Learning To Ask For What I WantBY JUSTIN TRAVER
I’m a Melbourne-born Australian, and it comes with a certain amount of cultural freight—namely baggage. While I wasn’t one to make a local tavern my second home—most Australian men live to get pissed—I did take on its male awkwardness around women, evolved through centuries of outback life shaped until recently by a two-to-one ratio of men to women. For me the awkwardness wasn’t so much approaching and talking to women, or even getting into relationships. It had to do with shame for my sexual desire, specifically blow jobs.
It’s hard for me to say that, just as it was hard for me first to acknowledge it. The way I grew up caused me to hold sexuality as separate. I suppose that sexuality in the very first blush of my youth had a certain flavor of utility—the path to procreation and family construction—and also of being end driven, to getting off. The whole, rich, continuous present of the middle ground of arousal and its landscape of plateaus and flows was foreign. It really wasn’t until I moved to London to learn psychotherapy—to subsequently become a hypnotherapist—that I began to glimpse an opening. I also began studies in Tibetan Buddhism, which tended to break down some of my assumptions about morality, and particularly the Christian linkage between the adoption of a certain set of behavioral norms to stave off spending eternity in a hell of cosmic or personal device. That seems pretty far away now.
Moving to London and a world some degrees more sexually relaxed, dating and relationships were natural and in school and starting my practice I had my share. I’ve lived with a few women and been in at least one, semi-long-term engagement in which there was real sympathy and sometimes excitement, certainly. And yet that thing I really wanted and what I most enjoyed—the blowjob—I couldn’t speak it. It sounds now a little ridiculous, and yet as a therapist I know that it is common for couples to never fully speak of what they want sexually. I’ve had glimpses of it through the hypnotic state, and yet even there and after a course of sessions patients have a difficult time revealing their deepest desires. It was a combination of fear of rejection and shame of wanting that contributed to many breakups, including my semi-long-term one.
And in my early thirties I came to graze bottom, though it wasn't so much a moment, but just a growing realization that I was a prisoner of my inhibitions. I was in a relationship, and a pretty good one, yet I was also at a peak of frustration around, again, my inability to say what I wanted. Feelings of shame were eating me up. I came to realize that I wanted to explore sexuality outside the traditional and monogamous frames with which I had grown up. I wanted to find and join a community in which sexual exploration was encouraged, openly embraced and communicated, not taboo. I was frustrated, though, as I couldn't find that group, and I couldn't create it.
Then I heard about OM and went for it. My first OM session was awkward, at best. I did it with a woman named Maya—as it happens, the Sanskrit word for “illusion.” She was very comfortable, yet I was like, “Good Lord, there it is.” It was definitely awkward, but good. I was feeling pressure to do the right thing, and at the same time really trusted in my intuition.
I came ultimately to feel very comfortable in that space in terms of my ability to stay present to what's happening and connect physically, emotionally and energetically. In some ways my training in hypnotherapy was a good complement to stroking. That comfort came in time though: this first one was awkward, and yet I see now it was my own awkwardness, and I felt the yes there, acknowledging my own first steps on a path for which I’d been preparing myself.
My early break-through moment, if I have had one—as I would characterize most of my growth in OM to have been soft, curving and gradual—was in taking on the assignment that everyday I would ask five women to OM with me. That had a definite learning curve. I particularly felt so shy asking women I was attracted to and then felt avoidance around women that I wasn't attracted to. I was a bit in a dilemma, and yet I just went with it and practiced. I remember my first ask, a woman with a lot of power and beauty. I was intimidated. I was nervous—maybe even scared. When I’m that way my voice comes out as a little squeak. I said, “Hey, would you like to OM?” She wasn’t a yes, yet I didn't feel devastated, but rather, “Well, gotta find someone else to ask.”
To ask I had to find a place inside myself from which to ask. It built up over time. Or maybe it built down? By and large those whom I approached were very receptive and lovely, which helped. Over time I shed more and more of my inhibition and came to see that my ability to ask was very much contingent on not needing anything. My confidence slowly emerged and over a few months, I got very good at asking. I also came to know that my nervousness was part of feeling alive. That even shame is an expression of my desire, and that by freeing the fear I’d attached to it, I am able to abide in that feeling as an expression of my animate, sensual possibility.
This asking exercise of course helped liberate my hang up. It was the start, at any rate. Before I had trouble asking for blowjobs, and now there’s far more ease. I feel much less guilt. I can really receive my own pleasure, and I can receive the pleasure that they are receiving from offering.