“My body physically feels completely different than another person’s body — to be on top of, to be under, to be hugged, by, to be cuddled by, to be touched by, to be kissed by, to be charged with … that is completely unique. And I have discovered through experience that even with a multitude of other people, there’s some kind of draw that brings people back to me. Even after they’ve — they haven’t been with me for a long time, and they go and explore many many others, something keeps them coming back. And I think it’s that uniqueness.”
– Mirelle, episode 1
Welcome to horizontal with lila, the podcast about intimacy (sex, love, and relationships of all kinds) that’s entirely recorded while lying down.
I invite you to eavesdrop on stories that might seem almost too personal for you to hear, which is, of course, exactly why I want you to hear them. Many episodes are recorded in bed, on my Casper mattress at Hacienda Villa, a sex-positive intentional community in Bushwick, Brooklyn. What does that mean?
Vocabulary words will go like this:
sex-positive (noun, adj.) = a commitment to dispelling the shame surrounding sex through sex ed, open dialogue, the celebration of all genders and sexual orientations, and the affirming of all relationship structures and sexual acts between consenting adults.
intentional community (noun) = living together on purpose in accordance with common ideals, in order to offer everyone roots and wings.
I’ve been inspired, humbled, unburdened, seen, and thoroughly schooled by the everyday conversations we have in this house, and I thought it was a pity that we were the only people who got to hear them. Hacienda’s mission is to bring sex-positive culture to the world. This is my part.
Come lie down with us!
In the very first episode of horizontal, I lie down with my housemate Mirelle. Mirelle is a sensual nurturer — sometimes nicknamed the Mama of the Villa, at other times the MVP — and a member of what she calls the Villa Dream Team, a group of my housemates, or, Villans —
Villan(s) (noun) = a person, or persons, living in the Hacienda Villa intentional community [affectionate nickname]
— who provide a kind of fantasy fulfillment service, by curating scenes —
scene (noun) = a consensual, predetermined sexual or kinky scenario during which the players take on particular roles, governed by the agreements between all involved. This may or may not be played out in a semi-public setting, such as a fetish party.
— and initiating people into sensations, kinks, settings, configurations, and stories that they’ve previously only dreamed of. She is profoundly and happily polyamorous —
polyamorous (noun) = a person who sustains multiple loving, committed relationships, with the full knowledge and consent of all those involved [colloquial abbreviation: poly]
— she has many relationships, many loves. She’s an outstanding cook, a connoisseur of delight, and somehow manages to lovingly sustain an incredibly intricate and extensive web of partners and lovers, with such tender attentiveness to the way people wish to be loved, that I feel deeply impressed by the way that she relates. I think Mirelle could teach a multi-part course on intimacy.
This episode was recorded in my loft bed at the Villa, on a snow day. We talk about the word “slut,” love languages, overcoming shame, feeding your delight, intimacy, polyamory, comets, fantasies, and fear — mine. Come lie down with us, and you’ll wish your head was on the pillow next to Mirelle.
Links to Things We Spoke About:
Hacienda Villa, the sex-positive intentional community in which I live
Hacienda Studio, the sex/intimacy education nexus run by the Hacienda Community
Chemistry, a sex party in NYC
Crucial Conversations, a book about successfully navigating difficult talks
The Ethical Slut, a guidebook (new edition soon to be released)
Conscious Loving, the book that names the “upper limits problem”
We Are Hacienda, the website that showcases many projects of the Hacienda Community
Smarter Sex Project, Part 1: Sex ID with Kenneth Play, sex educator, and Zhana Vrangalova, sex scientist
mating in captivity, a book about how can navigate our desire for security and excitement in relationship
In Praise of Short-Term Love, a video Mirelle felt deeply inspired by
Show Notes (feel free to share quotes/resources on social media, and please link to iTunes or this website!):
website link: https://horizontalwithlila.com/
[5:09] Mirelle coins (?) the term “sex-celebratory.”
[5:48] What does play mean to Mirelle?
play (verb) = a euphemism for engaging in sexual acts, e.g. “I played with him at the last Hacienda party.”
[6:35] What was Lila’s first sex party experience at Chemistry like?
[9:00] How might we love people in the way that they best understand love? Check out the love languages quiz here. “It’s simple, but brilliant. If you know how people want to be loved, you can choose to love them that way instead of a way in which you understand that they don’t understand.” – Lila
[10:36] “I’ve visited several other intentional communities, and when they are struggling, it’s a lack of love.” – Lila
community (noun) = a group of three or more people, and love, exponentially multiplying the potential of human reality
[11:05] How Lila used mutual purpose, inspired by the book Crucial Conversations, to have a difficult conversation with a housemate.
[16:43] How Mirelle & Lila feel about the word “slut.” A scene Mirelle took part in during which she was called a slut.
slut (noun) = a person of any gender who is sexually-expressed with great frequency and variety
[16:53] The Ethical Slut is considered a seminal text for the ethically nonmonogamous community.
[17:15] Do you have a better word than “slut” to identify a person who happily identifies with my definition of the word? If so, please head over to the contact page and let me know!
[30:01] “I am a woman who experiences pleasure and loves experiencing pleasure.” – Mirelle
[30:38] What Lila envies in Mirelle.
[31:00] “The way that you tend to a garden, with water and attention, I give my delight and my pleasure regular attention. I tend to it.” – Mirelle
[31:56] Does Mirelle practice raising her upper limit, or did she never set one during her childhood?
the upper limits problem (ULP) = a natural human tendency, given the thousands of years of accustoming ourselves to notice the next threat quickly and to expect things to go wrong, to limit the experience of feeling blissful joy. ULP is also about not allowing yourself to expand your capacity to give and receive positive energy because you don’t know how and haven’t seen effective examples of people enjoying long periods of things going well. To give you an example, much like a thermostat has a setting that prevents the temperature from rising too high, we have upper limits that we’ve learned unconsciously that prevent us from being too happy, too in-love, too comfortable, etc. When we get close to reaching our upper limits, we do something (project our feelings, start an argument, take a victim position) that brings the relationship down to a more familiar level. – as defined by Katie & Gay Hendricks, the authors of Conscious Loving
[35:48] How did Mirelle develop her remarkable capacity for delight?
[38:26] “I love hearing about your delight in this way because then it doesn’t seem like magic that only you possess, but it seems like the seeds that you watered. This is what you cultivated. Everybody has the capacity for delight. Even the most curmudgeonly person at some point had capacity for delight and maybe they didn’t water it. But you do.” – Lila
[42:22] What Mirelle learned about sex and relationships while growing up in a Catholic household.
[44:05] The drawings that got little Mirelle in big trouble!
[46:25] How Mirelle’s parents related to her first boyfriend.
[48:13] How did sex evolve in Mirelle’s life from secret to sacred?
[50:59] The positive impact that religion has had on Mirelle’s life.
[52:10] Lila’s favorite monologue, from the John Patrick Shanley play the dreamer examines his pillow
DONNA. Alright. [a long pause] Tommy an me … When he loves me. In bed. When he puts his arms around me, and I can feel his skin, his heart beating, his breath, and I smell him, it’s like Africa. It’s like, I get scared because all of my guts shake … Sometimes I press my hands against myself because I think things are coming loose inside. He just touches me, starts to barely touch me, and I’m so frightened because it’s so much, it’s so hot, it’s so close to losing my mind. It’s beyond pleasure. It’s … he takes me over. Like there’s a storm, I get caught in this storm with electricity and rain and noise and I’m blind I’m blind. I’m seeing things, but just wild, wild shapes flying by like white flyin rain and black shapes. I feel I feel this this rising thing like a yell a flame. My hair I can feel my hair like slowly going up on its toes on my skull my skull. Everything goes up through me from my belly and legs and feet to my head and all these tears come out but it can’t get out that way, so it goes down against my throat swells an through down to where it can get out GET OUT GET OUT. But it doesn’t go out, so I, I EXPAND. Like to an ocean. To hold the size of it. An then it’s maybe something you could speak of as pleasure, since then somehow I can hold it. I’m this ocean with a thousand moons and comets reflecting in me. And then I come back. Slowly. Slowly. From such a long way. And such a different size. And I’m wet. My body my hair. The bed is just soaked, torn up and soaked. There ain’t a muscle left in me. I’m all eyes. My eyes are the size of like two black pools of water in the middle of an endless night. And Tommy’s there. And he did it to me. He took me completely. I wasn’t me anymore. I was just a blast a light out in the stars. What could be better than that? What could be better? It’s like gettin to die, an get past death, to get to the universe, an then come back. In the world where we talk and fight and he fucks me over, it all just seems so unimportant after that. I don’t understand how he can do that for me an then turn around an be such a, well, smaller. It is a small world this world, in comparison to where we go in bed. And I guess we gotta be smaller in it.
[52:23] How Mirelle met Sweet Chelsea Morning Days and got introduced to poly and play.
[57:40] The revelation Lila had about her sex and love beliefs at the Smarter Sex Project: Sex ID workshop.
[1:03:11] Lila asks Mirelle, “Do you really think that one person can’t possibly add to all the facets of you?”
[1:04:22] Will Mirelle be polyamorous for the rest of her life?
[1:04:21] Who Mirelle won’t date.
[1:06:37] “Identifying as polyamorous is a place where I can grow incredibly, exponentially, and with every person I meet, I grow a little bit more.” – Mirelle
[1:07:33] What Lila thinks about the “playing with others” along with her partner.
[1:08:50] Does Mirelle feel jealousy?
[1:13:49] “Intellectually I understand that you can lose your partner, and you can lose your partner’s love regardless of whether you’re polyamorous or not — so many people cheat, so many people leave their partners in monogamous relationships, so many people lie or squelch attractions to other people, and it certainly doesn’t protect you from loss and I know that.” – Lila
[1:14:22] Lila’s go-to fantasies.
[1:14:53] Are there different kinds of fantasies?
[1:15:23] Mirelle on risk.
[1:16:07] Esther Perel’s equation for excitement. Excitement = Desire + Obstacle [link to article or mating in captivity]
[1:18:01] “Almost all of my friendships are romantic in some way.” – Mirelle
[1:19:36] Mirelle recommends the video In Praise of Short-Term Love (she mentions it by the name “In Celebration of Short-Term Relationships”) as one of the most educational inspirations for her lifestyle.
[1:20:00] What is the delight of meeting a comet? [vocab]
comet(s) (noun) = a person, perhaps a lover, who enters our life quickly, brightens it in a flash, and then just as quickly, disappears, perhaps to be seen again at a later date, but also, perhaps not
[1:21:17] Lila’s fears about her partner and his novelty-drive.
[1:25:43] Struggling with “enoughness.”
[1:26:52] “My body physically feels completely different than another person’s body — to be on top of, to be under, to be hugged, by, to be cuddled by, to be touched by, to be kissed by, to be charged with … that is completely unique. And I have discovered through experience that even with a multitude of other people, there’s some kind of draw that brings people back to me. Even after they’ve — they haven’t been with me for a long time, and they go and explore many many others, something keeps them coming back.” – Mirelle
[1:30:17] The difference between Lila’s intellectual understanding and emotional understanding of safety. “And I know, again, intellectually, that nothing is ever safe. Nothing is ever safe. Our planet could end, our — anyone could die at any moment, intellectually I understand. Everything is constantly shifting. No relationship is ever static. The way you feel about someone fluctuates from day to day even when you love them. And I still feel so scared.” – Lila
[1:31:00] Mirelle’s suggestion to Lila.
[1:32:00] The Japanese pottery, kintsugi, in which cracks are beautified and celebrated by filling them with gold.
[1:32:34] Is monogamy or polyamory a better choice?
[1:34:44] Would Mirelle be a poly sherpa or a playful sherpa?
[1:35:31] How would Mirelle design her ideal relationship structure?
[1:37:40] Mirelle tells Lila a story (about a comet).