Love and Sex Coaching start with the body. Joyful woman in water

Although I have a background in tantra stretching back 20 years, I tend not to talk of my work in terms of tantra. And that’s particularly applicable to tantric massage, for several reasons.

The most obvious one is that ‘tantric massage’ is widely used as a euphemism for a sexual massage, generally offered to men by women, understood as a cursory massage with a happy ending.  [To distinguish between the genders, tantric massage for women is sometimes termed ‘yoni massage’]

But the second reason is that in public consciousness, tantric massage is focused primarily on building aroused states, leading to orgasm. And I’ve always been antagonistic to this perspective, as I think it imprisons female sexuality within a body/sensation container which is too small for it. It falls within the classic patriarchal perspective of seeing female sexuality as like male sexuality, just not as good. But until recently, I’ve not had a language in which I could express an alternative.

Now I do. In my talk at The Manchester Sex Lectures in October 2022, I talked about The Erotic Body and The Sexual Body. The Sexual Body is what we normally think of as sexuality. It’s energetically focused in the genitals. It builds towards orgasm, when it discharges. The Erotic Body is different. Sexual arousal is involved, but it manifests in a different way. Aside from a strong feeling of openness and pleasurable relaxation [within which there is arousal], clients often report unusual experiences: powerful, dream-like visions, seeing colours, experiences of profound connection with the rest of existence, and so forth. You can read the text of that talk here [it’s also on YouTube]

The Erotic Body gave me a language to talk about my work, and my approach to tantra massage. Which is that my focus is on making what is experienced through touch to the body deeper and more vivid. That is, there isn’t an inevitable journey of progressively increasing arousal leading to orgasm. There could be a journey like that, engaging The Sexual Body, but, equally validly, the experience could be an unfolding of The Erotic Body, different in each person, and delineating a sexual identity which is unique to you.

How does it work?

Because the work is a gradual unfolding of your unique sexual nature, the most important thing is to go at a pace which is agreed and which is right for you, because unless there’s trust and safety, nothing of value can be experienced. To establish this foundation, I always suggest an initial -and free- telephone conversation before we meet. That might be enough, but I also offer the further option of a free conversation in my studio, so you can get more of a concrete sense of what the work entails prior to deciding to do it or not.

Once we start with touch, my focus isn’t on technique or arousal, it’s about you being able to gradually open up to all aspects of your experience. That includes arousal, but it’s not the central thing. In practical terms, it’s very unlikely that there will be internal touch at the first session, and perhaps not genital touch at all. It’s completely tailored to you.

If any of this sparks your curiosity, and you’d like to know more about it, you can contact me here.

If you’re interested in learning more about my approach, why not subscribe to my free online course ‘Sexuality Maps’? There’s a subscribe button on the Homepage here

In my experience, lack of sexual confidence in women can be generally expressed in one of two statements:

I’m not feeling how I’d like to feel

I don’t feel confident about what to do

The first statement is covered by what I do and have written about already: through touch enabling you to experience pleasure and arousal in a relaxed state, learning how to communicate your needs, and so on.

But I’ve not really focused on the second statement in my work so far. Broadly, I’ve made the assumption that if you’re more sure of your own sexual nature, you’ll be more confident in your interactions with men.

And most of the time that’s true. But I will come across clients who have no issues with pleasure and orgasm, but who are not confident about taking a more active role when they’re intimate with a man. Specifically, they feel awkward and slightly passive around him, and unsure about how to touch. And the effect of that is to leave them feeling unconfident, inexperienced and dissatisfied.

In response to this, I’ve now, with my fellow therapists in The School Of Conscious Touch, developed a new way of working which addresses this.

Broadly, instead of working with me alone, you work with me and another male therapist, and all three of us fully participate in the process. The other therapist is ‘the body’, but the innovation is that he actively participates too.

I originally worked in this way ten years ago with the great Sue Newsome, and had some of the warmest, most heartful experiences of my life.

You can split the work into two: how to touch, and how to navigate and explore intimacy, in real time, in a safe and contained setting.

When touch is consciously taught and experienced, that touch is very different from the customary approach we learn through our culture, which is goal driven, focusing on arousal and orgasm, and often pretty functional, like clearing a blocked drain or something. In place of that performance model, you’ll learn a way of touching which is much more focused on feeling, pleasure and connection.

How does it work? You and I will have an initial session, where we’ll discuss if this is a good way of working for you, and then we’ll set up a joint session. Sessions last two hours, and you should start to see meaningful change quickly.

As you’re paying for two of us, they’re not cheap.

But far cheaper than doing nothing.

A lot of men have the sense that their idea of sex doesn’t really work for their partner, which means it doesn’t work much for them either.

Men have been brought up on an intercourse, technique and orgasm focused way of being sexual, which is physical, energetic and ‘harder, harder; faster, faster’ until they ejaculate. It’s very porn focused.

Except, it doesn’t seem to work. And they don’t know how to make it different, other than make it last a bit longer, or to try and improve their technique.

But the remedy isn’t technical, it’s relational. And that starts with learning how to touch differently.

Specifically, there needs to be a shift from a performance model, where the emphasis is on doing something to bring about arousal, to a relational model, where the focus is on connection.

But how do we learn to touch differently?

With my colleagues from The School Of Conscious Touch, I have created a way of working which, uniquely I think, addresses this.

Essentially, you work with me and with a female fellow therapist, and all three of us actively participate in the process. We will both work with you on how to create connection and intimacy, and you and I will then both work with touch on my colleague, who will give us feedback and responses. Rather than have her as just ‘the body’, she is fully participating, and rather than just modelling what intimate touch might look like [ you see the technique but not the effect], we will actively enact intimacy, so you get a clear sense of how connection, intimacy and arousal occur, and the confidence to take that back into your own life.

It’s a tremendous opportunity to unlearn the deep patterning which we all have around intimate touch, and to learn a new way of being with another person which is far more heartful and connected.

Obviously, as you need to pay for both of us rather than just one, it’s not cheap at £300 for a two hour session, but you don’t need many sessions to make a fundamental shift, which will have huge consequences for your life and for your happiness.

Prior to working with both of us, you and I would have a one hour consultation where I will explain the procedure in more detail, I can get a sense of where you are and where you want to go and whether this is right for you.

 

 

If you don’t live in or near Glasgow or Edinburgh, I offer the option of working with me in a focused yet spacious way over a short period.

How does it work?

Firstly, we’ll have an initial conversation, either by telephone or Zoom so I can get to know you and  get a sense of whether I can help, and what your goals might be for our work together. That call is free.

If you decide to go ahead, we’ll then have a more detailed discussion to go into this in more depth. That may be over one or several calls.

These conversations are important, because they help to establish  safety and connection, which is a prerequisite for any real change.

We agree in ballpark terms the hours we’ll work together, and the time period within which we’ll work, and I’ll keep that period completely free, so we have maximum flexibility. So, for instance, if we agree to work for nine hours over a 24 hour period, I would just block off 1pm Saturday to 3pm Sunday. And if you wanted to put the hours up or down a bit, there’s the flexibility to do that too.

I live in the University Quarter of Glasgow, which is cosmopolitan and attractive and with plenty of accomodation nearby. You might just want to come up on the Saturday morning and go home late Sunday afternoon, or you might want to come up the day before to settle and not rush, or stay on for a day to assimilate, outside the busy pace of normal life.

Conceivably, if you’re 2 or 3 hours travel time away, you might also consider a one day visit.

And once you get the idea of physical distance out of the way, and think in terms of time distance, it’s eminently do-able. The chances are high that there’s frequent and cheap flights from an airport near you direct to Glasgow. It will take less than an hour. That’s less time than it takes to get across London. And if there isn’t a flight, but you’re in Birmingham say, or Manchester, or Newcastle, there’s very likely to be a direct train, which won’t take that long [and we can tailor the time to match up with your best travel options].

After our work, we’d then have a further, detailed call in the following week, to help with integration.

There are big advantages to working this way. There is enough time to go quite deep, but -crucially – enough time and space so we can go at the right pace and not rush things, with enough flexibility to slow or quicken the pace, or take breaks, as the work between us develops.

Obviously, the cost isn’t insignificant. You can see details of costs on my Contact Page [which are flexible, depending on your income], but because I like working in this way, I’d give you a quarter off my applicable rate.

If you’re interested in exploring the possibility, let’s chat. You can either email me at johnwebberfraser@gmail.com, or text me on 07545707751, and we’ll get something in the diary.

One of the many innovations in Sexological Bodywork training is a focus on how we might teach our clients to masturbate in a way which is more embodied, more pleasurable and less formulaic.

To this end, Joseph Kramer, the creator of Sexological Bodywork, invented something called ‘Orgasmic Yoga’.

This is a series of practices to get people to masturbate differently. But to understand these practices, we need to understand where they came from.

From Joseph’s perspective, working largely with men, there were four issues, which had been around for a long time, which more recently had been amplified by something else.

What were the four? They’re familiar:

Firstly, people tended to stumble across masturbation as children, when they carried out the act quickly and furtively and alone. So there was the issue of shame.

Second, once they had learnt how to masturbate, they kept doing the same thing, which over time meant they had to progressively turn the dial up. And the repetition would tend to make it compulsive rather than relaxed and pleasurable.

Third, they tended to be pretty disembodied while they were doing it. They would lose awareness of the rest of their body, or certainly sensations and emotions which weren’t part of their arousal.

Fourthly, they tended to be very focused on the outcome, orgasm, which they would tend to want to reach as quickly as possible.

The newer factor was the ubiquity of internet porn. He would see a lot of men who said they had a porn addiction, spending a lot of time every day watching their computer or phone screen; completely disembodied.

Orgasmic yoga was the cure for both this porn addiction, and for unsatisfying and repetitive -and generally male – masturbation generally. It was based on embodiment rather than based on fantasy porn.

Who it didn’t address was people who had issues with arousal, because that wasn’t the problem he was trying to remedy. But if we forget the problem that Orgasmic Yoga was meant to solve, and blithely universalise it, taking arousal as a given, we risk pathologising those people.

This was an issue Kat and I had to look at when creating our School Of Conscious Touch training programme.

We thought that the assumption that self arousal was straightforward and easy risked shaming and marginalising those students – and future clients of those students – whose sexuality wasn’t like that. So we needed something to go alongside Orgasmic Yoga.

But how could we conceptualise what that might be?

The famously intellectual Taoiseach, Dr Garret Fitzgerald, once said “That’s all very well in practice, but how does it work in theory?”

But that’s the thing: there’s nothing as practical as a good theory, because it helps us constellate our experience differently. It makes us see disparate shapes as parts of the one structure. Patterns appear.

And it’s like that with our innovation of distinguishing  two different aspects of our sexuality, The Sexual Body and The Erotic Body, [which I describe in more detail elsewhere],because if we just shoehorn embodiment into our existing perspective on sexuality, embodied masturbation practices come with the same limitations that sensate focus exercises do. And like sensate focus,  if all that’s missing is a bit more presence, space and length of time, then orgasmic yoga is ideal. For porn guys, or people with straightforward arousal, it’s ideal. For others, not so much.

For these people, we felt two things were important. First, we had to get them in touch with their Erotic Body, and we worked out several ways to do this. Our identification of The Erotic Body was the theoretical game-changer, because it was it, rather than The Sexual Body, that these people required to engage with first, because the former was much more inclusive of all experience, and far less likely than the latter to provoke feelings of performance anxiety.

Once they were in touch with The Erotic Body, we would then let them wonder creatively in fantasy and memory, noticing what triggered interest, and they could then start to picture -not, at least at first, enact – what an erotic practice authentic to them might look like.

What we’re trying to create with The School is a perspective on sexuality which, while remaining embodied, moves away from the traditional language of needs and drives, and pays much more attention to how each individual constellates their sexuality, which is almost always revealed at the level of fantasy, providing we neither get stuck at the narrative level, either of the fantasy itself, or a general story of what sexuality is.

If you’re interested in working with me, you can contact me here

 

The Vagina Does Not Exist

(the transcript of my talk at The Manchester Sex Lectures, 26/10/22)

 

My first zen teacher looked at me and asked “ What is it that lifts up the world? What stops it from collapsing?”

 

I couldn’t answer him. I have never been able to answer him.

 

I’m a Somatic Sex Therapist and Tantra practitioner, based in Glasgow. I work primarily with women and couples. 

 

I’m the co-founder of The School Of Conscious Touch, which teaches people how to work professionally with sexuality in a way which is heartful and authentic to their nature.

 

So what’s with the title ‘ The vagina does not exist’? 

 

If you’re a man, you might say “Of course the vagina exists. I know where the G spot is”

 

 If you’re a woman, you might say “ When I’m having sex with a guy, it seems the vagina is often the only thing that exists. Not my vulva. Not the rest of my body”

 

But what if I’m serious? Then you’ll think “I’m not giving  my money to this guy for his so-called ‘training’.

 

You’ll think “He’s like someone who knocks on my door one winter evening, interrupting the telly, wild eyed, telling me the Earth is flat. 

 

And it’s true. I’m going to tell you that the Earth is flat.

 

That you think the Earth is flat

 

That you think the vagina does not exist.

 

Close your eyes. Imagine a vast magnificent palace, filled with space and light. Its walls are made of silk. There are multitudes of people, but they are still. Intricate and beautiful sounds fill the tremulous air. There are wonderful and vast tapestries. When looked at, or touched, they change and deepen. Everything pulses in vividness. You hear, at the limit of your hearing, voices, not yet discernible in meaning.

 

‘The Imaginal Realm’ was a term coined by the French thinker Henri Corbin. He created it because he wanted to distinguish it from the imaginary, the imagination. It wasn’t some subjective mental state. It was a real and important part of human existence.

 

He was an Islamic scholar, so his interest was primarily in religious visions, but I think the Imaginal Realm applies to all aspects of our lives, including the sexual.

 

It is the flesh of the world. It brings together that which language separates. If it disappears, the world is just stuff: stuff to know, stuff to use.

 

It’s real. Not in the way this lectern is real, but in the way that love is real.

 

Everything that can be expressed is real.

 

What is it that lifts the world up? What stops it from collapsing?

 

When I started to work with women, I noticed they would usually explain their issue in terms of arousal, or more usually, lack of arousal. 

 

And they’d explain their experience with me in the same language of arousal. 

 

They’d say that I was the only person who had found their G spot, even if I had been nowhere near it. And by ‘arousal’ they meant, ‘If you keep doing that, I’m going to have an orgasm’. 

 

The funny thing is, the word ‘arousal’ has only had this sexual connotation since around 1900, a year after Freud wrote The Interpretation Of Dreams. Before that, it had the more general meaning ‘to waken up’. To rouse myself from a dream, or to be aroused from it. And if I was aroused, I could experience everything. But from this point on, arousal

 was about orgasm. And this contraction of our sexuality around a biological model, a quasi machine of needs and drives, was the logical endpoint of the Enlightenment, which shattered the wholeness of Being into bite sized chunks.

 

– bite sized in more ways than one – 

 

 And which banished the Imaginal from the world. 

 

We’ve remained in Freud’s dream – or nightmare – ever since.

 

Arousal, in the narrow modern sense of sexual arousal, is almost always how both men and women talk, and think, because that’s how the culture talks and thinks. And this ‘Arousal’ has the sole destination, achieved or not, of orgasm. Any train we get on goes to the same place. It’s just a pity it keeps breaking down.

 

All this follows the classic pattern of taking Male experience, simplifying it to the point of idiocy, applying it to women then blaming and pathologizing them when they fall short. And – the brilliant thing – getting women to think there’s something wrong with them.

 

It is as if a demon caught the fourteen year old Freud masturbating, and cast those teenage boy assumptions, like a shroud, over all the generations.

 

 It blocks the light.

 

And in my tantric work, for the first ten years, I was caught up in a tacit understanding that arousal leading to orgasm was the point of women’s sexuality work with me, because that was generally how they’d frame it. They’d not had an orgasm, or not for a long time, and wanted to have one.  I’d be better than the guy impatiently fumbling around in the dark for the magic button of the G spot, like a drunk trying to find his keys. 

 

Find their keys.

 

Different in quality, but not in aim.

 

But my experience – not my thinking, that came later – my experience gradually changed.

 

Specifically, I started to notice a lot of things that I couldn’t fit within the framework of arousal. Rather than encountering the vagina as a something to be done-to, I started to see it as a someone, or, more precisely, as someones, a multitude of persons – the multitude in the palace – each with their own intelligence, their own wish to be seen, to express, to experience, to share, to change, to live.

 

And sometimes, in a complementary way, I experienced the vagina like a continually transforming landscape – the tapestries in the palace –  each form giving way to something deeper.

 

In Sexological Bodywork, we were taught that the body existed in two states, the unaroused and the aroused, but my experience was that the body was fluid, it had an infinity of states.

 

If I’d taken those experiences seriously, I’d have noticed a similarity with what other tantra practitioners had said to me when I worked with them; something like:

 

I felt arousal rising in me, and it was like a fork in the road. I had the choice of letting that become fully sexual, going on to orgasm, or going in a different direction’

 

But, I thought my experiences were peculiar to me, and I tended to disregard them. I didn’t ask what the ‘different direction’ was. I didn’t ask what the ‘fork in the road’ was.

 

What lifts up the world? What stops it from collapsing?

 

Earlier this year, in a kind of miracle, I was contacted by Scotland’s most experienced tantra practitioner, Lynn Paterson, who wanted to form a small group of tantra people to meet regularly, exchange and share. There were only three of us at first. There’s more now.

 

And that changed everything.

 

 I could no longer dismiss my experiences, or what the person experiencing touch had said, as ‘subjective’, because they were common to the three of us. 

 

So for example, after one of our sessions, the person being touched wrote:

 

“I realised during our last session that there’s no going back. I had awakening after awakening. Release and purging that left me in bed for days. I had the deepest meditations I’ve ever experienced. I’ve met my archetypal femininity. My desire to be worshipped in the tray of my hips was realised. For the walls of my dark caves to be massaged while I crawl through them in my mind. I approached the altar of my cervix and lifted the veil to converse with pure energy, and free fall into the limitless void of infinite possibilities, without fear. Stable but with no solid ground. Beyond that, I cannot explain”

 

The Imaginal is the flesh of the world.

 

Alongside this, I helped form The School Of Conscious Touch. This was the brainchild of Katrina Clark, a sexuality practitioner in Aberdeen. Kat is a warm, intuitive and mature practitioner with a particular expertise in the menopause. My deepening alliance with her has been tremendously helpful in giving me confidence that these experiences aren’t just subjective whimsy on my part, they reveal something important.

 

And one day Kat told me her view that a woman has two bodies: the sexual body and the erotic body.

 

The sexual body is our usual understanding. There’s genital arousal, it builds, it’s primarily energetic, it leads to orgasm and discharge.

 

The erotic body is different. It’s  the fork in the road. This often involves powerful and vivid visions, feelings of dynamic wholeness within the self and between the self and the world, energy fields reaching beyond the physical body, and spiritual insight.

 

And a few days after she told me this, it all came together.

 

“What is it that lifts up the world? What stops it from collapsing? Into data? Into manipulation?

 

I had never been able to answer this. 

 

Until now.

 

Suddenly, I was able to see how the Erotic Body mapped onto the aliveness of the world, which vividly came into view. The world wasn’t lumps of stuff for my use: everything was expressing and exerting itself, in a dynamic alive whole.

 

Sexuality wasn’t about feeling one thing. It was about feeling everything.

 

Feeling with everything.

 

What conclusions can we draw from this?

 

The narrow one is that our orgasm focused approach to sex is not optimal – to put it mildly – for many women. The Erotic Body and The Sexual Body are not separate. They blend into one another. The palace has many doors. If one is stuck, another is available.

 

 You’re not broken just because you can’t fit yourself into something too small for you.

 

But the broader one is that The Erotic Body is our way out of the sense of fragmentation and pointlessness which is the consequence of that shattering of the wholeness of being which the Scientific Revolution brought about, which we are as unconscious of as fish are of water. Except, all these years, we have been drowning within a collapsing ocean, as if in a dream. Freud’s dream.

 

From which, together, now, we can rouse ourselves.

 

For those people who think that sex is ‘natural’, sexual intercourse will be deemed the most natural. Surely that’s the point of it all: underneath the fog of human complexity, sex is procreation. Everything else is just scene setting.

And it’s natural in its specifics too. It’s obvious that a reliable erection is a prerequisite. It’s obvious that thrusting is involved. It’s obvious that, once started, it’ll continue until orgasm. Until the little death do us part.

Is any of this true?

In Gramsci’s view, hegemony isn’t that one idea is more successful or better than another. Rather, it’s that it’s not thought of as an idea at all, but as how things are.

And that’s what intercourse is. And the hegemony is so strong that often, all we feel we can do is tinker with the pace or with the position.

Consider the first assumption, that an erection is a prerequisite for intercourse. This is an idea that causes tremendous unhappiness. Men’s shame and anxiety around their erection often causes them to initiate intercourse too early, to become disassociated from their partner and to focus on their ‘performance’ rather than on the connection. It’s  most often the direct cause of intercourse becoming increasingly boring and repetitive, and eventually ceasing altogether.

And it’s false. Many people – The Taoist Masters, for example – have known for millennia that it’s perfectly possible to initiate intercourse without an erection. Once you’ve verified this for yourself, ideally with sufficient quantities of quality lubricant, you might want to ask why such an obviously false idea came to be thought of as unquestioningly true.

But to ask the question is to answer it, because, just in the asking, the whole patriarchal scenario hoves itself into plain view.

The erection conjures up the second assumption: a person acting, from desire -the man- and a person being acted upon, and having desire thrust upon her – the woman. The initial thrust affirms this, begetting the succeeding ones. Which in turn takes us up the speedy funicular of arousal.

Even if there is only one person on the train.

And the third assumption is equally damaging: the obligation of orgasm. People -particularly men – will often tell me how they feel obliged to conjure up some image to make them come, which they then feel guilty about. When I suggest to them they could just stop, and resume later if they wanted to, it’s as if I’m suddenly speaking a strange language. But it’s their internal language that’s in Desperanto.

Imagine what intercourse would be like if none of these assumptions applied. What would it look like? What would it feel like?

You will have your own ideas, but for me, it would be primarily  creative and feeling and expressive, rather than the performing of someone else’s script. It could go in multiple directions, rather than just the predictable one. Or it could just stay within a beautifully intimate meditative space. It would be a spontaneous act of co-creation, rather than endless repetition.

If you can imagine it, you can start to dream a new world into being.

 

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The most obvious idea we have about our sexual bodies is that they have a structure. And if we know that structure, then we are on the way to acheiving sexual happiness. In fact, it seems so obvious we don’t really think it’s an idea at all, it’s just reality.

In Sexological Bodywork, there’s a technique called ‘Genital Mapping’. It’s a way of working with the body to bring the structure of it into consciousness. It is empowering to know, for instance, what part of your labia is being touched so, as it were, the sensation can find a home in your consciousness. You can get a sense of the structure of your genitals, and in consequence you can be more empowered with regard to your pleasure, to the touch you give yourself and -crucially – to the touch you ask others to give you.

Sheri Winston’s wonderful book ‘Women’s Anatomy of Arousal’ maps out, in a lot of detail, the structure of women’s genitals. The G Spot, obviously, but lots of less known areas too. It has helped me tremendously, and many other practitioners.

So it seems churlish, as well as nonsensical to say that I think the idea is wrong: our sexual bodies don’t have a structure, at least not in the way we normally think. And not just wrong: harmful, inimical to the profound happiness and connection that we can experience as sexual beings.

How so?

The idea that our sexual bodies have a structure derives from the more general idea that our body overall has a structure. In turn that rests on a fundamental mind/body duality. Our Self, what makes me ME, and our consciousness, are mental qualities, and our body is a sort of container, housing this. The idea was first expressed in its modern form in Descartes ‘Meditations’ [1641]. And this in turn was grounded in the practice of anatomists, who gained their knowledge of human bodies through the dissection of corpses, rather than, say, the observation of living beings.

And that has an obvious hierarchy: the Mind acts on the Body. And when we are touching another, our Mind acts on their Body. The Mind is active, the Body is passive. Do the right thing, and the Body will respond appropriately. Find the G Spot, rub it long enough, and arousal will happen.

I think not.

In my experience of giving genital touch, this isn’t what happens. How I experience it is not giving touch and getting a response, but rather that the touch itself is relational. I do think the genitals have a structure, but not in the way that a building has a structure. Rather, when I touch someone’s genitals, it is as if I am encountering a person. And the touch is a kind of conversation with that person. And as a consequence of that, the apparent fixed structure of the touched part changes.It’s not -or not primarily -that the change is from non-arousal to arousal. Rather, the change seems to be from structure to fluidity.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t, for instance, a ridged structure on the upper wall of the vagina which people identify as the G Spot area. There plainly is. I don’t want to deny the obvious, just to say that we misunderstand it: our bodies are waiting to be engaged with like persons, not engaged with like buttons. And if they are engaged with like persons, something remarkable and beautiful can happen.

Let me give an example.

I’m meeting regularly with my friends and fellow sexological bodyworkers Katrina Clark and Lucy Iredale. We are planning to give a sexuality training for next year, and when we meet we always do some bodywork together. Recently, we were exploring the clitoris.

Like the G Spot, I think it’s fair to say there’s a clear idea about how the clitoris should be touched.You focus on the head, like a magic button. We did something different. After a slow and connecting general massage, we placed a finger slightly to the side of the clitoris, and waited for the relational connection to arise. And when it did, to our surprise, we found a whole fluid texture which felt as if it was underneath the visible detail of the clitoris, and which was full of feeling and sensation. The touch felt internal to the vagina, but wasn’t.

This was completely new to us. It wasn’t that we’d found a deep structure to that whole area, although there might be the temptation to say that. Rather, a different way of touch had revealed how that area was: dynamic, fluid, vividly alive.

And this raises the possibility of a whole new perspective on touch: a move away from the where of touch to the how of touch. From a doing to to a doing with.

We’re continuing to explore this perspective, and I’ll write further about it as we do.

What is the relationship between orgasm and emotion?

When my dad died, 22 years ago, I felt emotionally blocked. I was upset, but I couldn’t cry.

I’d recently split up with my girlfriend, but because she was a very kind and generous person, when she heard about my loss she wanted to comfort me. And as we were having sex, I remained aware of my emotional disconnection, but vividly remember that when I reached orgasm, a wave of grief, like electricity, jolted through me, and I cried out, then started sobbing.

That’s often how people think – if at all – about the connection between orgasm and our emotions. Orgasm disinhibits us, so emotion can come flooding out. But – so the view goes – emotion doesn’t have any impact on whether we orgasm or not: that’s a matter of arousal, which is physical and energetic, not emotional.

But I wonder if we have it precisely wrong.

When I work with people who have issues with orgasm, what’s most apparent is their focus on orgasm as the goal of sexual pleasure. And the tragic consequence of this is that they often experience neither. So my focus when I work with them is to take them out of this self defeating future orientation, and start feeling more what’s actually going on in their body. In this way they can relax into pleasurable experience, and within that experience, they can find arousal and orgasm. I don’t ask them to have a particular focus on what they’re feeling emotionally, although that’s part of it. I’m equally interested in what they’re experiencing imaginatively, or somatically.

Before I do the bodywork part of a session, I discuss with the client how they are feeling and what they would like from the session, and afterwards they will say what they experienced and noticed, but often, the prior talking part can be quite brief.

I recently met with a client who wanted to talk quite a lot before we started, and I fretted I wouldn’t be able to give her a long enough bodywork session. To my surprise however – and her greater surprise – quite soon into the bodywork, she had an orgasm.

When we reflected on it afterwards, we agreed that the difference between that and prior sessions was that this time, in our talking, for the first time, she’d been freely emotional, and felt completely accepted by me in her emotionality, in all its ebbs and flows, its sometimes abrupt changes and transformations. And because I accepted that, she could accept it too.

And I wondered if that was a more general issue: we repress, censor or modify our emotions because we think they’re not welcome. And that’s because they weren’t. But the effect of that is to suppress our aliveness, which has a major effect on our capacity to orgasm.

Let me use an example from my own life: my mum is a naturally optimistic, outgoing person. I’m not; I’m quite moody and sensitive. When I was like that as a child, it was obvious that my mum would have preferred me, understandably, to be happy, so I came to view my own nature as problematic, and suppressed it. But, of course, you can never be someone else, you can only be a more cramped version of yourself.

It took me a long time to understand that my sensitivity, far from being something to be sidestepped or covered over, was an essential part of who I am.

I think a lot of us have known something similar. Our emotions go from something natural to something that we need to monitor, adjust and modify, and that has a double effect. The first, which is clear from psychotherapy, is that we become distanced from our emotions. The second – and less noticed – is that we become distanced from our body, because our experience is all of a piece: if there is a something in my experience, I will experience it in thought, in imagination, in feeling and in my body, and all these are different aspects of the one experience. 

And that explains something that has always puzzled me: people who are freely emotional don’t seem to have an issue with not being able to orgasm.

And in turn, that suggests a way of working with the emotions. We don’t regard them as irrelevant to whether we can orgasm or not, we regard them as central, because the repression of any one part of us is a repression of the spontaneous functioning of all the other parts too. And just as we would have learned, when little, that certain emotions were not ok by a signal from [usually] a parent, and so they then became not ok to us, we can reverse the process: in your session with me, I can welcome your emotions, whatever they are, and, gradually you can welcome them too, and then something in you can become relaxed, yet enlivened at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

What makes a massage Tantric? There are a number of elements, but these are the essential ones:

  • a lot of us have had massages which, although they might be done by someone with a lot of anatomical skill and experience,  somehow just touches our body. It don’t touch us. A tantric massage is touch which is in loving service to you as a person through your body, in all your uniqueness. Because this is so, every tantric massage is unique. ‘Tantric Massage’ is often a euphemism used by sex workers towards male clients, where it is understood to mean a very cursory touching of the body generally, swiftly leading to genital touch with the understood aim of orgasm. A real tantric massage is not like that. It may  involve genital or other intimate touch, that’s up to you, but there’s no aim. It’s not about evoking a particular response from you. It’s about deep connection, both between the giver and the receiver, and within the receiver. When you receive a tantric massage, you are completely accepted, and so can be completely accepting of yourself: everything you feel, everything you experience, is valid.
  • the giver of the touch is entirely in loving service to you, but in a particular way. Obviously, anyone could be in service to you too. Not to be funny about it, that’s the essence of capitalism. You want – or believe you want – something, a price is agreed, then that something is done. But this is very different. The giver of the massage is in service to you in the moment, is in deep communication with you through your body. And that allows something new to happen. Giving a tantric massage is an act of devotional love.
  • there will be a ceremonial holding of some sort. This varies amongst practitioners. The pre-eminent tantric massage practitioner in Scotland, Lynn Paterson [she’s in my Links page] has quite an elaborate ritual before the massage, I have very little, but the intention is the same, to create a sacred space where the giver is completely safe and completely accepted, and all experience is welcome
  • the giver will not sexually interact with you. The touch is just one-way and will be within the boundaries agreed at the start of the session. If you don’t want intimate touch at the start of the session, you don’t get to change your mind during it, because there needs to be a safe container. Practice varies among practitioners, some remain clothed and some don’t. But my practice has always been to remain clothed throughout the session.
  • the receiver is completely present and open to the touch, and does not have a specific goal, but is encouraged to have an intention. For example, to feel more, to be more embodied, to be open to whatever arises, and so on. It’s the opposite of the false “tantric massage”: there isn’t something to get, and because of this you can experience yourself in all your aspects: sensual, energetic, erotic, fluid, limitless
  • the essence is Yin, not Yang.Yang touch is what we’re generally familiar with. It is goal directed. It is intended to bring about a particular effect. It is focused on increasing arousal. As arousal increases, the touch is liable to get stronger and faster. The touch is very focused on the place of arousal, and tends to ignore the rest of the body, and the rest of the experience. It’s the kind of touch we’re liable to unthinkingly acquire when we first learn masturbation as kids, anxious about being discovered. Yin touch -tantric touch – is completely different. The aim is expansion and opening; spaciousness and exquisite feeling. And within all of that, pleasure and arousal occur, but arousal isn’t the point. With Yang touch, over time people tend to need more to get the same outcome. They feel they need to break through a glass ceiling, or force themselves over the finishing line. Yin touch isn’t like that at all. It is like creating a vast and changing land of pleasurable receptivity, which gets larger and deeper and more vivid the more you allow yourself to just be there, and which is characterised by wonder and surprise. I call this The Erotic Body, and there’s a link to my October Sex Lectures talk on the Homepage, where I discuss this more.
  • You might also be interested in ‘Tantric Massage For Women’, which you can read here.

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