Please note: this post contains some spirituality and gets unexpectedly deep in places. I’m still me, I promise. I’m still a drunk, bad taste reprobate. I’m still me: I’m just a better version of me than I was before.
In my line of work, I’m frequently offered opportunities to which I have to say “no” for one reason or another. Sadly, I’ve become quite good at saying no to opportunities, and to turning down events and products by which I’m naturally tempted. But occasionally, just occasionally, an opportunity presents itself that I find impossible to refuse. Rebecca Lowrie’s Pleasure workshop was one such opportunity.
And that’s how I ended up spending a whole weekend locked in a bright and friendly little room last weekend, with 12 strangers and 1 girlfriend, exploring an entirely alien type of pleasure. A type of pleasure that involved none of my trademark biting and swearing and hurting. (Actually there was a little hurting, and we’ll come back to this.) I’d like to share my experiences with you, if you’ll indulge me.
Let’s start with some background to set the scene.
Ah, Rebecca. She and I had long exchanged the occasional tweet, but to my eternal discredit and despite her being something of a superstar in certain circles close to mine, I had never met her in person before. All I really knew about her was that Annie Player (the aforementioned girlfriend) had only the nicest things to say about her, that she was very sexy, and that she was very bouncy and excitable. I like sexy, bouncy people, but I didn’t know just how much and how easily I would take to Rebecca.
She is immediately likeable, with huge, deep, soft eyes and a smile that’s so infectious I grinned for an entire week after meeting her. You know when you hold a kitten that’s so adorable you can barely stop yourself from squeezing it? That’s how I feel about Rebecca. We had left it too long to share some personal space, and I’m richer from meeting her.
Sean was Rebecca’s assistant throughout the weekend. He’s an unusual chap in all the best and most interesting ways – he describes himself as a shamanic BDSM clown. It only takes a few seconds of conversation with him before you realise that he sees things a little differently from most people, and his company is extremely pleasurable. I’m not a believer in souls, but if I was, I would say without hesitation that Sean’s soul was inherently good. Since I’m not a believer of such things, I’ll simply say that he is an obviously and thoroughly good human being.
What’s more, watching him being so naturally at ease in this spiritual setting was as infectious as Rebecca’s smile, and while I can’t speak for any other attendees, he certainly helped me feel less self-conscious. For example, a lot of the activities involved looking into each other eyes – and this is not as easy for men as simply saying it makes it sound. More than four seconds of eye contact makes men uncomfortable, and aggression levels begin to instinctively rise. Eye contact is something that we actively practice in my martial arts classes, and it takes a lot of practice to look into another man’s eyes for an extended period. Not Sean though; he smiles with his eyes and he’s incredibly easy to make eye contact with.
The workshop was conducted in a comfortably sized, white walled room with big windows in a discreet corner of North London. It felt very private. The windows had ivy creeping through which was beautifully organic, and in a building opposite I could hear what sounded like a Chinese chorus group playing and chanting. It was a little surreal – but that only added to the dreamy atmosphere of the weekend.
The room was home to a capoeira school, so it dripped with energy and vitality. That suited the peaceful playfulness that we were bringing to it. I like the juxtaposition of the energetic martial dancing of the room’s usual occupants and the serene tantric sexuality that our group brought – the conflicting atmosphere was tangible.
The workshop itself was part of a wider series of workshops conducted by Rebecca, each one taking you further down the rabbit hole, each one adding a new level of sexual understanding and appreciation. The next one is intimacy, and I have no doubt that Rebecca will make something very special of that. This one, though, was Pleasure.
Our group consisted of a group of 12 strangers – or relative strangers, and throughout the week layers of reason motivation were stripped back like old paint, each uncovered layer bringing to light a new piece of personal history, as we began to understand each other’s drives to be present. It was like an Agatha Christie novel or an episode of Poirot; we each dropped little hints about ourselves throughout the weekend, each of us slowly letting everyone else in word by word, phrase by phrase, smile by smile, until by the end of it there was a profound sense that we knew each other completely, and were part of each other completely.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you about my experience.
My account of the Weekend
I wasn’t even slightly nervous as Annie and I made our merry way under London to the workshop. I tend to experience a little nervousness at any new experience, especially experiences with sexual undertones. (Unrelated: how can undertones and overtones be synonymous? English is confusing.) I’m only human after all, and I blush and stammer and can be clumsy when nervous like any of you reading this. But not for the Pleasure workshop. For this, I had a real sense of positivity – not a pseudo-spiritual sense of positivity, but a positivity I had cultivated. I wanted to enjoy this, I wanted to be excited by it, and I wanted to enjoy that excitement. I basically wanted a positive enjoyment excitement threesome, and lucky for me, Annie’s excitement was viral, so that’s exactly what I got.
We arrived at the venue. There were people milling slowly around, small talk and chit chat occurred. Annie spoke softly and respectfully, so I did too. I was once told that I sometimes speak to people I’ve never met as though I was already halfway through a conversation with them – which can be a bit full on, so I let Annie do all the warming up and I followed her cues shuffling around behind her as though she were my disclaimer.
Soon coffee, tea, biscuits and organic things were being consumed (the biscuits mainly by me), we slipped our shoes off and wandered into the room, inspecting it respectfully, as though we were meandering around a closed museum. Given the familiarity I had with the martial arts environment, I relied on my instincts and started stretching. It felt good to stretch properly. Whenever I do it before a class or before a run, it feels hurried. But here I felt like I could take my time.
Quickly we were all assembled in the room, all shoeless and in comfy clothing, and we sat in a wide circle on the floor and at Rebecca’s prompting, introduced ourselves. For some reason, I’m able to remember the introduction I gave myself almost verbatim. It was this:
“Hi, my name’s Stu, and I’ve been working and writing in the adult industry all my professional life. Until now I’ve found myself resistant to spirituality with regards to sexuality, but I’m here with a good attitude to see what this has to offer me.”
That was it. It felt sincere at the time, but on rethinking, it sounds a little false, especially since everyone preceding me had talked so candidly about their motives. This atheistic, humanistic, cynical hurdle of mine was something I would actively endeavour to overcome over the weekend, and to my astonishment, I would succeed.
Would you like me to speed this up? Ok. Let’s hit the highlights, otherwise I’ll write 15,000 words and you won’t read any of them.
Rebecca talked us through what to expect, and she did it flawlessly. She knew that there were some experienced spiritualists, and there were some experienced fleshists (which is a word I just made up to describe the opposite of a spiritualist. I rather like it.) like me, and she simply advised that if the framework for comprehension she was describing didn’t work for me, I build my own semiotic framework and make it work for me. So that’s what I did.
Rebecca had a phrase for the more intangible elements of her language: “woo woo”. This is the term she used to describe anything that she thought I would normally consider spiritual, and because I had mentioned my cynicism early on, she took it on board. She said “if anything sounds like woo woo, just apply it to something you understand and make it work for you.” That’s what I did.
Throughout the weekend there were more activities than I can reasonably list – and I wouldn’t if I could because it was private. But there was dancing. There was handholding. There was a huge amount of touching and arousal. There was discussion of subjects that my rationality convinced me were impossible – but very little, and the vast, vast majority was simply about human contact, personal interaction, intimacy and respect.
What Wasn’t It?
I feel at this point that I should mention a few things that the Pleasure workshop was NOT: it was not a play party. It was not an orgy. It was not a gropebox. There were no hammocks from which fornicating couples watch other fornicating couples fornicate. There was no pressure. There was no judgement. I was naked and blindfolded for some time, but I didn’t have to be if I didn’t want to be. (I just wanted to be.)
Early on, the boundaries were established in a way that really resonated with me, but not until I thought about it afterwards. We learned to control the way someone else touches us with the words “yes,” “no” and “maybe”. All very simple, but for one very important concept to which I can’t possibly do justice: to say no to somebody else is to say yes to yourself.
I thought this was a little woo woo at the time, but it hit home somewhere in me and I’ve thought about it a lot since. It’s inescapably true: to assert a denial is inherently self-affirming. To refuse to acquiesce to a request is to confirm one’s own strength to refuse. Less flowery: to say no to another is to say yes to yourself. Like I said, I can’t really do this concept justice, but if you think about it, the inverted logic is very satisfying. I’m sure this is a common theme in yogic and tantric communities, but it was new to me. I even said it to my mum… in a rather different context of course.
The beauty of this was that it taught me something that I had long suspected: that for better or worse, I have no boundaries. I want to be touched. I tried saying no, but was disappointed to see my partner disengage and move away. Perhaps this means I am confident enough to be touched in any way. Perhaps it means I’m so insecure that I welcome all and every kind of physical contact. Perhaps I’m projecting more levels of complexity than necessary onto the fact that I enjoy being touched. Perhaps I simply enjoy being touched.
I really don’t want to go into specifics about what happened inside those thick white walls; that’s for me and the other attendees. That’s as private as our reasons for being there. But I just… I just can’t put into words how powerful it was. For a long time after the weekend, in my quieter moments, it was vertiginous. I struggled a little to come to terms with just how profoundly realigning it was. Once I had let go, once I had leaped the hurdle of cynicism and landed with both feet firmly planted and ready to run, I experienced some sensations that I can never, ever articulately transcribe.
There was one moment, for example, that only Annie Player and I will ever know about. I’m sincerely sorry for being secretive, I don’t mean to be, but I just can’t explain it in a way that I can make you understand, so I’m not going to try. All you need to know, reader, is that I underwent a very brief but utterly transcendent transformation. If you pull me aside sometime at an EroticMeet or any other event and ask me face to face what I’m talking about, I’ll tell you – quietly. But I can’t promise to make it eloquent. I’m writing this a month after the event and I’m STILL processing it.
I will give one brief example of how stunningly considerate the other attendees were though. At one point, towards the second half of the second day, there was an exercise that Annie and I had decided we wanted to share together, rather than revolving with the other attendees. (I should have pointed out earlier that Annie and I were the only couple there, but had decided to be independent for as much as of the event as possible. For this particular exercise though, we wanted to be together.) We were truly concerned how the other attendees would react; it was after all a communal event and our splitting away could easily have been seen as…. I don’t know… a rejection of the intimacy that we had previously shared with everyone else. But just before the exercise began, one of the other members, a tiny and ravishingly gorgeous woman, said “Can I just say to Annie and Stu, I really hope you enjoy this together.”
Don’t tell anyone this, but I welled up a tiny bit and only for a moment. I thanked her privately afterwards for saying such a lovely and considerate thing.
So thank you Annie Player, Seanifool and the other attendees who might be reading this. But thank you to Rebecca Lowrie first and foremost for an unforgettably brilliant weekend. Like I said as I with my closing words to the group, “I trade words for a living, and yet in situations like these, when words really matter, I have none.”