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Greta Rybus

Greta Rybus is a photojournalist and photo editor living in Portland. She started her blog, “Who I Met," as a way to begin juicy conversations with interesting people she meets. The blog has migrated with her from Montana, Europe, and, finally, to her new and dearly-loved home in Maine. You can see more of her work at www.gretarybus.com

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Who I Met with Greta Rybus
Posted: February 25, 2014

Kellie Ryan- sex educator

Don’t get squeamish or blush. Don’t clutch at your pearls or gasp. Kellie talks about sex. A lot. And at the heart of her conversations about sex, she is asking, “How can you enjoy sex more?” Because sex is meant to be enjoyed, that’s just how it was designed.

Together with her friend Dana, Kellie has developed a new series in Maine called Sex of Self. It’s a ten-week series of classes for women that foster conversations and exploration about sex, gender, and relationships.  Dana and Kellie’s goal is to remind us and help us to listen to our selves. Our sexy selves.

TELL ME ABOUT HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN WORKING AS A SEX EDUCATOR.

It was through becoming a massage therapist about ten years ago, learning about my body and having a deep appreciation for everything that happens in this one body, I gradually got drawn to dance. At age 24, I discovered a part of my true self in my moving body in dance. Finding that and expressing that was a huge part of my sexuality. That didn’t become clear right away. I was just experiencing becoming a dancer, and people would come up to me and ask, “Are you the dancer?” And I’d say, “Yeah! I am actually. I AM the dancer. I am a DANCER!” And from that experience, so many interesting things happened in my life. I was in a very non-sexual relationship. Which means, we had sex much less often than I would have liked to. He was a very dear friend who I loved very much. After breaking up for the umpteenth time, I met an older man who was my housemate. And he talked a lot about sexuality and we ended up becoming lovers and he introduced me to a community called the Body Sacred.

WHAT DID YOU LEARN THROUGH THAT?

I knew it was an erotic community, but what in the world was an “erotic community”? I knew I wanted in, but I was also really terrified, but I wanted more of this fuller expression I was learning as a dancer. I knew I wanted to feel really alive. If I knew there was one thing that was important, it was that I wanted myself and other people to feel alive and inspired and like we are growing all the time. I went to a workshop, and it was there that I learned about polyamory, which I had very mixed feelings about at first. It was where I learned how to surrender my ideas of body image and accept other people’s bodies. It’s a bunch of ordinary people who want to be loved and accepted in that realm. So there I was, surrounded by 50 people, and by the second day we were naked in space together and where we were learning boundaries and how to express what our needs are. It was like, “What the heck? How did I get here?” It was so unnerving and amazing at the same time. The first time of being there, I never thought I’d go back. It was an epic experience. But now I’ve been to sixteen workshops and lead three of them. So, in the span of six years I’ve become a really big part of that community. And I’ve realized that I have a comfortability with these subjects based on this community and the choices I’ve made, I want to bring this to other people. I want people to feel that they can be sexually alive, and they can be erotically alive by being in their bodies more. I want them to know they can have happy, fulfilling lives, whether it’s based on what kind of sex they are having or what kind of food they eating. I want people to feel they have access to joy. For me, it was through sexuality that I realized this is kind of a core piece. If we can find comfortability and inspiration and a sense of our self through this very basic part of our life, how is that going to show up in other places in our life? What I feel like my work is now, especially through the Sex of Self classes, is that we are potentially opening a door for more women to feel erotically alive and to have a safe place to express the places they feel both celebratory and stuck.

WHAT ARE THE WAYS PEOPLE CAN EXPLORE THEIR SEXUAL SELVES OR FREE THEMSELVES?

My experience from freeing myself has come more from embodiment than anything. And since I’ve been able to work more with my sexual self and becoming more willing to talk about it with people, I do feel that most people need to have a safe outlet to express what concerns them. It’s about having a safe place where people can voice or let go of certain ideas and soften their own mind. Having a safe container is a way to get unstuck– someone who will hold your information without making you feel bad about it or even making you feel tickled about it. I think inviting people to be more aware about how their body senses their reality and how their body feels in certain situations, having a deeper understanding of their body’s wisdom. I know it sounds vague, but the body senses and processes so much information. So it’s about having a safe place to talk and having an awareness of the body.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES AND GIFTS OF HAVING RELATIONSHIPS THAT MIGHT NOT ALWAYS LOOK LIKE A TYPICAL RELATIONSHIP?

I’ve had un-traditional relationships where there was a level of non-monogamy, although it wasn’t necessarily what people understand of polyamory. The gifts of that have been mostly honesty. And honesty, as honorable as it is, is such a hard thing to truly have. The gift of being in open relationships gave me a place to practice honesty, but more, it gave me a place to mess up honesty. It gave me a place to really question what is true for me, and not with a lot of grace. And in some ways, it got me into some darker places because I was so unsure of who I wanted to be and how I wanted to feel in a relationship. I really learned how to keep my heart open, but I also think that openness is part of my personality, just being in tune with other people’s needs and desires. I think these relationships really made me get clear about what I want, and the freedom to play, experiment, explore with more people than if I was in a monogamous paradigm. It let me say yes to more things I might otherwise have been too scared to have said yes to, because there was permission. It gave me permission, but it also gave me a lot of fear. Fear of loss and inconsistency. And I did feel those things. I felt love and I felt not being loved the way I wanted to be loved.

 

 

WHAT DO YOU WISH WOMEN KNEW ABOUT SEX?

I think the first thing I’d want women and men to know is that who they are and where they are is enough. What you bring to the table is a gift. In the culture we live in, there’s a lack of reverence for the feminine. Not so much a lack of reverence for women, but there is a skewed vision of how women are represented and being worshiped. The part of us that should be worshiped is our ability to receive, and men and women alike have both all about giving, doing, acting, behaving, and responding. All of those things are good aspects of a being, but we haven’t really taught ourselves how to receive, how to allow, and how to surrender to ourselves and to what is true for us. There is a lot of trying to figure out answers and just being very mental in the world. How this all relates to sex is because there is an imbalance of energy. We need to embrace human beings being ability to receive.

WHAT DO YOU WISH MEN KNEW ABOUT SEX?

I wish men knew that you do not need to make something happen for your lover. Again, it’s this letting go theme. Presence is more important than performance. And, flipping A, when that is there, the woman is in bliss and the man wishes he knew it years ago. I feel like as much as I think “presence over performance” is important, it’s also important to play in the realms of knowing what you want and really asking for it. Say what you want. The person you are with may not be into it, but they might also just say, “Yes!” Women might need to say, “I need to be pushed against the wall and taken.” And that might be intimidating for men who have been raised to be aware of over-dominant, chauvinistic patterns. We are all sort of screwed because we are given all these messages, like, “Don’t be jerk, be nice to her.” But we don’t always want to be acted nicely to: “Take me!” A lot of men have experienced not being fully expressed. The overall societal illness is from being under-expressed and not really claiming what we want because it’s scary.

WHAT DO YOU WISH SOCIETY KNEW ABOUT SEX?

That there’s so many ways to be a sexual being, and it should not be so kept in the closet; that there needs to be more permission to be however we are. Every single one of us needs to be talking about sex more, without it losing it’s reverence, but just claim it, own it, love it, be it. It’s a part of who we are; there’s no reason to be uncomfortable with something that’s such a natural part of our lives. And furthermore, we are lacking intimacy skills, we are lacking the ability to look into each other’s eyes and tell the other what we want.

DO YOU THINK THINGS ARE GETTING BETTER, SOCIETALLY?

It depends on what angle I am looking at. In schools, it’s extremely repressed and it isn’t getting better. We are perpetuating repression, and that just gets stronger and stronger over time. But I feel like more people are talking about it, there are more people that are doing something about it. There’s some good movement, but psychologists and therapists aren’t getting trained in sexuality. I mean, how are you really going to help someone in their relationship if you aren’t talking about sex? In some ways, I don’t think it’s getting worse, but we’ve plateaued at such a dumb spot. There’s just so much work to be done.

TELL ME ABOUT “SEX OF SELF”

Sex of Self is named after a play on words of  “sense of self.” It came from meeting my friend Dana. I was leading these dance classes for women that helped them feel erotically alive and she was leading these sex talks where women were openly discussing their experiences and desires. When we met, I basically Facebooked her and said, “I hear you like to talk about sex.” And we had a friendly blind date in May and I told her a lot about myself and she told me a lot about herself and there was a compatibility and we made a decision to create something together because it’s inspiring for us to work in the realms of human sexuality. It’s stimulating and it’s enough on the edge that it’s enticing. And we came up with a ten-week course that has a different theme for every two-hour class. We’ll have classes about boundaries and we’ll have classes about gender fluidity. We’ll have classes on orgasm and about self-pleasuring or relationship styles. We wanted a really broad array of classes. We wanted to have everything out in the open, and let women know about their options. We felt like this is information we want everyone to have. We wanted to set up an open hearted, transformational space for women.

FOR PEOPLE JUST BEGINNING THEIR SEXUAL EDUCATION, WHAT SHOULD THEY KNOW?

I wish people knew that the clitoris wasn’t just a dot above the urethra. You know, something as simple as anatomy. I wish people knew their anatomy. Actually, I don’t think everyone knows how enjoyable sex is. Especially with some of the women I talk with, because for so many, sex is disappointing. I wish both men and women knew it wasn’t about the orgasm. Orgasms are for women, a lot more elusive than a man. Our pleasure as humans is our power. There is a healing capacity in our pleasure. There is a lot of sex out there that isn’t that open hearted or healing. There’s a lot of sex out there that’s just being lived out based on what people think sex should look like, act like, feel like. A lot people feel like their orgasm isn’t right, their body isn’t right, their mindset isn’t right or they way they have sex is wrong. Even with people who are sexually alive, I think we have thoughts that we aren’t enough or don’t look good enough. For more people than not, sex is a disappointment and lack of liberation, and there should be more of “I’m having great sex! And I love who I am while I am doing it!” And there are even more people who don’t even want to go there, because it’s just too hard or too scary.

WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU?

Relationships. Feeling connected to other people, my friends, and my family. I think it still goes back to that sense of aliveness. What’s most important to me is to know that when all else fails, there is a very important sense of love in my own being. A lot of that love originates in me, but also comes from the people and relationships in my life.

WHAT IS A LESSON YOU ARE LEARNING OR HAVE LEARNED RECENTLY?

What isn’t a lesson? Trust. That is the first thing I think of. The lesson of trust. I think when there is a certain faith in the way our lives are unfolding, than we can be in the place of receptivity. That life is not only happening to us, but that the things that are happening to us are a part of our evolution. We have a lot of power in that trust, as passive as it may seem.

WHAT IS THE GREATEST GIFT IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW?

I just met someone new. The gift of allowing a beautiful love unfold in my life. The gift is allowing myself to be adored. And to really feel my own self-love through that adoring. That it’s not just about someone else loving me, but allowing it to open the door and know that through it, there’s my own love for myself and there is trust.

WHAT IS THE GREATEST STRUGGLE IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW?

I’ve had so much struggle this year actually, although I don’t feel it right now. I think overall my struggle is trusting that what I was deciding to do and having such strong boundaries is hard. Especially with my last relationship, I was cutting it off. I was choosing to avoid. And my struggle is to accept the choices I have made and that I have not done things perfectly and to accept that my body does know best.

TELL ME ABOUT THE BEST MOMENT OF AN AVERAGE DAY.

Laughter. Totally laughter. It’s those moments that I feel like I can be totally irreverent and totally carefree and outlandish and goody and inappropriate. I flipping love those moments! The moments I am holding my gut and laughing about how ridiculous life is. And it’s usually with someone else. A really irreverent moment with someone else.

For more information on Sex of Self: www.sexofself.com

 

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