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.

 

Agreement [North]

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 no  to for the other to touch you as they wish

-your yes and 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”.

 

Innocence [South]

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.

Body [West]

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.

Spirit [East]

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, the South East of 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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Twice a week, on my way to the zen dojo, I walk through Glasgow University and past a plaque commemorating Adam Smith, the father of capitalism, who was a professor there.

 

Adam Smith had a theory about the origin of money. He said that prior to money, people would rely on barter. Say that I’m a fisherman and you’re a farmer. I’d give you, say, two fish for a lump of bacon. That was the exchange rate. There’d be some other deal with the baker and the candlestick maker. But the problem with the barter system was that it was cumbersome. So, some bright spark invented money.

 

The thing is, the theory is entirely untrue. When anthropologists looked at ‘primitive’ societies who didn’t have money, they worked on mutuality, not barter. If I caught a lot of fish, I’d give you some. When you slaughtered some pigs, you’d give me some bacon. It wouldn’t work of course if one of us was a freeloader, but that didn’t seem to happen.

 

I thought of this in connection with our language of sexuality, which seems to operate as a kind of barter. I ‘give’ you x, then you ‘give’ me y. If I receive x from you, I feel the obligation to give you something back. It’s as if our sexuality is reduced to Christmas time at the Miser Twins’ house, where each twin gives the other £5. Miserable.

 

The language of phoney giving is ubiquitous. The most rapacious and greedy people talk about ‘giving something back’, or about their ‘legacy’, as if they’re the Hapsburg Empire or something.

 

People imagine zen is like that too. You put in the hard yards of meditation, and in due course you’re rewarded with enlightenment.

 

Miserable. Miserable. If we monetise our souls, we will be folded up into nothingness.

 

Here is a modest suggestion: I believe that what makes us truly happy is the opportunity to be the best version of ourselves. So, when we have the chance to give, and we can give wholeheartedly, we should be grateful for that because, for that moment at least, we are the person we want to be.

 

And applying that to sex, instead of being resentful and dissatisfied and constantly calculating what we’re owed, we can be grateful for the chance, at this moment, not to be a crimped, calculating person, but a great person, and so, we can give, not in the expectation of reward, but in gratitude at being let out of the cage of calculation. And we can freely receive knowing that whatever connection we create is enough of a gift in any given moment. And that’s priceless.

 

 

 

Part of my individual work involves bodily touch, which can include  anal massage.

This is a brilliant way to fix deep rooted body tension, which is a major cause of difficulties with sexual arousal.

One client told me that when she was tightening her trouser belt after our session, she noticed her belt tightened 2 notches more than it had beforehand. She attributed this to the effect of our work. And she speculated how much tension she must have unconsciously 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. The reasons for this include:

-the anus is dirty

-interest in the anus is perverted

-anal contact is painful

None of this is true. Also, when we think of the anus in a sexual context, a lot of people are going to think of anal sex, or extreme sexuality, of one kind or another. I think this is part and parcel of a performative view of sexuality in our culture, which, amid other calamities, has caused female sexuality to be disastrously misunderstood

Habitually, if we think of the anus in an intimate way at all, we’ll think in terms of something you do, or something that is done to you [often incompetently and painfully] rather than a means of helping you feel, and feel in a very rich way: in terms of sensation, emotion and memory.

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. I’ll cover these first, and then make some suggestions on why it may be helpful for frequently occurring problems in sexuality, including ‘female sexual dysfunction’ and ‘sexual inexperience

For sexological bodyworkers and sex therapists like myself, 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.

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. And it very often comes with a huge and liberating emotional charge too, because it brings back our earliest feelings, which are usually repressed.

So there’s an irony: delicate, thoughtful and minuscule touching around the entrance of the anus is exquisitely pleasurable, and also emotionally very moving. It takes us back to our youngest self. Yet when people think of anal pleasure, they tend to think of anal sex, which often is far from pleasurable, indeed often painful, due to people’s selfishness and ignorance. But I don’t think this is an accident: one of the curses of patriarchy is that it splits our pleasure giving organs artificially into Male and Female. And because we all have anuses, our common humanity is kept at bay by thinking of the anus only in terms of penetration, not capacity for feeling, which is part of our common humanity.

Turning to female sexual dysfunction, I think this is a misnomer, caused by us having a restricted view of sexuality which is over reliant on ideas of bodily arousal. On this view, the body is neutral, and the purpose of sexuality is to arouse us through body stimulation, leading to sex, which is turn leads to orgasm.

This view, in my opinion, fails many people, particularly women. From my perspective, the body is inherently pleasurable, but most of us can’t feel that, because we carry a great deal of stress. And because we think of sex in terms of performance and what we should be experiencing, that makes us more stressed. And so, sex is often a competition between physical arousal and stress, which is one reason why it is often jagged, short and unsatisfactory, rather than extended, pleasurable and connecting.

Elsewhere, I describe how this view also largely ignores many aspects of ourselves which should form part of pleasurable sex: our imagination, our feelings and our strong desire to connect and to be seen and accepted, but for my purposes here, which relate to the anus, I’d like to explain why wider knowledge and acceptance of anal touch would be particularly helpful for women.

Firstly, there is the deep relaxation which I’ve already talked about. Once that happens, I think sexuality will arise naturally within a greater landscape of pleasurable relaxation. In body terms, I think that engenders a desire for touch, specifically, a desire for genital, clitoral touch. So, within embodied pleasurable relaxation, the clitoris actually wants touch: it’s the opposite of regarding the clitoris as a kind of wake up mechanism [the g spot is often regarded in a similar way]

Second, anal touch bridges what we often feel as the distinction between bodily feelings of sexual arousal and emotional feelings.

Third, unlike intercourse, there isn’t an expectation or demand about what you should feel. You can just feel whatever is, and that’s critically important, because one of the main sources of dissatisfaction is being drawn out of the present moment by comparison and judgement.

If you’re interested in exploring this more, please contact me. You’ll have seen from my Home Page that I offer a free 30 minute Zoom consultation.

To find out more about me, click here

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”.

Please read his book. It clears up so many misconceptions.

So what would a session potentially including anal touch work involve? Well, firstly we would agree the boundaries for what I would do, which I would not go beyond. Second, we would start with a long, slow, relaxing and connecting whole body massage,  which would enable you to completely focus, without worry, on what you were actually experiencing, to drop into a slightly trance like state, where you are very awake yet very relaxed, just attending to what you are feeling, and the outside world can drop away. When it comes to contact with the anus, it’s really important to be led by the body, and not to force anything, or proceed along a prearranged plan. What you want next should always be the result of what your body is feeling now, and where it wants to go next. And perhaps I should stop there, because there isn’t a standard way to experience this, only the unique way of each person, but if you want to know more, please get in touch.

At the moment, I can’t do in person sessions because of COVID, but I do work on Zoom and by telephone. 

If you’d prefer to work with a female practitioner, or would like to work in person but aren’t in Scotland, please see my links page. This predominantly covers the U.K. only, although there are some European and American practitioners there, so if you are further afield and want a comprehensive list, you might want to try:

The Worldwide Association of Certified Sexological Bodyworkers

http://www.sexologicalbodyworkers.org

The World Association Of Sex Coaches

http://www.worldassociationofsexcoaches.org

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How does sexual healing work?

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. It was an essential part of the process that there was no surprises. We agreed the boundaries of where I would touch him before we started, and it was a firm rule that we would not overstep these boundaries, even if he asked for that mid session. And, he remained in charge of where the touch was from moment to moment. All this was, in my view, essential in attending to his trauma.

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 it feeling a bit strange.  Nonetheless, despite this, he remained able to direct me to where he wanted me to touch him.

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 whether he was touched or not, and what that touch was earlier in his life.  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. Many women feel this with genital touch. It isn’t so much that there was a sexual assault -in some ways, that would be more straightforward – but that it didn’t seem possible to say no, because sexual touch was ‘what everyone did’.  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.

[If you’d like to talk about possibly working together, you can contact me here]

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 idea 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 men 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.

If you’re interested in exploring further, you can contact me here

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