The Oral Report: Karen Yates, Tantric Sex, Super Tasty


Caitlin:                    Hey, Caitlin.

Caitlin:                    Hi, Caitlin.

Caitlin:                    How’s it going?

Caitlin:                    Good. How are you?

Caitlin:                    I am excellent. I am so excited today.

Caitlin:                    Me too, because…

Caitlin:                    Because we have with us a very special guest. Karen Yates, a tantra and somatic sex educator, and producer of Super Tasty cabaret talk show about sex.

Caitlin:                    Wonderful. Welcome, Karen.

Karen:                      Thank you for having me.

Caitlin:                    Thanks for being here.

Caitlin:                    So we start out all of our episodes with what’s turning us on this week, so we’ll start, and you get to be our special guest. We’ll lay down the foundation so you see how this goes.

Karen:                      Okay, thank you, thank you.

Caitlin:                    Caitlin, what’s turning you on this week?

Caitlin:                    So I just got back from an awesome summit in Utah, which was very cool. Lots of really talented, really smart people getting together to have an experience. I learned that in order to create more memories and feel like life isn’t passing you by, which it’s the end of the summer. I felt like this year happened really, really quickly-

Caitlin:                    We’re halfway through September already.

Caitlin:                    Halfway? Yeah, we’re not even just in September; it’s Halloween. Let’s be real: we’re there. I learned that in order to create real memories, you have to have emotional and physical intensity, beauty, uniqueness, and it helps to have fear and uncertainty or even suffering.

Caitlin:                    Wow.

Caitlin:                    How much do you remember things where you suffered through but you made it, right?

Caitlin:                    Yeah.

Karen:                      Right.

Caitlin:                    It’s nice to have a colorful, happy ending when you’re like, “It took us forever but we finally figured it out. We found the hotel, we cracked open a bottle of wine,” whatever it is. What’s turning me on right now is that I’m going to try to reframe all of the suffering as, “Okay, this is just memory-making. I’m going to remember this. This is going to make my life feel like I’m living longer by going through some challenging experiences.”

Caitlin:                    That’s so cool. I feel like it’s so rare for us to take the time to really think about that. Most of us just complain about, “Oh my God, it’s already halfway through the month” and we don’t really think about how to change that or do anything about it.

Caitlin:                    Yeah, how can we [crosstalk 00:02:09]? We do have some degree of control over that.

Karen:                      Right, right.

Caitlin:                    That is really cool.

Caitlin:                    That’s turning me on right now. What’s turning you on?

Caitlin:                    Nice. Well okay, so one thing that kind of popped up in my mind is when you’re talking about, I’m going to use “suffering” very loosely but adding beauty and a little bit of pain reminds me of doing outdoor activities, like when I was skiing this past year. I was in a lot of pain, but I was also surrounded by beauty and it was wonderful, and also I get to go hiking today. I get to combine, and it’s probably not going to be difficult hiking by any means, but I get to be surrounded by beauty, and those are always some of the most wonderful memories that I have. We don’t exactly have a lot of outdoors in Chicago, so I’m trying to make the most of my days off and things like that. That’s what’s turning me on, is I get to go hiking today and I’m really looking forward to it.

Caitlin:                    Yes. You’re like forest bathing.

Caitlin:                    Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Makes me feel so much more calm and a lot more fulfilled in my life. So simple, just by walking under trees.

Caitlin:                    Are you going to take your clothes off at any point?

Caitlin:                    Maybe. That’d be fun.

Caitlin:                    That would make it memorable for sure.

Caitlin:                    That would definitely make it, and the person I’m going with, I bet she would be down too.

Caitlin:                    Do it. All right. Report back.

Caitlin:                    Yeah. All right, so now you see this format?

Karen:                      I do. Okay, now it’s time for me to jump in.

Caitlin:                    Yes.

Caitlin:                    Yes. What’s turning you on?

Karen:                      It’s like jump rope. Okay, I’m going to jump in.

Caitlin:                    Yes.

Caitlin:                    Exactly. We’re double Dutch-

Karen:                      Double Dutch jump rope. I’m jumping in. What’s turning me on this week is in the face of producing Super Tasty, getting it up on its feet, I am crazy busy and I’m seeing myself kind of going back into these workaholic tendencies [inaudible] my head. I don’t like that; it’s counterproductive. I don’t get as much done when I’m worrying and in my head, and so what I’ve been really doing this week, it’s a gorgeous week in Chicago.

Caitlin:                    Absolutely.

Karen:                      We have probably about one week left of summer, and I’m really making it a point to stop, go outside. I live right outside of a park. I’ve been laying out.

Caitlin:                    Nice.

Karen:                      Sometimes I have to bring my work with me, but I’ve also been telling myself, “Just be here. Be here now.” Slowing down my breathing and to feel the sun on my body, to feel the breeze, to hear the birds, to just enjoy the people around me, and just really getting back in my body. That has been so relaxing, sort of a mindfulness practice.

Caitlin:                    Absolutely, yeah, and I think that’s really nice. We were talking about the changing season last week. I think when fall comes and it’s back to school, everyone kind of ramps up and they’re like, “All right, time to be serious.”

Karen:                      Yeah, it’s a lot of forcing.

Caitlin:                    Lot of forcing.

Caitlin:                    Yeah, and-

Karen:                      “We’re going to force ourselves back into this box.”

Caitlin:                    Yes.

Caitlin:                    Right, and then next thing we know, it’s the holidays, and then we’ve just spent the last four months rushing around.

Karen:                      Yeah.

Caitlin:                    It’s madness, so it’s really nice to be cognizant of that and take time.

Caitlin:                    Right, and it doesn’t set us up well when we go racing, and then all of a sudden after like January 2nd, we hit winter full force and we don’t have as much stuff going on-

Caitlin:                    And then depression hits.

Karen:                      Which is a lot about sex, because we race, race, race to get to this moment that we want to be special, and then it’s like, “Stop. Now we got to relax and get it on when we’ve just been racing around so much.”

Caitlin:                    Right.

Caitlin:                    Right, or sex itself, like we’re racing towards the finish line, right? Then the finish line either isn’t exactly what we thought it was going to be or it happens too quickly, or it doesn’t happen at all, and then we’re left-

Caitlin:                    That’s super disappointing.

Caitlin:                    Yeah.

Caitlin:                    Yeah.

Caitlin:                    [crosstalk 00:05:49]. Wow.

Caitlin:                    Interesting. Wow, we just dove real deep in real fast.

Caitlin:                    Deep, yeah. [crosstalk 00:05:54]. Okay, so we’re going to switch up our format a little bit, and we are going to ask our guest some questions first, which is going to launch us, because we’ve got so much to talk about and we want to leave plenty of time to discuss Super Tasty, which is a show that we’re all a part of that Karen has invited us to be a part of. We want to be sure to send out the invitation to everyone to join us if you’re in Chicago, but before we launch into that, do you want to launch into our questions?

Caitlin:                    Sure. All right, so if you could teach the whole world something, what would it be?

Karen:                      If I could teach the whole world something, it would be to learn how to make your entire body a vehicle of pleasure.

Caitlin:                    Interesting.

Caitlin:                    Say more.

Karen:                      Well, we’re very-

Caitlin:                    Do tell.

Karen:                      We’re very genitally obsessed in our culture, and so we put the burden of pleasure, if you will. “The burden of pleasure,” I like that, but we put the burden of pleasure on our genitals to give us release, to give us happiness, relaxation, and really our entire bodies have that capacity. Our eyelids have the capacity to give us pleasure.

Caitlin:                    Interesting.

Karen:                      We tend to compartmentalize our sexual feelings or sexual sensory feelings just in one area of the body, but really the whole body can give us pleasure.

Caitlin:                    Very cool. You said “in this society.” We’re not already talking in North America?

Karen:                      I would say North America, but I guess now that I think about it, maybe western culture.

Caitlin:                    Western culture, okay. Yeah, that makes sense.

Karen:                      Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.

Caitlin:                    Interesting. All right, that’s a good one.

Caitlin:                    So some of the practices that that brings to mind for me are like mindful-based practices, like really getting into the body. Do you have any specific practice that allows you to not just experience pleasure with your body, because that’s a skill right, but to get into and actually implement that skill?

Karen:                      Yeah. I think that one thing that is really important around somatic sex education, and when I say “somatic” a lot of people are like, “What does that mean?”

Caitlin:                    I honestly don’t even know.

Karen:                      Right. Well “soma” means “body” or “body spirit.” A lot of somatic practices are returning to the body to help people get out of their heads and move the tension back to the body. It can be mindful, but it can also be a way for people, say, therapeutically to stop cogitating, stop cycling thoughts, exactly, and move back to body awareness, which can relax. I would say one thing to look at is, mindful masturbation. A way of really making time for yourself instead of just jerking off or just like, “Oh, I got five minutes to get off. I’m going to do it right now.” It’s to really say, “Can I set aside half an hour, and can I explore my body, not with the end goal of orgasm but just an exploration [inaudible 00:09:25]?” A bottle of oil, body oil, maybe light some incense if you’re into that, put on some cool music-

Caitlin:                    Candles. Candles for sure.

Karen:                      Candles. Whatever you dig, you know? Can you put new sheets on the bed for yourself? Not for some new lover, right?

Caitlin:                    Right, right.

Caitlin:                    Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy it by yourself.

Caitlin:                    Yeah.

Karen:                      Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.

Caitlin:                    Give yourself that love and attention.

Karen:                      Yeah, and explore. Explore new things. Get out of a rut.

Caitlin:                    Nice.

Caitlin:                    Yeah, I love that.

Caitlin:                    Yeah. That is very good advice for getting out of a rut, is just doing something that’s out of the ordinary for you.

Caitlin:                    Right, and stop looking at other people as if they are the answer to your sexuality.

Karen:                      Yeah.

Caitlin:                    Oh for sure, yes.

Caitlin:                    As if they’re what’s going to fill your sexual needs.

Karen:                      That’s exactly right, because I think so many people are looking to the other person, and you have to really understand, “Who am I as a sexual being?” That’s step one, before you’re engaging with other people or as you’re engaging. “Who am I sexually?”

Caitlin:                    Yeah, and all we have is here and now, right?

Karen:                      Exactly.

Caitlin:                    Right.

Caitlin:                    Instead of saying, “When I get that partner” or, “When I finally find ‘the one,’ then I’ll experience full body pleasure, delicious orgasms.”

Karen:                      Right.

Caitlin:                    Like, no. You don’t need to wait.

Karen:                      No, you’re able to do that right now.

Caitlin:                    Yeah, you can do it right now.

Caitlin:                    Yeah, absolutely. It just kind of brings to mind that cliché saying that everyone always says, that you can’t love somebody else until you love yourself.

Karen:                      I was thinking the same thing. I was thinking the same thing, yeah.

Caitlin:                    Yeah, like you need to be able to physically love yourself before somebody else can complete that for you as well.

Caitlin:                    Yeah.

Karen:                      Right, and it’s not just about, “Oh, I’m going to buy myself flowers every week” or, “I’m going to buy this for me,” or, “I’m going to take myself on a vacation.” It’s even simpler than that; it’s like, “How can I have a relationship with my body and pleasure?”

Caitlin:                    Nice.

Caitlin:                    Yeah, and you and should spend money on yourself and the things that you like if you can, and also so much is available for free, right? Taking yourself hiking, maybe naked.

Caitlin:                    Maybe, we’ll see.

Caitlin:                    Right? Changing the sheets for yourself. That costs you nothing and it can change your whole state of being.

Caitlin:                    Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.

Karen:                      Mm-hmm (affirmative), as well as if you are someone who suffers from a lot of trauma or a lot of pain during sex, or it makes you very tense to think of having sex. This is a way to create safety with yourself, you know?

Caitlin:                    Yeah, yeah.

Caitlin:                    All right. Let’s get through these questions so we can hear more about that? Okay, what is something that’s always come naturally to you in sex, and what is something that you’ve really had to work for?

Karen:                      What’s always come naturally for me is I’m really enthusiastic about sex.

Caitlin:                    Nice.

Karen:                      I’m an endless well of enthusiasm about sex.

Caitlin:                    There we go.

Caitlin:                    Wait, before you answer the other half of that question, how did you address that when you were younger? Do you remember the first time or coming into awareness around your enthusiasm?

Karen:                      Oh, there’s a kitty.

Caitlin:                    Sorry.

Karen:                      There’s a kitty here. Yeah, I think sometimes when I was young, my partners were like, “Whoa, you’re really into this, aren’t you?”

Caitlin:                    Mm-hmm (affirmative). Oh my God, I-

Caitlin:                    I’ve had that. I’ve had that. “Wow, I didn’t expect you to be so enthusiastic.”

Caitlin:                    I have gotten that too, or I’ve had people actually be like, “Are you okay?” I’m like, “I’m sorry, I’m enjoying myself. This is what it looks like.”

Caitlin:                    Yeah. “Am I hurting you? Am I hurting you?”

Caitlin:                    I’m like, “Please.”

Karen:                      Yeah, I mean I guess I was pretty aware pretty early on.

Caitlin:                    Yeah, yeah.

Karen:                      The thing that I’ve had to really work at is communicating, I think, which is one of the most foundational things in sexuality, is how do we communicate with our partners about our needs or if this is working or if this isn’t working, or, “Hey, what works for you?” This kind of way to naturally dialogue throughout the act. I have to cop to it: I really expected my partners to be mind readers.

Caitlin:                    Same. It takes a long time to learn that they’re not, for some people.

Karen:                      Right, and we haven’t really been taught how to communicate in sex, especially women, because of power dynamics. Yeah, that has been something that has taken time to learn.

Caitlin:                    That’s beautiful. It’s really great to hear you say that too because I want everyone to recognize that even a skill that sees as straightforward as discussing with your partners your expectations-

Karen:                      Oh my gosh, yeah.

Caitlin:                    And for someone who enthusiasm for sex and experiencing the joy of sex came naturally, right? That just because you enjoy it and that you can be enthusiastic about connecting sexually with another person doesn’t mean that you automatically have any other skill, right?

Caitlin:                    No, exactly.

Karen:                      Right, it’s true.

Caitlin:                    These are completely separate things, and they can be learned. You can learn it so well that you can actually share it with others.

Caitlin:                    Yeah. Yeah, I feel like both of your answers resonate a lot with me. It’s always nice to hear, because I know I need to work on communication in bed as well, but it’s really nice to hear that other people have similar experiences because I’m like, “Okay, I’m not alone.” You can always work through it.

Karen:                      Can I say, even a situation like when a partner says, “What would you like?”, it’s like, “Oh, I like exactly what you’re doing right now,” which I thought was a valid answer and it is a valid answer, but honestly there’s always an opportunity for deepening awareness, right?

Caitlin:                    Yeah, yeah.

Caitlin:                    What was the question that you taught me when people were doing exercises on each other?

Karen:                      Oh. “What can I do to make this more pleasurable?”

Caitlin:                    Yes. What a beautiful question that is.

Karen:                      It takes it out of a lot of-

Caitlin:                    Oh, I like that.

Karen:                      It takes a lot of judgment out or expectation. It’s like, “What can I do to make this more pleasurable for you?”

Caitlin:                    That’s what I was going to say. I’m not often in long-term relationships, so a lot of times my partners are people that I have more of a friendship with or I’ve only been dating a few months. When they say like, “What do you want me to do to you?”, a lot of times there’s like the, “Uh…” and I kind of clamp up because I’m like, “Oh God, now comes potential judgment.”

Caitlin:                    Yup.

Karen:                      Right, right.

Caitlin:                    I don’t think my wants and needs are too off the wall, but still, there’s still that like, “Okay, are they going to judge me now if I say I want this?” When you frame it the other way and say, “What can I do to make this more pleasurable?”, it’s like, “Okay, you can do this.”

Caitlin:                    Right.

Karen:                      Yeah.

Caitlin:                    It’s like they’re already open to it versus, “What do you want me to do to you?” is very much like, oh boy.

Karen:                      Exactly. This idea of “what can I do to you?”, on you, it becomes a difficult situation.

Caitlin:                    Yeah, yeah. So just reframing that question takes a lot of the pressure out it and makes it seem more of like a “we’re in this together” rather than “I’m doing this to you.”

Caitlin:                    Yeah, more collaboration. Yeah.

Caitlin:                    Yeah.

Karen:                      Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Caitlin:                    I like that. Good to know. Okay, so what sex or relationship advice would you share with yourself five, ten, or fifteen years ago? You can pick whichever range.

Karen:                      I think in general, I wish I knew that I didn’t have to be so goal-oriented, especially many years ago when I was very young, this idea of “what is sex.” When I was young, just starting my sexual life as a heterosexual woman, I was thinking, “Sex is penetration. That is sex.”

Caitlin:                    Yeah, absolutely.

Karen:                      It has taken a while to be like, “Wow, it is so much bigger than that, and there’s so much more.” The minute we reduce to this single act, and of course for some people it doesn’t even apply. Yeah, I would tell myself, “Be more expansive. Be less goal-oriented.”

Caitlin:                    Okay, all right. I like that. Nice.

Caitlin:                    Awesome, okay. Well, this has got me so curious to hear more about what you’re doing today because I have a sense that all of those things, like what it’s taken you to work on, what you would share with other people, what you would share with the younger version of yourself has all led you to the specific set of skills and the training and the things that you are working on right now. Will you explain to us what it means to be a tantra educator? What does it mean to be a somatic sex educator?

Karen:                      Right. So, there are many different views of tantra, and some of them are more what some people would call “neo-tantra,” like years ago, Sting the musician-

Caitlin:                    Oh yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Karen:                      Was really into tantra.

Caitlin:                    Yeah, yeah.

Karen:                      I think that’s how first people began really understanding, “There’s this thing. It’s called tantra, and you can have sex for hours and hours and hours.”

Caitlin:                    Right.

Caitlin:                    Right, and somehow you’ll also become Sting.

Karen:                      Yeah, and then you become Sting with the haircut and everything. There’s that type of tantra, and then there’s these ancient form of tantra, which is based on concepts that have been around for thousands of years. Really, tantra is existing between these two polarities that exist in our society of basically giving over completely to hedonistic impulses and pleasure, and wine woman song, wine men song, pleasure, pleasure, pleasure. Then the other side of it, which is more religiously focused, of like oppressing the body. The body has these desires, and to be spiritual, you’ve got to squelch the bodily impulses.

Caitlin:                    Interesting, okay.

Karen:                      These are kind of the two, like to become spiritual, you need to have no body, and then, “Screw that, I’m going to just give over to my bodily”-

Caitlin:                    So they’re like completely opposite.

Karen:                      Opposite, and so tantra is sort of the middle path, seeing that the body can be a vehicle in helping us become more aware in the present, becoming more mindful, really opening up more to the senses while not letting go of our sense of self, while still remaining anchored. I think when we’re on a hedonistic path, we’re kind of becoming un-moored, right?

Caitlin:                    Yeah, yeah.

Caitlin:                    Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Karen:                      When we’re in, say, a path where we’re saying “the body is sinful,” that’s a form of control in a certain way. Tantra is about presence.

Caitlin:                    So does tantra specifically relate to sexuality?

Karen:                      You know, I think as it’s taught in the west it does. It’s been kind of packaged for consumption. I’m not at all saying that I’m a tantrika practicing the ancient forms of tantra; although I’ve read a lot and ascribe to it, that is not a path that I live day in and day out. As I understand it, the ancient forms, sex was a part but that wasn’t the main-

Caitlin:                    That wasn’t the whole thing.

Karen:                      That wasn’t the whole thing, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Caitlin:                    Okay, interesting. So what I’m picking up on is sort of elements of meditation and being present, and-

Karen:                      Yeah, the focus begins with the self. I think a lot in the west, we see tantra as “couples do it,” but there is like, how can we begin a practice where we’re working on our breathing and we’re working on our relationship with our body? Yeah. Moving into somatic work, with tantra there’s this sort of energy exchange that happens among people, or you’re aware of your energy. Some people are either into energy, they believe in it or they don’t. I’m not going to discuss that right now-

Caitlin:                    Yeah.

Caitlin:                    Yeah, for another [crosstalk 00:22:07].

Karen:                      Obviously I do. “Soma,” as I said earlier is “body,” “body awareness,” “body spirit.” Looking to the body and helping the body make different choices to increase pleasure, to increase pleasure and remove maybe obstacles that might be keeping people from experiencing more pleasure, be it trauma or habitual ways of, say, masturbating, or habitual ways of working or operating sexually.

Caitlin:                    I think that’s really important, because last week we did an episode on porn and how people are taking what they’re seeing and trying to translate it into their own life. I think being able to undo some of the things that people have learned, having that ability is pretty important these days. There’s a lot of noise out there.

Karen:                      Right, and with somatic work, the body has ways of coping and the ways of responding. To overhaul it overnight and be like, “Oh, you’ve been using porn for 10 years. Stop using porn,” that’s not helpful.

Caitlin:                    Right.

Karen:                      Does not help. It’s really about, how can we slowly change habit? Say for a man who is really feeling oppressed by their porn use. I would say something like, “Well hey, can you do an erotic mindfulness practice? Set aside a half an hour, and maybe use porn to start you off, so the porn isn’t playing maybe the entire time you’re masturbating but maybe it’s there for the first 10 minutes. Or, can you look at the screen and then be with yourself, and then look back at the screen and be with yourself? Can you just start shifting your attention a little bit?”

Caitlin:                    Yeah.

Caitlin:                    How much would you say that these practices that you engage in help us to move from thinking about sex externally versus internally? That’s one of the themes that I’m hearing come up, is being with yourself sexually, being with your arousal sexually. Being with your whole body, right? When you’re feeling whole body pleasure, that’s very much something that can have external stimuli but requires you to be tuned internally.

Karen:                      Yeah, for sure. Internal awareness is key, because again, getting back to partnered sex, if you’re not really tuned into your body, if you’re in your head, and I know so many people are in their head when they’re having sex, right?

Caitlin:                    Yes, absolutely.

Karen:                      That’s one of the main issues right now in culture, especially like we’ve got our phones, and we all know what society is doing now but it helps us stay in our heads. To start really becoming aware of these body senses and body impulses, because it’s the impulse that leads to play, right?

Caitlin:                    Oh, okay.

Karen:                      That leads to a more playful sexual life. It’s kind of like improv; sex is improv.

Caitlin:                    Oh, I like that.

Caitlin:                    I like that.

Caitlin:                    Yeah.

Karen:                      So for anyone who’s ever taken improv classes, it’s like the moment. It’s saying, “Yes, and? What’s the next moment?”

Caitlin:                    Oh yeah.

Caitlin:                    Right.

Karen:                      To do that, you have to be connected to your body.

Caitlin:                    Could we connect this back to consent? Because how do you negotiate consent with a sexual partner, and also be, “Yes, and?” and impulsive with them?

Karen:                      Well, I think what I would say is as you’re negotiating something, saying like, “These are my boundaries. I don’t like this, I don’t do this, and let’s be clear that if either one of us wants to do something that the other person doesn’t want to do that we set up the rule ahead of time that we speak up.” In BDSM, there’s safe words, but I think if you’re not in a scene, just say, “Hey, we both give each other permission to just say, ‘Can we do something else right now?'”

Caitlin:                    Yeah, because what just popped in my head was, “Yes, and? Yes, and?”, until it’s a no, but I think that’s much, much easier to say no or be like, “Not this one. Let’s keep moving” if you bring it up prior to and say, “Listen, this is totally fair game, but when a ‘no’ arises, take it seriously. That’s it.”

Caitlin:                    Mm-hmm (affirmative), and not personally.

Caitlin:                    Yes, and not personally.

Karen:                      Yeah, yeah. I was saying to someone the other day, “Everyone has to be responsible for their triggers.” The partner cannot be a mind reader for someone’s triggers, right?

Caitlin:                    True, yeah. Yeah. In that book that I was reading, “Come As You Are”-

Caitlin:                    Yeah. The Bible?

Caitlin:                    Is it the Bible?

Caitlin:                    I just call it “the Bible.” Yeah, so you’re reading the Bible? Yeah, go ahead.

Caitlin:                    The Bible, yes. Our Bible. It’s talking a lot about accelerator and brakes.

Caitlin:                    Mm-hmm (affirmative), the dual control model.

Caitlin:                    Yeah, absolutely. That’s totally how people for the most part work, with “this is an accelerator, touching here, doing this,” or maybe being in a certain situation are the brakes for me. Being aware of what your brakes and your accelerator are helps a lot.

Caitlin:                    Right, and something that that model helped me to move away from was this idea that sex or arousal was like a 0 to 100.

Caitlin:                    Yeah.

Caitlin:                    It’s actually more like a gas pedal and a brake pedal, and you can have both of them pressed at the same time right? You can be so into something that’s happening and then all of a sudden, someone puts a finger, hand, tongue, something-

Caitlin:                    In a certain spot.

Caitlin:                    Pulls out a toy that’s a hard “no” for you. Ropes used to be a hard “no” for me, so if I even saw a rope in a sexual scene-

Caitlin:                    Already your brake is-

Caitlin:                    Or [crosstalk] somewhere, my brake was depressed-

Caitlin:                    To the floor.

Caitlin:                    Yeah. That sort of feeling like you’re standing on the edge of a cliff of “this feels really good but also I’m getting a lot of ‘no.'” Unless you know your triggers and you’re able to communicate them in advance, and that also you can be flexible because, “Maybe I forgot to mention that I don’t like to be choked in this way, but I do kind of like it in this other way.” That’s a lot to explain in the middle of sex.

Caitlin:                    For sure.

Karen:                      It is, it is, and some people aren’t capable. I also have to say, we all need to be gentle with ourselves. These are all learned skills. This is all a learning curve. This isn’t something you can get overnight, I don’t think. It’s endless learning; we’re always learning about ourselves, and we change over time.

Caitlin:                    Oh, for sure.

Karen:                      What we really liked 10 years ago maybe isn’t what we’re going to like today or next year.

Caitlin:                    Right. We evolve and-

Karen:                      Yeah.

Caitlin:                    Yeah. Our relationship changes with ourself and things like that. One of the things that we always bring up is “communicate, communicate, communicate” but I have to admit, that is still something that I struggle with and have to work on.

Karen:                      Yes, yes.

Caitlin:                    Even though that is the key to, I think, a happier sex life and more fulfilled, it’s still a challenge, even for somebody who works in the sex world. Yeah, I think it’s nice just to kind of throw it out there like, “Everyone needs to communicate more. It’s not easy.”

Caitlin:                    Right, right, and also that there’s multiple facets of communication, right?

Caitlin:                    Absolutely.

Karen:                      Yes.

Caitlin:                    The part that I work on the most personally is when to communicate, because that is one facet of communication that we don’t always address but it is so important because some people do really well outside of a sexual context. It makes the most sense to communicate about sex or about our boundaries when we’re at dinner or if we’re in a long-term relationship, like when we’re just hanging out at home together and that is the time to approach your partner. Other partners, like if there’s something even non-sexual related right, something that you just need to bring up within the relationship, do better after you’ve had sex because they’re feeling the most connected.

Karen:                      Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative).

Caitlin:                    Yeah.

Caitlin:                    For me, I feel really connected after I have sex with my partner. If there’s something that is challenging, not sex related; just, “Hey, babe I want to talk to you about this. This really upset me.” Doing it after sex actually works really well for me because I feel really safe, really physically calm. Of course I guess it depends a bit on the sex that we just had; if it was great, that works well right? If it maybe wasn’t, then maybe that’s not the time, but I tend to be really impulsive when it comes to communication. Like if it’s on my mind, I want to get it out. I have really had to learn how to time that appropriately so that it lands appropriately, because if you bring it up when they’re, especially if you’re in a partnership with a male, is the male mind can be so singularly focused that I find myself being like, “Hey, hey, hey. Could you stop whatever you’re doing? I have a thing right now.”

Karen:                      Right, and then also there’s non-verbal communication, which sometimes is a better way of communicating. If you’re with a partner and they’re doing something, like maybe a particular sort of touch that isn’t working for you, you can say, “Hey, can you try it like this?”, and then take their hands and put it on your forearm, or put your hands on their forearm and be like, “Try this type of stroke,” right?

Caitlin:                    Yeah.

Karen:                      “See how that feels.” I’d also like to say one thing that burbled up as you were talking, Caitlin, was this idea: let’s say you’re with a partner who you’re noticing is not particularly communicative. Well you know, there’s three levels of consent, which is verbal, bodily; what are you noticing? Are you noticing that your partner is kind of shrinking away from you, your touch? Then there’s gut. There’s this gut knowledge I think we all possess of “something isn’t feeling right. Let’s just stop for a second and check in,” and, “Is this working?”

Caitlin:                    That’s for you checking in with your partner, like you have a gut feeling that it’s not-

Karen:                      Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.

Caitlin:                    Interesting. I like that, because again, you can listen to your intuition in a sexual sense as well.

Karen:                      Yeah.

Caitlin:                    I mean, it makes sense. Why wouldn’t you? I think a lot of people ignore that. I like that, though.

Caitlin:                    So who are these practices a good fit for? I mean, I think everyone can benefit a little bit from working with the tantra or somatic sex educator, but are there people who present with really specific challenges for whom this work is just a really good fit?

Karen:                      Yeah. Well yes, of course everyone can be helped by it, but I think for people who are in some sort of rut that they feel that they can’t get out of, if they want to learn more about communicating or if they want to learn more about the relationship they’re having with themselves, or if they’re aware that there’s an ongoing difficulty, an obstacle that they can’t seem to surmount-

Caitlin:                    And that could be…?

Karen:                      That could be childhood, it could be abusive relationship, it could be something like that. It’s helpful. Yeah, yeah.

Caitlin:                    Nice, okay. I mean essentially, everybody can benefit from this at some point in their lives.

Karen:                      Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to be so like, “Of course, of course,” but you know…

Caitlin:                    Right, right.

Caitlin:                    [crosstalk] that idea of tantra in particular as sort of salacious and all of these people are getting together-

Karen:                      I know, I know. Yeah.

Caitlin:                    And they’re touching each other and they’re having orgasms for hours, right? Therefore, I think people don’t think it’s for them. They’re not interested in whatever they think tantra is, but…

Karen:                      Yeah, I think there’s a sort of thing of like “I can’t buy into the scene” when there’s some very gentle, easy tantra moves, if you will, you can do with a partner. I think a lot of people have heard about eye-gazing-

Caitlin:                    Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Caitlin:                    Yeah.

Karen:                      But it can be a great transition moment from the busy day of, “How do you set up an interlude with your partner?” Can you just sit down and say, “We’re just going to breathe together and look into each other’s eyes? We’re going to sit on the bed together and just look into each other’s eyes, or we’re going to begin every session by having a full body hug. Pelvic, stomach, chest to each other, and to start breathing together and just slowing down.” So much of this really, both in somatic work and tantra, is about, can we slow ourselves down enough to experience ourselves? Can we slow down?

Caitlin:                    That makes tantra seem so much more approachable.

Karen:                      Yeah, because it’s really not about witchy-poo-

Caitlin:                    Right.

Karen:                      Rituals in the dark of night.

Caitlin:                    Yes, because that’s kind of what I think a lot of people think tantra is. There’s going to be monks in robes and, you know-

Karen:                      Yeah, no. No, no.

Caitlin:                    And all sorts of crazy ancient stuff going on, but yeah. It’s very simple. Yeah, I like that. Very approachable. Nice.

Caitlin:                    Mm-hmm (affirmative), and I think it goes back to what I was saying at the start of the show, about making a memory, being really present.

Caitlin:                    Absolutely.

Caitlin:                    How do you stop time to make it feel like your day didn’t just rush by? There’s no magic bullet, potion, or pill that you take, right? You create moments of intensity, and they don’t have to be scary level of intensity, but eye-gazing, appreciating. That can have some real emotional depth, some real physical depth to it, and of course the experience of beauty, and in sex there’s always going to be a level of uncertainty.

Caitlin:                    Right.

Karen:                      Right.

Caitlin:                    Right? “What is my body going to experience today? How is it going to feel?” It changes left to right, front to back, morning to evening.

Karen:                      Yeah, and as you slow down, the more you notice. Again, this is this noticing piece and connecting to self. I’m not saying that it’s all about always having slow sex, right? That’s not the message I’m trying to give here, because of course sometimes you’ll want high energy, quick sex-

Caitlin:                    Right, of course.

Karen:                      Or they’re into kink. It’s really about, how can we reorient back to the self so that we notice, so that we’re able to act on these healthy impulses?

Caitlin:                    Nice. All right, shall we talk about Super Tasty?

Caitlin:                    Super Tasty!

Karen:                      [inaudible 00:37:18].

Caitlin:                    Yeah, that was super tasty. Now let’s talk about Super Tasty.

Karen:                      Yeah, yeah. For sure.

Caitlin:                    Okay, let’s start with just a synopsis. What is Super Tasty?

Karen:                      Okay, so Super Tasty is a show that debuts on Wednesday, October 10th, at Stage 773 in Chicago at 1225 West Belmont. Tickets at It is a cabaret talk show about sex, and it basically is a collection of interviews with experts and local Chicago folk, toy demos, panel discussions, and performance that have a sexy content, so some burlesque, some storytelling. It’s all going to be about sex, pleasure, kink. Completely LGBTQIA, that’s an element I want to cover at some point. Focus on differently abled people, vanilla kink, you name it.

Caitlin:                    Yeah, affirming.

Karen:                      Affirming. Very affirming, very body positive, sex positive show.

Caitlin:                    So this is going to be a monthly show.

Karen:                      It’s going to be a monthly show. October 10th, and then the next date is November 8th, and then December 14th, and then a resetting of the dates for 2019.

Caitlin:                    Nice.

Caitlin:                    Oh, that’s so exciting. For people who don’t live in Chicago, will they be able to access it?

Karen:                      Yeah, we’ll be recording the show and I will be putting it up on the Super Tasty site, which is not yet active. I have to be honest.

Caitlin:                    It’s okay.

Caitlin:                    It’s all right. It’s all a work in progress.

Caitlin:                    We’re all about making-

Karen:                      Which is I will be putting up the audio on the website when the show happens.

Caitlin:                    I’m so excited.

Caitlin:                    Nice. So, what made you want to put this show on?

Karen:                      Well you know, I was in the arts for many, many years; I was a director, performer, producer, actor, and so that is a big part of me. When I started working in the more healing fields around sexuality, and I also do sound healing as well, a form called biofield tuning.

Caitlin:                    She does. If you’re in Chicago, oh my God-

Karen:                      And I do remote sessions, so-

Caitlin:                    Oh my gosh. Hit her up. Just hit her up, just hit her up. Pause for just a second just to say biofield tuning has absolutely changed my life. We didn’t get-

Caitlin:                    Caitlin was telling me about this off-air a while back. She was like, “Oh my God, you have to do this.”

Caitlin:                    You have to do it, yeah.

Karen:                      It’s pretty great. I work with tuning forks and frequency, which is actually one of the things, I used to work with sound as well when I was a performer, but it honestly just came fully formed into my head one night. I was just sitting in my apartment and I was like, “What do I really love doing? You know what I really love doing? I really love talking about sex.” I love talking about sex. It’s one of my favorite-

Caitlin:                    I think we all have that in common.

Caitlin:                    [crosstalk 00:40:27].

Karen:                      Thus we’re sitting around a microphone right now. I was like, “Huh,” and then boom, the idea just came. I moved on it really quickly; I started having meetings with folks and putting it together.

Caitlin:                    Nice. That’s awesome. I love that from idea to, I mean, we’re booked for a show.

Karen:                      Yeah, right. [Katelyn Neal 00:40:51] will be on the panel, which the topic will be “What is Sex?”, as we talked about a little bit earlier. [Caitlin Darcy 00:40:59] will be doing a toy demo with me.

Caitlin:                    Yeah.

Karen:                      More than one toy-

Caitlin:                    Yes.

Karen:                      And the toys will be for purchase afterwards.

Caitlin:                    Absolutely, yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative), and that just so happens to be my birthday.

Karen:                      Yeah.

Caitlin:                    Right, and my birthday’s the day before the following show.

Karen:                      Yes.

Caitlin:                    I know.

Karen:                      So much birthday goodness.

Caitlin:                    Yes, coming together. I already told Karen, I was like, “That’s going to be my birthday present, is being able to do the show” because it’s so fun and exciting. It’s really nice.

Caitlin:                    Do you believe in the idea that maybe the show came to you as like a download?

Karen:                      Oh yeah.

Caitlin:                    Like that the idea absolutely came from something bigger and greater than any of us-

Karen:                      Oh yes, yes. Absolutely.

Caitlin:                    That gets me so excited, because to me, that suggests that there’s a lot of people for whom this is like a confluence of things coming together. Beyond just the three of us being excited and so grateful to be a part, and that you invited us to be a part of this, it also makes me wonder, what kind of drop in the pebble of the universal field this is going to make for people?

Karen:                      Well, it’s interesting because I always say, “This is my hidden agenda,” and I keep saying it so obviously it’s not that hidden.

Caitlin:                    It’s not that hidden.

Caitlin:                    “It’s just my agenda.”

Karen:                      “This is my agenda, right?” I’ll just own it, is to really normalize the conversation around sex. The first time I went to a tantra workshop, I was like, “Holy shit. Everyone’s talking about sex,” and it was so normal, like they were talking about, I don’t know, working with vaginas and penises. We were just talking. I was like, “Oh, this is such a relief. It’s such a relief just to be talking about sex.”

Caitlin:                    That’s what I always say whenever I come back from like AVN where there’s literally porn stars everywhere, or one of my other workshops where it’s a conference room in Vegas, one of those big ones that’s full of lingerie and sex toys. Just walking around and people demoing them, it’s just so nice-

Karen:                      It’s a relief.

Caitlin:                    It’s such a relief-

Karen:                      Because it’s such a huge part of our consciousness to not be able to talk about it openly, and also the other part about the show is people feel so isolated. They think they’ve got this weird fetish, it’s so weird. I’ve been with enough folks that it’s like, “Wow, you think that’s weird? Seriously? Really? That’s pretty standard.” Just to bring people together and create community, and create openness, and laugh a little bit.

Caitlin:                    Yeah. Caitlin, when you were asking that question, I think that’s the biggest thing that we can do to normalize sex and make people not feel so isolated and alone is just to talk about it and just to open up, and maybe share experiences and things like that.

Caitlin:                    Not just talk about it, but embody it, because there’s so much beyond just giving people permission to share verbally what’s going on with them and what their experience is. I think that walking the walk-

Karen:                      Yes, for sure.

Caitlin:                    People pick up on that energy. When we can express our sexual selves, even when we’re not stating it; like when we walk into a coffee shop and we feel our sexual self is expressed and healthily recognized, and that we’re not wasting any energy trying to suppress that or trying to suppress what comes to us naturally. Our energy shines through our actions. We’re embodying it, and that is powerful.

Karen:                      It is powerful, and it’s really about living a juicy life-

Caitlin:                    Tasty life.

Caitlin:                    Tasty.

Karen:                      Tasty life, being turned on by life. Right?

Caitlin:                    Yeah, absolutely.

Caitlin:                    Yeah.

Caitlin:                    It’s exciting. I know you mentioned maybe some burlesque acts, but what sort of sexy, fun performances are we going to see at the October show?

Karen:                      You will see a performance by a great burlesque named [Annalise Santini 00:45:00], who’s just fantastic.

Caitlin:                    She’s a human joy. She’s just a walking ray of joy.

Caitlin:                    Nice.

Caitlin:                    Not to sexualize [inaudible 00:45:11]-

Karen:                      And she’s also on the comedy scene as well. You will see an amazing performance artist named [inaudible] who does just incredible, thought-provoking, intense work. I will be lining up hopefully a storyteller.

Caitlin:                    Cool.

Karen:                      Yeah, so those will be the performative acts. The show will be about an hour forty-five with intermission.

Caitlin:                    Awesome, and people can find us on Instagram as well, right?

Karen:                      Yes. The handles on Facebook and Insta are the same, @SuperTastyTheShow. All one word.

Caitlin:                    @SuperTastyTheShow.

Karen:                      @SuperTastyTheShow.

Caitlin:                    Of course.

Caitlin:                    If you’re in Chicago-

Caitlin:                    We have a little cat, as the… I love it.

Caitlin:                    Mm-hmm (affirmative). Cat’s our show mascot, so it wasn’t even out of place for her to meow during this show. That was the least interrupted show.

Caitlin:                    Absolutely.

Caitlin:                    Usually they’re up on the table and rubbing against the microphone.

Caitlin:                    We’ve had cats unplug the microphone before while we’ve been recording, so…

Caitlin:                    Yeah, it’s a really cat-friendly show.

Karen:                      Oh, cool. “Look at me, look at me, look at me.”

Caitlin:                    Yes, of course.

Caitlin:                    Yeah, so Super Tasty’s mascot is very much in line with [crosstalk 00:46:18].

Caitlin:                    Yeah, yeah. What do you hope audiences take away from the show?

Karen:                      Honestly, a sense that they’re not alone. Really, we’re all in this together. Sex is fun and it’s okay. It’s okay.

Caitlin:                    Yes. Yeah, I feel like I’ve been trying to preach that for a while. That’s what this whole podcast is about really.

Caitlin:                    Yep. We’re going to be preaching it for a while still.

Caitlin:                    Yeah.

Caitlin:                    At least I hope all of us can stay employed.

Caitlin:                    Yes, absolutely. Yeah. Nice.

Caitlin:                    Well thank you so much for sharing with us.

Karen:                      It was such a pleasure to be here. Yeah.

Caitlin:                    Good. Thank you for sharing everything, and we are super excited about the show.

Caitlin:                    Yeah, we’ll see everybody on October-

Karen:                      10th.

Caitlin:                    October 10th.

Caitlin:                    10th.

Karen:                      7:30.


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