the body and soul, I believe. But if you hadn’t made all of your keen observations, I wouldn’t have realized this as fully. Thanks so much!

        • diahannreyes says:

          LOL… well I wouldn’t have seen it if you hadn’t shown me. Maybe the next time I try to cook I will approach from a body based way. Have you seen the Mexican film Like Water for Chocolate? Definitely makes food, both the preparing and eating, a very sensual experience.

  23. Mélanie says:

    mabuhay Miss D! excellent post, as usually… HL = huge “like”! ❤ 🙂

    @"I believe that Catholicism, which (at least when I was growing up and filtered through my Filipina upbringing) advocates for a woman to save herself exclusively for one man, has been an influence." – you believe well, you're totally right and I do agree with you… 🙂 Religion has always been an obstacle to the development and blooming of women… FREEDOM and self liberation will always set us FREE to express our inner emotions, to indulge our senses and to understand everything much better… 🙂
    * * *
    I've recently come across lots of Filipino people in Hawaii… and my best friend in Houston, TX has been (and still is!) Ingrid, a Filipino teacher(ex-colleague)… small world! 🙂 my very best, tons of inspiration and friendly thoughts, Mélanie

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Mélanie. Mabuhay to you, too! Here is to self-liberation which is the key to so much! For some reason I always think of you living in France… and yes, lots of Filipinos in Hawaii.

  24. Katalina4 says:

    Wonderful experiences here. Your opening thoughts reminded me of something I read recently – I’ve been reading this book, “The Examined Life”, a series of anecdotes by a shrink. Lovely, spare storytelling. One of the things he says, is since the days of Freud, shrink-types have been hearing about the separation between love and desire – as if the proximity and commitment of deep love can complicate and perhaps smother desire? A persistant human problem maybe? Or maybe a cultural one?

    • diahannreyes says:

      Thank you, Katalina. Yes, it strikes me as so interesting that the two are often perceived as in conflict with one another. Yet that makes me think about how so often I hear that a big complaint in unhappy marriages is the fading of desire. This makes me think that the two ideally would go together, feeding the other, perhaps. I will have to check out the book!

  25. Human Interest says:

    Reblogged this on Human Interest.

  26. Reblogged this on thesensualsage and commented:
    Another great article that I am re-blogging Again thanks and Welcome to the sisterhood. Peace and Blessings

  27. Island Mom says:

    Beautiful post, thank you. It reminds me of when I saw my ten year old daughter moving her hips suggestively to music and the first words out of my mouth were, “you don’t do that in public do you?” ARGH…. shame shame horrible shame. What I wish I said was “what’s it like to move your body like that?” Delicious:)

    • diahannreyes says:

      🙂 thank you for sharing. I had a similar experience with my nephew but in regards to something else. I remember being mortified that the words slipped without thought out of my mouth. Sounds though that you are determined to raise an empowered daughter. Look forward to reading your posts.

  28. I used to have a problem during sex. I would feel disconnected, as if I were just watching it happen. It took a patient partner for me to learn to be more present.

  29. tammyleitzel says:

    Sensual movement was revolutionary for me. It was as though life only began AFTER I learned to tap into my own unique feminine essence. Before it – it was all pretend – conforming – trying to fit in to the way “I was supposed to be”.

    Unlock your hips and find your unique beauty within!

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