My No-pants Paint Party - Reclaiming Self-Expression
The call to adventure
I have been one of Gaia Morrissette’s sexual wellness clients for over two years and have been a student in many of the online guided courses she has facilitated. A big part of my personal journey involved becoming more comfortable in my male sexual energy as, in the past, I’d felt it made me some sort of pig, pervert, or predator. I'd seen and heard about the ways that men, including myself, have misused and misdirected their sexual energy in harmful or disrespectful ways. As a result, my sexuality as a man was something I’d been working to reclaim, to feel safe with, and proudly own through the work I was doing with Gaia. I committed to leaning into the relationship I had with myself and my body, and part of this involved rediscovering a more uninhibited level of playfulness for myself. One of the related activities Gaia continued to suggest I explore for myself was to build sexual energy using exercises I’d been practicing and then paint in the nude. Painting has been one of my favourite creative outlets in my adult life and doing so without a stitch on my body could encourage a new level of presence and understanding of what is possible with my sexual energy. I thought it would be an interesting experience, but every time it was suggested I just didn’t make the time to do it. Then one day, just over a year ago now, we talked about exploring playful energy in one of our online classes and when it was time for our weekly homework assignments, Gaia took the painting idea one giant step forward and suggested I paint something with my penis. I had a laugh at the idea of it all and knew I could have fun with it. I accepted the challenge and made the commitment to myself. I had no idea this would result in something so much more than just an enthusiastically unconventional painting experience.
Putting penis to canvas
On the evening that I’d chosen for my artistic journey, I got a blank canvas out, along with the non-toxic (very important here!) paints I’d picked up from the art supply store, then I stripped down and stood on the garbage bag I’d laid out to catch any paint that might become more liberated than I was. I ritually prepared the space and reminded myself of my intentions. I began with some breathing techniques in combination with kegel exercises to ignite my life-force energy, which can also be described as my sexual energy, in that it arises from the sexual organs of the body. As this energy is awakened and directed throughout my entire body, I open myself up to becoming a more creative vessel for my free-spirited self. I kicked off a playlist I’d prepared ahead of time, which consisted of music I listened to when I was younger and more candidly playful. As songs by Britney Spears and the Spice Girls danced from my speaker, I dove right in, exploring different techniques and discovering what shapes, patterns, and textures were possible with my new artistic extension - my penis paint brush. I had a blast laughing, having hilarious little conversations with myself, and bringing movement into my body as I covered the canvas with the bright neon colours I’d picked out. It was such a fun, freeing experience! Once I reached a point that I knew the painting was almost complete, I added in some finishing touches with a traditional brush, then put it down and took a step back to take it in. I was actually so proud of what I'd created, amazed by what had taken shape in front of me. I had created a safe space to creatively explore my body and engage in my sexual energy beyond the means of sexual intercourse or masturbation while creating something amazing to look at and remember this experience by. I was, and still am, very proud of myself for getting right into it and surrendering to the entire experience.
The inner circle sharing
I was excited to share it with my classmates, who lovingly applauded my process and my creation. I also shared it with my A-Team - a group of close friends who really know me and can bear the weight of anything I share - and again everyone was so positive, humorous, and excited about what I’d done for myself. After having some lively discussions and sharing lots of laughs, I felt as though I’d achieved what was initially intended with the painting exercise. I placed the painting on my shelf and I’ve been marveling at it ever since.
The first draft
Fast forward one year later and Gaia suggests I write an article about my painting. I thought it would be a great idea to put words to the experience and potentially find a deeper understanding of what it meant to me. I began to get my first draft together and was feeling quite proud of how it was taking shape. As I typed away, I was considering the friends and acquaintances I typically interact with that might read it and, although there was the occasional hesitation, I was looking forward to sharing what I’d created with them too. As I neared completion, however, a part of me went “uhh wait, who all could actually read this?” followed by "woah...what are you doing??" I started to think about all the ways I show up in the world and the people that I'm connected to in each way. I shut down.
The shame storm
“Nope, can't publish this. What will people think? I’m going to destroy relationships and be rejected for this.” I feared being misunderstood and disowned. I felt very self-conscious because I knew this would go against beliefs that many carry about their bodies, their sexuality, and the rigid behaviours they’re conditioned to move with. I feared that many would find this shameful or unacceptable and those relationships would be jeopardized. But I wasn’t ashamed to talk about it until now, so where did these roadblocks come from? I got on the phone with Gaia to tell her I wouldn't be publishing the article. She did an amazing job of helping me to reframe what I was struggling with and she encouraged me to lean further into the experience to understand what was there for me.
The second draft
It became clear that this article was no longer just about me painting with my penis, but about moving through inherited shame, finding a space inside of myself to be real, and allowing myself to be seen in a vulnerable way. For the past number of years, I’ve been learning lessons, developing healthier habits, integrating behaviour changes, and taking on new perspectives that continue to result in a more fulfilled life for myself. I have been making decisions and living my life in a way that will leave me knowing that I gave it all the love, courage, respect, and honesty I had. After speaking with Gaia about everything, I was reminded that this perspective also involves asking myself if the people I loved and cared about truly knew me and my story. I truly value the idea of showing up as my complete and authentic self in all aspects of my life, yet there are people I cherish that don’t know about this painting. As a result, I believe I'm not only robbing myself of the experience of sharing something so truly vulnerable with them, but I'm also robbing them of the opportunity to know more about me while we’re here together. But why share it so publicly? I'm really proud of my painting and the personal healing that it represents. The painting was born from a place of innocent exploration, in a space free of judgement. It is a result of me, it is a result of my enjoyment and my life-force energy, so it is something worth sharing and I believe it should be shared from the same space of unguarded, childlike innocence in which the painting was originally created - uninfluenced by judgement or shame. I’m sharing this to give those who need it the strength or sense of courage to show up as their own true self, experience life in their own way, and claim more of their story. Perhaps by sharing this part of my story, I can also challenge some of the taboos that surround sexuality and the most stigmatised part of the human body - our genitalia.
My personal takeaways
This whole process has helped me to explore my feelings surrounding sexual energy, while identifying and questioning my preconceived ideas about what it means for someone to spend this kind of time with their genitals. As I painted, I connected to the innocent curiosity and wonderment of my inner child. It was as if I’d hit rewind, back to a time before it was learned that finger painting was the only alternative to using brushes and sponges. I was in a state of such intense freedom and child-like curiosity. Not only did this naked act of creation remove an inherited heavy burden of judgement from my shoulders, but by writing about I’ve also discovered deeper emotional strengths that can help to drive me further out of the box that I'm expected to fit and live more in line with what I know myself to be capable of.
Embracing myself as a sexual being
Choosing to create a healthy relationship with my sexuality and with my body allows me to embrace what masculinity means to me. Beyond the limiting beliefs that can create shame around my body are possibilities as far as my creativity is allowed to wander.
Sexual energy is sacred; it is the source of my wild, free, and expressive nature. I can create amazing things when I am present with it. It is like electricity in the sense that if left unmanaged it will take the path of least resistance and can become quite messy. I am, however, deepening my relationship with the internal circuitry that allows me to consciously direct or channel my sexual energy in respectful, constructive, and beautifully creative ways.
Fear of judgement
The judgements I expected others to make were a byproduct of doing something outside of the norm. It’s important to remind myself that my life is my experience, filled with opportunities to step outside of what is expected of me and learn new things about myself. By daring greatly in ways like this, I create new spaces to show up as my true self in other areas of my life.
I choose to risk making someone feel uncomfortable, or losing acceptance by some, in order to share my experiences with others. I feel this is the best way to create opportunities to learn together, to inspire one another, and realize that life can be much more than what we previously believed.
As men, many of us learn early on that if we show up and allow real parts of ourselves to be seen, we’re setting ourselves up for a potential beating, whether it be physically or emotionally, so we put on a strong and silent mask. Hiding behind this mask, however, robs us of having unique or extraordinary experiences and prevents us from living fully.
So allow yourself to be a little more curious and a little more real. Explore invigorating ideas that might push the limits on things that carry shame for you as a man. Allow yourself the opportunity to be surprised by what you’re capable of when those barricades of shame are removed. Give yourself permission to find a new sense of freedom on the other side, a space where the judgements of others, whether real or perceived, have less and less control over who you are and how you show up in the world. Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor who studies vulnerability and shame, has said “when you own your story, you get to write the ending.” You have both the opportunity and the power to decide what each part of your human experience means to you. You can choose to finish writing each chapter of your life in a way that when you look back on it, you do so knowing you took full advantage of your time here.
I’m here to create safe, nonjudgmental spaces where healthy growth can occur, for myself and for others. This can involve breaking some “rules” or pushing the boundaries of what is believed to be proper, or even possible. As a result, real growth typically isn’t comfortable or pretty. Parts of this article might not have been easy to read for some, but the painting is a part of my process and is something I enjoyed creating with a little slice of the time and energy I’ve been afforded in this lifetime. If anything in this article has triggered you or has left you surrounded with question marks, I’m always willing to discuss what might have come up for you so don’t hesitate to contact me.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.”
Men’s Empowerment Coach