The Feministing Five: Barbara Carrellas

Red background, Barbara Carrellas laughingBarbara Carrellas is an author, sex educator, sex/life coach, motivational speaker and theater artist. Her past books include Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty First Century and Luxurious Loving.
Her latest book, Ecstasy is Necessary,  invites readers to explore their authentic, sexual self. She also talks about her non-genitally based breath and energy orgasms, which were featured on The Learning Channel.

Barbara is the founder of Urban Tantra®, an approach to sacred sexuality that adapts and blends conscious sexuality practices from Tantra to BDSM, and the co-founder of Erotic Awakening, a pioneering series of workshops focusing on the physical, spiritual and healing powers of sex. She’ll be doing two of her Urban Tantra® Professional Training Programs this fall in Australia and London. Make sure you check out her online calendar to see a full list and details of her upcoming events.
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Barbara Carrellas. (Don’t miss out on the last question where Barbara reveals which special toy she’d have to bring with her on the desert island!)
Anna Sterling: In your book, you talk about a “sexual permission slip.” How might we break free from the limitations we’ve put upon ourselves for so long and what is the first step in doing so?
Barbara Carrellas: I wrote the Permission Slip as a performance rant for a high school sex education class. When I saw that the adults in the room related to it as much as the kids did, I realized that most of us could stand to receive a few-if not a lot-of the permissions on my list. The most important person you need to receive permission from is yourself, so I changed the performance rant to a list of first-person affirmations. I suggest that you start with the permission that resonates most with you. Repeat it to yourself in front of a mirror, over and over again. When you believe you really have permission to do, to be or to say whatever that permission gives you, move on to a new one. Keep going and remember to actually do the things you’ve given yourself permission to do.

AS: What advice do you have for women trying to find their authentic, sexual self in a political atmosphere so hostile to women’s reproductive and sexual freedom?
BC: This is exactly why I wrote Ecstasy is Necessary! I felt that women were being shoved into boxes by politicians, churches, big pharma, the media, etc. If you do not fit neatly into one of their boxes, they tell you that you need to be saved, fixed, changed or reformed. There is no one-size-fits-all way to be sexual. We are each in the process of our own personal ongoing, lifelong, sexual evolution. In Ecstasy is Necessary, I help my readers discover their core values, their real needs and their deepest desires. When you know your values, needs and desires you can choose from a totality of sexual and reproductive possibilities, and you’ll gain the skills and empowerment to say no to choices that simply aren’t right for you.

AS: What feminists and/or sex positive writers influenced you? What brought you to the path of sex education and writing?
BC: From the age of 3 I knew I was going to spend my life in the theatre. So my earliest and most important influences were actresses. My first sex-positive influence was Marilyn Monroe. I got slapped for pretending to be her at my 4th birthday party. Elizabeth Taylor was another great influence on me. I was still a child when she was condemned by the Vatican for her relationship with Richard Burton. Condemned by the Vatican-now that’s some serious damnation! She responded by being even more of who she was: extremely sexual, fabulously talented, strong, loud and bold. I found that extremely empowering. I know that Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor were certainly not considered feminists in their day, but the lessons I learned from them certainly were. As a teenager I found Gloria Steinhem very inspiring. I learned from her how to deliver clear concise messages to a wide audience.
I started on the sex education path in the 1980s during the AIDS crisis. It was obvious to me that we were all going to need a new way of thinking about and practicing sex. My initial motivation was to find a way to help my gay male friends have safer sex. But my work soon evolved to encompass much more. Bringing consciousness to sex and sexuality to spirituality has become my devotional practice, my passion and my vocation.

AS: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?
BC: My favorite fictional character was and is Honey West, the title character of the ABC television show during the 1965-66 season. Honey West was the first female private eye on television. She was her own boss; her assistant was a man. She was exceedingly clever and could take on any menacing hulk with her super-judo skills. Plus she drove a Shelby Cobra (there is no cooler automobile) and she had a pet ocelot.

Anne Francis, the actress who played Honey West, is a real life heroine. I had a miserable time as a teenager living at home with my parents. Anne began answering my angst-filled fan letters when I was about 14. I credit her and the letters she wrote to me with saving my life. Without her letters I could very easily have become another teenage runaway on the streets of L.A. I wrote more extensively about our relationship in this blog post shortly after Anne died last year. Ecstasy is Necessary is dedicated to her memory.

My next heroine is Patricia Neilson. She was an administrator for the Metropolitan Opera Studio. We met when I was 16 and the production manager of a major summer music festival. Pat believed in me the way a parent is supposed to believe in you-utterly and completely. Before Pat and I became family, I believed that there was something profoundly wrong with me. With Pat in my life, I felt like I could accomplish anything and be anyone I wanted to be. We stuck by each other our entire lives until she passed away in 2003. She’s still looking after me.

A super-heroine to me to this day is my beloved Louise L. Hay, the great metaphysician, the author of You Can Heal Your Life, and the founder of the Hay House publishing company. We have been family now for 25 years. She inspires me on every possible level and she makes me laugh harder than anyone I know.
AS: You’re going to a desert island and get to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?
BC: Fresh fat blueberries. Champagne (1972 Bolinger, please). My partner in love, art and life of 15 years, Kate Bornstein. Oh, and I’m sure it was probably just an oversight that you didn’t ask which one sex toy I’d bring: that would be the Hitachi Magic Wand.
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