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Let’s Talk About Sexual Healing—An Interview with Renee Stills



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Have you ever cried after sex or during yoga class? How do we talk about the trauma that exists in our bodies? Listen to more of the conversation on Season 2 Episode 26 of UnzippedPDX.com Her most recent project "Let’s Talk About Sexual Healing" is part of an ongoing series and you can follow her work here.

What can you tell us about Let’s Talk About Sexual Healing?

Let’s Talk About Sexual Healing is a multi-disciplinary, multi-dimensional art and research project. It stems from my work as a yoga teacher. Last year I taught a course in experiential ethics.

"Experiential ethics" is defined to me as "working on your self" to have an ethical relationship with yourself and the world.

One of the ethics in yoga is called Brahmacharya and is often translated as celibacy or "right use of sexual energy." To me this notion feels not only antiquated, but also steeped in misogyny and counter to what I believe true, liberated embodiment looks like. So this project actually begins as an antithesis to Brahmacharya as it’s commonly interpreted and a call to become more sophisticated and nuanced in our understanding of sexuality and its importance for mental, physical and emotional health.

I wanted to create a project that many different people could engage in, that was creative, fun, exploratory, interactive and would involve people’s bodies sensually without asking them to expose themselves or even actually engage their sexuality unless they want to. Now the project is growing to include these panel discussions with pro-sex educators of all kinds, a podcast series, some printed publications and a call-in hotline.

Why did you decide to do this work?

This project comes at a time when we have mass cultural examples of immature and destructive sexual energy—toxic masculinity and now increasingly extreme misogynistic violence. There’s so much that is arising in response to all of this that’s good: a lot more conversation, social media and Internet movements, advocacy etc. I wanted to do my part in furthering the discussions we’re having by creating a platform that’s pretty out-of-the-box, creative and focused on healing and celebration.

I decided to do this first because I need it. I need healthy and fun ways to learn more about my own sexuality and get over my fear of it. I want to feel more empowered and connected. I know that the more I can connect to my sense of sexual agency and empowerment the healthier I’ll become physically, emotionally and mentally.

I know plenty of sex therapists and educators who agree that a person’s whole body health is very much impacted by and a part of their sexual health.

Sexuality and eroticism are pivotal parts of our human experience. To disintegrate from those parts of our beings breeds illness. I think that a lot of the problems we have globally due to greed, corruption and exploitation would be totally exterminated if we had different values around sex and sensuality. If people were taught to love, appreciate and enjoy their bodies they would be much less likely to destroy, police and pollute others. If we were encouraged to cultivate pleasure rather than suppress and mistrust it I think we would find that humans are actually quite loving and decent beings. When we’re robbed of our innate sensuality and connection to our bodies we get fucked up in our heads. That seems obvious to me.

What kind of responses have you received?

So far I’ve received a lot of enthusiastic responses. I’ve only offered the somatics workshops and ritual spaces until now and what I’ve heard from participants is that many of them have had profound experiences of reconnection. People I’ve talked to who haven’t participated in general respond with a lot enthusiasm and curiosity. I think that this topic is something that folks are ready for and wanting!

Have you been surprised at some of the interactions you’ve had because of this project?

I wouldn’t say I’ve been surprised really. I’ve been pleased by how receptive everyone is and how excited they are. But I guess that’s not surprising to me. It is affirming though.

Renee has performed for the Time Based Arts Festival (Portland, OR) the Body-Mind Centering Association Conference (Portland OR); she holds a BFA in Intermedia and Cyberarts through Concordia University, Montreal and is a graduate of the Somatic Movement Education program at The School for Body-Mind Centering in Berkeley, CA. She is the co-founder and co-director of Sola School of Contemplative Arts. Visit ReneeSills.com.

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