It’s the time of year that calls for deep reflection and even deeper self-inventory — and Codie Elaine Oliver, co-creator of the Black Lovemulti-verse, is feeling the effects, “I've been in this really deep place lately, so forgive me.” It’s a place that many of us have found ourselves in, after a pivot, a moment of self-discovery, or simply in the quiet moments of our day-to-day routines. It’s the light bulb that illuminates in our heart, almost blindingly, to reveal inward truths, “I've learned to recognize that I am tender and require tenderness from those in my life. I've learned to own it as opposed to [trying to] fit into the box of having thicker skin.”
For Codie, whose personal and work life are so intimately intertwined, these moments produce profound awareness, with lessons learned and applied both on and off the camera. In many ways, the Black Love docuseries is an extension of Codie’s lived experiences. The show’s honest portrayal of married life, the best and worst of it, was birthed out of her curiosity of “how to make it work,” stemming from her parent’s divorce when she was just 11 years old.
Photo Credit: Tommy Oliver
Into adulthood, Codie’s earnest allurement for all things love and relationships began to merge with her natural storytelling abilities. Crossed between opposing narratives of a “Black marriage crisis” and her own desires for partnership, Codie began to explore the possibility of her own Black love story, “People tell you the more degrees a Black woman has, the less likely you are to get married. I lived in LA and they tell you you can't meet anybody there,” she continues thoughtfully, “I felt like I could either accept that [marriage] was not going to happen or I could immerse myself in how possible it was.”
Instead of conceding to these disparaging narratives, Codie decided to tell a new story, thus creating the Black Love docuseries.
Cut to now, Codie, alongside her husband and co-creator, Tommy Oliver, have highlighted the journeys of over 250 couples through their docuseries, social platforms, and live events. Together, the couple is able to play off each other’s strengths; with Tommy administering the structure and Codie applying her nurturing essence to make space for transparent discourse to be exchanged and handled with care, “I love the behind the scenes, I love to bring people together. My personality makes it so that I bring authenticity and comfort out of others.”
Photo Credit: Monkeys and Peas Photography
It’s this comfort and authenticity that has, in itself, restored the hope and possibility for love in countless hearts. This points to a legacy that has not only beared fruit in her lifetime but has also planted seeds in her children to carry forward. Or as Codie shares, “the editor of Black Love, Christopher Scott Shapiro, always says, ‘Yes! Keep raising those boys with this trauma-free Blackness.’”
Knowing that you had something special with your docuseries, what were the initial steps to get in the right rooms to pitch your series to networks and eventually OWN Network?
Codie Elaine Oliver: I would say the confidence came from the fact that I just knew that I needed it, I knew my friends needed it, and I knew that I'd never seen it before. I knew there was a hole right in the “market.” That's what kept me going.
When my husband and I started this project, it was meant to be a documentary. So we went the traditional route with an independent documentary and our expectation was to raise a little money or crowdfund, to go to film festivals or maybe in theaters. But it was an independent job and there's an end date or shelf life. When we pivoted from the traditional route, we were met with a lot of pushback. A lot of white [executives] were asking questions like, is that it? What else? People had a lot of questions about traditional documentary storytelling and what we really needed, but we felt like hearing from the couple would satisfy the goal.
Tommy and I decided to make it as “foolproof” as possible; an "inevitable yes" as he would put it. We shot for two years, from 2014 to 2016, edited the first episode, wrote a treatment for the entire season, and did a sizzle for the full season. That gave potential buyers a really clear picture of what this was, the structure, what it felt like. That's how we got around the traditional structure because it's unlikely that we would have gotten it made off of a pitch and no actual video.
What have you learned overall about turning your pain points into purpose?
For me, leaning into the big questions that I've had in my life, my uncertainties, and the things that made me uncomfortable, allowed me to learn about myself and the people around me. A friend of mine recently said, “Trauma is not what happens to you, it's what happens within you.” When I think about people's trauma, I think most of us have had scenarios that may seem small to someone else, but what matters is what happens within us. When I’ve leaned into those experiences, to ask myself questions and seek answers, it’s helped me be a better person, professional, wife, and mother. And my hope is that leaning into those uncomfortable places helps others as well.
"When I’ve leaned into those experiences, to ask myself questions and seek answers, it’s helped me be a better person, professional, wife, and mother. And my hope is that leaning into those uncomfortable places helps others as well."
Photo Credit: James Anthony
They say relationships are like holding a mirror up to yourself. What have you personally learned about yourself through the work that you do along with co-creating with your husband?
Oh, so many things. I'm learning about myself every day. I'm learning about partnership and marriage. I'm learning about what I was always dying to know: which is what it takes to make a marriage work — and I'm learning that through our couples. The show is more than a show for us. Every time we sit down and interview a couple, it's not like we're shooting a TV show, that's not what it feels like in the room. Every time we spend time with a couple, it is an opportunity for us to learn and grow.
For me, the Black Love docu-series is this exciting and sometimes painful therapy. I'm constantly learning, but my greatest lessons have come in the form of seeking balance and peace in my life, amid the blessing of having a business that is my purpose and my passion and having a family.
You mentioned early in our conversation that you’re in a “deep place” right now. What has this time taught you about yourself?
I’ve learned that I have to set boundaries to protect my mental health. Sometimes those boundaries come in the form of difficult business decisions, canceling something, delegating things that I may be afraid to delegate.
I've also learned that I need to treat my mind and body better and speak to them more positively; feed them better, both in terms of literal food and through meditation and movement. These things are key to my personal and professional success. Too often we run all of those things into the ground: our bodies, our minds, our boundaries, our softness, to try to check boxes and meet deadlines. But it's very important to consider when and why to actually sacrifice yourself for something.
“Too often we run all of those things into the ground: our bodies, our minds, our boundaries, our softness, to try to check boxes and meet deadlines. But it's very important to consider when and why to actually sacrifice yourself for something.”
Photo Credit: Breanna Jones
What is your perspective on carrying down generational wealth through love? To your children, tribe, and community?
My biggest goal and passion — and the place where I get simultaneously excited and emotional, is passing that radical self-love to my children in every way. How can I make sure they love themselves so much so that no one can tell them they aren't good enough or attractive enough. I want them to laugh at anyone who thinks that they are not beautiful. That's one of the places where I think we have the greatest responsibility as people because our kids are looking at us. And not just the ones that come out of us; the kids are looking at us. That's where we have the responsibility to really pour into them.
The outside world is going to do what the outside world does, but how can we inflict the least amount of trauma onto our children? Where they simply love each other, and themselves deeply.
You were a 20-something navigating your career and balancing your love life all at the same time. What advice would you give to 20- and 30-something Black women who desire to have a career and family?
I would want to do away with the words, “have it all.” Or at least encourage everyone to define that for themselves and to listen to themselves as they grow and change because you don't really know what “having it all” means or what it looks like until you're juggling it all. I could not fathom what those words meant 10, 15, 20 years ago, when I was still at home, looking at grown-ups, like, “Oh, she has it all right.”
Thankfully, for our generation and those coming after me, we've become more inquisitive. We've become more thoughtful and transparent. We seek authentic candor from one another and from our parents and grandparents, we're asking questions. I hope that the notion of having it all becomes something that we discuss and question earlier; that's my biggest advice.
“Because having it all doesn't mean that I'm happy. Looking at these women that we look up to, what did they sacrifice? What is their self-care ritual? Those are the things I think about. If I can't take a 15-minute walk every day, if I can't feed myself and my soul the way that I deserve, it doesn't matter.”
I wish I could quote Tai Beauchamp, she shared something to the effect of, “It changes depending on the season, but the goal is to be able to do things that you love and still have like peace within yourself,” and that is pretty much the definition that I've adopted. Because having it all doesn't mean that I'm happy. Looking at these women that we look up to, what did they sacrifice? What is their self-care ritual? Does it exist? Those are the things I think about.
If I can't take a 15-minute walk every day, if I can't feed myself and my soul the way that I deserve, it doesn't matter.
Featured image courtesy of Codie Elaine Oliver
Aley Arion is a writer and digital storyteller from the South, currently living in sunny Los Angeles. Her site, yagirlaley.com, serves as a digital diary to document personal essays, cultural commentary, and her insights into the Black Millennial experience. Follow her at @yagirlaley on all platforms!
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Ah, yes, the missionary position. If there’s one sex position that pretty much everyone off top knows what it consists of, the missionary would have to be it. So, where does the name exactly come from? Oddly enough, even though it’s probably the most common sex position there is, there’s conflicting information about how its name actually came to be.
Some say that the Catholic church deemed it to be the only “non-sinful” position, and folks followed suit. Others believe that it’s tied into “patriarchy” since a man being on top puts a woman into a submissive receiving position (I mean, the Bible does tell wives to submit to their husbands, and sex is referenced for married couples, so that tracks — Ephesians 5, Colossians 3:18, I Peter 3:1-7, Genesis 2:24-25, I Corinthians 6:16-20). There are even stories about missionaries teaching people of African, Native American, and Chinese ethnicities that any other position is wrong and so those people came up with the term “missionary position” to make fun of the missionaries (chile).
Whatever the actual backstory is, what we know for sure is the missionary position continues to be super popular (although leave it to millennials to knock it out of first position and replace it with doggystyle these days), a great way to cultivate emotional intimacy (more on that in just a sec) — and it is oftentimes perceived as hella boring.
That last point is what I’m gonna address today. Because since it is indeed a great way to connect with your partner, it makes it easier to hit “your spot” (the G-spot, to be exact), and it’s also easy on your body (you know, if the desire is there but your limbs are not exactly cooperating), in my eyes, the missionary position needs to receive the proper respect that it deserves — and the best way to do that is to give it a few, perhaps much-needed, “upgrades.” Here are 15 of ‘em.
1. Do Some Eye Gazing Before Anything Else
Recently, I was talking to a male friend of mine who told me that he doesn’t do casual sex in the missionary position. After asking him how he is subtly able to even pull that off (another article, another time), I then wanted to know the method behind his madness: “It’s too intimate and vulnerable. I need to be in something serious with you to be that…into you.”
One might say that literally putting your member into a woman’s vagina is “into her,” yet I digress. Instead, I’ll just focus on the fact that when they say that eyes are the windows to the soul, there is definitely some truth to that. And when it comes to cultivating intimacy with your partner, there is a practice known as eye gazing that can help to connect the two of you in a very special way.
In fact, there are studies to support that you can analyze how someone feels about you by looking into their eyes, you can increase your level of attraction to them by looking into their eyes, and you and your partner can go up a new level in trust if you look into each other’s eyes as well.
How long should the eye gazing last? Some experts say that the goal should be for five minutes while taking deep breaths in between. While doing that might feel awkward at first, look at it this way — y’all are gonna be face to face for a while anyway, right? Why not take the exchange of energy to another level while you’re doing it? And why not get into this mind of headspace by eye gazing as a form of emotional foreplay?
2. Bring Some Jasmine, Ylang-Ylang or Lavender and Vanilla
One of the best things about the missionary position is it encourages you to shut out the rest of the world, ignore any distractions and really focus on your partner. Matter of fact, a sex therapist once told me that one of the perks of this particular position is it significantly decreases your chances of you and/or your partner fantasizing about other people during coitus (hey, it happens…way more than people care to admit too).
Something that can help to keep you and your partner centered on one another only is the scent of jasmine, ylang-ylang, and a combo of lavender and vanilla. As a bonus, all are also sensual, calming, and relaxing too. You can add a few drops to a carrier oil (like sweet almond or grapeseed) and create a DIY massage oil. You can sprinkle some of them onto your bedding. You can also add a few drops into your sexual pressure points for a nice surprise as far as your partner’s sense of smell goes.
3. Pull in (More) Pillows
For some reason, I can’t find it now (sorry!), but a few weeks ago, I was cracking up at a video of a guy who was challenging his girlfriend to get into the position of being on top like a man and pushing for more than a minute straight. She failed miserably (it really was hilarious!). After I sent it to a few male friends, one wrote back and said, “Y’all have no idea what being on top can do to a brotha’s back sometimes.”
A workaround that will make everyone happy? Bring in some more pillows. It will elevate your body so that he won’t have to bend over quite so low. Plus, it will help him to penetrate you more deeply, which is almost always a good thing.
You can use the pillows that you already have (they should work just fine). Or you can invest in a sex pillow. They tend to be a bit firmer so that you don’t have to be slippin’ and slidin’ all over the place. Glamour did you a solid by providing a list of some of their favorite sex pillows here; Self did the same by providing their best-of-the-best list here.
4. Light Some Candles
Back to the eye thing real quick. Yeah, I don’t know how y’all are gonna be able to stare deeply into each other’s eyes if it’s pitch black in the room. And here’s the thing about letting some light shine in; there was a study conducted that said when a light box (like the kind that’s used to treat depression) is brought into a man’s space, it can increase his levels of sexual desire. The reason why is it has a way of boosting his testosterone levels.
However, if you don’t want to feel like you’re standing — well, lying — in a room that has the ridiculous lighting that is in department store dressing rooms, go with candlelight instead. A soft glow can still help him to see your shapes and curves and the two of you to look at each other yet because everything with candles is way more subtle, it can help you to feel less self-conscious if you’re not as confident in the sex department as you would like to be (check out “10 Sensuous Ways To Boost Your Sexual Self-Esteem”).
5. Add Some Flavored Lube
Although pretty much all of us have heard the saying, “The wetter, the better,” at this point, this tip is a shout-out to the safe sex crowd (since reportedly, only one-third of men and one-quarter of women actually use condoms. SMDH). If you want to make bringing rubbers into a mix a much more pleasurable experience, go with some flavored lubricant. Although you might only think of its use in the context of oral sex (more on that in a bit), dabbing some on your neck (so that he can taste something sweet-er when he kisses you there) or on your wrists or forearm (so that he can lick them while your hands are pinned back) can be a truly welcome surprise.
And what are some of the best-tasting ones on the market these days? No worries. I got you:
6. Modify the Position…a Bit
As we continue, I will be — no pun intended — deep diving into some tweaks that can be made to the standard missionary position in order to intensify sexual pleasure. For now, I’ll just say that spooning face to face, allowing your partner to pin your legs back, having sex while standing up, letting him ride cowboy (which means he’s literally in the position that you are typically in during the cowgirl) and your partner lying horizontally over your body instead of vertically — these all are twists to the missionary that could cause you to hear “missionary position” with new levels of excitement.
7. Apply the Coital Alignment Technique (CAT)
Speaking of modifying positions, what do y’all know about the Coital Alignment Technique (CAT)? If you’re staring at your screen like, “What in the world is that?” it’s when your partner gets into the downward-facing dog yoga position while you’re on your back in the missionary one. This causes your partner’s penis to stimulate your clitoris as they are entering you and sometimes as they are going in and out. The (main) benefit is if you’re someone who finds experiencing a vaginal orgasm challenging, you significantly increase your chances of experiencing one since your clitoris will be stimulated during the act of intercourse.
Another bonus is “doing the CAT” can help a man to last longer if premature ejaculation is something that he is prone to experiencing.
8. Get Out of the Bed/Bedroom
The older we get, the more bedroom sex makes sense. After all, beds were specifically designed to support our bodies. Still, if you’ve been in a long-term relationship for quite some time, just like approaching the missionary position the same way every time can get old, so can always being in your bed — or bedroom.
You’re paying good money to utilize more than just one room in your home, so why not maximize each one’s potential? And as far as the best room in the house to get busy, I recently read an article that said bathrooms and balconies are fan favorites, followed by closets and utility rooms. Personally, I’m with what a Men’s Health article stated, which is the living room is probably the most comfortable (and common) — yet whatever you do, just try and think outside of the box sometimes. In this case, think outside of your bed and bedroom to see what other places are comfortable for you both.
9. Or…Get on the Edge of the Bed
So, what if you're like, "I hear you, but it's gonna be the bed for me, more times than not?" I hear you. There's a way to upgrade the missionary position and how you use your bed at the same time — have him pull you to the edge of the bed and either penetrate you by lifting your legs over his shoulders, or the two of you can just have "regular sex" that way (so long as he's good at maintaining his balance and keeping you from falling off at the same time).
The perks? For one, if his penis is more on the average side (check out "Sex Hacks For Different Kinds Of Penises (You Heard Me Right)"), he will be able to penetrate you more deeply. Another benefit is if you like to bring vibrators into the mix, it will be easier to do (especially if your legs are up). Another is this is one way to get your clitoris, vagina, and cervix all stimulated all at the same time — in fact, this is why another name for the edge of the bed is "the edge of heaven" (makes sense).
10. Keep Your Bra on — Kinda
As a doula, whenever new moms talk to me about easing back into sex, it's very common for them to talk about how "conflicted" they are when it comes to their breasts, especially if they are breastfeeding. It makes complete and total sense when you think about the fact that first, our breasts are ours alone, then men come in and use them as foreplay, and then here comes a baby who uses them as a food source. A top suggestion that I give is that moms invest in some super sexy nursing bras. That way, if they want to still keep their breasts covered up, there is something pretty for their partner to look at.
Along these same lines (kinda sorta), consider keeping your own bra on during missionary — well, kind of. Either get one that is extremely sheer or pull your breasts out so that they are hanging out over the front of your bra. Why? Well, a lot of men have told me over the years that while nothing really tops a woman in her birthday suit, the peek-a-boo effect of breasts over bras and crotchless panties turns them on in a way that they can't fully articulate. Plus, if you're a bit insecure, this can help you out like it can a new mom (believe it or not), especially if you're going to bring some lighting in (like I suggested earlier).
11. Enjoy His Nipples
Speaking of breasts…although not everyone finds their nipples to be the ultimate erogenous zone (check out “So, What If ‘Typical Erogenous Zones’ Annoy TF Outta You?”), don’t automatically assume that your partner is one of them. The reality is men have the same glands and nerve endings that we do when it comes to their nipples which means a lot of them find their nipples getting some TLC to be super erotic and enjoyable.
A husband client of mine once told me in a session that he wished that his wife would lick on his nipples more, especially during intercourse, because it takes his orgasms to a completely different level. When his wife heard that, she asked, since she’s not a contortionist, how could she possibly pull that off in a comfortable way? This actually brings us to the next point.
12. Try Some Kama Sutra Piercing
On the heels of what I just said, what do you know about the Kama Sutra approach known as piercing? It’s kind of similar to CAT, only with a twist. This time, a man should position his shoulders to where they are directly over your head — that way, as he is moving in and out, you can get direct clitoral stimulation.
How is this any different from the CAT? Well, with that position, his arch is backed farther away from you. Plus, it tends to feel the most amazing upon entry only. On the other hand, piercing makes it possible for you to do the whole nipple thing that we just talked about while he’s able to stimulate your clitoris more intentionally the entire time. A win/win for everyone, wouldn’t you say?
13. Engage in (Some or More) Edging
Another way to almost guarantee that your orgasms will be next level is to engage in a bit of edging. If you're familiar with the word, yet you've never exactly researched and/or tried it before — let's just say that it's the kind of act that requires some stamina (on his part) and some self-discipline (for you both). The reason why I say that is because edging is all about having intercourse, your partner stopping for 15-30 seconds, and then you both starting back up all over again.
And why would someone want to send themselves through this mind of, in a way, mind f-ck? It builds anticipation and excitement, which can actually make your orgasms super intense. Hell, it could even lead to multiple orgasms if y'all play your cards right. Anyway, you can learn more about edging by reading "All About Edging: The Ways Prolonging Pleasure Makes For Mind-Blowing Orgasms" on our platform.
14. Stop. And Switch.
As I was in the process of penning this piece, I asked a few people to share why they felt that some people take a ho-hum attitude about the missionary position. The general consensus was if that’s all you do the entire time, things can get old really quick.
Good point. That’s why it’s also a good idea to keep in mind that, just because you start off in missionary, no rule says that you have to stay there (unless you happen to live in Florida because, apparently, only the missionary is legal there; Florida stays wilin’ out). No rule says that once you start having sex that you can’t do some other, eh hem, activities in between positions too.
My vote? Be down to get into some oral, especially if you want to increase your chances of having an orgasm. A “good giver” is gonna get off so much on pleasuring you that you probably won’t have to worry about him needing to maintain an erection even if he spends a few moments downtown (cue SWV’s song). Oral sex intermissions are so unsung. Whew, chile.
15. Moan ‘N Whisper
The last and final point. "Dirty talk" is always gonna be a winner when it comes to sex, period; however, when you're in the missionary position, it's really amazin' considering you're both right next to each other's ears.
And what if dirty talk isn't something that you've exactly mastered (yet)? The key is to not overthink it. Moan. Whisper the things that you like being done to you (or that you want him to try). Ask him what he likes (or wants more of). When he's got it right, praise him. If he's got a pet name, use it. If you want to go with his government name, he probably won't mind that either.
The main point here is to remember that great sex incorporates all of the senses — touch, taste, sight, smell, and hearing. And since words are our most effective form of communication, you can't go wrong with using some in the bedroom…especially when you're giving it all that you've got in the missionary position…especially as you're adding in some of these upgrades that I just shared.
Enjoy, sis. EN-freakin’-JOY!
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Featured image by Giphy