Many people have said that if we really want a good relationship with another person, we have to like ourselves. We need to be our own best friend and enjoy spending time alone in order to have a healthy and fulfilling friendship or sexual relationship with another person.
Many other people have said that it is difficult for someone else to give us pleasure if we don’t know how to pleasure ourselves.
When I started doing sexuality education over twenty years ago, I began with the topic of unlearning homophobia. I quickly expanded the subject to include unlearning biphobia and sexphobia. In seeing people grapple with these prejudices, I decided their root is a general discomfort with sexuality. I have come to believe that if we want to have positive change around sexuality, we need to unravel some of its bigger taboos, one of them being masturbation or self-pleasuring.
So I keep the focus right there on self-pleasuring and the importance of the relationship with ourselves. When people talk about sexual practices, I remind them that self-pleasuring is one of them. When people talk about relationships, I remind them about the importance of the relationship with ourselves. I celebrate every chance I get the brave work of individuals like Dr. Betty Dodson and Dr. Joycelyn Elders.
But the issues of importance are much broader than a focus on self-pleasuring, sex or even the relationship we may have with ourselves or another person. I want a world where we honor pleasure in all forms. When I see how we do work, pay bills, buy stuff and use petroleum products and how little we rest, relax or enjoy simple pleasures, I know I want to live in a different kind of world. When I see people not being able to be alone or settling for unfulfilling or unhealthy relationships, including the relationship with themselves, I know I want to live in a world that honors human connection and needs and values human development and growth. While I want the world to change, I keep the focus on our own self-love and self-pleasure first because even if we live in a world where there is peace and love, it won’t matter if we don’t feel them within ourselves. So when I see people struggle with self-acceptance, body acceptance and self-esteem, I know I need to keep talking about the importance of the relationship with ourselves and loving our bodies. No matter how much someone else loves us or thinks positive thoughts about any aspect of us, whether physical, emotional or otherwise, it won’t make a difference unless we believe those things about ourselves as well.
I want to live in a world where there is more compassion for ourselves and each other, and I think we need to start with ourselves in order to get to each other. We cannot own other people, our children, our pets or the earth. We cannot own our best friendships or relationships, and yes, I believe our friends are as important as any sexual relationship we may have. While we cannot own other living beings around us, we can and should own our thoughts, ideas, interests, loves, likes and time. The sense of empowerment we can feel from claiming our authentic selves is far more rewarding than trying to control or own someone else, and that includes our most intimate partners.
The greatest love is unconditional: when we truly allow individuals to be free in every way, knowing we can only receive love if it is freely given. Ultimately, we come into the world alone, and we die alone. So while we can relate and have community, family, friends and all kinds of other relationships, ultimately we are still alone. The most important relationship that affects all other relationships is our relationship with ourselves.
While we cannot own anyone else, we can take ownership of our body, sexuality, identities, history and cultures. We can own our uniqueness and imagination. By truly connecting to self, we can offer another person play, touch, love and sensuality—but only if we can give them to ourselves.
One of my favorite topics is the topic of letting go. I’m intrigued and awed with how it is such a common denominator in so many human experiences, pleasurable and painful. We have to let go to experience orgasm. We have to let go of our worries about what people think in order to really enjoy life as our authentic selves and how we choose to be in this world. We have to let go when someone dies and let go of fear to experience the moments of our lives fully.
Let’s enjoy the person we spend the most time with: ourselves. Let’s live in each moment as fully as we can, knowing there is no guarantee we will get another moment with ourselves or another we love. In addition to taking action with our words, time, energy and money, we can change the world with self-love, self-esteem, self-compassion and self-pleasure. We cannot give to someone else what we cannot give to ourselves.
First Published on Good Vibrations Magazine, October 11, 2011
Copyright 2011 by Susan Miranda. All rights reserved. No part of this writing may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright holder. For reprint permission, email firstname.lastname@example.org.