Cuddle Parties don’t overtly deal with sex. Nor should they. But what should?
In today’s touch starved culture, Cuddle Party was (and still is) doing a great job of giving people a sunggle-O-licious laboratory to practice the foundational communication skills that make the world safe for touch and affection. And the world could stand to be more cuddle-friendly.
Skills like asking for what you want, the ability to change one’s mind (and communicate it), and being able to say No without feeling guilty are just as important when you’re naked between the sheets as when you and your friends are pajama-clad, hug-deep in a puppy pile. And while Cuddle Party is an amazing, interactive experience where people become better communicators of their needs and boundaries and learn how to create more affection and nurturing touch in their lives, I had nowhere of my own to send people who wanted to increase their sexual confidence in a more direct manner.
Let’s face it, the communication needs are similar, but spooning isn’t the same as forking. I’d created Cuddle Party. What other workshops could I create to meet the needs of this emerging demographic?
The answer was: many. And I did.
“Let’s face it, the communication needs are similar, but spooning isn’t the same as forking.”
I dusted off my workshop designing skills and created the Romance Is For the Cats and Dogs, the workshop I wrote about in last month’s newsletter. I began collaborating with all the sex educators I respected and began producing workshops and teleclasses on a host of topics, everything from Understanding Men and Women to overcoming the Green-Eyed Monster of jealousy. I did a teleclass on How To End a Bad Relationship, for those of us stuck in relationship hell and desperate to foster change in our lives. Some workshops were issue specific, and others were focused on lovestyles and the various types of relationships and experiences you might be drawn to, like my offerings for people exploring polyamory or people curious about experiencing a ménage a trios.
Oh, Three! Three is The Magic Number!
It’s when I designed theNegotiating Successful Threesomes workshop (which lead to the Initiating Threesomes Teleclass), I came up with the idea that I could have volunteers from the audience role play the communication exercises with one another, and even help me create a fully clothed “Threesome Kama Sutra” on stage.
That’s when I had my first ah-ha moment!
Marcia Baczynski and I had been the Donnie and Marie Osmond of Cuddle Parties for nearly five years by then. I’d facilitated close to three-hundred and fifty Cuddle Parties, if not more, and had personally trained over a hundred men and women in the basics of how to facilitate Cuddle Parties. While being the Yoda of snuggling had honed my workshop facilitation and people skills to Jedi-like levels, I was itching to try new formats and topics. After five years worth of feedback and conversations with the thousands of Cuddle Party attendees, there was one thing that I noticed everyone was looking for regardless of whether is was an platonic hug or a steamy, romantic tryst: Everyone was looking for self-confidence.
“After five years worth of feedback and conversations with the thousands of Cuddle Party attendees, there was one thing that I noticed everyone was looking for regardless of whether is was an platonic hug or a steamy, romantic tryst: Everyone was looking for self-confidence.”
Self-esteem and confidence make us feel better. Feeling better about ourselves impacts those we love. They feel more safe and relaxed, which improves our interactions whether it’s at the breakfast table or in the bedroom.
When I set out to design workshops that weren’t Cuddle Party-related, I asked myself: What’s a common situation most folks have thought about once or twice. that seems incredibly daunting, which is also ripe with opportunities for awkward situations and clumsy mis-communications? The answer: Threesomes!
The ménage a trios provided the perfect workshop topic: The allure was there in that most folks have fantasized or at least wondered about ‘em, self-confidence was low in that most folks would probably admit to feeling less than equipped for initiating a successful three-way, and the communication skills needed to allow anyone to successfully explore such a fantasy are exactly the same ones we talk about in Cuddle Party… Bingo! I had my first workshop topic for teaching sexual self-confidence.
But how best to do that? Hmmmmm… Talking at an audience would be useful, but boring. A Power Point presentation might help, but still lacked the interactiveness that makes Cuddle Party so powerful for folks. “I couldn’t make a workshop on threesomes interactive,” I thought, “Or could I?”
Given my goofy, humorous sensibilities, and that lack-of-confidence in any situation leaves we humans prone to clumsiness and the dreaded “awkward moment,” the most powerful, interactive choice for a threesome works shop was to role play! Why not invite the audience to demonstrate exercises in a safe and humorous way, with my help, in front of the room?
“Negotiating any fantasy is awkward, so let’s not hide it. Instead, let’s flaunt the awkwardness!”
Negotiating any fantasy is awkward, so let’s not hide it. Instead, let’s flaunt the awkwardness! It was definitely more risqué and risky than Cuddle Party, but that would actually help. It would allow people to have their learning curves, to have fun with their nervous energy, and to laugh together as a group at how the road to great sex is often paved with silliness and awkward moments. And, like Cuddle Party, no one gets naked.
So, we gave the role playing exercises a test drive, and, boy, it was a hit!
Not only did we laugh ourselves silly, audience participation taught me that risqué can be not only fun, but safe as well! Titillating subject matter sprinkled with fully clothed audience participation demonstrations was an amazing education combo that was safe and popular. I no longer had to keeping things PG-rated to keep things safe.
The R-rated Reid Mihalko workshop was born!
People got so much out of watching and participating in this R-rated format full of games and exercises, that I created more. After Negotiating Successful Threesomes came The Full-Body Kiss, Clothes-On Sex!, and Bachelorette Sex Ed 101, to name a few.
The more I created and taught my R-rated workshops and heard the feedback from the participants, the more certain I became of the need for explicit education. It wasn’t that Cuddle Party’s PG-rating or an R-rated workshop were missing anything. Nothing was broken. There is a need for non-nudity, non-sexual workshops; however, once again around the area of sexual self-confidence, I saw the chance to deliver a particular type of learning opportunity…
Monkey See; Monkey Slam, Bam, Thank You, Ma’am!
It’s one thing for sex educators to talk about sex or show you pictures and graphs on a projector screen. It’s another thing entirely when sex educators show you how to do something, and invite you to ask questions… Especially when it’s not demonstrated on a piece of fruit, but on a real, live person!
Human beings are very much wired with a “monkey see, monkey do” mentality. Many of us learn best by watching. Because we are not allowed to learn about sex from watching others, our culture has turned to porn for tips and tricks in the sack.
With the ease and proliferation of free porn on the interwebs, now more than ever, porn is influencing how we behave behind closed doors (or in the back seat of our parent’s SUV). The problem with porn, in my opinion, isn’t that people are watching it; it’s that people are using porn as a How-To medium.
Watching porn isn’t the same as watching a qualified sex educator role model great communication techniques, ask permission, check in with their partner, get verbal permission from them before touching them, and then properly put a condom on while encouraging the spectators to ask questions.
“The problem with porn, in my opinion, isn’t that people are watching it; it’s that people are using porn as a How-To medium.”
There are several things when it comes to helping people learn about sex that are actually more easily learned if I show you the technique on a living, breathing human being and you can watch and ask us questions – an audience gets to see what “real sex” looks like. They can pick up the subtle nuances that aren’t always visible in pornography’s tightly choreographed and edited product. The more real the sex, the easier it is to grasp and transfer that feeling good and being respectful and safe has little to do with DD breasts, 12-inch cocks and squirting orgasms.
Yes, it’s a bit unorthodox by today’s standards to invite adults into a room to learn how to be a better lover by watching explicit, live demonstrations, but the simple fact is that even just talking openly about sex and intimacy in an honest and vulnerable manner is not the norm. There is so much work to be done! And there aren’t a lot of sex educators teaching explicit workshops.
Great sex, for me, is 90% communication, and even when I’m teaching a technique-heavy, explicit workshop like The Ins and Outs of Hand Sex, I’m constantly trying to pass along and role model excellent communication techniques. Asking a banana for permission to put on a condom on it is actually counter productive to what I’m trying to convey in that there’s a subtle message of shame and sex-negativism: It’s bad for me to show you the real scenario happening on the Real McCoy, so here’s a piece of fruit.
With a range of workshop content spanning the gamut – PG and PG-13, to R-rated, all the way to NC17 Show-N-Tell demonstrations – adults can self-select what they’re ready for and what they’re interested in. And throughout all of it, they’re getting great role modeling for how we can all be better communicators in our lives.
It is my belief that, through the process of integrating great communication tools in and out of the bedroom, we can all foster greater self-care and more self-esteem in our lives. That self-care and self-esteem gives the people in our lives permission to take care of themselves, to have and honor their own needs and boundaries, and to embrace their own self-respect and esteem. They, in turn, influence, role model and set an example for the people in their spheres of influence, upping the level of self-confidence in themselves and their communities…
Hope to see you at a workshop sometime!
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