January 9, 2017

Shame, Pleasure and Performance: Men and Sex

This week, we continue our series with Caffyn Jesse who explores the limitations that we put on male sexuality.


In the cultural construction of gender, men seem to have more permission to be sexual. This “permission” is actually a very narrow prescription: to be sexual with young women, to be sexual with hard penises, to be sexual in ways that assert the power and authority of phallic masculinity.

How terrible this is for boys and men! In identifying with phallic masculinity, they are meant to become unfeeling, hard and closed. What then of the actual body, that still feels, fears and wants?

In my practice as a somatic sex educator, I see men who suffer intense shame because they are experiencing one of the common sexual dysfunctions: premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, inhibited ejaculation. Or they feel shame because they are tuned in to the joys of anal eroticism, and have no permission to explore this in their lives. Other men suffer because they want no more of the sterile connections they have had with others and feel turned off sex. Some men feel extremely sexual, but have no place to express this. If they have been circumcised, they may carry trauma and scar tissue that inhibits intimacy. Some men feel compulsive and addicted in their masturbation practices, others feel inhibited and joyless. Some men feel shame about homosexual experiences and desire. They feel shame about penis size and function. They can feel intense shame, grief, fear and paradoxical desires when contending with a personal history of anal rape. 

There are so many ways that men are wounded sexually, and yet we live in a culture in which there is no permission for men to explore, express and grieve how they are wounded around sex.

As lovers of men, we can learn to touch in ways that honor the whole body, and make no demand. Men have nerves that may respond with pleasure to internal stimulation, just as women do. Nerves in the external genitals can often feel great pleasure whether the penis is hard or soft. 

Men don’t need a hard penis to be wonderful lovers. They don’t need to interact in ways that assert masculine authority and repudiate anal eroticism. We can learn to honour men in their softness, sensitivity, inwardness and vulnerability – and to touch in ways that celebrate every penis of every size and shape as beautiful in its unique configuration. 

We can offer the embodied insight that the a penis is not a phallus—not—or not only—a symbol of power and privilege—but a sensitive, vulnerable, soft compilation of tissue, nerves, blood and skin. We can invite quiet contemplation of sexual sensation, and celebrate wild expressions of sexual pleasure. There are few men who do not find this form of erotic interaction healing, affirming, and liberating.


Caffyn Jesse is a Certified Somatic Sex educator and a Certified Sexological Bodyworker who supports diverse people on their journey to sexual wholeness. 

People from around the world visit her Salt Spring Island studio, where Caffyn offers workshops and coaching. She teaches an Intimacy Educator training and the Certified Sexological Bodywork – Somatic Sex Educator training in Canada. 

She is the author of Science for Sexual Happiness and Erotic Massage for Healing and Pleasure. See her website at www.erospirit.ca and order her books at Amazon online.

January 3, 2017

Circumcision: Honoring and Healing the Wounds

This week, we begin our series with the powerful and amazing Caffyn Jesse. She will be sharing with us expert perspective on sexual healing, particularly focusing on male sexuality as this is a topic that often goes unaddressed. We start off by taking a look at the trauma of circumcision.


Inside the womb, a fetus touches and plays with genitals, enjoying arousal and orgasmic sensation. Self-pleasure in utero is an important contributor to nervous system development. When babies are born, what happens to all this erotic aliveness? As many as 3/4 of all infant boys in the USA and 1/3 of infant boys in Canada are subjected to a violent genital surgery, with profound effects on individuals, and our whole society.

On the infant’s tiny penis, the foreskin does not retract as it does on an adult penis. It must be forcibly peeled away from the glans. The newborn is immobilized, and a clamp is used to forcibly separate tissues in this most sensitive area in the human body. The foreskin is then sliced down, crushed and cut away. Circumcision is bloody and excruciatingly painful. It is performed without general anesthesia, since anesthetizing a tiny baby is very dangerous. The surgery leaves an open wound that forms scar tissue over 7-10 days.

In recent decades, neuroscientists have studied the effect of early life trauma on a child’s developing nervous system. Infant trauma can be held in the body throughout life, causing physical and emotional distress and dysregulation. Traumatized people often feel upset and angry, or withdrawn and numb, without knowing why. How many of the characteristics associated with masculinity are really the residual effects of this widespread infant trauma?

Circumcision destroys the most sensitive parts of the penis. The foreskin is a complex organ with many specialized nerves and functions. People who are circumcised lose the nerve endings that most appreciate delicate touch. In adults, the foreskin glides up and down over the glans during arousal, providing thrilling sensations from tens of thousands of nerve endings. Foreskin also protects the moist glans of the penis, like eyelids protect our eyes…but with a lot more pleasure. The glans and inner foreskin of the penis are naturally moist and exquisitely sensitive. A circumcised penis forms scar tissue. The skin is keratinized, tough and dry. (Keratin cells on the surface are no longer alive. They have no nucleus or organelles.)

Because people who have lost the foreskin have lost so many nerve endings, they usually require much harder, faster stimulation to access arousal and orgasm. This can be so difficult for people in their relationships. 

Infant foreskins are sometimes sold to biomedical, pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies. They are used in the production of wrinkle creams, collagen injections and burn treatments.

Many adults who were circumcised as infants do not feel wounded, and they can simply and happily enjoy their genitals as they are. This is wonderful. People who do carry the trauma in some way may need support, counseling and coaching to find their way to healing and wholeness.

Rachel’s program can help address the psychological effects of circumcision. Physical work with scar tissue can complement this program, helping men recover sensitivity and expand sexual sensation while releasing embodied trauma. Partial foreskin restoration is also possible through these means. An extensive program on how to do scar tissue work for circumcision will be available for free on my website later this month.

Please contact me at http://www.erospirit.ca/contact/ if you would like to be notified.

And be sure to come back next week when I'll be discussing, "Shame, Pleasure and Performance: Men and Sex".


Caffyn Jesse is a Certified Somatic Sex educator and a Certified Sexological Bodyworker who supports diverse people on their journey to sexual wholeness. 

People from around the world visit her Salt Spring Island studio, where Caffyn offers workshops and coaching. She teaches an Intimacy Educator training and the Certified Sexological Bodywork – Somatic Sex Educator training in Canada. 

She is the author of Science for Sexual Happiness and Erotic Massage for Healing and Pleasure. See her website at www.erospirit.ca and order her books at Amazon online.

December 21, 2016

Everything Communicates

Today, we continue our series with Terry Cranford, who shares some simply but powerful strategies for transforming our thoughts.


Every breath you take
Every move your make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you.
~ Sting

Just as you watched and learned from your parents, school, church, neighborhood, and culture…you’re children are doing the same.

So, if you experienced verbal, physical, emotional abuse or neglect while you were growing up, it is essential that you become, deeply, aware of your state of mind.

Because your thoughts, fueled by your emotions are creating your behavior. And, if you are experiencing dis-empowered behaviors and want to experience empowerment, it is essential that you change your thoughts.

This is an ongoing, breath by breath, practice.

Ask yourself…is there a way I am behaving that I’d like to change. You must challenge and change your patterns of thought in order to have a different experience.

Then consider…what am I thinking while I behave this way?

Typically, it’s a dis-empowered thought. Once you identify the thought, become aware of how you feel when you have this thought. Then take note of how you behave when you have that thought. This is your dis-empowered creative pattern.

The good news is that once you’ve identified your dis-empowered thoughts, feelings and behavior you get to choose a new empowered thought…notice how you feel when you think it and how you would behave given that thought.

You are literally creating new neural pathways (just like you did when you were in utero!) to support an empowered way of feeling and being in the world.

Repetition is the Mother of all skill, it is said…you must fill your mind with the new thought…over and over again, until it becomes your new way of thinking and thusly, being.

I am, undoubtedly, responsible for creating all of my experiencesaccording to the level of my thoughts. All of my thoughts and beliefs, when fueled by my feelings, move energy into motion, subsequently affecting my behavior.


As a passionate Life & Yoga Coach, Terry L. Cranford offers yoga and life coach tools that will inspire you to change your thoughts in order to change your experiences.

• Trained Ashtanga Yoga Teacher
• Studied in India with Master Pattabhi Jois
• 20 years teaching in fitness environments
• 15 year focus customizing yoga programs
• Center of Excellence Trained Coach


December 13, 2016

The Only True Change Occurs at the Level of Thought

Today, it is my great pleasure to introduce you to Terry Cranford. We go way back! Terry was among the very first people to stand behind my vision of creating a program for survivors of abuse. Beyond that, she is a deeply compassionate and insightful woman, and I'm so glad that she'll be with us this week and next sharing some of her wisdom for survivors who are also parents.


“We become what we think about. Then, it is most important
that we carefully regard our thought patterns. People and things
will respond and behave for us according to the pattern of our 
own thoughts. Others change as we change our thoughts about them. 
When we are no longer able to change a situation,
we are challenged to change ourselves.” 
~ Victor Frankl

Our Mother’s thoughts, while pregnant, set in motion a chemical reaction, empowered or disempowered, that infuses our being in utero.

The cultural, religious, and familial beliefs in our environment create our core beliefs about ourselves until the age of two years old.

These include "I’m not good enough, I’m unlovable, or I’m innately bad."

While growing up we observe, feel and become hard-wired in our thought processes, which fueled with our emotions, creates our behavior, thusly, neglect in childhood may cause parents to neglect or abuse their own children.

An individual's developmental history, especially if it includes childhood abuse, plays a significant role in the development of who we are and our parenting skills.

We each carry with us the influence of our own upbringing and the often unhealthy strategies we developed to protect our tender hearts.

What to do?

Firstly, acknowledge yourself for your awareness level. We have to ‘see’ something in order to ‘heal and change’ something.

Then, it is essential that you attract healing support in the creation of new and empowered thought patterns in order to self-parent and have a different experience.

The only thing we can control are our thoughts. ~ Viktor Frankl

A thought repeated 10 or more times becomes a belief. Affirmations are how we re-wire our brain.

And, while in the process of healing, I’m of the mind it is vital to create a vision of the style and type of parent you want to be for your children. Remove all obstacles to living your vision. Coaching support can be very helpful.

Forgiveness, of course, of Self and others is yet another essential part of this process. Forgiveness is an essential key to healing.

Forgiveness is your peace.

“Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone
free and realizing you were the prisoner.”

You do not have to go this alone! This takes time and is an ongoing practice.

Imagine the qualities you’d like to infuse your children with and begin to change your thoughts in order to change your parenting self.

I encourage you to take full responsibility for your thoughts, your parenting style and thusly your influence on your children and, thusly, humanity.


As a passionate Life & Yoga Coach, Terry L. Cranford offers yoga and life coach tools that will inspire you to change your thoughts in order to change your experiences.

• Trained Ashtanga Yoga Teacher
• Studied in India with Master Pattabhi Jois
• 20 years teaching in fitness environments
• 15 year focus customizing yoga programs
• Center of Excellence Trained Coach


November 29, 2016

Self-Care to Conquer the Struggle

Today, we conclude our series with Jen Cross. In this final post, she dives into writing as self-care and the struggles that come with that.


It’s late where I am, on a Sunday. Outside, the evening is quiet — no birds chirping an odd night song, no owls, no turkeys announcing their victory over our November feasts. No sirens, no voices of neighbors, no train whistles, nothing. The only sounds are the clicking of these keys under my fingers, the quiet music streaming from my laptop, and the slow, persistent tick-tick-tick of the analog clock I have sitting up on the bookshelf behind me. Oh, and there goes an airplane overhead.

What are the sounds where you are right now? If you close your eyes, take a deep breath and then pause, what can you hear?
Sometimes I have to go back to the beginning. In the aftermath of this election, this might be one of those times to go back to the beginning. To go back to where I started with writing, to go back to the page, the pencil, the play. There’s supposed to be play in there somewhere, isn’t there? To return to writing as a place of radical self care.

In the beginning, I wrote my body. I wrote from the five senses: what I saw, what I heard, what I felt, what I smelled, what I tasted. I wrote what was immediately around me. I wrote what was on my table in the cafe, what the people at the next table were saying to one another, what the room smelled like when the back door opened and a blast of winter blew in; I wrote the concrete physical details of my immediate present. 

This helped to ground me, to get me into the now, to remind me that I was not lodged in my past, no matter how often I felt that way. And then, through focusing in on these specific details, I was able to write enough to be able to drop into something deeper — I could imagine a story, or to float back to a “time before this time” (as Pat Schneider likes to say it in her writing prompts) to write from a memory, knowing always I could return to these concrete physicality's: the taste of cooling coffee on my tongue, the way my neighbors purple puffy jacket had slid off the back of her chair and was about to slide onto the floor, but she wasn’t paying any attention to it because some guy had bumped into her and it turned out to be the guy she’d been flirting with — anyone could see she liked him by the way she looked away from him and studiously ignored his presence.

That is to say, I could come back up from the details of the past into the reality of the now, could move through time on the page.

What are the smells around you right now? What’s the last thing you tasted?

Going back to the beginning means returning to writing as a place to be free, a place to explore and play, particularly when the notebook has become a site of hazard and panic, when every time I sit down to write, I think, I've got to say something Important! I have to write out the hardest story now. I have to tell a real truth. I have to get into the pain, the anger, the hurt, the confusion, the ache, the loss, the panic, the fear… and after too many days, weeks, months, years of expecting that sort of writing from myself, I get less and less inclined to sit down at the page. You might not be surprised to hear that. Instead, I want to watch something ridiculous on tv, or take my dog for a long walk through the live oak grove up the hill a ways, or make another loaf of bread. Anything but write more hurt.

The trouble is, there’s a lot of hurt to write these days: my own, my communities’, my friends’, my country’s. And so I can get to a kind of impasse.

Do you ever find yourself in a situation like this, where the thing you’ve done to take care of yourself, the practice you’ve turned to for solace and clarity starts to feel somewhat radioactive, less like a space of invitation and creativity and more like a have-to, a should, an ought? 

I dunno about you, but there’s a 12-year-old girl inside me who’s not so fond of should's and have-to's, and rolls up our words and goes home, decides to quit playing if writing can’t be play at all any more.

Radical self care is a phrase I first heard in activist communities, for those of us who have been convinced or who convinced ourselves that self care is for the weak, or is indulgent, or maybe is ok for those folks over there but we, well, we have to finish this grant proposal and then write those last three poems we said we’d send to that community chapbook and then put the finishing touches on the podcast we promised to do for our friend’s organization and then do our shift at the crisis hotline and then and then and then … when the revolution is won, then we can take a break for some self care. 

But the revolution isn’t ever won; our job isn’t even about win. Our job is to stay in the struggle, and in order to stay in the struggle, we have to take care of ourselves. We have to sustain ourselves — that sustenance, those things we do to nurture our revolutionary bodies, that’s radical self care. Sometimes we have to step away from the work and give ourselves time to play, to rest, to ease, to laugh, to sing, to dance, to create, to remember what sort of life we’re working for in the first place.

When the revolution comes, what sort of life do you want to be living? What happens if you take the time, at least once a day, even for just a few minutes a day, to live that life now? How will you work? How will you play? What if you set a timer for ten minutes and wrote—try not to think too much about what to say, try not to censor yourself or edit or make yourself write it “right,” 'cause there's no such thing here—about what that life will look like, feel like, smell like, taste like, sound like? 

Follow your words wherever they seem to want you to go. And when the timer goes off, pick up the pen, take a deep breath, and maybe do something really nice for yourself—spend a few minutes snuggling with your pup, read a favorite poem, play a favorite song, or call a good friend who you haven't talked to in ages.

Be easy with you, ok? And thank you, today and on all the days, for your good, good words.


A widely-anthologized writer and performer, Jen Cross has written with sexual trauma survivors and other writers for nearly fifteen years. In 2003, Jen founded Writing Ourselves Whole, an organization that offers transformative writing workshops, creating spaces in which the true and complicated stories of the body can emerge. Jen’s fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in over 30 anthologies and other publications, including Nobody Passes, The Healing Art of Writing 2010, make/shift, Visible: A Femmethology (Vol. 1), and Best Sex Writing 2008. She's the co-editor of Sex Still Spoken Here (CSC Press, 2014). Jen is currently an MFA candidate in Creative Nonfiction at San Francisco State University. Find out more about Jen at writingourselveswhole.org.