How should we touch? When I was a kid in the late sixties, watching Man From Uncle on the telly, the bit I liked best was Napoleon Solo going into an innocent looking basement shop in New York. He would casually press a few buttons on the back wall and then a door in the wall would open, revealing a completely different world.

Men are encouraged to believe that women’s sexuality is like that wall. All they need to do is find out where the buttons are, and they can be Napoleon Solo too.

So, they’re eagerly receptive for material that will enable them to make a woman ejaculate, or find their g spot, or their third gate.

I say they’re mistaken. Why?

Four reasons:

First, Touch which is future orientated isn’t good touch. If I’m touching you to produce an effect, you’re going to know that. If you sense me thinking “is she there yet?”, you won’t be able to relax. In fact, you may feel somewhat irritated. You may feel somewhat done to.

Second, there isn’t a secret inner world. Our eroticism is completely available to us, and those who love us. It isn’t hidden at all. There aren’t silos of pleasure in an otherwise numb world. The world of the body is completely alive. All of it.

Third, good touch is heartful, not technical. When people tell me they don’t know how they want to be touched, that arises from the deficient notion that touching is just something my body does to your body. But that’s not so. I touch you with my heart, through my body. If we can include the palette of emotions, touch is never repetitive, because it’s always expressing ourselves at this moment.

Look how animals are, how comfortable and easily affectionate they are with each other. Yes, we’re different because we have tools and artifacts and self consciousness, but our intimate connection with all beings remains. And those species developments needn’t determine our nature. When we’re assembling a watch we need to be technical. When we’re expressing ourselves, we don’t.

And lastly, we don’t want to be manipulated. We want to be adored. Lusted after. Be the ravished summer orchard for the hungry hordes. All that stuff:

simple

 

If one person feels something, that’s a personal issue. If a lot of people feel the same thing, that isn’t just personal; it says something about society too. The problem of sexual inexperience falls into this category.

We live in a hyper sexualised society, but a large number of us seem to have no or minimal sex, or have very unsatisfactory sex.

What’s going on?

Well, one factor is that we tend to view sexuality in terms of recreation, and of performance.  It’s a hunger.  It’s something that you do, not a central part of who you are.  We overemphasise the body and underestimate feeling and connection.  We give the body only provisional value: if the body looks great and ‘performs’ well, then great, otherwise, not so much.

And this Tinder-ising doesn’t work for a lot of people. But because the model is so dominant, they think there’s something wrong with them, rather than something wrong or incomplete with the model.

So, I get young women coming to me whose boyfriends have a very pornified idea of what love making should be, and they blame themselves for being inadequate. Other people can’t seem to get started, and don’t know how to.  It’s as if everyone else is speaking a language they don’t understand.

It’s really widespread, but silent, like a secret epidemic of shame.

I don’t do surrogacy work.  It can be very valuable, but often it operates within the dominant model of doing, rather than feeling, being and connection.  It’s those latter qualities I want to bring out when working with clients who have issues of sexual confidence and sexual inexperience, because it seems to me that inexperience is in some sense a choice -perhaps an unconscious one – not to participate in this dominant mode of low-feeling, high action performative sex.

So my starting point is not somehow to reconcile the client to getting out there and get with it.  It is to start with an open enquiry into what the body and the heart feels and wants. Starting from that place, we then ask what wishes, sensations and worlds can come into being.

My perspective is that feelings of perceived sexual inadequacy or inexperience are best addressed not by fixing the body, but by opening and connecting the heart.  Everything positive flows from that.

You can make an analogy with conversation. As a society, we tend to think that the point of sex is orgasm.  But suppose we imagined that the point of talking was to make jokes.  Well, no doubt that would work for some people. And those people, doubtless, would accuse others of having a low humour drive, or being unskilled at punchlines.

It’s a ridiculous analogy, isn’t it?  But is it really?  Sexuality, like communication, involves the whole, unique, feeling person.  The range of expression is endless. It’s not something simple and straightforward, like appetite. Although, of course, it does involve hunger.  But hunger for what?

My friend Minnie Iris is a very talented artist. I have one of her pictures in my practice space. She is a trustee of  the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Trust.

In the words of their website:

The term Body Dysmorphic Disorder [BDD] describes a disabling preoccupation with perceived defects or flaws in appearance. It can affect both men and women, and makes sufferers excessively self conscious. They tend to check their appearance repeatedly and try to camouflage or alter the defects they see, often undergoing needless cosmetic treatments. Onlookers are frequently perplexed because they can see nothing out of the ordinary, but BDD causes devastating distress and interferes substantially with the ability to function socially”

Minnie herself suffered from the condition. It started when she was 11, when she became fixated with creases in her neck. She believed she was ugly, but was able to function until she was 38, when her Mum died. At that point, her hair started to fall out because of the stress. She started to feel monstrous when she saw herself in the mirror. Then she started to have a lot of suicidal thoughts. Fortunately, she was able to access specialist therapy.

BDD is said to affect around 2% of the population in varying degrees. But if we take this as the extreme edge of a spectrum, who can honestly say that they don’t know at least one person who seems unreasonably negative about one or more aspects of their appearance?

When Michael Jackson’s father, Joe Jackson, died, in the obituaries we learnt that as a teenager, Michael was sensitive about his nose. And his Dad, deliberately mocked his nose. Hence all the surgical treatment as an adult, which transformed his beautiful black face into something weird and other worldly.

Often, something like this is at the root. A person perhaps has an accident and their appearance changes. Or, for a variety of reasons, they suddenly lose or gain weight. Or, like Minnie, they suffer bereavement or other loss.

But underneath the wide range of immediate causes, there’s a common mechanism. The mind -an idea ‘I am ugly’ – takes over the body. The person loses a realistic sense of their body because they lose their feeling connection with it.

My Swiss friend, Thea Rytz, was a pioneer in treating eating disorder sufferers somatically. She realised it was no use telling them that their ideas about themselves weren’t true, or getting them to look in the mirror, because it was so easy for the mind to distort. So, she would do things like get her patients to put bags of sand on themselves, so they could feel actual weight, and so the mind could recalibrate itself.

It’s a major problem, a major, widespread cause for great unhappiness.

As, among other things, a body worker, I am very well placed to work with body image, for several reasons:

– I meet the body of the other in love, respect and acceptance, countering the negativity

– I re-embody the client, so the body can become autonomously feeling again, free from the tyranny of the mind

– with the active participation of the client, I help the body to be a source of pleasure and empowerment

– I replace judgement with alive embodied presence.

Here’s Minnie’s picture: it’s beautiful, isn’t it?

In my work with couples, I often find that sex between the partners has stopped, or become radically unsatisfactory, and neither partner really knows why. It usually isn’t because there’s a problem elsewhere in the relationship, as if that were so, talking therapy could identify and resolve it.

The couple – unsurprisingly – expect to just sit there, and someone like me will sprinkle fairy dust on them, and suddenly, everything is as good as new. This tends not to work.

From my perspective, the problem is twofold. Firstly, the couple tend to have a clear idea of what sex should be like. I call it The Hollywood Model. In this model of sex, each is urgently passionate for the other, to the extent they tear each other’s clothes off with scant regard for fabric longevity, have some very perfunctory foreplay then get down to business, and in no time at all simultaneously and noisily orgasm. Whilst having sex, they are very engaged with each other.

That’s the first problem: there’s an ideal of what sex should be like, and you’re disappointed and frustrated if it isn’t like that for you.

The second is the focus on orgasm. Couples tend to speak about this in terms of what “works”. If it promotes orgasm, it’s good, if it doesn’t, not so much. But over time, the sex gradually narrows, until, quite soon, you get to the point where it’s just perfunctory.

And then it vanishes entirely.

How can we think of sex in a different way?

Donald Mosher, an American researcher, came up with the idea that we have three different sexual modes. What I’ve called The Hollywood Model is his second mode, Partner Engagement, but there’s two others: Trance and Play. Discovering these is one way to get out of the Couples Trap.

Trance is where you’re very caught up in your own experience. Your partner might be doing something delicious to you, and you are having an exquisite time, but it’s very internal. It’s as if you are having a wonderful meal. You don’t want to tell the waiter every five minutes what a great time you’re having, because that detracts from the experience. However, because The Hollywood Model is what we think sex is, we often feel guilty and selfish when we’re in this mode, and feel that we’re taking up too much time. And we feel we have to reassure our partner, even though that takes away from our experience.

When I work with a couple, they are so focused on how things should be that they often become, with each other, disembodied. In that case, it’s helpful for me to work with them separately, in the Trance mode, to reembody them, before getting to work on communication and variety.

The other state is Play. BDSM – particularly power games – are the classic exemplars, but it really includes all behaviour where the couple are playing a role.

In my remedial work with couples, I focus on these two other states, so they can broaden out the Couples’ idea about sex, which was largely and culturally restricted to Partner Engagement in the first place, and fatally constricted further by an unbalanced focus on orgasm.

Of course, for other couples, the primary issue is communication, or boredom through repetition, and I will write about this more in future posts.

Photo at station

Well, let’s ask a different question: if you were completely safe and completely honoured, what would you choose to explore?

Some people want to explore what it’s like just to rest in receiving, with no obligation to reciprocate.

Others feel disembodied, or only partially embodied, and want to explore the full range of their potential for bodily pleasure and sensation.

Some people want to recover a sense of themselves as sexual beings which they feel they’ve lost, perhaps due to having been in a long relationship, or having become a mother.

Others need help in opening themselves up to sexuality, perhaps because of difficult experiences when young, or significant life changes.

Some people find that sex therapy which is just talking isn’t enough for them.

Some people want to broaden their sense of what is possible.

Some people want to learn how to say yes, and how to say no. How to find out what they want, and how to ask for it.

Some people just want to talk, and not be judged.

My training is unusual, and broad. I have been immersed in tantra for 15 years with Shakti Tantra. I have trained in Sexological Bodywork. I have trained extensively in The Wheel Of Consent and other modalities. I am a practicing Buddhist who views sexual issues as a major part of avoidable unhappiness, and who treats his clients from a position of respect, empowerment and love.

I understand it is a big ask to step into this arena, and I am committed to try to make it easier. I am always happy to meet potential clients for a free and confidential discussion, without obligation, to see if we can fruitfully work together, or to have a Skype or telephone discussion.

How do I know what I want when I always know what I ought to want?

John’s talk from the sex lectures series held in Manchester.

Introducing the Wheel of Consent

 

The Wheel Of Consent, through touch based exercises, both alone and with partners, gives you an experience of 4 ways to touch and relate, within a conception of consent which is clear, enthusiastic and in the moment.

These 4 ways are:

Taking for your own pleasure – you do what you want – while respecting the giver’s boundaries

Allowing another to take from you – they do what they want- with your permission – while maintaining your boundaries

Serving another for their pleasure – you do what they want – within your boundaries

Accepting the gift of another’s service – they do what you want – while maintaining their boundaries.

 

The work is excellent for:

Waking up sensuality – feeling and following pleasure

Making choices – learning how to choose for yourself

Understanding the dynamics of giving and receiving

Gaining skills of empowerment and communication – having the courage to ask for what you want, and feeling safe enough to receive

Please note that the work focuses on intention, conscious choice and autonomy.  Participants will remain clothed and there is no sexual touch.

Wheel of Consent Workshop

The workshop will take place on Saturday 16 March 2019, 2-6pm at

Yoga Healing
Studio 7
22 Mansfield Street,
Glasgow
G11 5QP

Cost £25.

The workshop will be facilitated by John Fraser.  John is a sex coach and zen teacher.  He has worked extensively with Betty Martin, the originator of The Wheel.  For more information about him see:
www.loveandsexcoaching.co.uk

For more information about the workshop, and to book, please contact John at: johnwebberfraser@gmail.com   07545 707751

John and I have recently been reflecting on our ethos.

 

We see lots of different kinds of people.  We meet couples who love each other but are distressed that their sexual life together appears to have stalled, people who have suffered sexual trauma, people who experience sex as superficial or unsatisfactory and long for more, people with sexual anxieties, and lots more besides. But what the people we work with have in common is a view of sex that isn’t titillating, or purely physical, like an itch that needs to be scratched, but rather something which is a deep and fundamental aspect of themselves, which needs to be attended to.

 

If we were to formulate our ethos it would be this: sexual expression is a fundamental aspect of human dignity.

 

It is for this reason that we call our work ‘Love and Sex coaching’. We’re not primarily interested in sex as performance, or sex as recreation.  We think of sex as a crucial aspect both of self expression and deep emotional connection with others.

 

And we try to reflect this ethos in our website. Obviously, we’re both mature people. We make no attempt to be sexy or to glam ourselves up.  We don’t put photos of attractive young people on the site.  We try to speak to people as honestly as we can, in as human a way as we can. Because we want to be available for everyone.  We want people to be able to see us and be listened to, and have their issues addressed with love and compassion. We’re not sex workers or escorts. We don’t engage with our clients sexually.  We don’t allow our clients to touch us.  What we do is engage with people from a position of love, and that sometimes involves touch, sometimes involves talk, and sometimes involves giving information.

 

Here’s another crucial thing: people are so shamed around sex. They’re shamed about their desires. Or their lack of desire. About their performance. All kinds of things. Think about journalistic staples: they all involve shame. So something that should be part of the joy and beauty of being alive is often a source of shame, awkwardness and embarrassment. That is what is shameful. But it isn’t the individual who should be ashamed, but our society, which allows an epidemic of unnecessary sexual unhappiness to go unchecked.

 

We are proud of our work. But we are aware that we operate in a society which, although apparently very sexualised, does very little to ensure that this fundamental aspect of a human being can be fully and joyfully expressed. So we are grateful to you for supporting us, for helping to tell people about us, because how else are they to know?

 

Thank you.

Every Body Loves, Hummingbird and Flower

We are delighted to offer this wonderful Feminine Embodiment Women’s Workshop Saturday 13 October with Kay Balavanes.

About Kay

Kay is an Embodiment Mentor and teacher of the Feminine Arts based in Bali who works with women in Asia, Australia & Europe. She applies her trainings & initiations in Yoga Therapeutics, 5 Element Meridian Wisdom of Chinese Medicine, Taoist & Tibetan Healing Energetics & Bodywork, Womb Awakening and Embodied Mindfulness in her classes, workshops and retreats.

Workshop Intentions

This will be an experiential movement class for our female anatomy to address the impact of modern life
The aim is to gently unravel some of the stress we are all carrying.

We will explore embodiment practices to move beyond the barriers to being fully in our bodies as women
This may include breath work, Shakti banda and womb receptivity cultivation practice.

What this means in reality is starting with the denser feelings in your body and moving to subtler layers of feeling as we journey into the womb.

1. This will be a fully clothed, gentle session of focus on our body’s as women led by a experienced practitioner in bodywork and movement for women from eastern traditions
2. We will be an intimate group of 8 women participants so we can benefit from sharing and being supported in our sisterhood
3. If you already have a deep practice there is no need to amend your practice, This can be a stand alone experience for your body
4. If you do not have any practices you may learn a few processes that you chose to continue in your life if you find them beneficial

Kay  is passionate about practices tailored to the female form to awaken the potent & intelligent energy centres of the body.  Her teachings merge eastern and western wisdom teachings, with modern science & and psychology to educate, empower & inspire every woman to deepen intimacy with herself & her life.

Workshop Details

The workshop will be in Hyndland Glasgow on Saturday October 13  from 14.00- 19.00 and costs £50.  If you are interested and would like more information or to reserve your place please contact Karen for more information.

The emotions that most pervade a society tend to operate in the shadows. For our society, envy and jealousy are pervasive yet unacknowledged.  But the most insidious emotion is shame.  Shame destroys self-confidence.

It’s peculiar crippling, far worse than guilt. Guilt is the belief that you’ve done something wrong. Shame is the belief that you are something wrong.

In our work, we come across sexual shame a lot.

For men, the shame is often associated with performance.  Men who lose an erection, or can’t get one, often suffer crippling shame.

For women, it’s often expressed in a sense of not being ‘normal’.

One of my teachers said that the only cure for shame is courage. That’s half true.  You need to have courage to see the shame and name it, and decide to do something about it.  You need to have courage to see people like us.

But what cures shame isn’t courage: it’s connection.

Shame is like the amputation of our adult self. We feel helpless and isolated.

So the way to address it is to build a relationship of trust, warmth and connection, and that’s what we try and do in our work.  And that relationship is both between us and the client, and also within the client, reuniting body and mind and reclaiming the autonomy and dignity of the body.

So, for instance, if we’re working with a man suffering from erectile dysfunction, we don’t focus on a technical fix, we explore the alienated perspective he might have of his body: the idea that his body is like a machine which isn’t working properly, rather than that he is his body.

Or, if we’re working with a woman with a belief that her body is broken, or worthless, or ugly, we work to restore attention to what is actually being felt, the richness of actual experience, rather than some idea of how things ought to be.

Shame comes in myriad forms, but it always involves a suppression of the rich life and multifaceted experience of the body.  Our work is to restore that, and thus to restore the dignity and beauty of the person.