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Discovering My Erotic Creature

Lissa Rankin's picture

When I first heard of Sheila Kelley's S Factor, I snickered a bit -- my friend Kandy invited me to come to a pole dancing party and it sounded fun and giddly and girly and bit dirty (in a good way), so I said "Sign me up!" Kandy bought me a sassy pair of booty shorts in honor of the occasion, and we had a blast taking a 2 hour class with our girlfriends, during which we were taught to move slowly, "feel our fur," circle our hips, walk sexy, do a pole trick, and dance on a wall in a very slow, sultry way that I knew would blow my hubby's socks off (it did). I had a blast at our S Factor party, but I didn't really get S Factor.

Then, a few months later, I interviewed Sheila Kelley as part of the research for my book What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend, because I had a feeling she could help me with a few of the sexual confidence questions. I instantly fell in love with Sheila, and after talking with her, I realized that there was way more to Sheila Kelley and S Factor than pole tricks. Later, I saw Sheila speak to a group of S Factor students about the fourth wave of feminism, the offenses society inflicts upon us as women, and a new way to embrace the feminine in an empowering way, and I fell in love with her.  But I didn't really understand the full breadth of what Sheila and her work is all about until this past weekend, when I attended her first S Factor retreat, a 4 day intensive program in San Diego.

All in, baby

Having only done the one introductory class, I was a little reticent about what lay ahead for me. Would I be in good enough shape to survive seven hours of dance class every day? Would I fit in? Would I feel slutty or cheap dancing on a pole and learning how to do a strip tease? Would I feel sexy? But when I arrived at the first event and was invited into a big room with 40 other women, where 40 massage therapists spent an hour helping us get into our bodies while powerful music played, I knew I was safe -- held in the nurturing arms of a force much bigger than any one of us.

What happened for the rest of the retreat defies words. I could explain how I learned how to do a "cat prowl" or a "half pint" or "the flirt," but that wouldn't explain why I cried every time I watched the women in my class dance. I could tell you about the incredible five course Goddess meals that Sheila crafted with healthy chef Sherie Farah, but that wouldn't explain the energy in that room as we nourished our bodies and souls after a full day of learning to trust the movement of the divine feminine within us. I could tell you about the way the sun rose over the ocean or the way the moon lit our faces or the way our knees were cradled by the sand, but that wouldn't help you understand the way we learned to trust the emotions that unlocked when we trusted our bodies to move they way they've been moving naturally since the dawn of time, until society told us it wasn't okay to trust our instincts. I could tell you about the cleansing release ceremony we did when we wrote down what we wanted to let go of and burned it, threw rose petals in the ocean, held hands and chanted sacred songs, and chose touchstones to remind us of who we are, but it wouldn't quite describe how God showed up and blessed our feminine campfire.

Those wonderful experiences aside, the primary goal of the retreat was to put us in touch with our erotic creature. As Sheila wrote in her book (and Oprah read to the world):

"There  exists in every woman a hidden Erotic Creature, a center of sexual power and self-knowledge. She may be buried beneath a pinstriped business suit or life next to a man whose snores lull her to sleep; she may hide a body whose owner lives in mortal fear of full-length mirrors and bikinis. But trust me: she's there. She's the wild, feline, untamed part of you, your sexual alter ego and the opposite of the "good girl" or "little lady." Some of us know her better than others do, but I would venture to guess that your Erotic Creature hasn't seen nearly enough light of day." -Sheila Kelley

This was Sheila's primary goal for us during this retreat -- to coax us into inviting our Erotic Creature (EC) into the light of day, where we could discover what she looks like, what name she prefers to be called, how she likes to dress, what words she likes to scream, how she longs to move. 

My EC freaked the hell out of me. 

She is nothing like what you might think I am. She is not cute. She is not a cheerleader or someone who inspires others. She's not intellectual or a healer or a published author. She's definitely not a nice girl. On the contrary, my EC is a bitch. She's a bratty teenager who does not want to do as her mother tells her. She's in-your-face, rebellious, pissed off, and more than a little raunchy. She likes thigh high black stiletto boots, denim, fingerless gloves, and torn fishnets. She loves to grind in deep hip circles and do the nasty frisk against a wall and she digs swinging around the pole, not so much for the acrobatics of it, but because she gets to land on the ground and come up ass first with an in-your-face gaze that'll pierce right through you and make you quiver. She does not like to be given orders, and if you try, she will stare you down with hot, sultry eyes that tell you where to go. She's tough and fierce, but when you look underneath the bravado, she's tender and vulnerable, and she cries A LOT. She's hurt and wounded and angry and she is mad as hell that I have been ignoring her for most of my life. She is begging to be seen -- to be witnessed -- to be valued.  

The retreat culminated in the grand finale, the Erotic Creature ball, the coming out party for our ECs. In the safety of Sheila's nurturing arms and in the sacred space of my class and the company of my S Factor sisters, my EC (she likes to be called Alexis) got to come out of hiding -- and she came out with a vengeance, as did the ECs of 40 other women. I was the second to dance, and Alexis showed up in fierce, F-you form. She let her freak flag fly, embodied the emotions of how the experience felt for me, and allowed me to turn off my brain and turn on my body. Then Sheila acknowledged my EC, and the other women howled and applauded and meowed and screamed. And Alexis was seen -- truly seen -- and accepted with a tenderness that left me in tears. 

With my coming out behind me, I got to relax into the role of bearing witness to the sensual alter-egos of all the other women. And these women totally blew me away. The emotional core of their ECs ranged all of the map. They were soulful, angry, vulnerable, hungry, celebratory, heart-breaking, humble, wicked, naughty, playful, sad, deathly, jubilant, tender, dangerous, desperate, stormy- and most of all, they were unbelievably honest and authentic. Our ECs revealed a part of us that had been hidden for so long that the unveiling was often turbulent, but at the same time, earth-shatteringly beautiful. That's what really blew me away- the beauty that each women revealed through the movement of their bodies, the stories they told, the hearts they exposed, the raw core of sexual vulnerability, the intense longing, the sadness at being locked up by societal conventions that threaten our very essence.

I was all emotion

By the end of the EC ball, I was a quivering, blubbering mascara-stained mess who couldn't get out of her chair long after everyone else had gotten up to get dressed and move on to lunch (I'm crying now, writing this, thinking back to how I felt like a raw nerve, exposed and tender). Sheila saw me, weeping in my chair and asked me to tell her how I was feeling, but I had no words. I was all emotion -- residing purely in the natural feminine state that doesn't resemble my normal existence at all. Normally, I'm in control, I'm in my thinking brain, I'm cheerful, I'm optimistic, I'm loving. But as Sheila told me later, I'm so "positive" that Sheila didn't trust me at first because everyone has a dark side -- and if you're not exposing it at all, you're not being as authentic as you might think you are.

Sheila held me as I sobbed -- as I felt -- and with my head on her shoulder, I felt more vital -- more alive -- than I have maybe ever in my entire life. I didn't feel like that when I gave birth to Siena. I didn't feel that way when my father died. I didn't feel so deeply during 9/11 or on my wedding day. Until that moment, I didn't realize that only part of me has been allowed to truly be me. As much as Owning Pink is all about being authentic, I've been cutting off a part of myself -- as so many of these other women have -- that I have been thwarting my own opportunity to live richly in this wild and precious life. The key was to fully embody my own skin and to unleash my Erotic Creature -- to have her witnessed while bearing witness to that same aliveness in other women. This was the missing link -- that thing that I've known has been missing but have had no clue how to open up.

Others saw Sheila holding me, and Sheila called my S sisters to surround me as I cried. They became my mirrors, reflecting back to me the beauty they saw within me, the way I have done for so many other women in The Woman Inside Project. I felt seen, and valued, and safe, and nurtured. And that felt unbelievably, beyond-words fabulous.

The integration

And today, I am just beginning to process, to figure out what to do with this awakening, to learn how to integrate my EC into the rest of my life. Being a writer, this is my first step, to give her a voice, to reveal her to you, to invite her out of the closet so we can begin to more fully integrate. Right now, I'm in LA, sitting in Sheila Kelley's home while she sleeps after giving so much of herself at the retreat that she could barely climb up the stairs and into her bed last night. There is a pole here in her living room, and as soon as I finish writing this, I'm going to walk over to it, wrap my bruised leg around it, and see how my  EC feels like moving today. Now that I'm learning to know her, maybe I can start to listen.

Trusting you to bear witness to me,


Photo: Natalie Moser photography, http://www.sassysessions.com



Michelle Medina's picture

No Words

Love this Lissa!!! I have no words! You have helped me with one thing though. . . I want what you've had!!!! Smile. Eventually, I'm sure with lots more tears then I'm crying now, or have cried before, I'm sure I'll get it!!! Thank you for being so raw, so authentic, so willing to Own Your Pink & your Erotic Creature!!!!

enuncunance's picture

Hello , I from CA

Hello. I am a CA Jourist, I would share somthing here soon.

Lissa Rankin's picture

Dearest Narus

Your dance moved me so...that Kate Bush song just set me off on an emotional rollercoaster in such a real, authentic way, but I'm so glad it did. It wasn't just the song, but your movement. It was so sexy, so true, so pure, so vulnerable. I was in awe, really, not of the song, but of you, of your wholeness, of what you were brave enough to share with the rest of us. You moved me to tears and I couldn't move for a long while afterwards. Really, you were so beautiful- you ARE so beautiful, and I'm so inspired to investigate more of my EC, to be brave enough to really go there.

Thank you for trusting us with your trust and for witnessing what we all have to offer.

Love and blessings,

Narus's picture

Love & Gratitude

Dear Lissa, the photo shows how sublime, sensual and beautiful you are! Yes, the time and space we shared at the S retreat defies words...and yet having been there and reading your post...uh! thank you for writing this. I have been writing as well, for hours on Monday after I got home and to other women who were there. I am thrilled to find soulsisters in S. I am so happy to have met you and all the women...how amazing is it to have a space where women can grow, stretch and explore our essential selves in a safe, supportive environment where we can, as feminine embodied, experience and share that authentically? I love Sheila; she is so beautiful and courageous! I thank her and you and Regina and so many women who make the effort to create space for the feminine to grow and thrive...so we can live fully and contribute fully in the lives we are given.
I went into the retreat wanting a better sense of how S connects to my overall life practice and found it is at the center of it, found my EC right there at the center. The EC ball was amazing and I am profoundly touched by what I witnessed, what I received, what I experienced. I was the last one dance. Earlier that day, my song came to mind clearly and I knew. When I heard Kate's voice, it went right into my heart and I remember seeing beautiful, receptive, feminine faces all around me...and the body I've been given moved.
I am finding the effects and meaning of the retreat just grows and touches everything. I send love and gratitude to all the women who were there, who showed up so fully and brought it! and to all women, may you know, cherish, protect and share the essence of what you have in this life. xoxoxo, Narus

Lissa Rankin's picture

Tyler, you rocked my world

OMG, Tyler, your EC was unbelievably beautiful to witness. So authentic, so powerful, so honest. Wow. You blew me away.

And Sur and Cara, you too! Wow.
I'm so grateful for the experience we all shared. Thank you for bearing witness to me and letting me SEE you.
So much love,

Tyler's picture

Thank you, Lissa!

First, absolutely breathtaking photo! It still doesn't even begin to capture your dance at the EC ball. You had so much fire in you, it was amazing to witness.

Thank you so much for putting your experience into words here. I cried to read your post because I can testify to the reality of your words even though I haven't been able to do justice to the weekend with my own. The only way I can describe the experience of dancing at the EC ball was that in that moment I gave birth to myself. I have never experienced a moment so powerful, so awakening, so complete. I felt myself become myself and I was born. I'm finally me and I love it.

Thank you for witnessing me and seeing me, Lissa. I feel so blessed to have experienced the weekend with you and witness you in all your beauty.

Tyler's picture

Thank you, Lissa!

First, absolutely breathtaking photo! It still doesn't even begin to capture your dance at the EC ball. You had so much fire in you, it was amazing to witness.

Thank you so much for putting your experience into words here. I cried to read your post because I can testify to the reality of your words even though I haven't been able to do justice to the weekend with my own. The only way I can describe the experience of dancing at the EC ball was that in that moment I gave birth to myself. I have never experienced a moment so powerful, so awakening, so complete. I felt myself become myself and I was born. I'm finally me and I love it.

Thank you for witnessing me and seeing me, Lissa. I feel so blessed to have experienced the weekend with you and witness you in all your beauty.

Lissa Rankin's picture

Thank you S women

To those of you who were at the retreat, I bow to you. Watching you dance, being there with you, sharing sacred space, and growing in sisterhood was such a transformative experience for me. THANK YOU!

Chemgoddess1's picture

I just read this and could

I just read this and could not help but have tears come to my eyes. I have been an "at home girl" for about 3 years and have witnessed the transformation of so many beautiful women online. I have had the chance to visit a studio and experience S first hand and this past summer I finally got the chance to meet several S girls. I cried watching each and every one of them dance.

Now that Alexis has come out to play watch her grow and evolve....better, LET her grow and evolve.

Cara's picture


Hi Lissa,

I was at the retreat and first of all your picture is so incredibly beautiful! I cried reading what you wrote, you explained it in a way that women can get a taste of what we experienced but as you said there are no words to really describe the emotions and closeness felt between the women we met and got to know over those 3 days. Discovering who my real EC is has made me so incredibly happy because it is such a freeing feeling to be able to express a side of myself that I knew was there but had no way of communicating what she craved for people to see. It was so wonderful meeting you and your EC,she was beautiful, and I hope we can all come together again someday.

Thank you for your time and wisdom,
Cara Thompson

Su's picture

So Glad You Can Put it to Words!

Hi Lissa,

It was AMAZING watching you dance and dancing with you at the retreat. Now that I'm back in the "real world," I've been finding it difficult to really describe my experience to my fiancee, let alone my coworkers or other friends who I want to convince to try out S Factor. Thank you SO much for putting all of this into words that make sense and describe our experiences BEAUTIFULLY!

Much love to the mind-blowingly hot Lissa and Alexis,

Brit Jenkins's picture

Thank you!

Hello Lissa, I generally don't share my thoughts although I read all of your post, along with your book you signed for me in the Chi S Factor studio. Thank you so much for writing about your time with S, I cried reading this, it's so moving. Thank you for sharing that part of you with all of us.
~ Your fellow S woman from Chicago

Lissa Rankin's picture

S San Francisco

Yes Yesim, I live near the San Francisco S studio, and as soon as I'm done on my book tour, I'm planning on taking classes with Ana. Apparently, the retreat bumps me up to Level 3 so I'll get to dive right in! I'm excited...

Yesim's picture



Being an S woman for over four years, I am deeply touched by the way you have described your experience. Thank you for sharing it. Now that you've met your EC, I am sure you will enjoy every moment of this unique, wild journey. I hope you are near a studio where you can take classes and give her a chance to come out and play in the safe company of other wonderful women.

Have a blast!


Lissa Rankin's picture

Thank you

Thank you all for the validation! Bowing deeply...

Emme's picture


YES, Lissa!

I've got tears in my eyes and every positive superlative I know dancing around in my head right now in regards to what I think and how I feel about this post and all that it means!And I can tell you right now that it makes me want to run to SF right now and sign up for the next retreat.

Omnia vincit amor.

Caren's picture

I always knew she was in there.....

I am feeling you so much right now. I am in tears myself after reading this. After meeting you and spending that wonderful slumber party night together, I have to say that I really did see that EC in you.

You know how much I put my sexuality on the front burner and really own that part of me. So when we were dancing around that house, it was something I saw in you. I guess I never realized you didn't see it for yourself. I think it is in this moment of reading what you have written that I understand now. I didn't understand what I was REALLY seeing at the time, but now I do.

What I saw that night was an incredibly sexy, vibrant woman. Someone who inspires others to be all facets of what it means to be woman. Maybe your EC was speaking to me and you didn't know it.

I am so happy to to see you embrace Alexis on all levels. The picture is extremely sexy and I am so glad you shared it here.

You are one hot Mama!!!

Standing beside you on my own pole,

Lissa Rankin's picture

Oh Stacey, you would ROCK S Factor!

Oh yeah, baby. The Universe works in mysterious ways. Sheila is so awesome and you'd love her- and the movement. I would love to bear witness to your erotic creature!
Much love

Stacey Curnow's picture

Ready to let my EC prowl!

Hey Lissa/Alexis!

That photo of you is SO hot. I mean, haht!

The Universe is sending a strong message that I need to get my booty-shorted booty to a S Factor retreat stat - I saw Sheila on the Ellen show (totally random - I happened to be working in the hospital and my patient was watching it), then you tweeted about the retreat, and now you write this completely compelling post.

I am willing to let my EC prowl, but just like you, I know she's going to need a lot of support and encouragement. Thanks so much for writing this post and helping me dream about a day when I will truly embrace my EC!

Much love, s

Stacey is a purpose and success coach who helps you give birth to your BIG dreams. To find your purpose and passion, check out her FREE eBook, The Purpose and Passion Guidebook.

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