By Rasa Estee - 07 July 2023
Let me tell you now, in all honesty (and in case we've yet to meet IRL), that my succulence is pretty much on the anxious and awkward side of the spectrum. I'm easily embarrassed by a cornucopia of things, and blush often. And I've come to see and use blushing as a powerful tool in sex, love and relationships.
Blushing is a fascinating phenomenon that can also be a detriment for some people. Getting so embarrassed and flushed comes in a very wide range of spectrum for us humans. From being too shy to ask our partner(s) to do a particularly advanced kink, all the way down to not being able to make an order at a restaurant.
And since extreme shyness and social anxiety could be adversely affecting the lives of those who have to live with it, I’ll make it clear what kind of blushing I’m talking about here.
I’m talking about sensually and sexually-related kind of blushing. The kind you get when you suddenly come across a shockingly raw and extremely graphic pages in your romance novel.
The kind you get when somebody you’re crushing on suddenly blurted out a deeply endearing and hot observation of the back of your neck.
The kind when something your sexual partner is doing feels SO GOOD, yet your mind thinks it’s SO LEWD that you nearly froze. Those kinds.
Some of you might be thinking, “Sheesh, Estee. That’s lame. The p0rn I’m watching is SO MUCH MORE explicit than any of these things. I doubt anything can still make me blush.”
To that I’d say, “Well, this is my point exactly.”
(Oh, this isn’t going to be an indictment against p0rn or anything. While the subject of it can be contentious, even with the increasing rise of ethical p0rn, the point of the above statement is not on the p0rn. It’s the last sentence.)
“I doubt anything can still make me blush.” This sentence can be thrown around with all sorts of mixed air to it. From casual humor, weird superiority, over-compensation, bitter cynicism, to utter dejection, etc.
While one may have a higher tolerance for blush triggers, I, personally, am almost 95% sure that I don't wish to be in a place where nothing can make me blush anymore.
So, I hereby present my case
in defense of blushing:
Let’s begin by drawing a clear line between embarrassment and shame within the context of sex.
A HUGE chunk of my work with myself and clients largely deal with sexual shame and its ripple effects. And, often, when one is working on unwinding sexual shame, there’s a misconception that you’ll only be considered free from sexual shame or fully "sexually liberated" if you don’t get embarrassed and/or blush about anything sensual and sexual anymore.
The desired outcome of unwinding shame is NOT to be SO ABOVE any and all emotions that nothing touches you and you’ve become some soulless "superior" being.
It’s to be able to hold the quirky and fallible nature of our human experience in a way that still allows us to have a good time with our sexuality on our brief time on this blue-green planet.
It IS possible to be quite sorted in your convictions and actions about sex being part of your human rights, natural, vast, glorious, hilarious, and divine while still blushing down to your toes at the thought of someone’s ass dimples. (I mean, I am and did.)
Blushing is like nature's physical honesty fail-safe, and I'm lusciously thankful for it.
Professor Ray Crozier explains that a blush is a sudden, temporary increase in blood flow through blood vessels close to the surface of the facial skin, and it's under sympathetic nervous system (SNS) control but different from fear or anger reactions. He added that we do not see our own reddening but we know when we are blushing because of the felt increase in facial temperature caused by the blood flow.
For me, there's also an overall bodily sensations that comes over me that I could only described like a nervous/embarrassed, excitement. Like a physical cringe but not a bad one. It's temporary but palpable if not intense, and it overrides my previous body/mind state. And often for the better.
It would instantly bring me back down into my body's felt sense.
One moment I was watching a gloomy Icelandic murder mystery, getting all serious and absorbed. And boom! I was instantly brought into a present-time awareness of my body because the actor ran his hand through his hair in a certain way.
One moment I was willing myself to act a certain way to come off as an unbothered and highly-experienced lover to someone. And boom! I had a toe-curling eeeek that suddenly made my body curled into itself because they suddenly gushed about how soft my skin was. (insert blush emoji)
I've come to really appreciate this quality of blushing. It can function like a physical honesty fail-safe for me. It's a sudden, uncontrollable and generally pleasant reconnection to my body. It keeps things real, physically.
This is a boon when it comes to helping us both in nurturing (or even reawaken dormant) connection to the felt-sense, and by extension, to our sensuality.
So, if/when you find yourself feeling a bit numb sensually, a gentle way to reconnect is to revisit the things that made you instantly blush. If they don't work anymore, then, it's time to seek out new ones and even start a blush-galore collection. Get lush!
Blushing is also like an emotional honesty fail-safe for me. It keeps my loving fierce.
Human interactions, including intimate and sexual ones are messy, delectable, and complex due to the bio-psycho-social elements that are always at play.
Patriarchal conditioning and its impacts have led to relational power dynamics that are dominated by hyper-vigilance and hyper-protectiveness for many of us. After all, there's nothing like trying to connect to another person to trigger all of our defensive coping mechanisms.
This is no criticism for self-protection either emotionally or physically. Your safety is paramount. Those same mechanisms have allowed all of us to survive this far.
The thing is about coping mechanisms, they tend to work so instantaneously that before we know it we'd already be standoffish even though we actually want to be open and vulnerable.
Like when you find the other person to be amazing at showing their appreciation for you but you can't seem to be able to express your appreciation/compliments back because there's a part of you that's calculating what that single action would do to the existing power dynamic.
What if it comes off too gushy? What if it gets into their head too much? What if they'd think I'm easy/desperate/dumb/a target?
There goes our coping mechanism again doing their job of protecting us from a perceived threat. It's gotten so efficient and effective that it even bypassed our conscious desires. And it all happens quicker than we could say, "Well, zero orgasm tonight."
This kind of hyper-guarded dynamic has gotten so common that the sex educator Gigi Engle had to outline the difference between praise kink and just being appreciated and treated well.
In my case, I've learned that gradually expanding the edges of my comfort zone by steadily nudging them in the direction of necessary discomfort is my style of growth. It's how I roll.
Blushing, whether it's happening over/with transient partner(s) or longer-term one(s), has been quite effective as an emotional fail-safe that keeps me emotionally honest.
I might have started with a well-curated plan of attitudes and looks that I could pull off to give my sexual partner a certain impression. I'm not talking about full-blown manipulation, or being someone I'm totally not. I'm talking about showing just enough because I know how to protect myself.
(After 45 years on this rock as a woman, this skill has unfortunately been made more critically-relevant than ever.)
And then they'd do some kind of hot thing or delivered a compliment/appreciation in a certain way...and I'd be eeek-ing inside and visibly caught off guard.
Blushing would instantly snap me back into a sincere and genuine emotional reality. It has the power to bypass my deft coping mechanisms and open me up to an opportunity for vulnerability and further risk-taking in my loving.
It's like nature's way of giving me a break from the guarded parts of me. Just enough to check-in with myself emotionally and physically, and then decide how to move forward from that point on.
Is there growing safety with this person or not? Is it worth lowering my guard a bit more or not?
In fact, I've now learned to use my blushing moments into both an emotional growth moment for myself AND a super useful relational tool.
Utilizing giving and receiving genuine compliments and its potential blushing moments as a fiercely-loving relational tool.
One of my favorite delivery systems for blushing moments is the giving and receiving of genuine compliments/appreciation, especially in intimate and sexual interactions.
Some folks might be waking the neighbors with very graphic screams during sex. Some stay within the lane of audible grunts and moans. And some are just the silent types. I celebrate all of you because what matters is your genuine satisfaction and fulfilment.
At the same time, some folks are curious about exploring more pleasure and satisfaction but struggle with expressing their needs and desires, let alone engage in genuine and passionate bed talk.
To those, I'd like to offer using giving and receiving compliments plus the potential blushing moments as a gateway into being able to be a bit more vocal and free in your love-making.
If reading this already made you feel flooded with dread, physically cringe, and visualize scenes of utter rejection and excruciating embarrassment, I hear you. But bear with me.
You see, you and I know that this is our defensive coping mechanism kicking into gear in anticipation of THE IDEA of a perceived threat. We also know that we could choose to co-create with this knee-jerk mechanism and slowly re-wire it towards being less and less intense.
Practicing in giving and receiving compliments plus taking advantage of the blushing that's likely to happen is how we do this rewiring. And It can be done by yourself and/or together with your partner(s).
Practicing this means that, in the process, you'll also be cultivating an ADVANCED and HIGHLY-COVETED relational and love-making skill that'll improve the quality of your foreplay and relational satisfaction and confidence.
Yes, ALL of that while staying sincere, full of integrity and pleasure PLUS the added bonus of dismantling patriarchy while you're at it.
Giving and receiving genuine compliments plus turning blushing to your advantage is a FIERCELY loving practice.
And with a little help from WWE (yes, I do mean World Wrestling Entertainment), I'll help you get started with a step-by-step, how-to in the next edition.
In the meantime, thanks for reading and keep on blushing.
(What's that, you say?! I'm awesome?! Aw! YOU'RE awesome!)
This is an edited version of On Point section from Lush Letters #03 in 07 July 2023.
Image credit: 16 June 2020. Manual Collage. Art by Vantiani.
On Us: *
for Your Curious Desires
"I really like your letters and adore the skill of expression you have, even considering the partly delicate topics, really enjoy reading it.
Have to say though, that I’m maybe not your typical client as I’m quite happy with everything above-and-below-the-belt ;-)
However, of course there are always things I’m curious about and never dared to ask and so on…so I look forward to more!
-- TH (a penis-owning subscriber), commenting on Lush Letters #02.
It's always a pleasure to receive word that someone is enjoying the work that I do and looking forward to receiving more. Yay!
In addition, I'm thankful for TH's comments because it reminded me of the existence of a common yet false assumption about sex, love, and relationship coaching.
It is this false assumption that sex coaching must ONLY be about overcoming sexual issues/problems. And, therefore, by extension, sexual thriving MUST be about "not having any sexual issues/problems at all."
So, let's unpack this a bit. (Thanks again, TH)
Being a sex-positive and pleasure-positive person means that you see pleasure as essential and central to sexual, physical and mental well-being.
Since pleasure and well-being are subjective states/experiences, this means that how sexual thriving manifests in and expressed by a person is diverse because we can all choose to (re)define what it means for each one of us. And since our bodies and needs change, we can also (re)define it again and again at any given time throughout our lifetime.
So, there isn't ONLY ONE way/look/expression to sexual thriving. There's NO hierarchy, ONLY diversity. You may consider yourself thriving as a sex god/goddess, warrior, misfit, submissive etc. You can be ALL of that rolled into one or NONE of that.
For instance, a sexually-thriving asexual person might feel super content and fulfilled to occasionally masturbate while generally feeling no desire to seek partnered sex.
So, it REALLY is up to each one of us. And that's wonderful!
My coaching methodology, being desire-based instead of problem-based, is dedicated to this vast and ever-evolving sexual thriving!
This means that every one of you is encouraged and welcomed to seek support simply to honor your sexual curiosities and desires for more pleasure and well-being, and NOT ONLY to overcome an issue/problem.
Important note: This tendency to focus only on problems is not entirely our own doing.
You see, since sexual pleasure has been demonized in so many sex-negative cultures by reducing sex to only for reproduction purposes (and making it a means of control rooted in misogyny and misogynoir), one might subconsciously feel that one need to have a distressing sexual issue to even legitimize reaching out for support.
Perhaps even if you don't feel outright shameful about it, you might feel that simply wanting more pleasure and well-being somehow does not hold quite a high level of importance.
(It is indeed that insidious. So, let's call BS on that now and forever. Also check out the next edition for more on sexual pleasure and its global importance.)
Plus, being desire-based also helps chip away at this internalized patriarchal narrative that often pops up within us that says that we're "broken" if we don't meet the dominant cis, heteronormative beauty and sexuality norms.
For instance, if you come to me saying that you think you've never had an orgasm before, I'd also ask whether you WANT to have it and WHAT will having that add to your life. YOUR answer to that is what determines how we move forward in session, NOT what I think your sexuality SHOULD be.
We're not "broken," folks. We're survivors of things that were meant to break us.
Often times, we could simply just have a curiosity about a certain sexual situation/pattern that we aren't even able to put to words yet and/or even sure whether there's an approach/solution to.
In a Discovery Session for my 12-week program, one woman shared that she was noticing a repetitive pattern in her sexual encounters. While it was not particularly distressing or totally keeping her from enjoying partnered sex, it was kind of a baffling one.
And she reached out simply because she needed a sounding board to help her find a way to put it into words. (Together, we managed to identify and articulate said mysterious pattern to her great relief and clarity. And then built a new desired habit in its place.)
One man shared that his fiancé is a sexual assault survivor. While she's largely recovered from the past incident, occasionally sex would still be quite an emotional experience for her.
He expressed a desire to be able to better hold that moment/space for her/them. He wondered whether there's even something he could do to grow his capacity for this. (And of course there is. Both of them are glad that he reached out to me.)
You know what they say about curiosities and cats. Well, to that I'd say, "At least that cool cat could die with a LOT more pleasure."
In short, if you need support for a sexual issue/problem, please reach out.
If you're curious and pondering about something sexual for more pleasure and well-being, also reach out.
Turn-On Session is here for y'all.
I promise if it's outside of my scope of practice, I'll direct you to a more knowledgeable and suitable professional/resource.
Do reach out, though, because pleasure is real and life is short. ;)
Also, in June, your Turn-On Session bookings managed to raise
a total of US$75 for ergonomic weaving tools
for Indonesian women weavers!
As a long-time lover of traditional textiles, this made me do a little dance in my room. Thank you!
For your curious desires and pleasures,
*On Us contains updates, comments, Q&A from us. All subscribers' comments/quote/stories are published with consent, so hit reply and send me yours anytime. I'll be the only person reading and responding to you.