Illness, injury, accidents and other sudden health changes disrupt our lives on all levels – including our sexuality, relationships and even our sense of identity. When our bodies experience massive changes, or are facing chronic pain or terminal illness, how do we begin to find a new normal in our sex lives? How can we turn towards pleasure again in the face of massive and ongoing changes?
This episode is an intimate interview between Pleasure Mechanic’s own Chris Maxwell Rose and Shango Los of the Shaping Fire podcast. Big love to Shango for hosting this beautiful conversation and for allowing us to share the full episode here. Shaping Fire is a leading cannabis podcast, covering medical cannabis, cannabis cultivation and more.
Podcast Episodes Mentioned:
- Spontaneous Vs. Responsive Desire
- Dual Model Control Of Arousal : Learn about the “gas and brakes” model of arousal
- Your Body Is Good Enough
- What Do You Want?
Other Resources Mentioned:
- Elle Chase’s book on positions for curvy bodies, useful for anyone looking for support around positions and modifications
- Disability Justice Resources
- 10 Principles of Disability Justice
Love the podcast? Ready for more? Join The Pleasure Pod & Start Exploring With Us!
Transcript for Speaking of Sex Podcast Episode #373: Turning Towards Pleasure While Living With Pain & Illness
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:00:00):
Welcome to Speaking Of Sex with the Pleasure Mechanics. I’m Chris from pleasuremechanics.com. On today’s episode, we are offering a replay of a beautiful long form deep dive interview that I had with Shango Los, the host of the Shaping Fire podcast. We’re going to replay the entire conversation for you today, because it’s one of the most rich and intimate conversations that I have had in the four years I have been living with chronic pain and a chronic illness after my major health crisis, just about four years ago this month. It’s a really beautiful conversation that Shango and I shared. He and I both were really moved by what came out of this space that he held so beautifully. So big thanks and big love to Shango Los of the Shaping Fire podcast.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:01:02):
Just to warn you, warn you and prepare you, this is a two-hour long interview. It is also running complete with the Shaping Fire podcast feed content and Shaping Fire’s A Cannabis podcast. This isn’t the first time we’ve talked about cannabis on this podcast and it won’t be the last. If cannabis is new to you, and this topic of cannabis medicine and wellness is a new subject, then get prepared and you’ll learn something along with our delightful host Shango Los. If you love what you hear, he has a beautiful podcast feed waiting for you with some gorgeous episodes about cannabis medicine, and breath work, and growing, and all sorts of beautiful topics. I am so grateful to Shango for inviting me into this conversation and for allowing us to share it with you all. I hope you enjoy it.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:01:59):
We are putting together a ton of resources for you under what I’m calling Sex After. Sex after pain, sex after illness, sex after diagnosis, sex after accidents and traumas. There’s all sorts of afters that our life throws at us, and we need to be able to explore what our sex lives look like after these major life changes. I’m going to be putting together resources for you, and you can always find them at pleasuremechanics.com/after, that’s pleasuremechanics.com/after. And, we will look together at surviving life’s changes and turning once again towards pleasure, towards joy, towards connection, no matter what these bodies of ours are doing and throwing at us.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:02:52):
Here we go with my conversation with Shango Los on the Shaping Fire podcast about turning towards pleasure while living with chronic pain and illness. I’m Chris from pleasuremechanics.com. We will be back with you soon with another episode of the Speaking Of Sex podcast. You can find all our offerings at pleasuremechanics.com, and offerings about this topic specifically at pleasuremechanics.com/after. Love you all. Here we go.
Shango Los (00:03:29):
Pain and chronic illness are so dynamic that they injure us on multiple levels. Certainly, there is the obvious pain and suffering that comes with chronic illness. For those, we use cannabis and other herbs and medicines. But then, there are the other injuries, from not being able to work, or perhaps play with our kids, or be intimate with our lover. Those are injurious to our soul, our zest for life.
Shango Los (00:03:53):
That last one, feeling so broken that we cannot manage to rise up and express sexually with our partners, can be incredibly soul crushing. Sometimes it leaves us feeling very lonely and ashamed. I know, because I’ve been there. After both my accidents, I was so broken that, while cannabis helped the pain, my inability to move properly made me feel like a broken man.
Shango Los (00:04:16):
That’s why we’re doing this show today, because I work with cannabis patients every day, and I know of the internalized emotional pain that comes from being vibrant and energetic inside with an inability to actually perform on the outside. It totally sucks. But, maybe this episode can help. There are solutions for these challenges. You’ll need an open mind, but there are indeed best practices to be learned so that you can have fulfilling intimacy and sex, even if your human body is suffering.
Shango Los (00:04:47):
If you want to learn about cannabis health, business, and technique efficiently and with good cheer, I encourage you to subscribe to our newsletter. We’ll send you new podcast episodes as they come out delivered right to your inbox, along with commentary on a couple of the most important news items from the week and videos too. Don’t rely on social media to let you know when a new episode is published. Sign up for the updates to make sure you don’t miss an episode.
Shango Los (00:05:10):
You are listening to Shaping Fire, and I’m your host Shango Los. Today, my guest is world renowned sex educator, Chris Maxwell Rose. Chris has been practicing as an independent sex educator since 2003 and hold certifications in both professional massage and somatic sexology, as well as a degree in sociology from Vassar. Chris is cohost of the wildly popular Speaking Of Sex podcast, perhaps better known as Pleasure Mechanics at pleasuremechanics.com.
Shango Los (00:05:39):
Today’s show is going to be something special. During the first set, we will discuss the mental and emotional challenges of having sex while experiencing chronic pain or chronic disease. The second set is all about interacting with your partner and how to communicate effectively when either you or your partner, or perhaps both of you, are suffering from a debilitating ailment. And then, the third set, we will talk very specifically about sexual positions, toys, and some creative strategies for sexualizing your everyday life, even in pain. As you can imagine, today’s episode is probably not one to listen to you with your kids in the car. While most podcast distributors give our show and explicit rating due to cannabis, we are really going to earn that explicit rating today. Welcome to the show, Chris.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:06:24):
Such a pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Shango Los (00:06:27):
I’m really grateful for you sharing your valuable time with us and your lifelong experience on this really important topic. Let’s get right into it. So many pain patients feel alone in their suffering, because most folks just don’t usually talk about sexual difficulty at all. Let’s start out by getting everybody in the same boat and feeling less isolated. Do you find it that it’s pretty common that painful injury or disease inhibits a person expressing their sexuality?
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:07:00):
I mean, yes, yes, and yes, all right. I’m finding the human condition and this human culture inhibits us from expressing our human sexuality. That’s the thing, is we’re in a sex negative, pleasure phobic, culture to begin with, and a culture that has a very narrow window of what it tells us is sexually permissible and for who. And so, when something like illness or injury, whether it’s temporary or chronic, strikes us when our lives change dramatically and things we have relied on our whole lives, our identities, change, sometimes non-consensually, sometimes very dramatically, our sexuality is one of those things that gets thrown into such dramatic upheaval. And yet, we don’t have a lot of support for it.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:07:56):
We don’t have an occupational therapist to help us get back on track. Very many of us don’t even have friends we can talk to honestly about it. And so, when change strikes our lives in any way, and we have to allow change in our sexual lives, this can be a moment of such huge disruption, shame, guilt, fear, shut down, because our options that we once relied on are no longer available to us.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:08:28):
Yes, this is huge. It’s huge for all of us no matter. That’s why I’ve been doing this work my whole life and I will be doing it until I die, because sexuality isn’t easy for any of us, for any of us. Even some of my coaching clients are quite literally super models. It’s not easy for them. And so, if complications are thrown at us or changes are thrown at us, it’s especially not easy. But, but change is also a moment of possible transformation of growth, of curiosity. And so, it can also, I think, because a lot of us discover when illness or pain comes into our lives, it can have strange blessings to it as well. It can have strange silver linings. This is especially, I think, true in sexuality, because it’s an opportunity to get to know ourselves again, to get to discover something about ourselves and our partner, to meet one another anew.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:09:28):
That’s how I approach it is with both holding the full complexity of this conversation and also honoring all the potential that is here with us. The pleasure, and the joy, and the love, and connection that sexuality is designed to give us. So, the question becomes how to access that.
Shango Los (00:09:46):
One of the things I’ve learned from working with pain patients is that so often the life decisions they have to make, because now they are injured or they’ve been given a diagnosis, means that not only do they have the pain and the diagnosis, but they also have to do other things. Maybe they have to move into a less expensive apartment, or maybe they have to move back with their family for goodness sakes. It’s so challenging, I would imagine, because not only do you have this trauma that has happened, and now you have this pain experience, but also at the same time, you’re trying to do these important interactions with your partner. It’s not super easy for most people to talk about their sexuality, even at the best of times. And, to be in a place where you’re experiencing so much pain and need to go through this significant vulnerable and growing time with your partner, it’s like, oh man, this is the worst time for me to even try to be open with my partner and try to grow emotionally to where I need to be to do that.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:11:01):
Well, that’s one perspective on it. I want to offer a few others. I also want to say, going into this conversation, I want all bodies to feel included in this. We need to honor that illness and injury is such a huge spectrum of how it impacts our bodies, what it gives us to work with, what it takes away from us. Some things are temporary. But, what all of us have in common, just from being humans, is change. That’s what I really want to come back to over and over again, because also even if you have a terminal diagnosis, there’s going to be a thousand changes along the way. So much of this becomes dancing with change, and allowing change, and changing our attitudes.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:11:44):
That’s the other theme I want to weave in here is allowing our attitudes about sex to change. One of the attitudes I want to just up right away, as you keep mentioning partners, our first and foremost relationship in our sexuality is with ourselves. Whether or not you have one partner, many partners, no partners for the foreseeable future, you have a sexuality. And so, as we talk about sexuality, I want to talk about our relationships with ourselves, how we feel about our bodies, what we desire, what we allow for ourselves, and how we meet another person naked in bed. Because sexuality lives in all of those spaces.
Shango Los (00:12:27):
Let’s talk about that relationship with our own body, because having been a pain patient myself, I know that after my car accident my body felt foreign to me. It was acting in ways that I had not experienced before. Luckily, I kept a pretty good head space about my relationship with my body, but there were certainly times that I was angry and I felt like my body was letting me down, even though it was doing everything it good to heal. Since our primary relationship with sexuality is with ourselves, what kind of advice do you have to offer people who feel that maybe their body has become diseased and is selling them out, and so it becomes an adversarial relationship?
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:13:17):
Totally. There can be a sense of betrayal. There can be a sense of grief for what was lost. There can be a sense of anger, like, “Why me?” This is especially true if you’ve been able bodied. Athletes or soldiers I’ve talked to who have been able bodied and use their body as a tool that could be relied upon, and even dialed in their body for optimal fitness. We all carry different relationships going into our illness.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:13:51):
When you wake up, many of us, we wake up in a hospital bed, we emerge into this new condition, we’re diagnosed, first, you have to really go through all of that shit. You have to be real with the anger. You have to be honest with the grief, and then try to find the mental space of asking, okay, what now? What next? What’s possible? Also, remembering that will change. So, my own health crisis, when I woke up in so much pain, there can be such a sense of, will it be this way forever? That breeds despair. Like, why would I even try? My sexuality has been taken from me. I’ll never love again. We can have these sense of just complete betrayal and despair from our bodies. It’s usually not true.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:14:40):
Sometimes, we need friendly faces or voices telling us that’s not true. Things will change. You’re still worthy and lovable. People will still find you desirable. That can be more or less hard to believe depending on your circumstances. Even again, with yourself, a sexuality is possible, pleasure is possible, joy and connection is possible, no matter what. You and I know this from working with people in terminal conditions at end of life, after disfiguring accidents. Pleasure, joy, love, all of these things that we want out of sex are still available to us. So maybe it’s my voice reminding of you of this for the first time, or a friend sitting with you at the bedside, or your partner still looking at you with love, desire, wanting, even if that wanting has changed.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:15:33):
Charlotte and I were together for a decade before I got sick. Our wanting used to be feisty, and playful, and full of passion and lust. And like, I want to tear your clothes off and do nasty things to you right now. That wanting change to, I want you to be alive with me. I want you to take your next breath. But that wanting was deeply romantic too, because we let ourselves feel it. So much of this is going to go back to feeling, letting yourself feel what you feel in the moment, being real with it, and then trying to have a sense of agency of what you want to feel next.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:16:10):
What do you want to experience next? What is possible for you given your condition? You might have pain for the rest of your life. Great. How are you going to have a sexuality with pain in the back seat? That’s now your question. A lot of this is about context. We forget sometimes how context dependent our sexualities are. If your context is now the ground level bedroom at your parents’ house, that’s a very different erotic context than your own apartment in the city. How are you going to make it work? That’s going to take curiosity, creativity, courage, commitment, practice, iteration, mistakes, but it’s possible. If you know it’s possible and you start asking that question, it can be a ray of warmth and pleasure a midst all of the rest of the horror your life has become for the moment. It can become a thread you follow back towards a new life. That also reminds, we can’t ask the question, when will normal come back? When will I get my old body back? After change, you never go back. You always go forward. [crosstalk 00:17:28].
Shango Los (00:17:28):
These ideas that you’re talking about, being open to change and to be willing to change the context of your sexuality, that seems like that would be the same path out of the feelings of depression that normally come with pain as well. There’s this initial shock when suddenly the pain arrives or if the pain comes slowly. Sometimes, it hits you when you get an official diagnosis. Not only does the pain itself, the I don’t want to perform in this way because it hurts, but then there’s also this depression that comes along with it, where it’s like, “Damn, I’m broken and I’m never going to be happy and love again.” That can be so heavy independently, that some people are so depressed that they lose will to express their sexuality just because they’re depressed. They don’t even have the pain. My heart goes out to those folks too. It sounds like they both share this pathway out that you’re describing of essentially releasing the definitions of what our society tells us is the pretty strict bandwidth of where sexuality lives. It doesn’t have to be that, that small of an area.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:18:58):
Totally. We keep using the word pain. It can be also nausea. It can be mental fog. There’s a lot of things that can come with illness or injury, lifestyle changes, health changes that impact our sexuality. Pain is a short word for all of them, because they’re all a pain in the ass. Embracing this change, totally, so much of it is about scripts and recognizing that our sexuality is, for a lot of us, for a lot of our lives, have been very dependent on identity based scripts that tell us what we should do, usually as men and as women, what people want of us, what successful sex looks like, what sex even means, what it is, what activities it involves. It’s kind of shocking, especially if you’re not queer, if you haven’t already spent a lot of time opening up your sexuality and your sexual attitudes.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:19:58):
When you start looking at it, you realize what a narrow script most of us are operating in and what it shoulds on us, like the shoulding on us is… And I use that intentionally as almost like a nasty verb, because that’s how it feels. What should a man do in bed? What should a woman do in bed? How should a man feel? For a lot of us, these gendered scripts tell us a man should be the active initiator. The one that gets on top and thrusts. The one that initiates with a rock hard penis at any moment. A woman should be desirable. She should be able to receive penetration. She should be wet.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:20:44):
It turns out none of these actually align with our lived experience of sexuality. None of them align with the human physiology and mechanics of sex. There’s so much more available to us beyond the script. And so, this is the liberation that’s possible when all of a sudden our script is burned in the bonfire of life, and we’re like, “Holy shit, what am I left with?” “My Dick doesn’t work,” or, “It doesn’t stay hard long enough.” “My pussy doesn’t want to be penetrated anymore.” Do you want softer words, I’m realizing?
Shango Los (00:21:19):
No. I mean, we’re already a cannabis show. We count as explicit, so I guess we’re just earning it today.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:21:28):
Yeah. Perfect. ” My body doesn’t want to be penetrated anymore or as often.” “I am tired all the time.” These changes that come, that throw our scripts in the fire, what are you left with? This is the deep inner work that we get to do. Not that we have to do, that we get to do, when we have big changes in life, that reveal so much about ourselves, that reveal what is left of our desire when the scripts get tossed out the window. What actually is possible from these two bodies right now, as is.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:22:08):
I was on another podcast, Disability After Dark, which is another great resource to check out, especially for folks who get thrown into major life disabilities. Andrew and I boiled it down to, we end up being just two bodies in a room together asking, “What do you want? How can I please you? How can I serve you?” That is such a beautiful place to be with another human being when all the bullshit is stripped away, when there’s just this urgency of life and of time, which is also another gift a disease gives us is we have an urgency of life again.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:22:46):
From that place, boundless pleasure is possible. Human bodies, and I know this as a polymorphous queer person who has fucked and been fucked by all sorts of bodies, human bodies can fit together in all sorts of ways, and pleasure one another in all sorts of ways. We don’t need any one specific capability or ability to engage with that. Some of the most beautiful lovers and kinkiest people I’ve known have had the most limitations and the most creativity and willingness to play with one another. I don’t know. I just really want to have the attitude of, because I can… Sorry, I bumped my mic.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:23:36):
I think what is essential here is confronting the attitude that tells us all is lost. You’ll never love again. It’ll never be the same, therefore there’s nothing to look forward to. That despair does not help us heal. It doesn’t help us manage our pain. It doesn’t help us connect with our current lover or partners we want to be engaged with. Despair is not useful for very long. It can be a very temporary state to languish in for a while and feel it fully, grieve what has been lost. And then, if you’re going to choose to continue living, the question has to be, what next? What now? What do I want to experience?
Shango Los (00:24:21):
Well then, let’s talk about that place at the beginning, because when… Well, I, after my accident, after I got over the initial awareness that I had been in an accident, and I had a brain injury, and I was in a lot of pain, and experienced a lot of exhaustion, I don’t even really remember the first three weeks after it. I disappeared from everybody, and I mostly just slept. When I really came to grips with the reality of my life, I felt scared and alone.
Shango Los (00:25:06):
And so, I called up my partner at the time. I said, “Hey, I know I’ve been missing,” but I told her I’d love to get together with her. We got together, and touching led to lovemaking, and suddenly the vertigo was there. And like you were talking about the male role earlier, as I was going through traditional male roles, I’ll just leave it at that, I got really dizzy. I was above her, and this combination of feeling dizzy, and swooning, and falling to the side, at the same time I realized what was happening and what this meant for my life. I started crying. And then, I’m realizing that, “Oh my gosh, I’m injured and I’m crying. What a disappointing guy.” It all builds up really fast in the moment. Luckily, I’m a pretty vulnerable speaker anyway. And so, I was able to speak with her about what was going on for me, and I’m grateful for that.
Shango Los (00:26:24):
For people who are at that place and their self-worth is so diminished because of whatever this health challenge is that they’re dealing with, it takes a certain amount of self-worth or moxie to start down this path you’re talking about. Being vulnerable and recontextualizing sexuality for oneself, that’s not really easy work. What would you say the baby steps are, in concrete terms, for somebody who realizes that they’re here, but they are emotionally ready to change it?
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:27:00):
Yes. Well, thank you for sharing that story, because it encapsulates so much. When I say, our scripts have gone in the fire, fuck them, I say that with a certain amount of queer reverence, but I also say that knowing that our scripts are deeply comforting. They are what have told us that we have value, that we belong, that we are wanted. When we think about that moment of seeing your lover again and conversation leading to kissing, leading to love making part of what’s going connect, and you’re trying to establish, we can still do this.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:27:44):
The question that has to be asked is, what is the this we are still trying to do, and what is the new way we are going to do it? This starts with talking. This starts with communicating about sex. I want to say, again, this step of changing our erotic lives can happen with or without illness, with or without disease. The more loaded your life is the harder this is, the more pieces that you can control. You’re not doing this erotic transformation under the best of circumstances. You’re a little bit transforming under duress.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:28:18):
There’s a lot of self-compassion that has to come into play here, and patience, and just baby stepping into it. Some of this is like taking stock of what the situation is. What is your body capable of right now? How has your body changed? That process can take months. Again, changes can happen so quickly in illness that this has to be an ongoing process.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:28:50):
In mindfulness, we have one of our courses is Mindful Sex, which I actually developed while I was sick and healing, because the way I managed my pain and my rapidly changing body was so much with my mindfulness training I had from 10 years earlier. So much of that is about paying attention moment to moment without judgment. Really easy to say, hard to do. It’s an essential practice when we’re sick, because we have to pay attention to our bodies. A lot of us have to track our symptoms. That becomes kind of a super power over time, where we get to know our bodies really well. We can talk about that later, but the first step of taking stock. Where’s my body at? What can I feel? What capabilities do I have? Do I not have? And how different does my sex life need to look? Because, for some of us, the changes will be subtle, but really profound. For others of us, it’s completely different.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:29:51):
The activities, and positions, and interactions we are used to are no longer available. That might take some really serious creativity bringing in toys you’ve never even heard of to assist you in having the experiences you want. All of this starts with conversation either with yourself first. You’re lying in bed, you’re trying to heal. And you’re like, “All right, body, what do we have? What do we have to work with? What desires are there?? Because, your desires might have also changed. The sex life you used to have might be even not even thinkable to you. Going out to the club, dancing, picking up girls, if that was your sex life before, it might not even be possible anymore. If you used to make love to your wife four times a week, that might not even be on your mind.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:30:41):
I’m curious with you and your process, as sexuality got on your mind, was it about, will I belong? Will I be lovable? Will I be dateable? Will I be alone? Or was it about, when’s the next time I’m going to be able to have sex? We need to stop thinking about sex as this package deal and start realizing how much we get out of sex, physical touch, [inaudible 00:00:31:05] [crosstalk 00:31:05].
Shango Los (00:31:05):
For me, it was about not mattering anymore. Because, you know how our sexuality and how we present ourselves about sex, gives people an impression about what our thoughts are about sex. For me, it was like, have I made myself no longer relevant to the saucy sexy people who I identified with when I was that age? Granted, I was going out to clubs and things more at that time. Since my brain injury, I stopped going out to clubs entirely. It was is my feelings of being irrelevant. That’s scary, when somebody perceives themselves as being… Going to art openings, and going to restaurant openings, and getting to go all the cool stuff, and then realizing that, I’m in a lot of pain, and I can barely walk, and I get overstimulated. Am I really just going to be at home sitting here alone forever?
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:32:12):
Right. A lot of this is about the modeling we have for sick and disabled people, which frankly sucks. And so, I also encourage people to start following and feeding their social media feeds with the disability justice community who talk and speak about their bodies with respect, and reverence, and honor, no matter what. It’s a beautiful community to learn a lot from.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:32:38):
That thing of belonging. I was with Charlotte for 10 years. We had been sex educators. We were committed to Eros as a spiritual path. I got sick, and I was like, “Go on without me. Leave me. Find a better lover.” That self-deprecating, I am worthless now, that is our internalized ableism speaking. That is our culture telling us, you are no longer valuable. You are no longer worthy. You are no longer lovable. And, it’s just not true.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:33:12):
Hopefully, the people in your life will start showing you that, showing you how deeply lovable you are, no matter what. If not, start surrounding yourself, hopefully, with people who can reflect that back to you. My ice just clinked. Hopefully surround yourself with people who can reflect that to you. Ultimately, this is a gift we give ourselves. We find our worthiness again. Again, this is about identity. The things that we identified with, our communities that we felt a part of, that we found joy and belonging with may not be accessible to us. Part of that is on that community to be more accessible and inclusive. It’s also part of it is our desires might shift. As you said, your love of music might transform from going to festivals to listening deeply at home with.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:34:03):
I’m going to festivals, to listening deeply at home with headphones on totally blissed out. Your desire for nature might change from surfing to sitting on the shore meditating. How does your body now fit with your pleasures and your desires, this is going to be the adventure of a lifetime to figure out as your body continues to change. I think what we know from people who are ill, even with terminal cancers, even with persistent pain that would … the thing pain patients hear all the time, it’s like, “Oh, I just can’t imagine living that way.” It’s like, well, if the option is death, you get used to a lot. Our bodies are so resilient and adaptive that eroticism and sexuality can be a part of that. How will your sexuality adapt? How do your attitudes need to change? That’s where it starts for so many of us.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:34:57):
I get emails every day about the struggles and people want the solution. But what happens if we swim upstream to the attitude that is generating that experience of the struggle that is telling you that because your penis isn’t hard, sex isn’t possible? Well, let’s swim upstream, change that attitude, show you what sex is possible and then you can choose from the menu of delights, right?
Shango Los (00:35:21):
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:35:22):
Changing our attitudes, because frankly, our sexual attitudes are just really, really toxic in this culture. So we all need to do this work, but when we do it through this lens of change and transformation in order to give ourselves the joy of sex back in our lives, it’s really a gift to ourselves. I really want to remind people this doesn’t have to look even like partnered sexuality. If you are facing a terminal illness, your eroticism might look like a lot of solo time in nature, taking deep joy and pleasure out of that time, that might be your erotic expression. It’s really variable, but what’s important is that it’s yours and on your terms.
Shango Los (00:36:08):
I’ve got one more path I want to take on this idea of a relationship with ourself first, before we go to our first commercial. During the second set, we’ll talk a lot more about vulnerability and communication with other people, but I think it’s really important that we get that relationship with ourselves good and grounded first. And that’s this; if you go to the extreme, if you go beyond just the pain and then just the depression and then just the diminished self-worth, if you continue that, there are people who have gotten to a point that performing sexually under duress of pain in the bedroom is so bad that people begin to form negative associations around sex generally. So far what you and I have been talking about, there seems to assume some seed of wanting to be sexual again. We know that sexuality is part of an overall healthy human makeup and life experience. What kind of insight would you have to offer with people who have felt like this for so long that that sexuality or the expression of it has become like a contrast for them, a conflict, it’s the enemy, though they know that it might be good for them.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:37:42):
The word that really stuck out in your question was performance, to perform under duress. That sounds miserable for anyone in any arena. So much of sex again, when we’re talking about scripts, you perform a script. We have been taught that sex is a performance and you do it well, or you fail. You are a sex God, or you’re a total loser.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:38:07):
We are taught that sex is a performance that you get a grade on. Sex is something we experience through our bodies, through our beings. We can stop performing sex and start being sexual beings. Again, this isn’t just cute language for Instagram; this is really an important attitude shift where if the question is not, can I perform sex tonight according to a script and I have to hit these certain marks in order to be successful, if the question is, what do I want to experience, what is my body capable of, what’s available to me, how can I serve you, how can I pleasure you if you have a partner, then you have an open ended path to take together.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:38:58):
It’s so important to remind people of this, because so much of that, not tonight honey, or dodging sex or avoiding the rejection cycle comes out of this, if I initiate sex, we have to do X, Y, and Z, and it’s a package deal. And if your body isn’t feeling like being penetrated and your husband initiated sex, it’s so much easier to be like, nope, not available, then to communicate “Well, I’m not really available for penetration, but X, Y, and Z sounds good. Let’s see, after the foot massage. Let’s start with the 10 minute foot massage, see how that makes me feel,” and know that there’s no pressure to continue either way. And, “If you want to get off after my foot massage, I will watch you as you stroke yourself.”
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:39:45):
This level of sexual communication is almost unthinkable to most people. This level of sexual knowing of having that ease and fluency of talking about sex is unthinkable. So where do we need to start? By talking about sex, by thinking about sex, by getting new ideas so we have a vocabulary of what might be possible if that intercourse, a few minutes of oral leading to intercourse script is no longer available to you, what then? There is so much available to you and people like me are here to tell you and root you on and remind you that you are not alone.
Shango Los (00:40:26):
In the end, that’s pretty much what the goal I had with this show is because I know that a lot of folks who are not in the best relationships with their body and who use cannabis for pain or other relief, they could probably use hearing this message too. So thank you, Chris.
Shango Los (00:40:45):
We’re going to take a short break and be right back. You are listening to Shaping Fire, and my guest today is sex educator, Chris Maxwell Rose.
Shango Los (00:40:54):
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Shango Los (00:42:26):
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Shango Los (00:42:47):
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Shango Los (00:43:18):
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Shango Los (00:43:57):
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Shango Los (00:45:22):
As of today, there are over 100 videos that you can check out for absolutely free. Go to youtube.com/shangolos, or click on the link in this week’s newsletter.
Shango Los (00:45:33):
Welcome back. You are listening Shaping Fire. I’m your host Shango Los, and our guest this week is sex educator, Chris Maxwell Rose.
Shango Los (00:45:42):
As we saw in the first set, common challenges to fulfilling sex for pain patients, or really anybody who is looking for body relief, is often a blend of emotional and interpersonal communication and physical issues. This is working on a lot of different levels.
Shango Los (00:45:59):
Let’s talk next about the communication aspects. Because these insights likely work for anyone who hesitates from talking about sex at all. You don’t necessarily have to be injured. But since today, we’re really focusing on cannabis patients with chronic pain or other chronic issues, Chris, what sort of advice do you give to folks who want to initiate conversation with their partner or potential partner to get them talking about their desires and physical limitations? Because so often it’s just the getting started part that’s so hard. You open your mouth and you want sound to come out and it’s hard. So where can people start with that?
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:46:41):
It’s such a great question. We need to remember when we’re talking about all communication, one of the things we’re doing is we’re making the invisible, visible. We are bringing our interior life outward to be shared and that can be vulnerable, it can be scary, but it’s also what makes things possible. I just want to give you a little bit of cheerleading that while opening up your mouth and speaking about sex might be one of the scariest things you do in this process, it will also be deeply rewarding if you stick with it.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:47:16):
Because part of communicating about sex is getting specific. We’ve been talking about the script, we all get kind of this cultural download about what sex means, what it means to be a man or a woman, what it means to be sexy, what it means to be desired. A lot of that information is frankly just wrong or comes from a deeply sex negative place that’s trying to very limit your sexual experience. So what we want to do is open up our minds, open up our vocabularies and start getting ideas, insights and options. Ideas are pathways to possibility. We need to have that in order to envision what is possible for us. Because if you’re a man who’s just gotten a prostatectomy and you’ve lost your penis function, or you’re in so much lower back pain the idea of thrusting is just nowhere on the table, the question has become like, well then what is possible?
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:48:21):
Communication can start with listening, reading, or watching. That is a form of communication where you are starting kind of in the receptive role. There are great podcasts. Ours is just one of them. There are books you can read. We’ll try to put some resources together for you. That can be a really gentle way to start as you’re lying in bed, as you’re going for your healing walks, whatever it is, listen to a podcast. And when there’s an episode that resonates for you, share it. Share it either with your intimate partner, even with a friend. Talking about sex with friends can be less scary maybe than talking about it with your partner.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:49:03):
You want to find a zone of safety. And when I’m talking about safety, I’m not talking about just physical safety from violence; I’m talking about the social safety. There’s a lot of brain science we can go in here, but I’ll keep it simple. The social safety where you feel connected and you belong and you’re accepted, where you can feel calm and interested in conversation, that’s the zone you want to try to talk about sex out of. If you’re feeling scared and activated and ashamed and fearful, your brain can’t really work, you can’t really communicate well and so that’s maybe a signal to you. If you feel that in your body like, “Oh, this is feeling too scary,” that you want to take a baby step back and listen to some more podcasts or try something different.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:49:52):
One of the resources I’ll give to you is an episode we did about nonverbal communication. You can write your lover a letter. You can choose your own adventure book with your lover, where you say, “Would you rather this or that?” You can listen to a podcast together walking on the street with headphones on and then stop at a bench and discuss it. You already have this whole banquet of language to talk about. You can print out an article and highlight a few sentences. And just say to your lover, “You know, I saw this article about this thing. What do you think?” You’re not saying I want this. Will you do it to me? That’s a really charged question. It’s just saying, what do you think about this idea?
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:50:39):
But for many of us talking about sex is scary because of all the shame, all of the guilt, all of the stigma associated with sex in general. And we’re on different places with us. There’s generational issues here, there’s cultural differences. You also want to get to a place where you can think and talk about sex on your own even in your own mind, in your own authentic voice in a way that doesn’t start with shame, that doesn’t start with fear. That can take some excavation if you’ve learned different … People have different cultural backgrounds that tell them that sex itself is dirty or that pleasure during sex is not the goal, or that bodies should not be seen. All sorts of messages we internalize. Sometimes it’s shocking, what we realize what we have to kick out of bed. We think we’re really sexy free beings, and then we realize just how constrained we are by shame or traumas from the past. A lot of this is again, that self-inward stuff of, all right, this is going to be scary to talk about. But the truth is after an illness and injury, a disease, there’s so much, you need to talk about. Your mobility might have changed. Your diet probably has to change. Your cannabis use might change. So you need conversations with your lover or your partner or the people you’re living with and yourself about all of these things, and sex is just going to be one of them.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:52:11):
What I find is that a lot of partners are really relieved when the subject comes up. Because I think when your partner is in a hospital bed or has this new injury, sex can feel unimportant to name. Very few of the doctors will bring it up, especially if they don’t perceive that children are an issue. There’s so much there. The medical industry needs so much training about sexuality, but they might not even mention it. Or they might say something flippant like, “Wait six weeks and then you should be able to resume normal activities.” Really? What?
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:52:50):
I always wish I could pop into people’s bedrooms as the sex fairy and just be like, “It’s okay. There are options.” But we don’t have that magical sex fairy, and so we need to be bold and courageous to just look our partner in the eye and be like, “How are we going to connect? What are the stages here? What are the seasons ahead of us? Are we heading towards a terminal illness and we’re facing a very specific season ahead of us? Is this the acute phase and things are going to get better.” Most of the time you don’t actually know, and so it’s just about being, and this is a language that really came out of my illness was being in the current sexual season that you are in. Looking at your partner, being like, “This is where we are right now. What do you need? What do I need? How can we meet each other? Where do our Venn diagrams overlap?” They might not be touching at all.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:53:47):
And some of this, and I think we’ll maybe touch on this later, but what does the non-ill person need, assuming that just one of you is more deeply impacted. Although that’s not always true. What does the healthier partner need, the more able bodied partner need? Because sometimes their needs get totally overlooked. It becomes all about the sick person and resentment starts to build and that can lead to other things.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:54:15):
It’s a conversation about both of you and about recognizing the season you’re in deeply with honesty, with humility, with all the feels and then starting the conversation about, “Okay, what do we need? What do we need to talk about to move forward?” And sometimes talking itself is the erotic relationship for a while. If you can’t physically move, maybe you’re going to be in a conversation for a few months, and that’s an opportunity to read erotica together, to listen to podcasts, to get more honest about what you’re both wanting.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:54:55):
But it doesn’t always go this smoothly. I’m painting a picture of what is possible. People are going to find themselves in all sorts of different contexts and all sorts of different conversations. I think what we want to try to center is the dignity, the idea that sexuality can be a pleasurable part of your life, no matter what, it just might look different, and embrace this idea of change. This is where we are right now. We don’t know where we’ll be in three or six months. So what fun, what pleasure, what connection can we share right now?
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:55:31):
Some people will be in the mood to have an orgasm the second they wake up in a hospital bed. That impulse is there and they are ready to reclaim their sexuality. For other people it is dormant asleep. It gets buried under a ton of other survival needs and it wakes up slowly. It’s so much about seeing where you’re at, honoring it fully and then going from there with support. Yeah.
Shango Los (00:56:00):
You have set up a couple of different scenarios so that people can create this vulnerable environment where whatever that looks like for them, with whoever they’re choosing to speak to, and that’s good. I, like you though, have this ideal highest picture that once folks start talking and they get the ball rolling, that the words will come freely and the conversation will be animated and there’ll just be all this wonderful healing. But I know that for a lot of people that is not going to be the case. Their partner might be in a place where they are traumatized from the other person’s injury or whatever’s going on for them. They may have their own sexual hangups where they’re like, “I don’t want to talk about this.” Why don’t you share some insights on that? If you’re the patient and you are trying to create this vulnerable and sharing dynamic so that you can kind of get off script and create this new context as you’re describing, but the partner is a little resistant because they’re just not there with you in their head yet.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:57:24):
Yeah. Yeah. Again, this is a disparity that can come up with or without illness, the idea that one person wants to talk about it and explore, and the other is unwilling. And so much of this again, is excavating and meeting the other person where they’re at and recognizing I know you come from a long line of stubborn women who aren’t willing to talk about hard things, but it’s really important. Maybe that’s not the best lead-up.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:57:54):
One of the best questions I really like is how can I love you right now? What is one way I can take care of you? Especially when I was sick and my role is the giver and the lover and the one with magic hands, all of that was gone. And part of my worthlessness, that feeling of despair is I have nothing left to give. I’m taking so much as a patient. I’m not producing. I’m not working. Giving the sick partner opportunities to show up in love and do something is a gift to both of you.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:58:32):
So if the healthy partner can say, “What I love is to sit and bitch at you all about my day and have you just listen.” Great. Or, “Are you available to give me a foot massage?” You might be really sick, but still available to touch your lover. “Are you willing to sit with me and watch porn and just be with me while I watch a little porn and masturbate?” Is that in your vocabulary?
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:58:59):
Looking at what options are there. But okay [inaudible 00:59:03] you’re asking about the people who are … I’m talking about watching porn together, and you’re asking about talking about sex. There’s this huge gap. I work with this gap every day. Our audience represents this huge range of human sexual experience from the frozen and mired in shame and trauma to the point that you barely want to look at your own eroticism, to like, “I am ready to explore the mountain tops of what’s possible.” We’re all somewhere in that process, and we swing wildly within it. We’ve been in it our lives. I’ve been at all stages multiple times.
Chris Maxwell Rose (00:59:41):
When you’re sick, the vulnerability and just that holding on to life is so precious and can be so erotic that your pleasures will make themselves known to you. Because when I say erotic, I don’t mean like this is deeply sexual and sexy. I mean, erotic, as in you are feeling big feelings, you are feeling alive, you’re feeling that pulse of vitality.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:00:05):
At my sickest is when I felt that thrumming through me of like, “What am I alive for? What pleasures are still available to me?” You might be someone who loves flowers. Go deep into flowers. Put flowers by your bedside every day and marvel at them and let that fuel you. Your relationship with sexuality doesn’t have to be like the far out sexy sex we think about. It’s this whole range of pleasure, joy, connection.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:00:39):
So if you’re starting this conversation with your partner and things have changed, so much of the question is like, what are you scared of, might be a really good place to start. What are you worried about? Because that will allow the vulnerability from both of you. “I’m worried I’ll never be able to make love to the same way. I’m worried we won’t be able to have children. I’m worried if we do have children, we won’t be able to parent the way we thought.” Your worries will come bubbling up. That is going to be scary, but you’re both holding them anyway. That’s the thing.
Shango Los (01:01:15):
I like that too, because you’re not initiating the conversation with, let’s do new sexual things. You’re starting with tell me your story that you’re saying inside to yourself. I think that if the other partner is potentially going to feel awkward with this conversation, starting with them saying their truth, telling their story, I would say that that would be one of the easier places to start when somebody is feeling super hesitant, because maybe they have been traumatized by their partner being traumatized and maybe they’re not too comfortable talking about sex at all.
Shango Los (01:01:58):
I mean, my gosh, I have dated women who the main thing they wanted was to just be treated not meanly. And to put someone in a position where they’re being asked to share what matters to them, even just emotionally, I would say that that may be a really soft ball entree to get words and emotions flowing.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:02:33):
Yes. Yeah. And that soft flubbery place where you’re both kind of like torn open a little bit is a good place to be if you can get there safely. Again, I want to come back to that, how do you create a context for these conversations to happen where you both feel regulated, you feel connected, you feel like you can say things and mess up and be forgiven? This is what we call the culture of your relationship. And so, depending on what the culture of your relationship was before and after whatever this big change was, you’ll have your own strategies.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:03:11):
One of the best strategies is getting in the car and driving together for that harder conversation, because you’re not forced to look at each other. You’re not forced into that eye contact that can become confrontational for some people.
Shango Los (01:03:24):
There is some kind of magic about road trip talks, isn’t it? I don’t know what that’s about really. Maybe it is because you’re not looking at each other or that so often part of the road trip is at night, and so somehow maybe we feel a little safer by the dashboard lights alone. But there really some magic about the kind of depth that comes when you’re in the car for hours together.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:03:46):
Yeah. Solutions then can start coming up once you know what the fears are, once you know what the vulnerabilities are. Sometimes you’ll say the thing a loud that you’re so afraid of, and your partner will be like, “Oh baby, you don’t need to worry about that. That’s not even on my mind.” And that relief is just palpable. Or they’ll say, “Oh, I’ve been thinking about that. I’ve been waking up at night with these thoughts. So what do we do?” And you can look at each other knowing, okay, now we’re both in this together. Or they’ll say, “You know, I never even thought about that. This is what I’m worried about. This is what’s right in front of me preventing me from connecting with you.” And then you can address that together. You need to get on a same page so you can start writing what is next, what is coming for you?
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:04:34):
The vast number of changes, adaptations, pivots you’re going to have to make in your life … and this is just [inaudible 01:04:44] … we’re recording this in 2020 in the middle of a global pandemic, and so we’re getting a master lesson in change and resilience. This is what the human condition is about, and we’re actually really good at it. We’re better at it when we do it together with people we have established love and connection and affection with. And so you can leverage this.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:05:09):
Relationships will change. Sometimes illness, injury comes, relationships will end. One partner is just not in for the ride and that has to be valid. There can be huge amounts of abandonment, betrayal, and all sorts of things there, but if you are in for the ride together, if you are saying, “All right, we’re going to embrace this change and keep on loving each other,” this is a moment where everything gets to change and both of your needs get to be more fully met.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:05:36):
You get to be in that crazy wild adventure of living together. Illness can wake you up and create this urgency if we allow it. It can also be terrifying and put us in states of freeze. But if we are awake to our condition, if we don’t feel alone with it, if we feel resourced, which is very hard in this particular country with our healthcare system … and again, what is your stress? Because we talk about all of these things. If you’re ill, probably the top stressors on your list has nothing to do with your sex life. It’s health insurance, it’s medications, it’s your job. But all of those things create a context where you no longer feel the place to play, you no longer feel the desire or the permission to let go and enjoy yourself. And so we need to look at the whole life context. What’s the stressors are. How you’re going to relieve your stress cycles together. Your partner might need permission like, “You go to your yoga class three times a week. I’ll call in my other friend for the assistance I need for bath time.” You need care networks also to get through this. The idea that your partner is going to be your caretaker, help you with all the health insurance paperwork, maybe be a co-parent and be your lover, that’s a lot to ask. Who else in your community can help? Who else in your community can even provide you with companionship or conversation to lighten the load between you so there’s more space for this connection, this play?
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:07:11):
It’s a lot. This is a lot. I want to say you and I have both been in it. I’m now about four years out of my health crisis, and now living with chronic illness and pain. It has completely transformed how I approach my work as a sex educator. I’ve always been aware of the complexity of sex. We’ve always approached it that way. This has been such a humbling lesson in how complicated, how nuanced it can be, but also how powerful it can be to give yourself even when you’re sick, even if you’re dying, even if you’re riddled with pain permission to ask the question, what would make me feel good right now? What would give me a little bit of pleasure in my day? Maybe how can I give someone else pleasure? Because a lot of us giving someone else pleasure is a joy for us too that …
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:08:03):
Because a lot of us giving someone else pleasure is a joy for us too, that makes us feel worthy of being alive again. So, even having a shred of that, that is like, bring me flowers for my bedside. That is an act of erotic agency on that day. And it counts.
Shango Los (01:08:19):
I like this term that you used, the culture of a relationship. And I think that it’s something that is probably not uncommon, that someone gets injured or gets a bad diagnosis in a relationship, and they’re already in a really crappy cultural relationship. And the vulnerability and the strategies that we’re talking about today, they kind of assume a modicum of healthy culture in the relationship. And I think that it’s probably worth addressing the idea that maybe you have got this new pain or disease or whatever in your life, and you actually don’t want that other person around. The trauma has made you realize that they’re not going to be helpful during this time. I was thinking about the first set when you talked about how the primary sexual relationship is with ourselves, certainly self-gratification, but even getting yourself flowers. Right?
Shango Los (01:09:31):
And I think that people should remain free to know that they can make a decision to no longer be with the partner that they were before the accident or whatever, and it doesn’t mean that they are choosing to fire sex, right? They are probably choosing to express it themselves for a while. And they’re going to have to develop some skills to attract, find another partner that they could build a healthier context of relationship with. But there is certainly enough stress that comes from a trauma like that, that we’ll just go ahead and take a bad relationship and just crush it.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:10:23):
Well, I think many of us will be nodding along when we talk about this moment of, you see who your friends are after you get sick, you see what people can hold. And I don’t want to judge people who can not hold the intensity, or some people will just slip away. But some people in your life will show up for you in ways you never expected. The sad thing here is we don’t have a culture that teaches us how to love one another. This is something I have been raging against recently. We don’t have a culture that shows us how to show up for our friends in the hospital, how to love people who are dying. Most of us get totally freaked out and ghost. So a lot will change. Your friendship circle will change. Your family network will change. Let the people in who are offering help.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:11:15):
And as you said, show people the door who are making you feel lesser than, who are making you feel like a burden. You will think all of that of yourself, you do not need people in your life telling you that. That is their ableism at work, that is their fear of mortality. It’s an uncanny thing how little healthy people like to be reminded of their mortality. And so, especially again, if you come out of a community of athletes, like some of your friends are going to be really shitty to you. Some people, and often it’s the people who have had a sick mother, or a sick friend, who have gone through an illness themselves, will show compassion for you, let it in and allow your life to change in that way too. But yes, absolutely, if your relationship is not one that can change with this change in your life, it takes an act of courage to be even more, I don’t want to use the word alone, but without partnership, without that support. But bad support is actually a burden.
Shango Los (01:12:24):
Yeah. Yeah. Bad support just makes everything worse, right? Sometimes you’re like, Oh my gosh, I wish my helper would go away. I’d rather be trying this on my own.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:12:33):
And there might be a step there, what does your helper need? Again, we’re not trained to be caretakers. And I’ve been in both the role of caretaking someone with a huge major illness and being taken care of, to the point where I couldn’t lift my limbs and they were being arranged for me. That role is like a sacred, beautiful role and if you’re not getting professional support, you might as a family unit, as an individual, need to ask for more help about how to make these changes. Our medical system, again, you get sent home from the hospital with a brochure and it’s like, good luck figuring it out. So for me, it’s online communities of people with my condition, podcasts like this, are where you will get the support to figure out the changes ahead of you.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:13:23):
Ask other people with your condition about their sex life, right? Get on the Facebook group and be the bold one to be like, so, what have you guys figured out about your sex life after this? Any tips? You’ll get responses. You have to be willing to talk about this and know that you’re not alone whatever you’re facing, right? Whether that’s sex through pain, sex through disease, sex at the end of life, there are people who have done this before and have your back and can be in loving conversation with you to figure this shit out. You do not have to go it alone.
Shango Los (01:13:58):
Another thing that our American culture is not super great at at the moment is self care. And in the first set we hit on depression as an obstacle to sexuality, any suggestions on getting yourself in the mood? It sounds like it should be an obvious thing. But I think that with the general lack of self care that we have in our country, and then if you add pain or a diagnosis or something that pushes us off our game, that it may not be immediately obvious to people to get themselves back in their own mindset, even want to be sexual.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:14:43):
Yeah. So this is another one of those moments where we’re swimming upstream and getting a new framework that will help here. And that is one of the two forms of desire. The two forms of sexual interest. We talk about spontaneous desire a lot, right? I’m just in the mood, I get horny, it is like a thunderbolt comes out of the sky and bam. That is not often how people get aroused. There’s also responsive desire, where something feels good, your brain tracks it, says, hmm, that feels good. More of that, please. And it builds on itself. So, when we know that both spontaneous desire and responsive desire are possible, responsive desire is the one we have a lot more agency over. We can start cultivating an attitude of curiosity about pleasure, right?
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:15:38):
So, so much of this is of curiosity towards pleasure. What is bringing me pleasure today, I’m going to follow that thread. And in the mood for what? Again, if it’s a package deal of kissing, oral sex, intercourse, and I’m not in the mood for intercourse, I’m just going to throw out the whole package. Maybe I’m in the mood to cuddle, and I can express that. It would feel really good just to lie in bed, turn all the lights off, get under three duvets and have you lie behind me naked. Can you give yourself permission to ask for what you want? That is a huge skill set. And the first part of that skill set is tuning into your own body. This is entire section of feeling your feelings, feeling how your body is feeling, noticing little sparks of desire. Like, Oh, it would feel so good to be held right now. And then giving yourself permission to move towards that, to ask for it.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:16:41):
The word depression can mean a lot of things. It can mean clinical depression, that needs to be treated as its own thing. But for a lot of us, it can also mean context. And the context is so important for arousal. And this brings up another framework. And again, we’ll link to deeper podcasts so you can geek out on what interests you. But arousal works like a gas and brakes model. And we are often thinking about what would put more gas on it, what would give me more interest, but it’s really useful to think about what is putting the brakes on my desire. What is putting the brakes on my interest or my willingness, and those are some of the things we can start actively managing. Maybe my bedroom has become like filled with medical equipment and it just doesn’t feel sexy. Is there anything you can do to make your bedroom have more context?
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:17:34):
Can the medical equipment live in another room? Or can you do a hotel room once a month? What about your context can you change? Are there medications that are deeply impacting things? Can you tweak that? Are there parts of the day, like you have a lot of energy in the morning at night your pain is spiking? Can you have a conversation about, can we have a little bit of time in the morning to just roll around in bed because that’s when my body feels best? We each develop our strategies here based on our conditions. But so much of this comes back to permission. Are you giving yourself permission for pleasure? And I dare you to even start prioritizing your pleasure.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:18:25):
When we’re sick, when we’re like there’s always insurance calls to make, there’s always work to catch up on. We always feel like we’re not contributing enough to the household. Do you have the mental space to say, it’s okay to take 20 minutes and just do something because it feels good. For a lot of us that’s the first like, is there permission for pleasure in your life anymore? If not, how do you give that to yourself? And then what’s important is noticing the impact of it. Because pleasure is some of the best medicine we have. Pleasure is what allows us to connect with others and share deep feelings that makes us feel like part of the human family. Pleasure is what motivates us into the next day. And pleasure can be an amazing painkiller. Orgasms can be an incredible painkiller. Pleasure can get your mind off of your disease for like 15 precious minutes, where you are not your illness. And that freedom can transform your experience of being ill.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:19:35):
This is about agency. Like I am ill, but I am still also a mother, a lover, a friend. I am ill, but I’m also still loving massage and a little kinky. I am ill, but I also still want orgasms and oral sex, right? Like you’re ill, but what else is true about you? Let yourself have permission to be an erotic being on your own terms right now and see what that looks like for you. Knowing it doesn’t have to be the porn star model at all, to be deeply satisfying and nourishing. And that’s another thing again, after a decade in this field plus, what is satisfying and fulfilling to us as erotic beings is so vast and variable and changeable. But that feeling of like, yes, I am here in my sexuality. I’m a whole person. Pleasure is available and accessible to me, that is available to all of us in one form or another. That sense of freedom and erotic wholeness is what we all long for. Like, how do we get there now? And that’s the, choose your own adventure. That’s the dance we’re all in.
Shango Los (01:20:53):
So, in an ideal world, we would end that line of questioning there because we’re essentially giving the message that there are solutions for you. You’ve got to think out of the box and you can get there. But I think that I want to ask a question to give voice to a certain group of people who have already tried this. And they have been unsuccessful in getting themselves in the mood, and their pain is overarching or their disease is overarching, and they have not been able to reignite their sexual vibes because of it. And maybe they’re there for their partner for their pleasure or not, but for themselves they’ve decided they’re done with sex, right? They’ve given up on having sex. They’ve just decided that, I’m not even going to try anymore because I have done all the trying I can. Do we have anything heartening for those folks who are afraid that their relationship with their sexuality and maybe their relationship is doomed?
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:22:02):
Hmm. Well, there’s two pieces here. You can give up and have that be okay. You can have very little interest in sexuality in general or sexual connection with another person. And some people are asexual their whole life, and that is not a struggle for them. So, it’s not a problem if it’s not a problem for you. There’s no magic number of kinds of sex or frequency of sex that makes a sex life healthy. It’s healthy if it feels good and right and fulfilling to you. So, what are the areas that don’t feel right? What are the areas that still feel like a struggle? I just talked to a woman who was like, “I am never having sex again.” And she was like, I’ve given up on sexuality, da, da, da. And she went all into it. But she delights in all of these other things with human beings, and has all this whole other set of pleasures that she fills her life with and has a really fulfilling life. So, giving up on what? Are you giving up on pleasure? Because that sounds-
Shango Los (01:23:08):
That’s different. Yeah.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:23:09):
I mean, that’s different. And I don’t even want to problematize that, because there are depths of human experience that I cannot understand. When I was at my most ill, I had lost a hundred pounds, I had lost all of my muscle mass, and I was like, my life was reduced to… I was in bed feeling the sheets against my very frail body and all my body was, was pain. Right? At that moment, I also had a one and a half year old daughter. I had this beautiful wife, I had this purpose filled work I loved. And so, my pleasure just became about staying alive. My pleasure became about hoping for healing, became about doing research into my own healing, so I could try at least to keep my feet. Pleasure had totally changed for me.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:24:03):
And then it changed again, and then it changed again, and then it changed again. And that trust in change is what I think I really want to bring to this, because you might have just given up on sex, like you might never imagine you’re going to be erotic with anyone. That is fine. If that is what is healthy and feels real and right to you, good. You might have other priorities in front of you. You might have a diagnosis and be like, I don’t want to spend any time chasing tail. I’m going to write. Make that writing as pleasurable as you can, buy the best pen, like luxuriate, and whatever we are doing with these lives of ours, I think that’s the urgency I talk about, when we realize, my disease is one I have to manage every day and keep myself alive by pushing buttons and AA batteries.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:24:55):
That action every day just reminds me of this preciousness and whatever spiritual overlay you have. When I light up a bowl of cannabis and exhale and look out the window and feel alive in my human body, even if it’s pain I’m feeling, I’m like, there’s a gratitude of just being here for it. So I think like, give it up. We all have to give up a lot. There’s a surrender like, give it up, and then be like, what’s left? What do I want to do as I’m drawing this breath, as I’m exhaling this smoke? Because I love the name of your podcast so much, because for me cannabis is a sacrament. And I really do think about, what am I shaping with every breath? What am I shaping in the world? What am I creating? Conspiring means breathing together. Who are you conspiring with, towards what? What is bringing you delight? That is your pleasure. Follow that. Don’t worry about what sex means to anyone else. That’s your eroticism. That is your thread of life right now.
Shango Los (01:26:06):
Awesome. Thank you Chris for going there with me. Let’s go ahead and take our last short break and be right back. Well, and if you’re here to learn more about sexual positions, don’t worry. Don’t go away. After the break, we’re going to be talking more about broadening the possibilities of sexual expression itself, but-
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:26:25):
Physician’s toys and more.
Shango Los (01:26:27):
Yeah. Exactly. Stay tuned. So, you are listening to Shaping Fire. My guest today is sex educator, Chris Maxwell Rose.
Shango Los (01:26:36):
There are lots of good seed makers out there. Every once in a while, someone becomes legendary. The Mendocino, California cannabis breeder called Mandelbrot is one of these people. Mandelbrot was also known as Ras Truth and his cultivars are known as the foundation for the Emerald Triangle’s world famous gasoline scented terpene profile. Back in the day, when it was really hard to find quality genetics and education, Mandelbrot was advocating for organic growing techniques and providing exceptional seeds that would sell out as soon as they hit the shelves.
Shango Los (01:27:09):
Mandelbrot lived too short a life, dying in 2015. But while he was with us, he created several [inaudible 01:27:15] level cannabis masterpieces, like Oil Spill, The Truth and Royal Kush. No matter if you approach growing cannabis more as a toker or a breeder, you will find something that delights you in Mandelbrot’s selections. Because while some strains are better to grow or to smoke, Mandelbrot’s creations excel in every category. And that’s why people keep talking about them even today. Emerald Mountain Legacy continues the Ras Truth tradition by preserving these coveted genetics for future generations, unchanged, as they were originally created in the mid 2000s.
Shango Los (01:27:51):
Emerald Mountain Legacy also creates tasteful, modern crosses to Mandelbrot’s classics. These lines worked by Mandelbrot’s brother, Ben, furthers their family’s genetics and a spirit that Mandelbrot himself would approve of. Check out the Emerald Mountain Legacy, Instagram and website, to see photos of these plants and learn more about Mandelbrot and his infamous strains. Emerald Mountain Legacy seeds are available online from seed banks and distributors, including Labyrinth Seed Company, the Regenerative Seed Company, and Pure Sativa. Emerald Mountain Legacy, keeping Mandelbrot’s legacy alive.
Shango Los (01:28:28):
As a business owner you are incredibly busy, in reality, you are responsible for everything your company does. You’ve got so many responsibilities every single day, that often you just don’t have the time to really dig into your marketing as deeply as you’d like. You know there’s more that you could do to reach out to new customers and encourage loyalty in the customers you already have, but you certainly don’t have the time for it. And you’re not ready to hire somebody full time for that role either. For you, I recommend Blunt Branding. At Blunt Branding, Kirsten Nelson and her team are focused on improving your bottom line. Most marketing firms are excited to make your logo, packaging, and website very pretty, but they leave responsibility for improving your bottom line up to you. They don’t want that kind of responsibility. But that’s pretty much the most important part of marketing, right?
Shango Los (01:29:16):
Kirsten and her team will help you engage new customers, funnel them to your point of sale, whether it be online or a storefront, and keep them coming back to you and telling their friends. Now, if you happen to be a new cannabis company or an established company moving from medical to adult use in your state, Kirsten, especially, can help you. Not only is she well versed in marketing and finance, but she totally gets cannabis, whole plant medicine, terpenes, heritage farmers, and the particular needs of startups. Check out what she did recently for Moontime Medicinals in Humboldt, at moontimemedicinals.com. Kirsten and her team put together a whole brand package for them, built their website and wrote their sales materials. No doubt, this is a paid commercial spot, but that does not mean they bought my opinion. I’ve worked with Blunt Branding on five projects now, for various of their clients. And every single time they have done more than they have promised and over delivered on results. I love how they generate new revenue and focus on that as the goal, instead of just making a pretty logo. Similarly, every single friend I’ve referred them to has come back to thank me. And that just does not happen every day. Grab a pen and paper because the website address is coming up. If you want someone to implement marketing programs that feed your bottom line, give Blunt Branding a call. They will share proven techniques to increase your audience and generate sales while using cutting edge technology solutions in the background that make all of this easy, automatic and trackable. Go to shapingfire.com/bluntbranding to find out more. You can also click the link in our newsletter. Blunt Branding, marketing that makes you money.
Shango Los (01:30:51):
Pre-rolls have come a long way since the early days of normalization. When you choose Saints Joints, you are smoking all flour, top shelf pre-rolls with terpenes that will sculpt your high in a way that dry old pre-rolls just can’t. Whereas most brands release pre-rolls as an afterthought, for the last five years, Saints Joints has focused on their line of exotic curated joints. And while some companies just chase the hype strains, Saints Joints goes deeper, searching out hard to find strains, unexpected crosses, and nearly forgotten land races in classics, and some hype ones too. Not only does a joint from Saints smoke incredibly well, they have fine tuned every step of the process so you don’t get runs in the paper, the joint is just the right density to have a nice pole, and the joint stays lit even if you get a bit chatty. Saints Joints boxes are works of art and will spark conversation when you pull them out at a party.
Shango Los (01:31:49):
Saints award-winning boxes change with every release, feature edgy outsider art, and often raise awareness of important issues like equal rights. Saints boxes are so desired, then many collect them and display them in their homes. Ask your bud tender for Saints Joints and have a premium joint experience. Now, if you are a licensed cannabis cultivator, I have an extra message for you. Saints is looking for partners in legal cannabis states to expand the availability of the Saints Joints brand. Do you grow exceptional cannabis flower, but are less excited about all the effort, cost and risk of launching your own brand? Saints Joints may be just the partner you are looking for.
Shango Los (01:32:31):
Already established in California, Washington and Oklahoma, and recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine and Green Entrepreneur as a cannabis industry leader, the Saints Joints brand will set you apart in your home market. The best thing I can recommend is for you to visit their Instagram @saintsjoints, and look at their patented drawer designed boxes. Become that brand everyone is talking about without having to build it from scratch. Check out their Instagram @saintsjoints and then visit saintsjoints.com to find out more.
Shango Los (01:33:05):
Welcome back. You are listening to Shaping Fire. I’m your host, Shango Los. And our guest this week is sex educator, Chris Maxwell Rose. So, Chris, we’ve gotten to the meat of the situation. That’s probably what a lot of people came forward. It’s like, how do I still have sex when I feel like this? So, let’s start off with limited mobility. So, what do you recommend to people with limited mobility to figure out the new positions that will work for them uniquely?
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:33:33):
Totally. It is so much about finding what works, not only for your body, but how your body fits with the other body, for the thing your body is going to be doing together. Right? And so, when we think about positions, it’s easy to think about positions for intercourse, but there are also positions for cuddling, for spanking, for cunnilingus and fellatio, for all sorts of pleasures. Right? And so, so much of it is finding that geometry, the way your bodies fit together now. Because how you fit together in the past is not probably how you fit together now. How you can move to do those things, right? So again, our mind might go to thrusting. What position will be most comfortable for my hips to move in a thrusting motion, to have that kind of intercourse I used to have. If that’s the question, that’s like a very specific set of parameters. If the question is, what are the positions where my partner and I can have PVI, penis, vagina, intercourse, right? If that’s the goal, that kind of connection, there’s a lot of positions you can be in if you’re willing to give up the thrusting. So, how important is the thrusting to you? And so, a lot of this is breaking it down to the essentials. Like what does my body want to be doing? How do I make that happen? A lot of this is getting out of missionary style, which I learned by being a woman wearing a strap-on, how much work it is to be in missionary style penetrating someone. It’s like an athletic feat, especially if you want to make it big. Right? And so, if that athletic feat is not available to you right now or ever again, we’re going to look at all sorts of other ways of creating penetration and movement. So, some of this might be standing up. Is standing up available for you, where you can position your bed height, the risers for your bed come in all sorts of different heights. If you can position your bed so your partner can either be lying face up, bend over the bed, all sorts of positions. And that’s a good height for your hips to move. For some people standing and moving is much easier than being up on elbows or their hands holding their weight and then moving. So that might be an option. There’s all sorts of props and pillows and tools that you can bring into your bedroom. Again, if you get over the attitude that these things are kinky or weird, or just for women. Toys are for all of us, tools are for all of us. And there’s so many different kinds of toys and tools that can assist you in creating the kinds of experiences you want to be creating. So, I’m thinking about something like a sex sling. For some people, they might think, whoa, that’s like a sex swing. That’s so kinky, they think of all the sitcoms where the closet door has swung open to reveal the little dungeon inside with a swing. Yes, they are found in sex clubs. They are also an assisted mobility device. If you think of it that way, and having a portable swing you can take out, that you can put your partner in, and that allows you to connect. It doesn’t have to be kinky at all, right? Wrap some silks around it and make it like your little love shrine. Put your own aesthetics on these things and they can become yours if you claim them, right? What is stopping you from getting a sex pillow? Is it the idea of having sex furniture? Well, now they come in all sorts of aesthetic. So your sex pillow can also be your reading pillow. And if your cousin comes over, it’s like, that’s my wedge I use for reading. It’s really great. You should check it out, right? We don’t have to be ashamed.
Shango Los (01:37:32):
And they’re like, let me show you how to use that wedge you use for reading.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:37:38):
It’s like the shame of bringing these things in can prevent them from being really powerful tools and devices for us. And so, I want to give you permission to explore toys and tools, assistive devices of all kinds, right? So, you asked about assisted mobility. That can mean a lot of things, all the way up to being paraplegic or hemiplegic or semiplegic in a wheelchair, where your sex like, it might have to be totally re-envisioned. So again, it’s assessing what’s true for you now, asking for help, there are some great resources. There’s a sex educator named Elle Chase, and she wrote a book about sex positions specifically for fat people and people of size. But what that enabled her to really look at, is how do sex positions get adapted? How do we move out of bed onto different pieces of furniture, to allow all of our different bodies of all different sizes and abilities to fit together?
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:38:42):
So, bed is not necessarily the best place for sex for a lot of us. If you can sit in a chair or on a stool and your partner is able to straddle you and ride you, that might be your new favorite position. Because your body gets to relax, your lower lumbar that needs support has your extra pillow. You feel supported. And now you get your queen on top of you riding you. But again, that requires her to feel comfortable doing that. And we can take it, and there’s all sorts of assistive devices. Like if your penis isn’t getting as hard as you want it to be, there are toys for that. If penetration is harder than it used to be, there are lubes for that. There are some great cannabis lubes that are incredible tools for pelvic pain and endometriosis or recovering pain after pelvic surgery.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:39:42):
Cannabis is a really great sexual tool to manage pelvic pain. That would be a great whole episode. Yeah. So I think it’s so much again about what is possible for you. So, if thrusting in bed is not, is sitting? If that’s not, is standing? If that’s not, what is? Is lying flat on your back and… So, what positions are you able to do, and then how do you adapt that? And a book like Elle Chase’s will give you all of these pictures so you have possibilities. And they’re more useful than those Kama Sutra charts that [inaudible 01:40:19] college dorm rooms, right?
Shango Los (01:40:20):
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:40:21):
Those are all like 101 positions for the athletes and the Cirque de Soleil people. What are the positions for real bodies with real limitations?
Shango Los (01:40:29):
I think it’s important to point out too that, certainly it’s actually difficult to de-eroticize toys and dildos and things like that. But a lot of the supports and pillows and wedges and some of the other things that we’ve talked about, they don’t have to seem medicinal. And I want to go two ways with that. Number one, I liked what you said earlier about claiming a device. And there’s a lot of similarities between a sex swing and some of those types of traction I’ve seen for injured people to get in and out of bed. I can see some dual use there.
Shango Los (01:41:08):
And if you re-contextualize it, suddenly there are new options. But also there are a lot of reasons why some of these wedges and pillows were developed to begin with. It doesn’t have to be, Oh, we can’t have sex the scripted way. So we have to have this second, slightly lesser than sex using these pillows so that we can manage. In my experience, experimenting with some of that stuff, I’m like, Oh, this is everything I liked about the scripted kinds of sex, but now everything’s all way more convenient and nicer. This can actually be an upgrade versus, Oh, I’m sent back to the junior league.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:41:58):
Totally, totally. And I mean, a goal here can be making your sex life even better than before.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:42:03):
A goal here can be making your sex life even better than before, because you are more awake to it. You’re choosing it more actively, and the pleasure that is available to you is not in any proportion to how young or able your body is. I really want people to hear that. What is accessible to you is so much about your attitudes, what you bring to it, and your internal sense of freedom. The degree to which we are all mired under the shame of our sex culture really cannot be emphasized enough, and it takes a certain momentum to break through that and then see that. Sometimes it’s like the storm clouds open and there’s this whole possibility on the other side, and there’s this whole community where eroticism is celebrated and safe and revered, and just more is possible for you.
Shango Los (01:43:01):
You might actually find new things that you like along the way, because if you’re being pushed off script, that means that you are now exploring. And when you explore, you often find unexpected things. And listening to the show that we have produced, my kinks are emotional vulnerability, telling each other your secrets, and win-win. For me, that is super sexualized. And this whole entire show, these instructions for two people coming together and sharing their hopes and their fears and their things they haven’t told anybody else, that’s hot for me. And so I want to suggest to other people that even though that sharing may seem like some emotional work, and might seem a little awkward or might seem scary to you before you do it, you may actually feel like it’s so liberating that you can actually have a more fulfilling sex than you’ve ever had in your life. You don’t have to think of all of this as medical.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:44:11):
No. Yeah. I mean, your medical stuff will have to be managed, and then the rest of it is play, toys, curious exploration. The word curiosity comes up a lot with us, because some of us can feel really charged, and the spirit of curiosity allows us to just take baby steps in and ask, “What if? What would happen if? What would happen if I tuck my colostomy bag to the side, put a nice pillow over it, and then let myself experience oral sex?” You might find that that experience of oral sex is totally available to you. Your partner’s completely used to your colostomy bag by now, doesn’t even notice it, and it’s a game changer. And we can weep with that relief sometimes.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:44:59):
Sometimes we have a breakthrough moment or a moment where we do something we’re ashamed of and we do it anyway, and we realize what we’ve been holding back and we can weep with relief and gratitude at what we have given ourselves permission to explore. And the baby steps are so important here, especially if you’ve already been tenderized by illness and all of the other survival issues that come with this. Again, that zone of safety. Where can you establish that zone of connection where you feel relaxed, ready to explore with curiosity, and just ease into it? Maybe that is just reading erotica in the bathtub, or listening to audio erotica while you’re getting your chemo, or listening to audio erotica as you’re doing your deep rest every afternoon that you need to get through the day. Something as simple as that is just like listening to a naughty story on your headphones and allowing yourself to be lulled into sleep by it. You might have sweeter dreams and you wake up the next day feeling a little nourished by it.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:46:09):
We do these things because they’re good for us. We don’t seek out sexual pleasures and buy all these toys and trick out our bedrooms because we’re trying to recreate Vegas or something. This is because it is good and nourishing and feeds some part of our humanity that wants to be fed. We do these things because they’re healthy. Relaxation is healthy for us. Orgasms are healthy. They are good for our bodies. So how do you make space for them? How do you give it permission, and how do you give it permission to look totally new and different and changed and be kind of excited? I mean, novelty is something we all seek. All of the relationship therapists will say, “Oh, you’re in a long-term relationship? Seek novelty. Create change. Do something different.” Life sometimes gives us more novelty than we ever wanted to handle, and all of that change comes at us at once, but we can face it and just be like, “All right, what’s next?”
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:47:09):
Buying your first vibrator is a huge experience for people, but once you have one, you tend to have four or five, and then you realize these are just tools that allow you to stimulate your body. And maybe some of your sex toys are like massage toys, things that help you manage your pain. We have so many body toys around this house. It’s hilarious. We have all sorts of massage balls and back things, and things that help us with our bodies, manage our symptoms, are allies. And even the word medicinal. My marijuana is medicinal, but it’s also deeply pleasurable. It’s a sacrament. It’s a way I socialize with friends and it’s good medicine, just like a really rich conversation is good medicine.
Shango Los (01:47:59):
I think it’s also worthwhile, since we’re all stoners here, to time your cannabis consumption. I think that if you’re going to have cannabis be part of your sex play, think about it ahead of time so that you’re not overly checked out, or that you’ve had enough so that your pain is treated properly at the right time. And I also think that it’s important to remember that we become less inhibited when we use cannabis, and that is good and can be good. But also, if that inhibition goes a little further than maybe we want, we can actually reinjure ourselves. We’ve all, I think, gotten into the swing of things and found ourselves holding up our bodies in ways that are not good for the injury or just for the body in general, but we’re in the zone and we’re not going to change it in that moment.
Shango Los (01:49:11):
Using enough cannabis where we go too far, we’re going the wrong direction. So just be mindful of your cannabis use, so that you’re using the right amount in the right modality, whether it’s smoking or tinctures or whatever, and get yourself timed right. Especially if you’re feeling awkward about this, don’t take more of it so you feel better, but you take more of it and then you start having a good time, and then you go too far.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:49:45):
Mm. Wise words, yeah. And dial it in with your strains, with your terpenes. Again, it’s just another tool that you can use to be with your body. I want to say two things really quick. One is adjusting for comfort. When we get in the zone, when we feel like, “Oh, sex is going good finally, at last,” we’ve made something happen, you don’t want to override discomfort or emotional or physical discomfort in order to keep that going. There are no martyrs in pleasure, so keep it pleasurable, and if you need to make adjustments, make adjustments and know that what you’re building doesn’t have to be fragile. And again, that’s the culture of pleasure you create in your relationship, where you both have permission to change and adjust and make requests and say, “Oh, my feet are cold. Grab a blanket.” Or, “Oh my god, I have to get off my ankles. Oh, my hip just gave out.” And that’s not like, “Oh, you poor, weak, pathetic thing.” It’s, “Oh my gosh. Let’s find a position that works now.”
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:50:45):
We want to keep this pleasurable thing going, so let’s make it more pleasurable. What could make this even better is one of my favorite questions to ask all the time, is what could make this even better? Because it acknowledges we have a good, beautiful, mutual, pleasurable thing going. What’s next? What could make this even better? Let’s optimize our time together. Sex and play and touch, these are all beautiful times we get to share. How do we take the performance out of it? How do we take the pressure out of it and restore it to play and connection? And that can be hard with medical devices flying around. I wear an insulin pump, so I have this device dangled from my body 24/7. An alarm will go off in the middle of sex. It’s gotten ripped out and blood started spurting on the sheets in the middle of sex.
Shango Los (01:51:40):
Oh my gosh. Yeah.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:51:41):
How do we just move with these moments or manage them as best as we can? And also, just have the flexibility, because most diseases are not static. Your symptoms change day to day, so you have to be able to have that conversation like, “What are you up for now?” And again, knowing a five-minute foot massage can lead to a blissful hour of sex if things get flowing and you’re both feeling good and you lead one pleasure to the next, or if it’s just five minutes of foot massage, and after that five minutes, you towel off your hands and you smile at each other, and you just feel a little bit more connected and relaxed, that is a win. That is a good thing that just happened, and you can build on that. I talk a lot about micro pleasures; for yourself, and then how do you share micro pleasures and build on them throughout the day?
Shango Los (01:52:37):
On a recent episode, also about pain and moving from opioids to cannabis, we talk about not comparing your experience to others, because in cannabis, your dosage may be that you need only 2.5 milligrams of whole-plant THC, whereas somebody else may be looking at 25 or 50 milligrams. And in the cannabis scene, there’s a little bit of ego coolness factor about, “Oh, that’s all you take?” and I think that’s so absurd. Individualized medicine is a modern thing, and calls for everybody to take the amount of cannabis that gets them the relief that they’re looking for, and it doesn’t matter what your neighbor is taking.
Shango Los (01:53:22):
Similarly, what I would love you to speak to is the idea that the various sex toys you’ve been talking about and that are available are somehow gender-related, like these are boys’ toys, these are girls’ toys. I’ve heard you talk about this before, but I’d like you to address that idea of the universality of these and use what the hell you want.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:53:48):
Totally. More and more of the industry is just releasing incredible toys that are high-tech vibrators and high-quality materials that can be used to stimulate all sorts of body parts. We need to really get over this idea that vibrators are for the girls. Vibrators can be incredible tools for higher stimulation if you’re a erectile function has changed. A lot goes into an erection. That could be blood flow. That could be nerve endings. That could be mental stuff. Sometimes it’s just you want more stimulation. There’s also this whole category of toys that are just sensation toys, and we tend to think of them as kinky toys or leather toys or BDSM toys. “Oh, those aren’t for me because I’m not kinky.” There’s a huge range of toys and props in that world that can be used for just delightful stimulation and sensation.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:54:48):
And I also just want to mention, a lot of people who experience chronic pain find a lot of relief in BDSM, in heavier sensations, and there’s a lot of really good studies going on right now about how that works. How can we use intentional stimulation to override pain signals? And so again, give yourself permission. If some part of you is intrigued by a spanking, read a story about it. See how your body responds. Spank yourself a little bit during masturbation. See how that impact play affects your arousal. See if it helps your pain. See where it takes your mind. A lot of this is experimentation and willingness without the judgment. So going back to mindfulness, which is paying attention without judgment, we have so much judgment about shame that limits. We have so much judgment about sexuality that limits our experience.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:55:47):
And some of that can be like, “Oh, that’s not for me because I’m a man. That’s not for me because I’m not kinky. That’s not for me because I’m not queer. If I did that, what would it mean about my identity?” And I just want to presence very briefly here prostate play and anal play for men. A lot of men explore it under duress when their penis is no longer working, and then discover orgasms that are more powerful than they’ve ever had in their life, discover this whole new way of being sexual, and wonder, “What the hell was I ever waiting for?” Our bodies are capable of so much more than we can imagine if we explore them with curiosity and joy, and without the shame and misinformation that limits our experience of it. Do you even know your own genitals?
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:56:36):
We’ve had this whole conversation about sex. Most of us aren’t even in a aware relationship with our erotic anatomy, with our parts, how they function, how they fit together. We haven’t looked at them very well. So some of this is just know thyself and know where sexuality can fit in the rest of your life, and then give yourself permission to explore it little bits at a time with curiosity, and get support. Don’t do this alone. Listen to podcasts, read books, talk to your friends. People are starving for this conversation, so you’ll find that as you have the courage to speak up about sex, there’s a lot of people really ready to talk about it.
Shango Los (01:57:25):
I think it’s also worth pointing out that both shopping alone online for all sorts of sex fun toys and with a partner itself is a really fun foreplay. There’s like, “What the hell does this do?” There’s giggling about it, and it creates the opportunity to talk about these things, kind of a third person. There’s two people talking about sex toys, but if it’s two people looking at a website, now you’re not necessarily talking about what you want. Actually, you were talking about this method earlier, where you’re actually talking about the sex toys as a third party thing, not necessarily what you want, but what do you think about this object? And I think that it allows a lot more vulnerability to come out naturally, and you can learn a lot about yourself and your partner.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:58:30):
Totally, totally. And the shopping experience can be a game. You can fill the shopping cart, and then send a link and ask your partner to choose one. You can send your partner a gift card. There’s sex toys on Amazon. I would really recommend going to a dedicated store, because there’s a lot of ripoffs and falsely advertised toys on Amazon, so avoid shopping there. Go to a sex toy store that can give you education. A lot of them have buying guides. They’ll walk you through. They’ve got videos. There’s tons of sex toy reviewers. So yeah, you can make that part of your exploration, but also don’t get overwhelmed by all the options, and go back to the question, what do I want to experience? How do we want to connect? What kind of pleasures are we looking to explore? Because sex toys can also be a really generous declaration.
Chris Maxwell Rose (01:59:27):
If you can’t touch your partner in the way you used to, if your female partner loves having sex, loves being penetrated, loves being filled up, you’re having erection issues, it is so sexy and confident to buy a toy and then use it with her. Go down on her, hold the dildo, and fuck her silly. That is no less sex than you having penis-vaginal intercourse. You’re there. You’re right face first in her pleasure. And that is so liberating, because all of a sudden, her getting well-fucked, if you excuse my language, her pleasure being centered, isn’t contingent on whether or not your penis is getting hard in that very moment. And your medications are on point and your pain is managed. We can’t wait for conditions to be perfect, so we need to be flexible and have options. And when we get beyond the script, options are limitless. Lying with your partner as they’re touching themselves and having an orgasm is one of the most intimate, vulnerable, beautiful, erotic acts, and all it requires of you is your presence.
Shango Los (02:00:44):
I remember cracking up when I realized the similarities there were between buying sex toys and buying bongs and pipes, because you mentioned go to a quality store, and it’s the same thing. There are lots of online head shops that have got poorly produced pipes and bowls that are crappy and thin glass, and then there are really nice, custom glass and they’re made with care, and there’s stainless steel involved in this. So if you like good bongs and pipes that are made with quality and consider your usage of it, use that same headspace when you’re going to buy your toys, because this is certainly a market where buying quality is rewarded.
Chris Maxwell Rose (02:01:37):
Totally, and you can have your own aesthetic with it and your own point of pride. We’re all excited to show off our favorite toys in the cannabis realm and share them with friends, and there’s no shame in it. There’s no, “Oh, you have to use that device for pleasure? Ugh.” I love my Volcano, and I love my Hitachi Magic Wand, and they both are-
Shango Los (02:02:01):
Both top of the game.
Chris Maxwell Rose (02:02:03):
And they’re devices I plug into the wall, I use with intention, and they create an experience for me. We’re taught a lot of shame around sex and a lot of this thing of like, which orgasms matter more and what sex counts? And if you’re ill, I was out of the game for a while. If you’re ill and you still want to connect, you have to get creative. You have to be flexible and savor the moments that are shared. That lying with your partner just naked under three duvets, if you’re fully present to that, it can be enough. And it can be enough to sustain you through that sexual season that might be incredibly fallow, that might be very scary, where you might even have hope that you’ll be at the top of your game ever again, but you can still sustain yourself and then start building pleasure incrementally, and maybe discover whole new arenas that you never even would have considered if your script hadn’t been torched for you.
Chris Maxwell Rose (02:03:07):
And I don’t want to silver line this too much. Being ill sucks. Being in pain sucks. There are days where I just want to throw my pain out the window. You’re not allowed to be a passenger in my life anymore. For me, if I engage with that with really deep intention and presence and I learn to work with my pain, I call it doing BDSM with God. I’m in it. I’m awake to it. I’m not in the struggle of denial. Options start becoming available to me. What would help me, or just how can I ride this? How can I just be with what is, even if it sucks? It’s still better for me as a strategy than struggling against what’s true and wishing it where another way. You know?
Shango Los (02:03:50):
Yeah. That’s not going to take us anywhere.
Chris Maxwell Rose (02:03:52):
Shango Los (02:03:53):
This kind of exploration together or by oneself could be really renewing. Renewing of the relationship, or even if there’s not another person, just renewing of one’s own life. And so for pain patients, all patients and those who love them, who are going to have a little success with this and they want to explore more together, I enthusiastically recommend Chris’s podcast called Speaking of Sex. Which is how I first learned of her, listening to her show and learning a lot, and learning a lot about technique, sure, but perspective, how to think about this stuff. So Chris, me describing your show will pale in comparison to you describing your show. Would you just take a moment and tell folks about this show so they have an idea of what they would be checking out if they bother to go over there?
Chris Maxwell Rose (02:04:48):
Mm. I love how you describe it, but it’s a lot of what we’ve been doing here. It’s explicit conversation about the heart of sexuality, unashamed, uncensored, but with soul and reverence and heartfulness. My partner and I have been together for 13 years, and we cohost the show and also bring on guests. Sometimes we do deep dives into topics like libido, and we do a ton of research and try to understand what is libido and how does it work? And other times we’ll do single episodes about a new kind of sex toy. We have 370 episodes. We’ve been going for years, so there’s something for everyone.
Chris Maxwell Rose (02:05:39):
The episodes are sorted in a sex index on our website, pleasuremechanics.com, so you can find quickly topics you’re looking for. And I’ll also curate a little section that’ll be on the show notes page here, because it can be overwhelming to get started. But yeah, it’s explicit, yet soulful is kind of what we’ve come down to. Some people call us the cooking show of sex. It’s the wholesome, but queer and irreverent. We have been sex workers and sex coaches and sex educators for a combined total of like 25 years between the two of us. We’ve worked with bodies of all kinds, couples of all kinds, and a lot of what we do is we collect the wisdom of our audience.
Chris Maxwell Rose (02:06:22):
We’re in deep dialogue with our audience, with men and women and couples and trans folks of all nationalities all over the world. We are gathering communal wisdom about sex, how it lives in our lives, and then speaking this wisdom back to our audience week after week. So definitely please visit us at Pleasure Mechanics. Check out the show at Speaking of Sex, and we are here for you. I have an open email policy, so if anything you’ve heard on this show resonates for you, please feel free to be in touch with us and we do our best to get back to you.
Shango Los (02:06:58):
What’s the difference between the Speaking of Sex podcast and the online class series that’s on the website?
Chris Maxwell Rose (02:07:06):
The Speaking of Sex podcast is free. There’s 370 episodes to explore, and those are deep dives. You can learn a ton. I have people who write to me all the time who say their lives have been totally changed, their marriages have been saved, and all they’ve done is listen to the podcast, and I’m delighted by that. The online courses are there for you when you are ready for a deeper dive, especially in learning new erotic skills. We’re both trained in massage and then became somatic sex educators, so there’s a lot on the site about erotic touch, from couples massage, full body massage. Like when I was sick, Charlotte’s giving me just back and butt massage, just stroking my body was how we sustained our love. Couples massage is amazing. Or you might want to learn foreplay techniques and arousal techniques or erotic spanking and kink, and so we teach that all. We also have a class on mindful sex, so those are guided deep dives in erotic exploration and techniques.
Chris Maxwell Rose (02:08:13):
They’re all available online, accessible in your own home, and then we are there for you when you have questions and need a little personal coaching.
Shango Los (02:08:23):
Chris Maxwell Rose (02:08:23):
That’s how we do our thing, and we’ve been doing it for 10 years and going. And we love this work because it just allows us to zip into your life as that little sex fairy, that at the right time can be there for you with a conversation that you need to hear, and just connect with you and let you know you’re not alone. So much of this is relieving that feeling of you being alone in this and that there’s no hope and there’s no options. There’s so much possible for you, no matter what’s going on with your body. I love you. I am here with you in this human condition that can be so painful, but also so pleasurable and so beautiful.
Shango Los (02:09:04):
Well, hopefully we have been able to serve that vision in some small way here today. Chris, thank you so much for joining us. I know that this is a little atypical to come on a cannabis show and to share this experience, but I’ve talked to enough patients where I knew that I wanted to be able to bring this kind of perspective to them. And then if they wanted to explore more, it was an option. So I really appreciate you sharing your time, your expertise, your good cheer, your smiles with all of us so that we can all heal to be more fully human.
Chris Maxwell Rose (02:09:43):
Thank you so much for all you’re doing. I love you so much, and I look forward to being in community with you for years to come.
Shango Los (02:09:49):
Right on. Thank you, Chris. So to reiterate some of the links that Chris gave us, if you want to check out the Speaking of Sex podcast and just all the delightful writing that they have on the website, that’s pleasuremechanics.com. The podcast again is called Speaking of Sex, and you find that on pleasuremechanics.com. You’ll also find the online class series there. If you want to check out some of the links that Chris mentioned about, like some of the resources, like some of the books she mentioned, and that interesting resource that suggests all of the sexual positions, because like sometimes just inventing them in your head is challenging and you actually kind of want to go through a menu and go, “Yeah, let’s do that,” there are those links on the shapingfire.com page for this episode.
Shango Los (02:10:44):
You can get all that stuff on shapingfire.com, but also, we’ve created the link shapingfire.com/pleasure. If you want to go there, and you forget Pleasure Mechanics but you can remember pleasure in Shaping Fire, well, that’s there for you as well. You can find more episodes of the Shaping Fire podcast and subscribe to the show at shapingfire.com and on Apple iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play. If you enjoyed the show, we’d really appreciate it if you’d leave a positive review of the podcast wherever you download. Your review will help others find the show so they can enjoy it too. On the Shaping Fire website, you can also subscribe to the weekly newsletter for insights into the latest cannabis news and product reviews. On the Shaping Fire website, you will also find transcripts of today’s podcast as well. For information on me and where I’ll be speaking, you can check out shangolos.com. Does your company want to reach our national audience of cannabis enthusiasts? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how. Thanks for listening to Shaping Fire. I’ve been your host, Shango Los.
Chris Maxwell Rose (02:11:44):
Whew. That was a long incredible conversation with Shango Los of the Shaping Fire podcast. I am so grateful to him for hosting this episode and for allowing me to share it with you all. I have been gathering resources about this topic, about turning towards pleasure again after illness, after disease, with pain, with whatever life throws at us. You’ll find all of those resources at pleasuremechanics.com/after. That’s pleasuremechanics.com/after, and I will see you all again here on the Speaking of Sex podcast. I’m Chris from pleasuremechanics.com, wishing you a lifetime of pleasure, whatever that looks like for you. See you next time. Bye.