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’ll be writing about this more in my next 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 18 months, and have now reached this stage of offering the work publicly. Over the next few months, we will be offering online introductions, with a view to creating online groups and, in due course, physical workshops.

In our work with Erotic Fantasy we use working 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.

We are doing free online Tasters to our work on Saturday 5 June 2021, 6.00pm-7.30pm and Wednesday 9 June 7.00pm-8.30pm.

To register for either of these Tasters, please email John [johnwebberfraser@gmail.com]

These Introductions will be the launching point for 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.

 

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

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  • 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.

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In my work with clients, and particularly with Couples, I use a schema called ‘The Compass of Sexuality’. I’ve adapted this from various sexuality school traditions, expanding and adjusting to fit all that I know within it.

The value of a schema like this starts from the recognition that we all tend to get stuck in our sexual behaviour. What characterises the behaviour of most of us, and particularly Couples, isn’t exploration and adventure, but repetition. Having a sense of other realms, or facets of sexuality opens us out to growth, rather than miring us in boredom and dissatisfaction.

It’s called The Compass because it has 8 orientations, like the points of a compass: North, South, East, West, and the points in between: North West, North East, South West, South East.

I thought it might be helpful to briefly introduce these realms.

 

Agreement [North]

This  is based on my Wheel of Consent work with Betty Martin

It is primarily about communication and consent, asking for what you want, learning to be comfortable, saying No to what you don’t want, Yes to what you do and understanding consent not to be a once and for all thing, but fluid, active and momentary.

The work enables you to become clear about:

-how you want to touch the other

-how you want the other to touch you

-your yes and your no to the other to touch you as they wish

-your yes and your no for you to touch the other as they wish

It is particularly good for people with wobbly boundaries, pleasers, martyrs and people who “just want to give”.

 

Innocence [South]

In this area, we replicate beautiful practices of simply receiving and experiencing, as we would as a baby.

And, we can also replicate and heal early life hurts, as well as engaging more vigorously with our early development.

The pioneer in this field is John Hawken, whom I trained with in 2004.

Body [West]

This encompasses a whole realm of practices and perspectives. In my tantra training with Hilly Spenceley, we had a wonderful practice where, as a group, we would cover ourselves in oil and just interact, sliding and slipping across each other. Jessica Parker has taken this into the public realm with Lady Liquid Love

For Couples, it can include Erotic Massage, where, when you’re being massaged, you are just totally within your experience, totally absorbed, totally receptive. Caffyn Jesse‘s book, Erotic Massage, in my opinion, is the best presentation of this.

For Groups, it can include things such as Play Parties, BDSM, and suchlike.

Spirit [East]

This area is what is usually called tantra, or sacred sexuality. here is the home of ritual and ceremony, where we can see ourself and our partner as greater than our individual personality, embodying something universal and true.

In my work with Couples, I find that designing ceremonies appropriate and specific to them is a wonderful way of enhancing a creative loving intimacy, which goes beyond  personal hurts, disappointments and stories, and enables the best in us to heartfully express itself.

Fantasy [North West]

This is a particular favourite, and I am presently developing workshops in this field with a colleague. We ran two pilot workshops pre covid, and will start offering this work once the epidemic passes.

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

To the interior belongs sexual fantasy: the stories or images that we find exciting and arousing, often deriving from experiences in our childhood. We think of these fantasies as private, and often we feel uncomfortable about them.

In my view, our fantasies, when shared and played with, contain a fantastic opportunity for sexual healing and expansion.We can express parts of ourselves which are normally hidden. We can play with aspects of ourselves that we have taught to be ashamed of. Particularly with Couples, it is one of the major routes out of stuckness and repetition, if they have the flexibility to get out of a performative view of sex.

Energetic Practices [North East]

In Chinese tantra in particular, and in the Chinese arts in general, such as Qi Gong, there is a focus on the circulation of energy, particularly sexual energy. The best known practice is the microcosmic orbit, where sexual energy is drawn up from the base, brought up the spine, through to the third eye, then down the front of the body.

In Indian tantra, a similar practice is carried out by a Couple, who circulate energy within and between themselves, in a practice known as Yab Yam.

I think these were the inspirations for the creator of Sexological Bodywork, Joseph Kramer, to create a practice called Taoist Erotic Massage, which we learned on our training.

Risk [South West]

This too has many aspects, but, so far at least, rather than encouraging people to have risky sex, I use this as a way of expanding communication, both within the person and relationally.

With Couples, using a variation of Clean Language, invented by David Grove, the Couple are encouraged to explore practices, sexual and otherwise, which they find risky, to get a sense of the internal landscape that the thought of the risky activity presents, which often greatly illuminates the entire internal world in expansive and unanticipated ways.

 

Love [South East]

This is the realm of the Heart, which can contain and express all the other realms. In the systems I have adapted this schema from what, in other iterations of this schema, is often caricatured as Familiar Sex, and people, including myself, have enacted humorous sketches of old fashioned couples having predictable sex. There’s a reason for that, because the system evolved as a way of getting people to get outside what they were familiar with – and probably bored with – to try something different to just see what happened, and how they felt.

In contrast, I believe that our real purpose -not our imaginary purpose of fame or money or happiness – is to keep our heart open. And to do that, we both need to express what’s there already and to keep letting the new in. We are always either collapsing or growing. The purpose of these other realms is to help keep us expanding into love.

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In my work with women, there are some persistent themes, but the most persistent – and the saddest – is the belief of so many women that there’s something wrong with them.

That “wrongness” seems to originate with an awareness that our society’s idea of what heterosexual sex should be doesn’t wholly work for them.

they’re not that satisfied by intercourse some or all of the time

or with some or all of the other familiar sexual practices 

These women will often manifest strange phenomena during lovemaking. Their vaginal muscles might tighten up. They may get annoyed or agitated when their clitoris is touched. They may notice persistent feelings of irritation, frustration and resentment.

And they think that they just need to be touched differently. Or more ‘expertly’. Or slower. Or softer. For some women, that is what’s needed, but for others, that’s not it at all.

I now think that the problem lies with what we think sexuality is: that it’s physical, it’s an appetite, it’s natural. And that’s an idea that doesn’t work for many women, because it’s incomplete.

It’s sex as seen through the eyes of an intellectually challenged adolescent boy. Which sadly is getting more prevalent than ever, thanks to the ubiquity of internet porn.

In my embodiment work with women pre-lockdown, I thought that to connect with their sexuality, the most important thing was to create an atmosphere of safety, relaxation, connection and open, non goal orientated inquiry. If that could be achieved, then pleasurable sexuality would emerge naturally. And most of the time it did.

However, with a minority of clients, something else happened. Either the arousal would arise, but only up to a certain point, as if hitting a glass ceiling. Or alongside feelings of arousal would arise dissonant feelings like irritation or dissociation, which sabotaged it. Or, there seemed little response at all.

All this was doubly frustrating and disheartening for the women, because it seemed to replicate negative experiences they had had in their romantic relationships, which fed back into negative judgments of themselves.

When lockdown came along, I had to find alternative ways of working, and one of those was to run telephone or audio only Zoom sessions where my client was relaxed, usually blindfolded, and we worked with a concentrated focus on the breath and body, deepening the sense of the body, getting beyond appearances, how she thought she looked, and much more on what she felt. Having access to this internal world, it became obvious that the women I worked with in this way had very different ways of configuring and imagining it.

I realised that was the missing part that I had not understood before. I had not managed to satisfactorily engage with some of my clients in bodywork with them, because their sexuality was broader and more holistic than I had thought.

I list three of them here. Not because there are only three, obviously, but because I want to show that thinking of sexuality in these broader ways potentially frees the person from feelings of shame, inadequacy and failure. It gives them a sexual identity which belongs to them, and so gives the chance to articulate that. Critically to be able to say to herself, “I’m not broken, I’m unique“. And then to articulate that to others, making the creation of future sexual experiences which would deeply satisfying and meaningful a realistic possibility. “If I can explain me to me, then I can explain me to you”.

The World

In this perspective, rather than getting somewhere, the focus is on seeing, deepening and enlivening what is already here. If we pay careful attention, a world comes into view. If we just rest our hand on another person, for example, at first, all we will feel is surface. But after a little while, we start to experience the person in a different way. Specifically, the touch acquires depth. And with that depth comes enlivenment. Everything becomes more vivid. Not as something we need to acquire, to go towards, but as something which is always there, if we give attention to it. And with that enlivenment, the world of the body can also acquire texture and shape: mountains, rivers, flowers, birds, everything interacting, but with a sense of timelessness, or as if time has slowed down so much that it is as if the air has become thick and sweet. And out of that sense, without being willed, sexual arousal arises naturally, like a distant earthquake, gradually approaching. What is characteristic of this world is description.

The Ensemble

Here, there is a sense that the interior world, the world of the body and the imagination, contains a number of different characters, who interact together. Some of these characters may be parts of the body who can have a voice, and some may represent qualities, such as playfulness or courage. Some may represent people. These characters have the capacity to reflect upon themselves and this interior world, and change and develop. What is characteristic of this world is dialogue and changing perspectives.

The Magical Being

In this mode, the person often has a sense of switching genders in some way, of acquiring sexual traits which belong to the other gender, of making love to themselves or to someone very like them, and similar phenomena. This can often give rise to anxiety, because it seems so contrary to our usual way of seeing. Which is odd, because most of us would accept as a truism that we all have both feminine and masculine aspects. What is characteristic of this world is dynamic interplay.

 

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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

 

 

 

 

In the space of less than one lifetime, as a society, we have gone from not thinking about the clitoris at all to focusing on it as the main organ of female pleasure, and we have changed our sense of it from just being the glands, where the pleasure is most intense, to being a detailed, largely internal structure. You can see a helpful diagram here

This is obviously a very welcome development, and goes some way towards redressing the shameful neglect of female sexuality which has characterised most of our history.

The enhancement of female pleasure is unequivocally a wonderful thing, but seeing the clitoris in this way – as simply an organ of pleasure – maintains a way of looking at our sexuality – female and male – which often has the effect of splitting off our sexuality from the rest of us,  excluding a fundamental sense of ourselves as a joyful, feeling totality, intimately connected to an alive and responsive world.

And, viewing a part of us as simply “an organ of pleasure” is, I think, quite a male perspective. And if something is an organ of pleasure, shouldn’t it always welcome touch and be responsive to it? And if it doesn’t, does that mean that there’s something wrong with the touch, something wrong with the “organ”, or something wrong with its owner?

Added to that, there is a double problem with “viewing”.

The French thinker and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan famously talked about The Mirror Stage. The idea was that as infants, our consciousness is originally purely embodied. We don’t have a picture of ourselves. However, when the infant sees an actual or imagined reflection of themselves, they say “That’s Me!”. This creates a split, which is [in Lacan’s view, not mine] never healed, between our sense of ourselves ‘from the inside’, as it were, and our image of ourselves, a view ‘from the outside’. Frequently, the image is the more dominant part. You can observe this all the time. You ask someone to do something with their left hand, for example, and they will frequently look at their hand, as if the visual brings the body into existence.

I think this split shows up in  sexuality, with all genders, but that women are particularly exposed to it because of the additional issue of the male gaze, the historical portrayal of woman from the outside, what they look like.

And this double problem is made worse by the largely internal nature of women’s sexuality.

I don’t want to generalise, but amongst many of the women I have worked with, the familiar way of regarding sexuality as body  and arousal focused – racing up the mountain – isn’t wrong, but incomplete. It doesn’t work very well for them, and they tend to blame themselves for it. They think there’s something wrong with them.

What I’ve found is that a different kind of  sexuality is helpful to them, and it often has the following characteristics:

  • it isn’t orgasm focused
  • it’s as if time slows right down
  • there is a sense of deepening and enlivening, rather than travel towards a destination
  • it’s holistic: the body, the imagination, memory and feeling are all included.

Another way of describing it is Chthonic. Imagine two people on the surface of a world. The first  thinks the world is two dimensional, surface only. This person would think in terms of travel, of getting somewhere. A Hero’s Journey, you could say.The second person is different. This person can sense depth beneath them. By just being there, being present, the depth of the world opens up. And with that depth, a whole world of feeling, so all the tremors and movements of this world aren’t willed by this person, but experienced. The two experiences are totally different, aren’t they?

I don’t want to replace one orthodoxy with another. But I would like to encourage the idea that your sexuality is your sexuality. It is unique. The task is to find it, rather than try to bend it to fit a model which isn’t natural for you. I’d like to help you to do that.

You can read my related post ‘The Myth of Female Sexual Dysfunction’ here

You can contact me here

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