I am talking to a dear female pastor friend
about sex coaching, our first session,
exploring what she needs to work on.
She bravely sought me out, and I know her
to be so naive about most sex things
that even though she has a gay son
she has had to ask me three times
what the letters in LGBTQIA+ stand for
although I do kinda like what long-time local activist
Gene Elder called it, Gay BLT.
We talk about barriers to intimacy.
She said, I don’t like my husband’s beard much,
it tickles when he kisses me.
I said, have you asked him to trim it,
cause yeah, if I were dating him Grizzly Adams
beards aren’t my thing much either.
She said, yeah, he won’t. I asked,
how does it feel on the inside of your thighs?
she said, why would he be putting it…ohh!
Do people really do that? I thought
it was only something in racy novels.
Yes, they do, I said, has no one ever
gone down on you? She turned bright red in the face,
no never, I can’t imagine anyone wanting to,
I said, well many men like to and I am one.
She says, TMI. I say, well we are going
to be talking about sex together and
I want to ask consent to share
my own life as a way to help you
learn what is possible. She agrees to allow that.
We talk some more and I discover
she has never had an orgasm. She isn’t sure
how she would know if she had. She is 67 years old.
I ask, do you get aroused seeing your husband’s cock?
She said, you mean his thing? Yes, the word is cock,
she said penis, I said, say it, you will feel freer, cock,
she said c-c-cock. I said was that so hard.
Her voice changed to be that of a little girl,
that’s what HE called it. Who called it?
Granpa. I ask her a few more questions.
Goddamn, the first session and I uncover
trauma and abuse. I am not a therapist
and I am not qualified for this, and goddamn,
I see what might be the connection, this woman
who was my mentor in ministry, one of the bravest
most compassionate women clergy I know,
who has fought against patriarchal discrimination in the church
her whole fucking career, and who has never had an orgasm
quite likely because of granpa, because he told her,
never touch yourself down there, that’s only for granpa.
How old were you? Five, she said.
I am glad granpa is dead so I won’t have to go to prison
for killing him. Goddamn abusers, goddamn it.
In case you are wondering, and you should be,
even though I am not telling you enough
about this woman for her to be identifiable,
I do have her consent to tell her story.
As a sex coach, consent is the foundation
of everything; consent is not just for sex
but for hugs, even having a conversation.
I learned this the hard way as a pastor,
They told us in seminary that we should assume
that someone who has had a loved one die
wants to talk about them. They were wrong.
I stepped in that more than once, asking about
a recently dead spouse or child. When people want to talk
to their pastor they will let you know. Now, it is true
for most people,that if you have a friend
who has had someone die, and you are wondering
if you should talk about it, you should.
But a pastor is not a friend to parishioners,
we can’t be, there has to be a clear boundary
and consent to talk or else we are not trustworthy.
Maybe you’ve noticed I say we, and you remember
some poems I read over this past year about
surrendering my orders as a deacon in the Methodist church.
I have realized that just because some church full of queer-hating
misogynistic patriarchal bishops and mostly male pastors
thinks I am not fit for ministry because I have sex
as a single man, I don’t think that,
and I know for a fact that I’m a good preacher,
a good pastor, and I am not going to give that up
because some narrow-minded church men think
I should not have sex. Fuck that. I like sex.
So I am realizing that there are a lot, a lot, of people
who have been wounded by the church
like I have and often way worse, which brings me back
to childhood sexual abuse, and ministers, and sexual repression,
and my being a sex coach, and a pastor,
and I am wondering, is there a place for a spiritual community
of queer, or kinky, or polyamorous, or sex-positive people,
or people outright molested by church people,
specifically designed to be safe for them to be themselves?
I guess starting that is up to me. Fuck.
I’m back to sitting with my pastor friend
as she tells me things about her sex life
she has never told anyone, even her husband,
and she had never had sex when she got married.
I am honored to be in this sacred space with her
to be entrusted with this confidence
and witness to her courage and I give her some homework:
a video course on female self- pleasure;
a daily practice of learning which of her
non-erogenous zones are the most pleasurable;
and journaling (we pastors love that) about it all.
So, if you’ve been wondering what sex coaching is like
well, that is what it is: holding space, compassion,
non-judgment, asking the best questions you can
and letting your client discover that in reality
they had the answers inside themselves already.