Accepting All Our Parts With Janel Vitale

Welcome back to Season 2 of LaidOPEN Podcast. I am elated to kick off the season with sex and relationship coach, Janel Vitale. Janel specializes in relationship design, which is the concept that you and whoever you’re with can build a mutually-fulfilling intimate life around your authentic needs and desires, even if unconventional. She leads an exercise on core erotic themes, that I participate in and you can too. We explore Janel’s journey to helping people discover a relationship design that works for them, plus so much more including somatics, sexual healing, and living authentically.

Remember there are practitioners like Janel available online, if not local to your area, eager to help you define your relationships based on your values. These coaches will help you be transparent about what they are rather than feel shame about what you want and what feels natural to you. You can learn to access your core desires and let your body guide you rather than living based on external beliefs and notions of what is right. Janel is an excellent example of following your curiosity helps uncover your purpose. 

You can find Janel on TikTok and Instagram at @lovewithjanel.

Show Notes

Welcome back to Laid Open podcast. This is your host Charna Caselle. And today I have a lovely guest that I’ve been looking forward to having this conversation with Janel Vitale is content creator and coach for shame free relationships and sexual empowerment. Voted Cosmos number one tick tock relationship expert in 2021. Her personal struggle to embrace her unconventional sexuality and relationship orientation, as a not quite straight non monogamous person led her to become a sex and relationship coach through the somatic Institute. Though based in San Francisco Bay Area, her content has an international reach through her Tik Tok IG and YouTube. 


Thank you. It’s great to be here. Charna.

All right. I’m glad this this worked out. Yeah, with all of our busy lives, we came together. Oh, yeah. Yeah. So one of the things that stood out in reading your bio was this piece, which I didn’t know about your history was, you know, going to Catholic school? Oh, yeah. It in the work that I do. In working with trauma, I often see how being raised Catholic can live in the body, because of the amount of shame around sexuality can live in the body as sexual trauma. Totally. And so I would love to hear about your process of unwinding that and moving through that.

Totally. Yeah, for many years, I thought that something was wrong with me, because I didn’t feel like I naturally fit into the role that seemed to be laid out. For me, I never wanted to, I never really wanted to be like a stay at home mom, I never saw examples of you know, women who weren’t that. And I always felt like I didn’t really understand normal boundaries. Like I felt like, Wait, if I have feelings for someone, why can I also like enjoy that. And so I definitely had a lot of experiences early on of cheating being a cheater, because I didn’t understand that I could be myself and be connected to more than one person in an ethical way. I’m also by so filler, like, Oh, I feel like really connected to a lot of different people across the gender spectrum in an erotic or romantic way. And that was extremely confusing, because I just didn’t, didn’t grow up seeing or hearing about role models for that in, you know, conservative Catholic community. So just the amount of shape I grew up with was really intense. And I went on a wild journey of self discovery to try to figure myself out. And in the process of doing that, I just realized how important it is for me to make my life’s mission to help other people let go of shame, especially around such deep intimate issues as sexuality, and creating relationships that really authentically work for us because we’re all unique individuals. And it’s difficult for all of us to fit into a prescribed model, especially if the model is a very narrow prescribed model, like one that maybe like a conservative religion would spouse. So it’s been a wild journey of self discovery, and I’m happy to get to help people with anti shame work now.

Yeah, yeah. And then, you know, inherent in shame is, is secrecy and hiding, and totally. And so this piece of going like, wait a second, first of all, I don’t think my impulses are right, so I have to keep them secret. Yes. Right. And then also not having the models and not knowing like, Well, how could this potentially work? I don’t even know what that looks like.

Yeah. And yeah, and not even just your impulses aren’t right. But that any impulse is dangerous, because I think in the Catholic school model of, or just like the Catholic community model, like any kind of desire needs to be suppressed, you know, unless it’s like within just like a very narrowly sanctioned container. And I do think, you know, it’s a fine line, like, I do think we need to be careful about what our desires are. And you know, sometimes they don’t fit into. They don’t, they don’t manifest in a way that’s actually healthy for us in our lives. Or maybe they’re, you know, desires that are non consensual and we need to figure out how to live with those so that we don’t actually hurt with other, you know, hurt other people. So I don’t think like all desires need to just be just acted upon I definitely think that can be damaging, but I think to suppress all of your desires, and just think that they’re inherently bad creates more harm than good.

Right? Well, that’s an that’s very black and white. Right? And that, and that, you know, there’s also so much harm in, in this oppression, because it looks out and it becomes a shadowy impulse that if you don’t feel like you can tie let’s say you do have an impulse to have on consensual sex with somebody, a child or an adult. And, you know, you don’t have someone that you can actually talk that through with and get some advice from, right then what happens with that? Right? Right. You know, you have

to have a shame free space in order to even say like, Yeah, I’m having these desires set, like someone who’s shame free has to be like, Okay, let’s help you work through that instead of you’re a terrible person, because I think the root of shame is you are inherently bad. Yes. Versus you did not choose these desires. They are happening to you. No, they’re just happening and how can you hold them in a way that’s not harmful?

Right, right. And also the shame of while I’m feeling this thing, and it has me feel out of control, and I feel powerless to this desire to this feeling.

Yeah. Yeah. So you didn’t go to you didn’t go to Catholic school?

You might think because I have red hair, right? No, I actually am Jewish, and I barely went to Hebrew school. Okay, okay.

You don’t have any guilts. From that. My parents identified as Buddhists. Oh, well, yeah. Half a year of Hebrew school in second grade, you know, all I learned was half the alphabet in Hebrew. And that’s not but no, not a lot of shame and guilt drove. That’s amazing. Oh, God, I’m happy for you. Although there was one thing that I was, I was supposed to feel guilty about my mom. You know, so when you’re kosher, you’re not supposed to have the, you know, seafood. You’re not supposed have crab. And you’re not supposed to eat ham. Right. Right. And so my mom one night was like, Charna we’re having crab for dinner, but you can’t tell your friends. So that was like, that was the secret.

Wow, how rebellious of your family?

Right? Yeah, that’s just the beginning. Yeah, yeah. The gateway drug crab. Oh, no. And so how given I mean, you know, there’s the difference between going to Catholic school because it’s where you’re gonna get a good education. And that’s often some people put their kids in Catholic school for that reason at versus like being really raised Catholic in a deep way. And so I’m curious how your, how your family has responded to your relationship path, as well as your career path.

Yeah, it’s been a mixed bag. My family definitely thought. When I first told them I was non monogamous, which in my experience is an orientation, just like being gay or being straight. It’s not something I can change about myself. It’s just how I oriented sex and relationships. Yeah. So I’ve kind of bristle at people calling it just like a lifestyle, or like a phase, which maybe it is for some people, but it’s not for me. And yeah, so when I first came out to them about it, and I started posting about it on the internet, because I was like, hey, I want other people to let go of shame about this as an authentic orientation to yeah, my parents definitely were like, they didn’t get it, or they felt embarrassed about me talking about it publicly, or they thought it was just a phase. And I think, you know, the same thing happened when I decided to become a sex and relationship coach, you know, a lot of just concern about, is this gonna, like, put some weird, you know, over give our family a weird name or something? And yeah, so I actually ended up, you know, fatale as a chosen name, because I didn’t want to use my bio last name at the request of my mom. So yeah, I mean, there’s, it’s definitely like, a lot of my choices in my life have been unconventional. And I think that it’s been kind of hard for them, but also, like, I think they’re proud of me and want me to be happy. And so, you know, I probably would be easier for them to swallow if I had just like a more conventional life, but they’re also just like, Okay, you do you?

I’m really glad to hear that. Yeah. That that they could land in that place eventually. And that, that was a really, that was a generous act, even though it’s like a great thing. You know, it can be cleansing to choose a name for yourself, you know, it can feel like it’s like you’re embracing an identity that feels accurate for you. It’s still a generous thing to you know, if you’re doing it to protect your family.

Yeah. Ah, it was that and more like I really wanted a name. You know, Vitaly means life and Italian and I’m Italian and I wanted something that started with a V because I’m proud of being a vulva and vagina owner. So it was like, Oh, like this is my aliveness. This is my sexuality, like, encapsulated in this in this name. So yeah, I, I really, I really love that. And as someone who’s like, really into authenticity, you know, I think there’s like sometimes a criticism and choosing like a new name that really represents who you are, versus like sticking with your family lineage. But I just think, you know, I’m really upfront about it, like, this is Mrs. My journey, and I chose this and, to me, it feels very authentic. So I’m happy about it. I

love that because as a sexuality educator, and embodying your values, your vulva and your values. And to drive a Volvo know, used to. That’s awesome. You know that, that liveness is at the center of, of all of it. Right? Embracing and walking a path of aliveness. Because that’s what it comes down to. Right. One of the things I remember from having a Catholic client many years ago, is even just asking questions, was something that was squeezed out of her. Like she was shamed for just being curious. Like, when she, when she would just ask questions, and like, Well, why did they say this or in church, it was specifically it was like, shut it down. And then also, it came out sideways, like her sexuality also came out. In cheating, and, and in in secret behavior. Right? Right. Before there could be a full embracing and acknowledgement, releasing of the shame,

because curiosity wasn’t allowed. And curiosity is so important in relationships, and then exploration of your sexuality, and in so many facets of life. And if you don’t feel like you can be curious, then, of course, you’re gonna have shadowy exploration, because part of you is curious, but you’re not actually allowing that part to have full integration with all the parts of you. And that’s sucks. No one wants that.

Yeah, yeah, you know, it’s to move to the world thinking, and I think this is it’s very much a universal belief, no matter what your your story is, is this, this core belief of I’m bad, we all have our version of it. You know, and, and, and, and we’re all on the same trajectory, in terms of like, evolution of, of learning how to accept all of our parts. Totally. what’s your what’s your growing edge right now? Because there’s these ways that you’re, you know, you’ve faced, you’ve, you’re out publicly, you’re out with your family, you’re living what feels genuine to you. And then we’re always growing and evolving? Is that something that you feel comfortable sharing?

Yeah, I feel like I’ve just been pretty down in the pandemic, I’m very extroverted. And I feel like I’ve just gone really internal. And I feel like my growing edge is really about embracing community and embracing new ways to collaborate with people. So it’s so so great to even just be talking to you for an hour because I just, I feel like I’ve been like, isolated and lonely, and I’m not really great at asking for help. I’m kind of under dependent as like a character strategy. And just kind of like, I’m not, you know, I’m the oldest of four kids. And so I always just felt like, I have to be the one to, like, take care of myself and like, take care of other people. And yeah, I would say, I would say that’s a big growth edge. I think also, you know, it’s really hard to be a coach and a creator, when you really want to have creative inspiration, but you’re also trying to make, you know, make money and have a bottom line of like, making a business successful. And so I think, really like finding, like, where’s my creative edge, instead of just like, feeling like, I’m in a scarcity mode of like, I need to make money, like, how do I be in an abundance mode of just like putting out there and what I want to say in this world? So yeah, I would say those are my main growing edges right now.

Mm hmm. And you’re I mean, you’re prolific on on I know, at least on tick tock, right.

I mean, I definitely was in the past six to 12 months, it’s been slowing down because I’ve been feeling more and more burned out with just that balance of like, how do you balance making sure you’re making enough money and having this like, outpouring of creativity? So that’s, that’s definitely been hard.

It’s a lot. Yeah. Before the before quarantine. I had this I felt so satisfied with my work, creative work balance. You know, I was like, just seeing clients three days a week and then I was writing There’s like four days a week. Yeah. And it just felt it felt so good and off. And now I definitely I feel the fatigue of seeing clients four days a week, as well as recording, you know, and then trying to write and do all that. It’s, yeah, it’s a lie.

Did you start this podcast because you wanted more of a creative outlet?

You know, I started actually, I started the podcast in 2019. And I didn’t release it until this year. Well, what had happened was I started recording and I was just, you know, it was picking up steam before everything shut down. And I was recording in a recording studio. So I didn’t have you know, this is this great, independent process that I can go through. And actually, a publisher suggested that I have my own podcast, so it was more for the purpose of my book, but I actually love this. I’m I really, it’s so funny. I was like, How did I not realize that 20 years of being a therapist could make this process so satisfying? You know, like, just natural. Yeah, yeah. So So I that’s you finally are putting it out in the world. And it’s been a work in progress for years. That’s so cool.

Yeah, it was on hold for, like a year and a half or something. So I’m, I’m curious, when you when you first started putting stuff out on Tik Tok? Were you interested in specifically targeting a younger audience? Or what was your What was your intention there? And what has been the feedback that you’ve received?

Yeah, I just thought that Tik Tok was an incredible medium. It’s really creative. You can be goofy, you can be silly, you can be sexy. I mean, not too much tick. Tock is like pretty conservative in terms of their community guidelines. Because there are so many young people on the app or there was when I got started two years ago, but at this point, there’s so many people of all ages on there. And so yeah, I would say that, you know, my predominant audiences is women. And they’re probably like, my age like millennial and Gen Z. So yeah, I wasn’t necessarily like, I just only want to speak to younger people. I was just like, This is an incredible medium because I love video. I love short form video I love like the burst of energy that is conveyed by the short form video, it just like really fits my personality. I used to be a cruise ship singer, I’m a performer, I grew up doing musical theater. So it’s just like, it’s a really great, you know, and I can do more serious videos where I’m just like, speaking some wisdom or some truth for like, 60 seconds or 30 seconds, or I can do a goofy dance and point to some words on the screen. So yeah, it’s just like a really varied medium. And I just knew instantly when I started using it, like, oh, I should like, yeah, to say my message on here, because personality really well.

That’s awesome. No, I love I love how comfortable you are moving your body, like you can really see just from watching one video of you that you’re really embodied. And you’re modeling that. And so, you know, I know that there are tons of people my age and your age that are now watching Tik Tok. But I love thinking about the the positive impact that your that your message and your information is having on on younger folks.

Yeah, I mean, I would say my main message is really around authenticity and empowerment in designing a relationship that really authentically works for you and whoever you’re with, whether that means getting really creative with your sex life, because you and your partner or partners are struggling to get on the same page in the bedroom of what you desire, or whether that’s opening up your relationship and creating a relationship that involves other people in an erotic, romantic way. I just really love helping people think outside of the box, because you know, going back to the Catholic school shame, it’s like I just only saw a very narrowly defined way of existing. And in traveling the world in my 20s, I realized, oh, there’s just so many ways, there’s so many ways to be a human and to be in love and to be a sexual human. And I would say like, really my mission on the planet is to help people figure out how to be more authentic in their, in their intimate life.

And that why is part of you that I don’t know if you traveled the world via a cruise ship, or if it was other ways, but just one of the ways. But you don’t I mean, that that part that you may not have even been conscious of what you were gonna get from that. But there was a really intelligent impulse that you followed and listened to, and then this opening happened?

Well, it’s like we were talking about earlier with curiosity. You know, I know a lot of people kind of bristle at like, what’s your passion? Because sometimes you don’t know. But I think you know, like, what are you curious about? And like, when you follow your curiosity, I mean, I think Brene Brown talks about that. When you follow your curiosity, it really allows you to figure out like, Oh, who am I and what do I want to help other people with like, what’s my what’s my purpose? So, you know, what do I really want to bring to this world? Yeah. And I’m starting with curiosity, right. And so curiosity is so important, not just for sex and relationships, but just like living your life.

Mm hmm. Yeah. I mean, it’s something. Yes. Thinking. Do you remember the feeling that you had when you make you made choice point? Love, you know, moment, there are moments where you were really curious and what that felt like in your body that drove you and direction?

Oh, that’s a great question. I’m kind of like feeling tingles. So that’s how,

Right, right and I was, you were, as you were speaking, I was like, Well, this is why I love this process is because I’m really curious about people. And I’m like, Oh, what, what is your process of discovery? And so yeah, just, I can feel it in my body. And I’m curious what you’re feeling.

I think for me, there’s some sometimes it’s like a champagne bubbly, like excitement feeling. But then there’s also like, something will like land in my gut that’s like, oh, like when I first learned about open relationships, or I think it was, polyamory is technically what I first learned about not like non monogamy or open relationships. Like when I first heard about the concept, something just like landed in my gut, just like a knowing just like, oh, that’s like, that is who I am. And it’s like, it’s, it’s different than it’s different than the bubbly champagne feeling, which is like, Oh, this is exciting. It’s just like, there’s just some, like really deep intuitive knowing that hits me and like a gut core way. That has happened to me several times with like, oh, I need to take I need to follow that path. Or I need to, like explore that more. And so that’s a that’s a version of the curiosity or of the knowing. And then another version, is that like, bubbly champagne feeling? Or it’s just like, Yeah, I feel really excited about that, I need to focus some more energy on that.

I love that you made that distinction, because there are these beautiful nuances to so many feelings and sensation states. And one of the ones that caught me off guard, and it’s happened twice for me, is the knowing shows up as just tears like it’s like, suddenly a space over my eyes, and there’s water pouring down my face. And I just know that I need to do the thing. And I don’t even I’m not feeling an emotion. And cool. It’s wild. It’s really wild to me, that showed up for me. So I was born in Nepal. And I was getting body work from a friend. And she was talking about work she was doing with women who had been sex trafficked in Nepal. And she said she was talking about that work, and then set and I don’t just happen, I was like, on the table. And I hadn’t been back to Nepal since I was 16. And I was just like, What is going on? What am I feeling? And then fast forward to? I was working in Nepal at an orphanage doing trauma and resilience training. And I was staring at the Himalayas. And I again, it was like, I was like, what is it going? No.

Wow, that’s incredible. Our bodies, man. I love how I love how all of your emotions start as sensations in your body. And so being able to be really in touch with the information in your body is so critical to knowing how you’re feeling or like you said, you don’t even have to know what your emotion is. But it’s quite clear that there’s something there because your body is telling you and I feel like we live in such a left brain heavy culture. And you know, we make pros and cons lists of what we should or shouldn’t be doing. And it’s like, your body will just tell you right, like, oh, yeah, when you’re when you should follow a path when you’re into someone like your genitals will tell you if you’re a sexual being, which everyone is, you know, but yeah, it’s it’s pretty amazing to just learn how to listen to your body.

Mm hmm. Yeah, the body doesn’t lie. Yeah. It really doesn’t. It’s, yeah, I do. I use martial arts, art space practices with clients to help them embody more choice in the moment and also new skills, right. So boundaries. It’ll be amazing as someone with a guy great boundaries, whatever, I’m safe as hell. And then I’ll do a practice with them. And they’ll be like, you know, they don’t tell me to stop. I walk all the way and they frozen and they’re like, Okay, and, and their body is saying something very different than they thought about themselves. Right? Oh, yeah.

What do you think causes someone to think I have great boundaries, when when they really struggle with boundaries. Do you think that’s like a defense mechanism?

I think a couple of things. I mean, I think one is somebody may not even know what boundaries are or they may a defense mechanism of like, not conceiving of, of safety and what and their need for it because there’s a thing of there’s like a dismissal of a tender vulnerable part.

Yes. Right. Yeah.

So we can we can have multiple parts right. We can have the part that’s that is like super capable and strong and independent, all the things and then there’s a part that was trained out of us that we don’t even realize is missing. Totally. Yeah. Yeah. Wow. So I want to pivot and ask you about your six month desire by design course that originated out of your own struggles with mismatched desire, and relationships. And yeah, hear more about that?

Yeah, yeah, I have been in many relationships where I felt like I wanted more sex than my partner, or where I felt like I had blockages around sex with them. And I feel like sex is such a canary in the coal mine for a lot of couples, like when something is hindering your sex. I mean, if you started out as two people who enjoyed having sex with each other, if you’ve never had a strong sexual connection, then that’s a different story. But like, if you find yourself you know, your desire waning, or you feel like, you know, me and my partner, just like really want different things in the bedroom. I really love helping couples figure out okay, like, how do we meet in the middle, and something I hear a lot from my clients is that the word compromise is very triggering, because compromise is fine when you’re talking about like going to a restaurant. But compromise is not fine when you’re doing a deeply intimate act that involves your body, especially if you’re taking someone into your body. So yeah, it’s really important to me to help people figure out okay, like, what are our core desires? How do we really unpack them together, which is socially taboo to even talk about what you want, or there’s some mythology that the right person for you is going to know exactly what you want know exactly how to touch you, which just isn’t true, until like helping people overcome shame around that, and really, really go into what their desires are together. So they can find that where they overlap where they can find the win wins. And you know, a big piece of that, too, is being willing to not have everything you desire. And to not feel like you have to meet all of your partner’s desires exactly as is because that’s just not realistic. So I do a lot of disappointment work with, with my couples too. So yeah, I wanted to create a step by step program that really helps people overcome shame, learn the tools of communication around desires and boundaries and speaking to their needs. And then I help couples identify what their erotic themes are, or their desire archetypes. So like, why do you want what you want in the bedroom? How does it help you heal psychological and emotional wounds, which makes it easier to empathize with your own desires and your partner’s desires? And then, and then how can they overlap? So that is just that’s one of my biggest passions is, is really helping people through a step by step process. I’m kind of a junkie for like, curriculum, you know, I love I love like creating processes, like, I don’t Yeah, I just feel like a lot of open ended therapy sessions or coaching sessions. Yeah, they can be great. But like, I really want to be like, what is the step by step process that makes sure you’re gonna get from point A to point B. So that’s been a big obsession for me.

That’s so fantastic. And I love it. Because people learn so differently. And there are the people that come, I can always I can smell more, they’re like, Okay, there’s the, you know, the certain kind of business minded, sometimes more perfectionistic, but they like, they’re like, I want to see like, I want to go from here. And I want to go from here. And like they and they’re often not, you know, sometimes people may be accomplishing things that they don’t even see. Because they want the big end, you know, like the 15 steps down. And they need to learn how to appreciate the micro successes. But I love that I love curriculum. That’s fun. Yeah, it’s great.

And yeah, I would say that, you know, we were speaking to earlier how important Cymatics is and being in the body, right? Like, people don’t tend to really understand that that’s not a super mainstream concept. I think amongst like, therapists and more like New Agey, your hippie people. That’s all like, yeah, of course, but, you know, I love to appeal to like a left brain, like more mainstream person, be like, Hey, let’s get you from point A to point B with this curriculum. And then inside of a curriculum is so many like heart opening body based somatic experiences and exercises. So I feel like that’s also part of my mission. How can we bring more body based awareness to a more left brain audience? Yes,

A somatic ninja? Yeah. You’re like, you’re like self somatic training. And no, I know, it’s, it’s, it’s deeply satisfying for me also, when I think about, you know, not preaching to the converted, working with conservative Christian Republican dad and their trans kid, you know, wow. Like I love I love bridging those happy occasion.

Yeah, absolutely. I really identify with that I love being a bridge. I you know, another bridge that I’m obsessed with is I love helping people coming from a more heteronormative monogamous paradigm and helping them enter into Yeah, just some more kind of DIY design at yourself relationship space of like, do we want to incorporate non monogamy do we want to incorporate kink like just helping people bridge that gap and I’m not, I’m not judgmental about monogamy, or about like, more quote unquote, vanilla sex, like, it’s all great. Like, I just want to help you figure out what you want. And if your partner wants something that feels a little bit more, quote, unquote, edgy or unconventional, let’s figure out how to meet in the middle and but not in a compromised way, but in a way that you’re generally both empowered by that you’re genuinely both excited about. So that’s another bridge that I love to I love to help people cross in a, you know, non judgmental, unbiased guided slave just like, you know, let’s just figure out what really works for you authentically. And we don’t even have to call it open relationship or polyamory like, I don’t care, you know, we just want you to figure out what’s right for you and whoever you’re with.

Exactly. I mean, you know, I’ve had a variety of guests, I love that the range of people that I’ve interviewed on my podcast, and some people, some people take certain labels that are that exist, and other people don’t have any label. And sometimes there’s freedom inside choosing a label. Right. And sometimes there’s understanding like, in the amount of labels that have been created in the last five years is, you know, 10 years, so remarkable compared to when I was a teenager or Yeah, mate, right. And, and that can be something that helps someone see themselves and understand who they are in a way that they didn’t have language for. They thought something was wrong with them. And then other times, it’s restrictive, right? Yes.

Oh, my God. It’s interesting, because I feel like Gen Z is like really moving away from labels at all, but I feel like older generations, like it really helps to give a name and a voice to what you’re feeling and validate your experience and helps you find similar people in that community, which is, that’s all very valuable, but I do notice younger people just being like, yeah, you know, I have a penis and I’m wearing a dress, like, who cares? Like, I’m just being me, you know, I feel like, instead of trying to fit yourself into all these different, like jars, it’s just like, I’m just in the me jar. Well, you know, I’m looking forward to the next you know, next generations you know, really embracing that just like you do new like you don’t you don’t need a label or a box for this do.

Yeah, you were you were mentioning compromise, and people’s bristling around the word compromise. And I think that’s one of the biggest takeaways, little gems that I got. I trained with a man named Stan topkin. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Who wrote wired for love this couples work? kashrut work, and it was the conversation about the difference between compromise and negotiation. And you know, rather than compromising, which often means that someone is left feeling resentful, and going against what they want to do. Yeah, staying in it and negotiating and till they’re both satisfied and I just salutely subtle distinction, but makes such a difference.

Oh, absolutely. And unfortunately, the word negotiate is just so not sexy. Like, what is a new word for negotiate? That actually sounds like fun and exciting and sexy? Because when I’m like, Yeah, negotiate your sex life. People are like, Oh, God, I totally agree with that.

Right? Well, you know, I think that you’re wearing a suit with a white button up that’s kind of unbuttoned with like your glasses kind of in your mouth and being like, negotiate. I think that would instantly retrain their association.

I love it. That’s amazing. The association I have with it is someone who’s empowered and skillful. Because they’re going to get the raise that they want. It’s like that. It’s like, Ooh, you know, you have that skill.

Mm hmm. I love it. Yeah, that’s gorgeous. We Yeah, we need we need to rebrand negotiate.

That’s right. Oh, my God, we should just do a podcast on rebranding words because I’m yeah, there’s like the feel that different words have right that you’re like, oh, no, about that word.


We need to rebrand swollen. Oh,

I think the word school is really hot. To be honest. I think it’s really hot. But then there’s like moist which everyone hates.

Which gets a really bad rap, but it will be like you think of like nervous palms. Haha. Right? But I would rather be moist than dry. Like I want a bumper sticker that says I’d rather be moist than dry. That’s not funny. We’d rather be moist than Dry. Oh my god. So funny you also were mentioning briefly, erotic themes and and I was wondering if you wanted to share any more about that? Sure people could give some examples so people can understand.

Full core erotic theme. As far as I know, it comes from Jack Morin, who wrote the erotic minds and it’s, you know, it’s basically the acknowledgement that all of sex is emotional. And a lot of people will be like, yeah, for women, it’s like, no, like sex is emotional across the gender spectrum. And what that means is, there’s a certain way you want to feel, when you’re in an erotic context, maybe that’s in control, or out of control taken, maybe that’s you want to feel special and cherished, you want to feel like very romantic, maybe you want to have a great spiritual experience, you want to feel really at one and like, deeply connected to source through the sexual act, maybe you want to just feel extremely desired or passionate and like animalistic. So there’s just so many flavors of sex that really correspond to an underlying emotional need. And so I find that that’s a really important place to start with couples or with or with anyone, so like, understand what your core rhotic theme is. So yeah, we can do an exercise right now where we just like go through and identify core rhotic theme, I could help you identify yours and people listening could do it with us and learn more about that.

It’s, you know, it’s interesting is I actually, I really liked that book, the erotic mind and I got that I took that class with with him and and so I loved writing that paper was probably the paper that I enjoyed writing the most in grad school. And I’m, I’m curious if it would it would change now. Like how it might be different? Yeah.

Well, the exercise I got people through, I can just describe it to you. Yeah, let me know if that would be a good thing to do. But basically, I’ll just ask you to take some deep breaths and close your eyes and then get in touch with a desire of fantasy. And then really notice how you’re feeling in that place of fantasy. What words describe that? Does that sound good? Sure. Okay. So I invite you to get comfortable, and close your eyes and start to take some deep breaths. Really Allow your breath to slow down feel your chest rise and fall as you breathe in and out. Notice your breath, sink deeper into your stomach, feel your whole abdominal cavity expand and contract.

Continuing to take deep breaths. Invite you to imagine a fantasy. Maybe it’s something that happened to you in real life. Maybe it’s something you saw in porn or it’s something you think about when you’re masturbating and you really want to come. It’s like that thing really calls to you. And maybe it’s not even sexual. Maybe it’s just a time you felt really alive or time you felt strong desire or yearning. There’s a lot of different images or memories. So I invite you to just pick one just settle on one fantasy right now. To doing to take deep breaths allow yourself to really be there in this place of fantasy noticing the colors. The sounds are you indoors or outdoors? Who’s there? What’s happening? What are you wearing? Or not wearing? What are the sensations you’re feeling in this fantasy? In your body or on your body? Continuing to take a deep breath invite you to notice how you are feeling in this fantasy. So I’m going to name some words to describe how you might be feeling and see if any of them resonate. Do you feel cherished special? Creative reIative. Taken in control, desired wanted Joy Before he’s for at one, connected, naughty, raunchy, passionate see if there’s any other words that come to mind right now that describe how you feel in this fantasy, just quietly, take a couple more deep breaths, noticing if any other words come to mind keep your eyes closed for a little bit longer and want you to close the book cover on that fantasy. Feel yourself in your body right now in this moment with your sit bones underneath you feet on the floor, noticing the temperature of the room that you’re in, in this present moment and the sounds you can hear. Take another slow, deep inhale, then exhale. And then whenever you’re ready, I invite you to come fully back by opening your eyes.

Thanks for going on that journey. And I’m curious to hear what feelings resonated with you. And if if you want to describe fantasy, that’s fine. But really, the feelings are that is the core erotic theme. You know, that’s the that’s the juice. That’s the emotional longing that you have around sex or eroticism in general. And so, right about yours. What you know, it’s, well, first of all, just say that my whole body is tingling, and I feel really relaxed. And that was what that was like three minutes. I mean, we we didn’t spend a lot of time. So I think it’s so valuable for people to remember that we can change our states. So quickly. Yeah, right. I believe it’s amazing. Yeah, yeah, we’re, we’re remarkable, remarkable beings. Yeah. And then the other thing that I that I wanted to share, and then I’ll answer your question is the thing that I think I’ve remembered the most from the erotic mind is, is is is the erotic wound, right like that, is that you know, Freud has this that theory of repetition compulsion, that, that, that something painful that happens to you when you’re a child that you’re compelled to repeat it, because you unconsciously want a different outcome. And that’s what I remember focusing on in my paper was really like it was about unavailable men and the deep, deep, painful, painful disappointment. And unbearable, like that edge of their house. There’s that pleasure pain edge. And so that that’s what was, you know, hovered almost 20 years ago. And so this was such a nightmare, because like, I don’t even remember that part of the book. I was so consumed at that time in a relationship that was so much about the pain of the, you know, the, the inconsistent availability.

So, you know, wait, before Yeah, you just have to say like, what you’re saying is so important, because I think there’s so much shame around repetition in sex, like, if you are repeating something, you know, bad that happened to you, let’s say but but finding a way to repeat it through fantasy, it can actually be very empowering, because it can create psychological balance over the thing you didn’t have any control over, which I think is really fascinating. And so, you know, there’s just there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of shame, going back to shame around any kind of desires that feel really taboo like, you know, imagining consensual non consent, but like you are finding psychological agency through that fantasy, it’s not something that you want to happen in real life. It’s just it’s something that can be empowering by putting an erotic spin on it. So I think that’s really beautiful. Thanks for sharing that. Thank you.

So what I found as you were guiding us through before I fully landed in one moment, it was like these different heightened sexual experiences that I’ve had, that that became sexual fantasy fodder. Say that five times fast that they that lives like three different scenarios came together, and the feelings and I’m happy to actually share the fantasies and I’m okay doing that one was receiving a massage. And I’ve had both experiences where it’s like that it felt like crossing the line but and then other times where it was like, but it actually then became fantasy. With with play that play out with a partner where it’s like I’m getting a massage and then it becomes sexual where they are like manually or orally. See You’re leading me, right? They take me right. So it’s like, they can’t resist. Me. And then it turns into that. And then the other, it was two different scenarios with different lovers of cervical orgasm, and attention fully on me through manual stimulation where I’m I go into a space that feels fully surrendered cosmic, like timeless, and I’m held in a way like I have like laughing and crying orgasm. Like there’s just such a openness and then the fact that these men could hold that space, and there’s total permission for the range of my experience.

Oh, yes.

And, and the craving of that of like, they’re, they’re strong, and they’re solid, and there’s space, and there’s, and the attention is on me. Wow. And they’re, you know, their presence. Yeah. And so, yeah, safety surrender.

Well, there’s themes of specialness I’m hearing and of being able to fully express yourself and your wildness and to be held in that. That’s which is also safety. But yeah, like, the, you know, people like not like not being able to resist you. Like, that’s super sexy, right? That’s like you feeling really desired. So there’s, there’s a lot of different really beautiful themes in there. And so like, with everything you just express, which probably isn’t even everything, think about all the different ways you could play with other people’s core erotic themes. Because like, we don’t just have one, it’s not just like, I want to be a sub, it’s like, okay, but like, well, there’s so much to unpack before you even get there. And that there’s a lot of different ways to play erotically with all these emotions that you’re describing.

Right. And there that you just mentioned something that’s an important part of it. As both of these there’s a way of being dominated, but but really held. Oh, right. Yeah, absolutely. So it’s, it’s like, oh, yeah, this, you know, like, I’m sending you on a journey. Oh, my God.

Oh, yeah. Oh, I’d say like, the majority of the people I work with who are subs are also like, really want to feel special and chosen. And that’s like a very overlapped thing. It’s really about feeling deeply cared for in like Toto, you can only really surrender if you feel like you’re really held.

Yes. And, and that, to me is, it’s like it goes into the spiritual realm. Right? Like, it’s, it’s, it’s that, you know, and I believe you can even have a one time encounter, you can have quote, unquote, casual, but not casual sex, that where you’re just you are so held and you feel cherished by this person who you don’t know what’s going to happen after this moment. But in this moment, there is total presence, right?

Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.

Thank you. So I’m also curious for you, what what do you consider sexual freedom, what sexual freedom to you.

Sexual freedom, to me means being able to be in touch with your authentic needs and desires, and to be able to communicate them. I don’t think sexual freedom means to be able to do whatever you want, or to be able to enact all of your desires. I think it’s about a spaciousness and a safety to be able to really explore your inner landscape and to explore it with someone, whether that’s a partner or a professional, like you or me, who can help guide guide someone through that exploration emotionally, psychologically, and, you know, give homework on how to even explore that, you know, in a self touch context or an erotic context. So, yeah, I think I think it’s really about the freedom to explore and the freedom to explore within yourself, and to have the tools to be able to do that, and overcome shame about doing that. Because, you know, we’re really up against such a mountain of shame. And so, you know, creating a new culture where we try to erode the shame and get to the top of the mountain is, is really, I think that’s what sexual freedom is.

Yes. And I love that you because I asked this question a lot of people. And I don’t think anyone has you who have said specifically what you just said, which is giving voice to it. Like, there’s a particular way that I heard, I can’t remember your exact way you phrased it, but I heard it in a different way than I’ve heard. It said before, because it makes me think of, okay, so I could know these things, right. I could even act these things out. But there’s something about language putting through it creates understanding which also creates a kind of liberation.

Totally right. And not everyone is into You using language or words to describe their fantasy, which is fine, but I don’t even think it has to be words. It’s like, can you have the tools and self awareness to be able to understand your desires not just an act on them from an impulse, like, that’s what makes us human is the ability to think and feel, through our impulses. And so I believe that that’s that’s real freedom is, is to use our human capacity for understanding whether it’s like somatically, or with words like, oh, like, what, what is the? What is the nature of this desire? Or like, Where does this? Where does this come from? What does this feel like? Um, what do I do with this? So yeah, I don’t think it has to necessarily even be with words.

Yeah, but you are coming full circle back to curiosity and consciousness. Right? Look at that. Yeah, it’s all connected. I’m curious what your definition is.

Oh, my gosh, it’s so I mean, it’s so many things. I feel like it’s a paragraph versus a brief answer. But you know, being being able to be fully self expressed, and it’s not just about our genitals and who we interact with, and how we interact with them. It’s it’s it’s how you live your life. Right? Because I really see sexuality as permeating your your existence, not just the kind of sex that you’re having. And how often you’re having it or who you’re having, you know, all that. So I think of I think of aliveness, I think of sexual freedom. I think of sensual freedom. I think of aliveness all kind of being the same thing. And so being able to be with whatever arises inside me and be okay with it. I am really language oriented person. So it may be languaging it it might be sounding it might be shaking it totally. Yeah. I mean, there’s so many I could I could just, you know, I could write a book on the topic.

Oh, it’s read that book.

Awesome. Awesome. I will I will let you read that book. Awesome. I look forward to reading that book. I’ve loved talking with you. You too,

Toronto. Thank you.

Thank you, Janelle. So everybody listening remember, there are practitioners available online if not local to your area eager to help you define your relationships based on your values. People who will help you be transparent about what those values are. Rather than feel ashamed about what you want and what feels natural to you. 

You can learn to access your core desires and let your body guide you rather than living based on external beliefs and notions of what is right. Janelle is an excellent example of following your curiosity and that helping to uncover your purpose. You can find Janelle on Tik Tok and Instagram @lovewithjanel that spelled J A N E L. This has been Laid Open podcast with your host Charna Caselle. Please join us again next week. If this show feels beneficial, we’d love if you please rate and review it and share it with your friends so other people can find us. If you have additional questions around sex and trauma, you can submit them at charnacaselle.com. Follow me at Laid Open Podcast on Instagram and Facebook and read more about my work at passionatelife.org. Until next time.

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© 2022 By Charna Cassell, LMFT. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. MFC 51238.

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