Sunflowers & Make-Believe: Discovering My Sensuality As a Child


sunflower // annemiek groenhout

One of the fondest memories I have is when my sister & I were kids & used to play in our backyard & pretend we were Pocahontas. We created teepees out of pine trees with low hanging branches—we each had our own designated spot—& the the two of us would get on our hands & knees in the desert dirt to nurture the little plants (i.e., weeds) to grow with water & song.

Our stuffed animals were the woodland creatures, our clothes (old rags & blankets my mom didn’t need anymore) were animal skins, & we would dance in our fortresses in our bare feet, stomping ceremoniously on pine needles & dirt clumps. We’d make mudpies & leafy vegetable soups, & pretend to stoke bonfires with tiny twigs as kindling & a magnifying glass to create small billows of stinky smelling smoke.

Once, a sunflower randomly sprouted in my teepee, & over the next few months I watched with wonder as it transformed from bland stalk to brilliant blossom. One day, out of sheer curiosity I crouched down & plucked one of the tiny black seeds out of bloom & ate it. It was so delicious, unlike any sunflower seed I had ever had, & I spent the rest of the summer lying underneath that sunflower & slowly eating its seeds one by one right out of the bloom.

Those moments I spent in my “teepee” as a child, making up songs & nibbling fresh sunflower seeds, were some of the most sensual of my life.

I was never taught about sensuality as a kid. I was familiar with my senses, that was a lesson I was given at great length, but what it meant to be sensual was never touched on. I can’t even recall hearing the word sensuality until I was far older (& when I did it was attached very sloppily to sex).

But clearly, I was a sensual girl, naturally; I didn’t need to be taught, it was innately within me—all I needed was curiosity explore & time to play, & I had more of those things than I needed. Especially time. Minutes traveled much slower when I was a little girl, & I seemed lose myself in every second of what  I was doing—playing, creating, make-believing—while savoring every single moment.

Fast forward to now. . . Gone are the days of lying on my belly to watch ants commute to their homes. I find myself moving so fast in a world that moves even faster than I, & time is of the essence. There’s shit to be done, commitments to fulfill, & deadline to meet. My to-do list often tries to dictate the way I live my days.

Of course, in these moments of fastness, self-care gets thrown out the window. I forget to eat. My temper is short, my patience sparse. Everything feels hurried, detached, helter-skelter.

When I am disconnected from my body & senses, life merely becomes a sequence of events rather than rich, well-savored moments.

And I deeply desire the well-savored moments.

I want to get my hands dirty. I want embraces to overwhelm me with love & warmth. I want to lose myself in moments of creation, without distraction. I want the sex I have to transfigure & swoon all of my senses. I want spaciousness & pauses & sighs of pleasure.

I want to taste every note of sweetness in moment, in the same way I nibbled tiny sunflower seeds in my fortress as a little girl—with slowness & indulgence.

It’s very clear to me: The enjoyment of my life depends very heavily on my ability to slow down, to embody, to feel a connection to the world around me.

That, in essence, is sensuality. And I believe that it is my birthright. Yours, too.

So, how do we get there? How do we, inhabitants of a fast-moving world & participants in a culture that doesn’t always foster living with our senses, get back to our birthright? What does that look like in practice?

I’ll tell you. In the next post.

Reader Question: What If My Man Refuses to Have Sex With Me on My Period?

After I published my last article, my inbox was flooded with emails from readers who joyously professed their love of period sex & gave a resounding “Hell yes!” to the notion of destigmatizing menstruation (which, Hell yes!).

There was also another sentiment that was expressed over & over: “I love period sex! But my partner hates it.”

One gal asked for my personal input on it, & with her permission I’ve decided to post her question & my answer here. It’s very obvious that this is something that many of us can relate to.

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I can’t tell you how many times I have felt revved up, sexual, goddess-like, ON FIRE with sensuality during my cycle and yet – stalled – by the circumstances.

It’s not that I have a problem with [period sex], but my partner finds it appalling. I totally understand his feelings (especially because he is still coming to terms with HIS sexuality and urges) but I can’t help but think it might be a really great time for me to engage.

Do I just relinquish my desires and respect his feelings? Is there a conversation or perspective that may spur his curiosity? Has your lover always been pro-period sex?

Ashley H.



Your partner is absolutely entitled to his preference of not liking period sex, just as other women are right to dislike it themselves. But one thing I will say is that many of us don’t often form our own opinions around sexual matters, & instead end up going with harmful, archaic beliefs that we haven’t consciously subscribed to, simply because that’s the way it’s always been.

With that said, I’m curious to know. . . why does your partner really find period sex—&, I’m assuming, your period in general—appalling? What is the true source of his disdain? These would be great questions to ask him, too; not in a badgering way, but with genuine curiosity & in the hopes of starting a much needed dialogue.

And if his answer is, “Well, because it’s gross,” that might be a cue to dig deeper.

Our culture has done a collective number on the minds of women & men surrounding bloody vaginas, & lots of misinformation & fear-mongering has been in place about menstruating women for thousands of years. The Bible, for one, has some pretty strong opinions about the “impurity” of menstruating women; the Qu’ran, too.

And given those opinions, it’s no wonder your man finds the idea of period sex “appalling.” Men are afraid of our moon blood because they don’t understand it. They don’t even really talk about it beyond the occasional sarcastic (& sometimes sexist) remark. It’s just not in their language.

What men need most (all people, really) is to be educated about women’s bodies, to be given accurate information about the magic that goes on down there. After all, he’s fucking you; he should know the ins & outs, the good & the bloody, of your body

And for our parts, we women need to stop seeing menstruation as a women-folk only topic, & include the dudes in the conversation. That means no more hiding our tampon boxes or downplaying our pain or belittling our innate sensitivity during that time of our cycle. We need to be proud, not ashamed, of our bleeding vaginas. (Tweet that if you dare!)

When that happens, the men in our lives can begin their own feminine enlightenment.

As Inga Muscio says:

“Society fails to acknowledge that our bleeding cycle affects men’s lives tremendously . . . . Sometimes men are surrounded on all sides by cranky, bleeding cunts!”

Indeed, & they have little to no conception of what it is they—the bleeding cunts—actually do besides bleeding profusely & causing us to act differently once a month. We, the women they love & fuck, can help change that.

So, educate him. Start the dialogue. Tell him why it is you want to fuck him when you’re on your period. Ask him questions. Let him see your blood. Give him an idea of what’s going on in your body when you menstruate, & not just the gruesome tales, but of the natural, beautiful phenomenon that is your body, which is inherently synced to the rhythms & cycles of the moon.

He should know how awesome period sex is for the both of you, about some of the super awesome benefits (that he gets to be a part of!) like. . .

// Did you know that when you orgasm on your period, the contracting of your uterus helps relieve cramps, but also aids in expelling blood & tissue which helps end your period sooner?

// Orgasm while menstruating also releases lovely little chemicals in your brain that helps reduce period pain & elevates your mood.

// Because of the increased blood flow to your pelvic region during menstruation, every inch of your body is incredibly sensitive, making pleasure & sensation heightened. So you might feel sex much more intensely than if you weren’t bleeding.

// &, of course: No need for lube.

Or you can just let him watch this powerful spoken word performance by Dominique Christina, which just might turn him into a raving Bloodhound (no, seriously, this is a thing).

In any case, knowledge is power, & his having sex with you while you’re bleeding powerfully demonstrates not only his level of maturity, but an understanding & acceptance of the female body.

With all of that splendid information & period positivity, he might be willing to give period sex a go, or to at least entertain the idea (curiosity is better than indifference). Here’s some tips & tricks that’ll help make period sex easy-peasy for you both:

  • Before getting it on, put a dark colored towel underneath you to both catch the stains & hide them. (I should point out here that period sex is never as bloody as you think it’ll be, & he might be very surprised by how little of a mess is actually made.)
  • Or, turn the process of readying for bloody sex into a sensual ritual as one of my readers’ partners did. Light candles, nibble on chocolate together, turn on some good music.
  • Our flow tends to be lighter when laying on our backs, so you might try sticking to the missionary position.
  • If the sight of blood makes him squeamish, do it in the dark. Another reader of mine suggested blindfolding him, making the experience playfully sexy & fun.
  • Or. . . do it in the shower.
  • Or. . . have him wear a condom.
  • Or, try period sex on the last day when your flow is at its lightest. That way, he can dip a toe in & see how he feels about it without jumping into the deep end of the river. (Puns everywhere!)

Now, if after all this your partner is still totally not cool with the idea of period sex, no matter if the lights are off & a condom is on & you’re both in the shower, that’s quite alright; everyone’s got their preferences. You’ll just have to ask yourself how much of a deal breaker not having period sex is for you, if it’s something you can live without (many women do).

My deepest hope, though, is that with enough open, unabashed chatter about bleeding vaginas & what they do, the men in our lives will begin to feel less squicked out by menstruation & more open to the idea of kneeling at our red gates.

After all, if they’re choosing to fuck us, they should experience every facet of us—the blood, the sweat, the vaginal secretions. . . all of us.

As for whether my lover has always been pro-period sex: This is something I actually had to ask him, because I didn’t know for sure if his stance about menstruation has always been positive.

This is what Jonathan told me:

“Period sex has never really bothered me. I just see it as a natural thing that happens, & you can just rinse the blood off. It’s not a big deal. Some of the women I’ve dated had their greatest level of arousal during their periods. And for me to pass that up, I’d miss out on a lot.”

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Many thanks to my good friend & period sex advocate Samantha Zipporah for lending me her knowledge in the aid of writing this post.

In Praise of Period Sex (From Someone Who Used to Hate It)


purple dot // karl-oskar ankarberg

A few nights ago, I had sex while on my period. And not when I was on the tail end of of my cycle, but when it had just started in a fury of blood & sensitivity.

It’s kind of a big deal. What’s even more monumental is that I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. It was so, so good, & I kind of want to have sex on my period all the time now.

Of course, you should know that it wasn’t always this way.

I’ve never really been too keen on having period sex. I’ve probably only done it a handful of times in my erotic life, & when I did it came from this undeniable, larger-than-me primal urge that seemed to scream from my body, “I need to fuck you, & I need to fuck you now—blood be damned!”

But even then, I couldn’t quite get connected to my body or the magic of the sex because I was far too distracted by the idea that we were making a mess—that I was making a mess—& everything would look like a crime scene.

And really, just the idea of having sex when I’m bloated & cramping & bleeding profusely from my vagina has always seemed very much unlike a good time to me. So, I stayed abstinent while on the rag for the sake of cleanliness & politeness. And if the primal urge so happened to take me over in a tsunami of lust & desire, I’d either repress it or give in & allow my partner to give me pleasure in whatever way he & I both feel comfortable, sans penetration.

The period sex that happened the other night wasn’t just an anomaly; by my personal track record, it really shouldn’t have happened at all. I had a “period headache,” I was bloated & crampy, & my body was exhausted after trying push through an active weekend in the face of these conditions. And yet. . . I gave in to my desire & allowed myself to be seduced by my lover.

Period sex is a curious thing. It requires total surrender to your body & its funny mechanisms. It requires total trust & surrender to your partner. And it asks of you to let go of any preconceived notions you might have about the erotic being tidy, serious, or prepared for.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve always avoided it, because stopping a hot ‘n heavy makeout session to run to the toilet to pull out a tampon isn’t sexy. For me, it’s actually felt rather mortifying, & that mortification & the leaving of the room can destroy the rhythm of the moment—that is, if you let it.

The other night, I don’t know why but I didn’t let it. I chose to make it playful, to keep it all very lighthearted. When I left the room to empty my DivaCup, I knew that his eyes were on me, that he was watching me walk away. So I swished my hips & swayed lightly, & with my movements I begged him to keep looking. And after I had finished with my cup, I brought a towel from the bathroom (to keep from messing up the sheets) & walked towards the bedroom again, my eyes fixed on him & his body which was ready for me, & I did a tiny dance with the towel, a smile playing on my lips.

I don’t know what got into me, & I’m not quite sure why it felt this light. I usually shudder at the thought of all this blatant & contrived preparation with sex, feeling embarrassment rush to my cheeks & choke my movements toward seduction. But that night, everything seemed to flow.

I have a theory about period sex—that because my body is already in a natural state of release, all of me, every cell in my body, is relaxed, fluid, ready to surrender. During sex, I was unclenched & open; I allowed all of him to enter me, & enjoyed feeling the totality of him inside me. I felt everything more intensely. It was joyful, delicious, intoxicating.

And as for the “mess”. . . it didn’t even cross my mind until afterward, when we had finished & I was sweaty & he was smiley, & he pulled himself out from inside of me & I saw what we had done. In that moment, I swooned.

His crimsoned dick, his belly spotted with my blood, might be (surprisingly) my favorite part of period sex. Maybe I’m gruesome, but that image is a beautiful depiction of the funny, messy nature of sex, & the sheer vulnerability & trust that is required to have it at all.

By having period sex, I am destigmatizing my menstrual cycle, my moon blood. I am shaking away the notion that my body is out of order & non-functioning one week out of every month. I am liberating all of the cycles & actualizations of my erotic energy—even the ones that are untidy.

Over the summer, I was invited to an all femme’s sex party. I wanted to go so badly, & I almost did, but I had my period then. When I texted the gal who invited me that I was going to be able to make it because I was bleeding out of my vagina that weekend, she texted back enthusiastically, “Come anyway! Makes a great lube. :)”

Thinking about it now, I’m certain that if I were invited to another sex party & I was on my period, I still wouldn’t go. . . not because of my period, but because that kind of sex is really special to me, & I only want it shared with someone / people who can not only appreciate the messiness, but honor the personal symbolism behind it.

What Does It Mean To Be a Woman?


makeup // catalina montaña

This is a question came up twice for me last week: once in my sensuality e-course, & another in a one-on-one session between me & a client. In both cases, it stumped us.

As soon as I heard that question, my mind began to fill with all kinds of proverbial frou-frou images that have, for most of my girlish life, represented woman: red lipstick; panty hose; shoes that go clip-clop! as I walk; pearls; tulle; eyelash curlers; pink bows; Victoria’s Secret’s super padded push-up bras; Chanel No.5; oven mitts.

But I know better. These are just things, empty tropes that have senselessly carried the weight & sacredness of adult femaleness for centuries. I see these “emblems of womanhood” & feel an instant sense of disconnect with them, because I know that there is a lot more to a woman than what brand of perfume she wears or where she buys her bras—simply because there’s more to me & my womanness than the perfume I wear or the bras that I buy.

Oh, I wish it were that simple. If only I could just by a tube of lipstick, a lacy bra, & a frilly skirt, & then—bam! Sensual adult woman activated! Wouldn’t that be nice?

And while it is true that those emblems of womanhood can contain within them an essence of the womanness one seeks, they’re only meaningful when they are worn, embodied. Otherwise, they’re just perfume on a shelf, bras on a clothes hanger. Empty.

So if being a woman (& I mean the essence of a woman, not the caricature of one) is not found in the lacy bra or the frilly skirt or the sugar, spice, & everything nice look & feel. . . then where is it & where can it be found?

What does it mean to be a woman?

Here’s what I think.

I think what it means to be a woman is as vast & varied as the women who claim the word themselves. I think that the expressions of womanhood are truly unique & intimate & personal, & cannot be defined by any one person—that is, not without using some of those empty tropes I mentioned above, which, as I’ve seen, can be useless.

I think that if anyone on the planet ever says to you, “Look here, being a woman means this & this & this!” run in the opposite direction. I don’t believe that anyone has any jurisdiction in telling you (in telling me) what it means to be a woman. Yes, even if she herself is a woman.

I don’t think that we can ask that question “What does it mean to be a woman?” without also asking “What does it mean to be who I am?” Because your womanness is intrinsically tied into the truth of who you are—all of your quirks, all of your traits, even the ones that are not soft.

I believe that if you incarnated into this life as a woman, if you claim that word as yours (regardless if the claiming is done with pride or uncertainty), it is your task to define what it means to be woman. Namely, to uncover who she is—who you are—in your own way, on your own terms.

So how do you uncover her? You give her safe space for her to be conjured. You honor her presence whenever you feel her pulsations inside of your body. You open yourself up to feel the pulsations of her inside of your body. You embody the truth that you are already a woman, that there is nothing that needs to be done or applied.

That’s a start.

I like to ask this one question whenever a client of mine is unsure of her womanness (or “lack of”):

When do you feel most like a woman?

I love this question because it has an air of lightness to it, much more than “What does it mean to be a woman?”, & there’s all kinds of curious things within its answer(s), things that can help her (you) to begin that journey of uncovering & actualization.

So, when do you feel most like a woman?

As for me. . . it’s true that I tend to feel most like a woman when I’m sporting red lipstick or when my hair looks just right or when I’m baking a pie. But mostly, the essence of my womanhood comes out when I feel at total home with myself. When I am unabashedly in my body—every crease, curve, & freckle. When I am honoring all of my inner rhythms—including the ones that feel dark or “unlady-like.” When I am tuning into my inner voice. When I’m speaking my truth.

My womanness includes much of the frou-frou images mentioned above, yes, but those things do not define me as a woman. And that, for me, is liberating, because it’s exhausting (not to mention unsustainable) to put such precedence on products or symbols & not on my own inherent magnificence.

I am a woman because I say so.
And so are you.

It’s Bi Visibility Day, & I Want You To See Me

// me, September 2014,  via Instagram

I am bisexual. I’ve finally found peace with this word, & am able to claim it while withstanding all of its negative connotations without shrinking. There’s something very radical to me about the word bisexual—to say it with pride, to use it as mine—probably because it has been so stigmatized.

People hate the word so much (I used to hate it, too), & they shy away from claiming it as there’s because of the bad vibes it can give off. So they use other words—queer, pansexual, fluid, heteroflexible—to take the sting out of what it implies.

But I’ve recently discovered that I don’t actually want to take the sting out; the sting needs to exist. The sting incites, prompts awareness.

And so I use the word bisexual these days very much like I use the word feminist—as a form of political activism & radical self-acceptance; to take up space & fan the flames of my own inner fire.

I am bisexual, & I am married—two major pieces of my beingness that I used to see as contradictory, but have transformed into symbols of my inherent complexity.

No, my fluid sexuality doesn’t negate my married self, & my marriage to a man (who, for the record, doesn’t identify as straight) doesn’t negate my sexuality. They work hand-in-hand simply because I’ve chosen to make them work in this way.

In a lot of ways, my marriage celebrates my bisexuality, & in the ways that it doesn’t, I celebrate & actualize it in my own way. (Opening up our relationship was one of the biggest expressions of that celebration, but writing posts like this, where I am come out from under my cloak & talk about my bisexuality is another.)

I am bisexual, & I want you to see me. Even though my origin story of bisexuality doesn’t date back to elementary school; even though I didn’t have my first raging girl crush until I was 18; even though my attraction to women is very much unlike my attraction to men—I deserve to be seen.

Bi erasure & invisibility is real—it’s being done to me, & I will admit that I’ve done it to myself. But I’m at a place in my life where I am ready to be seen as not only bi, but as a queer woman of color, as a tender witchy femme who believes in & conjures magick, as a fierce feminist with an affinity for both bell hooks & Beyoncé.

Words hold power, & within these particular ones—bisexual, QWOC, witch—I’ve found parts of my true self, & lasting liberation within those parts.

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More celebrations & glitter for bisexuality!

+ BLOGS : bidykebisexuwhales; bisexualweek.

+ RESOURCES : Autostraddle; Laci Green (this one, too); 8 Questions to Stop Asking Bisexuals; The Bisexual-Bisexual Marriage; & I Think I Might Not Be Straight, So What Am I?.

+ &. . . you’re in good company.

Special Note: Not only is today Bi Visibility Day, but it’s also Bi Awareness Week! Autostraddle, one of my favorite sites on the internet, has written a lovely little thing about how you can celebrate & support bi awareness.