The Queer Joy Podcast; two relationship therapists exploring what it looks like to see joy in queer relationships.
In this episode we talk about how to invite communication, playfulness, and openness into the bedroom.
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[00:00:00] Keely: Well, hello everyone. This is our third episode and with, you know, the continued theme of queer joy, we're going to talk about sex today. Sex and relationships. It's time, it's time. Because for some reason, people always like, at least in the counts, I shouldn't say everyone, but in the counseling field, and mental health, somehow sex gets like forgotten or talked over when it comes to quote unquote traditional marriage counseling. And so like, we want to have that totally included. [00:00:45] Melisa: Absolutely. I find so much stigma and shame, you know, even with the clients who come to us, that I get to work with every time that they've mentioned sex before, it's kind of been just disregarded. And so we want to open that up. This is an important part of being human and certainly can be an important part of relationships. [00:01:04] Keely: So before it gets there on that top, but why don't we do a quick introduction? We will continue to introduce ourselves to begin to show, especially when we have guests on for now. We'll just do our quick intros. My name is Kelly C Helmick. . I'm a licensed professional counselor and certified sex therapist. I am one of the owners of Connective Therapy Collective. I am a white gender queer. Queer sex therapist. Somewhat middle-class able-bodied. All the things and I am just so excited. I love talking about sex and relationships instead of gets to like today talking about sex and relationships. Awesome. So, Melissa, you want to introduce yourself again to everyone? [00:01:51] Melisa: I'm Melissa. I am a marriage and family therapist and a licensed professional counselor as well. I am a white cisgender female. I'm bisexual polyamorous. Very excited to talk about sex as well. I will name that. It was not always easy for me to talk about sex. So I am very interested in helping people to have that conversation and a really normalized stigma free way. [00:02:14] Keely: Yeah. For sure. You know, we always start with this idea of queer joy and how we connect queer joy and hello, sexual pleasure. But also like looking at it through the lens of sexual health and how it relates to when we're looking at how we learn about sex, what we know about sex, how we experience sex as both folks who are are cis and folks that are trans, folks that are non binary, and folks that are straight versus being queer or pansexual or bisexual. So kind of looking at like how sex changes and then I've been really keen, keen on, you know, exploring more how in the relationship dynamic, how gender roles and how gender really interplays in sexual experiences. So Melissa, will you spend on what you were talking a little bit about your experience with, you're going to mention any about yourself, but also some client experience and like what's coming up for you right now. When you hear the words, sex and gender roles and relationships. I think [00:03:32] Melisa: it's such a while, like I said before, an important topic what's been coming up for me. Well, you bring up the interesting piece of the gender and even as a cis-gender person, I experience. Gender play, I guess, in sex. And I found it important to get rid of some of the boxes I had put myself in as far as sex has to look this way, because I am a cisgender female. And if I'm having sex with this kind of person, I have to have it this way. So embracing fluidity has been really valuable for me. The other piece I always like to bring in when it comes to talking about sex, especially being that we're in the realm of sex therapy. And so people can come in with that being the topic that they want to discuss in sessions. But having some space for ace sexuality, gray scale asexuality. I, myself identify as a demisexual person. Which for me means there has to be an emotional connection, but also emotional intunement for me to even feel sexual desire. And I like to bring that in because as we're going to talk about career joy and hopefully what's working and sex for some folks that's you, sex is not the most important part of connection. And I really want to honor that as like that's okay. That is also working. That's not something broken to be fixed. [00:04:48] Keely: Yeah, that's great. Yeah. You're not broken you experience sexuality differently. You experience sexual connection differently. You're not broken. I do want to mention, and this will sound like a very CIS hetero thing, but I do whenever I can mention this idea that really how much all folks can benefit from queer sex and talking about queer sex, is that so so many clients that we, that I see at CTC and that we hear about just in general sex therapy is CIS men coming in and talking about how their penis works and saying the classic. So the two things for those that don't know is what they term as premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. So these two terms are what is medicalized for people with penises and oftentimes cis men. This is where all the focus is on with the penis, but guess what? Oh my gosh. You don't have to have. A erect penis to have pleasure. And there's no such thing as a specific timing of when someone comes or ejaculates or has an orgasm, like there's no timeline whether you have to, [00:06:12] Melisa: it doesn't even have to be the focus. [00:06:13] Keely: No, it doesn't. And, and when people hear that, they're like, wait, but I thought I was broken because I was coming in three minutes. It's like, Hm. Okay. And they're like, what do you mean? Okay. I'm like, you're not broken. I literally, I might even have like, sessions and be done, like after two sessions, be like, oh, I'm not broken. Okay, cool. Yeah. [00:06:37] Melisa: It's amazing how much permission we like are seeking to be okay with how we are and embracing that. [00:06:45] Keely: Yeah. So then what, when we're talking about gender. So I saw a training by Lucy Fielding. And Lucy fielding is a professor, and an author of Trans Sex; Clinical Approaches To Sexual Embodiment. And she talks about gender as a a sex toy.. And I love that concept thinking about what she goes on to say in her trainings. And if you read her book, really this focus of a playfulness. And incorporating, and this doesn't, this of course relates to trans and non binary folks, but relates to anybody. if we take something, an object, if we take like our arm or fingers and, or, you know, penis, vulva, vagina, anus, and we have this, this fixed idea of how that's supposed to function. In a sexual interaction, a physical interaction. Well, that's just not the case. That's a cool thing. It's like we have all these options. And so the idea when, how I interpret when she talks about it and she is, she's so wonderful with her words is, is how to play with your partner or partners around these pieces of exploring the body with curiosity. And how we touch and how we interact different body parts can be done in so many ways! [00:08:14] Melisa: I love that. It reminds me of the beginner's mind concept for mindfulness. And thinking about if you can approach every sexual interaction, whether you're solo or with a partner as if this is your first time, think about what you might be doing differently, how you might. You know, be treating yourself differently, maybe even judging yourself differently. Versus, you know, I don't know about you, but for me after a while, if there's not that playfulness of curiosity, it can really become irote.. And then it's just like this scheduled chore? With a very like scripted beginning, middle, and end. And like, that's just boring for me. It's not exciting. [00:08:55] Keely: It's not well. And so yeah, when we say like what's working relationship or when sex is working, these are kind of the things that we hear when things start working again, or that we understand to know when things are working. And when you said the chore thing, I was also like the idea of. Pleasure. And as Emily Nagoski says pleasure is the the measure and how we find that pleasure is, is an exploration. And it's and it's changing! Just like gender is fluid, sexuality is fluid. The way that we use our bodies and what feels pleasurable to our bodies changes. It changes throughout our lifespan, it changes depending on different partners. Like I often hear people talking about how they, you know, with one partner they're a total like power top with another partner, they're a switch, you know, with one partner. When a podcast, I love to listen to Having Gay Sex. She talks about how she's she says on her podcast. So, I mean, it can it's public knowledge, but she'll talk about how she only, she only enjoys penetration, usually in a relationship kind of almost like demi- sexual, sexual act like its own subcategory. Like and I think that's the thing, and I've never heard that before. I just thought of this connecting with what you were saying, Melissa. It's like, oh, there's certain sexual acts or certain sexual situations that some folks only want done, or only- it only is pleasurable and consensual when done with when there's a certain emotional connection. Or sometimes it's in the context of a relationship or with monogamous partner. [00:10:39] Melisa: And like you said, this can change over time. And that's something that it was important to me being in a long-term relationship where my sexuality changed so much. I came into my marriage being very repressed to thinking I was a straight person, and I am not. And noticing even the assumptions that I made when I did accept my bisexuality. And it did start having sex with lots of different gendered people... of it's funny. I had anxiety around people who weren't cis-gender men, because I felt like, well, it's a man. I know how to do that. I know what I'm supposed to do. And like, even that. That is missing so much opportunity. It doesn't mean that penetration penis vagina is the only thing that one could explore with a cisgender male. Uh, And in fact, I'm cutting my opportunity for pleasure, you know, really, really short if I'm assuming that like, that's all I do, you know, that's, that's how I do it. I think also the piece, when we talk about gender, that's been interesting for me. Being somebody who is a cisgender female and who does occasionally have sex with cisgender males. That fluidity and playfulness I've, I've noticed differences between heterosexual males and bisexual males. And I don't like to make sweeping generalizations even in my own life. Like at this point, I can't say, well, I prefer sex with bisexual males. Uh, Cause I'm not sure how much of it is my own, what I'm bringing to the table versus my partner. But there's this playfulness and this like variation in who's in charge. Who's in control. Who's not it's not all about the penis and the vagina, the same way that I experienced. Quote unquote, heterosexual sex, I guess you could say. So it's just been really interesting to embrace playfulness personally. Realized, it's almost like until you have a partner who brings something out in you, you don't even necessarily know it's there. So giving yourself permission to really explore all parts of you, even the unknown ones.. [00:12:33] Keely: And so it's like, how do we all incorporate this more? Because this is, if we're looking at joy and looking at pleasure and feeling good, this is where we're getting at. And so like, What are the blocks or why, why are we just, not all having this like great sex? Why do we get in these situations where we're like, oh, I don't really, like, I don't feel like having sex. And I think, I mean, the point of this Episode episode isn't to go too far into the mechanics of it. But I do want to mention for those that are listening and who have been under a rock and haven't heard of Come As You Are. And Emily Nagoski. Looking, you know, there's this piece where she really talks about brakes and acceleration and looking at our breaks and gender can be a brake. . Gender, gender shifting gender fluidity, because the other side of this is I hear so, so often as people are transitioning they'll ask their partner. They're just in, if they're with somebody, if they're partner with somebody, they'll be like, oh, well, if I, if I am, you know, start taking T or if I start taking E, . The, or if I have, you know, chest, you know, reconstruction, surgery, any kind of gender affirming things shifting with my body, are you still going to be attracted to me? And it's like, and honestly, what happens is like many people say, no, Yeah. And so then it's beautiful for us to talk about like, oh yeah, you know, gender, gender is a sex toy. And yet there is such restriction in the way that we see sexual, how people are sexually. People get really scared or, or, or aren't able to express themselves sexually with people in a way that aligns with their gender. And so then they're not having satisfying sex. Right. And it's not even fully consensual at that point, [00:15:00] Melisa: you bring up so many important points here and I've worked with several clients who find their journey towards pleasure, sexually shifting along with our own transition or alignment, kind of with our bodies, you know, and that can really change how, how they can show up if you're not comfortable in your own skin, then expecting you to be sexual in your own skin. Feels like a big ask. And another concept that's come up with a lot of the non-binary folks that I've been working with are just the, the blocks that we can create for ourselves. Allowing our fullness of gender to be in the picture. For example, of folks who may have been assigned female at birth, identify as non-binary, how do I reclaim femininity? How do I allow for that to be okay if we're blocking that part of ourselves, we're not going to be able to show up fully in sex. [00:15:51] Keely: And there's such a performative piece in that too. Like when, if we have a certain body and we have been taught through media through everything, this is what this body is supposed to do in sexual situations. It's very performative. It's not fully in our body. It's not fully embodied in ourselves. And, and we don't want to negate that. There's still, you're still getting something from that. And so like everyone's in their own journey, but it's scary. There's not a lot of space. And there's also this idea of like some, some ideas like scarcity. So it's like, oh wow. This person likes me. And when I do this thing, I get that positive reinforcement. So even if it's not fully aligned with what I want, at least I'm getting something, something is better than nothing. Right. [00:16:43] Melisa: It makes me think of communication as being so important as far as, how do we make something work what's working? And that's something I've noticed in couples work is as soon as we can start communicating, all of a sudden, all this stuff comes out. And it, I think the fear of communicating and, and as you're saying of even giving feedback of like, oh, that's not working for me, there can be so much shame and stigma and is around sex. That it can be hard to be honest and have those conversations. But if we can find ways to start really talking about what do we like, what's working, let's try this. We can create more room to come together with partners and have more pleasurable experiences. [00:17:25] Keely: Yeah. So I guess, I mean, the takeaways for today are really around. I mean, I'm going to say it again, cause it's so much fun gender as a sex toy, but also this expansion, this communications embodiment. Like what, you know, what a concept to actually be able to be fully accepted and have complete embodiment of ourselves. Be fully accepted by a partner, be able to communicate it and have really like momentous, enjoyable, fun, creative. Playtime adult play time. Otherwise known as sex. [00:18:03] Melisa: Absolutely. And I'll add on with communication that for those who are listening, who communication with partners directly right now feels very scary consider practicing talking about sex elsewhere, you know, find those friends where you can talk about it. I've benefited so much just from being here in the Collective, where we talk about sex, most of the sessions. So get in the practice of it because it becomes more comfortable as you practice. And if the only time you're trying to talk about sex and pleasure is in this high stakes situation with a partner that that may not benefit your, your nervous system. And you want it, you want to feel comfortable naming those topics, listen to more podcasts, read more books, you know, make sure that you are being immersed in the language around [00:18:46] Keely: it. Yeah. I mean, isn't that the whole thing is that we're just like, let's all just talk about sex more. Yay. Let's talk about pleasure in sex more. [00:18:55] Melisa: It certainly was missing from my sex education. So we gotta, we gotta redo this as adults [00:19:00] Keely: So. Um, To end today, we always each episode, we talk about the queer joy that we have experienced this past week. And so I'm curious, do you want to, you want to start, Melissa? What was your queer joy of the week? [00:19:21] Melisa: I always get to these days of recording and go, oh gosh, do I have any joy? And then I find it. So I'm glad, glad we have this tradition. I I'm in a spiritual group right now and we had a meeting over the last weekend. We're preparing. At the time we're recording and we're preparing for the autumn Equinox here and going into the dark season, and we're talking a lot about shadow work and we were asked to contribute a piece of like what's part of your shadow. And it was such a wonderful reflection for me because. First introduced to shadow work, which was when I started grad school to become a therapist. So much of my shame, which I was exploring at that time through artwork primarily came back to sexuality and then culminated in my coming out as bisexual. So years later, to be able to hear this word shadow work and be asked to contribute and realize. Well, I can't say it's my bisexuality. Cause I feel great about that. Now that's integrated with such a queer joy moment to realize that's not, that's not part of my shadow anymore. That's something that's celebrated that I've brought to the light. Give a shout out for bisexual visibility week this week. Again, it's if you're listening, it passed, but catch it next year. [00:20:33] Keely: Uh, So by visibility. Every day, you know? [00:20:37] Melisa: So that's, that's my joy. I'm so, so grateful and grateful to live in places where as a queer person, I can be safe and celebrated and really continue to expand myself. It's a world of difference, my own mental health since going through that process. [00:20:53] Keely: That's I love it. I love it. And I'm so excited about the spring Equinox, or I said spring, what am I? I can't even talk today. Ready for next year. All at Equinox. And it is a Pisces and full moon, all the emotions. So yeah, I love, I love. Well, my queer joy. Is that something that I'm actually embracing now that I didn't use to is I have noticed this last week I had the house completely to myself and not, oh, I had no roommate. My kids weren't here. My partner's in Texas. She's not here. And I was like, I don't feel anxious. I'm enjoying this. And I had so much like bath time and like doing all the body things by myself. And it was like actually enjoyable. And it was like, oh my gosh, like I'm feeling my body. And I'm feeling like all this joy and like doing all the things and to experience that at 41. And I don't know that this may be the first time that I really fully experienced this since, since having kids. So like, and I'm, I will admit self-admitted like always in some kind of relationships. So this is like a big deal to me. So super joyful , lovin it.. Growth, all the things. So, yay. I know both of us are joys today. I wonder if I just kind of piggybacked off you like the queer joy being like this growth moment. It's like, oh, have the therapist of this. [00:22:31] Melisa: I did have a therapist once. Tell me I'm obsessed with self-development and growth. So, you know, I'll own it. [00:22:38] Keely: Uh, Well, that's our episode for today. You know, again, if you want to reach us, you can always find this at Connective Therapy Collective.com. You can find us on Facebook at connected therapy collective. You can find me at Queer Therapist PDX, and you can find us on Twitter as well. Connective Therapy Collective. Thanks, y'all for listening today and we hope you have a very queer, joyful.