Lessons Learned after Feeling Used

Having spent time as an educator in the sexuality communities for quite a while now, I have found it is important to read the room. Look at their experience level. Have I always been good about that?  Nope. I even blogged about it here:

http://passionandsoul.com/journal/remembering-the-101

But I recently attended a class, and felt that not only was it not gauged appropriately to the audience… but there were other issues as well. I will not be listing their name in this post. The folks in attendance will know the reference, and that is enough. I ask that those individuals not reply with any information about that presenter publicly.

However, this is my journal, and I feel this has a teaching opportunity within it. This is my experience of that class/ritual, and others are likely to have different experiences. So be it.

As my partner and I entered the room, I knew a number of the other students in passing, mostly as having been students of mine. I however had never met the instructor, for which I was delighted. I love learning from new teachers. The fresh insights obtained are invaluable, and I get to see the world through their eyes.

The presenter began the class speaking in an Indian accent, talking about how they found out about tantra and their passion. They were Caucasian, but I went “ah, they were raised in India, gotcha.” And then, a few minutes into class, they broke accent. I believe it was an opportunity to teach about the idea that someone’s place of origin should not change our belief in their knowledge… but they did not say that, and I lost trust.

True, we each carry beliefs and projections. That someone with a valley girl accent must be a bubbly idiot. That a man has more knowledge on construction than a woman. That a transgender person has more insight on gender issues than a cisgendered person. But I disliked their approach on doing so, and not actually saying they were doing so. I don’t actually know they were doing so to be honest.

The idea of his first exercise seemed simple enough. Dance around the room and you will find someone you will find yourself called to, and then we will then be matched with that person for a non-sexual exercise. Fair enough. As others sought out each other, my partner and I made a decision to work together. We had found that attending classes together had become a chance to know each other better, so we decided to do so here. We smiled, danced, and shared what we saw around the room. I was uncomfortable watching those who could not find partners. Those who were in pain already. In my own work like this, I like to have a few “shills” who can work with the spare folks at the end, and sit out as an assistant if there is an odd number… but that was my story, my experience, and the teacher was allowed to do it any way they chose. And? Believing they were in pain may have been my story, not theirs.

As we danced, my sweetie noticed that a video camera was pointed at the room. We did not consent to be video tapped, so we asked his assistant what was going on. That we were not okay being on camera. She said it is just to record this for his notes. We said we are not okay with being shown in any recording (saying so within audio pickup of the camera), and she said no problems, she promised it will not be for any other use.

The instructor asked us to gather into two circles. One person on the inside, and one on the outside. The person on the inside would do some energetic work to help us clear their sexual energetic blockages, while the outside person held their hands on each side of that person’s head. There was no training on how to hold space, what we were doing, how to not absorb anyone else’s story… he just went into the following exercise.

meshbag006With one hand he went and tapped each “inside” person’s shoulder. He said that each inside person should begin talking out loud in a stream of thought about what he says as he touches your shoulder. That the outside person should listen. And then, with the tap, he said “Age 5, Indifference” to me.

He went around the circle and said things like “age 9, abandonment,” “Age 6, resentment” etc. I was shocked that the instructor was doing this sort of deep memory regression work with no additional information to those participating, but I figured we were only 20 minutes into the class, and that this might build on some intense conversations and purging. Okay, so be it. So I began sharing what came to my lips, sharing out loud to her.

My sweetie is much shorter than me, so I chose to get down on my knees. I was the only one who chose to do so, but my body comfort and hers matter to me and so I did it for me and my needs. But when the instructor started talking again about pouring out what we have on our lips, I stopped talking. It is very hard for me to have noises around me and hear others (I have to turn off my electric toothbrush to hear anyone talk), so I stopped talking. I then tried to start up again, but I couldn’t get the stream going. I’d lost my train of thought. So I asked my partner to stop holding her hands around my head, and we whispered a bit about what I had said thus far as well as why I’d needed to stop.

The instructor came over to me and asked me why we had stopped. I told him that I’d lost my train of thought when he talked again, that I’d started having a minor headache, and that I had chosen to kneel for body comfort. He then asked me could touch me. I said okay. Fair enough, right? I’m here to learn, so let’s see what he can teach me.

He taps on my shoulder, abdomen, head, and other parts of my body. He asks if I had a habit of taking other people’s energy or stories. Given my career, I smirked a bit and said that that is a fair enough statement.

He then stopped everyone else’s exercise and asked everyone to sit down. He informed the room that I was the “Battery” in the room and was absorbing all of the pain and suffering we were all sharing. That by purging me of my carrying of this energy we would clear the sexual blockages of all of us in the room.

Er, what?

Now, I dislike being put on the spot when attending stuff. I get on stage when telling stories and teaching. When I attend, I want to ask questions on occasion and blend back into the background if I can beyond that. I don’t always succeed, but it is my preference. I try not to catch the eye of instructors, and can even seem rude because of it. But it is me trying to hide.

So here I am, suddenly on the spot. I see folks who have met me nodding their head. But seriously, that unblocking my energy would unblock everyone else’s gunk? But I made a mental choice. I am pretty good at rolling with punches, and given some of the radical experiences I have had in my life, I have heard of (and felt first hand) stranger things. So okay, let’s see where this goes.

He placed my sweetie’s hands on two points on my body. My eyes were closed, because I felt all of the eyes on me and I was really uncomfortable, verging on freaking out. I went small. I felt my body tense… but I went with “sure, Battery, it’s not unreasonable, let’s see where my sweetie and I can do this work.”

But then, while my eyes are closed, he grabs two other people from the room and has them touch me at other chakra points on my body. At this point I was so shut down that I just let them touch me, but I did not consent, and I was not happy about it. I have challenges receiving touch, or perhaps I should say I have a complex relationship with receiving touch. I sometimes get to the point of dissociating.

And here I was, having a man I had barely said hello to, having random people who I did not know who they are, touching me. My sweetie did not know who these people were either, other than one of them was someone I said I knew, but not well (when she and I sat down next to them in the starting circle).

This part gets fuzzy for me, because I was somewhere between dizzy, angry, dissociative, sad and in desperate desire to vanish from the situation. To be somewhere safe, because I did not feel safe.

But I do recall the teacher asking everyone to breathe in tine and point the energy at me. To help clear my blockages, and I felt sicker and angrier. I have what I call “an allergy to Reiki energy,” because when folks use it on me, I get sick and dizzy. The woman holding my heart area starts moaning and groaning. I just feel small, bitter, used, resentful. I did not consent to this experience.

The teacher is saying “There is still 3% of the energy in his body,” “The energy is transferring to this woman,” “Help us pull the last 3% out.”

If there was a percent left in me, or ever was, it was still at 75% of the energy that had been building up during everyone talking their personal truths. And the vacuum he is creating becomes a hole in me. And this woman in front of me? She’s trying to pull *ME* out of me, not just whatever he is talking about. She is going for core. She is hungry and in pain, and she is (likely unintentionally) going for *ME*. She is swaying and moaning and moaning louder and louder. Looking back on it, I am fairly certain she wasn’t trying to do so… but the teacher had not done any training on what she was supposed to do. She could not have known what to “grab,” because she did not know.

The woman in front of me (not my partner), moans, sways, screams, and cums (or similar). My sweetie tries to wipe her hands away from me, and she will not move her hands. The other person has pulled away. My sweetie has to remove this woman’s hands from me.

I am angry and remove myself from the group. I am small, sad, resentful.

My sweetie and I barely listen to the rest of the talk, except when he is showing kama sutra positions with his lover/assistant. He shows how you can move between them fluidly without ever disconnecting penetrative. Er, what? Okay, maybe the two of these folks who have high stamina, flexibility, practice and whatnot… but seriously. I also having a new layer of challenges based on his heterocentric language and assumptions, the ablest language and assumptions, that he is not taking experience into account. This stuff I know is my baggage, but it is also my strong opinion.

The outsiders never got to be insiders in the exercise.

The experiences of others was cut off with no aftercare for them to know how to process the words they had shared.

It became about the cool thing he can do to me. The experience he can orchestrate. Now, that is another piece of my baggage. That I have attended a lot of “classes” or “workshops” (how they were described in event descriptions) over the years that were demos of what the presenter can do, rather than enabling the attendee to learn new skills. I see this a lot in the rope bondage community for example.

The teacher mis-gendered someone in class and when they said “that is not the gender I go by,” all the teacher said was “oh,” turned around and walked away.

My sweetie and I stayed around to talk with him, and that private time did not happen. He did not ask me how I was. He did not check in with me, right afterwards, or after the class.

He might be amazing at what he does in pre-trained groups. Where everyone knows each other. But at a space where it was between strangers with little known about experience levels, it was not okay in my opinion.

I have had rituals go out of control and away from what was planned. One specific one comes to mind… but afterwards we did have cool-down. We did have closing ritual work. We did what we could to re-contain it. I’m not trying to toot my own horn, because I have yet to lead a ritual like that since then as I believe it is beyond my skillset without a larger and more trained group of ritualists to run it with me. But I think something sad and dangerous happened at that event. And it taught me a lot.

  • That I deeply need to build my skillsets on saying “get off of me, I did not agree to going into this thing,” even if there is a chance that it might “ruin it for a room full of folks.” That my needs matter. This may take me a while, but it was an awareness builder.
  • That having a partner/dear friend I know there changed everything from potentially devastating to tolerable.
  • That before I leave classes I am teaching, if I see anyone lingering, I really need to make sure to have a few seconds for just them, even if it means cutting longer conversations shorter. (a few seconds of an honest full-energy focused “are you okay” would have changed so much)
  • That even though other folks in the room have had positive profound experiences does not make my own anger and sorrow unreasonable. Nor should my experiences need to change theirs. It is fantastic that others got something positive out of it! It doesn’t make it “better” per se for me, but it somehow makes it a bit more worthwhile.
  • That having folks to talk stuff out with afterwards matters.
  • That running into folks later that weekend who asked me if I was okay, even if it wasn’t the instructor (someone saw us the next night and asked what happened from my perspective), helped me begin heal. Thus, encouraging students to check in with each other post-experience will be worthwhile to add to my own rituals.

Every teacher has their own style. And if folks were and are deeply moved by this teacher and their style – awesome. And there was a part of me that really wanted to know about his intensives, especially that night, because I want to think that with a group of pre-trained folks working together and actually doing the exercise that we started with, this could have been good work. But having sat with it for a while, the pieces of using a fake accent and having others touch me without asking me or my partner have affected my ability to trust the presenter.

I wish that person, their partner, and every person there so much love.

I hope that the event will develop awareness around asking presenters to consider the skill-level of their presentations and their appropriateness to attendees.

I look forward to implementing everything that I learned after feeling/being used.

**

ADDED NOTE 8 MARCH
from note to @ShannaaraRain on mirrored FetLife Post

I had thought we we arrived as class time was starting and yes, I do remember the hand-holding, chanting, and jumping exercises now that you mention it, after his accent ended. He did come up and lock eyes and say hello, but only that. It is interesting that you found this to be connecting or acknowledging, as I did not. One of the interesting things about memory, especially around intense/traumatic experiences, is that the things before, during and after can become distorted. Until you mentioned them, those other exercises had completely fell from my mind. Thank you.

I wish we’d been at the class early then. I know for many of the classes that because they were effectively full 10 minutes before “start” time, teachers began speaking (myself included) – something as a teacher I need to do my best not to include any “warning” material in advance of the actual start time. It seems we missed the videotaping information. Actually, at other events I have attended they have posted a warning as you enter the space that says “videotaping for X reason inside” or similar. I will try to remember to mention that to the event producers as a possible idea.

I am so grateful to hear that you got such an amazing experience out of it, that is fantastic. Truly. I too have had mind-blowing experiences out of times when others had negative, neutral, or “this is bullshit” experiences at the same time. That is one of the amazing and beautiful things about energy work… but sometimes one of the dangerous ones.

As for my “no’s”… It is a tool I am slowly learning still in my mid-30s. For my own journey reasons I have had challenges with that word. I know I have internal issues as well with “ruining other people’s time,” being a self-sacrificial lamb (including when no one asks me to, but especially when folks ask many things of me). This is not healthy, and is something I am working on.

I think my challenge with the notion that at any of those first points that I could have walked with my feet is that I did not become fully aware of my level of discomfort with them until after the fact. In that moment it was a body tensing and face scrunching – body wisdom, but not knowledge/intellect based awareness. My disconnect between body, energy and mind can be pretty intense at time. Step at a time, step at a time.

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Lee Harrington

Lee Harrington is an internationally known sexuality, relationships, and personal authenticity educator. Having taught in all 50 states and in 6 countries, he brings a combination of playful engagement and thoughtful academic dialogue to a broad audience. An award-winning author and editor on gender, sexual, and sacred experience, his books include “Traversing Gender: Understanding Transgender Journeys,” and "Sacred Kink: The Eightfold Paths of BDSM and Beyond," among many other titles. He has been blogging online since 1998, and been teaching worldwide since 2001. Welcome to his world, and your chance to expand your mind and heart alike.

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