What do you pay attention to when you’re touched? Say, for example, as you are reading these words, you allow yourself to become aware of the touch of your clothes on your body. What do you notice?

If you pay careful attention, you’ll become aware of a number of things. You will be aware of how an item of clothing feels, in a double sense. You can feel it as a matter of sensation [warm, soft], and you can also feel it as a kind of emotional colouring: the warmth feels comforting. And if you keep your awareness, you’ll probably become aware of an imaginal dimension as well: the feeling creates images, or memories, or associations. Likewise, you will become aware of the alive, dynamic quality of your body: the interface between the fabric and your skin changes with the movement of your breath. And, of course, you’ll be aware of a constant or intermittent patterning of thoughts.

When I do bodywork with clients, I encourage them to experience my touch in the widest way possible so their body becomes like a living three dimensional world, where there is always something new to be discovered and experienced.

But what most often gets in the way of that unfolding depth is a curious question:

“Am I aroused?”

And behind that question is a persistent internal dialogue, which goes something like this:

When I’m touched in a sexual way, I don’t seem to be aroused. I should be aroused, but I’m not. What’s wrong with me?

or

When I’m touched in a sexual way by x, I don’t seem to be aroused. What’s x doing wrong?

Asking questions like this is like asking “Why am I not seeing elephants?”. If your attention is focused on what’s not there, you won’t be aware of what is.

Why do we equate desire with arousal? And what do we mean by arousal?

To ask the question is, I think, to answer it: in the heterosexual world, we commonly think of arousal in terms of the wish, preparedness or willingness for sexual intercourse.

And when you think in those terms, you suddenly realise the weirdness of a question we often ask ourselves:

“How do I know if I want to have sex?”

Why is this question weird? It’s weird because we don’t normally have to go hunting for our desire: when we want something, it’s – at least most times – clear that we do. I generally don’t have to infer my desire from something else.

But in sex we do. A woman might notice she’s wet and think something like “Well, my body is ready for sex, although I don’t feel I want it. But I supose I must really”. Or a man might think “I’ve got an erection. I’m supposed to do something about it. So I’d better”.

What are the assumptions behind this? Well, they include:

  • the point of sex is sexual intercourse
  • if our body appears to be ‘ready’ for sex, we should be too
  •  because our body is more reliable than our mind

No wonder there’s so much terrible sex. All subtlety and nuance is whisked away, replaced by the on/off machine analogy of a dimwit.

In our nervous system, sex is under the jurisdiction of the parasympathetic branch, rather than the sympathetic [‘fight or flight’]. And it makes sense. The parasympathetic is colloquially known as ‘rest and digest’ and ‘feed and breed’; it’s in charge of those activities we can do when we’re safe, and don’t need to mobilise our systems to deal with danger.

So, paradoxically, if you want to become sexually aroused, you should get more relaxed. But here’s the thing: if you’re anxiously scanning your system for signs of arousal, you’re going to become less relaxed, not more. You’re going to be more in the sympathetic branch. And that’s often why there’s a negative feedback loop. One of its most obvious manifestations is with erectile dysfunction, but it plainly applies in a more widespread yet more insidious way to female sexuality too.

When I was learning dance, in my thirties, I was taught how to jump. I imagined that to jump, what I needed to do was to will myself up. But in fact, if you want to jump, what you need to learn is how to relax, how to fall into the earth. And then, as you’re falling into the earth,  jumping happens.

LIkewise with pleasure.

And the best way to relax and be present is to open up to the complete range of our somatic and imaginal experience. If you’re curious what that might be, I write about it in more detail here

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Almost every Couple I’ve worked with has been to Couples Therapy.

It’s not surprising, given the ubiquity of Relate and similar organisations, and the widespread belief that sexual issues within a relationship are best addressed by talk therapists.

As part of their therapy, the Couple will have been given Sensate Focus exercises. These would either have worked a little bit, or not at all. The Couple would have lost heart and discontinued the therapy. And then, through the dizzy mystery of the internet, they found me.

Sensate Focus was created by Masters & Johnson around 60 years ago. In essence, it takes heterosexual intercourse as a given and dramatically slows it down. Instead of focusing on the goal of intercourse and orgasm, the couple are encouraged to take turns to explore the body of the other in a sensuous way, pleasing to them and, at least intially, avoiding explicitly erotic touch and intercourse. The other partner is encouraged to say what they like and don’t like. It is specifically intended to reduce performance anxiety and stress around sexual activity, and to encourage better communication.

To the extent that it works, it’s completely unobjectionable, but often it doesn’t. Why?

We can understand better how it doesn’t work by understanding the ways in which it does.

It makes sexual intercourse less rushed But what if, for you, sexual intercourse isn’t actually that great? Your partner might enjoy it, and want you to enjoy it too, but what if you don’t? What if you never, or very rarely orgasm?

It encourages touch But what if this is problematic for you? What if you don’t particularly like how you’re touched, but you can’t seem to say what you prefer? Or you don’t even know? What if you lack a language of touch?

It encourages saying what you want But what if you don’t know what you want? Perhaps you only know what you don’t want, which makes your partner feel criticised and you feeling disappointed. Perhaps you have a vague sense “There must be more than this”, but don’t know what.

In other words, Sensate Focus takes a whole load of things for granted:

  • the point of [heterosexual] sex is intercourse
  • that’s what everyone wants, so long as there’s enough build up
  • sex is natural, so people don’t need to learn how to touch or how to communicate, they just need to let go of their hang-ups
  • sex is purely physical; it’s just  learning to do it at the right speed so there’s enough arousal and little anxiety

But what if none of this were true?j

When I started working with [heterosexual] Couples, one of the things which struck me was that one partner, usually the woman, would complain that it was impossible, or at least very difficult, for there to be any physical intimacy which didn’t have the expectation of ending in intercourse. If it didn’t, their partner would be annoyed or disappointed. In consequence of that, intimacy would often be avoided altogether. And often, when intercourse happened, it was more to keep the peace than because of genuine desire. The partner would still be annoyed or disappointed -just not quite so much – because they expected their partner to enjoy intercourse as much as they did.

A variation of this was that one partner, again usually the woman, would complain that their partner would avoid any physical intimacy, and they didn’t know why.. On enquiry, it was usually that the man had anxieties around intercourse, but didn’t feel able to share those.

And a very common complaint was boredom and repetition.

So what can be done?

The most obvious thing is to widen the sense of what sex is, and can be, and that widening can take a number of forms.

sexual styles. There’s lots of different schemas. For example, there is an idea popularised by David Schnarch in ‘Passionate Marriage’, that there are three sexual styles: trance, partner engagement and play. Trance is where our experience is very inner. We will tend to be quite still and fairly quiet. Partner Engagement is the opposite; lots of talking, eye contact, connection. Play is newness, experimentation, role-play. If you know your partner’s style, then behaviour which appears disconnected, or wanting approval, or insincere, suddenly makes sense. And if you understand your own, things might become a whole lot easier. I write about this more here. Another perspective is the idea of erotic blueprints. The American Sex Educator Jaiya has said there are five: The Energetic, The Sensual, The Sexual, The Kinky and The Shapeshifter. I write about this more here.  The thing about these topologies is to think of them, not as absolutes, but as useful lenses to see the sexual world, our own and other people’s, in a way which is inquisitive and expansive rather than blaming or shaming.

the realms of sexuality. I believe there are eight dimensions of sexuality. I write about this idea here. Carefully curated exercises exploring these various realms is a wonderful antidote to boredom caused by a very restrictive idea of what sex is.

the use of the imagination. The greatest single failure of the Sensate Focus perspective is that it fails to take into account people’s erotic fantasy life. I have been developing work on The Erotic Imagination with the writer Rachel Connor, which you can read about here, but I find it very helpful to also use this in my private work.

challenging the idea “there’s something wrong with me”. An exclusively physical notion of what sex is, and an over focus on orgasm through intercourse, leads many women to think there’s something wrong with them. It is a human catastrophe, and entirely avoidable. I write about that here

If you’ve tried Sensate Focus and it didn’t work for you, then please get in touch with me to arrange a call. I set out the process here

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“Somatics is a field which studies the soma: namely, the body as perceived from within by first person perception. When a human being is observed from the outside..from a third person viewpoint, the phenomenon of a human body is perceived. But when this same human being is observed from the first person viewpoint of their own proprioceptive senses, a categorically different phenomenon is observed: the human soma” [Thomas Hanna]

Somatics is the belief that our body and our mind aren’t separate, and that everything we experience within our bodymind has value.

When I am working with clients, whether touch is involved or not, I am primarily interested in what they are feeling, in the widest sense.

But what does that mean? In our very psychologically orientated culture, if I were to ask you “What are you feeling?”, you would be likely to take this to mean “What are you feeling emotionally?” And you would probably have the supporting belief that there are, at any time, one or more emotions inside of you, persisting for a time which you can accurately identify and name.

So our exchange might go:

“What are you feeling?”
“I’m feeling happy?”

Rather than:

“What are you feeling?”

“I’m feeling a whooshing buzziness in my chest”

Before I left the psychotherapy world, I certainly felt that supporting belief: if we pay attention, we can identify what’s going on emotionally for us, and we can name that, and that’s the most important thing; everything else is just noise.

I don’t believe that anymore. And not just in the sense that people often misidentify their emotions, saying they’re sad when they’re angry, or vice versa, but that it devalues or ignores everything else which is going on, which has real consequences, particularly with our sexuality, because it tends to trap us in unwelcome and restricted positions.

For example, people might be aware of an overwhelming emotion: anxiety, for example, yet have no idea what to do with the emotion, other than try to work out intellectually what might be causing it, and hence what might be needed to make it go away. That tends not to work, so the temptation is to seek medication to deal with this “illness” of anxiety.

In her wonderful book ‘Call of the Wild’, the great Kimberly Ann Johnson [whom I worked with in 2015], describes the range of our possible experience with the acronym T I M E S

thinking

imagery/imagination

movement

emotion

sensation

Classically, people will tend to get stuck in one or more of these channels, so the way to resolve the stuckness isn’t primarily to resolve the content [although that’s the temptation], it’s to broaden the scope. And to change our focus: from interpretation to curiosity and exploration.

Take anxiety as an example.

The anxious person will tend to be stuck in their Emotion and Thinking channels, and will want to think their way out of their anxiety. Except, that doesn’t generally work. What does works is to pay attention to a neglected channel, Movement for example.

If I were to have an anxious client, I could get them to engage with the Movement channel. I could do this in a number of ways. I could have the client make movements, or I could have them focus on the breath, and how to change that. When anxious, our breath tends to become very shallow. We can go in two ways. The more common one is to focus on breathing from the belly, and to try and have a long outbreath, which tends to calm us down. The less common one is to assume that ‘anxiety’ is unachieved excitement: the excitement is trapped as ‘anxiety’ because we’ve restricted our breathing and gone into an anxiety/thought vortex. We can resolve that by dynamic diaphragmatic breathing, which then actualises the excitement.

Either way, this activation of the Movement channel in turn brings the Sensation channel into play; we’re suddenly aware of feeling a lot more in our body, and this itself is liberative, not least because we understand that our experience isn’t a fixed range of ‘things’, it’s a whole set of processes, all flowing into each other.

When psychotherapy was invented, it was revolutionary and liberating to have people give attention to their emotions. And for some people, it still is. But for a lot of us, emotional repression is no longer the issue, the repression has moved elsewhere, to the vast expanse of our experience which can’t be labelled as ‘thought’ or ’emotion’. Somatics isn’t anti-thought or anti-emotion, it just takes everything as valid, and worthy of investigation.

 

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The idea that sex is natural is one of the many terrible ideas which – alongside Revolutionary Terror and Totalitarianism – we can attribute to the appalling 18th century philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau. It’s the source of a lot of our unhappiness about sex: “If sex is natural, why is it so difficult for me?”

Fortunately, the ‘one size fits all’ model is now challenged by the emergence of a different perspective on sexuality: the idea that we have individual erotic natures, or maps.

Those of you that have seen Netflix’s ‘Sex Love and Goop’, which I highly recommend, will have come across the idea of erotic blueprints, the creation of the contemporary American Sex Educator Jaiya.

She says there are 5 erotic blueprints: The Energetic, The Sensual, The Sexual, The Kinky and The Shapeshifter.

I’ll write about this in more detail elsewhere, but I think you can immediately see how this can be useful. The Sexual blueprint describes the person whom our society would deem ‘normal’. The focus is on the genitals,  and on arousal leading to intercourse. Because sex is really straightforward for this type, they’re liable – in the absence of information – to think of the other types as weird or deficient. They’re likely to think of the Energetic type, for example, as very easily and peculiarly put off sex by something extraneous like the duvet cover or something, rather than appreciate the Energetic as having a much wider sense of what sexuality is; the capacity to have energetic orgasms, for instance, without any touch at all. The shadow of the Sexual type is that they can be somewhat limited and goal focused. If you’re the partner of a Sexual type and not this type yourself, you’re probably bored and dissatisfied, and they think you should get yourself fixed.

Our socialisation as men and women can mask our type. Because men are supposed to be Sexual, many men have to distort their natures. Likewise for women, who are expected to be Sensual or Energetic, when a lot of them might well be Kinky, or Shapeshifting.

When I started working in this field, a map I found very useful was Donald Mosher’s idea of three distinct sexual styles, popularised in David Schnarch’s ‘Passionate Marriage’: Trance, Partner Engagement and Role Play.

Again, this is very helpful in understanding and appreciating behaviour which is not your own. My dominant sexual style is Partner Engagement: I like a lot of eye contact, talking and heart connection. The problem for my type is being with one of the other types while taking our own type as being ‘natural’. The Trance style, for instance, is very inner: this style can often be very still, because they are focused on their own sensations and experience. But Partner Engagement people are going to think they’re something wrong: why isn’t the person reacting more? Maybe they’re bored, or not into me? Likewise, if I came across a Role Play type, I’d be likely to wrongly see them through my lens as emotionally shallow and insincere. And, like the Sexual type in Jaiya’s system, the Partner Engagement type is the one approved of by our society, so the other two are liable to be dismissed.

My own attempt at creating a map focuses more on the different areas of sexuality, rather than individual types, but within this map, I can position the maps of other systems. I call this map the Compass of Sexuality, and it breaks down the areas of sexuality into 8: Agreement, Energetic Practices, Tantra, Intimacy, Innocence, Risk, Body and Play. I particularly like using this in my Couples work, because it enables me to take people to lots of different places, but then for them to explore those places in terms of their specific natures. You can read more about this here

These maps should be treated as tools, or lenses, not reality. We shouldn’t cling to them too tightly, or identify ourselves too much with our type, but used fluidly, they can be tremendously useful in explaining ourselves to ourselves, and -crucially- getting out of this idea that there is something in us which is broken and needs to be fixed. You wouldn’t call a ziggurat a broken pyramid, would you?

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When you get in touch with me, you might be clear about what you want. You might want a tantric massage, for example, or learn about The Wheel Of Consent, or talk and explore. In that case, all we need to do is to have a telephone conversation so I can clearly know what you want and we can both decide if we want to work together, then we can just arrange our first working session.

But most of the time, I find that people are less sure about what they want. They can describe the issue -boredom with sex, lack of confidence or pleasure, inability to orgasm, for example – but they are uncertain about what’s needed to resolve it. And that’s not surprising. In our sex lives, we’re notoriously confused. Which is made worse by often thinking of our situation in unhelpful psychological terms [“I have attachment issues”]  or that there’s something wrong with us [“why do I not know how to do this?”], rather than “How can my deep need for pleasure and connection be met?”. Rather than pick over the bones of the past, my focus is on helping you to change, to expand.

I want to liberate your longing for better experiences in the future, and your active curiosity and willingness to bring that about.

If you know what you want to change, but don’t yet know how, I find it helpful to work like this:

I suggest as a first step that you have a look at my articles, which give a good sense of my range and approach. You can find them here

Once you’ve done that, I suggest that you contact me,  giving me some sense of where you’re at and your mobile or home number, and when would be a good time to have a phone call. I’ll then arrange this with you by email or text. The point of that initial call, which is free, is to help me get a sense of where you are coming from and whether I can help. And it’s for you to get a sense of who I am, and whether I’m the right person for you.

After that initial call, we can arrange a one hour in depth Exploratory Session. This can be on Zoom or in person. I will generally ask you to fill out a more detailed questionnaire prior to the session so I have a good understanding of where you are coming from, and I may also ask for additional information based on our initial conversation.

In our Exploratory Session, we will talk over everything, and I will outline the various ways in which I think we could work together, and we can talk about these in depth. That might be enough for you at the moment. Or you may decide that you would like us to work together. In that case, we will arrange a further session.

What do these sessions look like?

If we are doing Bodywork, the sessions are two hours long. We will have a period for talking and feedback at the start and end, so the bodywork part of the session will be between 60 and 90 minutes.

If we are working on Zoom, or if our session is talking only, the session will usually be one hour.

Quite often, particularly if there is trauma, it helps to have the first few sessions talk only, and gradually introduce touch after that. The secret of growth is always to try to stay in that sweet spot where it is challenging and expansive, but in a good way, not an overwhelming way.

 

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Our first point of contact will generally be one of you filling in my short enquiry form  giving me your contact details and I will then arrange a free Zoom call with both of you. Prior to the call, it would be helpful if you had a look at my articles, which give a good sense of my range and approach. You can find them here. You can get my perspective on my work with Couples here.

The purpose of this Zoom call is for me to get a general sense of the issues and whether I can help, and for you to decide if you want to work with me. There’s no charge for this call, and it usually takes around 30 minutes.

If you both decide that you do want to work with me, we arrange a further Zoom call. Prior to the call, I will have had you both independently complete a detailed questionnaire, which will give me a very good sense where each of you are coming from, and how the relationship is:  both the challenges and the opportunities for growth and change.

In the course of the Exploratory call, I will speak to each of you separately, then together, and we will map out what the issues are and how we will work together to make the relationship more nourishing and satisfying. The Exploratory call usually takes between an hour and a half and two hours.

How we proceed after that depends if we are working in person, on Zoom, or a combination of these.

Working In Person

If we are working in person, we will just arrange a date and time for our first session, which will be two hours. We will have agreed in advance what we will do in the session, but this is always flexible. After the first session, I will prepare a Google Doc for each of you, which will detail individual and couple exercises  to do between sessions. You will give me confidential feedback in the Doc so I can give further guidance, and we can carry all that into our next in person session. If you are only able to have an in person session once a month or less, to keep the momentum we will have a Zoom call between sessions to discuss progress, resolve issues and adjust and add to the exercises as appropriate.

Working on Zoom

If we are working on Zoom, at the Exploratory session we will agree the frequency of future calls. These will tend to be one hour long. In the call I will speak to each of you separately, then together. I will assign you exercises to do between the sessions, and you will give me feedback in the Google Doc. In the session, I will adjust, clarify and add to the exercises, as appropriate. My usual suggestion is to have the session every two weeks, as this gives a balance between having enough time to do the exercises and keeping the momentum going.

Zoom/In Person Combination

This is particularly suitable if you live some distance away, London say, but are able to come to Glasgow from time to time for a more intensive period of practice.

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[This is a continuation of my blog ‘What do men want from sex]

How can we develop sexual empathy?

How can we know what it feels like to be another person, to experience what they experience?

I say that there are two primary ways, and a prerequisite.

The prerequisite is to abandon the idea of sex as a performance, with orgasm as the desired outcome. That can be difficult to do, as it’s almost hardwired into us by our culture, but if we can do it, even once or twice, and replace  performance with presence and connection, that changes everything. A good way to start is to agree to exclude the habitual things -intercourse, most obviously -while you recalibrate.

What are the two primary ways?

The first is through the body, and the second is through the imagination.

Although the sexual nerve structure of men and women is remarkably similar, it doesn’t look similar, and our socialisation – what our role is supposed to be sexually – isn’t similar at all. So, a good place to start to develop empathy is with a part of the body which, at least in most respects is similar, and which would facilitate a reversal of our social conditioning as men and women. And that good place to start is

the anus. There. I’ve said it. Why?

Rather than pontificate, let me tell you a story.

A long time ago, I was on holiday with a lovely Swiss woman in Ticino. We were staying in a house overlooking Lake Como. One morning, without telling me what she was going to do, she started playing with my anus. It changed my life.  At first I was a bit shocked, worried about being unclean and disgusting. But gradually I relaxed into it, and for the first time ever, I felt I was the object of the love and desire of another, and all I had to do was to receive and experience. I didn’t need to do anything.

That was profoundly changing. But equally transformative was that I understood for the first time the power of delicate, presence focused touch. I understood how exquisite it could be. I didn’t need to get anywhere.

And because, for the first time I understood that, then my behaviour could change.

The most viewed Post I’ve written, by far, is ‘The Benefits of Anal Massage‘. Which was a surprise to me, as I couldn’t remember writing it. Obviously, many viewers – probably most – are Porn Fiends, who bounce straight off again, but it’s plain that quite a lot of people read and think about the article, and they do this, I think, because they’re aware that the heteronormative performance idea of sexuality is deficient and limiting.

Turning to the Imagination, a lot of you will have seen my recent posts on the work I’m doing with Rachel Connor about The Erotic Imagination.

The essence of that work is the belief that we can enter into the interior erotic space of another, and we can do that in a number of ways.

We can do it by opening up their erotic fantasies so we, and they, can get away from the story and understand the underlying bodily feeling, and that we can do this by a process both of elaboration and by the generation of images memories and associations, which in turn are rooted back into body feeling, which in turn generates fresh images and memories.

We can also do this in an interactive, spontaneous way by generating images, and hence a story, from body sensation, which the other can then have a body response to, and hence complimentary images, propelling the story forward.

We’re running an inaugural course, starting mid June, and prior to then, we’re doing a couple of Tasters. You can read more about it here.

So, that’s what I’d like to share with you about sexual empathy. My purpose isn’t to give you a blueprint, but to give you a key, so you can consider the possibility that your sexual life could be different, and in a very positive way. And, of course, if you’d like any help with that, please get in touch.

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If you’re a woman, you might sometimes ask yourself, “What do men want from sex?”

At the end of the Edinburgh Festival, there’s a firework display, late at night, from the Castle, which sits above the city like a raised stage, with the dark autumn sky as background. When the fireworks start, the whole sky is is spacious, alive and immediate, illuminated with transient, thrilling brilliance. Ages ago, I was there with my lover of the time. In the middle of the display, she whispered in my ear “That’s what it feels like when you’re inside me”

You can imagine how wonderful that felt. Particularly as it wasn’t the kind of review I was used to getting. I didn’t think at the time it was due to any special knowledge or experience I had. It was long before I discovered tantra and became more interested in sexuality.

If I thought of it at all, it was as a miraculous accident, like stained glass discovering sunlight.

What do men want from sex?

They want something like the experience I’ve just described: sex as natural, mutually pleasurable, easy, joyful.

Except, a lot of the time, men are vaguely aware that their partner isn’t enjoying the experience as much as them, or at all. I’d have that experience a lot myself. Disgruntled women telling me I touched them like their first husband, or sarcastically speculating if I’d ever had sex before, that kind of thing.

I just imagined it was happenstance whether I fitted well with someone else or not, and that it was a miracle if I did.

I don’t think that’s the normal attitude. Generally, I believe, men think that sex is a skill which they need to be better at.

That creates two problems.

First, the view of sex as performance isn’t going to help intimacy and connection. It increases the chances of feeling ‘done to’, and takes away from the present moment, when there’s a distinct sense of waiting for the anticipated response.

Second, there’s a tendency to think that what feels great for me should feel great for you too. Have you ever wondered why, when you say to a guy how perfect his touch is, he often goes faster and stronger, instead of staying with what you’ve just told him is great? It’s puzzling, until you realise that it’s probably deeply embedded from his early experiences of masturbation. If x is good, 2x is great.

Because we privilege individuality over connection, what men think they want is to be expert lovers. That’s why when people are wanting to sell to men, they emphasise knowledge, techniques and expertise. “You too can learn to be a sexual virtuoso.” And it plays to a fear in men that they should  be a sexual virtuoso, yet aren’t.

But deep down, what men really want is what I’ve described.

So, how can you help men get that, and have much more satisfying, much more connected sex into the bargain?

And how can you help with getting both of you out of the jaws of Patriarchy, which has been oppressing both women and men, albeit differently, for the past few millenia?

I write about this more in my  blog  Sexual Empathy.

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Our culture’s common belief is that our sexuality exists in two forms: the interior and the relational.

In this perspective, sexual fantasy belongs to the interior; the stories or images that we find exciting or arousing, often derived from experiences in our childhood. Sometimes, these are stories, scenes, fragments of images, words or sensed experiences that we masturbate to, and sometimes not.

The common belief is that these fantasies reside internally within us, that they are private, and often we feel uncomfortable about them. Because they are internal, we believe the erotic charge which they contain can’t be shared or understood or felt by other people.

Even if we don’t feel uncomfortable, our fantasies often solidify and contract over time, becoming boring and repetitive.

To the relational, on the other hand, belongs the belief that our erotic sense can only be brought out by a person or persons whom we find attractive.

These beliefs are all mistaken.

Why is this important?

People are often troubled by their sexual fantasies. They are disturbed by the narratives, which are rarely straightforward and wholesome. Indeed, they are often dark and in conflict with the sort of person they feel they are, and what they should find arousing. Gaining an insight into their fantasies, understanding they are not freaks or weirdos, and sharing their fantasies with others is a tremendous antidote to shame and to feelings of aloneness.

The world of sexuality is overfocused on the body, and the belief that that’s where eroticism is exclusively found. But for many people, engaging in quasi sexual acts with strangers in sex clubs or similar places has a limited appeal. These people – possibly most of us – are erotically disenfranchised.

We, John Fraser and Rachel Connor, have been developing this work for the past 2 years, and have now reached this stage of offering the work publicly. In July 20121 we held our inaugural online course, and in 2022 we will start in-person workshops. John is also offering it in his private client work.

In our work with The Erotic Imagination we  work with the Imaginal to create a larger sense of sexuality: embodied, present, communicable, fluid, joyful, available to everyone.

We want to open up people’s sense of their own erotic nature, and their capacity to express this to another, and for the other to be able to experience that viscerally and imaginatively.

We want to foster the idea that it is possible to create an  erotic field with anyone, entirely independent of touch or of personal attractiveness.

We disagree with the prevailing idea that eroticism is a kind of chemical reaction with a special person, that it’s something that we do  rather than an intrinsic and permanent part of who we are. We believe that we can change that persistent sense of incompleteness, of inadequacy, of missing out.

Through this work, people can rediscover their own erotic sovereignty.

[for the related post ‘What is Sexual Fantasy and why does it matter?’ read here

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There’s a pervasive idea that a lot of women are having unsatisfactory sex because they can’t have an honest conversation with their male partner about their sexual needs. If only they could, runs the idea, then things would change for the better.

Generally, it isn’t true.

On the contrary, women clients will say that they repeatedly  tell their partner that they’re not happy, and the reasons why, and what needs to be different, yet nothing changes.

Why is this?

I think it boils down to one big thing:

We can’t know how someone else feels unless we’ve had a similar experience ourselves

Imagine you’re a guy for whom sex has never been problematic. You first learned, through masturbation as a kid, that you could create arousal through touch, then you learned to increase that level of arousal through making the touch faster and stronger, until you ejaculated. Then you started to watch pornography, where you see depictions of sex that likewise focus on physicality and touch, which gets stronger and faster as arousal increases, culminating, on Planet Porn at least, in deliriously dramatic simultaneous orgasms. Then you start having partnered sex. However, it’s not quite the same as on Planet Porn. What are you likely to think? [Hint: there’s not something wrong with you]. What you’re likely to conclude -bolstered by society’s views about sex – is that there’s an issue with your partner’s arousal. Maybe you should go a bit slower, or a bit softer, as she repeatedly asks, because if you do, that’ll solve the issue, and then she’ll be like you, and will like sex in the same way, so you can forget that tiresome stuff about slowness, and push on vigorously upwards towards Orgasm Peak

So it’s not that he doesn’t hear you, it’s that at some level he doesn’t believe you, because he thinks his experience of what sex is, reinforced by what society tells him sex is, is what sex is, and if you’re asking for something different, that is only valid to get you over the hump of low arousal, and once you’re over that, it’s business as usual.

What to do?

The most obvious way to change someone’s behaviour is to change their experience. How would you do that?

touch differently

I’ve written elsewhere that, contrary to what’s generally thought, there are whole areas of heterosexual men’s erotic landscape that are rarely engaged with, specifically the root of the penis, the pelvic floor and the anus. Broadening touch to include this areas helps men to widen their focus from the glands of their penis, and allows them to experience intimacy differently: deeper, more receptive, more meditative. If their experience widens, then their understanding of what your experience can be widens too, and, along with that, how they can be with you.

touch softer and slower yourself

One of the sexological bodyworkers I trained with is the excellent Libby Shepherd, who practices sensual massage and intimate bodywork in London, and has a substantial amount of  massage training material available online. She writes:

“There’s a big myth out there that the ‘right’ way to touch male genitals is to push down from the tip to the base. You know how I mean..pumping it like a soap dispenser, enthusiastically/desperately trying to trigger the ‘hydraulics and get it erect..my absolute top tip is that you try reversing the direction of your touch and massaging from the base to the tip”

In other words, don’t touch as you think you should, touch the other as you would like to be touched yourself.

switch perspectives

In Betty Martin’s pioneering Wheel Of Consent work, there is a brilliant structure called the three minute game.

The genius of it is that you have to say how you would like to be touched, and how you would like to touch your partner. And it’s up to you. Your partner isn’t expected to be telepathic. If they don’t get it, it’s up to you to explain it until they do. This is a zillion times better than trying to get to the right place by negative inference [“I hate that. And that. And that too”]

broaden your range of sexual expression

My guess is that underlying the need for that conversation is

  • boredom
  • repetition
  • a significant pleasure imbalance

One obvious approach you can take is to widen what you do together to try things like Tantra, Play and so on, both so you can try something different and can be something different. I write about this at length here.

If you’re not happy with the room, you can re-arrange it. But why not try exploring the house too?

get a clearer idea of your own sexual nature

Women’s sexuality isn’t a paler version of what society tells us men’s is. And no two sexualities are the same. I’ll be writing more about the value of erotic fantasy in uncovering the unique sexual landscape of each person, but to get a sense of how this aspect might be approached through somatic enquiry, I suggest that you read this

You can read more of my articles here

You can contact me here

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