Risking It All for (Liquid) Love
The tip of my stiletto made a cold, resounding sound on each of the metal stairs as I carefully balanced several bottles of gently warmed oil in my arms. I felt self conscious, making a real effort not to let my black silk kimono get caught underfoot sending me tumbling down the staircase. My focus was so intense that I was genuinely caught off guard when I reached the bottom and looked up – suddenly the intruder. I was the only person wearing clothing in a room of forty nude people.
All eyes were on me. Anticipating my role as facilitator, it hadn’t occurred to me I’d also be a participant. Feeling a bit counter-phobic, I dropped my robe, stripped bare, and walked across the plastic-sealed floor carrying strategically placed bottles of oil in a last ditch effort at modesty.
Erik Satie set the tone while the hosts and I placed people at random, blindfolded and lying prone on the floor, then drizzled warm oil on their nervously expectant bodies. Over the next two hours, there was a beautiful tangle of bodies, cautiously touching each other and gliding sensually throughout the room. The energy was dizzying, the sensuality intoxicating. The whole idea of Liquid Love is to explore the sensation of human touch without any goal. These events encourage connection without expectation (sex is explicitly forbidden), and begin with several consent and non-verbal communication exercises.
Once things were running smoothly, I was invited to dive in, and I felt a second flush of awkwardness and nerves that night: I knew I had to do it. I found my body enmeshed with those of beautiful women, exploring what it felt like to hold a small, delicate frame, and also to be held, to touch and share intimate encounters with total strangers. At one point, blindfolds were removed and we adjusted to a new type of comfort, that of an intense shared experience, and we all cracked up at the absurdity, the striking contrast to the shame and fear we’re taught and expected to feel.
To top it off, some brave soul stood up and encouraged everyone to lay flat on their stomachs next to each other, forming a long snake of bodies down the length of the colorfully lit room. Imagine a 10 meter slip and slide in someone’s backyard during a hot summer picnic - but one of shining, well-lubed bodies. He took a step back and gently pushed himself outward, sliding from one end to the other on a sea of butt cheeks. Another person stood up amidst a growing chorus of belly laughs, and dove across. I happened to be next in line, and thought, I will probably / definitely never get this chance again, screw it, so I crowd surfed (or was it an army crawl!?) across the human slip n’ slide. It was childish and exhilarating, and we kept cracking up at the surreal feeling, one of living outside reality.
Next thing I know, I’m in a deep, wide shower of emerald tile, hot water streaming from overhead, with a loofa full of soap, washing people down as they emerge from the liquid love room. Scrubbing nude bodies sounded preposterous before the event, but now I felt a sense of calm and camaraderie, not at all intimidated by the closeness, subservience, or novelty of the experience. From there, now freshly clean, people hopped into the copper hot tub filled to the brim with bubbles and bodies. When finished, I slid into the tub, relaxing into a group of new friends.
Relaxing after the experience, drinking tea in my kimono, I felt peaceful and at ease, confident in my own skin, as well as aware of a growing feeling of excitement for taking a risk and enjoying the reward so much. I was such a skeptic, I hadn’t dared to invite my friends because it sounded ridiculous. This level of openness doesn’t make sense in our daily paradigm - but the event pushed us all to think beyond those patterns, to question what is possible if the rules society makes for us no longer exist. And the answer was surprising - it was peaceful, comfortable, emotionally stirring, and I enjoyed every minute of complete freedom in nudity and touch.
And in today’s world of love and dating, where everything is unclear, inconsistent, or deliberately confusing, and we can barely keep up with the onslaught of new hip terms for disturbing behaviors, it reminded me to ignore the rules, try new things. You must take risks and get outside your comfort zone in order to evolve. Sensuality is about more than just sex, and only direct experience can reveal these deeper layers. When you’re comfortable in your own skin, suddenly interactions with others become more natural too. Like fears about today’s (seemingly lawless) dating scene, barriers and discomforts we feel are often our own creations, and by reverting back to something more basic, by appreciating sensuality and touch and human contact without a destination, we can lessen the grip of these societal inhibitions that keep us from knowing what we actually want.
Morgan Catalina is founder of Hot Takes. She is currently based in Amsterdam, researching human sexuality and hosting open conversations in an effort to lessen shame and stigma around our collective desires.