So excited to share this recently recorded podcast with you…
Christopher and Heather of Virgin.Beauty.Bitch are all about unpacking female stereotypes and creating a space where women are not afraid to be defiantly different. In other words, the hosts of this podcast are right on. This might be the most fun interview I have recorded, ever.
We start with that time in my mid-thirties when I was trying to get serious about being a woman, when expectations mount. I was trying complete the mandates of adulthood.
All that stuff like finding a partner in time to have a child (cue the biological clock ticking), saving to purchase a home, and funding my retirement account.
The time pressure was making me dry, so I decided to escape Silicon Valley and ran away to South America to get WET (aka find myself and happiness again by listening to my body’s desires), despite my quite persistent fears that I might be totally fucking up my life.
The themes of WET are focused on a woman’s journey to rediscover pleasure and joy. Prioritizing joy and pleasure shouldn’t be revolutionary because we should all feel free to seek out a beautiful life for ourselves and a daily experience of enjoyment without shame. But it is indeed revolutionary in a world where women are expected to drop their own needs to put others first and to accomplish certain milestones above all else.
We started off this way, with Christopher asking, “Now Sasha, Wet. It’s the name of your memoir, a story about healing through sensuality. But let’s rewind the story to when sensuality and your body might have been the last place you looked to find personal power. Who was that woman? And what’s on earth happened to her?”
We talk about:
The fear that our lives are not working because we haven’t achieved some arbitrary line of success and all the gears get tripped up. We need WD-40! We need to be lubricated! We need to get WET.
Why a big part of my message is about inspiring women to connect with their bodies and pleasure for their empowerment, and confidence, and to accompany their healing journeys from past trauma
The importance of speaking up for yourself and what you want in bed with your partner–and how that connects to your empowerment in general
What turned-on living means to me (not just sexually)
My take unpacking the archetypes of Beauty, Virgin, and Bitch for women. I am particularly drawn to reclaiming the “bitch” to reclaim anger.
Would love to hear what resonates for you in this podcast.
You can listen at the top of this post, or click here to the podcast on Apple podcasts.
After you listen, leave a comment or send an email!
P.S. If the intimacy of this conversation appeals to you, and you want to be part of similar conversations in your own life, you should absolutely check out my new yearlong group coaching program Turned-On Living 2023. I am curating a small cohort of women and talking with each person to create the group. We start in January for a year of turned-on living. It’s going to be amazing.
Do you want to get some extra confidence walking into a job interview? Do you want to feel happier and energized? Do you want to even know what you want?
“So WTF is Pussywalking?” The hilarious Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan who just launched her own talk show KaamnaLive interviewed me about pussywalking the last time I was in San Francisco.
Pussywalking sounds out there but it’s actually quite simple. It’s a way of being mindful so you are present in every step when you walk and to know exactly who you are and your unique powers as a woman. Pussywalking can help you step out of your shell, walk with a pep in your step and enjoy life to its fullest. Say hi to your new Sensual Self!
Watching this video you will discover:
What exactly is pussywalking
Why I teach women can have additional power in the energy of her pussy, and that energy can be distributed through the body to improve her confidence and overall well-being
How I originally discovered the pussywalking practice on the way to a job interview in San Francisco
The male equivalent: Men can be cocky, women can be pussypowerful.
Our research team in Buenos Aires is working on researching cockwalking.
What is sensuality and why does it matter? Our culture is obsessed with sex. Sex matters of course. But we rarely talk about sensuality. I want to talk about reviving sensuality in the digital age when we are all too often burying our heads in screens.
In this video with Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan on her new Internet talk show Kaamna Live I made sensuality a priority in my life by leaving Silicon Valley for Brazil back in 2010. In this interview I explain why I made sensuality so important for me at a time when my life was going downhill in many ways.
That move led me to Buenos Aires and tango. The search for sensuality continues because as I see it I need sensual fulfillment to be happy, healthy, and in touch with what I want and don’t want. Being in touch with my sensuality actually helps me make decisions and feel more worthy and whole. We get a lot of valuable information from our bodies but we can only feel those pulses of information if we are in touch with our senses.
In this interview we talk about why reviving your sensuality matters for your health and well-being, which celebrities are sensual and which are not, and how you can make playing golf a more sensual experience. Ha. And we should not miss the obvious point: giving focus to sensuality will make you a better lover. As Kaamna so wisely points out in the video: Men, take note!
Does sensuality matter for you? How do you trigger yourself to get out of your head, off the computer or your phone and back into your body? Where do you find sensual delight?
One of my guy friends wrote me this week, “OMG, you really put yourself out there! Nicely produced I might add!” Well, he was right. This was a big week for me when I overcame a huge block of fear by releasing the pussywalking videos I’ve been working on for more than a year.
I wrote Jeff back, “Thanks for noticing that! It took me months to get up the courage to share this in Facebook!” He said, “Don’t blame you!” And I said, “Somewhere in this there was a point of no return feeling. Like I am just not a normal person anymore.”
Now I am that woman who launches online pussywalking campaigns, and believe me, that’s a far distance to come for the girl who grew up in Rhode Island, a state where most people never talked about sex out loud. Now I’m publicly associated with using the word “pussy” online and coining the term “pussywalking.”
But hey, if 45 can talk about pussygrabbing, I can talk about pussywalking, right?
So here I am sharing “pussywalking” with you and if we were together in the same room you would see both how uncomfortable and excited I would be to have this conversation.
My own discovery of pussywalking has changed how I walk in the world and now that I am sharing online I hear more diverse and amazing stories about how this helps many different women.
In fact, pussywalking has deep connections with mindfulness, and ancient practices such as yoga, tantra, Chinese medicine, and kundalini. People have long known that the womb region is a huge source of energetic power.
The #metoo movement has now been going on for over a year so this feels like the perfect time to release the pussywalking concept. Pussywalking is a modern way to reclaim your sexual power.
Where Did Pussywalking Come From?
The full story of my discovery of pussywalking is in my memoir-in-progress Wet (in fact there is currently a chapter called “Pussywalking”).
I started my own pussywalking practice back in 2012 and for a long time I used pussywalking in my everyday life when walking around my neighborhood for a mood lift. I started to share the idea here and there with individual women I met at entrepreneurship and storytelling conferences and then with my coaching clients. If I heard a woman’s story and felt she could use the confidence boost of pussywalking I would tell her, “I want to share something with you.”
In the following years I left the Bay Area tech world and transitioned to Buenos Aires to focus on writing my next book, coaching, and the Tango Adventure. Teaching pussywalking in the Tango Adventure felt like a no-brainer (pussywalking is definitely what the best female tango dancers do!) but it still took courage to teach.
In the Tango Goddess workshops, some of the women looked eager, some of them looked deeply uncomfortable as if I had brought up a word we are not supposed to say out loud. It’s not quite acceptable in middle-class culture to speak the word “vagina’–let alone “pussy”!
I took a deep breath and told them my story of discovering the power of the pussywalk on the way to a job interview, and how I found that putting attention on my pussy gave me a confident glow and helped me nail the negotiation and get the job.
“This pussywalk is something any woman can do,” I would explain. “It’s simple. You walk, and put your attention on your center point and see how that affects your walk. Men have their cocky walk. We say that cocky means confident, right? What do women have? We have our pussywalk. But no one tells you to walk with your attention on your vagina.”
Pussywalking–it’s like feminism but you feel it in your body! Every single woman who has learned pussywalking with me looks different to some extent when she does her pussywalk. Some walk slower. Some have better posture. Some of them look softer, a bit more present. They look more proud of being women.
From Bashful Teacher to Pussywalking-Evangelist
I was content to share pussywalking in a personal, one-on-one way with those who work with me as clients because hey, I was born in New England. I wasn’t that keen to get on the Internet to talk about pussy-anything. But then along came Cinthia Pacheco.
Cinthia organizes a Women in Business Buenos Aires Meetup and helps women entrepreneurs with marketing. Cinthia came to a Tango Goddess Workshop and she loved pussywalking. She started sending me audio messages on Facebook the next day about how she had shared it with her best friend who lives in Texas and the best friend asked for a YouTube video link, assuming there was one.
Cinthia encouraged me to make a few simple pussywalking videos talking to my iPhone. She really wanted me to spread the gospel of pussywalking to more women. Maybe I would have made the simple videos that but at the time I was getting to know Tan Kurttekin, a brilliant Turkish cinematographer. Tan told me he wanted to do a project with me and we set out to do something more ambitious together.
Tan and I made two pussywalking videos for you over the last year.
What’s the Reception So Far?
In a word, incredible.
I am loving the diversity of the responses so far.
Here’s what one woman Monica wrote me this week, “It’s really good timing Sasha. I have decided to get my breast implants removed hopefully in December. I got them when I was 31 because I felt so self-conscious and unfeminine. Now I am feeling strongly to go back to my small flat chest again.
It’s been a total mindshift and there is part of me that knows I may experience a feeling of loss in some way, however practicing pussywalking before/after surgery may help with this transition. I want to focus on my health and well-being this year. When I was walking by windows on my profile I was focusing on my breasts. Now I can shift that focus elsewhere.”
caption: Buenos Aires amantes (lovers) can be passionate. Hernan hung this sign up in the street for Flor, “I love you with all my life. Never will we be far apart again.” The phone number on the right: call it if you want to make a sign!
Argentines are very expressive, and their Spanish is distinct from, for example, Mexican Spanish. There are plenty of books and websites out there that explain Buenos Aires slang, or lunfardo–slang words you will never learn in a high school Spanish class.
Over the last four years of living in Buenos Aires I have learned there is a particular modern lunfardo, or slang, when it comes to dating, sex, love and relationships. Certain words would come up again and again. Once I understood the words I understood the culture and what was happening in my own life.
So I have put together this dating glossary for you. I thought it would be a service to the many women (and men) who come to Argentina looking for love. (Or who simply find themselves here, dating). Dating can be bewildering in another culture, and language can help guide you. Knowledge is power. When you are able to name a behavior, or a way of being, you are able to say: I want this, and I don’t want that. You can say you want a chongo, or not. You’ll know what it means to put someone “in the freezer” and why so many men and women call the opposite sex “hysterical.”
Whether you come here on vacation or you live here, here are some words to help you date in Buenos Aires.
Chamuyero: Once I was at an Internations expat event at a bar talking to two Porteños (Porteño means Buenos Aires resident), and I asked them, what is the essence of Buenos Aires? They said, with impish glee, chamuyo.
Chamuyo is bullshit. Sometimes poetic bullshit, but bullshit nonetheless. A chamuyero is a bullshitter, par excellence. Chamuyero is truly the ultimate porteño word. While Rio de Janeiro has its malandros (charming tricksters who do anything to avoid work), Buenos Aires has its chamuyeros.
A chamuyero talks in circles but really they are talking about nothing. You can’t pin them down. Everything they say is airy and unreliable.
In dating, chamuyo is flattery. Chamuyo is quite related to the piropo, a flattering or romantic compliment to seduce a woman. Piropos can be a sport; there are plenty of websites listing piropos to use with a woman or a girlfriend or wife: For example, here’s an Argentine piropo submitted on a user-generated piropo website: “Con un mate y tu compania ya es resuelta la vida!” (With mate and your company, life is already resolved!) That’s a sweet one, and not too over the top. I could believe that piropo or get off on believing it.
The difference between a piropo and chamuyo is chamuyo is clearly bullshit–and totally generic. My chamuyo red flag goes up when a guy starts using the word “princesa,” for example. You can filter out the chamuyo or you can just get off the chamuyo, knowing it’s only that. See also: Lie to me, I love it when you lie to me.
A chamuyero milonguero (tango dancer and frequenter of the milongas, events where we dance tango) may flatter you by telling you what a wonderful dancer you are. In this case, I’m all for the chamuyo. Bring it on! I love it when a guy tells me I dance well–or even better, when he talks about our dance connection (if it feels true). Argentine men are much more likely to give flattery during a dance than American men. A little flattery is actually great technique–it helps me relax and dance better.
Translation: Ah, you left. I thought you kept partying and you had found yourself a chongo for a touch and go Hahahaha Rest! LOLLLLLL Could be! But today no
Chongo: I learned about “chongo” in the best way, from one of my favorite Argentine tanguera friends. A “chongo” is a “touch and go”—usually a man (they don’t talk so much about chongas, though it’s possible to be one) who wants sex and nothing else. As she explained to me, if you’re bored, alone, and you don’t have anyone else in your life, maybe you want to send a message to your “chongo.” As if on cue, just after she told me about the “chongo,” another woman walked behind us at a table on the milonga and said a guy was “re chongo” (really chongo). This word strikes me as powerful! A lot of men (and perhaps women) want to move really fast in Buenos Aires and have sex quickly. A good percentage of them equally move on. Chongos are into seduction, quick sex, y nada mas (nothing more). These people would be chongos, or chongas, and you can decide whether you want that or not. Knowledge is power, ladies and gentlemen.
Histérico: I don’t think it’s possible to date in Buenos Aires for longer than a few months without learning the word “histérico.” It’s really a must that you learn about this word.
What is “histérico”? In English, hysterical means, among other things, “feeling or showing extreme and unrestrained emotion.” In Buenos Aires, “histérico” is mostly about drama and game-playing. A histérico is insanely seductive and passionate until you start reciprocating, then he or she disappears, and then begins the endless-hot-cold behavior. Histéricos are inconsistent. Not stable or trusted. In essence,histéricos enjoy the chase—not just once, but over and over again. So don’t take it personally if they disappear. A histérico is like a serial chongo but with more drama. Love is a battlefield. Buenos Aires is like anywhere else, there are also men and women who want relationships, so you can look for the signs of histérico or chongo and make choices accordingly.
Once you have a name for the condition of histérico, it’s quite helpful. I’ve helped two women realize they were involved with histéricos, and as soon as they have a name for the condition they seemed relieved and were better able to let go and move on.
“In the Freezer”: A guy who probably wanted to be my chongo taught me the expression “in the freezer.” He was talking about a past relationship and said that he had dated a woman for a few months, but then the relationship went “in the freeezer.” “What does that mean?” I asked. “We stopped talking for a while, then we started talking again.” I found this expression to be hilarious. I tried hard to stifle my laughter. I don’t want anyone to put me in the freezer. “Please baby, don’t put me in the freezer! I am not a chicken breast or a bag of peas!”
When talking about this expression with my friend Alexandra, she suggested an additional interpretation: If you’re going out with someone but there’s someone else you want to save for later, you might put the second person “in the freezer” to possibly take out later to thaw.
Mimosa: People in Buenos Aires are affectionate and they kiss to greet (just one kiss, as opposed to the French, who do two kisses on either cheeks.) Men too kiss each other. It’s quite a contrast to the American handshake or back-slap. I see a therapist in Buenos Aires–a very Porteno thing to do, self-knowledge is valued here. When I see my (female) therapist, we kiss each other on the cheeks hello and goodbye. A hello or goodbye kiss with a therapist would never happen in the States.
Mimosa is a word that expresses affection–but in the context of being lovers. Many Argentines have talked to me about the importance of “mimos”–mimos are like love pats and cuddles. I think of a cat as being mimosa. A snuggly person is mimosa. This might be my favorite word in the Buenos AIres dating dictionary because I am mimosa.
Mujeron: A very sexy, va-va-voom Sophia Loren kind of woman, in full possession of her sexuality and sensuality. Buenos Aires is full of mujerones.
Pedazo de pelotudo: Piece of shit more or less. You might throw these words at a histérico, if you felt like it.
Pasional: Passionate. Argentines are very passionate, whether we are talking about love, or football. See the above message from Hernan to Flor.
Pendeviejo/a: Pendejo means young person. A pendeviejo is an older person who dresses like a young person. (Viejo means old.) Imagine, a woman in her 70s. From behind you see her shapely body in tight jeans or a sparkly sequined dress and you think she is 30 then she turns around and you see she is rocking 70.
The pendevieja’s lack of shame in rocking the forever 21 look after retirement is rather spectacular. There are many pendeviejas in certain milongas. Pendeviejo/as don’t pay attention to the rules. They wear tight, flashy clothing that I never felt comfortable wearing, even when I was in my 20s. Buenos Aires is the place to be a pendevieja. You can be a pendeviejo too, an older guy in a youthful t-shirt, jeans and sneakers.
Telo: Telos are hotel rooms that you rent by the hour to have sex if you don’t have a private place at home, or you are on a date.
A few more tips on dating in Buenos Aires:
Confirming dates: Whereas in the US or Europe when you make a date with someone you can generally expect they will show up. It’s not really like that in Buenos Aires. People confirm with texts that the date is happening.
Lateness: Being late is more normal, and sometimes people think that is acceptable even on a first date (we are talking 20-30 minutes late). Sometimes the histericos will use lateness as a way to show you that you’re not that important or to play power games. I would steer clear of anyone who is not respectful with your time. (That can rule out some people.)
Online dating and apps: People in Buenos Aires are using Tinder, Happn, Bumble, and OKCupid. Your results will vary. I can say based on experience that you can meet good people on these apps—over four years, I’ve met a boyfriend, a lover, and a long-term friend. I can also say most people don’t put much effort into their profiles (the profiles are shorter, fewer words, than the States and Europe) and the swiping can be extremely depressing. Overall I would say OKCupid is the best bet because people are more likely to fill out and read a profile. The mobile apps are so geared for superficiality, which means chongos. If you want a chongo though, go for it!
Have any words to add to the Buenos Aires Dating Dictionary? I am sure there are more. Please add them in the comments. I’d love to see how tong this list can go.
Listen to the 1938 tango Song “El Chamuyo” before you go . . .
If you are a quirkyalone, and you’re looking for someone to be your life partner, you may find yourself single for an extended period: months or yearssssss. How do you keep touch, sexuality and sensuality present and alive in your life while you are single? How can we be “wet” when we are single?
To answer these questions, I’m taking a little tiptoe into the world of podcasting with Carolyn Arnold, a social scientist, educational researcher, and friend.
At 58, Carolyn started a 50 Dates project to find her life partner. She found him by date 49!
I interviewed Carolyn about what she learned about loving herself while she went through the ups and downs of dating here.
Carolyn had a lot of lovers while she was looking for love because sex and touch are important to her. She didn’t want to be celibate and she knew she wanted healthy touch in her life.
Here are some things we talk about in this conversation:
• How to have a conversation about sex before (or while) clothes come off to avoid misunderstandings and disappointment.
• The “monogamous mindset of dating” (if you start dating and quickly become exclusive, you can get awfully attached when you start having sex, but is this really the person you want to be with?)
• Being truly at choice in sex and why it is so important to have access to your yes and your no at any moment, and never feel you have to finish what you started (you have to be able to say no so that you can truly say yes)
• What is sex (is it just intercourse, or can we have a more expansive definition? Yes, the more expansive one please!)
• How to have supportive lovers while you are dating and looking for “the one”
• Menopause and why you might want to keep your sexuality alive during your 40s (based on Carolyn’s experience)
You might have landed on my blog thinking you are going to read only about being quirkyalone, and now you’re thinking, What? What is this woman talking about . . . WETNESS?
I’m currently deeply immersed in writing a book where I’m developing a theory of wetness through my own story of sensual awakening to feel my power as a woman. This book is not going to be published and out in the world for at least two years. The Internet has gotten us accustomed to quick, digestible fix of “content.” Writing something of deep meaning and length can take time. I only hope that when the book is ready we are still able to read more than “listicles”!
As I write, I am eager to share as much as I can. The creative process percolates with both deep solitude and input from others.
Being a modest New Englander, and knowing how our unfortunately pornified yet repressed U.S. culture is, I can hardly believe that I am titling this book Wet, or even that I am writing/publishing it at all, and yet, it seems to be my calling right now to share with you what I’ve learned in my own explorations over the last five years. There is a world of difference between being sexualized as an object and owning and enjoying your sensuality from the inside out, and that’s what this book will explore–what that owning and enjoying of our sensuality can do for us for beyond the bedroom.
In this awesome podcast, we talk about:
–Why wet and not juicy: we’re talking about being wet, deal with it!
–We have the idea that it’s important to explore your sexuality and sensuality in relationships, but why is that so important?
–Does pleasure have to be for something? Can’t it just be for its own sake?
–The relationship between pleasure and building our capacity and mindfulness.
With a blush in my face and hopefully yours,
This talk by Monica Lewinsky–“The Price of Shame”–is incredibly powerful.
I recommend you watch the whole thing.
I have heard people disparage her (of course) and then others say, well, she is doing a service to shine the light on cyber-bullying (as if telling her own story is not enough).
Monica Lewinsky constructed this eloquent speech to wrap her story into the larger social context of online hatred, and the social cost of all that hatred (suicide).
But if this talk were only about her experience and her only goal was to rescue her narrative and show the obviously brilliant woman she is this speech still would be a huge service to the rest of us.
When one person speaks out and rescues her own narrative from shame we are all lifted up.
Shame is a huge theme in the memoir I am deeply immersed in writing. Shame is also a huge topic for me as I continue to advocate for quirkyalones, and speak about “single shame.”
As part of my research for Wet, I reread The Scarlet Letter to better understand my own New England roots.
Monica Lewinsky is the modern-day Hester Prynne (heroine of The Scarlet Letter).
Just as Hester Prynne was asked to stand on the stage to be shamed for her one “mistake” and then wear the Scarlet Letter for the rest of her life as a “living sermon against sin, until the ignominious letter be engraved on her tombstone,” Lewinsky endured the slut-shaming pillory in 1998 when people and even even journalists thought nothing of calling her a “plump tart,” “tramp,” or yes, “slut.” And then, to wear her online reputation for the rest of her life. What is she a living symbol warning us against? Making a mistake? Being human? Making gossipy comments in phone conversations that she did not realize were being taped?
An interesting intersection with single shame: many people pity Monica, saying she has not had a proper job or relationship since 1998, though I’m not sure if this is true.
In 2015, Monica Lewinsky is doing something the fictional Hester Prynne never did: speak out on her own behalf. If there is a history of American slut-shaming, her speech represents a historic change moment. She comes forward with her own story and reclaims her narrative.
Hester Prynne eventually won the admiration of her townspeople by bearing the Scarlet Letter her whole life without complaint. She became respected for suffering quietly, doing her work as a seamstress, raising her daughter Pearl, and never identifying her accomplice-lover.
Lewinsky is showing that the slut-shamed can also be respected when they speak up. Any of the shamed can speak up. This is marvelous. This is social change.
I am a tango addict. I have been one now for four years.
I did not go out looking for tango. The dance came to me. It was in Cali, Colombia, the world capital of salsa, where everyone dances, that I saw tango for the first time. A Belgian woman named Griet who was also staying at my hostel invited me to come out with her to a club called La Matraca, and there, I saw a tango danced for the first time. I felt something in my body across the room.
Tango was nothing like the image I had mysteriously developed of the dance, the march of a man and a woman their arms outstretched across the room, the woman with a rose clenched between her teeth. (Where did I get that image? Later I looked on the Internet and found no definitive answers.)
There was a palpable, mesmerizing physics between them, every step he took invading her space caused her to walk backwards, every movement so closely coordinated. She invaded his space too. It wasn’t like salsa, all happy-happy. This was like watching the hologram of a connection.
I didn’t dare to think that I could dance tango. I had never done much partner dancing. But my curiosity is big and I tagged along with Griet for lessons the next day for lessons in a garage across town with the performer who had wowed us that night. Thus began the journey, the roller-coaster, the ups and downs, the pleasure, the connection, and soon, my first tangasm.
My first tangasm
I didn’t know there was such a thing as a tangasm or have a word for it when it happened. I felt supremely awkward, in fact, and wobbled through my dances with teachers whom I forced to dance with me at clubs. A few weeks later, I met Oscar, a proud short teacher who danced salsa, tango, folkloric Colombian, cha cha cha, and more.
Oscar saw me wobbling and told me, “Come on, tango can be easy, I’ll show you how.”
In contrast to my first teacher who was all about teaching me to do the steps “right,” Oscar taught me how to play and not care about doing it perfectly as we walked and whirled around the room.
During our third lesson, that’s when it happened. When we danced, our chests velcroed, hugging in a tango embrace, I felt blood coursing through me everywhere. The dance pumped me with extraordinary amounts of oxytocin, endorphins, whatever the hormones were, they were working. Tango is a dance based on a hug, and this was an hour of continual hugging and dancing. It only takes 20 seconds of hugging to release the pleasure hormone of bonding oxytocin; imagine what an hour does!
The essence of tango, especially for the follower, is to focus on feeling rather than thinking. I have always been a thinker, and feeling is what had been deficient in my life. Here was a dance where all I had to do was feel, and feel I did, all over my body. I had no desire to have sex with Oscar. Already what I felt was on par with the best sex of my life. My cheeks and chest showed it. Tango got my brain to turn off.
After the lesson ended, I ran to the café where Griet was drinking her afternoon coffee. I whispered in her ear, “I think tango might be better than sex!”
Griet gave me a once-over, her eyes going through a checklist of signs. Flush cheeks and chest. Nipples showing. Light mist of sweat. Hair matted down with wetness.
Griet said to me, “I think you have had a tangasm.”
That was my first. You never forget your first.
A better cure than sleeping pills
tangasm on a bus
I moved to Buenos Aires to pursue tango at the source two years later in 2012. In Buenos Aires I felt more powerful tangasms because the embrace was more healing, more committed, than in the Bay Area, where the embrace could feel like a faint and technical thing. Dancing in a hug recycles energy between our hearts and creates an all-over-the-body high. I would go to bed after having a tangasm for the night feeling satisfied; the tangasm helped me to wake up happy, still on a cloud of pleasure waking up in the morning, sipping my morning tea.
Tangasms cured my insomnia much better than Ambien.
A tangasm is not a climax in the way we think of an “orgasm.” There is no particular moment of release. The tangasm is not about how it looks, it’s about how it feels. A tangasm is a moment of total connection coupled with full-body pleasure, bodies swirling with each other, breathing together, a union with the moment, your partner, the music, the room. I have asked people about their tangasms and they tell me things like: “Losing all notion of time and space.” “You forget about everything and everyone.” “A peak experience.” “Traveling to another galaxy.” “Thoughts floating away.” “Being in flow.” “Embracing and breathing together.” “Dancing on a pink cloud.” “A spiritual practice.” This doesn’t mean you are sexually attracted to your partner, though you might be. You could feel a tangasm with someone of your same sex if you are heterosexual or even with your parent.
Since there is no climax in the tangasm, in tango, a partner will not ask you expectantly, “Did you come?” There is no particular pressure to get anywhere. The tangasm is based on connection and sensuality rather than climax. This is something I think we can all benefit from in our sex lives too. Climax can be awesome and deep but being focused on a goal can cheapen the ride; when there is pressure about getting somewhere there’s less enjoyment along the way.
During my four years of tango passion, I’ve mostly been single. I have spent many more nights at milongas than I have on online dating sites or going to events where I could find a romantic/sexual partner. There is a saying in coaching circles that we get what we want. We get what we put our attention on. I started to wonder, have I actually gotten what I wanted? Is tango actually better than sex? With tango, not only do I feel pleasure all over my body, I don’t have to worry about condoms, pap smears, safe sex tests. I’m not going to have an unwanted pregnancy.
Looking for hugs in each new partner, I get to “try” many different, new, exciting sexual partners in one night with no negative consequences. In tango, we dance tandas (four songs with one person). Each tanda is like a one-night stand. At the end of the fourth song we say goodbye and thank you, and if I am in Buenos Aires, the man might tell me that I am wonderful, beautiful, divine as he escorts me back to my seat.
I told one woman about the tangasm and she looked at me quizzically, “Better than sex, really?” I could tell she was saying, Let’s not get carried away.
Then she went and googled for a “sexy tango” video and said she understood. She said, “As I was watching, things that stood out to me as especially sensual were the way he runs his fingertips along her arm, the way she slides her hand up his chest, the tension of their mouths being so close without kissing, or the forced control of both of their bodies when he does the slow dip.” I watched the video and saw she might have misunderstood.
This was stage tango, not social tango. In social tango, what I and most non-performers dance, a partner would not caress your midriff in a gratuitously sexual way. Near-kisses would be against the rules. In social tango, we draw the fuzzy line between sensuality and sexuality so that we can dance with so many partners, including strangers. “Social tango” is much more about the internal experience of sensuality generated through the embrace. In other words, if you go out to a Buenos Aires milonga to watch social tango, you will not see the explicit sexual caresses, but you will see the bliss in the little upturned smiles of the women dancing with their eyes closed and in the focus of the men.
Sex is usually without limits. It has no structure, no time limit. In tango, we dance four songs. Done. Goodbye. Tango offers a structure where you can experience a sensual connection with someone, and then another someone, and not cross the line into explicitly sexual. Boundaries create safety. Limitations create thrills. And variety.
For example, this video is an (exquisite) performance, but it’s more on the wavelength of the tangasm I’m talking about. . . sexual but much more subtle.
Would you give up sex or tango?
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t love sex. I am very pro-sex. I love sex. There is a potency and beauty in sex, penetration, and intimacy mixed with love, or even without love, that is distinct. And yet, I started to wonder if I I had to give up sex or tango for the rest of my life, which would I give up? I started to ask a few dancer friends which they would choose. After a tanda, Karen, one of my favorite “queer” tango dancers (a woman who dances the lead), told me, “I don’t want to live in a universe like that. Just the fact that you have tango and sex together in this sentence says something.” ”What?” She wouldn’t say it. ”You mean that tango feels very good,” I said. “Yes,” Karen said, smiling. Is tango always better than sex? No.
Four years later after the first tangasm, I have a boyfriend who does not dance tango, and I find myself staying home with him often rather than going out to dance. Tango is not always better than sex. It depends on the partner, the connection. On the other hand, I am still going away to Buenos Aires for three months and leaving him to dance tango at the source because the true tango embrace is that powerful. I need my dose.
In the end, Karen is right. One does not want to live in a universe where you have to give up either tango or sex.
If Armistead Maupin had lived in the era of Airbnb, then this might be a tale of the city . . .
Oh, tales of urban living. Tales of renting out my apartment on Airbnb while I go away on writing retreats this fall. Tales of living in a world that is changing so fast every ten years many facets of how we live are barely recognizable. Especially in the Bay Area, where rents have climbed from my $333 a month days when I first rented a room in 1997 to Q1 of 2014 when the median rent for a San Francisco apartment is now $3,200.
I have been renting out my one-bedroom apartment three or five days at a time while I go up north to write. My guests have been lovely. Sheryl left homemade jam in the fridge, Himoko from Japan was sweet, and the others have been entirely respectful and gracious that I have opened my home to them.
Enter Rick. Rick made a request when he inquired about the apartment. He wanted a pot and pan since he would be here for five days. I said, OK, I will get you a pot and pan. (If I could go back in time, I would say “Sorry buddy, no special treatment for you.”) (The backstory: I have celiac disease, which means I need to be super careful about gluten; this is a medical issue, not a preference. I put away pots and pans when guests come because I can’t expect they will read every ingredient label to be sure they are not using gluten.)
On the day of Rick’s arrival, in addition to arranging for the professional cleaners to come and make the place oh-so-spotless and shoving all my random belongings (bills, dirty laundry, etc.) in the closet, I went out looking for a pot and pan. I found a gleaming new pot and couldn’t find a suitable pan at the local hardware store, and decided, I’ll let him use one of my pans and replace it later.
Rick arrives. He is in his mid-twenties, from New York, here on furniture business. He is no-nonsense, no-pleasantries. When I say, “How are you?” he responds very quickly “fine” and doesn’t ask how are you back. I give him the keys, and I’m off.
An hour and a half later the phone rings. I answer while driving up north.
It’s Ethan from Airbnb. Never before have a I gotten a call from Airbnb. If guests had questions or concerns, they just wrote me directly.
“I want to get your side of the story,” Ethan says.
Executive and Life Coach on a mission to help women connect with their bodies to live their best lives + do their best work. Author: of Quirkyalone + To-Do List. Forthcoming: WET.
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Sasha Cagen is the author of the cult favorite Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us. Her work as an author, life coach for women and entrepreneur has been featured everywhere from NPR and the New York Times to CNN and Vogue.
In her well-loved newsletter going to thousands of women and men who identify with "quirkyalone," Sasha is the voice for people who don't want to settle--in any area of life.
In her coaching practice, Sasha helps smart, successful women (and sensitive, self-aware men) get clear on what they really want and then to achieve their goals while always helping her clients focus on core issues such as self-worth.