[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.

[you can get a full list of my articles here]

 

 

 

 

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.

[ you can read more of my articles here ]

[ you can contact me here ]

 

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 18 months, and have now reached this stage of offering the work publicly. Over the Summer, we are offering online introductions and our inaugural online course, with a view to creating an online community and, in due course post covid, in-person workshops.

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.

Our inaugural online Erotic Fantasy Course, starting Thursday 17 June 7.00pm-8.30pm and the 3 following Thursdays. Places are limited to 20, cost £60.

If you want to attend the Course but haven’t worked with us before, please email John to arrange a Zoom call. johnwebberfraser@gmail.com

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

[ more writings at https://www.loveandsexcoaching.co.uk/articles/

 

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

 

 

Coaching for Women. Every Body Loves. Sex and Relationship Coaching for full beautiful self expression
  • why is it taking so long?
  • if I don’t orgasm soon my partner will be frustrated and disappointed
  • I haven’t a clue what to do

These are common thoughts which people have around oral sex. Which, when you think of it, are quite strange. Why should something which, by its nature, ought to be relaxed and pleasurable be the cause of so much stress?

The reason, I think, is that, both as giver and receiver, we have an idea of what the experience should be like, and what our part in the experience should be.

We think, as the giver, we should be skilled, and as receiver, we should be orgasmic, because we have a fixed idea that oral sex is about ‘giving’ the receiver an orgasm.

How can we view oral sex differently?

Giving Differently

widen the scope

Because we think that the purpose of oral sex is to give the receiver an orgasm, we tend to focus on the body part we think will induce one. With woman, that’s the glands of the clitoris, with men, it’s the head of the penis. That leads to repetition and the increase of speed and pressure, which tends to create a contest between arousal and anxiety. And anxiety only needs to win once. Then it keeps winning.

The way out of the trap is to broaden the scope. Firstly, and obviously, in terms of the body. I’ve written elsewhere how re-envisioning men’s bodies will lead to much more satisfaction and good communication, but there’s a more general point. If we’re reductive -sex is about orgasm and the best place to bring that about is here – then we’ll miss out on most of what’s pleasurable and connecting about sexual connection with another.

don’t focus on the goal

If we think that the point of oral sex is about the outcome, rather than the experience and the connection, then the Giver will gradually move towards the position of regarding it as a chore, and the Receiver will move towards thinking they have an obligation to orgasm, and do so without “taking too much time”. So neither can just enjoy the experience. Which is ludicrous.

We can’t ignore the role of shame. But for men and women, it appears at opposite ends, as it were. Men are anxious that they might not get, or not sustain an erection. Women are anxious that they might not get aroused enough to orgasm. But because it’s shame, no one says anything. So the other can’t know. But you can know, because I’ve just told you. And knowing this, as the giver, you can be attentive and connecting rather than anxious if your partner doesn’t appear to be that aroused at the start, and loving and giving later on rather than impatient and puzzled.

think of it as being for you

My author friend and Curator of The Sex Lectures, Alison PIlling, has written about men getting off on women getting off. In other words, possibly as an overreaction to grim patriarchy, some men’s focus during sexual activity is whether their partner is experiencing orgasmic pleasure. Superficially, this is admirable, but in reality, it just puts more expectation and pressure on women. And more generally, you can get into this weird thing where each person thinks that they’re doing it for the other. What Ali would say -derived from Betty Martin, whom we both trained with – is that we need to discover our own desire. Applying that to oral sex, when we’re in the Giver position, we’re not anxiously focusing on the goal of our partner’s orgasm, we’re just exploring our own curiosity and interest in the present moment. This takes a load of pressure off everybody.

get more confident

Oral sex, like sex generally, isn’t primarily a skill. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn skills from people like me. Don’t try to learn them from porn films. And be very careful with learning from books, because they tend to perpetuate the stereotypes which created the performance anxiety in the first place.

enquire

We think there’s a set way of doing something. There isn’t. There’s only a good way for this person. In this moment. If we don’t think of oral sex primarily as a skill which we should be good at, but as a way of connecting, then learning to ask our partner what they like won’t be seen as trying to fix something we’re getting wrong, but as attending to widening the connection.

Receiving Differently

don’t fret about time

This is a biggie. Once you get the idea that “I’m taking too long”, it’s very difficult to remain relaxed. And if you’re not relaxed, it’s very difficult to orgasm, and you and your partner can then get into the trap of thinking that what’s needed is more pressure and more speed, which can frequently create the maddening sensation of being nearly there, but not quite, like hitting a glass ceiling.

don’t worry about orgasm

It’s great if you have an orgasm, but making the whole experience about that is self defeating. It’s like going through beautiful countryside wearing an eye mask, impatient to get to your destination. Then the train breaks down just before you reach it. Don’t waste your fabulous, unique erotic life with this kind of stupidity.

get out of a performance state, and into an experiencing state

Experiencing oral sex from a loving partner is a wonderful way to get into an erotic trance. Your busy mind becomes quiet, and time seems to slow right down. You become very still on the outside, but inside you are full of sensations and vivid imaginings, like in a dream. Many people receiving feel compelled to re-assure their partner by a running commentary of “Oh God”, “Oh My God” etc, but you don’t need to do this, particularly if you both understand that this state of erotic trance is an internal state, so the lack of external signs doesn’t mean that it’s not ‘working’

The sad thing is that due to the ubiquity of porn, we feel an obligation as receiver to be a bit like a performing seal. But porn isn’t life. Not yet anyway, thankfully.

communicate

Don’t try and micromanage the giver. If they’re doing something you really don’t like, then tell them [but try to avoid “I’ve told you a million times not to do that”, which is disheartening]. But outside the bedroom, perhaps when you’re out for a walk, or want to cheer up the diners at the next table, tell them what was great, and what could be different. People respond better to praise than criticism, so “I loved it when you went slow” works much better than “I hate it when you go too fast”. Your partner isn’t telepathic.

But if you adopt this perspective, they don’t have to be.

More articles

You can contact me here

 

One of the trickiest issues for people like me is what to call ourselves.

‘Sexological Bodyworker’ is quite a niche term.It isn’t widely known, and almost everyone who has the qualification has it as a part of their practice, but not all.

‘Sexual Educator’ seems too formal, although somebody did find me the other day by googling “Sex Tutor”, someone else by googling “Sex Lessons for Couples”. ‘Sex Counsellor’ is a possibility, although it suggests that the work is restricted to talking, when it isn’t.

‘Sex Coach’ was my initial description of myself, until I realised that people thought I was going to make them into sexual athletes.

Anything with the word Tantra  gets enquiries from people asking if they can watch while you massage their wife while naked.

I settled on the term ‘Sex Therapist’ with some trepidation. I was worried that I’d be attacked by psychotherapists, who defined ‘Sex Therapy’ as psychotherapists specialising in sex issues talking to clients, and wouldn’t take kindly to intruders. On the other side, I was worried that potential clients might think that my work was just talking.

I decided upon it after talking to my nephew, and telling him what I did. Unprompted, he said “Oh, that’s sex therapy”. I thought that if a 21 year old Italian guy with no background in either therapy or sexuality described it in that way, then that was probably the term I should use.

And generally, the term works. It puts off men who are just interested in sexual services. There’s nothing wrong with that, obviously, but it isn’t what I wanted to do. My interest was in helping people grow and develop, and to have happier, more connected and bigger lives.

The most obvious area where the term isn’t optimal is with Couples.

Couples will think that they need therapy – sex therapy and the other, talking kind – when the relationship is in crisis and a break up looks likely unless something is done.

They wouldn’t go to Relate or a Couples Therapist unless there was a crisis, and I think they bring a similar assumption to seeking sex therapy. The relationship as a whole needs to be in crisis, or at least the sexual part of it does.

That means that couples generally don’t consult me until their issues of sexual relating have become of quite long standing. That’s ok, I can work with them, but there is often a layer of resentment and disappointment which can make things trickier and which takes time to work through.

Part of the problem is the word: Therapy. It carries the connotation that there’s something wrong.

That potentially excludes lots of couples who would benefit from my work.

couples who have a good sex life and would like it to be even better

couples who have an ok sex life, but it’s not as good as it was

couples where the sex has never been that great, for one or both. but it’s just accepted as “how it is”.

But the primary type of Couple which it excludes, and who would benefit most from working with me, are Couples in a new or new-ish relationship, where their sexual life hasn’t yet fully taken a fixed shape.

Why?

Because there’s less sediment, less predictability, and a greater willingness to try something new, not because the familiar has failed, but because it’s exciting and enlivening to grow.

It is a wonderful thing to be able to occupy our full erotic space. But often, there can be a reluctance to suggest something new, because there’s an implication that what’s there already isn’t enough. However, if it’s me suggesting that you give it a go, it becomes much easier: it’s an adventure, not an accusation.

And we only know what we know. Perhaps it’s never occurred to us to think of sexuality through the lens of Tantra, or Energetic Practices, or Innocence, or Play. You won’t know the full extent of your land until someone gives you a map.

The term “therapy”, with its connotation of healing, also doesn’t work so well for individuals who think more in terms of adventure,  growth, exploration and expansion rather than healing. So they – you – may pass over something which could be very beneficial.

And that’s a pity.

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

 

 

 

 

 

In ‘The Full Monty’, a hapless middle aged man, played by Tom Wilkinson, has a row with his exasperated wife. He’s been buying her garden gnomes for decades, because when he gave her the first one, he thought that she liked them, when she was just being polite. Eventually she just snaps, and, enraged, tells him that she’s never liked them.

Bad sex is like that, but worse.

My female clients will often say things like

he thinks it’s my problem that I don’t orgasm during sex, that there’s something wrong with me, and I need to get myself fixed

I tell him that I’d like touch which is slower and softer, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference, he just keeps doing what works for him

Their partners aren’t psychopaths. They are not indifferent to their partners lack of pleasure, but they often seem to behave as if they are.

Why is that?

For one, we’re all fed an idea of sex that is quite male: it’s like running up the orgasm hill. And if your sexuality seems like that, then there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with you. And if your partner doesn’t like that as much as you, then she must have a low libido, or be inhibited, or not like sex. Nothing to do with you. It’s all to do with female sexual dysfunction. But I say that’s a myth.

One of the most heartbreaking things to hear is how, for some women, they have had so few joyful sexual experiences, and they cling onto these in their memory, like jewels.

It’s totally false that women don’t like sex, or that they don’t like sex as much as men. They just don’t like bad sex.

Who would?

How do you get out of the trap?

The most important thing you can do is to discover your own sexual identity and have confidence in it, particularly when that identity diverges from what you’re told it should be. I have devised a way of working where through attention to the breath and body, it gradually becomes clear what your own unique sexual landscape is. And often, what characterises that landscape isn’t the rocket whoosh of sex [which might well blow up on the launchpad], but something else: something which is of the whole body and has depth, delicious slowness and relaxing into pleasure. It’s as if time slows right down, and everything becomes vivid and alive.

If you know what your sexual landscape is, you have the possibility of communicating that, and so are more likely to get what you need. You might need some help with the art of communication. I can help with that.

The next thing we can do is increase confidence. Often a major obstacle to that is the fear of sexual inexperience. I can help with that too.

Next, we can start to think of male and female bodies in a different way. I talk about this with regard to male bodies here

That opens up the possibility of having a much wider range of sexual practices, and hence a much wider range of feelings. Boredom and repetition is such a large part of most people’s experience of sex. It needn’t be.

And lastly, we can get a sense of the various dimensions of sex. I formulate that as the ‘Compass of Sexuality’, where I stake out 8 dimensions: Agreement, Play, Body, Risk, Innocence, Love, Tantra and Energetic Practices. In my work with Couples, I will take them through each of these areas, to address the imbalances and limitations that might be there, but they are of tremendous value to anyone, whether in a relationship or not.

To fix bad sex, we need to understand that it isn’t you that needs to be fixed, What needs to be fixed is an idea of sex that doesn’t work for you.

If you’d like to explore this further, please contact me.

 

 

 

 

 

Education. Every Body Loves, Cupped hands gathering water

In my work, I often come across women who have a very negative body image.

Some will endlessly inspect their faces for lines, or other imperfections. Others are convinced they are fat, and obsessively monitor themselves.

Very few women seem entirely happy with their bodies.

Why is that?

One obvious culprit is patriarchy. Women, unlike men, have historically been judged by what they look like, rather than what they are. But if it were just that, why does the problem seem to be getting worse, and why, to an increasing extent, is it also effecting men, particularly young men?

The UK Parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee conducted a survey into body image in July 2020. Almost 8,000 people responded. You can read the report here

Of the adults surveyed, only 16% felt positive about their body image. 21% felt neutral. A worryingly high 48% felt negative about their body image, and even more worryingly, 13% felt very negative. The results weren’t broken down by gender.

The problem seems to be getting worse.

The blame is being placed squarely on social media.

59% of people under 18 felt that images on social media were extremely influential on their body image [negatively, we imagine], compared to 26% of people over 18.

What to do?

In approaching the problem of negative body image, we regularly hear a number of proposals, most of which usually focus on having more representative and realistic portrayals of women’s bodies.

And in dealing with people who have an unrealistic idea of their own bodies – thinking they are repulsively fat, for instance, when they are neither – we tend to think that for some reason they are viewing their body incorrectly, like they’re wearing Fat Specs or something, so we just need to correct them, and reassure them that they’re beautiful.

But they don’t believe us

What is striking with people who have a negative body image is how dominant the visual sense of themselves is – the view from the outside – and how little they have a felt  sense: what it feels like to be them, in their body – the view from the inside.

So for instance, when I was working with a client on this issue, she was almost entirely unable to report body sensation, which she kept re-interpreting from an external vantage point. It was as if she couldn’t stop looking at her body from the outside, and making a negative assessment. She couldn’t say what she felt in her thighs, for example, but she could say that they were fat.

There are two ways out of this.

When I can work in person with a client, I can give them loving, attentive touch, obviously only to the extent that’s been agreed beforehand. One client only felt able to let me touch her left hand, for example. The extent doesn’t matter. What does matter is attentive, present focused touch with no goal. That seems to soothe the body, and enable it to just feel what its feeling, which drops, temporarily and intermittently at first, the incessant voice of harsh judgement.

If I am working remotely with a client, I try to get them into a very relaxed state,  then focus on the experience of the breath in their body,  going on to developing a non judgmental awareness of the different parts of their body, sometimes using movement, sometimes using self touch, and sometimes using visualisation.

I have found that working in this way does seem to reduce the constant voice of negative judgment, which opens up a space to gradually experience more of what you’re feeling rather than what you’re looking like, which gradually re-balances our sense of ourselves from appearance to embodiment.

If this approach sounds as if it might be helpful, why not contact me for a chat?

You can read my related post on body dysmorphia here

You can read more of my articles here

 

 

 

 

Cuddle Party

First ever ‘cuddle party’ comes to Glasgow
By Rohese Devereux Taylor

The Herald
1st February 2020

Physical contact is good for us. Studies have shown it can ease pain, lift depression and strengthen our immune systems.

Conversely, a lack of touch can lead to developmental issues in infants and elevated levels of stress hormones.

This, at least in part, is what motivated sex therapists John Fraser and Stella Sonnenbaum to bring the first ever so-called “cuddle party” to Glasgow.

The unconventional event is an invitation for men and women to explore their boundaries, build confidence and experience intimacy with no expectations – perhaps a hard-sell in a part of Scotland not known for its overly tactile culture.

Therapist Mr Fraser, who specialises in working with individuals and couples on issues around sexuality, relating and intimacy, said: “I think it’s needed [in Glasgow] because I don’t think people know that they are touch-deprived. We just live in a very touch-deprived society. It’s just awful.

“You see people after they’ve had lots of touch and they’re really peaceful, content and happy and they lose the jaggedness that lots of people have.”

As a lawyer for more than 30 years before retiring last May to focus on his therapy work, Mr Fraser dealt with countless acrimonious divorces and saw first-hand the effects of touch and affection deprivation.

He said: “One of the things cuddle parties try and do is break the unfortunate connection that people have got with affectionate touch and sexual touch, with the consequence that people are simultaneously over-sexualised and touch deprived.”

As adults, who do we get touch from, he asks, especially without demand. One cuddle party-goer who was only ever touched when her husband wanted physical intimacy and received no affectionate contact was “essentially starved of touch”.

Mr Fraser said: “Coming to the cuddle parties enabled her to experience affectionate, consensual touch with no sexual agenda.”

A hug that lasts for 20 seconds releases the hormone oxytocin, known as the cuddle or love hormone, which can lower blood pressure, slow heart rates and improve mood.

Researchers have found that the same areas of the brain that respond positively to gentle touch also help to develop a sense of body ownership, or what Mr Fraser calls “embodiment”, the sense of inhabiting one’s own body and setting healthy boundaries.

The first cuddle party was held in 2004 in the United States and soon migrated to British shores where the y started with regular events in London, facilitated by Ms Sonnenbaum.

She said: “A cuddle party is a way to ask for and receive loving touch in a safe non-sexual setting. This helps with finding out about our own touch preferences and communicating about them effectively without fear of being judged or rejected.

“We practise saying both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ confidently to each other. Strong personal boundaries and the ability to say ‘no’ are the prerequisite for letting people come close to us – or else this wouldn’t feel safe.”

She added: “With the rise of one-person households in big cities people don’t get a lot of touch which is non-sexual and my suspicion is that people have casual sex just to satisfy their skin hunger.”

The party, held at the Centre for Contemporary Arts tomorrow, begins with participants sharing their expectations and concerns. Ms Sonnenbaum then lays down the rules: touch is always consensual and non sexual; people remain fully clothed; the group breaks up into smaller groups to practice their asking and their yeses and nos.

Mr Fraser said: “People have said things like, ‘this is my worst nightmare’. But it’s only touch that you wish to receive – if you don’t want to get hugged by somebody, you don’t get hugged by them.

“This is the opposite of being indiscriminately touched by other people. It’s reprogramming people and it’s empowering people.”

Consent is vital and never more so than in the post #MeToo era when even consensual physical intimacy can be shadowed by fears of accusation and abuse.

Mr Fraser said: “The traditional idea of consent is a bit like an army besieging a castle and the people inside surrender and open the doors and then the army can come in and do whatever they like. You agree to something and then you’ve got to just accept whatever follows. Our idea of consent is entirely different – it’s based on enthusiastic consent in the moment.”

The importance of being able to say no to touch of any kind can’t be underestimated, said Mr Fraser. He added: “If a person can’t say no then they and the person in contact with them are both fundamentally unsafe. You have to have clarity because it’s only if you have a no that your yes means something.”

EveryBody Loves Cuddle Party Workshop, CCA Glasgow, Sunday February 2, 2pm-5pm.