In my work with couples, I often find that sex between the partners has stopped, or become radically unsatisfactory, and neither partner really knows why. It usually isn’t because there’s a problem elsewhere in the relationship, as if that were so, talking therapy could identify and resolve it.

The couple – unsurprisingly – expect to just sit there, and someone like me will sprinkle fairy dust on them, and suddenly, everything is as good as new. This tends not to work.

From my perspective, the problem is twofold. Firstly, the couple tend to have a clear idea of what sex should be like. I call it The Hollywood Model. In this model of sex, each is urgently passionate for the other, to the extent they tear each other’s clothes off with scant regard for fabric longevity, have some very perfunctory foreplay then get down to business, and in no time at all simultaneously and noisily orgasm. Whilst having sex, they are very engaged with each other.

That’s the first problem: there’s an ideal of what sex should be like, and you’re disappointed and frustrated if it isn’t like that for you.

The second is the focus on orgasm. Couples tend to speak about this in terms of what “works”. If it promotes orgasm, it’s good, if it doesn’t, not so much. But over time, the sex gradually narrows, until, quite soon, you get to the point where it’s just perfunctory.

And then it vanishes entirely.

How can we think of sex in a different way?

Donald Mosher, an American researcher, came up with the idea that we have three different sexual modes. What I’ve called The Hollywood Model is his second mode, Partner Engagement, but there’s two others: Trance and Play. Discovering these is one way to get out of the Couples Trap.

Trance is where you’re very caught up in your own experience. Your partner might be doing something delicious to you, and you are having an exquisite time, but it’s very internal. It’s as if you are having a wonderful meal. You don’t want to tell the waiter every five minutes what a great time you’re having, because that detracts from the experience. However, because The Hollywood Model is what we think sex is, we often feel guilty and selfish when we’re in this mode, and feel that we’re taking up too much time. And we feel we have to reassure our partner, even though that takes away from our experience.

When I work with a couple, they are so focused on how things should be that they often become, with each other, disembodied. In that case, it’s helpful for me to work with them separately, in the Trance mode, to reembody them, before getting to work on communication and variety.

The other state is Play. BDSM – particularly power games – are the classic exemplars, but it really includes all behaviour where the couple are playing a role.

In my remedial work with couples, I focus on these two other states, so they can broaden out the Couples’ idea about sex, which was largely and culturally restricted to Partner Engagement in the first place, and fatally constricted further by an unbalanced focus on orgasm.

Of course, for other couples, the primary issue is communication, or boredom through repetition, and I will write about this more in future posts.

John and I have recently been reflecting on our ethos.

 

We see lots of different kinds of people.  We meet couples who love each other but are distressed that their sexual life together appears to have stalled, people who have suffered sexual trauma, people who experience sex as superficial or unsatisfactory and long for more, people with sexual anxieties, and lots more besides. But what the people we work with have in common is a view of sex that isn’t titillating, or purely physical, like an itch that needs to be scratched, but rather something which is a deep and fundamental aspect of themselves, which needs to be attended to.

 

If we were to formulate our ethos it would be this: sexual expression is a fundamental aspect of human dignity.

 

It is for this reason that we call our work ‘Love and Sex coaching’. We’re not primarily interested in sex as performance, or sex as recreation.  We think of sex as a crucial aspect both of self expression and deep emotional connection with others.

 

And we try to reflect this ethos in our website. Obviously, we’re both mature people. We make no attempt to be sexy or to glam ourselves up.  We don’t put photos of attractive young people on the site.  We try to speak to people as honestly as we can, in as human a way as we can. Because we want to be available for everyone.  We want people to be able to see us and be listened to, and have their issues addressed with love and compassion. We’re not sex workers or escorts. We don’t engage with our clients sexually.  We don’t allow our clients to touch us.  What we do is engage with people from a position of love, and that sometimes involves touch, sometimes involves talk, and sometimes involves giving information.

 

Here’s another crucial thing: people are so shamed around sex. They’re shamed about their desires. Or their lack of desire. About their performance. All kinds of things. Think about journalistic staples: they all involve shame. So something that should be part of the joy and beauty of being alive is often a source of shame, awkwardness and embarrassment. That is what is shameful. But it isn’t the individual who should be ashamed, but our society, which allows an epidemic of unnecessary sexual unhappiness to go unchecked.

 

We are proud of our work. But we are aware that we operate in a society which, although apparently very sexualised, does very little to ensure that this fundamental aspect of a human being can be fully and joyfully expressed. So we are grateful to you for supporting us, for helping to tell people about us, because how else are they to know?

 

Thank you.

One New Year I met a fencer.  I was very young, and knew nothing about sex.  But that night I was in a particular mood, and although I ejaculated far too early, probably when she was undressing or in the shower or something I didn’t curl up and die with embarrassment. Rather, I decided to be brave and joyful.  And most importantly, I decided to just keep going, to be as affectionate and loving as I could for as long as I could.

 

At some point that night, she ejaculated.  I didn’t know anything at all about female ejaculation at the time.  I didn’t do anything technical.  I didn’t even know about her G spot, far less stimulate it.  I was bracingly unfamiliar with the Skene Glands, the female prostate. But, we had stayed in connection for hours. That was the important thing, the connection.

 

It’s different now of course. Porn has got hold of it. As has that loathsome man, The Technical Lover.  You can watch videos showing how to induce it in your woman.  There’s lots of books. Something traditionally thought of as sacred has become something in one’s repertoire.  It’s unbearably sad.  The UK Government even chose to ban depiction of it in 2014, as they wrongly thought that female ejaculate was urine.

 

A society always gets what it believes.  We don’t believe in magic, or the sacred, or that each one of us is intimate with everything, but we do believe in expertise.  And so, everything sexual becomes the object of that expertise.

 

I remember massaging a client anally, and she ejaculated, and said “How did you do that?” as if it was a trick, an unusual technical skill. But perhaps it’s easier to believe in expertise than to believe that a woman’s body is a miracle, not a set of buttons.  A miracle.  Whole and entire.

 

It shouldn’t be necessary to say this, but it is. The thing which is unbearably sad is that this – like the presence or absence of pubic hair – has become one more way to shame women. It’s one more thing that you’re expected to do, one more thing to feel inadequate about.

 

You could say that Primal Woman holds up the world. If we can’t see her in each woman, then we might all fall into oblivion. Think about that, Technical man.