Friday, April 15, 2005

I Sing the Body Electric School

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #258, April 15, 2005)

Celebrating the Body Erotic, Minneapolis, May 7-8

Have you ever experienced a gourmet hug? Would you like to? Do you even know what it is?

How about a full-body orgasm? Have you ever experienced one? Would you like to?

If you’re reading this column it’s probably safe to say you are a sexual revolutionary. GLBT folks, and those into BDSM or other alternative sexual practices, have already explored aspects of sex and sexuality that most people in our culture have not explored, either out of fear or ignorance.

Allow me to introduce you to an amazing resource for sexual revolutionaries: The Body Electric School. Located in Oakland, Calif., for over twenty years the school has offered courses in bodywork and erotic education. These courses are presented around the world and throughout the year—and one of them, “Celebrating the Body Erotic” for men, is coming to Minneapolis May 7 and 8.

A school for bodywork and erotic education? Yes, and it’s about time. The taboo attached to sex in western culture has led to many myths and much misinformation, as was graphically—and comically (or was it tragically?)—depicted in Kinsey, the recent movie about pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey.

During a recent screening of the film, the audience in the theater howled when the young female 1940s college student shyly told Kinsey she had heard that engaging in cunnilingus now would later cause problems with pregnancy. But underlying the humor of her statement was a tragic realization: people at the time, and throughout much of history, really didn’t know any better. All they had to go on were old wives’ tales and things other people whispered in the locker room or the powder room—things that everybody “knew,” but were totally wrong and misguided.

Somehow sex in our society has been surrounded with such shame and secrecy it was not considered a proper topic for education, or even discussion except in a hushed voice. It was assumed that no education was needed—somehow, on their wedding night, two people who had never before experienced sex would miraculously know what they were supposed to do, and how to do it. They might not enjoy it very much—or at all—but that wasn’t the point. The point was to make babies and perpetuate the human race. (Oh, incidentally, that’s also one of the excuses given for why two men or two women can’t legally marry: they can’t make babies, therefore there is no validity to the relationship.)

The Body Electric School’s philosophy is that something as fundamental to humans as sex and sexuality is worth talking about, worth teaching, and worth not only learning about but also becoming an expert at. When approached with honesty and reality instead of shame and secrecy, sex becomes several things: a most pleasurable activity in its own right; a phenomenal method of human communication and connectedness; a tool for personal healing and personality integration; and a doorway to the experience of the divine, both in ourselves and in others.

I have participated in many Body Electric School activities over the years, and the benefits I have received have been immense. My Body Electric experiences have changed the way I think about and experience sex, certainly. But the changes go further—I have learned that a new way of experiencing sexuality involves a new way of experiencing spirituality as well.

There are connections between sex and spirit that have been so long denied in our culture that knowledge and awareness of those connections have been lost—almost. Some of the knowledge in Body Electric School courses comes from Tantric, Taoist, Hindu and even Native American traditions.

I am grateful to the Body Electric School for its part in gathering this knowledge, passing it on, and keeping it alive. I have experienced using the physical to touch the divine. I have seen how breath, imagery, touch and movement can result in bliss, ecstasy and healing far beyond what most people can imagine.

Leather and BDSM aficionados are likely to be especially good candidates for Body Electric School courses because leather culture has always placed a high value on education. Given the intense nature of some of our activities, knowledge and expertise add greatly to the participants’ enjoyment and pleasure while also increasing the participants’ safety. But doesn’t even so-called vanilla sex deserve the same respect and conscious, knowledgeable practice?

This type of coursework is not for everyone. Occasionally someone finds the first day of an introductory class so intense that they don’t return for the second day. They simply weren’t ready. Maybe someday they will be. The Body Electric School and its faculty would be the first to say there’s no shame in trying and failing—the true tragedy would be never to try.

But for every person who finds they’re not ready for the experience, there are many who find this kind of coursework exactly what they’ve been looking for. My own Body Electric experiences, and my observations of my fellow students both during classes and in the months, days and years after, have convinced me that if this knowledge were widespread there would be much less war, drug abuse and domestic violence. Does that sound outlandish? I challenge you to participate in a Body Electric School class and then say you still disagree with me.

The Body Electric School honors all sexual energies with course offerings for men, women or mixed groups of men and women. Completion of a basic-level course opens the way to many advanced-level and specialized courses, as well as retreats in exotic locations.

The women-only and men-only basic-level classes both are called “Celebrating the Body Erotic” (for men or for women), while the introductory class for men and women together is the “Two Spirits Retreat.” Among the advanced-level courses is one that is likely to be of particular interest to readers of this column: “Power, Surrender and Intimacy: Exploring Conscious S/M,” either for men or for men and women. (The men’s version of this course was just presented in Minneapolis in March.)

The Body Electric School maintains a comprehensive website, <www.bodyelectric.org>, with course descriptions and schedules as well as some enlightening video clips of students discussing their class experiences. For information about the Minneapolis session of “Celebrating the Body Erotic” for men May 7 and 8, contact the local Body Electric School coordinator, Timothy Cope.

So, what the heck is a gourmet hug? It’s the Body Electric equivalent of a secret handshake: a hug with a longer duration and a completely different energy than the usual quick hug.

And a full-body orgasm? Imagine if you were to take the power and pleasure of many orgasms and pyramid them one on top of another—and then spread the energy throughout your entire body, rather than just your pelvic region. How would that feel?

Well, I think it feels pretty good.

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