4-Year Follow-Up on “How I Overcame Bipolar II (and Saved My Own Life)”

I don’t usually revisit my past writing. But I feel it is now time to write this 4-year follow-up to one of my most popular pieces I’ve written, “How I Overcame Bipolar II–and Saved My Own Life.”

When I wrote that article in 2011, I had been symptom free for 4 years previously. This summer of 2015, looking back on it now, I had a major recurrence of mania. (You probably noticed if you were following my Facebook around May, June and early July!)

I say “looking back” because I didn’t realize something was wrong–you rarely realize something is wrong while in mania–until I crashed.

Since around mid-July of this year, I have been battling a very serious depression, which has brought me right up against my own will to live. I didn’t write about it until now because honestly, most of my attention has been going inward, trying to beat this, and I wasn’t ready to be public about it until now.

A lot of this was intertwined with drug use, and the stopping of drug use. The mania was both partial cause and partially caused by a binge in partying and use of psychedelics (mostly mushrooms, and a little-known designer drug called Moxy, but also 2CB and LSD) and GHB and pot, that started slowly the summer of 2014, after I had grieved my separation from Jena for 6 months.

After all the heaviness of that process, I wanted to go out and party and have some fun, which is exactly what I did. This started to build over that summer and fall of 2014 until it got, by my own reckoning (and some of those around me) out of control this past May, June and early July of 2015.

When I realized there was a problem, I stopped drugs, and immediately my mood crashed into a severe depression, that I am still battling today.

Once solidly in the depression, I realized that–probably owing a lot to my own partying–my bipolar symptoms had come back big time, and once again I needed to overcome them.

During my last battle with bipolar throughout my 20s, as covered in that article from 2011, I tried both lithium and lamictal, both of which I quit due to side effects that were intolerable to me. (Since it was dietary changes that ultimately helped me, some people think that that article was an argument against conventional pharmaceutical approaches, but it was not. It was my own personal story, that’s all, not an argument. As detailed in the article, I was completely open to pharmaceutical approaches, just as I am now, and stopped them only because of side-effects, not out of any philosophical or ideological opposition to mainstream psychopharmacology.)

During my last round of battling bipolar in my 20s, I was not regularly using illicit drugs, though I was drinking a lot of alcohol and coffee, and eating a ton of sugar. Cleaning up my diet, cutting out the alcohol, coffee, and refined sugar–plus the commitment to a yearlong challenge that gave me meaning and purpose–turned out to be enough to lift me out of my symptoms at that time.

This time, the first wave was a month of severe depression in which I experienced a total inability to feel any pleasure, and all I could think about was how pointless my existence was and how much better it would be to not be alive (though I wouldn’t pull that trigger, as it would crush my parents and those who love me.) After about a month of this, at my parents’ urging, I dragged myself to a new psychiatrist who–as in the last article–suggested lithium, and lamictal.

If you’ll recall from that article, I quit the lithium the last go-round because it caused the appearance of horrendous, pea-sized zits that I was not willing to put up with. 10 years later, my teenage/20something acne was now gone, and I figured it might be a different situation.

The mega-acne did not recur, and I have now been on lithium for 2 months. I definitely feel it keeping a lid on my mania. I also feel it slowing down my brain and, it feels to me, keeping a lid on my creativity. Also, it has more or less totally erased my libido, which is interesting to observe (for someone who has been so obsessed with sex). Slowing my creativity and losing my libido are not a long-term option for me. But honestly, things got so bad, I’m willing to trade these for a while to avoid the manias and get stabilized.

As fun as the manias are, they end up being destructive. And, as my psychiatrist pointed out, if you get into a mania, you *will* get depressed afterwards, there is no option to be manic without the following crash. So you have to treat the manias as well as the depressions. I’m hoping that, if I get everything balanced in my life, and stay off the high-producing drugs, etc., eventually I’ll be able to get off the lithium, as I’d like to have a healthy libido again!

We had hoped that the lithium would help the depression as well, but the it did nothing for the depression. So he put me on Abilify. That worked quickly, and lifted my depression for about 2 weeks, before it stopped working and the depression came back. The side effects were really bad as well–almost total insomnia, leading to intolerable fatigue, and also, an elephant-sized appetite, causing rapid weight gain.

The next line of defense against the depression has been lamictal. If you’ll recall from that article, I quit lamictal the last time because alarming amounts of hair were coming off my head in the shower when I took it. Well, since that time, I’ve finally thrown in the towel in my decade-long fight with male pattern baldness anyway, and lopped off my hair in April. So any added hair loss is not a problem!

I have high hopes for the lamictal but it has not kicked in yet, and might not for another month. In the meantime, I have tried a legal ketamine infusion. This is ironic, because I have in the past partied with ketamine illicitly. But it turns out ketamine has remarkable, fast-acting anti-depressant qualities, so much so that there are now legal clinics set-up where you can get an infusion for depression (though it doesn’t make you high smile emoticon (Google “ketamine and depression” if you’re curious.)

The first infusion didn’t do much for me, but I will try a few more in the spirit of leaving no stone unturned.

No stone unturned – that is my approach. It is a severe depression that makes almost every day it drags on intolerable. I have been sober (no alcohol, pot or illicit drugs) for 9 weeks, which has both made it harder psychologically (no escape!) but which I know is necessary. I’ve been exercising, getting a lot of sleep, avoiding sugar (I don’t drink coffee or alcohol anymore). I just went to a naturopath who took all kinds of blood tests–nutrient levels, thyroid, testosterone, food sensitivities, heavy metal toxicity, neurotransmitters.

I should probably meditate more. I will also probably start therapy soon. I had resisted that, because it felt to me like this was primarily chemical problem, massively fueled by all the chemicals I was pumping into my brain while partying. But a few months of sobriety has revealed to me underlying issues that I had not wanted to look at, and was probably using all those drugs to avoid looking at.

I need to get this bipolar beat once and for all, and I will do anything I can to do it.

The reason I write this is, it seems part of my purpose for living is to be open and honest about the dark side of life, the struggles that are equally a part of human existence as all the love and light, so that others don’t feel so alone.

I hope that by sharing this, anyone else who is struggling (or has a family member struggling) with mental illness can feel less alone, less ashamed, and less stigmatized. Fuck the stigmas around mental illness, it is something that millions of people are going through, and hopefully by talking openly about it there can start to be less shame around it. It’s not something I would have chosen for myself, but I am proud to be keeping up the fight to be well again, and to keep sharing my experience as I do.

Dominance for Nice Guys – Live in LA – With Nina Hartley and Michael Ellsberg

Around 100 million women bought 50 Shades of Grey–which means if you’re a guy, there are probably women standing around you at this very moment curious about exploring sexual submission to a man. It’s one of the biggest “open secrets” of hetero female sexuality.

If you’re an average “nice guy”—the kind that cares about women and respects them—you might think that this is not for you, that you have to be an emotionally damaged billionaire (or at least some kind of cocky alpha male asshole) to make a good Dom.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Because the reality is, average “nice guys” have what it takes to make the best Doms.

What??!! Huh??!!

Properly understood, hetero male Dominance is not (as in that book) some weird addiction on the part of the man who needs to get is “fix”, nor is it an acting out of actual cruelty. It is not an act of “taking” from the submissive female partner.

It is, in fact, an act of “giving” to the female submissive partner. Women seek out submission for many reasons, but usually one of those reasons is to experience what is called “sub space.” This is a glorious “vacation” from her rational, thinking, analyzing, planning mind–which she uses all day at work and after work as she goes about her to-do’s.

When being dommed well in bed, she gets to enter into a pure state of flow where she has no responsibilities in the outside world, no worries, no cares, she is simply present and following, as in a beautiful dance. It is an exquisite space of altered consciousness, as powerful and wonderful as any drug. All that remains for her is the present moment, a state of extreme focus and hyper-reality. It has to be experienced to be understood. You are not “taking’ from her in this space, you are guiding her her safely and expertly, like a tourguide to an exciting and exotic land.

Women who experience it for the first time, and can’t imagine what it’s all about, frequently beg for more once they experience it. It is super hot.

But there’s another open secret among women who desire this kind of play:

A good Dom–someone who can guide her into and out of subspace with expert care–is hard to find. Women who want to be dommed (which is a surprising percentage of women) complain about this all the time.


Not because it’s hard to find cocky, arrogant, full-of-themselves men (the stereotype of a Dom.)

No, such men (and Doms) are a dime a dozen.

The reason it’s hard to find a good Dom is that the #1 requirement of a good Dom is that he *care*–about a woman’s experience, her boundaries, her safety, her feelings, her heart–and that he treat these with the finest concern. A good Dom pays an enormous amount of attention to his partner’s experience, something that the cockier guys don’t know how to do.

That is the starting place of good Domming, and it’s actually the nice guys–the guys who would never intentionally harm a woman or treat her poorly, and who care deeply about consent and know how to pay attention well to a woman–that have this part down the best, not the cocky alphas.

For this reason, I have teamed up with Nina Hartley to teach an intimate, live, in-person workshop called “Dominance for Nice Guys”, coming up on the West Coast in October. Nina is one of the most famous porn stars in history. She has starred in over 1,000 adult films, and has been an outspoken voice and educator for the sexual empowerment and liberation of women and men alike. She has also been a registered nurse, is the author of “Nina Hartley’s Guide to Total Sex” (Penguin), played a role in Boogie Nights, and has made dozens of instructional sex videos, including “Nina Hartley’s Guide to Sensual Domination,” “Nina Hartley’s Guide to Sensual Submission,” “Nina Hartley’s Guide to Spanking.”

Nina has mentored me over many years, I have learned so much from her, and it is an honor to be teaching with her now.

In this daylong workshop, limited to only 20 men (for maximum attention), you’ll get personal 1-on-1 training in dominance from Nina and from me.

You will learn multiple practices and disciplines, from the Dom side, including:

–> How to set up a D/s scene so that her boundaries and consent are respected exquisitely. Not only does this keep her (and you) safe, but it also ensures she’ll want to play with you again and again.
–> Presence, frame control, and emotional confidence
–> Collar and leash
–> Spanking
–> Flogging
–< Hair-pulling
–> Secrets of dirty talk
–> The hottest erotic role play
–> How to talk to women about your new D/s skills in such a way that they’ll want to explore with you.

And yes, Nina is excited to let you practice all of these HANDS-ON, with her and another female professional submissive demo model, giving you real-time feedback until you’ve got these skills just right.

When you are confident that you can bring a woman safely into and out of subspace, and when you communicate about you skills clearly, you will find that a world of erotic opportunity opens up to you: there are so many women who want to experience this, and so few men able to provide it.

Our vision is a world in which all the women who fantasize about the hot kinky sex they read about in 50 Shades of Grey can have it–without the abusive and manipulative relationship dynamics in that book and film. That’s why we’re training nice guys how to engage in consensual, nourishing, mutual power dynamics. That’s why we want to train YOU.

It’s going to be a really fun day, with lots of interactive exercises and 1-on-1 practice with Nina and another female model (no nudity though), in a gorgeous, sunny, spacious private loft near downtown Los Angeles. For a modest investment, this 1 day will be a major game-changer for your sexuality, and will introduce you to the darker arts of sexuality in a safe, supportive, friendly context.

This workshop is coming up in Los Angeles on Saturday, October 17th. You can register here. For a limited time, use the code “NiceGuy” for a 33% discount ($250 off).

This is going to be a small, intimate group (limit 20) and Nina has nearly 300,000 fans on Twitter, many of them extremely devoted, who have been waiting for a chance to experience her live, and who will leap at the chance to spend a day with her and interact with her in this setting.

So if you’re at all interested in learning from us, coming up in October on the West Coast, sign up ASAP.

We look forward to seeing you in LA on the 17th!

–Michael & Nina

Having a Personality is Hard…

I just spent a few hours doing something I hope you never put yourself through—scrolling through a bunch of emails from marketing lists I had somehow gotten myself on.

These all offered some version of the same thing: overnight success with little work, dramatic results by applying tiny “tactics” and “tricks,” and secrets to simplifying the difficult areas of money, business, marketing, and also romance, love, and sex, as if these were just video games with hidden hacks.

As I read through these emails, I kept asking myself: would I invite the author of this email to a party I hosted, to become part of my social circle?

After all, if I wouldn’t want to socialize with this person, why would I want to do business with them? That’s my philosophy.

And the answer kept coming back: hell no.

I wouldn’t invite people into my social circle who:

  • Are pushy, aggressive, or manipulative
  • Are desperate to get something from me
  • Repeatedly make obviously oversold, overhyped promises
  • Have the bland personality of white toast with Velveeta cheez
  • Have no sense of humor (not even a darkly comic and cynical one like mine, but still…)
  • Or worse, have no sense of humor, so they borrow someone else’s, which hangs like an ill-fitting suit
  • Assume I’m a dumbass or a mark. (“Wow, your crappy free PDF bonuses are worth $8,347? [An actual claim I just saw.] No way! Had they been worth a dollar less than $8,330 I wouldn’t have gone for them. But the extra $17 of free value on top tipped me over. Thanks for the precision in your measuring of the value of your free reports and recorded teleseminars.”)

I nearly bashed my head into the computer. Why is this the state of marketing? I mean, I guess it’s always been this way, I can’t say it’s gotten “worse”….

But still. Why do most marketers leave you with a bad taste in your mouth, and a empty feeling in your gut?

I pondered this question. And then I pondered it some more.

And here is the answer I came to:

The #1 most important thing in marketing is to have personality. 

We’re way past the time when people sell primarily on price, features, or even benefits. There are usually competing products and services with similar prices, features, and benefits. The question is, why will they buy your product or service among all the competing ones?

The answer is, because they like you. I.e., they like your personality. They like doing business with you. They feel you’re “they’re kind of person.” They feel “gotten” and “seen” by you. You share similar values, a similar outlook and sensibility. They can relate to you.

Business is, after all, a human affair. Never underestimate how much these basic human considerations matter in business and marketing.

But here’s the thing.

Having personality–the kind that leaps out of the words, off the page or screen–is hard.

It’s hard for a bunch of reasons. Here are a few:

1. Your personality alienates many people–and you’re terrified of alienating people.

I once heard someone say something brilliant in a presentation: “A great brand repels as much as it attracts.” (I wish I had come up with this myself, but I didn’t, and I have been unable to track down the author of it. It is, alas, some unknown person who is very, very smart.)

Many people try to be liked by everyone. But the only way you can be liked by everyone is to be lukewarm and pleasant. And then, you’ll only be *moderately* liked. If you want to be insanely liked (in fact loved) by some people, you’ve got to risk being hated by some other people. That’s just the way human social life works.

The same reasons that some people think you’re one of the best things that ever came into their life, are the reasons other people think you’re an annoying freak. (That is as true of me as anyone with a strong personality.) Yet, we’re so afraid of others thinking we’re a freak, that we hide the strong, unusual parts of ourselves that would get others totally passionate and drawn towards us.

The result: bland marketing that relies on trickery, gimmicks, and formulas, rather than personality.

2. Your personality can’t be faked–and thus, there is no shortcut

Another reason personality is so powerful in marketing, is the same reason so few marketers have it: it can’t be faked. Just like you can spot a fake personality in someone at a party, you can spot it in marketing. (You’re just less used to calling it out in marketing, because you’ve gotten used to the idea that *all* marketers have fake personalities, or no personality. You’ve hardly ever seen anything different.)

It’s an unpopular message in teaching marketing: to do something that takes time and can’t be faked. But it is really the only true message. Truth, being one of those things that is not very popular in marketing.

3. Your personality comes in large part from difficult experiences in life–and marketing is “supposed” to be cheerful and chirpy. 

Some of our personality, of course, is genetic. But the rest of it is forged in the crucible of life: love requited and unrequited, rejections, humiliations, failures, and compensations and overcompensations in response to these.

To some people, these experiences are so painful they numb themselves out in a sea of chirpy bland personal growth messages to “look on the bright side.” They drown themselves not in the bottle, but on a steady diet of personal growth hogwash. They are unwilling to look deeply into the muck of the human soul and see anything of value.

Whereas, that same muck is the flavor of your personality. Have you ever heard of a great comedian or artist or musician whose art and expression didn’t come from inner muck? Our personal growth culture discounts the very wellspring of human creativity, leaving a sea of blandness.

If you can overcome these challenges, however, you will find an audience waiting to hear from you. 

Why? Because personality in business writing is so rare. Emotional honesty in business writing is so rare. Vulnerability in business writing is so rare. It’s so rare to read business writing, and feel like you’re actually hearing from a human being rather than a collection of “tips and tricks” that writer gleaned from the latest marketing seminar or “free report” (even if that free report was a “$347 value!”)

Ultimately, people want to do business with other humans, not with “formulas” or “templates” or cliches from Warrior Workshops taught in the Fern Room of the Ramada Inn.  

Normally, the questions you ask yourself about your own business writing are: Did it convert? Did it sell? Did it persuade?

These are perfectly fine business questions. And any business that ignores them will have problems. But any business that ignores the following questions will also have problems:

  • Did I come across as a human being in this writing?
  • Did my audience learn something from me?
  • Did my audience feel respected, and taken seriously by this writing?
  • My favorite: Did my audience laugh, and/or gain some new insight into the absurdity of the human condition?

This latter set of questions is the one that will keep your audience reading for the long haul. It’s the set of questions that will have them read the next communication from you, and the next one, even if they weren’t interested in the previous ones–because they know that you’re not BSing and eventually you’re going to send them something that’s just right for them.

Does your business writing have personality?

I am, first and foremost, a writer of freaky nonfiction. Copywriting happens to be an area I focus on because–as I wrote in Education of Millionaires–it is the area of writing that is most lucrative. Which allows me to subsidize my more freaky, experimental writing about psychedelics, art, spirituality, mental health, philosophy, and Eros (my true passions), which express me and my personality more fully.

Because I come to copywriting as a die-hard artistic writer, I bring a writer’s sensibility to my work. I’m unwilling to support or condone more bland, personality-free, superficial writing in the world, even if it pays the bills. I just respect the medium too much for that.

So I won’t let you get away with lame, boring, Velveeta-cheez whiz type copy. I want you to bring more of yourself to your writing. I want your audience to look forward to every communication you send them.

To that end, I can’t create a product or formula for you. Because it has to do with YOU. And you don’t fit into a formula.

What I can do is spend time getting to know you, by reading your material, and talking on the phone. Here’s what I propose.

Send me all or most of your recent marketing material. Emails, web copy, reports, sequences, follow-up emails.

I will read everything you send me, then I’ll talk on the phone with you, get more of a sense of you, and I will personally show you how to make your marketing sparkle and sizzle with your own personality. 

Of course, I can’t *give* you or your brand’s personality. And you wouldn’t want me to. But I can help you uncover it. I can help you get in touch with it. I can help you develop the courage to show it. I can help you overcome your fear of being vulnerable.

Is it time to show more of yourself in your business writing? Is it time to trust that the right people will be drawn to you and will be incredibly excited to do business with you, even as others get scared away by your rawness and openness? Is it time to take the leap onto the page, the leap into knowing that you don’t have to hide yourself or your personality in business–and in fact, into knowing that your genuine, unapologetic personality is your greatest asset?

Is it time to assume that your audience wants more of your full personality, not less?

If so, let me spend 2 hours on your business, your writing, and you. I’ll read all the stuff you send me (usually somewhere between 30-45min), and the rest of the time we’ll spend on the phone together going over it.

I will show you two simple things:

  • Where and how you can let more of yourself shine through your writing, and make a more powerful impression on the page
  • Where you should give up bad marketing habits–pushed by all the “seminars” and “masterminds” that litter the landscape–that mark you as generic and formulaic.

If you can start replacing the latter with the former, you’re going to start engaging your audience much more, and standing out more, and drawing people towards your products and services more.

Think of it as two hours of private access to my marketing brain, focused entirely on you, all for a reasonable price.

(Notice, I didn’t say, “Only a few spots left!” etc. Because that’s bullshit. If you want my help, and you have a business where this moderate level of investment makes sense, then I’m happy to help.)


Why I Support #Amnesty4SexWorkers

Tomorrow, Amnesty International starts deciding whether to formally adopt its draft call to end the criminalization of consenting, adult sex workers. I just added my voice to a petition supporting Amnesty’s sensible proposal, which strongly distinguishes between sex work among consenting adults, and trafficking and children in sex work, which are already illegal.

The petition was organized by the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, whose membership is made of “237 sex worker-led organisations in 71 countries across the globe.” This petition calls for the full support of Amnesty’s proposal, and defends it against the list of famous actors attacking Amnesty publicly.

(The actors call instead for a version of the “Swedish model” on sex work, which is almost universally condemned by sex work activists. Here is an article in the New Republic by a female sex worker showing all the severe problems with the Swedish model, and showing why most sex work activists instead support the New Zealand model of decriminalization and harm reduction, similar to Amnesty’s proposed model.)

Here is what I wrote along with my petition. Please join me in supporting Amnesty International and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects by signing this petition before the meeting, so that Amnesty doesn’t get swayed out of their important proposal. You can also find much more information via #Amnesty4SexWorkers on Twitter.


[Why did I sign this petition?] “Because there is nothing wrong with selling or buying sexual services if the people doing so are consenting adults. Adult sex workers are, first and foremost, adults, and should have the full right to choose to use their own bodies however they please, with safety and protection under the law just like any other worker. Clients should have the option to explore their sexuality however they please with consenting adult sex workers without the shaming and stigmatization of criminalization. Trafficking and using children in sex work are already illegal. Decriminalization of consensual adult sex work will reduce every individual and social harm and risk associated with sex work, while making illegal trafficking and use of children in sex work easier to discern and prosecute. I’m sorry that so many well-intentioned actors got roped into lending their credibility to attack Amnesty’s totally sensible and well-thought-out Draft Policy. I stand in full support of Amnesty’s Policy, and of the sex workers and sex work organizations that have raised their voices to defend it.” -M.E.

Sexy Psychodrama of the Absurd: Psychedelics and Sexual Healing in Lovership

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be giving this talk at the Breaking Convention international psychedelics conference at the University of Greenwich, London, on Saturday, July 11th.

This is already an “edgy” conference (psychedelics being studied at an academic institution). And I’m proud that I’m the guy who is delivering the really really edgy talk at the edgy conference :)

Sexy Psychodrama of the Absurd: Psychedelics and Sexual Healing in Lovership

It is no secret that sex and psychedelics can go together quite well, but what is less discussed is that psychedelics can be powerful tools for sexual healing, when used with this intention. Archetypes such as Mother, Father, Daughter, Son, Sister, Brother, which may have been the source of one’s deepest sexual repression or victimization in childhood or adolescence, can be re-accessed, re-embodied, and re-worked in psychedelic space, with a loving partner. As can any manner of other powerful, light-bearing or demimonde archetypes. When the other partner is also embodying reciprocal archetypes, lovers can enter into a space I call “sexy psychodrama of the absurd,” where old scripts and dramas from the past can be re-written with a more empowering emotional tone and resolution.

This is not a “beginner” practice; the path of intentionally stirring the Freudian and Jungian snake pits of our sexual souls, while journeying on medicine, is fraught with danger. Nonetheless, those taking psychedelics are already rule-breakers and convention breakers, seeking or at least open to intense experience. There are few experiences more intense–and full of potential for healing and transformation–than re-living old psychodramas from the empowered and malleable place of psychedelic ritual.

The average psychedelic trip shared between lovers already contains a potent mix of dramas, projections, age regressions, archetypes, mindfucking, and (hopefully) really hot sex. This is a call to begin discussing how these threads can be woven together, so the results can be intentionally chosen, for growth, healing and empowerment. This is a cutting-edge discussion, and few professional researchers or practitioners—already leery of the stigma of association with drugs—want to also add the stigma of sex to their resume.

In other words, little academic research has been done. But fortunately, your intrepid psycho-sexual explorer for this session is here to share his tales, findings, and tools field, where sex meets the psychedelic subconscious. Participants will leave with a deeper understanding of how psychedelics relate to their sexuality and potential avenues for healing and exploration and pleasure, along with tools to minimize risks associated with these edgy explorations.

I hope to see you there in London! Also, I’ve hardly ever spent any time in London, so if there are people there I need to meet, or things I need to get connected to “whilst” there, please do let me know, via the contact page on this site, in the comments section here, or via Facebook PM!

Also also, I don’t have a place to stay yet. Anyone have an extra couch, or better yet, a spare bed I could sleep on, somewhat near the conference–and/or after the conference for like a week? (After the conference can be anywhere in London.) Fun times promised, from the most chaste to the most wild, whatever your preference. I’m down to meet anyone interesting.

Best Sexy Friends

Life is too short to not be having great sex. A lot of great sex.

Yet, if you’re single, this can present a problem. The options for getting some soon are: (1) seek out a romantic relationship, with all the delicious but challenging dramas, plot-twists and ups-and-downs that falling in love anew can present. Or, (2) play the “hook up” game in bars and clubs or on your smart phone.

Neither of these options seem like the right choice, if really what you want most immediately is just really good, earth-shattering, mind-blowing sex in a way that makes you feel safe AND excited.

And if you’re in a relationship, and the sex is not working, it may be that another year or two of therapy, processing your childhood wounds, “communicating your feelings” in that not-very-sexy way that relationship self-help books recommend, may eventually lead to great sex with your partner again. Or it may not–you never know. If you’re monogamous, and the sex is not working well, then that’s what’s available, for better or worse.

But you still want great sex now. If you’re single, or if you’re in a relationship and have permission from your partner to explore beyond the realms of monogamy, then there is another answer, besides the hook-up merry-go-round.

That answer is Best Sexy Friends.

Six months ago, I wrote what turned out to be one of the most popular articles I’ve ever written: “How to Be a Woman’s Best Sexy Friend“.

That particular article was primarily written for hetero men—but for anyone of any gender or sexual orientation, a Best Sexy Friend is a sexually experienced friend you can explore your sexuality within a loving, safe, ongoing, nurturing environment with continuity, without the pressures or ups-and-downs of a relationship, and without the randomness and emotional upheaval of the hook-up scene.

This is different than a “fuck buddy” because I take the word *friend* VERY seriously. When you are someone’s best sexy friend, you are showing up for them first and foremost as a FRIEND–a true friend–in the realm of sexuality, and beyond. Instead of being their BFF, you are their BSF. There is a code of honor for earning the privilege of being a BSF—as described in that article–and I take that code very seriously.

Dozens of people, of all genders and orientations, wrote me, saying that they were longing to find this too, and asking how they could find a BSF in their own life. (A few even asked me if *I* could be their BSF, though I have not taken anyone up on that yet :) And over 200 people, women and men, signed up for a list I created offering more information on the topic.

I was blown away by the passion of the response. I knew I wanted to do something with this concept, but I wasn’t sure what.

A few weeks ago, my (former) assistant Kim Howerton asked me what I wanted to focus on for the rest of 2015. Having just completed a major book project, a business book coming out next year from Penguin, I wasn’t sure what my next direction was. I asked her what she thought I should focus on.

She said, “I think you should do something with that Best Sexy Friends concept. Of all your stuff I’ve read, that is the freshest, most exciting and original concept I’ve seen you write about recently.”

“What would you see doing with it?” I asked.

“I think there should be workshops, teaching people how they can find this in their own life. And a community where people can find their BSFs.”

As soon as she said it, I instantly knew, right then and there, that this needed to exist. On the spot, I asked her if she knew anyone else good who could be my assistant starting immediately, because I wanted her to quit assisting me and instead start this business together.

Since I’m more of the writer/speaker/explorer/freak type, and she’s the make-shit-happen one in our duo, I suggested to her that she be the CEO and run the thing. She said yes, and now we’re 50/50 partners in this business.

And now, some words from Kim Howerton, our CEO

Why are we creating this?

We’ve noticed some things…

1. There are hungry people not getting what they crave.
2. A lot of people find the sex they DO have is disappointing.
3. The underfucked person problem is a REAL issue. Both in terms of quantity and quality.

Dreamers, creators and visionaries can not afford this kind of scarcity. Genius requires fertile soil.

We are the entrepreneurs, leaders, thinkers. If we are the type that has “think different” imprinted on our genome, how can we ask less of ourselves the same in our personal lives?

We are looking for the strivers… the seekers… the people who ask for more.

If you are satisfied with brunches on Sunday, a beer after work and a BJ on your birthday… we might not be your peeps. (Though we totally love brunch. And BJ’s. Yummy.)

Many of us have intrinsically known this–we’ve given half-assed attempts at making many different traditional relationships WORK. We knew what it took–and we just couldn’t quite do it.

Maybe we were young when we realized we were different.
Maybe we got to our late 30’s and 40’s and realized the truth that our path was not going to be “normal”.

The dominant culture has sort of fucked us. And not in a good way.
Men feel traumatized by women’s clingy attached profile. Women NEVER feel truly handled. Hubris has replaced confidence in men’s training. Women live lives passive aggressively destroying themselves.

What goes wrong when you are underfucked? EVERYTHING. Your power is your sex and vice versa.

How do we create a safe haven of pressure-less play with love and consciousness where everyone wins? How do we create that paradigm?

Instead of women vision boarding “the one” (oh dear god, not another “Inviting the One” seminar!) they want their ass well handled by an equal. But it often feels hard to find an equal.

Instead of men learning how to neg in “pickup” trainings so they can take home the insecure girl who is underwhelming in bed, they crave a skilled, exciting woman who can call their game and up the ante.

People deserve more. We are co-creating a community of women and men who want to come together and solve this problem together. We want you to be a part of this community from the ground floor. Because being this kind of sexual relating badass is not so much fun to do by yourself.

You need other players for a good game. To shine you need the polishing you get from rubbing against other amazing people. We aim to make that rub as pleasurable and effective as possible. (The best way to find an actually GOOD relationship is when you REALLY aren’t looking. But hey, here are amazing folk: maybe you can find someone to be amazing with this very weekend.)

We aim to reclaim the “Friend Zone” Wouldn’t the “Friend Zone” be awesome if it was the “Best Sexy Friend” Zone? Why should friendship and sexual exploration be two different categories? In fact, what *better* basis is there for safe, ongoing, nurturing sexual relationship, than friendship?

This is the Friend Zone you actually want to be in, guys! And ladies, this Friend Zone will make your life sizzle.

There is a wonderland of play and growth possible with the right group of people. You can have it. Period. No matter what your circumstances are.

Get involved in our growing community!

We have a Best Sexy Friends Facebook Page here, and an all-gender Best Sexy Friends Facebook Group here.

Join us!

Kim Howerton & Michael Ellsberg

Gaia Kink – Chapter 1: Energy Sex Healers

Photo by Proxyminder

My latest education about women, and sex, began the day I met Catalina. Before I go any further, a caveat about her name. She does not go by that name publicly (yet.) It is a name I gave her years after I met her, while she was spanking the shit out of my ass. Catalina is a professional sensual spankstress. She is, by my reckoning, the most refined ass smacker on the planet: fine enough for a lady’s bottom (and trust me, the ladies flock to her), fierce enough for my intransigent ass. She is a master, and I am her disciple. But I digress.

I was on Catalina’s massage table for the first time. I had found her on the Net, advertising massage, and I was there for a regular, therapeutic massage. This was before I knew she was a spankstress, and long before I had started calling her that. (I’ll just keep calling her that, though, so as not to use her real name. By the way, she has read this and I do have her consent to post it.)

As she massaged me, we were deep in a conversation that meandered from topic to topic. Eventually, the conversation meandered to sex (as it does tend to do, when I am talking.)

“I’ve been feeling really shut down sexually lately,” she said.

“Why is that?” I asked.

“I think I have a lot of sexual shame still, that I haven’t worked through.”

We talked more about some of the details. Eventually, I became convinced that I knew of just the perfect place for her to visit, to experience an opening around her sexual closure.

“OK, I have a crazy proposal,” I said. “You’re totally free to say ‘no thanks.’ But I just want to put it out there.”

“What is it?” she asked.

“I’m going to a private play party in Bolinas tomorrow night. It is organized by a guy who is, in my opinion, by far the best play party organizer on the West Coast, Philippe Lewis, for his birthday. It will just be friends, and friends-of-friends.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard of Philippe,” she said. “I’ve been wanting to go to one of his parties for a while.”

“Good. Yes. So, the intention of the party is to create a safe space for people to explore their sexual selves, without shame. It will be full of women and men who are committed to living their lives without sexual shame. Given what you told me, I really think you need to be there, to meet everyone there. I think it could be a night that changes everything for you.

“Now, I know this is strange for a stranger to invite you to a play party for the next night. But I want you to know something.” I slowed down my speech, looked up, and made strong eye contact with her. “If you came with me, my top priority would be your comfort. I would make sure you felt completely safe and comfortable with me, and with everyone else around you at the party. I would put zero—and I mean absolutely zero—pressure on you to act any particular way with me.”

“Wow,” she said. “That sounds really intriguing. I definitely need to think about it for a night. But I’ll also definitely consider it. Can I let you know tomorrow?”

“Absolutely,” I said. I pulled up the invite for the party on my phone and showed it to her. “You can see that he puts a lot of intention into creating a really safe space.”

“Yes, I see that,” she said. “This party does sound like just the right thing for me.”



After the massage, and after we had traded a few dance moves (we are both dancers,)  she was walking me down the hall towards the door. She stopped, and said, “I need you to know something.”

“Yes?” I asked.

“I haven’t had sex for three years.”

“Really?” I asked. “Was that intentional?”

“Yes. I’ve intentionally chosen to be celibate these past three years.”

“Wow. What inspired that choice?” I asked.

“I haven’t been able to find a way for men to show up in my life sexually that feels right to me. So I decided to take some space from sex, and from men.”

“I want to hear more about that,” I said. “And, one thing seems for certain. Even if we do go to the party together tomorrow night, let’s decide that we won’t have intercourse. We just won’t go there.”

“Thank you for saying that,” she said. “We can definitely dance, and play, and find a flow that works for us. But no, I’m not open to intercourse with you tomorrow night, if I go with you.”

“Deal,” I said, holding out my hand to shake. “No intercourse.”

“Deal,” she said, with a smile and an eye-sparkle, shaking my hand.


Upon returning home, I wrote her this email:

I know it’s kind of an intense thing to go to a party like this with someone you’ve just met – but you also seem like the kind of person who is up for unexpected adventures.

My commitment to you is that you would feel safe and respected at all times, and all your boundaries would be 100% respected at every moment, by me and everyone else there.  (Also, please know, I may be sensually active with other women there.)

It would be best if you could let me know by tomorrow morning if you’d like to join me. Feel free to call with any questions.

I want to dance with you, with your being….


The next morning, I awoke to find this email:

Yes… this event sounds great, and I’m excited to meet your community.  I am committing to go on this journey/ adventure/dance with you. I already shared with you some of my hard boundaries so I trust that I will be safe. I am looking forward to movement/play/ dance/exploration with you, within that safe container.  Knowing that you may be sensually active with other women there is not only a huge turn on (as i like watching) but lowers the intensity I may be feeling about sharing my whole weekend with a sexy beautiful stranger .

I feel the magik unfolding and am open to its many gifts. xox



At the party, we were shown to a small, womb-like room—our room for the  night—with a futon taking up the entire floor. I pulled out some pot and we smoked.

We embraced, and started grinding. And then, something happened that changed my life.

I felt my sexual energy entering her. I felt her receiving it, and giving it back to me, with hers. I felt my own energy adding to hers, giving it back to her, back and forth, back and forth.

What is “sexual energy”? Here is the most simple way I can explain it, for those who are not familiar with (or who are skeptical of) this concept. You know when you are receiving oral sex, and if it is really good, you can feel tingling waves and pleasurable vibrations running throughout your whole body? In some sense, the oral sex is pleasuring the entire body, even though there is physical contact with the genitals. Well, this is exactly what was happening—intensely pleasurable sexual energy was pulsating through our entire beings—without even the oral sex part, just the grinding.

You could say this was happening in part because we were stoned. And certainly, we’ve discovered in our later explorations, being stoned does help in opening up to feeling sexual energy. However, we discovered, there was a more important reason this was happening.

“You know,” I said, “when you told me you hadn’t had intercourse for three years, my heart sank a little bit, for just that moment. While of course I was going to respect your boundaries and keep my commitment to you no matter what, I’m also really attracted to you, and part of me had hoped, when I first invited you to the party, that we were going to fuck if you did come to the party. You’re super hot. How could I not want to fuck you? So in that moment, when you told me you had been celibate for so long, I just knew it would be a bad idea to even consider that, which is when I suggested we not do it. I meant that suggestion sincerely. Yet, to be totally honest, part of me was a little bummed. Of course, it was never a question that I’d expect that from you, or pressure you. But that’s just my normal guy thing, wanting my cock to be involved somehow.”

“Well, your cock is involved somehow,” she said, smiling and pulling me tighter to grind her through her underwear.

“Yes. I’m not complaining. No way. I’m just saying…. Now that I’m experiencing this with you here, I’m really grateful for your boundaries.”

She let out a huge smile. “No man has ever said that to me before. Why are you grateful for my boundaries?”

“We’re experiencing this amazing thing, and I don’t think we would be experiencing it had fucking been an option. I would have been so excited by the possibility, all my normal patterns and programs around sex would have been activated, and on some level, however subtly, I would have been guiding, leading, seducing towards the direction of fucking. But knowing that that wasn’t an option, and removing any ‘goal’ for the night, allowed me to slow down, and discover all the pleasure we can have, without fucking.”

“Yes, it’s amazing how hot we can get, without having sex,” she said.

“We are having sex,” I said.

“Yes, we are,” she said, as we continued grinding, and circulating our sexual energy.

“Energy sex,” I said.

“Yes, energy sex.”


An hour into our energy sex, we had both completely lost sense of our normal, day-to-day selves. We felt as though we had dematerialized into vortexing flows of sexual energy, spiraling in and out each other.

Catalina started weeping gently.

I stopped our energy sex, and held her. After a few minutes had passed, I asked her, “What is going on for you?”

She waited a few moments to respond. “I feel so safe with you. I’ve never felt this way with a man before. I feel as though you are healing deep mistrust I have towards men. I know that you are going to respect my boundaries the whole night, and that allows me to let go and run free sensually in all the other ways I have been longing to with a man for so long. Thank you, Michael. You are a powerful man. You are a powerful healer.”

At that point, I started weeping with her. I had never been called a “powerful man” before. And I had certainly never been called a “healer.”

Before that moment, I had no conception that my own sexuality could be a healing force. My own sexuality had occurred to me primarily as an urge that needed to be satiated. I had become skilled at getting that urge satiated. I could be seductive. I was even open to the idea that I was a “good lover.” I was certainly a conscientious lover—as conscientious as one could be when trying primarily to get an urge satiated. I put attention on my lovers’ satisfaction. I made sure they came before I did.

But healing through my sexuality? My own sexuality contributing to a woman, other than giving her some pleasure (as I sought my own) and showing her a good time? I wouldn’t have even considered it.

Until Catalina told me. And in that moment, a new world of my own sexuality opened up to me. “Through allowing my own sexuality to support you in your healing with men, you are also healing me. You are getting me to see that my sex is powerful, and has value beyond a mere basic drive. We are healing each other.”

We lay there, in a cuddle of tears and energy-orgasmic bliss.



 As we began to arouse from our post-energy-orgasm bliss and our puddle of tears, Catalina looked at me a little nervous and said, “I have something to tell you.”

“Yes?” I asked.

“Well, there’s this thing I like, and I haven’t told many people I like it.”

“What is that?”

“I really like being spanked,” she said. “I have spanked men for money. But my little secret is I really like getting spanked too.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Would you be willing to try it?” she asked.

It seems like such a long time ago, writing these words now, because at that time I thought this was strange. I didn’t judge her for it—I was already past judging her for anything—but I just didn’t “get it.” Why would a grown person possibly want to be spanked, by a lover? Isn’t that humiliating? I wondered.

And, one of my highest values is pleasing my lover. So if it’s something she’s into, so long as it doesn’t violate my most basic values around consent, I’m willing to give it a shot.

“How do I do it?” I asked.

Catalina leaned forward, exposing her dancer’s booty. “Just try it,” she said. “Give it your best shot.”

I had never spanked anyone in my life. I raised my hand above her ass and brought it down with a harsh THWACK. Catalina let out a minor frown, and showed no signs of pleasure. A few more attempts like this were met with no more signs of success, and soon I said, “Why don’t we try this again another time.” She didn’t protest the suggestion.

Catalina later told me: “One of the things I had been searching for at that point in my life is my Dom. I provided this spank service to men, but for me that was a work thing. I wanted a man to do it to me for pleasure. But I didn’t really believe my Dom was out there and I felt scared to ask any man at that time. Asking you to spank me was a test to see if you were it. You failed the test in that moment. Your spanks were awkward, stiff. There wasn’t much warm-up. It was not at all how I like to receive a spanking. Though of course, you later recovered, and have since learned very well.”



After we had been in the room for ninety minutes or so, we realized it was time to re-integrate into the party, with our newly expanded sexual selves. Catalina reached into her bag, and pulled out a long wooden paddle. It had the relatively light density of a classroom ruler, but it was wider.

“What are you going to do with that?” I asked.

“You’ll see,” Catalina said.

We exited the room, to find ourselves in the downstairs living room, which in that moment was doubling as the main “sex room” of the party. About a dozen people were engaged in all kinds of explicit sexual acts. Catalina and I found ourselves on a bed, talking to some of my friends.

Ten minutes later, nearly all the activity and sound in the room came to a halt, and all that remained was the sound of lightweight wood hitting flesh, and a woman’s orgiastic screams, emanating right behind me on the bed.

I turned around.

Catalina’s hand was like a vibrator, shaking the paddle on a woman’s ass as she writhed and moaned and screamed. (By the way, the woman described here has also read this piece and consenting to me sharing it.) It seemed as though she was going through some kind of emotional exorcism; amidst the screams of pleasure were tears, wails, sighs, and the sounds of a woman crying in both joy and grief at the same time.

Though people had been fucking, sucking, and carrying on as if they were on the set of a porn shoot in the room, this performance stole the show. We were all transfixed for a ten minutes straight—a long span of attention in a room otherwise full of people fucking—as Catalina smacked layers and layers deeper into this woman’s emotional being, through her emotional bottom.

Finally, Catalina began to slow down, and sensually traced the paddle over the woman’s bottom and the rest of her body. Then, she put the paddle down, and starting nourishing the woman’s skin on her ass with a soft touch, as if wiping in powder on a baby’s bottom. The woman lay in a spent puddle, weeping and gasping softly. After many moment of silence, the room burst into an applause.

Catalina later told me: “For me, this scene was a dream come true. I had been doing this work on men, for pay, but I had never been witnessed by anyone other than my male clients, and my interest in spanking was something I hardly talked about to anyone else. It had been this secret thing I did on the side. I wanted to give this and receive this with lovers, but I didn’t know how to ask for it. Specifically, I didn’t know how to create boundaries to explore other options, besides having a male lover think that—just because I spanked him or vice versa—that meant we were also going to fuck. Because I was not open to that.

“The experience with you, that night, taught me that I could express my boundaries, and I could actually get (much of) what I wanted, without having to do the other stuff I didn’t want to do. That emboldened me to then go get more of what I wanted, which was to be seen and witnessed in my spanking, and also to spank a girl. I had always wanted to spank a girl. That night was my first time. It was a night of many firsts.”

This is Chapter 1 of Gaia Kink: What I’ve Learned From Women About Sex (a Witchy Memoir)

If you like my writing, please consider becoming my patron of the arts.

Gaia Kink: What I’ve Learned From Women About Sex (a Witchy Memoir)

Chapter 1: Energy Sex Healers

If you like my writing, please consider becoming my patron of the arts.

My Convoluted Initial Coming Out as Queer

[Reprinted from a Facebook post here.]

I am more and more coming to believe that the term “hetero” probably does not apply to me, and that some term related to the concept of “queer” probably does. However, I’m not quite sure what the best term for me is. I would like to decide on a label that I feel accurately self-describes my sexual orientation. And, since I feel a bit confused in the matter, I would like to “crowdsource” support, as it were, from others on FB here who are more personally experienced than I am at thinking these matters through, or at least, opining on whether what I’ve come to around this makes sense (all reasonably informed opinions and perspectives welcome!) Thank you in advance for listening to me think aloud here, and for any ideas, suggestions, or support.

Before I go any further, let me be more clear about what I am asking support for. I am not asking for any support in actually coming to terms with my own sexuality, beyond literally coming to a *term* for it: the mere word for it. There are words (i.e., labels), and there are things that happen in bedrooms (and on floors, etc.) I’m talking about words here. I’m quite happy with what is happening in the bedroom: with the sex I’m having, and with whom I’m having it.

Nor is this in any sense an issue of shame or even really any sort of challenge or hesitation around “coming out.”

That I’m coming out seems quite clear to me. But coming out as what? That is less clear to me. What I would like support in, from people with personal experience thinking through these matters for themselves, is how I can talk about it, and label it (and yes, I would like to have some descriptive label for my sexuality, whatever that label is) in a way that feels like it communicates something meaningful and true about me. I’m a writer. I like personally meaningful and true words.

So here are, as a lawyer might say, the “facts.” At first, this might seem like pretty “hetero” fare… But keep reading… (Spoiler Alert!)… There’s definitely something non-mainstream and quite arguably “queer” going on once you read on a bit.

So, I am a cisgender man, and I am not particularly interested in genital/romantic/sexual contact with other men, cis or trans. It’s not that I would never ever consider doing it or could never imagine myself doing it (say, at a sex party, which I host at times, or while my inhibitions have been lowered while high on pot or psychedelics, which I am at times.) The idea of me doing that certainly doesn’t *repulse* me in any way, and such scenarios have even showed up in my fantasies on occasion. It just really doesn’t interest me erotically now, as something I would actually do, at least not anytime soon. It doesn’t “tickle my pickle,” as they say.

So, if we are to consider genital contact as the main metric (a questionable, but still common, way of figuring these things), and even if we are to consider fantasies, I’m pretty darn hetero. To the extent my genitals and/or fantasies are involved with another person, and/or to the extent I’m involved with another person’s genitals or fantasies, that other person has been a cis woman.

Furthermore, I identify with the word “masculine” (whatever others think of that word, it has meaning to me personally, and I don’t care to abandon it as a descriptive term for myself). Whereas my cis female partners typically identify as “feminine.”

Insofar as I am kinky and practice power exchange (which is quite insofar…) I typically take the more “Dom” role. And my female lover typically takes the more “sub” role in the Dom/sub dynamic.

So what is the question then? Why not just call myself a kinky hetero Dom, or something like that?

Well… Even though my lovers are cis females, things get pretty, um, non-typical, in a very gender-bendy way. I will often role play a woman. She will often role play a man. I’m starting to cross-dress at times, which I enjoy very much. Sometimes we’ll role play two women getting it on together. Sometimes we’ll role play two men getting it on.

This isn’t just purely shits and giggles either. We often *take on* these identities, as if “channeling” characters, for long stretches, in extended and very involved scenes. I will often sub to her as a man or a woman, she will often dom me as a man or a woman, sometimes switching mid-scene. (In terms of power exchange, I’m a switch, and my lovers are almost exclusively switches. We go both ways, Dom and sub, often in “rapid cycling.”)

We then get into all kinds of what I call “Freudian kink,” where we become Mommy and Daddy and baby and son and daughter and brother and sister, in all sorts of twisted age-regressions (all in role play, of course, with consenting adults) and we are interacting in every conceivable direction in the most naughty, kinky, Oedipal ways.

A lot of this could just be called “kink” or “power exchange,” which are non-gendered terms. Certainly, a lot of kink, fetish and power exchange has nothing to do with gender at all. It’s just… not vanilla. But my particular non-vanilla kinks and power exchange involve a LOT of play with gender.

That’s just for starters. To go any further might risk “TMI”, but let’s just say that “energy cocks” and “energy pussies” make their frequent appearances (more on these phenomena another time), within me and within my partner, often both of them within both of us at the same time– a kind of hermaphroditism on the energetic level. And strap ons for the ladies. And… you get the picture. It’s not Ozzie and Harriet in here.

While, from a purely anatomical, genital perspective, this all remains “hetero” (as in, cocks interacting with pussies), it seems fair to say that, even if it could all still be considered primarily “hetero” (a medium-to-big “if” I would say), what I am practicing is certainly not a version of hetero that Focus on the Family or the good Christians down at Westboro Baptist Church would find, um… (to mix up the metaphors)… kosher.

So how do I refer to my sexuality? Gay or bi or homosexual aren’t the right fit for me as labels, as I am not interacting sexually (yet) with anyone who identifies as a man, nor am I seeking to at the moment. But hetero doesn’t feel quite right for me either anymore, as I feel quite outside the mainstream in terms of the gender dynamics that attract me. What are some other options?

(The one term I have found that seems most precisely accurate, when I read exactly what people mean by it, is “queer heterosexual”–look it up on Wiki. But, with no offense to those who find that term meaningful, for my own ears it just sounds kind of… watered-down, as if I would be desperate to say, “I’m not *really* queer folks!”)

I meet many people who identify as “genderqueer”. While there is clearly something akin to genderbending or genderfucking going in my own sexuality, the term “genderqueer” itself doesn’t seem quite right for me either. My understanding is that people who identify as genderqueer are actively questioning the gender-binary for themselves and society, and mostly operating outside of that binary. I respect that, and yet, in my personal life, I am not involved in that dialogue. I still identify as a “man” and as “masculine.” I have no problem with other people critiquing and questioning the gender binary, as it well deserves critique and questioning, but I still mostly live within it for myself (just as I still live within “American democracy,” another concept ripe for critique and questioning. But that is another matter.) Pansexual, while again a wonderful term for those who identify with it, doesn’t seem to fit for me, the way I understand people who identify as that to mean it. And on and on. I could go down a list of sexual-orientation and gender-identity labels that don’t quite seem to fit me.

One might saw “Why have a label?” And that is fair. But, I mean, a lot of other people all across the spectrum of sexual orientation have labels that feel comfortable and accurate for them, and which they wear with pride. For a variety of reasons, I’d like to find my own comfortable, accurate self-description of sexual orientation.

So is it really just… “queer”? In so far as “queer” is commonly used by those who identify with it to mean: seriously fucking with mainstream, traditional gender roles… then this seems a fair description. I’m fine with that. I like the term quite a lot.

The reason I’m making such a big to-do out of this is, first, I’m relatively new to thinking about this–the last year or so–and even newer to thinking aloud in writing (which is how I do my best thinking!)… so things are obviously not super clear in my own mind yet.

And second, I’m not particularly interested in pissing off other people who also identify with any given term, as they have surely spilled more blood–figuratively and in many cases literally– over that term than I have (my own blood spilled being zero.) I’m not at this time intending to take on a politicized, activist stance with my own sexuality. I’m actually, literally, just looking for the right word for myself. I’m a writer; I take words seriously.

One might say, “What do you give a fuck what others think, just own your thang! Call yourself whatever you like! Call yourself mashed potatoes if you want!” And that is a fair sentiment. But a lot of people have suffered–I mean really suffered the most extreme emotional and physical violence, as well as prejudice and discrimination–for being “queer.” So, out of respect, I don’t take a label like that on in a flip or casual manner.

Not because I personally fear violence or negative effects myself; that’s not what I’m talking about at all. My questions simply come out of respect, towards others who *have* suffered and sacrificed for the label. Particularly given that I am quite privileged in other ways (white, male, cisgendered, formally educated, grew up in relative material comfort, am now a relatively high earner, etc, etc) it would seem, to me, distasteful and disrespectful for me to take on a term that many others have suffered for (and which I’ve suffered for literally zero, yet), unless it was actually, descriptively accurate.

My lovers are cis females, and tend to be proudly queer in some very open way. I have been talking with them about my own sexuality, and they have weighed in that, absolutely, I am queer and I should wear that badge openly with pride. “You’re one of us,” my queer lovers say.

If that is so (and I’m obviously still not totally clear on the matter, otherwise this post would have been a lot shorter, right?), then consider this my rather lengthy, convoluted, and tentative initial “coming out” as queer.

Beyond Rock Star Envy

An Erotic Healing Adventure, by Michael Ellsberg and Gia Cometti

[Note: Gia Cometti is the nom de plume of a 29-year old interior decorator, whose career demands that the erotic secrets shared herein remain anonymous. The narrative is told from my perspective, but we collaborated on the project in full, and half of the dialogue is her voice. Hence, we share credit for authorship fully–this will become a Kindle Short at some point. Quotations have been edited slightly in some cases, and names and identifying details have been changed. Everything happened. M.E.]

If the universe had conspired to send me a woman to rewrite my entire reality in one day, it could not have done better than to send me Gia.

“Michael, I wanted to come over and introduce myself,” she said to me as she walked up to me, the morning of a daylong event. “My name is Gia, and I want to tell you that you have been such a powerful influence in my life. I’ve read The Education of Millionaires three times. I don’t have a college degree, and it has given me such courage. It has been my anthem as I’ve embarked on the path of an entrepreneur and began consistently investing in myself. Since then, I’ve read every word you’ve written on Facebook, and have watched all your videos.”

She was 29, an interior decorator, and her business had just broken six-figures, she told me. I congratulated her.

“I have to admit,” she said, blushing. “I’m really nervous right now talking with you.”

“Why’s that?” I asked.

“Well, I’d always wanted to meet you, and I didn’t know how it was going to happen. But now I’m talking with you, and… I’ll just say it. I’ve always had a really big crush on you,” she said.Read More