Vulnerability coach Rina Trevi grew up in Russia, with a lot of sexual repression. A journey into sky-diving, sex work, BDSM and Tantric massage in the U.S. and Thailand helped her reclaim her sexual self and inspired her to help others find similar pleasure and healing.
Speaking with Rina brought my 2018 conversation with Kasia Urbaniak, who teaches women to reclaim their power, to my mind. So this episode also includes a throwback segment featuring “best of” highlights from that interview — including tips for shifting power dynamics in tricky situations.
You’ll also learn:
- How BDSM may help heal trauma (and IRL examples)
- The role fantasies can play in fetishes and sexual healing
- How acting on a fantasy helped Rina heal a childhood wound
- How to safely and intentionally use vulnerability for better sex
Learn much more in this week’s Girl Boner Radio episode!
Stream it on Apple Podcasts/iTunes, iHeartRadio, Amazon Music, Spotify or here. ⬇️ Or read on for a lightly edited transcript.
“Sacred BDSM and Reclaiming Your Power”
A Girl Boner podcast transcript
Rina: And then his body softened. And then the first layer of rope goes around one hand, just one hand time to itself. And then I come from behind him, I embrace him and he’s still soft. And then very, very, very, very slowly, we started to go through a whole full body bondage experience and he had some cathartic moments of release.
The feeling that comes as they’re afraid of either coming across as bitchy and bossy or needy. You know, and dispelling a lot of the fears around those things just becomes really important. I mean, a woman who is sexually satisfied and freely self-expressed in her speech is fucking unstoppable. With those two ingredients, basically she can take over the world.
Vulnerability coach, Rina Trevi, grew up in post-Soviet Russia, where she said sexual repression and limitations for women, really shaped her.
Rina: Yeah, it wasn’t an easy childhood. At the same time, I really early in life felt like I’m on my own. I just lost trust in my surroundings early enough to feel like something is wrong, something is off here. I need to find my path. I need to find my way.
Most of it, Russia was really interesting how for women growing up and discovering your sexuality, it’s like everybody uses sexuality as a weapon.
Like we need to get married successfully, so we need to be as sexy as we can be. Like going to university, wearing high heels, like stripper style, kind of getting dressed up in a very provocative way in order to find a perfect match because you’re supposed to get married before 25, have family, children, and feel safe.
And at the same time, there is this enormous amount of slut-shaming and sexual repression. Like you’re a slut. You shouldn’t be so provocative, you shouldn’t be seeing more than one person. You shouldn’t be exposing your belly. So it’s like a very conflicting messaging around me. It was really hard for me to make sense out of it.
She didn’t understand how she could be beautiful and attractive, in ways she had learned were both sexy and necessary – without being considered a “slut.”
She had to be “sexy like a stripper” if she wanted a husband, which would mean a safe future. But doing so invited slut-shaming.
Her sexuality was a weapon, she said, and one she wasn’t supposed to use “too much.”
August: Did you have any sense of your sexuality being your own or about your pleasure?
Rina: No, no, there was not much discussion of pleasure. It was more about relating with others and what you get out of that relationship kind of story.
Meaning female sexuality was all about leverage and strategy. She and her friends poured over U.S. magazines and Hollywood movies, fascinated to see women in their 30s and 40s enjoying sex.
Rina: Cuz in Russia you can’t. After 30 you just need to be a good housewife and you cannot really have a great time.
She also learned that porn stars can moan and experience real orgasms, but other women may as well just fake them.
These conflicting messages affected her into her teens and early adulthood.
And of course,they shaped the ways men learned to behave, too. Rina was only 13 when men started looking at her in a sexual way, inviting her to fancy dinners and offering to buy her gifts.
She told me she can see why Russian women are often considered “gold diggers” — but many people miss the reasons behind that.
August: I’m so glad you shared that because I think, like you said, this stereotype doesn’t usually have a lot of compassion in it. It’s, oh, they’re selfish. Well, actually no, they weren’t given a choice. Could you give examples of how one might use it as a weapon? Would try to seduce somebody because they have money?
Rina: As an example, I would just go on dating websites and, um, some man from Moscow would invite me over, buy me flights and arrange everything for me.
And that was for me, like, wow, like I was in some small province. Moscow was a whole new world for me and the kind of man that performed there considered to be sophisticated and cool. But the way I would do it, I would not only do with one guy, I would start right away with the few. I would go on the dates and they would just buy me gifts. I would see one guy that day, then the guy, another guy, like the next day.
And like it was a tradition like in Russia that say if you’re a man who wants to impress a woman, you have to buy her gifts, women and love gifts. And of course, if you are a man who is sophisticated guy from Moscow, he takes you to some really fancy shops and gets you some really nice lingerie and nice cosmetics to make you even more beautiful, and then helps you to stay in a nice hotel.
And then they will hope that you’ll say yes to their sexual proposal. But I was not even ready to say Yes. I was like 16 years old and I was just discovering myself, and that gave me this kind of taste of how I can be treated like a queen, that sense of luxury that I didn’t have from my father or in my family, and I would definitely hide it from my family. I would give them some stories that I’m staying at my girlfriend’s house overnight, but I would fly to Moscow and like, see this man and then come back and like go back to school kind of story.
At 16. Can you imagine being whisked away to a fancy hotel and being showered with gifts at that age? If it sounds glamorous to you — well it did to Rina, too, especially given that her family really struggled to make ends meet.
Rina: We constantly had to worry about paying bills for the next month, what we’re gonna wear to go to school. How we’re gonna survive and all of a sudden you could come into this abundance and showered with gifts and affection and compliments and like being told how precious I am, how beautiful I am, and all of that because I’m young and sexy.
August: Yeah. And then you can take care of your family too. I mean,
Rina: Obviously then I will be successful once I have my family and I can also take care of my family back.
Some gifts I would bring to my mom and she would ask me like, “what is this? Where you got this?” And I remember trying to find excuses, how can I explain this to her? How I was able to get those things and I could see that she was worried about me. But I couldn’t share all the details cause of course I was ashamed that I will be slut-shamed again.
It’s like you have this scarcity on one hand and then being slut -shamed on the other.
She said the silly stories she would tell her mom about where she’d been and how she’d gotten the lavish gifts, didn’t make much sense. But at the same time, she sensed that her mother understood those happenings all too well. She was a woman in Russia, too, after all.
Rina: I kind of sense that my mom is in the same place and then we kind of try to act nice and hide it from one another.
And after a while, they basically said enough is enough. Rina and her mom realized that they needed to get out of there – the place where gender expectations caused so much harm and familial abuse was normalized.
She pointed out that domestic violence is legal in Russia to this day. If it leads to “minor” injuries, there is no punishment for the offender.
So when Rina was 18, her mom helped her move to America as part of a student exchange program to create a better life.
She arrived alone, with $200 to her name, and landed a job at a Six Flags amusement park. Talk about a different world.
August: Oh my gosh. What was it like your first entry into the US? Was it what you imagined? Was it shocking?
Rina: I mean, we imagine the US from movies and that’s all Hollywood. So being lifeguard, I watched like “Malibu Lifeguards” and then me being a lifeguard in Six Flags, America was totally not Pamela Anderson style.
It was different. And New York wasn’t all like Sex in the City style. It was a really tough city to survive in. So of course, like lots of disillusioned men and also men in America don’t shower women with gifts as much.
August: They weren’t spoiling you?
Rina: Like very quickly. I realized it’s that same strategy, it doesn’t really work so well in America.
August: Oh wow. So then what did you do? Did you start, did it occur to you to then maybe pursue relationships with people that you really connected with emotionally or what happened when you realized that?
Rina: I started to make friends, but first I was more making friends with immigrants like me, and they were kind of like already sharing their sides of the story. How life is. And uh, but I think what’s really changed my life a lot is the sports. Where I was in, I, I also had my, the other side of me that was not about being sexy, but about being extreme and I was drawn to extreme sports and I had like a community of people who are practicing skydiving. So very quickly I found community there of sky divers and I very quickly started to learn more from them about how we connect to each other through doing something like thrilling together.
And then kind of like shifted already in my perspective that life is not always about survival. There is a lot more. To that, and then just by starting to feel slowly safe, because even as as I work as lifeguard and a waitress, I could feel like, wow, there is abundance in life. I can take care of myself.
I love that Rina realized life did not have to be about survival, while doing an extreme sport like skydiving. There’s some cool irony there.
Still, while she was having these important realizations, she was far from understanding her sexuality. Skydiving sort of helped there, too.
Rina: One of the guys who was into extreme sports, my bass jumping mentor, he was my lover and we had a really beautiful friendship and connection and he was just really there to take care of me in many ways. And he was the one who brought me into Thailand.
And Thailand would turn out to be life changing.
The man brought the idea of traveling there when she was getting settled into US life. He told her about an awesome Tantra and yoga school in Thailand, and a community of people who freely expressed their sexuality.
Rina was intrigued. So she saved up and headed there for the winter. And quickly she learned a lot about what’s possible.
Rina: First, more survival. Second is building connection with people that are practicing similar things and building friendships.
In that open-minded community, she also learned about conscious sexuality, and taking basically everything to a deeper level.
Rina: It’s like the opposite of being superficial. Growing up in Russia where things are really like, don’t make sense and nobody questions anything that doesn’t make sense. Although we know that none of this makes sense, we just have to roll with that.
While over there it’s the opposite. We try to question everything and not taking for granted anything, like starting from the physical body we are in, like what is it made of? Are we all flashing bones? Maybe there is more to it. There is nervous system can be healthy, can we not? Oh my god. Energy chakras.
Like all of this. Like all of a sudden I feel like it’s a whole new world of possibilities. And this is where they started to talk about sexuality from a whole new perspective. That it’s not only not shameful, it’s not only it’s normal, not only it’s encouraged, but it’s also a pathway to God and divinity.
“A pathway to God and divinity within us.” Wow.
Finally, Rina discovered Tantric massage, also known as erotic massage. It involves therapeutic touch over your whole body, including your genitals.
That was another game changer – the whole spirituality and sex connection started to make more sense.
August: And tantric massages helped you really step into that spiritual element of sexuality, would you say?
Rina: Yes, because tantric massages are all about keeping it slow and keeping awareness in your body. So it’s me fully receiving and being aware of myself and then just that awareness alone is the game changer. It really changes everything.
The massage practice helped Rina feel connected to her body, rather than worrying about what it looked like. It also helped her notice when she felt uncomfortable or numb in her most intimate parts — which made sense, given all she’d been through.
Rina: There must be a reason why I’m feeling numb inside. What is that? And then starting to massage and connect. Like all of a sudden that numbness turns into shame, into guilt and into all kinds of emotions.
Rina’s massage practitioner explained that what she was experiencing was normal. “Look,” she said, “you grew up in a very restrictive environment. No wonder your body feels all of those things.” So let yourself feel them.
Rina: And like it was even hard for me to separate what I’m feeling from me projecting into her. Are you laughing at me? Are you making fun of me? Are you shaming me? Like, no, I’m not doing any of this.
And then realizing that it’s my own story within me, that shame that someone is making fun of me, that I’m too vulnerable to be exposed…Like was my breakthrough, was the moments of starting to learn about myself.
And then my body, as a result, as a bonus, started to give me a little amount of pleasure. Like, ah, but there is some pleasure and there is more pleasure. And there is more relaxation, and then there are more insights.
Rina learned that for her, pleasure and connection during sex require slowing down and intentionality.
Rina: All those things that I had nothing like I didn’t know anything of that. I was just really far from the place where I grew up. I was also quite far from even my communities in America, like all the extreme sports people that I would go to raves and practice skydiving.
I also were more, much more open minded, but still like that’s knowledge wasn’t accessible to them. I’m really grateful that I was so lucky to come to Thailand and to discover this.. .
Around the time Rina went to Thailand, she was also getting [quote] “disillusioned in another matrix” — the pursuit of the American Dream. She wanted a house, an office, a career.
Rina: So I was quite, quite determined. I got my degree really young.
Got my MBA by the age of 23, and that felt like, wow, I’ve made it in life. I’m in America. I got my MBA, and here I am in the cubicle sitting there feeling miserable. thinking, really? Is this what it’s all about? This MBA and a graduate degree and American dream like being in traffic every morning. Paying your student loans and like all of those things came.
And my body, I have a lot of gratitudes for my body because it responds very fast.
Rina said her body is “really loud” when something wrong happens. And it knew she needed a change. She started falling asleep repeatedly at work, even after a good night’s sleep, with no medical reason at play.
Finally it became clear that she could not stay in that office environment. She started looking for different jobs.
Then a friend in her extreme sports community suggested BDSM, which stands for (bondage, discipline/dominance, submission, and sadism). The friend first recommended it for personal exploration. Then Rina took it on professionally.
She said the types of play involved came as a shock at first, especially given that she wasn’t in the greatest BDSM community then.
Rina: And that was also quite shocking for me because I started to, in spiritual community, I started to connect myself with light and love, acting from your heart, speaking from your heart. All of a sudden you have to be controlling and demanding, and you’re appreciated for that.
August: Wow. What a change. I’ve heard from people that BDSM can be a very spiritual experience, but obviously this was such a, like a pendulum swing for you.
Rina: Oh, definitely far from it, right away.
Rina compared it to survival street sex work versus the kind of sex work you choose because you enjoy it or find it fulfilling as a vocation.
Her first go at professional BDSM work was more like the street type, the kind that brings more danger and risk. But eventually, she found her way to a totally different form, where she was respected. And like her other major sexual epiphanies, they started in Thailand. She went back to the yoga school…
Rina: And then I started to inquire and tried to make sense like what am I doing with my life? Why is it so opposite here? We meditate like then there I’m all of a sudden like torturing some Wall Street dude, like kicking him in his balls and that’s what I’m getting paid for, really? Like why life is like that.
As she asked herself those questions, the answers started to come. She found trustworthy BDSM mentors who educated her. Now, rather than being “owned” by some Wall St. guy, she worked independently as her own boss.
Rina: I started to become more selective about clients who feel like they’re on the same wavelength with me.
I met, a dominatrix who became a guru at some point through her life path. And she told me, well, you start inquiring, you start making intentional sessions.
You bring more ritual. You bring more breath work, intentionality, just like Tantra massage. It’s all about slowing down. Here you wanna have this time with your client that you spend some time talking to them first. , then you’re gonna slow things down and then we’re gonna focus on intention. You’re gonna breathe together and that will change the experience.
And this is how it started. I came back to New York and I announced on my website that I’m only going to do now intentional journeys. I’m not going to have this kind of fast food BDSM, but like getting used to abuse someone, experience. I wanna actually derive some meaning from it. Who is with me? Who is onboard?
Sharing that felt scary. She thought she’d lose all of her clients and end up broke again. Instead, she discovered she was far from alone. There was a whole movement of other Doms who wanted the same thing. Joining forces, they learned from one another.
Rina: And that gave me a whole new sense of meaning in doing this.
August: One thing that really strikes me about your story is that because you have been through trauma, the trauma of growing up with the repressive ideas around sexuality. And then as you call like the fast food type B D S M and feeling like you’re being used, does that inform your approach as well when it comes to working with folks?
I know a lot of people go to BDSM for healing. I know it’s not the only reason, but there are people who find it very healing if they’ve been through an assault or they’ve been through some kind of physical abuse.
Rina: Yes. It’s all about intention. I really have so much trust in that.
And I can see so much potential in BDSM for healing. First of all, the fantasy themselves, they are this turn on, it’s like the voice of the unconscious.
I love this example she shared from her own life.
Rina: Growing up like this, I had a lot of issues around my sexuality and then at some point I caught myself fantasizing in the midst of classic, beautiful love making. I would fantasize about others looking at me.
She realized that she had “brighter orgasms” if she fantasized about being surrounded by onlookers.
Rina: And I was really surprised. And then at some point I was ready to actualize this fantasy.
So she went to play parties, hoping to do just that. About five parties in, she felt ready to agree to another couple’s request for a threesome in front of a crowd.
Rina: And then we made it happen. It was like the beginning of the play party, like people were still dressed in their cocktail dresses, suits, like drinking champagne. And we are there right in the bed in the middle of this crowd and they’re all looking at us.
She wanted to have fun, yes. But she wanted more than that. She wanted to derive meaning from it. She also felt “nervous as hell, “she said — doing something considered so taboo, so “kinky, naughty and dirty” — given her upbringing.
Rina: But at the same time, the turn on was really big. The connection was really beautiful. This couple was so amazing with me and it was really amazing to observe how our orgasms exploded in such a way… everybody who was watching me was together.
There was such a sense of unity, she said. People watched with adoration, and no judgment.
Then, childhood memories surfaced in her mind.
Rina: I remembered how as a child, I never saw any sexual affection because again, in this culture, they don’t ever show it.
Like mom and dad never kiss, so you don’t see any of this. And until one day I saw it when my dad took me from school home, I saw a couple like making out in a very passionate way, and it was beautiful. I was staring at them. I was kind of with them riding the wave as I could feel their passion behind it.
It was a really beautiful introduction for me. And then my father just grabbed me by the hand, like, “don’t look there. It’s disgusting. People shouldn’t do it on the street.” And then as he said that I was conflicting a lot like my opinion versus what my father says. And that conflict stayed with me.
And then there was a moment that I was the one who was in the middle of the crowd and everything goes beautiful and there was like, aha. I was right. Yes. It’s actually beautiful. It’s not disgusting. And that felt like it really closed it for me, and I no longer had a strong fantasy about being in public.
I can still go to play party and do something, but I don’t feel like this fantasy is really occupying my mind so much that I will be thinking about it during my classic love making with loved one. It’s not there. It can be more present.
Such a great example of meeting a desire or fetish with care, seeing where it might come from, and acting on it in a meaningful way, rather than trying to stifle it — which seldom helps.
Rina said the experience helped her heal an aspect of her sexuality.
Rina: Because that fantasy was really taking a lot of space in my head, and that’s why I felt like I wanted to actualize it at least once. But I’m happy that I did it in a very mindful way, that in the right place, in a safe space with the right people. And my intention was really strong to understand what’s underneath it.
Rina shared another example of BDSM and healing, involving a client who struggled with PTSD associated with his military background. It happened during a Shibari session, which is currently Rina’s main domination act.
In simple terms, Shibari is basically tying someone up, or being tied up, in a really artful way.
Rina: But the client was coming for Shibari session and he came with his wife. He shared that he has a trust issues.
Trust issues like he would never let a woman embrace him from behind.
Rina: He had like this severe like PTSD around trust about someone holding him. Like you never trust anyone. You have to be the one. Like in squeezing control of everything. So in rope bondage experience, you’re invited to lose control and trust someone.
And of course you trust yourself as you choose to trust the others. It’s like you trust yourself to make the right decision to trust someone. And for him that was a huge challenge.
He couldn’t imagine having Rina tie up one even one of his hands, much less his whole body.
Rina: I was really challenged thinking, okay, well if, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t, but let’s give it a try. His wife was with us, she was holding space, she was putting some music, some incense. So we really took time to create that safe ambiance for us.
She remembers the moment when his body said yes.
Rina: I was just holding his hand. I wasn’t even playing it and I just, For his body to say yes. And that was the moment that I’m not even doing anything with rope yet. And his body’s like this and I’m just sitting with him and I’m sitting and I’m sitting and we kind of just breathe together and just wait.
And that kind of like comes the moment that we cannot attune each other up to each other so well that I can feel how his unconscious mind is like deciding will I trust this? or will I not trust? Will I trust? Will I not trust?
Then she felt him thinking “Let me give it a chance. I want to surrender, I want to trust.”
Rina: I feel that I can do it. And then his body softened. And then at first, first layer of rope goes around one hand, just one hand time to itself. And then I come from behind him, I embrace him and he’s still soft. And then very, very, very, very slowly. We started to Uh, go through a whole full body bondage experience and he had some cathartic moments of release.
He had some moments of screaming, like crying and his wife was there to hold us in this.
There were moments when he cried, or even screamed. His wife was there all the while, to hold and support him.
Not long after the session, Rina heard from the man. Benefits from the session were rippling from the bedroom beyond.
August: He said like his wife is also forever grateful to me that she keeps saying like our sexuality change with some such sense of surrender and trust that it’s just so different. that is so moving both of those stories, I had chills. That is beautiful.
On her website, Rina says she creates safe places for people to fall apart.
If you’d like to experience better sex through that kind of vulnerability — she recommends taking time to create an intentional pleasure experience where you slow down and listen to your body and to your breath.
You can start with self-pleasure, or arrange it with a partner, she said. And as you delve in, focus on awareness, not a particular goal.
Rina: I feel like it really changes everything and you can create that. This evening will be our evening. You wanna put our phones away? We don’t have TV at home anymore for now.
We just wanna have this kind of sacred, special place to open up. And that space is not goal oriented. We wanna watch out for any expectations that it has to be the brightest, most orgasmic experience. It’s kind of interesting when we determine how things are supposed to be. We don’t let life to unfold in its own miracles.
So it’s amazing when you can just create safe space and welcome something absolutely new. And that’s pretty vulnerable because it’s kind of like being in the space of not known. Like all of a sudden you have a beautiful space.
For example, you put music and candles and incense and you have a few hours to be with your partner. Of course, the easiest thing to do is to go on a habitual route. I know how he likes to be touched. I will touch him like that, or I want him to touch me like that. But what if you stay in the unknown and just listen to the body and what your emotions wanna speak and trust anything in everything that wants to come.
Rina described the practice as simple in a way, and one that may feel challenging at first.. Regardless, the results can be powerful.
You may be surprised by how much wisdom and capacity for deeper intimacy, pleasure and relaxation your body holds.
August: What a powerful journey for you and then that you’re facilitating for other people. Have you talk to your mom at all about vulnerability and some of these things along the way? Have you had heart to hearts about these things that used to be so unspoken?
Rina: Yes, to a certain degree. Of course some things she wouldn’t say share with me, but she also went to yoni massage in Thailand .
Yes, you heard that right. Her mom, who helped her start a new life in the US, the kind she was never offered, went to Thailand for an erotic massage.
Rina: Yeah, she’s very curious about those things. She’s very proud of me and there are so many things that I can do right now, which she could never do it before. She had to fight for survival, so I could do those things.
Rina told me she feels tremendous luck, privilege and gratitude for all she’s been able to learn — and compassion for the many people, especially women, who don’t have access to or freedom for the same.
Rina: The beauty is to see how things are slowly unraveling and more and more people are in, in a whole different mindset and a whole different connection to their body, and how sexuality becomes more and more free and harmonious. And our nervous systems are more regulated, our sexuality naturally really starts to become more healthy.
So it’s like everything becomes united because it’s hard to separate sexuality from general health, from your mental health, from your physical health, from your connection with your community. Like so many things are all together. So I really like that, to see how this holistic approach becomes the norm in society these days.
At least around me. I know there are different places, of course. Some places come into it sooner than later. But at the same time, there is also beauty of, you know, being able to get out from a hard place like hard times, and challenges because then we get to really appreciate what it feels like to no longer be there.
Like me sharing my story how I was a teenager in Russia, I have so much appreciation now because I’ve been through the opposites and I know what it’s like and it feels like a major celebration to actually have a whole different life when it comes to sexuality, when it comes to career, when it comes to relationships, when it comes to spirituality.
Despite any challenges we have, our freedom will be even sweeter after overcoming the challenges. And even at this very moment, we have a lot more than our family could. So it’s something to be grateful for.
[acoustic, encouraging music]
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So back in 2018, I interviewed Kasia Urbaniak, the founder and CEO of The Academy. It’s a school that “teaches women the foundations of power and influence.”
Talking to Rina brought that conversation to mind for me, and not only because she, too, was a Professional Dominatrix. We explored the link between sexuality and power, and the commonly needed quest for women to reclaim both.
Also like Rina, Kasia got some confusing sex ed early on. Or as she put it:
Kasia: I probably learned what the. a lot of people learn: a very disorganized, irresponsible hodgepodge of misinformation and uh, experimental, childlike, social testing. [laughs]
August: Very well described. Yes, and relatable.
Do you remember the first positive thing you learned about sex?
Kasia: I can’t say this is positive or negative, but the first moment I heard about virginity, I wanted to get rid of it as soon as possible. I didn’t even know what that meant, but I was like, I gotta get rid of this thing.
There was something that I didn’t like about how girls that were virgins, the conversations that I was hearing. There’s something about it. I really didn’t like. I was too young to understand what it was.
August: Yeah, but instinctively you, you understood that there was something off and it’s so interesting. The term virginity, there’s no like scientific definition. It’s sort of the social construct.
In addition to her hugely successful Dominatrix work, Kasia practiced Taoist alchemy in one of the oldest female-led monasteries in China, obtaining obtained dozens of certifications.
And while sexuality is not what drew her into the work she does today – -“teaching women to take their power back” — she saw very quickly that sex was an area of women’s lives that especially needed addressing.
August: So what led you to become so passionate about this topic of sexuality and connecting with that part of ourselves?
Kasia: For me, the connection really is in its connection to power and self-expression, so my interest in sex is secondary. My interest in power, power dynamics and communication is primary. But in working with women, I saw very clearly that you absolutely can’t omit sexuality in a conversation about power. It doesn’t work. And a woman claiming her power without claiming her sex is doing a head case. She’s not doing a full body thing.
This is articulated so well in the story of Sleeping Beauty — Kasia said — one that so many of us can “viscerally feel and relate to.”
Kasia: So in not the original, but in the, the story of Sleeping Beauty that we grew up with, what you have is a woman who’s in a fucking coma. She’s in an erotic coma. She does not feel anything.
And it isn’t until the rightfully ordained heterosexual man in a high position of power with money comes to bless her with a kiss that the spark of her fire, her passion and her eros awakens. So there’s this idea that for us, our sexuality lives outside of us. It lives outside of us in the idea that the other is what stokes the flame, the other is the catalyst.
And also in the sense that female sexuality is very outside in: clothes, billboards, advertising, all of it. It’s in one sense so obvious and in another so subtle that when a woman feels erotic longing it’s difficult for her to conceive of it without having an object. If it doesn’t have an object she’s just horny. It’s weird.
If it has an object she’s she’s infatuated or she’s in love. And it belongs to the other, the other stokes it. The other’s behavior, determines it. How the other performs determines how the experience goes.
Kasia witnessed this in women showing up for her classes. She said they all had some kind of experience, usually with a man, that was taking up all of their mental space.
Kasia: All of their attention, all of their energy, all of their analysis, all of their concern went out to him, even if it was like an entire world of assumption and imagination and calculation and strategy.
If you’re into men, can you relate to that? I can certainly think of experiences of my own along the way where I was completely fixated on a guy, or consumed by this needy feeling I had for attracting one. Kasia called this “the fastest way to mainline the concept of giving your power away.” And in her classes?
Kasia: It happened fastest when we were talking about sex. So how am I supposed to teach a woman to primally in a full bodied way, communicate as a communications and power dynamics expert.
For her to be able to have her message, her words, land, be heard, be felt in the body of the other and influence if she’s given all her power away, she can’t feel her body half the time, if she’s waiting for somebody to come and stoke and be the catalyst to her longing. It doesn’t work.
That’s where, for me, sexuality becomes a necessary conversation when we talk about women using their voices. They have to know it’s theirs and they have to know what they like, and they have to know what to say
August: And that they have a voice. I had chills listening to you because I can think of so many examples that I’ve seen in the world, in my own life that idea that it is something external and associated with somebody else, something that we give or something that we might share.
Kasia: Or that we might exchange for something.
August: Yes, a currency.
So how do those conversations start? What’s the first step, once somebody comes to you, obviously something compelled somebody to reach out to you.
What’s a typical reason that they’re coming to your class?
Kasia: A large percentage of women who come to my classes don’t know why they just know they have to come. Really? Yeah.
August: So they just feel it. Yeah. Kind of like how you were saying you felt that virginity you wanna get rid of, like, you felt a thing.
Kasia: Yeah. Yeah.
August: But you could identify it. That’s so interesting.
Kasia: Yeah. So the reasons that follow are across the board, right? So one woman will say, I want to find my voice and I go, “Fuck you. What does that mean?” ” I want to stand in, in my power.” “Okay. What does that mean?””
August: And can they answer?
Kasia: First a bunch of clumsy examples and steps towards something that maybe has some feeling. If I, if I wanted to just be very categorical about it, it’s like women who’ve at work have reached a glass ceiling and they don’t understand why they’re, they don’t have the authority that they’d like in the position that they have.
And they’re doing too much to maintain that position. And they’re not communicating in a way that gets them what they want. Whereas the men in their same position, aren’t having that problem and they’re like, what’s going on?
Then there are the women who are struggling with romantic relationshisp, she said — especially straight women in relationships with men. The women end up being the caretaker and struggling to communicate their needs.
Kasia: I encourage them to just in their imagination, you know, write down things that they could ask. The feeling that comes as they’re afraid of either coming across as bitchy and bossy or needy. You know, and dispelling a lot of the fears around those things just becomes really important. I mean, a woman who is sexually satisfied and freely self-expressed in her speech is fucking unstoppable. With those two ingredients, basically she can take over the world.
Kasia has noticed many different patterns in the women who attend her classes.
Kasia: One is the contingency of women who are like, “I don’t need anything from a man. I am not asking a man for anything. I am independent. And it’s taken me a lot to get to this place. And I am not diluting it with even writing some silly requests.” This pattern is the bittersweet victory of the independent woman, because when you look a little deeper, she’s doing everything, you know, the idea of having it all, like can a woman have it all?
That it is bullshit because what, what it’s pointing to is a woman who’s doing it all, not having it all. Having it all and doing it all are not the same thing.
August: So true. Yeah.
Kasia: So she’s independent, feels a sense of victory for overcoming millennia of habitual patterning that would have her not be able to be in a position of authority and victoriously independent.
However, what is invisible at that moment is that a lot of the men who have authority and who are quote unquote independent agents are not actually independent because they have all these invisible support systems around them that women don’t have.
So a lot of the times this particular pattern is one where I have to invite the women to be incredibly furious for a little while and enjoy her bitterness and hurt rage and do exercises where she turns her inner bad girl bitch into a superhero, until that superhero becomes so lovable that she can actually sit with requests that she can make of people in her life. And when she does surprisingly, she elevates them. When you ask a little more of somebody in a way that feels good.
Of the patterns Kasia sees, a lot them come down to something she talks a lot about: the need to shift from being the harmonizing good girls they were trained to be to leadership positions where they have agency. And many of the women are afraid of both receiving and surrendering, so they can be led, and afraid of coming across as too powerful.
And so we work a lot with that. Blowing that apart so that a woman can behave as naturally intensely as she feels, or as softly as she feels and be calibrated to really well.
There are many layers around getting there, she said. And just hearing or deciding that “you are enough” — well, is not enough.
Kasia: It would be really, really simple just to say, tell the truth, speak your truth, make the requests you wanna make. Except that language ends up being as unhelpful as telling a woman to find her voice and stand her power. It doesn’t actually give any instruction into how to not slip into the patterns that we were raised with. And the new ones that now have us feeling compressed and smooshed and feeling like, oh my God, I can’t be too much.
I can’t be too little. I’m too powerful. I’m not powerful enough. I make too much money. I don’t make enough money. I’m not pretty enough. I’m way too pretty. You all of it, all of it, all of it like compressed into fucking box until you cannot breathe. Instead of being radically self-expressed in all directions, understanding what it does for a dynamic, right.
Where there’s always a dominant and a submissive. They’re always switching in, in healthy fluid relationships, even in the span of a conversation where the sexuality is not even on the table. So how do you play? How do you play with energy? How do you play with attention? How do you play from that space of truth? I mean, this is where the magic starts.
August: Sounds like it’s so it’s about alignment.
August: And this full body truth.
August: What are some of the signs that, you know, you are in that full body truth? Cause I feel like so many people have read all the. Self-help articles with just do this and just do that. And here’s,
Kasia: You know, when you’re not in it, right?
You know, when you’re not in it, for example, like the sexual harassment pattern, when somebody puts attention on you asks you an inappropriate question and then the female default, just to take that attention and drive it even deeper into ourselves. Cause we’re trained to be submissive tension in and what that causes a freeze.
So suddenly we can’t even speak, we would normally be able to say something, you know, sassy or or defensive or something perfectly acceptably logical, but we can’t speak. At that moment, we’re knocked out of alignment. One of the things I teach, one of the first things I teach is how women overcome the freeze.
She’s not talking about the deep trauma-induced flight/fight/freeze of, say, PTSD, by the way. It’s that moment when you feel so stuck in response to something and later feel like “why didn’t I say ____?” You can come up with all sorts of smart or snappy responses in hindsight. I know I’ve been there. It’s an involuntarily submissive position, she said. And her advice for better navigating that starts with just one sentence.
Kasia: So what they need to do is put their attention out as quickly as possible and ask a question.
August: Like, literally ask the person a question?
Kasia: Yes. Because what that does is it drives their attention deeper into themselves. So you flip the power dynamic and are now on top, even if it’s only for a few seconds, it’s enough for you to restore your access to language.
Cuz when you’re in that free state your amygdala gets hijacked. Your brain doesn’t functions the same way.
The amygdala is the part of your brain that processing threats, and it’s involved with fearful emotions. And the “amygdala hijack” is a legit thing — it involves a reaction that’s out of proportion to what’s actually happening. A perceived threat sends us over the top, often based on past experience. It’s trying to protect us. And a question that flips the power dynamic around, Kasia said, can really help.
Kasia: How many times have you been asked in inappropriate question? Or just a question that maybe felt inappropriate, but wasn’t so bad. Like, are you married? How old are you and found yourself not wanting to answer, but answering anyway.
August: Oh yeah. I’ve done that.
Kasia: Or freezing.
August: What would be an example of a question that you might ask, if somebody were to ask this inappropriate question?
Kasia: Depends on the inappropriate question, right? Like, let me ask you an inappropriate question. Okay. Do you think or not, or an edgy question, “do you think being Black helped you get into Harvard?”
Obviously very hypothetical. I’m not Black and didn’t go to Harvard.
Kasia: What do you say?
August: Gosh, if I were to ask a question, why is that important to you?
Kasia: That’s good. It’s very good. You flipped the power dynamic cuz now I have to go in and go, why is it important to me?
Your question could come out in a polite or kind-seeming way, showing that you genuinely care, or more direct or even snappy — whatever feels right to you. And she said it doesn’t matter which you choose.
Kasia: You just have to put your attention out. Because the animal of his body will respond in accordance to whether there’s any weight behind the words and attention is everything.
There are variables that are nicer sounding or not nicer sounding. But it’s really the attention. You’re giving them the instruction to answer the question, no matter how benign or banal it is.
You can even change the subject.
Kasia: You can ask them, where did you get that sweater? And it’ll still have the same function, even though you’re totally changing the conversation. Because you’re on top. And the goal is to break the freeze, not to win at that point.
I mean, how much unwanted sex and rape happened because a woman was in the freeze and didn’t have access to language. So my goal in this, in the, especially when this first when all of the me too and Harvey stuff, Started coming out. I was like, what simple tool can I give as many women as possible that will just break the power of that moment? Like screw the philosophy and the whole paradigm. Like, what is the one thing I can give them?
Yes, assaulters need to stop assaulting. Harassers need to stop harassing. First and foremost. And, it only helps to take your power back.
Kasia: And so the, the sexual harassment scenarios, they generally arise two ways, one with a direct and appropriate proposition, right. That puts a woman in a submissive state and changes her brain chemistry, making it hard for her to fight back. So I’m like, all right, here’s the tool to break you outta the freeze here.
And the second one is when somebody, the perpetrator makes a series of ambiguous statements linked together that imply a form of behavior you’re supposed to do or agree with. And this one is a little bit harder, so we have a different tool for it because with a direct hit, you can hit back directly.
But with that, we have this tool called the location tool where a woman will just fill in the blanks of this sentence. It’s so simple. It’s almost dumb. It seems like, fill in the blank. And it also seems like, fill in the blank. And if there’s a third, it also seems like fill in the blank. Is that true? Or it seems like, fill in the blank. Is that true?
So for example:
Kasia: You’re at the hotel lobby bar with a colleague, cuz you’re at a conference and you’re talking about business and he makes a few statements about how good it is that you’ve gotten to know each other better and the bar is closing. Should we continue in my room?
So she can say, it seems like you might be done with talking about business. It seems like the hotel room isn’t the best place to talk about business. Is that true? It seems like you might be interested in transitioning to a more intimate setting. Is that true? Yeah. And then suddenly we’re not operating in a realm of mystery. I think a lot of men who have hurt women didn’t intend to and were very clumsy. I think it’s a time to socially educate both men and women in real time.By teaching people to tell the truth in the moment and giving them the tools to do so.
Kasia and her team receive emails from people of all genders who deeply appreciate these tools and messages — including women, femmes and men who’ve purchased her programs for their daughters. Then there are the doozies…and many of those emails come from women.
Kasia: And then, then of course the, all the negative males from, from women— just funny, the negative emails from women.
August: What, what is like a common complaint they have?
Kasia: It’s usually around a misunderstanding about how we are linking sex and power. You know, it’s, it’s automatically like, wait. Power sex together, no. Sexuality, women’s sexuality does not belong in the workplace, they have ideas about what that means.
And like a powerful human being for me is a fully integrated one that is capable of feeling their own sexuality, their empathy, their emotions, their intellect, and operating, not necessarily being nice or sexy, but with all of those faculties intact and engaged.
August: Yeah. And not using it as a weapon either. I feel like people hear power. And they think that, oh, well you’re telling women, they have to.
Kasia: Yeah. It’s a complete misunderstanding, but I understand their concern.
August: Yeah. Yeah. What about somebody who is, somebody approaches you who is not quite mentally stable?
August: Run. Yeah. Because you can’t reason with an unreasonable person.
Kasia: I mean, that’s a high stakes, high level game to play.
Yeah. So I would, you. Maybe an advanced student could find a way.
August: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Buying into their reality was one thing that we talked about in that class I took where if somebody is talking to you about some alien, they see you. Play along with it.
Like you can try different things and you know, if you can’t get away immediately or, but the goal is of course, to get away from somebody who’s a threat.
Kasia: We can’t always, because what you’re talking about is also merit in our society…. Even the idea that women are less powerful and their sex is not theirs. That took a lot of brainwashing.
Cuz we obviously give birth and have more power than anybody else. Mm. Like, how did that, how did that, how did that mind game work out? You know?
August: Yeah. Yeah. The societal brainwashing goes deep.
Sex may not be the main focus of Kasia’s courses, or power dynamics in general, but she said the impact of that work on a woman’s sex life is profound.
Kasia: Because one of the first things she does in the earliest levels of the school is she learns to ask and command. She learns to ask from a submissive place and from a dominant place, she learns to give orders and she learns to ask from a submissive place.
And in being able to say anything, speak, anything, ask for anything. It’s not just that you can ask for anything in the bedroom. That’s one part of it. But once you feel freedom around asking, once you feel freedom around hearing no, and getting intimate with somebody else’s being really interested in what passionate thing they’re trying to protect with, with resistance when you start playing in those territories, intimacy, explodes through the roof.
Also, when you feel comfortable asking for anything and comfortable with playing with no, imagination also blossoms, hugely, because it goes from, you know, this one little thing that I would really like to have adjusted to like being able to co-create and imagine a unique series of sexual experiences that address, you know, both partners, deepest wounds and biggest desires, and none of that’s possible until the ability to communicate is lubricated enough. And, and the dynamic is fluid enough.
Kasia: She has to be at the center of her fucking universe and then the birds and the bees and the whole universe comes to like, stroke her, caress her and give her the gifts she wants.
These days, Rina Treva is especially passionate about spreading the knowledge she’s gained, with a mission “to acquaint you with your own self — raw and unmasked.”
Recently, her mentor approached her to co-create a certificate program for bodyworkers and healers who want to offer Tantric massages for women and people with a vulva. She also teaches aspiring Doms. Learn about all of Rina’s offerings at vulnerabilitycoaching.com.
To learn more from Kasia, check out her courses at kasiaurbaniak.com. You can also find bonus clips, featuring tips on using anger as an orgasmic emotion and more about her journey to becoming the expert she is today, at patreon.com/girlboner.
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