On Cultivating Safety for Erotic Health
Michaelah Ivie, MA holds a masters in both Marriage and Family Therapy and Art Therapy and recently completed a year-long coaching program taught by Layla Martin at the Tantric Institute of Integrated Sexuality as a Love, Sex, and Relationship coach. She is a wordsMYTH, conscious comedian, relationSHIFT coach, and motivational speaker, using word play to re-program consciousness on and off the stage. Her spellcial linguistricks and empowording imagicnation inspires creative ways of influencing humanity into a universal Love language.
Michaelah: One night, I was out at a bonfire and I decided to take some mushrooms, and ask the mushrooms to show me and tell me what I'm hiding from myself. That is causing my vagina to be numb. I think safety is the foundational piece around our sexuality and feeling pleasure. Surrounding yourself with people who are safe - that you feel safe around - is the most important thing for your erotic health.
Lianne: I'm Lianne. Welcome to strippers and sages, a podcast that explores sex and eroticism through the lenses of art, culture, politics, spirituality and racial justice. Hello strippers and sages community, we have a really fun conversation for you today with Michaelah, a dear friend and a sex and relationship coach who gets really intimate about her own experience, and offers some really useful gems for navigating one's personal and interpersonal sexual landscape. She is a word magician and sprinkles our conversation with so many linguistic delights. So before we get to her, a reminder to check out OVA Moon, if you are a person who bleeds, it's a multivitamin that has completely transformed my own period. And I highly recommend it. And a reminder to show us how much you might perhaps, just maybe, appreciate the content that we're putting out. If you could just take a quick second and drop a five in the ratings, that really helps people find us, and we just want everyone to be living their sexiest lives, and think that these conversations might help them do so. And if you're someone who likes talking about sex, please reach out to us to be part of our new series Street Talks - we would love to talk to you. Without further ado, I bring you Michaelah. Michaelah IV holds a masters in both marriage and family therapy, and art therapy, and recently completed a year long coaching program with Layla Martin at the Tantric Institute of Integrated Sexuality as a love sex and relationship coach. She's a wordsmith, conscious comedian and motivational speaker - using wordplay to reprogram consciousness on and off the stage. Her spell-shal linguis-tricks and empower-wording in magic nation inspires creative ways of influencing humanity into a universal love language. Michaela, thank you so much for joining me today. I'm so psyched to have you here.
Michaelah: Ah, it's such an honor. I'm so grateful.
Lianne: Yeah. So. You just completed this program, how's it going? You've stepping into your your coaching.
Michaelah: Stepping into it, you know, practice makes perfect, I like to say, so, you know, we just do are blessed with what we know. As long as you know a little bit more than someone else, you're a good guide and teacher. So I've just been collecting as much information I can, integrating these practices for myself, and then sharing it and offering it with others. Yeah, it's been really wonderful.
Lianne: Mmmm. And I would love to hear how did you begin to be a wordsmither? Where did that delightful linguistic trickery evolve from for you?
Michaelah: I have a partner named Brody, and he started sending texts and making up words. And I thought to myself, wow, you could do that? And I started to see how when you create a new word, you create a new concept, in a sense, you create a new reality. And so I just took it to another level. I was like, I think abunda-vine who manifests me was the first one I was channeling - that's abundance and divinity, you manifestation and destiny, the blessed me, and then, you know, speak a new language so the world will be a new world - Rumi. So I thought, how can I get leverage on duality and consciousness in a way that's clever, and creative? And so word is magic. And so this fun-ctionary - adding some more fun into our lexicon or blessed-the-con - just started happening. So I've been doing it for like over five years, and it's been, it's fun. It makes people laugh. I love it.
Lianne: Well, it makes us laugh. And like you say, it's super inspiring. It makes it makes us reflect to on also language that isn't serving us, right. I mean, just exactly 10 minutes ago, Michaela and I were desperately troubleshooting or trying to fix all of these technological difficulties. And we were both like, wait, troubleshooting... why is that the word? Which I don't know, how have you come up with another brilliant alternative yet?
Michaelah: Pleasure shooting.
Lianne: Pleasure shooting.
Michaelah: Because really, we're all coming into more pleasure, right? I mean, that's what to me empowerment is - to recognize that pleasure is our birthright, you know, and it's safe to enjoy life to its fullest. So, I would say instead of, you know, because people like to write in pain points and I just think that that's an old style of relating to people - like do you feel this pain and suffering - and I like to write in pleasure points like, let's be in that relationship where we get out of the pain and suffering from the past and into like what's working and a workable model? So yeah, more pleasure, more happiness...
Lianne: For everyone. So how has your wordsmithing influenced your work around sexuality? Or even just your how you think about sexuality? Have you come up with any linguistic alchemy tools to improve or enhance eroticism?
Michaelah: Of course, you know, Viva la vulva. But there's a re-vulva-lution. I mean, we're working out the vagistics for the vagenda, if you know what I'm saying. It's ha-penis and pleas-her, you know what I mean? When we do it together like that, it's where it happens. And you know, learning how to be a heart-ner, you know, you used to say partner in crime, but I like to say partner in divine, ready to go the bliss-tance, and partner is someone who gives you the safety to be yourself, and the courage to be vulnerable and open your heart. And that's one of the reasons I've created a new language so that we can create a new concept for what healthy looks like. So yeah, I got the jisticks. It’s really time to fuck-give each other, you know, and start to fuck-ous. So yes, I, you know, no more, you know, hit the eclipse, or a pocket pussy. You know, I'm saying like, yeah, it's time to expand into our ultimate fuck-tential is all I'm trying to say. And yeah, definitely have a whole sex-cabulary for this expansion. Because if we're going to get into the now, wouldn't you agree that we need a now-cabulary to do that?
Lianne: I do agree.
Michaelah: And wouldn't you agree that if we're gonna embody more bliss, we would need a bliss-ipline?
Michaelah: So see, you wouldn't have even maybe thought about that, on how to make that leap and jump, but the word allows that bridge. So it creates a new synaptic pathway in your mind, to use your imagination. And if I could think of anything we need most right now is a healthy i-magic-nation to dream. what's possible. Oftentimes, we'd like to ask like, how is it going to happen, but I don't think that that is as bliss-ecessary is, what am I going to do to make it happen? You know, like, let's dream big with each other and create new traditions and new myths and new storylines that are healthy for the new world. So these words allow for healthy new co-authoring of your life.
Lianne: I love it. What are we calling it the click-chinary?
Michaelah: Well, I'm going to take the dick out of dictionary and make it a vagictionary. I'm going to be a vagillianaire. You know, the let the vagina speak. Let the the vulva speak. I mean, it's a re-vulva-lution right now. And we're in the heart of the re-Kali-bration. And we're just re-Kali-brating, like what it looks like to love ourselves, to be authentic, to be love-ailable, to be considerate with one another. I mean, I'm vul-vulnerable. We're both vul-vulnerable. We need safety, we need trust, in order to enter into a partnership with someone else entering into with us, and we may not have ever seen that before.
Michaelah: And that's why I say it's time to use our i-magic-nation. Because, you know, our mothers and our fathers and our ancestors, they we may not have gotten past on this healthy conditioning. We didn't. When I ask people, what did your parents teach you about sex? And what did you learn about sex from your mother or your father? You know what I hear nothing. Or, wear a condom. Or, don't have sex when you're drunk. I was very fortunate, however, to have a mother that gave me the freedom to enjoy my sexuality in a good way from the beginning. So when I first asked my mother when I was a little kid, probably like four or five I think? I said, what is sex? I don't know. I had a curiosity or a cure-her-eroticy. And she said, she drew a diagram like man have penises. Women have vaginas. And then when they love each other, put them together and it feels really good, it's how you have a baby. And she said, sexuality's healthy and normal. It's a birthright that we all have. But what she offered me was some really great advice on when to know, when I was ready to have sex, which I think really set me apart from most of my peers at the time. Which was, you'll know when you're ready to have sex when you can look someone in the eye and not feel uncomfortable. Or you can be naked around that person, and they have you feeling really safe.
Lianne: That's what your mother told you?
Lianne: Damn, Mom! Can she please teach some parenting workshops? That's awesome.
Michaelah: I'm telling you, I told her we need to write a book. I mean, it was the best advice I could have been given. And so I really use that as a barometer. And when all my friends were having sex, some of them were in junior high. I mean, I was 18. I was graduating high school before I fell in love and felt safe enough to actually be with someone. And it was so beautiful, because I felt safety. You know, we dated for like four months and we were both virgins. And it was such a beautiful experience rather than the pressure. I remember playing spin the bottle. Did you remember this game? And like, because we're all like really feeling that sexuality really young. And I think sexuality is normal, really young. But without any guidance, you know, what are we doing? And all my friends were really going for it. I was like, super uncomfortable. I was not ready for that. I remember the boys just really wanted to play and I was like, "Hey, I don't really know you that well". And I was able to use my voice, I was really able to say, "Hey, I'm just not feeling safe enough to do that with you," at an early age because my mom taught me that that was the most important thing to know, if you wanted to have it with someone. And I just don't think that most people got that guidance. So there wasn't any early foundation for that safety and that vulnerability and that sense of trust.
Lianne: Hmm. How beautiful. But and so when you what prior to you having sex and to your mother giving you that piece of information... did you self pleasure when you were younger, prior, you know? Was there conversation around masturbation? Or what what were the ways in which you were exploring your eroticism prior to losing your virginity, which I'd also love to hear your reframing of language around that phrase, because it's so problematic.
Michaelah: Absolutely. So I believe it was... I think it might have been elementary school, like maybe fifth or sixth grade, my mom bought my brother and I a book on masturbation. So she normalized it and she would talk to us about it. And I remember my brother coming up to my mom one day and was like, put his arm around my mom and said, "thank you so much for this book, and to knowing that this is okay." So I just feel like my mom, you know, because she didn't get that from her mother at all, she was really shocked around sexuality, and she said, when she first saw an erection, it scared the heck out of her. She just had no preparation, or anything, around her sexuality. And it was scary for her. So she just decided that she was just going to give us the tools... and she would say, well, so one of her lines was, um, you got to try out lots of pairs of shoes before you know which one really fits. Around, make sure you have lots of sexual experiences with everybody. There's nothing wrong with that you want to be safe, but you want to enjoy and enjoy yourself. So I just always had this, you know, capacity to... well, I didn't always have the capacity to be able to enjoy myself in intimacy. I learned that along the way, obviously still learning that. But she gave me a healthy foundation.
Lianne: So say more about that. Because I think that what you just said is huge for all of us, like how do you actually get to the place of enjoying intimacy. So what do you feel? What are your thoughts on what that journey is for people in general? And what was your journey around getting to that place? Or is your journey continuing to be?
Michaelah: Well, I like to say that trust is the best sexual position. And, you know, people used to ask me what my kink was. And I was like, you know, a healthy, committed partnership, you know. So for me, trust and honesty, create safety. So I feel like my journey into creating healthy intimacy has to do with creating trust and vulnerability with another person and being able to communicate needs and desires and longings and a healthy way to express what works and what doesn't work or at least know that I have the resource to be able to get to what I'm longing for and the safety to get there. So. yeah, just dropping into an ability to communicate those desires. I think communication is the biggest glue, the connection piece that that creates healthy intimacy is healthy communication, being able to know what your feelings are, because I think, you know, emotions are still tuning into that and knowing how to express your full arraying range of emotions and not needing validation from another or not feeling like you're going to get rejected. So a sense of, of trusting yourself and loving yourself. And yeah, and then being able to ask for what you longed for, what are your desires? What are you needing, like, and I think it's really having good discernment or good discernment on who you choose to be intimate with. Being able to trust the other person is going to be honest. And have integrity, you know, a secure attachment style, someone who's able to show up in a good way, and create safety for you to be able to ask them for what your desire, and they meet you in that space. Yes, I want to meet you with your desires. Because sometimes people are not able to meet you and your desires.
Michaelah: And, and that's okay. But I think, you know, is this healthy? I like to ask people, are you healthy? Are you healthy for me? Like, can you show up in a good way? So?
Lianne: Yeah, I have follow ups for that.
Michaelah: And I think that's what it has to do with awareness, awareness of self. And just awareness, I think a lot, we lack a lot of a personal awareness of ourselves. And I don't think it's a fault of anyone else, I think it's just our consciousness is where it's at. You know, there's just so much to tune into and think about that, it's sometimes it's hard to become aware of other. When you're aware of yourself, you can become aware of another. And I think that that creates healthy connection. And it really requires you to do work on yourself and be humble, to be able to look at your shadows, and to see them and to acknowledge them, and to continue to shine light on each other in a way that feels safe. You know, I think that's where we come into relationship with each other, we all come in with this sheath, or guarding around our hearts, and this flame inside that wants to be exposed. I think in healthy friendships and healthy partnerships, are those who can shine a light on our shadow, and we feel safe enough to go "oh, yeah, that makes a lot of sense." And then bring that guarding and defensiveness down, in order for more light to shine, tomorrow, safety, more autonomy, to be able to be ourselves, to be expressed, to share the full range of emotions in a good way. To not feel like you have to hold back in fear, like you're gonna hurt someone else's feelings. So you want to make sure that other people have emotional maturity as well.
Lianne: Mhmm. What would you say since you your personal upbringing, at least in in this regard, was so supportive? What are the forces that are counterproductive to what you're saying that you have had to unlearn? And that you see other people just in society having to unlearn to get to that place of authenticity, and vulnerability and expression?
Michaelah: Well, I think we've been really born in a field of conditional love. Most people haven't really received unconditional love before. And I think there's like a general unworthiness that happens, it's very pervasive experience to feel like you're not really worthy of love, or you're not really lovable, or the inadequacy around not being good enough. And that fear that you're not doing it right, or you're not playing at your fullest. So I think it's like unlearning some of these shadow frequencies, that we got carried on. You know, past lineages, we all came through our mother's womb, right? We've all been wounded in some level because it's taken a really long time for humanity to really honor the feminine in a good way, and see the feminine as equal. Even in the feminine movement, you know, there's like an uprising and sometimes a lot of bitterness and anger around like, "I haven't gotten my rights," but I think it's like this, balancing knowing that masculine and feminine are different and learning to honor that balance. And I had to unlearn, and I'm still unlearning. I don't think I'm an expert on anything. I just want I know I'm a complete student of this life and learning every day. How to be more authentic and more available and to trust myself. I've come to realize that there are deep insecurities that we all have, like "is my body beautiful?" I remember growing up, and I didn't have that body that I saw in the magazines and what media portrays is beautiful and sexy. And that was really challenging because, it's like, do I look like what sexy and beautiful looks like, and the pressure to be sexy and beautiful as a woman in our culture is so huge. So redefining what sexy and beautiful is has been part of the process, like beauty comes from within - it comes from the heart. It isn't about this physical outward appearance. It's about caring for yourself and caring for another and like I really I've had this word beauty-ility It's where beauty meets humility as your sacred duty, right? Because I think sometimes beauty is a blessing and a curse. Meaning that you could be so beautiful, and everyone can desire you, and want you, and you use that beauty as a tool for power, a tool to get something from someone, or you can use your beauty as a tool for expansion. And to me that's beaut-ility - where you use it for expansion, you're not using it to get power and control over someone else. So I think that learning to actually accept my flaws, accept my cellulite, accept my boobs are not the firmest breasts - and this has been a big one, because I'm just turning 47 on Saturday. But I just feel, and especially in my partnership right now that he loves me for me. Like I don't have to look like something. I think in the past, I've always been insecure with partners like, "am I hot? Am I sexy? Am I?" And I think there's just been a recent like really stepping into actually my body as beautiful as it is. This is my body. Like if you're if you are rejecting yourself, you're rejecting life? How can you get into pleasure? If you're totally being so hyper-critical of the way you book? How can you expand and into a eroticism when you're so focused on what this other person might be thinking of you. So I think, more intimacy and pleasure comes from having a healthy self-esteem about what you look like or you know about who you are?
Lianne: Totally! What are some of the tools that you offer your clients and that you've used for yourself to sort of foster that more a deeper sense of erotic embodiment fueled by a sort of self-embodiment and self-esteem.
Michaelah: I think the most important thing is learning NVC - nonviolent communication and connective tools. Helping people to share what their fears are, like, what are your deepest fears in your partnership with another because maybe your partner doesn't ask you? What do you fear the most, and being able to communicate those things. What do you desire the most? What do you pleasure the most, and really expressing what do you love the most about me, and really holding each other and being able to ask for what you need to be able to give and receive. I think learning how to give and receive, tools where you teach someone to ask, and the other partner unless it's like, really hurts them to do it, but just to say yes to those things. So to be given freedom, like, freedom to really share what turns you on, and feel like the person really wants to show up for that. And create healthy couple bubbles, in intimate connections with people. So really learning each other's value systems. And I love the book Wired for Love by Stan Taskin. And I've learned so much about how to create healthy couple bubbles it for myself and for others. And really what what I've learned so much about this, and what makes so much sense is that, when you're in a relationship, and all you want is autonomy, and you want your personal freedoms, and you're showing up for your own needs to like, if I'm not getting my needs met by my partner, I'm just gonna have to get my needs met by someone else. Does that really work? Like is that a working model? And I don't think so. I think it's really important to find out what your partner's personal needs are, and their longings, and their value systems, and show up for that, because you're showing up for the relationship. You're saying "this relationship is more important than my personal needs, and I'm willing to do this thing for you, not because it's what I want, but it's because I know it's something that you want. And then it's important to you." So creating exercises and connection tools to allow that level of clarity, understanding, safety, rapport, and curiosity. I think curiosity is so important.
Lianne: Are you working mostly with couples and people, people in partnership right now? Or do you work with individuals as well?
Michaelah: I am bringing on more couples, I've been more working with individuals at this point. I want to work more with couples, because I love dynamic interplay between people. And I love finding a way to make that bridge so that they create healthier ways.
Lianne: Well, I'd love to, to rewind a little bit and go back to... I guess we got up to your own personal journey as an adolescent, I'd love to hear a little bit more about your own journey around pleasure and exploration into your own body when you were a young woman and how it's evolved. You just said, happy birthday, by the way, that you're about to turn 47. So I think it's really fascinating to consider a woman's journey, or anyone's sexual journey, over a lifetime. Because that's something, again, in terms of how we talk about it. I think there's a lack of discourse around this as something that is always an evolution, right? Like, of course, a woman in her 50s. Well, I'm not going to say of course, because I think our culture is really fucked up. And a lot of people do not have the tools, and are not focusing on this area of their life in a way that can make it something that is continuously evolving and expanding. But if we can reframe and think about it as a personal journey in the way that we think about all the other areas of our lives, coming of age, I hope that to be 100 times wiser when I'm 60, than I am now in my 30s. And similarly, I hope to have grown and expanded as an erotic being over the next 30 years. So all of that to say, I'd love to hear about your own personal journey over the last few decades.
Michaelah: Thank you. And you will. Well, it definitely hasn't always been rainbows and kittens, I'll tell you that much. Like I had a huge period of my life where I was extremely traumatized. While I was getting my master's degree as a marriage and family therapist, I was with my was-band for... we were together for seven years. So I met him when I turned 21. And, you know, I didn't have that many sexual partners before him. And we were together for seven years. And then he left me in between my first and second year of my master's degree program, and in a very traumatic way. He just out of the blue told me he met someone, that he wants a divorce, and then I kind of never heard from him again. So I was completely beside myself, to say the least. I was going through a really hard time at that time. And in that moment, I decided to go on a date. It was one of my first dates. And I was really excited about it. And a friend of mine, she was asking about it on my way out the door. I didn't know this guy, I met him at a club. And he's like, I'd love to see you. He looked really healthy. I was like, sure I would love to, I felt a like a connection with him. And I was on my way out the door. And my friend said, you know, maybe you don't want to drive to his house, because maybe he will rape you. And I was like, no way like, I'm not gonna get raped. Like, that's not... I didn't even think it was possible. Anyway, to jump to the end of the date, we had a really nice time. And then I we were in his hot tub and he gave me a drink. And I got really tired and exhausted. And I was like, hey, I think I need to get out of here. And he said, "Do you want me to give you a massage?" And I said, sure. I was still trusting this guy who was like a realtor at a gorgeous home. He looked really -
Never trust a realtor! Never trust a realtor!
I was like, "this guy's got it going on, you know, I can trust him." So he massages me. And I leave my body. But I leave my body and I am actually having a witness of what's going on. So I'm able to observe what's happening. And he raped me. And so I woke up in the middle of the night after being really groggy from whatever he gave me, and I rolled over. And I was like, Oh my goodness, I just got raped. He was what we call a gentleman rapist. He didn't try to really hurt me. But he did have sex with me without my permission. And I you know, I left there. I was like, "Okay, I'm leaving now" and he said, "Okay". I was really in shock, and I left there and I got into my car.
And you didn't talk about it. There was no -
No, yeah, he was in his bed, with his covers on top of his head. He left me in his other room in his massage room. I snuck around his house and looked at everything, like who is this guy like, "Oh my god". He looked like such a nice person from all his beautiful art to photos of, you know, maybe his niece and nephew or on his refrigerator. And I said, "I'm leaving." And he said, "okay," and I got in my car. And I said to myself, you're not allowed to think about this for two seconds, and then not tell a single soul. That's what I said. So I actually hypnotized myself because I was completely, barely, unable to cope at all. Finishing up being a therapist and all that, I just, like, really lost it at that point. So I'm going to skip ahead, fast forward. A couple years had passed and I was experiencing what we would call a numb vagina. And I didn't know why. I was scaring men, men are like "you're really scary." And like, "I'm scary?" I guess I had this hostility. But I didn't know about it. Because I seriously hypnotized myself. I put this memory in foreign affairs file in my mind. Okay. Foreign Affairs can't handle it right now. Not going to think about it, not going to attend to it. So I noticed that I couldn't feel sex. Yeah, you know, my yunni got wet, it got juicy, but I couldn't feel a thing. So I decided to go on a celibacy: a year long journey into like really discovering why I can't feel anything. And one night, I was out at a bonfire. And I decided to take some mushrooms and ask the mushrooms to show me and tell me what I'm hiding from myself that is causing my vagina to be numb. So it was a powerful night. It was raining. I have my feet in the mud. I was really connected to the earth and the fire and I kept saying show me "Show me, show me, show me" - that was like the intention with the medicine. I was ready to see. And it was about five in the morning, I was sitting around some sound bowls. And a lightbulb, it's called a lightbulb memory, came in a flash. And I saw the night that I went out. I saw myself getting ready for that date. I saw what my friend said as I walked out the door. I saw everything that happened. And I instantly got so sick. I had to puke almost like right away. It was like this memory came back that I had stored deep down, like this was not accessible, and it came up. And I went into my mind's eye at the time. And I went back to the scene of the crime. I was like, "Oh, no, no, no. This guy does not get to have power over me like this anymore. I am so done giving my power away to this guy." So in my mind's eye, after I remember I woke up and I just said "I'm leaving" in the vision of my mind. I went to him at that bed. I pulled the covers off his head. And I said "this was not okay. It is not okay to enter a woman and to enter me without my permission. You raped me. You're disgusting. But you know what, you don't get to control me like this anymore. I get to have my pleasure back." So I like kind of cut and sent him on his way, sent him to like, you know, pleasure school, respect school and like, I started to reclaim myself again. So I remember to like... I started cursing uncontrollably, like, all of a sudden this anger and this hidden rage started coming out. I was like "what? why am I swearing so much?" All of this suppression started coming to the surface. And I was really grateful like, "Okay, this is what was causing that numb vagina," because for a woman and probably for a man too, I think for humans, I think we're connected - our hearts and our vaginas and our penises. We're all connected. It's a mind body spirit connection. And thank goodness I met a man at this time who was willing to take his time with me. He was like... he could tell that I was numb. He said "You're numb, aren't you?" I said "I am," and he said, "I want to help you. I want to help heal you." And so we worked on this process of... he wasn't entering me. He's like I'm not gonna actually put my penis inside of you, because, I think you just need some finger strokes, and some softness, and gentleness. And what I'm going to do with you is I'm going to ask you what you're feeling while I'm doing these strokes. And at first, it really traumatized me. I was like, "Oh my god, I don't know I don't feel anything!" It was so hard to not be able to access the felt sense, and just to be able to feel. But the more and more he asked me, and the more and more I knew that he was there from my pleasure, and not his pleasure, and that he truly was holding such a safe space for me, I began to feel again. And not only did I begin to feel, but I started accessing my G spot. And I'm like, "What's happening to me, I think I'm gonna like pee or something". And he's like, "yes, let it go. Let it flow. Like that's the Amrika!" I'm like, "What are you talking about?" I didn't even know. But through that safety, through that trust, through that asking, "What does this feel like? Now? What are you feeling in this moment?" I was able to access my pleasure again. And what I've noticed as I've grown up, and had different sexual partners, is my flower, my pleasure is so connected to my ability to feel safe with that person. And where I am with being able to be in my body. I think, sometimes, if I'm anxious - and even with my partne now, sometimes I am. I'm just having a thing where I'm like, really in my head. And it's really hard for me to access full pleasure when I'm in my head. So, I have to get into my breath, and into my body, and know it's safe. So like calling in safety, just with the breath: safe, soften, soften, soften. So yeah, just accessing the heart and love. And yeah, I just noticed how much I'm connected. It's just all connected. And I just give myself permission not to feel sometimes. I'm like, "oh, wow, I'm just really not accessing my pleasure right now." And I let myself know that that's okay. Like, it doesn't always have to be the most ecstatic experience, to have an amazing experience in intimacy and love and sexuality. It doesn't have to always be that mind-blowing orgasm. You know, I have a partner that can look me in the eyes and love me where I'm at. And because I don't have a goal anymore, it's not about like getting off. It's about getting in. It's a just a different journey.
Lianne: Wow. Michaelah. Thank you so much for sharing that remarkable story. I think it's really an important one for people to hear. In a previous episode on the show with Katherine Rowland, we were talking about, what is trauma? And how there's acute trauma, we could say, which is what you underwent. And then there's atmospheric trauma, which is, in some ways, just what it is to be a woman alive in a rape culture - what it is to be cat-called, what it is to, from a young age, even be living in a culture where your friend needs to rightfully say to you, "you probably shouldn't drive to his house because...right?" Versus, we live in a culture where some guy doesn't feel like he needs to rape. I mean, what's also remarkable about that, is like, it was going well, you were, like, into this guy, you probably would have slept with him voluntarily, like soon enough! Yeah, and so, um, the reason I'm bringing up atmospheric traumas, if we think about that there's the way in which there is this atmospheric trauma affecting all of us, potentially, then we all have this work to do in our bodies. We all have these constrictions to overcome, and that they can come up, and especially when there's not an acute cause, or in your case, when when the mind blocks it out in that way, which is just so astounding, that you were able to do that, and that you could look back and remember that moment too, of getting in your car and saying "nope, not for two seconds." And I know you, because I know like your mind, and the power of your you know, positive thinking, and just choosing what to focus on. And that you were able to do that in that way, for better or worse. It seems like, you know, you came back to process it when you were ready to. But, so, this idea of how important it is, and why you were focusing so much on trust in the beginning of this conversation, to be given that space, when you're with a partner. To be given that that space for healing, and for exploration, and to take away the goal of it, and you know, everything that you're talking about feels like so much... so little of that is what's ever televised what's ever talked about. It's never in the movies, right? Like all of the messaging we get about sex - when we then are actually in that moment, and feeling this constriction, or this tension, or this numbness, or this trauma in our bodies, and especially maybe are not able to pinpoint it, and then that conflicts with this messaging we get of how we should just be these multi-orgasmic people who, like in Hollywood, it's just takes two seconds. And you meet the first time, the new love of your life, etc. I think that can lead to a feeling of brokenness and inferiority of like, "Well, why isn't my body responding in a certain way, as I'm seeing that it should?" And so I think, normalizing these stories and these conversations, and, as your mother did in raising you of, well, step one "can you hold eye contact? Can you hold conversation? Can you express yourself clearly? " is really foundational to the kind of paradigm shift that I think we're needing on a global scale when it comes to sex.
Michaelah: Yeah, I think safety is the foundational piece around our sexuality and feeling pleasure. And growing up as a young girl, was it safe to be erotic? No! I feel like it was a place we had to guard ourselves. Like it wasn't safe. And I don't know, even still, if it's safe for a lot of women, you know, we have a culture that doesn't ask permission, for instance. And I'll give you an example. I was 31 years old and feeling like I had plenty of sexual experiences after my divorce and everything. And I was with a man who he asked me permission before he entered me. We're having a beautiful sexual exchange. And he said, "Would it be okay to enter your now, to enter your temple?" And mic drop, okay? Jaw was on the floor, that I hadn't been asked permission to have someone enter me in all of my experiences ever! No one actually really ever checked in with me around that. And I, at the same time, totally forgot that I was supposed to remind them. Hey, knock before you enter! I mean, hello, just because a woman is turned on and excited does not mean that she is ready for you to enter her womb space! And that was a huge wake up call to me, like to create safety inside of myself, to be able to even ask for that. So there's all this pressure to be sexual. And also remember too, and with my mother growing up, I started dressing really kind of slutty, really short skirts and lots of makeup. Because all my friends were dressing like that. And one day she goes, not in judgment, just she asked a question. She said "Michaela, what are you attracting with that look? Are you looking to have sex with someone? Are you ready for that?" And I was like, "Absolutely not. I am so not ready for that". She goes well, "might want to consider what image you're putting off because, you know, that's what you're calling in." And I think it just is unconscious. We unconsciously want to be overly sexualized, because as a woman, that's what determines our worth. And, you know, we're in a in a place where like, pedophilia is like, on the rise and that movie Cuties and everything's over-sexualizing young kids. It's like, what are we doing? What are we saying, by all the twerking, you know, have you seen the WAP? The Cardi B?
Lianne: But, you know, I kind of love the WAP and I haven't seen Cuties yet - it's a professional imperative that I do soon. But I guess just to dig into it a little bit deeper - there's also, I think, what you're saying about that women are objectified, our self worth then becomes how much can we play ourselves up as a sex object. That's one piece of it. And then, perhaps there's also a very authentic desire to feel one's own eroticism and sexuality and sexual power, right? And so again, in the radical i-magic-nation, I'm picking up your lexicon, you know, if we can have a radical reimagining of what would a safe world look like in which young women are able to safely-dress or self-express, and to know that that is not an invitation, that that one thing isn't equated with the other. Again, I don't really want to talk about Cuties because I've haven't seen it, but even as you're speaking about your childhood, there's like an acknowledgement of, I think how your mother treated you and your brother of like, "yes, you are sexual beings! You are alive and you are young, and you are sexual beings already. And there's nothing wrong with that. And that shouldn't be shamed." So on the one hand, it's like what's going on with a hyper sexualization of society in a way that is maybe harmful, and driven by impure motives, and playing into certain stereotypes or demands that are unhealthy? And then there's also the question of, what does a pure expression of that look like for women, and for men, and for children, as well. I have a little niece, and when you spend time with like a two year old, and they're like discovering their genitals, it's like that can really freak out adults. And it's like, well, why? Why are we freaked out by that? That's like the purest... that's a discovery of a body. That's normal. And so at the same time, I think, the fear of pedophilia, that fear of like, "oh, we got to protect the purity of our women" also has some really harmful consequences that can lead to a mixed messaging that's like undercutting or doing a disservice, I think, to what you and I are talking about in terms of erotic liberation.
Michaelah: Yeah, I think we got to let go of the shame! And claim our birthrights to enjoy sexuality. And I think that some of these perverted ways of relating to ourselves sexually has to do with a lot of shame. Because we weren't taught that this was a human birthright to enjoy an erotic connection with each other. That it's okay to touch yourself. Babies masturbate, period! They touch their genitals. We come out as sexual beings, and we just haven't been educated. We get so many mixed messages, so it's hard to know, is it liberating us? Or is it hurting us? You know, like a penis can be a liberator or a destroyer. Sex can be, you know, the most powerful healing that we could possibly have, or the most destructive. So how are you using your sexuality? You know, and I don't think there's any like, I don't think there's anything wrong with porn, or anything wrong with someone being or calling themselves a slut. It's just, are you being really authentic and honoring yourself? Or are you doing it wanting to get validated by someone else? So I think if it's like an external validation, or like you're doing it to... yeah, where it's not really honoring the other person's needs, and like really asking consent, I think consent culture, and asking for consent, and going slow is so big! Like, really checking and not assuming. I think we make a lot of assumptions that if a person is twerking, that they want a lot of sexual attention, and maybe they don't, maybe they're just like, I'm just trying to.. it fucking feels good I'm just wiggling my ass. And, you know, I have such mixed feelings on that Cardi B video, you know? Cause I have a wild side and a conservative side. And my wild side is like, "Yeah, get it girl!" Like, you know, it's empowered, just enjoying sex for sex sake, and not trying to give a fuck what anybody else thinks. And then there's another part of me that's like, this is on YouTube, and young kids can get access to this, and what is the message we're sharing around that? So, yeah. It's an interesting dichotomy, trying to figure out where it all lands and trying to understand it all. And I think it's wonderful that we're even talking about it because I think we're really uncovering it together. Like what is healthy sexuality? And yeah, yeah, confidence, the body embodying what's true, and being an exploration and curiosity, just exploring the edges with someone safe - I think that's what it's all about. Just surrounding yourself with people who are safe, that you feel safe around is the most important thing for your erotic health. When you feel safe with someone you're like, let's go for some fantasies, let's try new things, because you can just let go. But oftentimes, people get with people that they don't feel safe with, you know, or haven't felt safe with, and therefore they have to do this healing journey to recover their lost self, from trauma, from rape, from, you know, just this lack of consent that's happened. I think we just have forgotten something. I think it's an ancient knowledge. I think we're all born with it. But because the conditioning field has had so much judgment around sexuality and we weren't really given much knowledge or information in a healthy way. We're all deconditioning right now from unhealthy ways. And we're just starting to, like a seed, come out of it. Like planting healthy soil so that we can grow into fully embodied erotic beings without shame or guilt.
Lianne: Do you want to talk a little bit about the type of work that you are doing, or interested in doing, and how you are addressing some of this very personal realm with the people that you work with?
Michaelah: Yeah, um, I don't just focus solely on sexuality. I focus a lot on empowerment and creating more love and intimacy and safety inside oneself, so that you can opt into loving partnership in a good way. So working with people on their their desires. I like to understand what people are working on, and what embodiment or empowerment that they're working on with themselves. And I think that once you learn to love yourself, and accept yourself and let go of these insecurities, then you can step into a more embodied way of being in relationship to others. So working with attachment styles, and, like, reauthoring with people who they want to be - not from the past, but from the present and into the future. So I work in a somatic way. I go into the body to find out what's there, because we all have so many different aspects of ourselves. You know, oftentimes, I find the inner child piece is hanging out around the one trying to control love, relationships, and intimacy. And that's not the highest archetype to work on being in an empowered relationship with another. So really healing the inner child piece and the mother and the father piece. So it's really just going into the past and transforming it, finding a way to have clarity, acceptance, if you can, gratitude, creating new narratives, and new storylines that do work, finding out what you picked up from your past, or from your mother, your father, that's not really serving and nourishing for you anymore. So just really uncovering patterns and thought patterns and experiences from the past that really just need a new lens to look through. So I help people with that - inspiring people to go for it and inspiring people to bring their bigness instead of the smallness to their experiences. So I hold a space of love and trust and non-judgments for people to explore for themselves, and ask great questions to allow people to uncover their truth.
Lianne: Super powerful and necessary work, and I can have no doubt that you are indeed an excellent steward of that expansion for people. I would love to know, as we are playing in the realm of i-magic-nation. What do you think if you could just completely reimagine society in terms of our sexual norms? Our sexual education for young people? You know, what, what would the sex utopia look like, in Michaelah's world?
Michaelah: I think it really requires education. It would be really important to help educate parents on how to teach their children about sex, really re-educating the parents and then starting there. How to talk to your kids about sex, like, when is a good time to start talking about sex? Because I think you should start talking about it the way my mom did it. She's like, "the moment you brought it up. That was the beginning." So I think I was like four or five. I was really young. So I think parents are just really insecure about addressing it because no one addressed it with them. Education, education, education, I think that that's the most important way that we're going to get into a healthy society around sexuality is start with educating parents, educating teens, you know, having, like creating, getting rid of the shame around anything being wrong with sex, allowing and teaching young girls to say no, when it doesn't feel good - like when do you say no? When do you say yes? In this utopian society, I see respect.
Lianne: Mhmm. And young boys, of course, young girls and young boys.
Michaelah: Of course! In all genders you know, to have a voice to know how to say yes how to ... like how to teach people how to trust their instincts and know when it's a yes you know, to get to tuned in. Like, well, I actually do feel excited and turned on around this and that is okay. So, yeah, normalcy and probably creating healthier porn, maybe, and maybe sexual porn for for teenagers. Healthy pornography. Teaching my boys to go slow with the girls. And, you know, if the girl wants that, maybe the girl is really assertive, and that's her kink. And that's okay, too. But I think it's just that everyone is happy, and feels really happy with the way that they're relating to their sexuality. Like getting rid of this "oh, I'm not good enough", or "I'm not getting what I want"
Lianne: Totally, and queer porn for teenagers, everything that normalizes the whole spectrum, of course. Yeah, I mean, I think one thing that's super problematic, as you're saying, in terms of, yes, it needs to start with parents. And that then, I think parents fear stigma from other parents, right? So I can see, "well, yeah, I want to talk to my daughter, but then I don't want her going off to her kindergarten and saying things that freak out other parents, that then start thinking..." People just get so alarmed that "oh, then they think that there's something inappropriate happening at home," when in fact, you're just trying to educate your child. You know, I've certainly thought about how I feel the best contribution I could make to society would be to start a sort of a wilderness program to take young women, like 12 and 13 year olds, which is already late, honestly! But you know, around that age. I mean, I think it's late to start the conversation, but it's probably the right age to then bring them into the woods and be like, let's talk about pleasure. Let's talk about like, you learning your own body right now. With a real focus on sexuality and sexual empowerment, and just how would that program get enrollment? Like we're in the Bay Area, it's among the most progressive cities in the United States. And even within that, I just think that parents get so freaked out and uptight and worried about how that could go wrong, or what that could say. And that's really, really problematic. And part of I think the shift that needs to happen is like, how do we - we talked about getting rid of the stigma, and I think a lot of people are generally on board with that, like, yes, sex positive? Sure - but then when it comes to actually taking those steps to reframe there can be a lot of resistance, even with fairly progressive within fairly progressive communities.
Michaelah: Yeah, I think a lot of parents are really hung up, and really scared themselves, because they don't even know what healthy sexuality is. So they have to be able to trust that you're gonna be able to discuss healthy sexuality. I mean, what is healthy sexuality? But I think the Europeans do a great job. I mean, I think we should look to cultures that they have a working model and learn from working models.
Lianne: Maybe I need to look into it. I got to find out about what's going on over there.
Michaelah: Yeah. I remember in high school, talking to some exchange students from Europe, and they were like, "Oh, we've been talking about sex since I was little! Yeah, I definitely could have someone come over in high school and have sex. And it's nothing wrong with that." So -
Lianne: But it doesn't mean that it doesn't mean that the conversation then encompassed all of the nuance that we're talking about now. I would imagine, also, from my own experience with European lovers who did not ask consent, right, that there's, you know, this level of education and reframing of health could probably, I don't know anywhere on the planet that's doing it well, but I hope that there is somewhere and I would love to learn, right? If you're listening, let me know! Tamara Institute maybe. Um, I want to also ask you, since we were talking about psychedelics earlier, and how powerful your own experience with mushrooms was in, in helping you towards your own healing, what do you see is the potential of using psychedelics for sexual healing?
Michaelah: Wow, I think it's an amazing tool for sexual healing. I mean, you can go into an alternative universe and be able to like meta-experience yourself in this witness mode. And in a safe container, I think that that is extremely powerful, to be able to observe yourself from a higher self, because that's what I think psychedelics does, it gives us a meta-perspective on ourselves, and in a healthy environment that feels safe and expansive, it is absolutely, deeply healing and transformational. I think psychedelics are highly valuable, and under respected for this. So I definitely think psychedelics and a sexual experience is profound, and can have a profound experience for healing to really call back those soul fragments of yourself that got broken, got split off during painful moments. You know, I think we do get fragmented, like what happened with me during my rape, I fragmented and I lost part of my spirit. And then my whole adult life has been, like, hauling back those soul fragments, and I feel like psychedelics and I was good. Mushrooms a really helps to call those soul fragments back to yourself. So you're pretty much calling back your wholeness, you've already been whole, but then you got, you know, fractalized. And you're not completely with yourself all the way. And so just really coming back home, you know, I think coming back home into the heart, and yeah, letting go of the trauma. How do we let go of the trauma? How do we let go of being angry and resentful for being dishonored or disrespected in a sexual realm? Like how do we forgive each other truly forgive each other?
Lianne: Especially when we tend that forgiving needs to go towards ourselves? Often, there's often so much self blame for those types of incidents.
Michaelah: Absolutely, like I created that, I caused that. It was interesting, because when I was being raped, and I was out of body, I loved myself so much. And I told myself in that witness mode, "you don't deserve this, Michaela. You don't deserve what's happening to you right now. This guy is obviously deeply insecure." And yeah, and I think he was deeply insecure. And that's why he did it. Because he was deeply insecure about his own sexuality. I mean, he was like, two minutes, you know, it wasn't like a long sexual experience. It was like he slapped a condom on, thank God, that's why I called him the gentleman rapists, and then have sex with me for like a minute or two. And I think his own insecurity about not being able to be a good lover, created his need to want to drug me and take me without my permission. So I think, yeah, learning how to cultivate being a good lover, what does it mean to be a good lover, to show up for people's happiness, to show up for another person's pleasure, to be enjoying our pleasure, but getting off on another person's pleasures, and get out of our own way to be able to show up for another? That's like, healthy for me like, wow, what do you know?
Lianne: Totally. And getting to the root of it, like you're saying, I think, taking a transformative justice view towards rapists as well, as you're saying. Like, what messaging did he got as a kid and as a teenager to lead him to this? What earlier traumatic experiences does he have, which does not excuse the action by any means. But if we can start looking at how to transform the culture at that root, and you know, and all of the ways that we've been talking about in this conversation, that can help to curtail the types of assault that are so tragically prevalent right now?
Michaelah: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, I think it's like a deep insecurity. And when sexuality is run from a deep insecurity, you can accidentally cross the line. And people do cross the line.
Lianne: For my last question, since we heard about this awful trauma, I would love to then hear what one of your most ecstatic, or special, or wildest, or insert whatever adjective you would like to share about a positive sexual experience that you had.
Michaelah: Hmmm. Well, let me tune in for this for a second. Yeah, what positive sexual... Well, I'm just gonna use my lover right now. Like, he is just so attentive in loving me. The way that he continues to keep his eye contact, and look at me and just say, I love you. Like, I can orgasm so quickly with him. And I asked him, I said, "Why, like, How are you so good at this?" And he's like, "Well, I'm using my tongue to be like, I love you." Energy. I think the most ecstatic times that I experience is when the person is really available, attentive, like not the not in their head, they're in their heart, and they're actually present. So I feel like when presence is there, I'm able to relax. And when I'm relaxed and present, I'm able to go, into it's almost like another realm, where I feel safety. I can it's like I channel, and I completely almost leave Earth, but in a good way. I'm just in another realm, and just feeling that. My most ecstatic experiences was when I feel safe and seen and respected, and I know that my partner, the person I with is with me. I can use my name. "Michaelah, you're so beautiful. Michaelah, you're so sexy. Michaelah, I love you." When my name is being said, it helps to call me back into my body, and to know that person isn't in a fantasy thinking about somebody else. But they're actually with me. And I think that creates the most intimate way to be together, when you know the person is actually present and not fantasizing. And I can feel that and I think women can feel that. I think that's where sometimes the numbness comes, because we can know that that person is, yeah, there might be inside of us, but they're not really with us. You know. And I'm not shaming fantasy. I'm just saying that at least be fantasizing together.
Lianne: Right. Yeah. It speaks to also the tools that, in terms of intimacy, like intimacy is its own... that needs to be on the sex ed curriculum, as well. To be able to be present. Mindfulness, presence, somatic presence. Those are all tools that are so relevant, and that we talk about outside of the realm of eroticism, but they're so connected. I know when I did a vapashana course, by day five, I'm just like, "Oh, my God, this is like, this is all gonna unlock all of my eroticism," because you're just body scanning for frickin 10 hours a day, and like focusing on presence, focusing on awareness, presence and awareness, presence and awareness. And I think that that's a pretty essential tool for sex and for pleasure - for being able to access all of that. And I'm so glad that you just shared that because I think it's really beautiful and important for people to hold on to that as something that's possible and available. Again, because it's not something that is maybe circulating as the standard sexual experience in our culture right now.
Michaelah: Yeah, and I think we shift that way from going from neurotic to now-erotic - that's that insecurity to security inside of ourselves. And I think that's the relationship that we're in right now, like, a lot of us can be very neurotic and insecure. And that does not create pleasure and connection. And the moment we step into feeling safe and connected to ourselves, and the person we're with, the whole entire universe opens up to us, the yoni-versity where we can learn more about this happiness and pledge her, you know, as we get more into the here and the now, into the presence, when we become fully available and present to the present moment. And I think that that's Tantra, in its essence is just bringing all of our conscious awareness to the moment. And sometimes in sex, we're not in the moment because of all of that neuroticism. But we're working it out together slowly, slowly, right? Chipping away at what doesn't work.
Lianne: Well, I hope that you do start the yoni-versity one day soon.
Michaelah: We're here doing it together, girl.
Lianne: Yeah, we are. We are. Well, thank you so much, Michaela, this has been truly an extraordinary conversation. And I've learned many linguistic tricks to carry with me and my own reframing of reality. And I just highly encourage people to seek you out. And I think you have so much to offer in the throne. So thank you.
Michaelah: Thank you. And thank you for offering this to everyone. This is such a big offering and gift to the world, to be able to have these sex... I was gonna say discussion - sex-cussions with people so that we can have that expansion. It's really important to discuss it and decide together as a collective, what does this look like? So thank you for bringing that to the world. You're awesome. Love you.
Lianne: Thank you. Love you too. If this episode turned you on, consider dropping a five in the ratings, subscribing to the show and sending it to a friend. You can help us build our audience this way and we would be so grateful. Special thank you to Liliana Astiz for editing this episode. Thank you, Casey, Odesser and Sasha Carney for their rigorous research in preparation for these conversations and to Ben Newfrat for his continued guidance on this show. Stay sexy, folks.