My perspective on sex therapy is unusual, and is counter intuitive to our culture’s usual assumptions around sexuality.
My starting assumption, and the basis for all my work, is that our bodies are intrinsically pleasurable. We all – or almost all – come into the world with that capacity. However, most of us don’t experience our bodies in that way. Why?
Firstly, because we’ll all experienced unwelcome or uninvited touch, touch we don’t like, touch that we’ve not asked for, touch that might be shocking to us, and so on. The body becomes tense and vigilant, always anticipating what might happen next, and so is unable to relax into the present moment.
Second, we have lots of ideas which lie on top of this capacity for pleasure. Ideas about what sex should be like, what we should be feeling, how we should relate and suchlike. This is very tied in to the general idea of sex as performance, in which we are always assessing what we’re feeling against what we imagine we should be feeling. Except, if you focus on what isn’t there and why it isn’t there, present focused relaxed awareness is impossible. What makes all this worse is the dominant idea of sex as arousal, rather than understanding that arousal arises out of pleasurable, present focused relaxation and receptivity.
The effect of this is that we require to rediscover this capacity for pleasure. And we rediscover this not by fixing ourselves, but rediscovering and expressing our innate wholeness. I do this in three ways: Embodiment through bodywork, Communication and Expansion.
When people think of bodywork in this context, their idea is often quite sexualised. They are likely to think of genital massage, of high states of arousal and so on. But for me, that’s the wrong way round. The issue is how we can release our bodies from all the tension and vigilance which is habitually carried. And given that quite a lot of that tension might have been created by unwelcome or inept sexualised touch in the past, that is almost never the place to start. But my focus isn’t so much the where of the touch, but the how. That is, how can I work with a client so that the touch is agreed and boundaried, follows the curiosity and interest of the client and is an expression of pleasurable sovereignty and self determination?
Communication is essential, but for most of us, problematic. So the second aspect of my work is how we learn to say what we want, what we don’t want, and to be clear in any moment of engagement who this is for. Many couples get into a habitual position where each feels that they are doing something for the other. We need to learn how to take, how to ask for what we want, how to authentically give, how to allow, and from a wholehearted position of consent.
And building on embodiment and communication, the third leg of my work is expansion. We have a very limited, functional, performance focused way of looking at sex. In my system, there are 8 primary areas of sexuality, which give rise to very varied experience: Tantra/Sacred Sexuality, Energetic Practices, Agreement, Play/Power/Fantasy, Body, Risk, Innocence and Connective Feeling/Romantic Love. I evolved this work primarily for couples to expand their range, but it is really helpful to everyone in expanding their sense of what’s possible. I’ll give more information about this third area in future videos and blogs.