A Wide-Open Letter to My Mouths (NSFW)
“It is confusing and embarrassing to have two mouths.”
—Anne Carson, “The Gender of Sound,” from Glass, Irony, and God (1992)
Recently, a new lover retaught me how to eat a mango.
We were naked on a rock, in a stream, somewhere in Virginia, long hair wet against our bodies: Two shimmering mountain mermaids. On the second day of our solar eclipse pilgrimage to Short Mountain, Tennessee, in a polycule of lovers, we had managed to steal away to find a pocket of time, a creek, and a mango to share together. I was excited and nervous, giggling and bantering wantonly as I pulled her close to me on the rock. Water, catching the rays of the sun, glinted as it swirled around us, beading on our sweating bodies.
Intertwining my legs with hers, I sat up straight to meet my lover’s gaze, grinning broadly, pucklike, as I took the mango from her hands and wedged it between us. My lover initially smiled and giggled back at me; then the smile tensed into something else as a flush crept up her cheeks. She receded from my gaze. I felt her tense slightly where our bodies touched. I asked what was going on for her. My blushing lover took a deep breath, and opened her heart to me.
There had been prior shared mangos. Some of those times were beautiful, others disappointing or chaotic. Fruit-sharing with lovers who weren’t fully present or appreciative really let her down. To guard against this scenario with the large, viscous, and sticky mango, my lover first vetted people with lower-impact fruit. She had already shared a peach, two plums, and some cherries with me before our mango, so she knew, she said, that I “got it.”
In that moment, though, recent life events had left her feeling vulnerable. Sharing that particular mango with me, then, would be a sacred and historic act for her. A healing ritual. I understood, then, that my lover was still vetting me: Reminding me that she was initiating me into her practice. I nodded; receiving and affirming as best I could as she exhaled. I did get it. In our shared nectary, fruit is a vessel, a kink, and a prayer.
I didn’t say it, but I was nervous too. Nervous and excited to meet a person who spoke the same sex language as me. More than once I had watched her mind flood with images of what might transpire in our shared reality. This titillated me.
While she was talking, my lover massaged the mango until it seeped translucent yellow nectar from its nipple. I felt my own nipples coming to life as I watched her work.
When the time came, she brought the mango to my lips.
“Remember, no teeth,” she reminded me. I had rushed earlier fruit foreplay by tearing chunks from the flesh. I smiled at her coyly, and nodded. Then I put you, sweet Mouth, Upper Mouth, on the mango’s nipple and sucked, long and hard.
I kissed my lover, and passed some of the nectar into her upper mouth. She used her tongue to gently and precisely stroke the tip of mine in a way that made me moan and pant; mouths wet, clit tingling. I imagined her tonguing my clit when she kissed me like that. We discovered that I could stimulate myself if I massage the tip of my tongue with my finger: my clit would tingle and I would get wet. My two mouths love to communicate.
Soon enough, my upper mouth and the mango were all over her. Nectar was everywhere.
Mouths—would that I could give you this sort of healing all the time. We’ve whispered, screamed, ejaculated, menstruated, eaten, overeaten, shared secrets, spoken harshly, queefed, pleasured, gasped, contracted, broken out, scolded, drooled, oozed, scissored, discharged, miscarried, forgiven, prayed, bitten, sucked, ovulated, made love. You are my nourishment portals—I can’t live without you. I love the shapes you make when you are getting what you want, when you are thinking, smiling, frowning, contracted, relaxed, clenched, pursed, engorged, wet, salivating. I have covered you in lipstick, fruit, ejaculate, lube, and other bodies. I have bled out of you. I have waxed your hair and let it grow. I have brushed my teeth and neglected hygiene. I have changed my diet to fix you. I have fixated on you. I use you to pleasure and protect each other, and me.
This is my love letter to you, Mouths.
* * *
In my freshman year at Yale, a fellow freshman forced me to suck his dick while I was drunk. He was strong; he played rugby. He was wasted. He was also my friend.
I was drunkenly walking this friend home after a party. We cuddled in his bed. Then we made out. Suddenly, my friend pulled down his pants to expose his erect cock and forced my mouth onto it. You said “No no no no...no...” didn’t you, Upper Mouth? “No no no” until you and I gave up and sucked his dick.
The next day, we met up to talk, and he apologized.
“I am so...so...sorry,” he said, his voice quavering. We were exiting the local deli, Gourmet Heaven. We had just gotten sandwiches. I had ordered a hero with smoked turkey, brie, and green apples, with honey mustard.
I looked at him. “I forgive you,” I said. I thought I meant it too. I even gave him a hug, ostensibly because I wanted to, though I’ve since wondered if I was acting on a lifetime of programming to compulsively care for men ahead of my own wellbeing. I forgive you for assaulting me; here’s a hug to soften the blow of your crushing burden of remorse.
We parted ways, sandwiches in hand. I didn’t really see him or interact with him much ever again.
The next day, it all hit me. I dissociated; couldn’t think, could barely focus on work or class; I felt numb, confused. Angry. I started meekly asking around about how to notify Yale College of a sexual assault on their campus. I wasn’t even sure if there was a difference between a charge and a complaint; I just wanted them to know, and I wanted something to be done.
The process was oblique, to say the least.
Once I had found the correct avenue, through some asking, I found myself sitting on a couch opposite a grim, unsympathetic-looking woman with an air of resigned bureaucracy. Her attire was plain, bordering on drab; her grey hair pulled back into a taught bun. The room was dark.
My interviewer perched on the edge of a chair opposite me, and asked me what had happened. I recounted the events as I recalled them and she listened, impassively.
I finished, and all was quiet. Then:
“Did he rape you?”
“Um...no…?” Are my mouths so different? “He forced me to into oral sex.”
“Was he sorry?”
“Did he tell you he was sorry?”
“Then there’s nothing we can do.”
I pushed her on this. I wanted to press charges. I wanted something, anything, to happen. She didn’t budge.
A few months later, I was in Amsterdam with a lover ten years my senior. We had met at the 2007 Asian Fencing Championships in Nantong, China, both competing for Australia in different weapons, and hailing from different states. I lay on my stomach, face down on a sprawling, plush bed on the top floor of an open-plan townhouse, and made him fuck me from behind, thrusting his dick into me until I wailed with pleasure. We came, and then I asked him to hold me while my body convulsed, wracked with sobs. I told him about the assault then. He consoled me, sweetly but cluelessly. Almost vacantly. I could tell that he didn’t really know what to do. Receiving that vacant comfort was almost worse for me than keeping the news inside. How far away men can sometimes be from the violence of other men.
I was with my mother and sister on that trip, and I ended up telling my mother about the assault the next day. She brushed it aside quickly, too troubling for her to look at. Six months later she apologized, and it was my turn to brush it aside. In that initial moment, though, the weight of pervasive, collective dismissal from lover, institution, and mother crushed both of my mouths shut. I sat on my secret and my sex life dried up.
My assailant went on to reoffend, unreprimanded, multiple times, and graduate with an Ivy League degree.
The same year that he and I both graduated, some very brave Yale feminists did two things: revive Broad Recognition, a feminist magazine that I wrote many articles for, and file a Title IX complaint against Yale University that was upheld, forcing the school to redo their entire system for processing sexual assault claims. The Title IX complaint had 22 cases in it: 22 among thousands. I wanted to add mine, Mouths, but I realized that three celibate years later I still felt too broken from the experience to let either of you speak the truth for me.
* * *
Mouths, you have always healed each other. Learning how to have great sex has given me a rich and resonant voice, and license to tell the world about what has happened to me. Learning how to vocalize my pain and pleasure had led me to energetically dearmor my genitals. Examples of this are numerous, Mouths, but I want to recall a very direct and recent story about both of you, and how you interacted to make me feel better.
I sessioned with a Sacred Intimate (SI) recently: A warm and handsome middle-aged queer man who had played with me at a kink retreat a month or two before. It was the dead of winter then. I had melted in his hands as the snow piled up outside.
The job of a Sacred Intimate, I would say, is to cocreate a sensual/sexual container with a client in order to witness and facilitate a self-healing process. After the kink retreat I decided to become an SI someday, since sexual healing is already a part of my life. I gave my friend a call, ostensibly to ask him about his profession. I ended up arranging to travel upstate for a session. I told myself that it was a “research trip.” My body, meanwhile, geared up for an emotional and physical release: I became anxious as the day approach.
As my SI drove me to his house from the bus station, he noticed that I was tense, and asked me how I was feeling. I told him that I was nervous. I wondered if he would find this surprising. The last time we had seen each other he had undressed me, handcuffed me, and strung me up by the padded cuffs with a length of rope stretched over a beam in the middle of a sex party, flogging me front and back until I shrieked with pleasure. We were not exactly strangers to each other’s bodies, and I wasn’t nervous about being with him sexually again. It was for other reasons: I had never paid for sex before, nor had I ever really had complete transactional license to ask for exactly what I want in bed.
“Have you thought about what you want to do in the session?” he asked gently, as we approached our destination. I shook my head and cast my eyes downward. Approaching this frontier of sexual healing had left me bereft of my connection with my desire.
We arrived. I showered and changed. We sat on his porch and looked at the forest, grey and beautiful, still devoid of leaves in the early spring. It was warm that day. I felt ungrounded, jittery with nerves and the energy of the city, so I asked for help to become present. My SI nodded, and gestured that we go inside. He stepped behind me, and gently but firmly grabbed me by the scruff of my neck. I immediately became aroused.
Applying firm and even downward pressure to the back of my neck and shoulders, my SI took me on a tour of his workrooms. There was what appeared to be a stimulation room, with a St. Andrew’s Cross and all manner of floggers and toys, and a destimulation room, filled with mats, cushions, and essential oils. My SI picked up one of the essential oils and held it under my nose, asking me to breathe it in. Walnut oil. I immediately felt my energy come back into my body and surge down my legs into the earth.
We traveled to the other room, sat in a cushioned nook near the cross, negotiated our boundaries, and checked the time. My two hours began.
My SI undressed me, blindfolded me, and cuffed me. In the first half of the session he cuffed me to and flogged me against the cross, talking dirty to me, sucking my nipples and teasing my clitoris until I begged him to finger me. I strained against my cuffs.
I dissociated once. I went to a place of anxiety and doubt: I was in a stranger’s house, in an undisclosed location, where nobody could hear me scream. I had spent a lot of money on this experience. I was tracking my ever-present attraction to Daddy Doms, wondering how that fits within my politics. My mind went anywhere but that room.
My SI quickly noticed and brought me back. Whatever fluctuations happened in my body were duly registered and responded to in a safe, sane and consensual way. In my sexual history and experience, this level of attention and sensitivity is very special and rare.
Once my SI was fingering my lower mouth, and I started to approach climax, he would have me tell him when I was about to cum and then he would pull his fingers out, allowing me to crest by myself, riding on the wave of my own pleasure. Soon enough I was gushing down my legs and onto the cross.
My voice started to open: This experience of climactic solitude was unimaginably powerful. “Be as loud as you want,” my SI whispered to me. My volume wavered with my sense of safety. Whenever my voice closed, my SI would coax it open again, lovingly affirming my right to vocal expression, no matter how loud or monstrous.
I have always been loud during sex. My voice is low and resonant, and carries far. Upstairs neighbors have yelled at me to “SHUT UP!” as I fucked. During that session, however, the sounds I made were some other thing entirely—louder and more monstrous than ever before. I filled the woods with my sound. I blew open all the doors and shook every tree. My silken, beastly grunts shattered walls within me.
One mouth heals the other.
My SI knew when I needed a break. He led me, still naked, cuffed and blindfolded, to the destimulation room, which was smaller and ringed with a waist-high ledge brimming with essential oils. Mats and cushions covered the floor. My SI lay me down, propped up my head with a pillow, uncuffed me, and enveloped me with his body, pulling a blanket over us and asking me if I was comfortable, if I needed anything.
He then asked me to describe to him what was going on with each of my chakras, from the quality of brightness, to the color, to anything else I could see. I energetically scanned my body and relayed what I saw. My lower three chakras were bright and vibrant; my fourth chakra, over my heart, was wavering, static-y, trembling. My upper three chakras, in particular my throat chakra, were dim.
My SI explained this back to me in terms that I could understand. Orgasmic energy generated in the lower pasture needed to be sent across the dam that was my diaphragm to nourish and feed the upper pasture. This could be achieved by breathing in sharply every time I had an orgasm. For one mouth to feed the other, there needed to be a bridge.
We decided that my SI would continue to hold me, still blindfolded, in the destimulation room, and massage my lower mouth. He called it a “yoni massage,” but as a nonbinary human I prefer gender-neutral terms for my genitals.
I rode the waves of pleasure in my dark den and breathed in every time a wave crested, moaning ecstatically. It continued this way for a while, and then all at once my in-breath turned into little gasps, which turned into sobs, and I felt so young; too young. My mind became populated with images of my first boyfriend, starting with the uncomfortable and rushed way that we had lost our virginity to each other, and blossoming into all of the ensuing cruelty and abuse in our relationship. I was screaming and crying and cumming and mourning that it wasn’t supposed to happen that way, as a tidal wave of repressed violence around my sexual awakening broke over me. I felt that my trauma connected to the trauma of the greater world. By the end I had a vivid sense that a more global healing was pulsing through my body.
My cervix softened and opened my throat. Lower Mouth received as Upper Mouth gave. I was leaking pleasure, pain, sobs, and cum all at once, mouths releasing what they needed to in order to heal me, and each other.