I had no idea what to expect walking into an empty backroom in The Mill. I was greeted by some friendly people ready to welcome me into the workshop. Do You Want To Play? was supposed to be an intimate, limited sign-up gathering, but I wasn’t aware going in.
On Witching Hour‘s website it said to RSVP, but as press I didn’t think of that before going into the event. I was quickly put on a waitlist. Though, I wasn’t the only one. Soon the room filled with people wanting to participate in the workshop who hadn’t signed up beforehand and to our luck the limited 16 participants turned into an inclusive group.
Natalie Benway-Correll and Alison Oliver hosted the workshop. Benway-Correll is a psychotherapist based in Coralville. She has experience in including the body in her therapy. Alison Oliver works as a sex educator at University of Iowa. She explained her passion in the education of sexual agency and opportunities that are flexible and protected by institutions.
The workshop was mainly focused on erotic vulnerability and education. Oliver and Benway-Correll wanted to help the participants share sexual vulnerability and agency. Oliver noted that eroticism is too diverse and variable to rely on the assumptions of our partners. The workshop was centered on these two main factors: mindfulness and presence and communication within the erotic community.
So, we started off with the simple question: Do you want to play?
Benway-Correll led us through a mindfulness exercise. Each participant was encouraged to pick a food item. A cutie clementine, carrot, or a raisin. I chose the cutie and let Benway-Correll lead me through mindful eating. She told us to focus on the food with all of our senses. To see the orange, to feel the grooves of the piece, to hear the squish, to smell the citrus, to taste slowly. This was supposed reflect a mindful reflection on sexuality.
The next two exercises were based upon erotic communication. We partnered up with a person around us. Now this was scary and awkward, but it really reflected the vulnerability of communication in eroticism.
Oliver walked us through the worksheet of our erotic menus and how to communicate them to our partners. Oliver mentioned that most of us never form the neural pathways that make us able to easily communicate erotic conversations. So, we were able to practice that with our partners. I am not going to lie, I was quite uncomfortable sharing something of this nature with a stranger. But, I really appreciated the notion. It is something we shy away from talking about and communicating when it is a really important thing to be open to.
The last exercise was based on physical communication and this was definitely the most nerve-wracking. We were told, if were comfortable, to massage our partners hand for 2 minutes. It was awkward, but fitting for the message of the workshop.
Sexual agency and vulnerability is something our society is closed off about. It was an interesting experience to be apart of and definitely took me out of my comfort zone. I think we should have more of these types of workshops to spread knowledge within our sexuality.