A great way to deal with overwhelming emotions is to find a great way to express yourself. Journaling has been proven to be very helpful to gain mental clarity and regulate emotions (among many other benefits). Writing creates a safe environment that enables you to be vulnerable and authentic.
We use journaling for many aspects of life like; personal development, work, healing and relationships. So why not use journaling to create openness and deeper intimacy? Well, that was exactly Levina Li’s thought when she started her business, A Sex Journal.
When I came across A Sex Journal online I immediately felt intrigued. I reached out to Levina to find out more about the concept and how we can apply this in our lives.
We arranged to meet over a Zoom call from opposite sides of the world. Levina, a lovely (and fierce) New Yorker was in Louisiana visiting family, I had just came back home to Amsterdam from Sydney. The conversation started with us both sharing how massively our lives had changed since the pandemic, our views on the state of the world and bonded over the similarities of growing up in an immigrant family.
After that I asked her some questions about love, intimacy and life.
So, who is Levina?
“I’m a first-generation Chinese-American New Yorker — a daughter of immigrants who grew up in China and India. I’m a creative person who loves finding magic in ritual and human connection. For work, I run two businesses: a product-focused company that makes simple tools to support people in intimate relationships and a coaching company that helps women, especially women of color, step into their creativity and power.
A lot of my interest in these spaces comes from my childhood. My parents both worked in hospitality, and I got to see firsthand how experiences can become a part of the story of peoples lives. For a long time, I wanted to work in hospitality to create those kinds of moments. I opened up to other ways of creating connection when I started down a path of self-discovery in my late 20s.”
How did that go? What did you find out about yourself?
“Oh, it was tough. My first real encounter with self-discovery work was this really confronting moment where I was challenged to look at the things that weren’t working for me as things that I had created for myself. Now, that’s a concept that I am familiar with and embrace, but at the time, it was a pill that was extremely difficult to swallow.
One of the first things that I realized was that I was an active contributor to the dysfunctional relationship I had with my mom — not the victim. I won’t get into a lot of detail about my childhood relationship with my parents, but the short of it is that we didn’t have a lot, and raising two kids in a new place was tough for my parents. Those conditions caused a lot of pain and trauma for everyone in different ways. For a long time, I blamed my parents for how unstable a lot of my childhood was — then I realized that we were all growing up together, and the past had passed. They did the best that they could with what they had. Releasing my parents from the expectations I had of them allowed me to embrace them as human beings and love them for who they are and who they are not.
Shortly after coming to that realization about my relationship with my parents, a lot of different blockages in my life started melting away. I met my partner, started a business, made incredible new friends, and created a home that really felt like home for the first time.”
Tell me about your partner
“Caleb is one of the best people I know. We’re incredibly different, and I learn so much from him and our relationship. We were friends for about a year before we started dating — and, interestingly, we orbited each other for a year or two before that, before we had any mutual friends. When we moved in together, we figured out that we’d been in a lot of the same places and events at the same time, but we weren’t ready to see each other or be together.
Our relationship started in an unusual way — I lived in a house with a few friends, and they were all in a men’s group together with Caleb. Every Monday, this group of men came to our house, went into one of the rooms, and spent 2-3 hours exploring their feelings. They joked that I’d probably end up dating one of them. I was sure there was no chance, until Caleb and I really started getting to know each other. It took a while, but when we clicked, we clicked.”
Is that how A Sex Journal came to be?
“Both of us love journaling as a way of making sense of what’s happening in our brains and bodies. Very early in our relationship, we came up with the idea of journaling about our sex life. It was a total shot in the dark — we had no idea what might come from it. We asked questions like:
- How do you feel?
- What turned you on?
- What are you celebrating?
- What do we want and need?
It opened up so many conversations that we had never really had, at least not at the depth that we were having them as we started journaling. It brought us a lot closer. Little by little, we started sharing about our journaling with close friends. It really resonated, and after a while of talking to people. doing research, and connecting with therapists and educators, A Sex Journal for Couples was born.
How has starting A Sex Journal impact your life?
In so many ways. Though I grew up in New York City, which is meant to have great sex education for the United States, I really didn’t learn very much about sexuality or my body growing up. On a personal level, A Sex Journal for Couples is like a door that opens up more exploration, education, and conversation.
It’s also impacted my life in the sense that I’ve connected with hundreds of people from all over the world on the phone, over Zoom, on Instagram, and all different sorts of mediums to hear about how this project has changed their relationship and lives. That’s incredibly validating and meaningful. Demystifying sexuality and providing people with the tools to have connected, vulnerable, and empathetic conversations about their experiences is so healing in so many ways.