Monday, June 11, 2012

Non-Verbal Communication for Alt-Sex

The presentation I led at Open SF Conference 2012, of Open, Poly, or Ethically Non-Monogamous in the Bay Area, had a mouthful of a name:
Honing Non-Judgmental Communication through Touch and Movement
It's the kind of name where one would have to chew on each and every word to really hear it as a whole. The kind of name where, when I said it, people would stare back blankly and nod: "Uh huh." I wasn't sure what turn out was going to be like.  I wasn't sure if I could reach the sexy and political people at this sexy and political conference with my content: movement exercises introducing the basics of contact improvisational dance in a non-sexual touch-therapy context. The alt-sex community tends to be defined by sex, and so naturally it crossed my mind that asking for non-sexual and highly tactile participation might result in mutiny. 

My mother asked me what some of the other workshops being presented were:
"Debunking the Myths of Anal Fisting, Negotiating Successful Threesomes, Pansexual Poly-Sluts in Leather, Writing Group Sex, and Fat Sluts, Hungry Virgins."
All of these real (and very cool!) workshops came to mind immediately.
While my mom is awesome, some things just don't need to be shared between us. What I actually said was:
"Uh, I think... there's a writing workshop... some guided meditation or something... a thing where we take pictures of each other and talk about how we are perceived... and like, I don't know, some other communication-y stuff." 
Yeah, I'm not so great with that thing they call "tact."

But what did a dance workshop have to do among all this?

This workshop is less a dance class and more an exercise in bravery and openness. Improvisation is essential practice in releasing oneself to say "yes" and to play. Intimacy, while it includes sex, is not confined or defined by sex. It is defined by communication, and communication is not restricted to spoken language. As you can see in the video, these two people are communicating perfectly in their own language, though one is a pre-verbal infant. Through loving touch they speak to each in a language of movement, one that can't be translated into post-Babel meaning. It is pure communication, a language that only exists in the moment it is shared and it is without technique, symbols, or the possibility of real documentation. 
Any relationship relies on communication skills, but the unconventional relationship structures enjoyed by the alt-sex, poly, and BDSM community require a particularly enormous amount of emotional bravery. While our specific lifestyle labels may often be defined by the sex we enjoy, the intimacy of our relationships and our identities are not. As much as sexual pro/recreation is natural and necessary, so too is the healing power of loving non-sexual touch, which is why we humans need and crave it. The goal is to gain awareness of how we interact physically with our loved ones, our community, and the world around us, to hone our connection to our non-sexual and non-violent physicality, and to learn to communicate with each other in new ways. 
In terms of communication skills, we sometimes get caught up in the didactic. I'd like to share with you a visceral way of learning in the realm of loving communication. The majority of this workshop will be movement exercises in groups, but at the end we will discuss what we experienced. The aim of the ending discussion is to begin to mentally "pack it up" so that we may hopefully take something of it away with us and into our lives.
Igor was skeptical that I would pull off my presentation. I hadn't told him anything of it, any of the above, didn't mention my plans. I may have led him to believe I would just "wing it." He looked increasingly nervous before the class, probably in part for me but also because he is *not* a mover. Still, he had committed to participate and there he was, dutifully and bravely in front, on my right hand side. But there was a moment during the exercises as I went around the room checking on the groups where I caught a glimpse of him having a moment. His partner was a much older woman with very long silver hair and they had been strangers up until just a moment ago. Yet, here they were in beautiful physical harmony. The look of pure ecstatic joy on both of their faces was so moving, I had to look away to stay focused.

After the workshop ended, Igor and others staggered out of the room with illuminated expressions and I knew I had, as Sparky would put it, "done a good."

1 comment:

  1. the unconventional relationship structures enjoyed by the alt-sex, poly, and BDSM community require a particularly enormous amount of emotional bravery.