I’ve always been fascinated by sex. Not just the physical act, but interested in the context, what it’s all about. In my early twenties, I had a sexual experience so mind-blowing I was in an altered state for an entire day. I bought books about spiritual sexuality and even considered studying for a PHD. There was something more to sex that I wanted to discover or learn about.
Then everything changed. I had a common medical procedure called LLETZ which removes abnormal cells from the cervix. The procedure left me with overwhelming sexual issues, including pain, loss of libido and numbness in my sexual organs. Not much fun. It was very confusing as doctors had told me it was a completely safe procedure and never mentioned any possible side effects.
There were plenty of side effects, some of which were extremely difficult to understand. Why did I lie in bed turning over again and again because I felt like I was floating? Why did I need to remind myself that I still had a physical body? Why couldn’t I write fiction anymore? Why did I stop listening to music, and feel as if I wasn’t really ‘living?’
Throughout the years, as I’ve found various healing modalities to recover my sexuality, I’m beginning to return to who I was before; that inquisitive young woman who wondered; what is going on with sex?
Why is our culture saturated with porn, and using sex to sell, and yet we can’t seem to have an honest conversation about sex?
Why do we feel such shame and embarrassment about using the word orgasm or admitting that we are dealing with sexual dysfunction?
Why are we culturally conditioned to think sex is only for the young and conventionally attractive?
I have written a memoir about my experiences called A Cut in The Brain, which I’m currently crowdfunding to publish with Unbound. As I was writing the book, I felt that, in some ways, I was recrafting my sexual self and that, in itself, was a sexual experience.
When I came up with a sentence I was pleased with, I would get a buzz of satisfaction. I would listen to uplifting songs, and even dance around the room. Sometimes I would work in a cafe, and as I’d walk home past the buskers outside the train station I would feel more alive and physically present in my body than I had done in years.
Long ago, before the procedure, I used to practise Tai Chi regularly. My Tai Chi teacher was always telling me that ‘Chi’ – the energy that flows through the body – is sexual energy originating from our sexual organs. And as one friend pointed out to me, it’s also the origin of creative energy.
We currently don’t have a scientific explanation for what ‘Chi’ is, (or ‘Prana,’ a similar concept in Indian spiritual traditions.) But experience has taught me that creativity has everything to do with sexuality.
If anything positive has come from my difficult experience, it’s that I am developing a ‘whole-life’ sexuality. Sex to me these days isn’t just the act of sex, but everything we do that uses that sexual, creative energy. Whether it’s writing, dancing, listening to music, or feeling that frisson of sexual attraction while having a conversation, or laughing with someone we feel attracted to. This is something I don’t take for granted because for years I didn’t have that feeling. For years, I didn’t feel alive.
In her book Vagina, Naomi Wolf, talks about the ways in which societies deliberately try to control and suppress female sexuality. From women accused of witchcraft because they were ‘too sexual,’ to chastity belts, to clitorodectomy and hysterectomy – procedures used to treat ‘hysteria’ and mental illness.
We might like to think that we have moved on in modern times, but in many ways, the methods of oppression have just become less obvious. For example, the contraceptive pill promised us sexual liberation but can actually cause low libido. Anti-depressants (more often prescribed to women) also causes libido issues, and loss of ability to orgasm. The practise of Gynaecology includes many procedures that can affect sexual functions, but the study of female sexuality is so poor that doctors themselves often aren’t aware of the risks.
In addition, a huge number of women (1 in 5 in the UK), experience sexual violence over the course of our lifetime. Very few of us survive without some form of sexually traumatic experience.
I recently read that around 40% of women are considered to be dealing with some form of sexual dysfunction, but sexual dysfunction is not our natural state.
Writing for me has been a big part of my recovery process. It’s been a way of reinventing and reclaiming my sexuality. Writing has been a way to throw off society’s chains, the rules that dictate what sexuality can be. I haven’t tried to heal for the sake of a relationship, or pleasing a partner, but for myself. It goes way beyond the physical act of sex: it’s about enjoying being in my body, feeling confident, powerful, and happy. I want to feel alive and vibrant – enjoy life in this sensual world.
Telling stories about sexuality can be scary. As part of my recovery journey I studied for a Certificate in Creative writing for Therapeutic Purposes from The Metanoia Institute. I felt that I needed the community and support of others while I worked on my memoir. I’m now sharing what I’ve learnt along the way in an online course; ‘Rewriting Your Sexual Self.’
Here’s a little taster;
Please note that writing about this topic can bring up strong feelings. If anything feels too scary or overwhelming, then I recommend talking to a professional rather than trying to go it alone.
Natalie Goldberg is one of my favourite creative writing teachers. She teaches a simple method of creative writing where we simply follow the thoughts in her mind and write them down. This is sometimes known as ‘freewriting.’
You could try freewriting on the theme of ‘sex and sexuality.’ Just write the words at the top of your page, and then write down whatever comes to mind. Or you could reread this article and notice what words and phrases resonate or jump out at you. You could use them for writing prompts.
I often find that when I’m freewriting, I can be drawn towards writing about problems and challenges in my life. I notice that if I keep listening to my thoughts and writing them down, then I am often led to insights or solutions. The focused attention of putting pen on paper can bring answers and understanding that I might not have gained otherwise.
Something that can also help is focusing on sensations in your body as you write. Another one of my favourite writing teachers is John Lee, author of Writing From The Body. His book is all about how our best, most true writing, is not something that originates solely from the mind, but comes from what we are feeling in our body. So the mind becomes a vessel for translating what we feel into words. This ties in with the whole idea of our creativity, being something physical – the Chi.
When I start wandering in my mind. I often bring my attention back to my body, noticing points of tension, and trying to relax them. This often results in a state of peace that helps my writing find clarity too.
About the author of this post
Kate Orson is a freelance writer, creative writing teacher, and author of Tears Heal: How to listen to our children, She has a masters in Creative writing from the University of Glasgow, and also a certificate in Creative Writing For Therapeutic Purposes. Kate is currently crowdfunding her memoir A Cut in the Brain – How I lost and Found My Sex Life and Creativity with Unbound.
Her new course on ‘Rewriting your sexual self‘ starts in November.