Lisa Citore likes sex, and she isn’t afraid to say so. Her stand-up comedy show, “Keep It Wet,” first presented to a sold-out house last fall and is back for one night, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24 at Center Stage Theater.
Citore is a performance artist, ritualist and a teacher of Tantra yoga. Because she not only enjoys but respects sexual expression, she has worked hard to bring a higher consciousness about it to the public through her show, along with the lighter side.
She recently shared some thoughts on sex, power and humanity’s chances of healing.
Justine Sutton: What is the central theme of your work?
Lisa Citore: Sexual energy is life force. It’s literally the energy we create life with. And yet we devalue this intrinsic fuel source either through suppression or exploitation. I’m poking around the psyche to stir the inquiry as to why. I’m suggesting that sexual energy may be a primary vehicle towards human evolution in becoming a more self-generating vs. all-consuming species.
JS: When did you first become drawn to this work, and what kind of studying have you done on the subject?
LS: Like many women, I had a traumatic sexual experience early on, which has definitely shaped my life. So this wound, I would say, was my beginning. I got interested in Tantra and the idea of integrating my sexuality with my spirituality in my late 20s, but it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with cervical cancer that I got serious about my sex organs. I signed up for a three-year Tantra training program where I learned practices to free and channel dormant and stuck sexual energy. I not only healed my physical body without chemo or surgery, I released the emotional wounding I had held in my cellular memory.
I started leading Tantra workshops in Cleveland in the late ‘90s, not knowing the resistance I’d be up against. No one would allow my fliers. I received threatening calls from individuals and religious organizations. I moved to California shortly thereafter, thinking there would be a more receptive audience. But interestingly, even here in the land of high consciousness, people are still fairly conservative around sex, though I’d say in L.A. and San Francisco there’s a more open vibe. Nonetheless, I’ve led workshops for women, men and couples on and off in Santa Barbara and L.A. for the last decade.
JS: What is your background in theater and performing?
LC: My theatrical expression was born after leaving my cushy corporate job as a greeting card writer in Cleveland after 17 years, and coming to California. I’d done slam poetry for years and was a finalist in the ‘98 National Slam Poetry Finals in Austin, Texas. My first theater production, “The Tao of Sex,” was a poetry, dance and music collaborative at the UCSB Multicultural Center. I called it ceremonial theater, in that we began with a prayer and the performance was a kind of ecstatic meditation.
My second theater production, Bloodlines, was a spoken word and dance collaborative about women’s moon blood, inspired by both my daughter’s first moon time and my own love/hate relationship with mine. It took eight years to manifest, and was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life, seeing an inner vision come to reality and being a hundred times better than my expectations because of the talents of others. This show ran for two weeks at Center Stage Theater.
My first stand-up act came out of a painful breakup. I took a comedy writing class in L.A. taught by Beth Lapides, who encouraged us to dig into our personal lives for material. It was an amazing cathartic experience, getting out all my anger at my ex-boyfriend, while making people laugh.
What made the show different, though, and made it work in high-consciousness Santa Barbara, was I also took responsibility for my anger and brought everything back to myself. In this way, I made people think as well as laugh. The show was such a hit, I decided to do another one a year and a half later. I took “Sex, Light Addicts and Riding Dragons” to a few other cities, where friends arranged venues.
In performing in front of strangers, I became more confident in my writing and performing. My third show, “Keep It Wet,” is a combo of the first and second shows plus new material, with the focus on women’s sexuality, rage and power.
JS: How did we become so repressive as a society — what changed us from joyful to shameful about sexuality?
LC: Our devaluing of sex, either through suppression or exploitation, is a reflection of our devaluing of life and the feminine. One can always point to patriarchal, hierarchical based religions for this degradation, but beyond them, what happened? It’s not enough for me anymore to blame sexual repression on religion or even the destruction of matriarchal cultures. I believe that sexual repression and our history of violence against women and the feminine have much deeper psychic roots.
The further away we have gotten from our primal nature and our intrinsic, interdependent connection to the Earth and all of life, the more disembodied we’ve become, and the more ruled we are by the unconscious fear and guilt in the mind that comes from a deep-seated belief in separation. In other words, civilization has not served our sexuality. On the other hand, civilization has allowed us to move up the Maslow hierarchy of needs. We don’t just need water, food and shelter. We need pleasure — particularly sexual pleasure.
But the dichotomy between our need for pleasure and our disconnection from our bodies poses problems. Couples get divorced, thinking their dissatisfaction comes from each other. They look to new partners rather than looking within themselves. The mind’s solution is sexual sensationalism, and a porn empire has been built upon it.
JS: How do you see us humans moving back toward a respectful and positive perspective on sex?
LC: First, there must be a deep commitment to love our bodies, and I’m talking about just as committed as we are to getting our college degrees or pursuing our careers or tending to our marriages and families. This is more important than we know. Through self-love, we unplug from our unconscious guilt around our humanity, sexuality and our choice to incarnate and reclaim our innocence.
This process of accepting ourselves is not about working out to have the perfect body. In fact, many people with society’s “ideal” bodies hate themselves even more than ones with “less perfect” forms. Hatred of our bodies is rooted in a deeper unconscious fear of form. When we can love our own form, we will love all form, because in reality, there is no separation between us.
There must also be a new valuing of sex and sexual energy as one of our greatest teachers, because nothing brings up subconscious beliefs like sex. Until women can feel their own desirability and desire, their own flow of sexual energy and pleasure, without being the object of another, men will continue to violate women. I believe a woman’s willingness to trust in the direction of her desire opens her to an even deeper trust in herself and in her life, and is directly correlated to her ability to stand in her feminine power and speak from her heart. It’s not about just saying “no,” but feeling empowered to say “yes” with specifics.
I see human sexuality as a sort of Pandora’s box. On the surface, there’s so much chaos because everything is all tangled up together, but with breath and space and awareness, we untangle lies from the truth, and all that is left is our own personal experience of the mystery.
Tickets to Thursday’s performance are $20. All seating is general admission. Click here or call 805.963.0408.
— Justine Sutton of Santa Barbara is a freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer.