The Power of “No” : Lessons From a Sex Club

Photo by  Alex Boyd  

Photo by Alex Boyd 

Yeah… I know. I probably blew your mind with the second half of that title. It kind of blows my own mind that I went to a sex club, too. Anyways, it was a pretty crazy experience that brought up a LOT for me, especially around the power of personal autonomy. 


If you don’t know who I am and what I do already, I am a sex coach for women with a focus on self love. Much of the work I do is done in the nude. I would say I am extremely comfortable being naked around women. I run Bodysex workshops where we masturbate in a group setting. What I am trying to say here is I am not exactly a prude. I am about as sex positive as you can get. So when I heard about Oasis Aqualounge in Toronto, I thought PERFECT, this could be really fun.


Oasis calls themselves “a sexual adventure playground for adults 19+”. They are an upscale sex club that caters to couples, (specifically women and their partners). They have a ton of amenities including an outdoor heated pool that is open year round, an indoor hot-tub, a sauna, the works. 


Now, it is important to understand that while I may work in the field of sex education my world of exploration usually looks more like a sacred spa then it does a sex club. The kind of work that I do with women is very self care focused, so there are always candles, and warm fuzzy things to sit on, essential oils + almond oils as lube, crystal dildos, the whole thing is very, very femme, warm, inviting. Subtle even.


Oasis is not subtle. Some would even say loud. There was porn playing on the screens in the bar. There is overtly erotic art everywhere, and all the furniture (basically massive beds) is upholstered in an easy to wipe vinyl that to me just screams group sex. it shocked me in a good way, literally the whole place is trying to turn you on. There are spa like chill areas but there are also areas where you can strap someone to a wall, or have them crawl into a dog cage. Like we are talking full on, full spectrum sexuality. A place for everyone. Which is awesome. And it was also unexpectedly scary for me.


What if these people want me to do something? What do I say if I am approached? I felt completely like a deer in the headlights. I felt overwhelmed by risk (also known as hella anxious). This took me by surprise as I had planned on feeling relaxed and present to whatever sensual experience was there for me. Thank goodness my partner was there to help ground me, or else I think I might have had a not so little meltdown. We talked before hand about agreements and what sort of boundaries we wanted to have. I was all like yeah yeah yeah we are free spirits, lets just follow our hearts, communicate in the moment with each other, I’m a sex coach, yada, yada, yada. I felt like I could totally handle this new environment without any boundaries. Ha! Joke was on me. About 15 minutes into our time there and I was basically frozen. I turned to him and whisper screamed, “I need the rules!!!!” 


You see, I am comfortable being naked and am even comfortable being sexual around other women, which never used to be the case, by the way. I didn’t realize how much harder it would be to be relaxed and sexually self expressed around other men. For the first time, I so clearly saw my beliefs about men. The way I was subconsciously relating to them just smacked me right in the face. Getting naked in front of other people has a way of doing that. I see it all the time with my clients. Nudity is a truth serum of sorts. It dredges up old belief systems in such an efficient way, it is crazy (another topic for another day!)


So these subconscious beliefs I had about men? They aren’t the ones that I want to be holding, they certainly aren’t serving me, and they are also not serving men. They are beliefs that I have acquired over time, maybe even lifetimes. They are beliefs that have been handed down to me by my mother and her mother, all the women who taught me how to be a woman. They are beliefs that at one point kept me safe. But now, they are just keeping me anxious, separate, and really fucking powerless.


I believed that men will take whatever they can get. 

I believed that if I am uncertain of my desires, I will be manipulated into something without consideration for my emotional wellbeing. 

I believed that I had to keep myself physically small and sexually unexpressed in order to not be taken advantage of. 

I believed that my “no” won’t be respected. 

I believed that my “no” will cause anger. 

I believed that my “no” is an inconvenience, an embarrassment that I must dish out as sparingly as possible.


So many beliefs that have a lot of emotion and fear attached to them. 

Beliefs that pull me into my head and out of my body. 

Beliefs that are NOT conducive to relaxing and letting go of inhibitions. 

And while I understand these beliefs are normal and appropriate given the world I live in, I also want those beliefs out of my life. I see how they limit me from what I actually want. And what a better way to practice them, than with a bunch of other adults who are committed to exploring their sexuality in a safe, respectful environment. I really didn’t think that is what would be going down at the sex club, but you have to deal with what is in front of you, don’t you?


The part that surprised me the most was how frozen I was about the idea of having to say no to someone. And that got me thinking that I must not be alone in this. I have done so much work personally in this area of my life. I mean I WORK in this industry of sexual liberation, and still, STILLLLLL (?!?!?!) I am paralyzed by saying no?!?!


Cue the most exasperated sigh. And then, just after my little visit to the sex club, #metoo dropped. And all I could think, was yup, it is time. TIME TO LEARN HOW TO SAY NO. No without guilt. No with a sureness and unaffectedness that could repel unwanted sexual energy like nothing else. 


So I started practicing. In small ways. In all the ways where I wasn’t speaking up. One night shortly after my visit to the sex spa I was walking my dog downtown at night, my usual late night loop, when I passed this one bar. This bar usually has a few older men hanging out in front smoking, smelly boozy, and doling out unwanted comments to the females who pass by them. Not comments about the weather, folks. Comments about their bodies. And this pisses me off endlessly. I started a while back making eye contact with them as I approached, almost as if I was daring them to say something to me. This has been effective in stopping comments, but I could still feel them watching me. So this time, as I turned the corner, and I felt their gaze trace me up and down, I felt overwhelmed with disgust, and I whipped my head around, made eye contact, and said I SEE YOU. Now that my friends, get the blood pumping. He looked shocked and said, “so what?” I couldn’t muster anything more than a loud “uggghhhh,” but I felt more powerful that night than I had ever.


I started practicing in smaller ways still. When my partner wants something that I am not interested in participating in, I started to say no thank you in a new way. One that doesn’t have any drama in it. One that isn’t afraid of his upset or frustration. One that is putting my desires before my fear of letting him down. This is a huge area for women. A large majority of the women I work with struggle with having sex out of obligation. And I have eliminated much of this out of my life. But there was a layer there still. 


I stopped making my lack of attraction or desire in the moment wrong. Whenever I was a “no” I would go into my head and question it. I “should” want this more often. That kind of bullshit. Wrapping our “no” in guilt makes it so much harder to say no. And it dropping the guilt has made me feel alive in a way I never thought it would. It has been freeing. And you know, I can see clearly now that my desire often has very little to do with him, or my attraction to him. I am simply relearning how to stand up for myself and my intuition. That shit has been repressed for centuries. Women were burned for trusting their intuition. I am making up for lost time. It’s time to rewrite this story. To trust ourselves!


On the other side, those beliefs I was holding were also harming my relationship to men and masculine energy overall.  I was relating to men as predators until proven otherwise. And yeah that is shitty for me, but it also must be really hard to be on the other side of that. So to all the loving, respectful, and sexual men out there, I apologize for relating to you in such a stingy way. I am just going to keep practicing my NO so that I can learn to trust my YES and we can all start relating to each other in a healthy way again. 


Stay tuned for more lessons from the Sex Club, and a special thanks to Oasis Aqualounge for holding such important space for pleasure, growth, and curiosity in this world. If you have any questions about my experience, please reach out!

For All Womankind is a design initiative for Fempowerment. All profits go to the  Center for Reproductive Rights  and  Emily’s List , two not-for-profit organizations working to advance reproductive freedoms both in the US and globally, and to elect progressive pro-choice women to office. 

For All Womankind is a design initiative for Fempowerment. All profits go to the Center for Reproductive Rights and Emily’s List, two not-for-profit organizations working to advance reproductive freedoms both in the US and globally, and to elect progressive pro-choice women to office.