I finished writing the guidebook for this deck while in the last weeks of a dying relationship.
That painful, death rattle part of a relationship where you're sort of living in a ghost shell of what you thought you had been building together.
There I was, at an artists' residency where I was supposedly writing about sex positivity and all I wanted to do was cry and drink. Instead of giving sex positivity tarot readings all I wanted to do was compare pain. How did they hurt you? How did you survive? And I felt like a total fraud. I felt like a failure as an artist, as a feminist. As a sexual rights activist. How dare I let a relationship high-jack my professional development time? My creative process? This was why there was a wage gap. This was why feminism was failing. This was why “Lean In” was bullshit and shows like The Bachelor were still selling. Even those of us who are in the business of collective care can be such assholes to ourselves.
And so I sat on blankets in the summer grass and drank cheap bourbon. I cried in front of women whom I loved. I also cried a lot in front of people I had just met. The mess was irrepressible. I knew that they could never possibly see how small and pathetic I felt I was and so I thought, why not let them see me where I am. And I did, in fact, give readings. I gave readings because, above anything else, it was still something I knew how to do. And because watching people’s faces open up when they thought about touching, about fucking, or healing or holding the tender pieces of their hearts together was one of the only ways that I could remember that none of us escapes emotion without it hurting sometimes. And that to feel one feeling fully, means you feel the others just as deep.
I think that there’s a misconception that that “sex-positive” means “only positivity allowed”, a kind of enforced cheer or delight around sex writ large. That there is little room for our experiences of sex and intimacy that feel something a bit more complicated than amaaaaaaaaazing.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for those high point moments. Those moment where your toes curl and your skin is electric and you feel like everything else be damned you and your joy in that moment are worthy of a fucking billboard in Times Square they shine so brightly.
But there are also all of the other moments.
The times you started crying while you were touching yourself because you realized that you could only think about someone who had hurt you. The times your body felt like a stranger. The times you woke up in a bed that felt unwelcoming and cold and you suddenly wanted to be back in the bed you grew up in. Or the times where something inside of you broke in a way that felt wretched and you weren’t sure if any touch would ever feel safe and wholesome again. Those times are there too, inside your sex positivity.
Real sex-positivity holds generous space for all of your life’s beauty and traumas. The interwoven threads of joy and sorrow that quilt you together. I was reminded of that sitting on those tear stained, bourbon soaked blankets with my cards. Trying to hold space for my own ability to heal while carefully talking through other folks’ doubts or curiosities. The heartbroken ministering to the uncertain.
I have always said before a reading that I am by no means an expert of anything other than my own experience. And when it came to the tarot deck the best thing that I could offer people was a space to be curious together. To sit in communion with one another and think about all of the ways in which we are alive – tender, tough, and overflowing with feeling.
I don’t think anyone needs another blog post telling them to just feel their feelings. (But like, definitely do that) But what I will say, is that whatever you are feeling gets a seat at the Sex Positivity table. No one gets to tell you that you're doing sex positivity "wrong" just because everything is not rainbows and squirting. You’re doing just great, considering all you’ve been up against.
Sexuality can be messy, bbs. And your sex positivity practice can be too.
As one of my brilliant friends said once, “I can be holy, and annoyed at the same time.” You can be sex positive and miserable at the same time.
Trust me from someone who’s been there.
In a year marked by unfathomable loss, death, collective grief, rage and isolation, let your relationship to sex be whatever it needs to be right now. Let go of the notion that your sex life is a problem or a task or a burden or a profile, at least for a moment. And breathe. Breathe into the spaces that need a little more space to spill their story to you. Try to get your Rilke on and “love the questions” for a moment, before your beat your sexuality up for not aligning with what you expect it to be or do or say about you. Let yourself be irritable. Let yourself be lonely. Let yourself be desperately horny or entirely turned-off.
Your sexuality will still be there. It will still be yours. And, wherever it is right now, it is still absolutely amazing.
I think so, anyway.