Episode 50: Sexuality, Pleasure, and Psychedelics with Kewal

In this episode, I had the honor of speaking with Kewal, who recently completed her Masters degree in Women and Gender Studies at Arizona State University. As part of her work, she conducted a survey study around pleasure and psychedelics. She also recently published a follow-up article on Chacruna.net. We discussed her personal experiences with Ayahuasca, the results of the survey, and dived into related topics including trauma, societal norms around sexuality, and much more. 

Some helpful links and info she shared, including her aricle on Chacruna.net.

Kewal’s recent article about pleasure & psychedelics

Book: Pleasure Activism by adrienne maree brown

Kim Tallbear on settler sexuality: http://www.criticalpolyamorist.com/ 

Gayle Rubin on “charmed” sexuality: Amazon

Book: Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski

Fireside Project, Psychedelic Peer Support line

Ayahuasca Community Guide for the Awareness of Sexual Abuse

Book: The Fellowship of the River by Joseph Tafur, MD

Modern Spirit: https://www.modernspirit.org/

We discussed:

  1. I’d like to hear about your New Year’s Eve Ayahuasca experience, both the journey itself and the impact that had on you. But first, is there any background info you’d like to share leading up to that ceremony? Struggles, challenges, aspirations, anything?  MAPS.ORG conference; hard LSD experience*; positive disruption; 20 years no psychedelics; resistant but heard the call
    1. You described it as “an intensely pleasurable—yet somehow terrifying—experience.” You took from that some important lessons, yes? What were those? 
  2. Are there other lessons you’ve learned and incorporated into your life from entheogenic experiences?
  3. So, you study “pleasure.” It seems obvious, but what IS pleasure? 
    1. You did a survey. Were there any surprises there, in the results?
    2. “settler-colonial (or “charmed”) sexuality and relationship structures” — monogamy, heterosexual sex and relationships, ‘vanilla’ sex practices, and shame around sexuality: How do psychedelics affect one’s feelings about these structures? 
    3. I imagine sexual and other traumas play a big role in one’s ability to feel pleasure, and entheogens can help to release that trauma. Yes? No?
    4. Did you find any data or insight into couples where one has opened up new sexual “channels” as the result of entheogenic work, creating a kind of separation within the couple’s sexual intimacy? 
    5. There’s still a stigma around psychedelics. On top of that, you point out the feeling of shame associated with sexual pleasure. Is there any interplay between those two? Or, how do psychedelics help deal with that shame?
    6. Body image. Did you find entheogens help with body image? 
    7. Reclaiming one’s sexuality seems to affect women differently, as they’re taught by society to not have or want sex, else get labeled a slut. Is that true? Do entheogens help?
    8. Do you relate to your findings on a personal level yourself?
  4. What kind of access to pleasure and sexuality can a non-ordinary or altered state of consciousness provide? Open our container, allows feelings; opens up senses; feeling of connection
    1. What is it about a psychedelic journey that opens one up to new ideas and experiences around (sexual) pleasure?
  5. What about non-sexual pleasure? Insights there?
  6. Do you have any recommendations for those looking to connect with their “pleasure center” via entheogens?
  7. What are your thoughts on ceremonial “versus” the psychotherapeutic use of entheogens? Have an intention, then let it go; be grateful; connect to the heart; talk to the entheogen
  8. When discussing psychedelics and sexuality, I feel like we need to mention harm reduction, whether we’re talking ceremonial setting or a therapeutic setting. Any thoughts on harm reduction? Chacruna.net, community guide for sexual abuse (Ayahuasca); firesideproject.org
  9. This paper you’ve written feels like a “first” step on some path for you. What’s next? Where are you headed? Modern Spirit (Joe Tafur, Spirit of the River) modernspirit.org
  10. What else, what haven’t I asked?

*Quick interruption here: it should be noted that Kewal’s difficult experience with LSD, including her seizure, was likely the result of having several substances in her system, not just the LSD.