In my work with clients, and particularly with Couples, I use a schema called ‘The Compass of Sexuality’. I’ve adapted this from various sexuality school traditions, expanding and adjusting to fit all that I know within it.
The value of a schema like this starts from the recognition that we all tend to get stuck in our sexual behaviour. What characterises the behaviour of most of us, and particularly Couples, isn’t exploration and adventure, but repetition. Having a sense of other realms, or facets of sexuality opens us out to growth, rather than miring us in boredom and dissatisfaction.
It’s called The Compass because it has 8 orientations, like the points of a compass: North, South, East, West, and the points in between: North West, North East, South West, South East.
I thought it might be helpful to briefly introduce these realms.
This is based on my Wheel of Consent work with Betty Martin
It is primarily about communication and consent, asking for what you want, learning to be comfortable, saying No to what you don’t want, Yes to what you do and understanding consent not to be a once and for all thing, but fluid, active and momentary.
The work enables you to become clear about:
-how you want to touch the other
-how you want the other to touch you
-your yes and your no to the other to touch you as they wish
-your yes and your no for you to touch the other as they wish
It is particularly good for people with wobbly boundaries, pleasers, martyrs and people who “just want to give”.
In this area, we replicate beautiful practices of simply receiving and experiencing, as we would as a baby.
And, we can also replicate and heal early life hurts, as well as engaging more vigorously with our early development.
The pioneer in this field is John Hawken, whom I trained with in 2004.
This encompasses a whole realm of practices and perspectives. In my tantra training with Hilly Spenceley, we had a wonderful practice where, as a group, we would cover ourselves in oil and just interact, sliding and slipping across each other. Jessica Parker has taken this into the public realm with Lady Liquid Love
For Couples, it can include Erotic Massage, where, when you’re being massaged, you are just totally within your experience, totally absorbed, totally receptive. Caffyn Jesse‘s book, Erotic Massage, in my opinion, is the best presentation of this.
For Groups, it can include things such as Play Parties, BDSM, and suchlike.
This area is what is usually called tantra, or sacred sexuality. here is the home of ritual and ceremony, where we can see ourself and our partner as greater than our individual personality, embodying something universal and true.
In my work with Couples, I find that designing ceremonies appropriate and specific to them is a wonderful way of enhancing a creative loving intimacy, which goes beyond personal hurts, disappointments and stories, and enables the best in us to heartfully express itself.
Fantasy [North West]
This is a particular favourite, and I am presently developing workshops in this field with a colleague. We ran two pilot workshops pre covid, and will start offering this work once the epidemic passes.
Our culture’s common belief is that our sexuality exists in two forms: the interior and the relational.
To the interior belongs sexual fantasy: the stories or images that we find exciting and arousing, often deriving from experiences in our childhood. We think of these fantasies as private, and often we feel uncomfortable about them.
In my view, our fantasies, when shared and played with, contain a fantastic opportunity for sexual healing and expansion.We can express parts of ourselves which are normally hidden. We can play with aspects of ourselves that we have taught to be ashamed of. Particularly with Couples, it is one of the major routes out of stuckness and repetition, if they have the flexibility to get out of a performative view of sex.
Energetic Practices [North East]
In Chinese tantra in particular, and in the Chinese arts in general, such as Qi Gong, there is a focus on the circulation of energy, particularly sexual energy. The best known practice is the microcosmic orbit, where sexual energy is drawn up from the base, brought up the spine, through to the third eye, then down the front of the body.
In Indian tantra, a similar practice is carried out by a Couple, who circulate energy within and between themselves, in a practice known as Yab Yam.
I think these were the inspirations for the creator of Sexological Bodywork, Joseph Kramer, to create a practice called Taoist Erotic Massage, which we learned on our training.
Risk [South West]
This too has many aspects, but, so far at least, rather than encouraging people to have risky sex, I use this as a way of expanding communication, both within the person and relationally.
With Couples, using a variation of Clean Language, invented by David Grove, the Couple are encouraged to explore practices, sexual and otherwise, which they find risky, to get a sense of the internal landscape that the thought of the risky activity presents, which often greatly illuminates the entire internal world in expansive and unanticipated ways.
Love [South East]
This is the realm of the Heart, which can contain and express all the other realms. In the systems I have adapted this schema from what, in other iterations of this schema, is often caricatured as Familiar Sex, and people, including myself, have enacted humorous sketches of old fashioned couples having predictable sex. There’s a reason for that, because the system evolved as a way of getting people to get outside what they were familiar with – and probably bored with – to try something different to just see what happened, and how they felt.
In contrast, I believe that our real purpose -not our imaginary purpose of fame or money or happiness – is to keep our heart open. And to do that, we both need to express what’s there already and to keep letting the new in. We are always either collapsing or growing. The purpose of these other realms is to help keep us expanding into love.
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