Flipping the fisting script

Andrea Zanin’s workshop challenges conventional attitudes about sex and sexuality

I attended Andrea Zanin’s workshop “Take Five: The Pleasures of Fisting” on Tuesday evening as part of (re)Doing It! week. In Shatner’s Lev Bukhman room, about 60 people waited patiently in a circle in anticipation for what they thought they might get out of the workshop. Co-presented by Queer McGill and FAKE (Fetish and Kink Enthusiasts) McGill, the title of the presentation had me slightly worried. As someone with a fantastic interest in sexuality and sexual health, fisting sounds like it could be harmful, not to mention nearly impossible. Numerous images from a variety of porn films ran through my mind, as I envisioned multiple fists pumping in and out of some sort of orifice.

The outline of the workshop put me at ease slightly, stating, “It may seem extreme, but fisting – inserting an entire hand into a welcoming vagina – is in fact one of the most intimate and sensual kinds of penetration two people can enjoy. Anyone who loves vaginas is welcome to come, whether they have one of their own or not.” The workshop was just as welcoming, and attended by all genders. Upon seeing the large group of people, Zanin enthusiastically said, “So all of you want to be fisting…okay!” The presenter, a self-described “sex geek” (she blogs at sexgeek.wordpress.com), speaks and gives workshops about alternative sexuality – queer, polyamory, and BDSM/leather issues – for universities, colleges, sex shops, community groups, and conferences in Canada and internationally.

After an apology for not having a live demo, she immediately put to rest any fears I had about being overwhelmed by the material, and made the group feel comfortable with jokes and easy steps to remember. The group laughed, focused, and – speaking for myself – learned a lot. With half of us in chairs in a circle around the room, and the other half sitting in the middle on the floor in front of the presenter, Zanin enlightened us on the anatomy of the vulva and internal organs using a plush vulva-shaped puppet and technique on how to properly and safely fist a vagina. Zanin joked her way through a topic that she is obviously knowledgeable and passionate about other people knowing.

Some of the tips on how to properly put your fist into a vagina could as well be tips for having overall good sex. Don’t go too fast – it can take a long time; make sure you can communicate with your partner about what feels good; if someone says stop, stop! This leads me to wonder about how our Canadian society tends to think about sex.

Activities like fisting, BDSM, or having multiple partners are rarely talked about, and largely do not exist within a mainstream definition of sex. The point of the (re)Doing It! sex education week, according to the organizer, Adam Wheeler, is to cause people who attend to explore their attitudes, and their assumptions about what’s “normal.” These assumptions can lead to negatively stereotyping certain “kinds of people” who practice and enjoy activities outside our spectrum of “regular” sex or writing them off entirely. Many people might think of fisting as something that they would never consider for themselves, but throughout the workshop, Zanin explained the unique sensations that are offered by a fist or the shape of a hand. By thinking about other types of activity outside of the tiny box that mainstream society often thinks of as “sex,” we can all offer ourselves more ways to express and feel our bodies sexually. Wheeler stated that part of putting on this (re)education week is the belief that “everyone has the right to have good sex” – and, through her workshop, Zanin gave everyone in that room one more option of how to do that.

Why would you want to fist someone? When you have your hand inside a vagina and they orgasm it is, Zanin explained, “like their whole body is having a conversation with you.”