The wisdom of Consciousness Raising Groups began with 70’s feminism. It was based on the concept that, “The personal is political.”
When women talk about our personal lives, we are describing the political system we live in. We are not isolated cases of misfortune, but victims of a male dominated authoritarian system determined to control our bodies and our sexuality. The CR solution was simple: By sharing the truth about our lives, we could find solutions through our collective efforts to change ourselves.
After attending 2 years of CR groups, I quickly understood that sex is the most political subject of all and we were avoiding it. Meanwhile the Church and Government was determined to keep women second class citizens, I saw we needed a CR group that focused on the physical and sexual realms. First I joined the NOW organization but was not happy with how the group functioned. Next, I turned to a group of younger women to find a CR group I could join. The young woman sitting behind the desk said no new CR groups were forming so why didn’t I start one of my own. When I asked how to do this, her instructions were the following: “Get a group of your friends together and agree to meet once a week.”
I went through my phone book and called everyone I knew and asked if they were interested in attending a Physical and Sexual Consciousness Raising Group? The first group met on a weeknight between 7 and 10. My close friend agreed to help and we thought up all the things we could cover. At the end of the first year, I saw the potential for a new career. Eventually I held groups on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 1pm to 6pm. Five hours was enough time before attention spans begin to drift. This became the best design. At first I would suggest possible things we could do together and then let the group decide. At the end of a year I could see what worked and what didn’t.
There are no rules except one: Women agree to speak first person, using “I” instead of “you.” The reason for this is simple; no one likes to be told what she “should” do. It’s far more affective to share our own experiences. That way everyone will listen instead of becoming defensive. We are there to share our experience, strength and desires with one another to improve our sexlives. The facilitator starts by sharing how she feels about her body and orgasms. Time it so everyone has a chance to share. Once you go around the circle with each woman answering the question, everyone has a sense of who is in the room. Depending upon the size of the group, from then on, it’s up to each facilitator to decide what comes next. The first group sharing is usually an entire session. Or she can suggest several possibilities and ask for a show of hands on what the women want to do at the next meeting.
Some women have started clothed groups where women view one of my video tapes and then discuss it. Any one of the DVD’s will start an interesting conversation where women can learn from other women while they gradually get comfortable talking about their sex lives. Or if it’s a more progressive group, a facilitator can follow the latest DVD on the Bodysex workshop documentary and hold the group in the nude. At the end the first day, the women can do the genital show and tell ritual. What ever you decide to do always let everyone know what’s in store in advance. No surprises or you will lose women’s trust.
I’m willing to answer any individual questions as each woman begins this process. Just remember, it’s like any party, coffee Klatch, women’s support group or 12 Step program. Women gather to discuss their personal sex lives, both their struggles and their joys and learn from each other the truth about how we are honestly living our sexlives.