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 to 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, our body our attention, our willingness to break free ….(please continue/adapt. I felt it needed a balance)

 

I say something like this to my zen group: that the purpose of practice isn’t to feel enlightened, but to feel grateful. Mind you, it’s always been a small group.

 

One of the more difficult things in our intimate lives is to change our lover’s behaviour. If we say something negative (“ I don’t like it when you do x”), the response is often negative. If we say something positive (“ I’d like it if you did x”), then often the response is negative too.

 

What’s going on?

 

Part of it is the insidious influence of shame. We’re expected to know what to do and how to be, so any criticism undermines that, which in turn produces a defensive, unhelpful response.

 

So what can be done?

 

Well, in the spirit of giving, I’d like to give you an exercise to try. I’ll describe the exercise first, then the thinking behind it.

 

The Exercise

 

Find a time where you don’t have time constraints, you won’t be interrupted and you’re both fresh and relaxed. Pick some nice relaxing music you both like. Warm up the room. Warm up some coconut oil and some castor oil.

 

Start by sitting opposite one another, eye gazing. When you feel that you have established a steady, tranquil, loving connection, ask your partner to lie down on their belly. Have various pillows and cushions to hand to make them comfortable.

 

Start with your hand on the back of your partner’s heart, then start massaging their shoulders, back, bottom and upper thighs with the coconut oil. Put your heart in your hands and touch intuitively. Spend quite a long time doing this. Gradually focus more on the bottom, and then on the area around the anus. Use castor oil for that area.Go very slowly and gently.

 

Adjust your partner’s position so that they are lying more on their side, and one of their knees is up. In particular, adjust your partner’s head so you can make comfortable eye contact with each other. Have one of your arms on the side of your partner’s body in such a position that they can comfortably place their hand on your arm. Ask your partner to have particular awareness of their middle finger, as that is how you will be communicating as the exercise develops. Explain that you will try to touch them in as close a way as you can to how their finger is touching you, and have a signal for pause ( one tap, say) and stop (say, two taps). 

 

With your own middle finger ( wearing a glove) touch the opening of the anus. From this point, pay equal attention to

  • the quality of the eye connection between you and your partner
  • What you are feeling with your finger, with regard to receptivity and resistance
  • What you are feeling on your arm from your partner’s middle finger

 

Don’t do anything unless all three are in alignment. Go extremely slowly. IF you feel invited in, enter very slowly and gradually, always responding to what you feel from moment to moment. 

 

When you finish the exercise, cover over your partner and lie in contact next to them, gradually separating. 

 

( I’m deliberately not giving specific strokes, as people almost invariably treat these as prescriptive, rather than as examples)

 

The Purpose

 

It doesn’t have to be the anus. I just chose that because it’s universal.

 

The point of the exercise is primarily to develop empathetic connectivity, the sense that you are empowered and are choosing what touch you receive, rather than being done to. And that you matter. The eye contact is crucial, because it means YOU are being touched, not just ‘the body’. It should feel very tender and feeling, quite tearful possibly.

 

If your partner can experience this, then that can become part of their repertoire. And then, sexuality becomes a matter of connectivity, rather than performance. 

 

In other words, you can change your partner best, not by giving them instructions, but by broadening and deepening their sense of possibilities.

 

If you remember the principles, you’re absolutely free to vary the specifics as much as you like.

 

Try it.

 

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.

The Wheel Of Consent is the invention of the legendary Dr Betty Martin. It 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 be exploring these issues further at The Wheel Of Retreat Introductory Workshop at The Wee Retreat on 16 November.

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. And it very often comes with a huge and liberating emotional charge too.

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 bifurcates 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.

 

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 how would a session potentially including anal touch work? 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, accompanied by suitable music, which would enable you to completely attend, without worry, to 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.

If you’re interested but aren’t geographically able to work with me, please see my links page. This predominantly covers the U.K. only, so if you are further afield, 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

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 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 the interest in Goddess archetypes has been to connect with the abundant and lush nature of being a woman and sometimes this is 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 men and women 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 a woman to connect with her juicy femininity is to start the day with a breast massage.  Their lovers love women’s breasts which of course makes sense: they are direct extensions of the heart.  But how often do women stop and appreciate their hearts and bodies directly through contact with their breasts with no expectations?  Connecting with the sensuality of their own body in the morning is a great way to stay centred in femininity for the rest of the day.  Even five minutes is enough to remember the woman that you are.

 

Feminine First, as we Goddess admirers say.