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.

In Nick Roeg’s film ‘Insignificance’, there’s a great scene where Albert Einstein and Marilyn Munro are in bed together. It’s striking, because we don’t expect people like Einstein (geniuses who live in their head) to be any good at sex. They’re just good at thinking.

 

But here’s the thing: in sex, if nothing else, you are Einstein. Most of us are trying to figure everything out in our heads. Except, instead of thinking new things, we’re all thinking the same things, over and over. Things like, could I be doing better, is this working, what can I do differently and so on. But If you go with the idea of creating relaxing connected pleasure, whatever form it might take, you’ve got more of a chance of a surprisingly loving, appreciative, connected and sexy time.

 

Here are 7 tips to take yourself away from the anxiety of performance and simply be where you are:

 

  1. Connect to your breath. Breath is the best sex aid. You can use it to slow down and relax or speed it up to raise your arousal. Also notice if you hold your breath. Try to breathe deeply. Share breath with your lover: shared slow sexy breathing is very erotic and connected.
  2. Connect with your own body as well as your lover’s body. Notice the sensations all over your body. Where do you enjoy being touched? How do you like to be touched? Can you sense sensations on your thighs, collar bone, hips, back of the neck? Your skin is the biggest erogenous zone and the place you can take in the most pleasure. Learn to feel more.Be mindful and give attention to small gestures, feel textures and enjoy scents. Notice everything. Throw your attention wide open.
  3. Slow down. And slow down again. Slow your touch and your breath.
  4. Get more skilled at sensual touch. Slow stroking with the palms of your hands is better than grabby mindless touch. Slow scratching down a mans back, gentle nuzzling around a panty or bra line, gentle hair pulling, a gentle squeeze on a hip or slow finger tips on that sexy line between the bottom and backs of thighs…
  5. Learn how to gently ask for what you want and give appreciation ..please kiss my neck…mmmmm that feels good. We all like praise, be generous with it as it guides our lover with appreciation and helps us relax
  6. Learn how to connect with your own sexual energy instead of focusing on someone else’s. Taking your intention to being fluid in your hips and pelvis really helps in this, a bit of slow writhing or gentle grinding can be very sensual
  7. Eye gazing is beautiful. Before you begin take 10 mins to sit opposite each other and look into each others eyes. Without touching each other, simply through your eyes, connect as two humans who are going to embark on a shared intimate experience and really see each other with a loving gaze.

One New Year I met a fencer.  I was very young, and knew nothing about sex.  But that night I was in a particular mood so I came, far too early, probably when she was undressing or something.  But rather than curl up and die with embarrassment, I decided to be brave and joyful.  And most importantly, to just keep going, to be as affectionate and loving as I could for as long as I could.

 

At some point that night, she ejaculated.  I didn’t know anything at all about female ejaculation at the time.  I didn’t do anything technical.  I didn’t even know about her G spot, far less stimulate it.  I was bracingly unfamiliar with the Skene Glands, the female prostate.

 

It’s different now of course. Porn has got hold of it. As has that loathsome man, The Technical Lover.  You can watch videos showing how to induce it in your woman.  There’s lots of books. Something traditionally thought of as sacred has become something in one’s repertoire.  It’s unbearably sad.  The UK Government even chose to ban depiction of it in 2014, as they wrongly thought that female ejaculate was urine.

 

A society always gets what it believes.  We don’t believe in magic, or the sacred, or that each one of us is intimate with everything, but we do believe in expertise.  And so, everything sexual can become the object of that expertise.

 

I remember massaging a client anally, and she ejaculated, and said “How did you do that?” as if it was a trick. But perhaps it’s easier to believe in expertise than to believe that a woman’s body is a miracle, not a set of buttons.  A miracle.  Whole and entire.

 

It shouldn’t be necessary to say this, but it is. The thing which is unbearably sad is that this -like the presence or absence of pubic hair, it has become one more way to shame women. It’s one more thing that you’re expected to do, one more thing to feel inadequate about.

 

You could say that Primal Woman holds up the world. If we can’t see her in each woman, then we might all fall into oblivion. Think about that, Technical man.

About a month ago, a friend circulated an article about married people having affairs.  The article was a bit Radio Times, but buried in it was a very questionable assertion dressed up as indisputable fact: women’s libido goes down significantly after menopause.

 

Why do so many people believe this?  It’s possible that we make an unconscious link between fertility and libido, but I think it’s a false inference drawn from something which is true.

 

The bit that’s true is that women have less lubrication after menopause.  That might make the vulva feel less luscious and more brittle. It may make intercourse uncomfortable.

 

But none of that means that desire decreases.

 

Imagine that men, when they reached a certain age – fifty, say – found that their lips became drier than before, and kissing became painful. I don’t imagine an idea would grow up that men would go off kissing after 50. We’d see it as a problem of lubrication. Someone would make a lot of money inventing a lip balm for men.

 

And it’s like that for women too. But here’s the thing: if your vulva feels less comfortable than before, wouldn’t you like something to help with that? And not just during intercourse.

 

Vaginal dryness after menopause is caused by the body producing less oestrogen.  Lubricant is usual recommended, but the focus is too much on intercourse, and on the vagina alone, rather than the whole vulva.  The focus needs to be more on making the whole area feel great.

 

A lot of women post menopause experience the skin quality of their labia change.  It’s as if the lips become drier and more fragile, and the whole area can feel itchy and irritable, particularly to the touch.  And this is an issue that goes way beyond sex.  If you feel uncomfortable and awkward there, how are you going to feel relaxed and sexy?

 

Rather than focusing on lubrication during sex, how can we make all of the vulva plump and juicy?

Help is now at hand. The remedy is [cue trumpets]:

Castor Oil

 

Indeed. It’s a wonderfully rich, lubricious oil.  Just warm and apply liberally.  So why don’t we hear more about it.  Well, apart from women’s comfort and pleasure being a matter of little importance throughout most of recorded history, nobody stands to make money from it, because nobody owns it.  Like aspirin.  So nobody has a monetary incentive to encourage its use.

 

But we have an incentive.  Love.

 

One of the often reported symptoms that women experience after menopause is vaginal dryness, caused by the body producing less oestrogen.  The recommendation is that lubricant is used, but the focus is too much on intercourse, and on the vagina alone, rather than the whole vulva.  The focus needs to be more on making the whole area feel great.

 

A lot of women post menopause experience the skin quality of their labia change.  It’s as if the lips become drier and more fragile, and the whole area can feel itchy and irritable, particularly to the touch.  And this is an issue that goes way beyond sex.  If you feel uncomfortable and awkward there, how are you going to feel relaxed and sexy?

 

Rather than focusing on lubrication during sex, how can we make all of the vulva plump and juicy?

 

In our experience, regular massage with warm castor oil is the best thing.  The oil really soaks into the skin, plumping it up and reviving it, enabling it to welcome touch, rather than find it an irritant. And the warm lubricious heat relaxes and opens the whole area.

 

We generally do this as part of a more general massage, waking up and re-sensualising the body, and it fits into our general philosophy: the quickest way to feel differently is through pleasure, and the quickest way for your body to feel different is through bodily pleasure.  Try it.

I have a client who’s been coming to see me for about a year.  When we started working together, he seemed to be carrying a lot of shock in his body.  If I touched a particular part of him; his belly, for example, it seemed to set off quite violent shaking.  As we continued working, this gradually got less.  He seemed able to be much more present in his body, and able to tell me where he would like me to touch him, and how he would like to be touched.

 

When we had our checking in after a recent session, he told me that while he’d enjoyed our sessions a lot, he’d enjoyed that one a lot less. He had an odd sense of being touched, and not knowing if he liked it or not, and feeling a bit strange.  Nonetheless, he remained able to direct me to where he wanted me to touch him.

 

Rightly or wrongly, I thought this was a pivotal moment in our work together. I surmised that the shock in his body when he came to me was because he had lost his power to choose.  He hadn’t been able to say no to contact, or to determine what that contact would be, and in consequence, had become dissociated from his body.  His body then held onto the memory of the undesired contact in the form of shock.  Because our work was safe and collaborative, his body had felt it could go back to that point, that fork in the road, where you either exercise sovereignty over your own body, or disassociate.  This time he could choose to take the other fork in the road by exercising his autonomy in directing how and where he wanted to be touched.

 

I think this shows the absolute centrality of consent in healing the body from past trauma. Consent is being able to choose but that choice is based on what you feel, not what you think you ought to do, or allow someone to do to you.  Because we are not telepathic, that means we need to be able to communicate what we want to the other person.  Consent isn’t a once and for all thing.  You’re always in choice, because consenting is always in the present moment.  You can always change your mind.

 

I hope that as part of the MeToo campaign, we can re-think our understanding of what consent is.  Too often, there’s an idea that it’s like inviting an army into your castle.  Once you lift up the drawbridge, you’ve somehow agreed to everything that can happen after that.  But, apart from narcissists and psychopaths, that doesn’t work for anybody.

 

The whole body dissociation that my client experienced is one response to unwanted touch, but there’s also a more specific form.  Sometimes part of the body just goes numb, or becomes painful, or closed off.  If the person is unable to protest the lack of consent, the body will. Except that once the body does protest in this way it will continue doing it, unless the original transgression is processed somehow.

 

How do we do we process the original transgression?  Through consensual touch, through dialogue, through giving voice to the feelings which come up.  Sometimes, underneath the numbness, a physical discomfort emerges.  Then with that discomfort an emotion, often anger or irritation, arises. After this that body part seems to reintegrate with the rest of the body and rejoin the whole body in feeling and responsiveness. The critical thing is the active, moment to moment consent.  It changes everything.

If you ask a heterosexual man what bad sex is, he’s likely to say it’s when sex is boring. He’s unlikely to say, for instance, that bad sex is painful sex, or unwanted sex, or humiliating sex.

 

Yet, that is often women’s experience.

 

At least ten women friends have sent me an article by Lili Loofbourow, ‘The female price of male pleasure’, which goes into this in considerable, painful detail. You can find the article here ( www.theweek.com > articles > female-price-male-pleasure )

 

One of the points the article makes is that we frequently still have a bizarre idea of what consent means. It doesn’t appear mean active, enthusiastic participation. Rather, it seems to be everything short of determined refusal. Oh, Sir Jasper!

 

Who does this serve really?

 

I am doing brilliant new training later this year with Betty Martin. She’s most famous for inventing The Wheel Of Consent, and it’s particularly helpful as we try to negotiate a more fulfilling, satisfying notion of sex, leaving behind a Harvey Weistein entitlement without falling into a new Puritanism.

 

Her work is vital for these times, but consider this: how easily can you answer these questions:

 

What would you like to do to me?

What would you like me to do to you?

 

Simple questions, aren’t they? But very difficult to answer. Maybe I feel that I couldn’t ask for something unless I knew you were going to enjoy it. Maybe I couldn’t ask for something unless I knew you secretly wanted to give it to me, and you’d be thrilled to do so. The questions can get really tangled up with not knowing what we want, wanting to please our partner: myriad questions.

 

But unless we can actually answer these questions, we’re always going to have bad sex, because clear communication is impossible. We’re always thinking of the other person, and are resentful they don’t seem to be thinking of us, or if they are, they’re pretty clueless. It’s a real mess.

 

So, we can’t really separate sex, bad or otherwise, from more general issues of power, autonomy and communication. And you want to address that, don’t you? Me too.

One of the main complaints that people seem to have is that sex is boring. Not usually at first, but after a while. I remember one friend, talking about monogamy saying “ Not many people can put up with the boredom of having sex with the same person for 20 years”

 

And yet, in other aspects of our life, we take boredom as a sign that something needs to change. But often, this doesn’t apply to sex. The attitude seems to be that Bad Sex just is, like a wet Scottish summers.

 

One reason for that is that we lack a language to talk about sex. But there are languages. Lots of them. Here’s one language for Sexual Exploration:

 

When I was exploring tantra, I came across Quodoushka. This is a type of neo-shamanistic teaching on sexuality claiming to originate in Native American Indian spirituality. It’s most famous for classifying 9 genital types for both men and women, which, to me at least, is very liberating, because it gets us out of ideas of “normal”, and I intend to write about this further, but for now, I’d like to talk about one of their other teachings, The Wheel Of Sexuality.

 

The wheel has 4 modalities, North, South, East and West, and 4 intermediate modalities, North-West, North-East, South East and South West. Each of these corresponds to an aspect of sexuality.

 

North is Contract. South is Innocence. East is Spirit. West is Body. North West is power over/power under, North East is energetic practices. South East is conventional sex and South West is edgy, challenging sex.

 

It’s a map which gives us a means to look at ourselves, and what we might do differently. Shakti Tantra do a regular workshop on the Wheel, called Aspects, where you can explore the various modalities.

 

In my experience, some of these will be looked at more than others. The north east, for instance, isn’t explored so much, because it assumes a technical knowledge that the participants might not have, normally knowledge of the Chinese and Indian exercises for a couple to circulate energy between them, classically, Yab Yum.

 

My most vivid enactment of the Wheel wasn’t actually at a sexuality workshop at all, but when I was learning body mind centering. Part of that training is is regress to earlier stages of development, and on this occasion we regressed to the oral stage, innocently and openly exploring ourselves and the world around us through our mouth. We were blindfold. I found it incredibly erotic. There was no nudity or overt sexuality, but it was a revelation to me, just this taking of everything into my mouth.

 

The Wheel can also expand your sense of what a modality is. The easiest way to express North West is through fairly cliched BDSM stereotypes, but if you can stay there, other things can emerge, like fantasy role play, for instance, which opens up a whole other world.

 

Language plays a crucial role in our liberation. If we can talk about something, we can imagine it differently. If we have a map, we can explore. It’s one of the critical roles of a sex coach, replacing blankness with possibility.

Ages ago, before the internet, I had an affair with a woman who liked porn. We’d have sex, and while I was recuperating, we’d watch some of her porn. The only one I remember was one involving a vacuum salesman and a housewife. You can imagine. I can’t say it did much for me.

Years later, Karen and I were in Las Vegas, at a bizarre French themed establishment. There was a huge screen in our bedroom playing non stop porn. It was incredibly repetitive, just lots of shagging in various positions. I vaguely hoped they might speed it up a bit and play the theme music from The Benny Hill Show, for variety. I found it marginally less erotic than the Goverment’s economic policy.

When I was doing my Sexological Bodywork training, I spoke to one of the other participants about porn. I said that I needed to have a bit of a story and some characterisation. She said she’d fast forward through that to get to the shagging, which was all she was interested in. To each their own, but it did make me think that gender stereotypes about porn are rather patronising.

People often say that there’s no porn for women, but the more general point is why is the general standard so terrible? Is it because 100 years ago people got excited by the transgressive, and pornographers since then have just kept serving up the Old Fayre?

As it happens, there is now quite a bit for the discerning female customer. For instance, www.feministpornguide.com is a brilliant site, taking aim both against terrible mainstream porn and terrible mainstream feminist puritans, like Andrea Dworkin and Catherine McKinnon, who equate porn with patriarchy.

If you were interested, you could also have a wee look at www.erikalust.com and www.frolicme.com

When Karen and I were at that funny hotel in Vegas we attended – not as participants – the Porn Awards. It was like the Oscars, but more sincere. Somebody who had been awarded awarded Miss Rear Entry 2007 or something would tearfully clutch her award and say “ I’ve taken a lot of cock for this!” And everyone would cheer and applaud. Then they sung the national anthem. Very American all round. But again, all the material was as erotic as old socks.

Annie Sprinkle said “ The solution to bad porn isn’t no porn, it’s better porn.” She’s right. Happy exploring.

 

The Women’s Sexuality Group Dates 2018 for the Glasgow Meetup Group are now available for the whole year.  We meet every four weeks between 18.00-20.00 on Wednesdays in Hyndland in the West End of Glasgow.  The schedule is:

24 January

21 February

21 March

16 May

13 June

11 July

8 August

5 September

3 October

31 October

28 November

We are enthusiastic about making this a very lively meeting that is all about inquiry.  We  share our interests and our experiences.  We also create new learning through our inquiry into women’s sexuality for ourselves and in general.  We are always interested in experimenting with the best way to facilitate great conversations. So this year we are starting the year with introducing John as a co-facilitator for our group.  John brings a wealth of different training and coaching style to working with women’s sexuality.  He can also give us a male perspective which can be very helpful in exploring the issues that arise.

 

This doesn’t mean we can’t have a woman only space.  We usually agree the subject of the next meeting at the end of the session.  If a subject comes up where we want to just share as women, we can set that up whenever we want.  The idea is to have as much flexibility as possible and create somewhere that brings in a wide range of new ideas.

 

You may have more questions about how this forum works or how we create intimacy and safety.  If you want to know more please contact Karen through our contact form with your questions.  If you provide a phone number and she will be very happy to arrange a time to chat to find out more about what matters to you and how we can make the group most welcoming for you.

 

To book a place in the group you just need to let us know that you are coming.  The cost is £15  and then you receive all the details for you to join us.  The group will never be more than 12 members at any one session so that we can feel cosy with one another.

 

 

When we talk about premature ejaculation, we’re really talking about several different issues, and it’s helpful to distinguish them.

 

The first is a euphemism for unsatisfactory sex, particularly for the woman. The man just comes too early. But what is it that is really premature, the ejaculation or the intercourse?

 

Because culturally we’re so fixated on intercourse ( the giveaway being that we regard everything else as foreplay, the warm up act for the main event), men will frequently initiate intercourse before the woman is ready. Women, understandably, are likely to find this selfish. But it’s important to be aware of men’s anxiety around their erection.  They are very frequently worried that their erection will suddenly go away.  This would, they think, expose them to shame and ridicule. So, they have to ‘use it before they lose it’.

 

One of our friends did a social history film about sex. The film is about 30 years old now.  She got a group of older people to talk about their early experiences of sex.  One of the participants, a man, said that it would never have occurred to him that woman got pleasure from sex. He paused and said “I would have thought that orgasm was a kind of beer”.  There was then a long pause, and his face got sadder and sadder, thinking of all the waste.

 

We’re not suffering from the results of patriarchy in this way anymore, thankfully. But instead of making our focus a lot wider than the act of  intercourse, we’ve simply added an insistence that men should be able to control when they ejaculate.  And then it is shameful for a man if he can’t do this. Where are we to find intimacy, connection and pleasure in this jailhouse of expectations?

 

Oftentimes, men look for technical solutions, so they can go on and on, like Sting!  But the solution is embodiment and connection, not a technical fix.

 

We work by reconnecting men to their bodies, by resensitising them, and by providing a safe space where these issues can be talked about, free of shame. We teach men about breathing, about how to be more aware of rising levels of excitement, and how to bring those energies down.  So rather than experiencing a sudden spike and it’s all over, you can reach a plateau and then continue. But the most important thing is that we emphasise connection, rather than performance.

 

If you think we can help you, please get in touch.