Circlusion – what it is and why it’s worth thinking about
My last blog here was about Penis In Vagina (PIV) sex and my own personal and professional experience of it, and in particular it’s cultural dominance and the impact this has on our sex lives.
Penetration as a concept
After I had written the blog, I thought a lot about this idea of ‘penetration’ and my own relationship with it. I have a positive and erotic relationship with the word and its associations. My own fantasies and desires contain a fair serving of penetrative action of different kinds, between various bodies and sometimes toys. Taking some position in the dynamic of being penetrated or penetrating, can be incredibly hot, sexy and fulfilling. However, and this is a big, however, it is really very helpful to think beyond this.
It’s antonym ‘Circlusion’
Years ago I came across Bini Adamczak’s concept of ‘Circlusion’ – meaning the opposite of penetration. “Being around and against a thing, enclosing it, encircling it, moving over it”. It is a reconceptualising of the kinds of sex where someone’s body part or a toy is inside another body part. You can read more here… https://www.maskmagazine.com/the-mommy-issue/sex/circlusion
It comes with this stock image of a bolt inside a nut. Imagine the nut being moved towards the bolt and being eased on in a spiral. That is circlusion.
All in a day’s work (fucking gender)
A few years ago, I attended the workshop F**k Gender, ran by H Howitt of Beyond the Binary, and QueerHearted https://queerhearted.com/fuck-gender.html and there the whole idea of genitals equalling gender and any rules about what we ought to be doing with our genitals was robustly dismantled.
An aspect of this workshop was using breathwork to raise erotic energy, and we worked with the idea of ‘energy genitals’. We were invited to cultivate awareness of possible energy genitals (some people were already well acquainted with theirs) and to share these experiences with the circle afterwards. Some people described their energy genitals as something protruding, like a cactus or a beam of light or dancing sensations and colours. Others visualised something with the potential to enclose and encircle, like a shell or a puffy marshmallow or a coral? And some peoples shape-shifted, or they experienced a combination of both.
This is all so relevant to the honouring and acknowledgement of the trauma, disempowerment and colonising that has happened to female, queer and trans bodies. Reimagining a new way certain body parts interact with other body parts and reframing where power and agency exists is a really important piece in undoing all the aspects of our sexual culture we are under constant siege from. Not overnight, but a drip, drip, drip effect.
Who is it good for?
Everyone! The previous blog about Penis in Vagina sex emphasised how no one is benefitting from the model of sex that we are bombarded with and conditioned to see as ‘normal’. However, it is a particularly useful concept for (and the same person may be on the intersection of all of these);
Anyone affected by trauma – it’s all about regaining agency and seeing your body in a different way. If the dance step of circlusion was more commonplace, in our minds and bodies, a traumatised person may feel safer seeking internal pleasures, which in the co-created story, they are in control of, an active seeker of pleasure, rewriting the awful stories of so much invasive and unwanted contact.
Trans and gender diverse people – Queer and trans sexual lives and practices have rewritten many rules about sex and pleasure, but talking about it explicitly and consciously can be very validating and reinforce the diversity of sex and pleasure. The internal parts of the body might be experienced in gender flexible ways, e.g the back hole might be a vagina to a trans feminine person.
Women and girls – Ideas about sex, in the media and in porn, and even in reproductive science, are often generated from a cis men’s perspective and revolve around the needs and desires of the penis-owning man. Even the ‘woman on top’ position does not automatically mean the sex is woman-centred or even equal. Woman on top sex with the intention and visualised, fantasised and conceptualised the idea of circlusion rather than penetration, might well create a different sexual encounter.
In my Sexological Bodywork practice…
Firstly, sensuality, sex and erotic pleasure does not have to involve anything going INTO anything. Let’s get that straight. Its’s not any practitioner’s role to make clients conform to any script of what sex is or isn’t. It is based upon what the client wants to explore.
Circlusion and solo sex
I bring awareness of circlusion into my work every day. Circlusion can be applied to self-pleasure. It’s a trick of the mind, of perspective and of relocating power, agency and action. Maybe I will invite a client to imagine their vagina as active, sucking, their pelvic floor muscles are active, there is energy flowing and blood has engorged the area. The vagina is far from passive when the owner is aroused. Simply by bringing attention to this, we get away from the idea of a passive and receptive hole. Maybe we can switch back and forth between the fingers or toy and the body being the active, thrusting thing. Equally, a penis owner can imagine being circluded by their hands or Fleshlight toy or whatever, rather than ‘fucking’ it.
When doing bodywork that involves touching any orifice, I talk with the orifice owner about my approach to the touch and to penetration. For example;
‘I feel like I am being invited in. I’ll pause here and wait until you tell me to ease forward and in’.
‘I will keep my finger still, I wonder if it feels good to breathe and move your pelvis. What do you notice where my fingertips are?’
I make it clear to clients that at least two options are available regarding ‘going in’ forms of bodywork.
- Our learning agreement is that I am an active party moving my hand in order to massage or penetrate their body, completely in the role of serving their pleasure and learning.
- Our learning agreement is that I provide my hand or finger for them to be active in ‘circluding’ me.
Penetration and circlusion – a complementary duo
We can also be curious about the difference between the two intentions and what we feel and experience. Both penetration and circlusion can be experienced as amazing and pleasurable, or boring and dreadful. It is not the case that one is superior to the other, but the penetration narrative is culturally dominant (think male and female plugs and sockets, and metaphors like keys in locks, weapon and wound, tools, screwing etc). So we might do well to give Circlusion some chance to take root as an idea.
‘Active receiving’ practice
In the central Sexological Bodywork practice of ‘Active Receiving’, I can offer the client a practice space for interactions between a body part (in this case a hand/fingers) and a body part that can circlude (such as a vagina/front hole or anus)/back hole). It is in this ‘active receiving’ mode where clients can realise what it is like when someone collaborates with you for the purpose of your pleasure and wellbeing.
The doors it opens
Once we create a more level (and safer) erotic playing field where people are skilled at consent practice, can advocate for their own pleasure, can make requests about how they are interacted with erotically, then this opens doors to play with the power of either penetration and circlusion. For example, a vagina circluding a penis does not have to be an invading, powerful and dominating act, but negotiated and consensual fantasy and roleplay might make it so. So, that’s a whole other blog…’Circlusion and Penetration in D/s’. For people who like fisting, it is very often most successful and delicious when the fistee maintains agency, control and impeccable communication with the fister, and very possibly when they are, at times at least, circluding the fist. For great advice about (vaginal) fisting see ‘One hand in the Bush; the fine art of vaginal fisting’ by Deborah Addington https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/181314.A_Hand_in_the_Bush.
As you go about everyday life, notice when your hand or fingers enter into something else. See what it’s like to imagine you being circluded instead. Think about how you can introduce this idea into your intimate life, with yourself or another person.
If you would like to explore ways to rewrite your erotic life, maybe using ideas like circlusion, I am available for one to one sessions. I can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.