It seems that every other post on social media these days is extolling the benefits of self-care and personal development. We’re encouraged to take time for ourselves, dig deeper, and do the work required to heal our traumas. But are these practices actually that important? According to Sexual Empowerment and Sexuality Educator Amy Jo Goddard, the answer is a resounding yes. For over twenty years, Goddard has created programming, written books, and worked with individuals across the globe to educate and empower through sexuality. Her main focus now centers on the holistic empowerment of women.
Why is sexuality the vehicle she uses for this work? “I have a full belief that we cannot be in our full power without our sexuality,” Goddard explains. “It’s not just sex and the things that happen within sexual relationships and identity. It’s also the emotional components and the psychosocial components, how we’re living in our bodies, and how we’re understanding our desires. We need to see it as a way of coming home to the self. When we’re really in our power and we’re really at home in ourselves, we show up very differently in our relationships and in our sexuality.”
Sexuality, then, has the power to impact the whole of who we are and how we show up in every aspect of our lives. But sex and sexuality, Goddard argues, are aspects of self that require effort and learned skills, much like learning a new sport. “You would never assume you’d be an awesome soccer player just because you’re an awesome person,” she points out. “You know that you need to learn the game and get good equipment. You’ll probably need coaching and you’ll need to practice and develop your skills. And sex is no different.”
For years Goddard taught a nine-month Women’s Sexual Empowerment Program, which zeroed in on improving women’s lives through examining their sexuality. In an effort to avoid burnout and to offer the work to more women at a more accessible price point, she conceived The Fire Woman Retreat. An annual event, The Fire Woman Retreat focuses on the whole woman by combining workshops in the day with playful activities each night. Participants are given space to heal and examine personal blocks as well as opportunities to examine their relationship to common sexual archetypes. The program’s Erotic Carnival boasts stations where women can explore erotic skills in a non-sexual, judgment-free zone. From strap-on sex to spanking to flirting, the event covers a range of skills. “There is something for everyone,” Goddard shares. “It’s a make your own adventure type of experience.”
To facilitate the programming, Goddard brings in teachers and actors who can impart their specific knowledge to retreat goers. Collaboration with other professionals and the community of attendees work hand-in-hand to create a safe and transformative experience for all involved. Goddard explains that the retreat and the work involved are not only for heterosexual women: despite the assumption that queer individuals engage in more sexual activities and discussions, queer women benefit from doing the work as well. In fact, she noted that last year’s participants mainly identified as lesbian, bisexual, and/or queer–which might be an indication of how clearly Goddard’s identity as a queer-poly-kinky person resonates with individuals searching for sexual empowerment. The event welcomes cis women, trans women, and non-binary individuals designated female at birth. The 2017 retreat saw 75 women ranging in age, race, sexuality, and gender identity come together to share this experience.
This year, Goddard is examining how the work done at the retreat affects the concept of a larger community of women. “One of the leading questions that I’m asking right now, that I want to explore this year at the retreat, is the relationship between personal and individual versus collective empowerment,” she reveals. “Two weeks after Fire Woman last year, #MeToo broke. This year three weeks after Fire Woman is the [midterm] election. This is a very important time for us to be gathering together to look not only internally at what’s happening with us and how we’re not owning our own power or how we could be stepping into bigger versions of ourselves, but also to stand with other women and stand with other queer folks. I’m interested in creating spaces where we can do that collective sexual empowerment work right now.”
As preparations for this year’s retreat hit full speed, Goddard urges those who desire to step into their full selves not to wait. “It’s easy to put sexuality on the back burner and a lot of people do that and that’s why a lot of people are unhappy. Sexuality isn’t going to put itself on the front burner, you have to do that. There’s an opportunity right now to make a really big shift and that’s what I’m committed to.”
This year The Fire Woman Retreat will take place Friday, October 12 – Sunday, October 14 in San Diego, California at the Fire Garden. A pre-con workshop, “How to Be a Woman and Not Give a Fuck,” will take place with Airial Clark on Thursday night at 7 p.m. At the time of publishing, spots for the retreat are still available through this link.