Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pitching, Promoting and Offering: It Is Not What We Do But How We Do It That Matters the Most

 

I usually write about sexuality related topics. I am taking a little detour in my writing in this article to write about marketing, selling, pitching, promoting and offering our services to the world for money or for free.

If there is one thing I have learned in my marketing class, it is that everyone has to market—businesses, nonprofits, change makers and social justice workers. Marketing is about influencing, persuading and getting people to take action. The marketing professionals I listen to would add: doing all of that with integrity.

Even if we are working for societal change, we need marketing skills to make it happen. Even if we are working in a nonprofit organization and the business model is not based on profits, we need marketing to promote our mission and get funders or donors or clients to take certain actions.

I am not a marketing expert. But what I have noticed in my numerous online business groups is that promoting, pitching and making offers have all of a sudden become undesirable. Rules have gotten made to try to control promotion much the way that rules get made around sex and sexuality trying to keep us safe.

In various groups I participate in, there are statements such as “Don’t link to your blog.” In another group no one is supposed to link to their websites. In one group, the rule is it is okay to link to your blog if you want to start a conversation, but otherwise it is not okay.

The conversation is also, fortunately, about being intentional in our online promotions. I fully support people getting intentional, thoughtful and respectful in every area of their lives. I believe building relationships and not pressuring people are important ethical principles in marketing just as they are in sexuality. Those are the same concepts I teach in my sexuality and intimacy workshops.

But I’m also very sure that everything we do is promotion. As I have been saying consistently, it does not matter so much what we do or say as how we do or say it. These arbitrary rules about not promoting our websites or blogs or only posting offerings in a designated marketing group as opposed to the main group or only posting offerings on Thursdays or Fridays or in a specific thread for offerings are not solutions to me.

I believe everything I do is a promotion.

One of the conversations I have listened in on is about not promoting yourself but being helpful to people—and therein you may find your customers. I am coming at this idea from the perspective of being someone who is incredibly giving. I have helped more people move than I can count. I am known for being generous to people by helping take care of their children and in many other ways. Most of my paid work has been in the human services.

We should help someone because we really want to, not because it is the only way to ultimately get noticed for our paid offerings. I place great value on doing something for people unconditionally and not because we secretly are trying to sell something or find clients.

It is hard to guess at someone’s motivation or intent. I like to trust that people have good intentions unless I know otherwise. I also appreciate and feel more comfortable when people are upfront, direct and clear about what they want. If we are proud of our offerings and they truly would help people, there’s no reason to keep quiet or get clever about how we let people know about what we have to offer.

Someone asking my opinion about their website or logo design has started to feel uncomfortable to me. In this marketing environment I am describing, it is really hard to know if the person genuinely wants feedback or they just don’t have any other way to get their website or business in front of me and other potential clients.

We all have individual preferences and tastes. So one person’s style and way of promoting may not be appealing to me but could be appropriate for someone else. Deciding that something is not my cup of tea is very different from deciding that all promoting, selling and marketing are bad.

It is similar to deciding that sex is bad because we don’t share someone else’s preference. It is unrealistic to think that we would like all offers or all ways of promoting. And it is not helpful when someone draws broad generalizations or attempts to control it, especially in the area where they are selling their own expertise, programs or offerings.

I honor the people I know who are identifying marketing that is done ethically and with integrity and marketing that is not. To me that is a much better approach than just deciding that all promoting is unacceptable.

If we don’t like a certain promotional effort, we need to ask what we would change rather than making it impossible to promote. It is the same conversation I would have around sex and sexuality. I have done workshops such as one called “Sex Is Not the Problem; Touch Is Not the Problem” trying to get at this very issue. Yes, there are problems with sex and sexuality, but let’s be specific about those problems rather than draw broad generalizations about sex, touch, intimacy and relationships that make them all “bad.”

Similarly, we should ask what makes quality pitching and selling. Marketing is not going away any more than sexuality is going away. Marketing is the way we get the word out about everything. And, again, it is not what we do but how we do it that matters the most.

Consent and respect are what are most important to me in all areas of our lives. What is consensual and respectful or done with integrity could be talked about fairly endlessly in sexuality and also in regards to marketing. But that is a valuable conversation to have.

I welcome the complex conversation as to how to do it rather than a straight-out attempt to control it. And I also recognize this may not be any easier to do with marketing than with sexuality, given some of the contexts of where it happens. For example, how do you have these conversations online or in a group of thousands? Not easy at all.

However, if we really believe that marketing is good—and we should if we are teaching it or using it in any way—then it is imperative we engage in a way that makes it clear what we want to change. Just like sexuality, it is not something we can turn off at will. Everything we do is promotion in a similar way that sexuality is a life force energy within us at all times. My hope is that we act in both of these areas consciously, intentionally and with as much consent as we can verify in our complex individual and social interactions in person and online.


Copyright 2014 by Susan Miranda.  All rights reserved.  No part of this writing may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright holder. For reprint permission, email miranda_susan@yahoo.com.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Death Work, the New Sex Work


Twenty-five years ago, when I began to educate people about unlearning homophobia, biphobia and sexphobia, I always acknowledged the complexity of sexuality, intimacy, relationships and orientations of all kinds. And I decided that the three topics I would address because they are not talked about enough are sex, money and death and dying.

As I educate people about sexuality and write about all the topics I can think of—abortion, STIs/AIDS, monogamy, polyamory, sex toys, pleasure, orgasm, self-pleasuring, sex work and more—I emphasize consent, respect and our intentions, whether it involves sex, money, death and dying or any other area of intimacy.

Death is a taboo topic in the United States—possibly more taboo than sex. Yet it is another form of intimacy, involving interactions with people like doctors, nurses and hospice care providers. But I am suggesting something beyond what is the norm today when I use the term “death work.”

How many of us talk about and plan for our death and dying? Not as though we can’t wait for it to happen, but as though we know it will happen. The quality of all parts of my living and dying has always been important to me—so important that it is worth considering carefully today how I would like things to go at the end of my life.

It is strange to me that it is okay to pay for numerous services—from doctors, massage therapists, chiropractors, talk therapists, coaches, mentors, trainers, yoga instructors—but when it’s in the realm of sexuality, it becomes not okay. Well, what about in the realm of death and dying?

Intimacy is everywhere, even where we may not be comfortable with it. It is at our day jobs and our professional work, in classes, in social media, in bars and pubs. It is in the events and conferences we attend, in our conversations, in our touch, in our eye contact and in our hustle and bustle. It is in our transit: in cars and on the buses and trains I take on an almost daily basis. And it is in sex work or paid sex as well as almost every other service offered out there. Intimacy is also part of death and dying. And all that really matters to me is consent, respect and our intentions.

I recently wrote an article called “Obligation Is Not Love.” For me, that includes any obligation to show up or any sense of “I have to” when someone is sick or dying. I am not planning on people just showing up when I am dying.

Money gets exchanged all the time. It is not good or bad; it all depends. And there are other kinds of exchanges whose value depends on whether we feel good about the exchange. The value is not usually dependent on society’s rules or norms.

As intentional as I am with my intimate interactions in every other part of my life, I want to work at doing the same with death and dying and maybe even more so. For years I have let friends and family know my health care wishes. But more recently I have started having conversations with people I would like to be there with me when I am dying. That is, I have started the conversations with individuals as I take into consideration the fact that I may need to pay money to be able to choose the people I want near me when I am dying.

I am not a fan of a health care system that focuses more on life-saving events than dying gracefully. I know what kind of health care I want and what kind of dying I want. And it is with full intention that I move toward the taboo topic of death and dying as though I were hiring someone for business coaching or yoga instruction.



Copyright 2014 by Susan Miranda.  All rights reserved.  No part of this writing may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright holder. For reprint permission, email miranda_susan@yahoo.com.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Friendship Is Just as Important as Any Other Relationship We Could Ever Have


The title for this article could have been “Friendship Is Just as Important as Any Sexual Relationship We Could Ever Have.” But then I realized that some of us have sex with our friends.

My only rule for all relationships is that there are no rules other than that they be healthy. But then, the question always follows, what does that mean?

I honor however people do relationships as long as it works for them. There is no one right way to do anything, and the complexity of how we all do intimacy and sexuality in our lives is fascinating to me.

Nothing is more important than how we do love, and sometimes that can include affection or sensuality or sexuality—and sometimes not. Whether we call the person we have a relationship with a “friend,” “partner,” “significant other,” “spouse,” “husband,” “wife” or any other label does not matter to me. Labels don’t tell us much of anything. If we really want to know, we still have to ask the person what they mean when they use that label and what their relationship entails. What’s important is how we do love—how we love ourselves and how we love our work, where we live, and all the people in our lives.

Sex is not more important than other forms of physical or emotional intimacy. Sexual love is not more important than non-sexual love. Romantic and sexual relationships are not more important than non-sexual relationships and friendships.

In all the joy I can find in the complexity of my relationships—in my attractions, desires and levels of intimacy and ways of doing emotional and physical intimacy and sexuality—the highest compliment I can pay to anyone is to call them a friend.

I prioritize the traits and qualities that go into my friendships, like trust, care, loyalty, authenticity, honesty and love. I protect them in my relationships regardless of all the other unique characteristics or arrangements possible in a particular relationship.

Having care and intention in how we do everything in our lives matters. Being conscious and intentional in each moment of relating is my only goal, knowing I may or may not do even better in the next precious moment I have with someone I love.



Copyright 2014 by Susan Miranda.  All rights reserved.  No part of this writing may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright holder. For reprint permission, email miranda_susan@yahoo.com.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Obligation Is Not Love


I wish I knew who first said, “Obligation is not love,” so I could give them credit. I first heard it from a therapist in a scream therapy process I chose many years ago as a part of my healing journey.

I grew up on a family farm in a community where if someone needed a barn built, everyone came to help. But I also grew up in a family in which it was not okay to say no.

I learned a certain loyalty that I treasure. I can be a good friend. I say “can” because it is with some misgivings that I also embrace the concept that obligation is not love. So I will not be an obliged friend. I don’t have rules for any of my relationships; I only care that they are healthy. But what does “healthy” mean? Only I can answer that question for myself in any moment. And only you can answer it for yourself.

The problem or the gift is that the answer may change from one moment to the next. So it may feel right to be friends or in a sexual relationship with someone in this moment. However, I am always attentive in each moment to when a shift needs to happen in relation to the connections that I value and love. If I think there needs to be a change of any kind, I will try to have a conversation with the person I am in relationship with to sort through what feels right for the relationship in this moment and into the future. I am also attentive to when words of appreciation and love need to be spoken and all the ways my actions speak louder than my words. I consider those words of appreciation and love some of the most meaningful and important actions I can take in my life.

Friendship, relationships and connections to other people are gifts. But none of them is a gift unless it is freely given, not out of guilt, expectation, routine or habit. That does not mean that I am not committed or loyal. But it does mean that I look for a level of choice and intentionality in every moment. And I strive to create connections in which the people I am connected to have the freedom to be authentic and honest.

I don’t want anyone to interact, relate or be in friendship or relationship with me unless they truly desire it. I don’t want conversation, dinner, touch or superficial or deep connection with another person unless intentionally chosen.

Living this value to its fullest means I think twice about just about everything. If I send a card to someone for their birthday, when their next birthday comes around, I ask myself if I want to send a card again and make sure I am not doing it only because I have done it previously. It means that I think twice about how I mark holidays, weddings, funerals and every other occasion that may have expectations interwoven in it.

And it means that I don’t always make the most typical decisions. I did not go to my own mother’s funeral, for example. It was the right decision. I have no doubt that my family knows I loved her very much based on my choices and actions leading up to that event, which were just as intentionally chosen as my decision not to go to her funeral.

I allow each of my friendships and intimate connections to have its uniqueness, and I work hard to not assume that it needs to be the same the next day or the next year.

I don’t have rules. I only constantly ask myself what is healthy and what needs to happen in this moment with this person I love. It does not have to look traditional. It does have to be intentional. I only want love and friendship freely given and freely chosen in every precious moment I have with someone.



Copyright 2013 by Susan Miranda.  All rights reserved.  No part of this writing may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright holder. For reprint permission, email miranda_susan@yahoo.com.

 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

I Love Food Too Much


I am told this is one reason people give for why they cannot lose weight. I use the word “love” frequently, and I mean it every single time I say it or write it—except this time. I don’t think we can love anything too much. If we do, then I don’t think we are using the word correctly or loving in the way loving is meant to be done.

I am a sexuality educator and consultant. For the past twenty years, I have talked about the importance of self-pleasure, self-love and our relationship with ourselves. I consider eating one form of pleasure that is neither less nor more important than other forms of pleasure.

I have challenged the cultural norms as best I can about just about everything. Much of my work has been trying to increase awareness and acceptance of gay, lesbian and bi sexualities. I advocate for all sexual expressions and activities as being acceptable as long as they are consensual.

So I have no hesitation to also challenge assumptions that we need to be of a certain weight, body type, skin color or age or to be able bodied in order to be considered healthy or beautiful.

While I don’t define health and beauty by pounds or outer appearance, there is no doubt that we live in a physically unhealthy society here in the United States. However, we also live in a mentally, emotionally, sexually unhealthy society, and it is just as important to address these aspects of our lives and health as it is to address physical health.

So I don’t underestimate the need for more exercise and healthy choices around food and other parts of our lives. But I will advocate for healthy choices that come from true empowerment within and not from pressure or arbitrary standards of beauty from a partner, peers or society.

I believe the only way we change anything is to fully accept where we are right now. We don’t get anywhere by beating ourselves up or not having compassion for ourselves and other people, whether we are talking about making good choices around sex, food or any other area of our lives.

So can we love food too much? To answer that question, we need to answer these questions: Is our love for food unconsciously similar to what happens in some unfulfilling relationships, or is it a love of the most authentic, meaningful and healthy kind? When we eat, are we really experiencing the pleasure of the food, or do we not even taste what we are eating? Are we intentional with our food, or do we go for what is convenient? Do we rush, or do we take time preparing and eating the food? Do we have regrets?

I believe it is important to be intentional in all parts of our lives, including what we eat. But our bodies and our lives do not have to look one way or like someone else’s.


First published on  www.radianceadvisor.com   June 27, 2013


Copyright 2013 by Susan Miranda.  All rights reserved.  No part of this writing may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright holder. For reprint permission, email miranda_susan@yahoo.com.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Children

 
For the past five years until nine months ago, when my beautiful neighbors moved four hours away, this is what happened.

Every day on my way to my day job, I would walk past my neighbors’ house while the two children and one or both of their parents were having breakfast in their dining room. I’m not sure how it started, but it became a game: I would do something silly outside their window, like throw snow or my hat up in the air, dance, do whatever crossed my mind to make them laugh and smile and give me a little joy to start my day. Then, when I came home, I would see them, and knowing that life is short, I would not hesitate to play with them if it were summer time or give them a hug or chase them (kids love to be chased) or play tag or play games that Kai, the five-year-old, usually made up.

I have felt so grateful that their parents could share them and not be afraid that they could love another adult, one not related by blood. I think this culture has a lot to learn about dealing with insecurities and not feeling threatened or jealous in all of our loves and friendships.

Have I told you I don’t do anything typical? I don’t think of family, parenting, children or any way of my being in a typical way. Since the parents were so loving and open to me and not threatened that their children loved me, I took the time to be there and help if they asked. Even if they did not ask, if I saw the children in the backyard on the weekend, I would run over there and let the parents do something else while I played with them.

I love both of the children very much, and Ruby June, who is two and a half, and I have a very special connection. I swear I was waiting for her before she was born. I tell people that I think she and I knew each other in a past life. She would say “my Susan,” and I would reassure her that I will always be hers. Right before they moved, she would want me to do everything—change her diaper (if she had one on) or give her a bath at bedtime. She asked one Saturday to come to my house and eat lunch and take a nap. The mother told me no one could get Ruby to nap so easily—not Grandma, Dad or her. Ruby and I would go to the nearby park and take our time coming home, talking about all we were seeing as we walked home (or I carried her and whatever she chose to bring with us to the park).

I used to joke that I wanted to marry the family—the entire family—and I don’t mean that in any sexual way. Have I told you I don’t do anything in a typical way? I do it in the way that feels best and most authentic to me. Loving those children and that family feels really right to me.

There was a time in my life I thought I was not capable of love and that I would only feel hate. So it is actually very beautiful that I will love and risk losing and do it again and again in each moment. I would never undo or change what I had with those little ones.

I joked with one person at my day job (when she was having a hard day) that maybe if she played Ring Around the Rosy every day the way I did, she would have a better time at work.

I miss the daily presence of those two children very much.


Copyright 2013 by Susan Miranda.  All rights reserved.  No part of this writing may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright holder. For reprint permission, email miranda_susan@yahoo.com.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Book Review: Think Like a Stripper: Business Lessons to Up Your Confidence, Attract More Clients & Rule Your Market


To say the least, Erika Lyremark, author of Think Like a Stripper: Business Lessons to Up Your Confidence, Attract More Clients & Rule Your Market, is witty and funny and has a unique business brand. Regardless of what someone may think of the book title, the essence of the book is giving helpful, insightful business tips on selling, money, hustling, delegating, being productive and a whole lot more.

My favorite tips address some of the more important issues in business and in living life such as being our authentic selves, handling rejection and dealing with failure.

In full disclosure, I have hired Erika as a business coach and participated in two of her programs. So no doubt I am biased in appreciating her fun and direct style of coaching.

While I recognize that this book is about business techniques with stripper stories incorporated into the lessons (have I said that Erika’s branding is unique?), I cannot review this book without looking through the lens of my work as a sexuality educator and writer.

Erika does a good job in the introduction and throughout the book of explaining why she chose the title, what led her to do nine years of stripping, what were the valuable lessons she learned and what were some of the more difficult parts of having that job.

My sexuality education work gives me one of the most important lenses through which I read this book. Erika admits in the book that stripping is a job most people would never do. I too have had a job that most people would never do.

One of the things I have done for money is let future doctors, nurses and chiropractors practice breast and pelvic exams on my body, teaching them how to do the technique so that it will not be painful to future patients and also teaching them the importance of skills like communication, sensitivity, being nonjudgmental and showing respect.

Before and after my five years of experience working as what is called in some parts of the country a gynecological teaching associate, I have done sexuality education on a range of topics. I’ve educated people on unlearning homophobia, biphobia and sexphobia for five years. I’ve presented on the importance of self-pleasuring, healing the entire body and looking at pleasure, touch, intimacy and sexuality as being complex.

I have always asked questions as a part of my work in trying to delve into solving some of the complex sexuality problems that exist in the United States. In one workshop, I even included dying as well as sexuality when exploring the concept of consent in how we live all parts of our lives.

In particular, my experience as a gynecological teaching associate got me asking even deeper questions. What did it mean that I got paid money to let people touch my genitals? When did it feel most respectful, and when did it not feel respectful?

Soon I was asking questions such as: How was my letting future doctors and nurses practice pelvic exams on me similar to or different from sex work? And what was sex work anyway?

These questions led me to present at a conference for sex workers. I also presented at a conference held by the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance in Washington, D.C., an organization that supports a range of sexual freedom issues, including sex workers’ rights.

So, from all of these perspectives, the part of Erika Lyremark’s book that resonated the most with me was Stripper Tip #65: Don’t strip off the clock. She writes (p. 121):

But the one thing I didn’t like was the expectation that I would act like a stripper outside the club.
            At work, indulging someone’s fantasy was my job. Period. Outside of work, I was college-bound, book-loving Erika. I was not a topless exhibition waiting to happen and I was not pleased when strange men at a party would ask me for a dance.

These are the topics I talk about the most in my sexuality education work: the importance of honesty, respect, consent and the fact that it does not matter as much what we do or say as how we do it or say it.

I’ve learned about what is important after years of searching for answers to our serious sexuality problems in the United States, which include incest; rape; HIV/STIs; unplanned pregnancies; relationship problems and problems with intimacy; touch deprivation; discomfort with the body, emotions and sexuality; the lack of pleasure in our society and difficulty in experiencing orgasm.

It does not matter to me if someone exchanges sex for money. What matters to me is that there is respect, consent and dignity in every situation. It does not matter to me if someone is a stripper, exotic dancer or burlesque performer, or takes their clothes off in public for an audience or for money. What matters to me is that there is respect, consent and dignity in every situation. It does not matter to me what someone wears or if someone is in touch with sensuality or eroticism or sexuality in how they express themselves in the world. What matters to me is that we find a way to treat each other with respect in all situations—at home, at work, out in the street, at social gatherings, in relationships and in dating.

It does not matter to me if I am talking about sex and sexuality publicly or in my writings or undergoing pelvic exams for money. What matters is that I am shown respect.

I am a sexuality educator. I know that sometimes we start at zero with learning these skills of communication and respect and how to manage intimacy and consent in all parts of our lives. I find myself talking to people at bus stops, at temporary jobs and at parties because I feel so passionate about these issues. So it does not matter to me if someone needs to learn these skills from scratch or whether we make mistakes when trying to have fun and find love, sex and intimacy in our lives. What does matter to me is that we have an intention to learn, grow and do our best. We need to show respect and have consent in all situations in and out of the stripper club.

Stripping may have been mostly a job for Erika Lyremark, as she makes clear over and over in the book: her purpose for doing it was to make money. However, as a sexuality educator trying to solve some of the most serious sexuality problems in the United States, I will go on record as saying that I support people doing what they choose for work and money as long as it is consensual. The problem is not sex work or stripping or an exchange of money for sex or for anything else, including business coaching. The problem is when people feel they can be disrespectful for any reason.

Think Like a Stripper is officially for sale! http://tinyurl.com/ccgornd


Copyright 2013 by Susan Miranda.  All rights reserved.  No part of this writing may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright holder. For reprint permission, email miranda_susan@yahoo.com.