I have a client who’s been coming to see me for about a year.  When we started working together, he seemed to be carrying a lot of shock in his body.  If I touched a particular part of him; his belly, for example, it seemed to set off quite violent shaking.  As we continued working, this gradually got less.  He seemed able to be much more present in his body, and able to tell me where he would like me to touch him, and how he would like to be touched.

 

When we had our checking in after a recent session, he told me that while he’d enjoyed our sessions a lot, he’d enjoyed that one a lot less. He had an odd sense of being touched, and not knowing if he liked it or not, and feeling a bit strange.  Nonetheless, he remained able to direct me to where he wanted me to touch him.

 

Rightly or wrongly, I thought this was a pivotal moment in our work together. I surmised that the shock in his body when he came to me was because he had lost his power to choose.  He hadn’t been able to say no to contact, or to determine what that contact would be, and in consequence, had become dissociated from his body.  His body then held onto the memory of the undesired contact in the form of shock.  Because our work was safe and collaborative, his body had felt it could go back to that point, that fork in the road, where you either exercise sovereignty over your own body, or disassociate.  This time he could choose to take the other fork in the road by exercising his autonomy in directing how and where he wanted to be touched.

 

I think this shows the absolute centrality of consent in healing the body from past trauma. Consent is being able to choose but that choice is based on what you feel, not what you think you ought to do, or allow someone to do to you.  Because we are not telepathic, that means we need to be able to communicate what we want to the other person.  Consent isn’t a once and for all thing.  You’re always in choice, because consenting is always in the present moment.  You can always change your mind.

 

I hope that as part of the MeToo campaign, we can re-think our understanding of what consent is.  Too often, there’s an idea that it’s like inviting an army into your castle.  Once you lift up the drawbridge, you’ve somehow agreed to everything that can happen after that.  But, apart from narcissists and psychopaths, that doesn’t work for anybody.

 

The whole body dissociation that my client experienced is one response to unwanted touch, but there’s also a more specific form.  Sometimes part of the body just goes numb, or becomes painful, or closed off.  If the person is unable to protest the lack of consent, the body will. Except that once the body does protest in this way it will continue doing it, unless the original transgression is processed somehow.

 

How do we do we process the original transgression?  Through consensual touch, through dialogue, through giving voice to the feelings which come up.  Sometimes, underneath the numbness, a physical discomfort emerges.  Then with that discomfort an emotion, often anger or irritation, arises. After this that body part seems to reintegrate with the rest of the body and rejoin the whole body in feeling and responsiveness. The critical thing is the active, moment to moment consent.  It changes everything.

Everybody thinks that every one is having great sex.  Everybody but themselves, that is!

 

Lack of sexual confidence can take several forms. Some people haven’t had sex at all.  Others have only had one partner.  Sometimes sexual experiences have been disappointing and frustrating.  And more often than you would expect, people experience their partners as critical and blaming.

 

We’ll write about the challenges of having had only one or two partners in another post, but what about those who have never had sex?

 

Given how sexualised we are as a society, it may seem surprising how many people, of all ages, haven’t had sex at all. And, although it seems odd to say, the sexualisation of society itself is a problem. If you’re well into your twenties, or thirties, or fifties, you probably think you’re ‘abnormal’, and so there’s likely to be a lot of shame too.

 

How can we help?

 

Most importantly, we provide a warm, supportive and completely confidential space where all these issues can be explored, at a pace that’s right for you.

 

We work with the body, so you get a chance to fully explore, appreciate and amplify all your bodily sensations and pleasures. This is particularly useful for people who might identify as asexual.

 

We provide different perspectives, so we can guide you through the whole field of sexuality.

 

We can provide information and knowledge.

 

But most importantly, we can ensure that you’re not having to do this on your own.

 

If you think you might be interested in working with either of us, it’s our practice to meet you for a coffee and a conversation in a public space.  Then we can both see if we’re a good fit.  If we all agree then we’ll work with you to create a bespoke series of sessions to help you grow and flourish.

 

We look forward to hearing from you. And remember: the only antidote to shame is courage.

Whenever I come back from a meditation retreat, people will dutifully tell me that I look much better, much more relaxed.  Not having done it, they imagine mediation calms the mind, and makes you peaceful and serene. They probably imagine too that you learn techniques to quiet and empty the mind.

 

Ideas like this make it difficult for people to persist with meditation, because the reality is so different.  Frequently it is an experience of an endless cascade of repetitive nonsense.  People don’t understand that what we require to do is move the nonsense from the centre of our attention; we don’t have to get rid of it.  We need to understand how deluded we are, not to become enlightened, but to be  more responsive, flexible and open. And to move the nonsense from the centre, we need to become more embodied.  That is why there’s such an emphasis on breath and posture.

 

On the face of it tantra seems the polar opposite of meditation. People imagine it is about lots of techniques for having great sex.  And they assume tantra retreats are a way of having a lot of sex with a lot of people.

 

And it’s true that tantra teaches us to be more embodied, and opens us up to more possibilities for pleasure, but to me, what a tantra group experience is primarily about bringing all our suppressed matters out into the open, in an accelerated way.  If we’ve just had a lovely experience with someone, the ego can’t normally just let that experience be, with gratitude. No, instead all our patterns of attachment come into play. We want to be with that person again. We get jealous and envious. We make all sorts of stories.

 

But suddenly we can catch ourselves caught up in our mind and missing the moment. It is just like in meditation, when you realize that you’ve spent the last fifteen minutes idly thinking and dreaming about something or another.

 

So, although they might look very different, meditation and tantra are very similar.  Of course, individual work with a practitioner is different from group work, as you don’t have the added the fuel of other people inputs and interactions.   But in both cases the general direction is still to loosen the grip of thoughts and to become more embodied.  In this way  you can be in the felt and embodied experience of your life right now, rather than staying stuck in the nonsense.

At one of our Tantra Introductory days in Glasgow, we did an afternoon on the Wheel Of Consent. This is the invention of the legendary Dr Betty Martin, which deconstructs our habitual sexual behaviours in order to make them conscious and to reassemble them in a form more conducive to our growth and happiness.

 

The most controversial part of the wheel of consent is the ‘Taking’ aspect. In that mode, we are primarily interested in our own curiosity, desire and interest. We don’t have to look after our partner, and our partner doesn’t have to look after us. It’s consensual so obviously if I want to do something, I have to ask you. Unless you actively want to allow this, you say no, and nothing happens. If I want to stroke your face and ask you if I can, if you feel no energy for that you just say no. Then I need to ask you for something else until you do feel a yes.

 

But the reactions people have when we introduce this approach are extraordinary. You would imagine that Takers are molesters, rapists or monsters! But when you point out that the whole point of the wheel of consent is that it’s about consent, that doesn’t change the objections at all. “It’s selfish” people will say. But is that true?

 

A number of ideas are wrapped up in that judgment.

 

Firstly is the idea that we are beastly, and left to our own devices, we will just want more and more extreme things. “Yes, I know it’s consent but even so…”  In my experience it just isn’t true that people demand more and more extreme or unpleasant requests.

 

Second is the idea that it’s oppressive to women. We will be just like our male Victorian ancestors, coming back from the pub with a skinful, clambering in an entitled kind of way onto our luckless wife, left only to think of England, or, to bring it up to date, possibly the government’s Brexit policy. Yes, you say, but we take turns. Even so…

 

Third is the idea that if we men aren’t to be chauvinist brutes of yore, we need to be consensual in our approach to pleasure. But, of course, that’s a weasel word. We really mean contractual. You scratch my back – or some other part – and I’ll scratch yours. And if one of us defaults, the other will be irate. It is like two misers giving each other £5 for Christmas. Is that the best we can do?

 

This idea of equal exchange, like a business transaction, is the spectre at the feast. It chills and deadens everything.

 

Explicit taking is powerful in that it banishes more insidious forms of behaviour.

 

One of these is fake giving. Fake in two senses. Firstly, I am giving you something that I think you want, or should want. Second, that because I am giving, you are contractually obliged to respond. Because I deign to give you unsolicited oral sex, you are under a duty to moan. And if you don’t moan, I will.

 

Another is the idea that my partner is a mind reader. My partner should know exactly how to pleasure me, without me offering any guidance, and when my partner fails in his or her responsibilities, I am entitled to feel irate.

 

I’ll write further about this.

The legendary Betty Martin is visiting Britain this Summer. Karen and I will attend one of her trainings, in June, organised by The Sea School of Embodiment.

 

So, this post is the ‘before’.

 

Betty is best known for The Wheel of Consent where she outlines the four kinds of touch.  She’s generously put a lot of material on You Tube, and the reason why it’s so good is that you think ‘that’s right!’ and ‘that’s simple’. Of course, it isn’t simple. She makes it appear so because she’s a brilliant teacher.

 

Two pairs of the wheel creates four kinds of touch

 

The Wheel of Consent is composed of two pairs, which can be named as giving/ receiving and taking/allowing.

 

An illustration will help. Suppose your lover starts doing something. Stroking you, for example. You haven’t asked for it, but it’s ok. in due course, your partner says “well, I have been giving you all this touch, now I want you to give something to me”. You are furious. And you say “You weren’t giving, you were taking! And now you want to pretend it was giving so you can take even more!”. An argument ensues. The ‘giver’ is offended. The ‘receiver’ is indignant.

 

In Betty’s terms, it’s only giving when it’s asked for. Otherwise it’s taking. Taking isn’t bad, but we need to own it.

 

If we can get clear about these four kinds of touch, then a lot of difficulty can be avoided. But when we reflect on it, we can see that we mix them up repeatedly. Take oral sex for example. Your partner asks you to lick her. But neither of you stay in the giver/receiver mode. You expect her to show her arousal and appreciation. She feels obliged to reassure you how much she’s enjoying the experience, rather than just receiving it. It’s messy, and produces a lot of unnecessary pain.

 

I saw a client the other day for a tantric massage, which included some anal massage work. When she had got dressed afterwards, she told me that when she was tightening her trouser belt, she realised that her belt tightened 2 notches more than it had that morning. She attributed this to the effect of our work. And speculated how much tension must have been holding in her pelvis and stomach, which had been released.

 

If you mention anal massage, you’re likely to be met with silence, or embarrassed humour, and I think the reasons for this, which are most probably unexamined are:

 

-the anus is dirty

-interest in the anus is perverted

-anal touch is painful

 

None of this is true.

 

One of the innovations of sexological bodywork is working with the anus. And there’s at least 2 very distinct benefits: regulation of the nervous system, and pleasure.

 

For sexological bodyworkers, direct touching of the anal sphincters is one of the few ways to get direct access to the nervous system. And it acts as a major down-regulator (relaxant). If someone is very stressed, relaxation of these sphincters has a major effect on the level of tension they feel in their bodies. Indeed, people very often fall into a deep sleep.

 

Landscape of different sensations

 

So far as pleasure is concerned, there are a phenomenal amount of nerve endings in the anus. More than almost any other area of the body. Because of this, the anus is an extraordinary landscape of different sensations. Move the finger a tiny amount, and the sensation is entirely different.

 

In the introduction to the 4th edition of his groundbreaking ‘Anal Pleasure & Health, the late Jack Morin noted:

 

“It was never one of my career goals to be known as ‘Dr Anal’, as I am in some circles.  Although I’ve accepted the nickname as a playful compliment, it’s only been during the last decade that my embarrassment has faded away completely. Like almost everyone else, my earliest attitudes toward the anal area were shaped -warped, more accurately – by the incredibly powerful anal taboo. Obediently, I thought about it as little as possible. The vast network of nerves that makes this area so sensitive was, for all practical purposes, out of commission. Once, when I was obviously upset, a perceptive therapist asked what I was feeling in my anus. The revealing answer was “Absolutely nothing”.

In the Woody Allan film ‘Manhattan’, a female character says “I finally had an orgasm, and my doctor told me it was the wrong kind”

 

The joke derives from Freud’s dictum [as it were] that clitoral orgasms were immature and masculine, and that the mature woman should confine herself to vaginal orgasms.

 

Why Freud felt entitled to pontificate about woman’s genitals without being the possessor of any is far from clear. But many since have felt a similar entitlement.

 

Strong similarities

 

Fortunately, we’ve moved on, specifically, we’re much clearer on the structure of the nervous system. And that clarity enables us to see strong similarities between male and female experiences of orgasm.

 

The clitoral orgasm is connected to the pudendal nerve. How can a man know what that’s like? Easy. The glands of the penis are connected to the same nerve.

 

The vaginal, or g spot orgasm is connected to the pelvic nerve. This is the same nerve that connects to the deep structure of the penis.

 

The cervix orgasm is connected to the hypogastric nerve. Both this nerve and the pudendal nerve are connected to the male prostate.

 

Lastly, the enigmatic Vagus nerve is connected to the uterus orgasm. In men, researchers aren’t yet sure, but I discovered it by accident during my sexological bodywork training when one of my colleagues located it as part of the pelvic floor, near the root of the penis. The sensation was felt in the head, like stimulation of the prostate, but at the side of the head. Corresponding with the vagus nerve’s upper positioning, rather than the middle of the head.

 

The similarity between male and female orgasmic experience has been overlooked, I think, for two reasons. One is the confusion between male ejaculation and male orgasm, which are actually distinct. But the main one is the insulting disinterest that the medical profession has historically had to women’s bodies and women’s pleasure.

 

Seeing these strong similarities will, I hope be a way of enabling all of us, women and men, to understand our common human inheritance of pleasure.

As I was reflecting on my breast massage practice this morning I found myself remembering my childhood.  I was lucky enough to grow up in a household where inquiring minds were welcome.  “The Joy of Sex” sat on the bookshelf with all the other books and I could dip into that as much as into the French novels I enjoyed as a teenager.

 

A teacher lent me “Nana” by Balzac after checking that the subject matter (a devastating prostitute dies a horrible death from small pox after being the ruin of many men) was acceptable to my parents.  It was. Another family friend gave me “Querelle of Brest” at 13.  As I read with surprise about the robust gay lifestyles of French sailors, I kept an eye out for parental outrage.  Did they know what I was reading?  Apparently it was fine too.

 

Did this accepting approach to human sexuality as a natural part of life mean I didn’t have any challenges in expressing my sexuality exactly as I wished to do.  No it didn’t.  It meant I trusting was enough to start with little guilt or misinformation.  But nobody shows us how to be everything we can be.  Nor how to negotiate our partners and lovers when they bring their baggage into the bedroom!

 

Connecting with the sensuality of my own body

 

Much of my interest in Goddess archetypes has been to connect with the abundant and lush nature of being a woman because I have sometimes felt this hard to find as a professional woman.  In Tantra we describe this as being ‘juicy’.

 

Taoists have discovered over thousands of years how to cultivate our bodies as woman for our health, wellbeing and aliveness.  Like western medicine, they have applied a rigorous attention to detail to find out what works over and over again and so can be relied upon to support us.

 

One of the easiest ways for me to connect with my juicy femininity is to start the day with a breast massage.  Our lovers love our breasts and of course this makes sense, they are direct extensions of our heart.  But how often do we stop and appreciate our hearts and our bodies directly through contact with our breasts with no expectations?  Connecting with the sensuality of my own body in the morning is a great way to stay centred in my femininity for the rest of the day.  Even five minutes is enough to remember the woman that I am.

 

Feminine First, as we Goddess admirers say.

Karen and I recently did a Tantra course at Tao Gardens in Thailand. This is a Taoist centre just outside the town of Chiang Mai, in north west Thailand. It was set up by Mantak Chia about 10 years ago. The course was taught by him, teaching the taoist approach to sexuality and by Karen’s tantra teacher Charles Muir, who’s based in California. Master Chia is unusual amongst Taoist Masters as, although sexual energy is fundamental to taoism, it’s hardly ever talked about explicitly. He has written ‘Multi Orgasmic Man’, amongst a vast range of books. He’s nearly 72, but has incredible vigour and youth.

 

One of the things Charles taught us was Sacred Spot massage. In women, the sacred spot is the g spot. In men, the sacred spot is near the entrance to the anus. It feels different from the prostrate being massaged. The male sacred spot is connected with what’s called ‘the million dollar point’, which is the point you need to press if you want to inhibit ejaculation.

 

Being receptive

 

This sort of experience is wonderful for men, because it teaches them to be receptive, and teaches them about diverse pleasures other than ejaculatory orgasm.

 

However, what I found altered my perspective was something else he taught: soft cock entry. The funny thing was, he didn’t really teach us anything, he just opened it up as a possibility. Essentially, if the man and woman lie in a particular position, and they use lubrication, the woman can- to be inelegant, “quelle horreur!” place the man’s cock inside her, and it can just rest there.

 

And of course, once it’s there, it can feel all the female energy, and may well become bigger, but that isn’t really the point. It’s to get us out of a perspective where we think that a hard cock is a prerequisite to entry. It isn’t. And once we realize that, everything else changes too. Intercourse, for men, can be about receiving rather than doing, about simply experiencing. And it can also make us much more aware of the exchange of energy between the man and woman.

 

It changes everything.