“Poor is the man whose pleasures depend on the permission of another.”  -Madonna

It occurred to me the last time that I was in the throes of passion, when I have some of my best thoughts, that so much about our sexual experience is connected to our ability to give ourselves permission to explore the far reaches of arousal. The permission that I am referring to is not really the cerebral ‘thinking through the consequences’ deliberation that a permission slip requires. It is more of a visceral form of self-forgiveness that allows all of the mysterious and hard-to-articulate intensity of sexuality to move through you.

No one is exempt (or well, almost no one) from the nagging insecurity about the parameters of normalcy when they dive in deep to their sexuality. The transcendent emerges from the physical. Sexual passion replaces our more organized, linear thought process in order for our capacity for pleasure to lead us into uncharted incredible behaviors that you wouldn’t recite even moments after you performed them.

What keeps people from sliding down this fast moving chute into a pleasure delirium is their ability to permit this for themselves. Passion is somewhat frightening and unpredictable if you prefer a more controlled and predictable life. Think of the leap that has to occur for a couple that thinks sharing a toothbrush is gross to falling head first into passionate oral sex. Oral sex is one example where the space between providing a service and really deeply experiencing the pleasure you are giving has everything to do with sexual permission.

Thinking about this permission when I was in the midst of offering it to myself, it occurred to me that the experience is a close relation to sexual forgiveness. There is a lot of forgiving that needs to happen around most people’s sexuality. Whether from unhelpful messaging about what our sexuality means about us, or the bad choices most of us made on the way to figuring our sexuality out, we live within a wounded culture of sex that even publicly swings widely between the prudish ‘just say no’ and the endless hookup.

Forgiving ourselves and loving the wounded places in us is perhaps the most essential leap we can commit to in opening up a path to permitting ourselves sexual pleasure.  Although when Nelson Mandela said, “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same,” he wasn’t thinking of sexual permission, I believe the sentiment applies. The more forgiving and accepting we are about our own sexual wounds, the more we permit our own pleasure and the more deeply we invite others into an intimate life that reflects the same.