“It was incredibly empowering that first time in our initial session, to live out the secret desires I had hidden away for decades. I finally met this young girl who has been with me, in my fantasies or mythic desire, as you call it , in nearly every orgasm throughout my life…I felt so enlivened, so awakened by the experience.”
Many have asked to understand more about what exactly a Personal Erotic Myth (PEM) is, and how I work with a client in this regard. I am offering here a case study, over the course of 3 sessions with a recent client, discovering and embracing her Personal Erotic Myth, and the challenges and efforts she faced to integrate this true and important aspect of her being into her everyday life with her partner.
She fits with some precision, into my concept of someone whose sexual path to orgasm or other deep erotic state, is driven by a PEM. Her PEM formed decades ago, and, as is the case for many with a Fetish Sexual Identity, she was sexually engaged and aware before she had reached puberty. In my experience working with hundreds of people over the last 15 years, Fetish desires are rarely connected to pathologies generated from early age traumas, or other environmental factors, as many are led to believe. In my view, a fetish driven sexuality is as innate and inherent as is being gay or lesbian.
The “work” I do with a client in this dimension of the erotic wilderness, is edgy and branching into uncharted territory, as far as client/therapist interactions go. What it looks like, will vary according to the individual circumstances of the client. The main components are an initial discussion to determine what the client’s desire is, what conflicts with the desire, their relevant history, and what the client wants as an outcome of our work together.
From here the work can simply be to develop an ongoing, practical, clear strategy to be able to negotiate what one wants in the real world. Deeper work would begin to uncover and separate or differentiate aspects of the desire and the conflict that are tangled up unconsciously, which are negatively effecting or thwarting the client’s intention. This would be used to illuminate inner judgments, shames and fears about their authentic sexuality, that the client took on from family, religion and culture, and still has power over one’s desire, and intention to express it. There may be processes and practices developed to help empower the desire and diminish, heal and resolve the power held by their inner judgments, fears or shames. There may be other imaginal processes involved to help a client access unconscious material to “flesh” out and bring to precise conscious awareness, the who/what/where of their desires.
Often work will be evident, that wants to be approached at the body level, to support the client in getting present, embodied, grounded, to prepare for whatever other work may follow. Body work can also locate and begin to release the many fears, shames and other tensions that have accumulated in the body after decades of hiding, judging, or holding the desire back. In a deeper layer yet of the work, that might open up with a client, and as was the case with the client described here, a negotiated ritual process might be agreed on, where I will embody a mythic counterpart to the persona in the myth that drives the client’s desire.
A PEM most always includes paired personas such as Master/slave, Mommy/son, FemDom/cuckold, Daddy/daughter, Teacher/student, and a pantheon of other variations. The PEM generally includes action, dialogue, tone of voice, body language, props, attire and context. But it is not acting out a part, it is not just role-playing. It is literally embodying this alter erotic persona that one authentically possesses, and allowing it the unencumbered space to express fully, without shame, guilt or judgment. These archetypal personas operating within their PEM, are already intact and whole within the individual’s personal unconscious, but also reference the collective unconscious. They do not need to be scripted out, they just need to be allowed to embody and be present. They already know what they desire to do, say, wear, with whom, what implements, attire setting and other elements, common to a mythic story.
This clearly erotic nature of this work pushes the edges of what can allowed by law, without crossing the line, and certainly what many would consider proper inter-relations between therapist and client, ethically and morally. Yet I feel this work needs to go this deep, this hands on and interactive, to help another uncover, untangle, heal and embrace one’s authentic desire from the decades of denial, fear, shame, and hiding, that one’s desire may have been pushed down under.
It is incredibly complex as well, for an individual to maneuver some of the terrains of paradox that are part of the journey. Such as, how can I yearn to be so perverse, taboo, and primitive in my sexual desires and also still be a good parent, partner , or social, political or religious community member? Can I be both sacred and profane without compromising my personal integrity, agreements and physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well being?
To explore the depths of our darkest desires is a challenging, but empowering and healing process. It is my premise that if these very compelling parts of us are kept in hidden and secretive shadow, they will leak out in destructive ways in other parts of our lives. I feel that we are in an unprecedented era where the soul of Eros is forcing humanities hand in a way. Its time to fess up, stop pretending we have no wild or dark side….or else the havoc of the sexual shadow (repression, cheating, hiding, porning, sexual violence or other unhealthy diversions) running amuck in the world right now, will get worse.
My client was a woman in her mid 40’s, with a particular life-long desire for rough sex, Daddy/daughter, dressing slutty, and other taboo aspects, that she was unable to share with past partners. She was currently in an 8 year relationship with a man who was very sweet and loving, but was not the aggressive masculine persona who inhabited her desires. She had reached a place where she knew her desire was demanding to be expressed, even to the point of leaving her relationship if necessary, and so she sought me out for support. With her partner’s permission she was choosing to explore this aspect of her sexuality, on her own, with hopes of then bridging this desire to include her partner, down the path.
Her work with me offers a comprehensive overview of many of the complexities of expressing one’s authentic desire, and encountering the shadows/wounds/fears/shames/judgments, that are inevitably part of the process.
My client had also attended, with her current partner, a recent Conscious D/s-BDSM workshop I had led, and her thoughts from that are woven into her reflections on her work with me as well. I feel that her overview offered here, maps out well, the inner terrain and operation of her Personal Erotic Myth. Her case also models the opportunities as well as the complex resistances that can be encountered in bringing these desire into one’s personal awareness and experience, and then into one’s relationships, in a conscious manner.
Here is C’s story of her journey with me…
(In a follow-up email, I had asked her about the sense that something was missing from our previous session)
“Very perceptive- I appreciate that about you and your work. Yes, something was missing. My mind was wandering and I found myself more than once wanting/wishing that it was my partner who was owning me, possessing me. But I think there was something more, and I don’t know what it is. One possibility is that I wanted to resist more. To be overtaken, against my will, or to have that sense. In the workshop (which was after our last session), I found myself telling L (her partner), that I wanted a simulated rape. I wanted him to chase me down, force me to hold still, tie me up.
This methodical exploration of limits that you and I have pursued in our sessions has served me, but I sense in this last session, also limited me, or that part of me that I am craving to embody. And afterward I thought, maybe I’m done. Maybe it’s time to explore this with my partner, and not on my own.
At the same time though I should acknowledge that L has been really struggling with feeling that he is not the kind of man that could be what I’m seem to be seeking. He’s been feeling threatened by my attraction to the strong, forceful masculine, triggered into his pain/wounding of not being good enough, of his last partner leaving him because she needed a man who would push back, give more resistance (be more firmly in his masculine) and the tension inside between being raised by his mother to believe fighting is for animals, a good man is a gentle man, his general kindness/gentle being in the world and these darker elements of selfhood that have yet to be embodied and expressed in a healthy and conscientious way, and so leak into the occasional explosion of anger.
All of this has contributed to my own sense of pulling back from this exploration – perhaps emotionally, perhaps that was also at play in our last session. Feeling uncertainty, some fear around the cost of my foray into dark eros, and also feeling less driven to find “her.” I’m feeling confused and somewhat out of touch with my longing. I’d welcome some support
But, regarding my overall experience. I have so valued the sacred container you have provided for my experience, and the skill and finesse in which you have invited these aspects of my being
The first session was so powerful. I finally met this young girl who has been with me, in my fantasies or mythic desire, as you call it , in nearly every orgasm throughout my life.
I don’t remember having such fantasies when I was very young, as you indicated is often the case. But certainly from puberty on. My budding sexuality was not embraced, celebrated in any way. I was an early explorer, masturbating by age 5, engaging other little girls to play with me a little older and well into puberty. But it was always a hidden, shameful thing. I got caught a couple of times, once at home with my parents, once with a girl friend who, upon her sister and then parent’s discovery of our play, forbid me from going to her house (I think I was about age 9/10). Shame kept me from verbalizing/sharing my fantasy with my former husband or any lover. I was sure something was wrong with me, that I would have to envision being raped or punished against my will, in order to have an orgasm.
It was incredibly empowering to live out that desire I have had for decades, that first time in our initial session. To hear my “Daddy” speak to me, to be punished for my transgressions. To submit to his firm but gentle authority. Your tone and pitch perfect inflections whispered to my “slutty little girl” were entirely compelling.”
I felt so enlivened, so awakened by the experience. I met this wanton young girl who could not own her own desire and so incurred the wrath/or desire of those in authority (father, teacher, priest, doctor) to control her, punish her, deliver to her exactly what she wanted.
Later that eve, I performed the inner dialogue, differentiation ritual you taught me, to bring “her” into clearer focus. It was powerful to ask her what she wanted. And to learn her name: (omitted for pirvacy). She said to me, so clearly, in her own voice:
She wants to possess her captor as he possess her. She wants the freedom of having no choice. No will. The power of surrender. She wants to be known and seen in all of her wild and nasty ways. She is Irresistible. Her true power lies in her capacity for seduction, and for surrender. She willingly submits to the man who will possess her, own her. The man to whom she belongs. The man she has given herself to. The man who loves her. Who is himself unable to control his desire for her. Who must possess her every which way he can. Who will show her off. Share her with whomever he pleases. For she will do as she is told. Deservingly, and with a sense of relief. He relieves her of any responsibility for her sexual inclinations or expressions. He controls how she will open to her own desire. He rescues her from her own accountability, responsibility, perhaps from her shame (?). He takes her, takes her like he owns her. He takes care of her, of her sexual needs – which she dare not openly confess – but which he knows and understands. He takes care of her as he would his most precious belonging. And she knows she is safe. She is where she belongs.
I later came to realize that there were two aspects to this young girl, two different personas. There is the young girl dispossessed of her own desire, seeking the punishment (and pleasure) which she could receive not through her own will and desire, but through her transgressions. And there is also the wanton young girl, again overpowered but more of a willing sex slave, who shows up in fantasies of being gang raped or held to serve multiple men’s pleasures (e.g., the football team, boys who take her into the back field, the school bus).
I thought I would encounter her again, and looked forward to it with great anticipation, in our second session. But she did not show up. Instead, an angry and ornery woman, fierce and certain of her sexual power showed up, invited by the forcefulness of her restraint. No longer that child with no will/desire of her own, this woman knew her power, knew her possessor, and, initially, fought her oppressor, anger coursing through her body, her voice roaring in primal animal fashion. Subdued by his sure and forceful presence, she gave into her bondage, and I found myself delighted by her beauty, present to her raw sexual desire, and her capacity to allure and entice desire in her captor.
I discovered new elements of pleasure playing in my dark eros: red rope corset, standing shackled, legs free, I felt the sexual charge course through my body, my blood, and I felt a timelessness to this energy. It was not just a part of me I was feeling, but something eternal in womankind. A connection to those brave and beautiful women who were enslaved, forced to submit to their captors. Understanding that was her place, and her power. This second session was also a big experience, in a different way. Shackled and restrained, glorious in her beauty, she wanted what she deserved: to be fucked, to be fully taken by her captor.
The third session I went into not really knowing what limits were awaiting to be discovered, what submerged sexuality might be revealed, who would show up. I wanted to imbibe my eros in a deeper way, and to learn more about my desire, and my limits. My eros was perhaps even more fully engaged, appeased in our 3rd session, but I did not find that inner power in my surrender.
This exploration into my shadow, my secret fantasies, my submerged sexual identities, began as a solo journey. I wanted to taste the experience of what was in my head when I orgasm, without having to process or consider my current partner’s feelings and fears. When I brought him in to my explorations I was surprised and relieved to hear that he would like to know this young girl in my inner myth, that he wants to love all of me. I knew from the many times he’s told me, that he could see her often when we make love. I was encouraged to reveal my fantasies with him as I’d never done with any man before.
And yet it has not been a straight forward journey. His fears of not being that kind of man, his identify as a kind and gentle man, his desire for tender intimacy seemingly at odds with engagement in any power play, threatened my sense of safety, even our future as a couple, as he told himself I’m just not that kind of guy, and you may need something I can’t give. I found myself realizing I was defending the rights of someone I hardly knew in my two brief encounters with her. I found myself wondering just how important this was to me, whether I could just let it go. At the end of the third session a lot of my longing had dissipated, perhaps because of the dichotomy between self exploration and my love and desire for mutual exploration, which was uncertain at best.
My partner and I initiated counseling with a therapist known by many in the polyamory community, and it was helpful to have him explain the healing capacity and possibility of enhanced intimacy and connection that is available through power exchange to my partner.
We then attended the workshop you facilitated, which provided a safe place for my partner to witness how one might step into power play, and to better understand the necessity and form of creating a safe container and agreements around the exchange. I see new excitement in my lover, and I’m relieved and excited myself to begin to more intentionally and consciously explore this realm with my man.
And that is where I have arrived as I write of this journey, sincerely grateful for the support and the education you have skillfully and gracefully provided Galen.
In deep gratitude,