One of the more difficult things in our intimate lives is to change our lover’s behaviour. If we say something negative (“ I don’t like it when you do x”), the response is often negative. If we say something positive (“ I’d like it if you did x”), then often the response is negative too.

 

What’s going on?

 

Part of it is the insidious influence of shame. We’re expected to know what to do and how to be, so any criticism undermines that, which in turn produces a defensive, unhelpful response.

 

So what can be done?

 

Well, in the spirit of giving, I’d like to give you an exercise to try. I’ll describe the exercise first, then the thinking behind it.

 

The Exercise

 

Find a time where you don’t have time constraints, you won’t be interrupted and you’re both fresh and relaxed. Pick some nice relaxing music you both like. Warm up the room. Warm up some coconut oil and some castor oil.

 

Start by sitting opposite one another, eye gazing. When you feel that you have established a steady, tranquil, loving connection, ask your partner to lie down on their belly. Have various pillows and cushions to hand to make them comfortable.

 

Start with your hand on the back of your partner’s heart, then start massaging their shoulders, back, bottom and upper thighs with the coconut oil. Put your heart in your hands and touch intuitively. Spend quite a long time doing this. Gradually focus more on the bottom, and then on the area around the anus. Use castor oil for that area.Go very slowly and gently.

 

Adjust your partner’s position so that they are lying more on their side, and one of their knees is up. In particular, adjust your partner’s head so you can make comfortable eye contact with each other. Have one of your arms on the side of your partner’s body in such a position that they can comfortably place their hand on your arm. Ask your partner to have particular awareness of their middle finger, as that is how you will be communicating as the exercise develops. Explain that you will try to touch them in as close a way as you can to how their finger is touching you, and have a signal for pause ( one tap, say) and stop (say, two taps). 

 

With your own middle finger ( wearing a glove) touch the opening of the anus. From this point, pay equal attention to

  • the quality of the eye connection between you and your partner
  • What you are feeling with your finger, with regard to receptivity and resistance
  • What you are feeling on your arm from your partner’s middle finger

 

Don’t do anything unless all three are in alignment. Go extremely slowly. IF you feel invited in, enter very slowly and gradually, always responding to what you feel from moment to moment. 

 

When you finish the exercise, cover over your partner and lie in contact next to them, gradually separating. 

 

( I’m deliberately not giving specific strokes, as people almost invariably treat these as prescriptive, rather than as examples)

 

The Purpose

 

It doesn’t have to be the anus. I just chose that because it’s universal.

 

The point of the exercise is primarily to develop empathetic connectivity, the sense that you are empowered and are choosing what touch you receive, rather than being done to. And that you matter. The eye contact is crucial, because it means YOU are being touched, not just ‘the body’. It should feel very tender and feeling, quite tearful possibly.

 

If your partner can experience this, then that can become part of their repertoire. And then, sexuality becomes a matter of connectivity, rather than performance. 

 

In other words, you can change your partner best, not by giving them instructions, but by broadening and deepening their sense of possibilities.

 

If you remember the principles, you’re absolutely free to vary the specifics as much as you like.

 

Try it.

 

It’s one of the truisms of sexuality that women’s sexuality is elusive, and men’s is obvious. It’s obvious, because -presumably – an erection is conspicuously obvious. It’s obvious, because the point of an erection – surely –  is to ejaculate. So it’s ‘blindingly obvious’ that men’s sexuality is about ejaculation. And so from there, we imagine the penis to be in a somewhat detached relationship from the rest of the body, stuck on at the pubic bone like volatile plasticine, with the scrotum underneath, and made up of two parts:the glands or the head, where the action is, and the visible rest of it, which doesn’t seem to do or feel much.

 

Almost all of this isn’t true. Did you know, for instance, that one third of the penis isn’t visible? it isn’t hidden away in some mysterious place, it’s plainly there, but nobody talks about it. Specifically, it runs down the centre of the scrotum underneath the skin and attaches to the pelvic floor, and it’s very sensitive. But, it seems, nobody talks about it  because of the assumptions I’ve just detailed. Prior to tumescence, you can’t really feel it, and after tumescence, well, the circus has headed north.

 

Why does this matter?

 

If our focus is on (mistaken) anatomy rather than what we feel, we are much more inclined to dichotomise men and women’s experience. Or we are likely to seize upon mistaken analogies, thinking, for example, of the clitoris as being like the penis, rather than thinking of both as each being part of a much larger whole, which enables us to understand both sets of genital systems as being remarkably similar. Not in terms of appearance obviously, which is trivial, but in terms of what they can experience, because the nerve connections – what makes us feel what we feel – are essentially the same.

 

We are also in our assumptions very likely to think of male sexuality in binary terms: there’s either an exuberant tumescence or there isn’t, whereas if we expand the area of pleasure then we also – crucially – expand the palette of pleasure, which in turn integrates our sexuality both with our feelings, and also with the rest of our lives. The body is full of feeling: it’s not like a machine which is either turned on or off, there is a whole spectrum of feeling sensation. If men can be engaged with prostate pleasure, that obviously helps, because they can experience something happening to them internally, but without an expansion of pleasure into the whole area between the glands and the prostate, the man is like an anaesthetised person, who feels sensation in his head and his feet, but everywhere in between is numb.

 

 I’ll write more about this, but would strongly recommend a brilliant book by R. Louis Schultz “Out In The Open – The Complete Male Pelvis”

 

(This is an article I wrote for my tanta teacher, Hilly Spenceley Of Shakti Tantra. She pioneered Women only tantra, branching out into mixed work and, more recently, work with Couples. She is the most influential of all my teachers. Although I tend not to use the word Tantra to describe my own work, partly because the term has been so misused, I really believe it to be a great path of liberation from the fragmentation that is characteristic of modern life. You can find out more about her work at www.shaktitantra.co.uk)

Frequently with couples, the sex between them has stopped, or has become radically unsatisfactory, and neither partner really knows why. The problem is twofold. Firstly, the couple tend to have a clear idea of what sex should be like. You could call it The Hollywood Model. In this model of sex, each is urgently passionate for the other, so much so that they tear each other’s clothes off, with scant regard for fabric longevity, have some very perfunctory foreplay, then get down to business, and in no time at all simultaneously and noisily orgasm. Whilst having sex, they are very engaged with each other.

That’s the first problem: there’s an ideal of what sex should be like, and you’re naturally disappointed and frustrated if it isn’t like that for you. The second is the focus on orgasm. Couples tend to speak about this in terms of what “works”. If it promotes orgasm, it’s good, if it doesn’t, not so much. But over time, the sex gradually narrows, like a play where the characters, one by one, disappear, until you get to the point where it’s just perfunctory. And then it vanishes entirely.So, it isn’t just a restrictive view about what sexuality is like. It’s an increasingly restrictive view about what THEIR sexuality is like.

How can we think of sex in a different way? Donald Mosher, an American researcher, came up with the idea that we have three different sexual modes. What I’ve called The Hollywood Model is his second mode, Partner Engagement, but there’s two others: Trance and Play. Trance is where you’re very caught up in your own experience. Your partner might be doing something delicious to you, and you are having an exquisite time, but it’s very internal. It’s as if you are having a delicious meal. You don’t want to tell the waiter every five minutes what a great time you’re having, as that detracts from the experience. Except, because The Hollywood Model is what we think sex is, we often feel guilty and selfish when we’re in this mode, and feel that we’re taking up too much time. And we feel we have to reassure our partner, even although that takes away from our experience. The other state is Play. BDSM – particularly power games – are the classic exemplars, but it really includes all behaviour where the couple are acting a part. For instance, where they pretend to be strangers, picking each other up in a bar. Or one of them is a Naughty Doctor. For example.

In remedial work with couples in a non-tantra setting, it’s helpful to focus on these two other states – and primarily on Trance to begin with – so that the couple can broaden out an idea of sex which was largely restricted to Partner Engagement in the first place, and fatally constricted further by the singleminded focus on the boa constrictor of orgasm.

How does this all relate to tantra? It relates very much, because all three of these aspects come together in co-created, ceremonial space which is, essentially, what tantra is.

In tantra, we see ourselves and our partner as aspects of the Divine. In a sense, that’s clearly in the Play mode, but let’s be clear: it is the capacity to play which quintessentially makes us human. It isn’t something trivial, it is our essence. Play, like Love, completes and vivifies us. And that’s what ceremony understands. In my other identity as a zen teacher, I misunderstood ceremony for 25 years. I thought it was symbolic activity. It took me that long to understand that I was mistaken, that ceremony is the direct entranceway to the crucible of the Present.

Because we are with our partner, we are also in the Partner Engagement mode, but in a different, broader, more profound sense. We are with our partner as an aspect of divine creation made flesh, not with an overfamiliar body with an ill functioning orgasm switch. That’s a crucial distinction. And because we are in moment to moment contact with what we feel, in a world entirely different from the dysfunctional sexual capitalism that is our usual home, we are also in the Trance state, but reconfigured not as something ‘internal’ or ‘subjective’, but as an aspect of total human experience, channeled through this body.

In this way, the couple can learn a way of being together which is much broader, which has much more feeling, and which has much more connection to everything. Rather than a Puritan focus on performance, we are opened up to our creative and expressive capacities as instruments of the divine. And that changes everything.

I talked to my Zen Group the other week about the language we use when we talk about the body. In that context, I noted that in ordinary language, we tend to use the word “body” to refer to the body below the neck, and the word “head” to refer to the neck (along some unspecified boundary) and above. And we identify ourselves with our ‘head’ rather than our ‘body’, viewing the body as a vehicle, or, better, a recalcitrant servant, who refuses to do what he’s told.

Until our body breaks down due to ill health or age, or both, the part of the body for which our servant is maximally unco-operative is usually our genitals, who resolutely won’t do what we wish them to do.

And so you come and see someone like me. But here’s the kicker: it’s not physical. Of course, we can teach you things which are helpful. If you’re a man, we can help you with premature ejaculation. If you’re a woman, we can help you with genital numbness. We can help with lots of things.

But just as a therapist can do something about your neurosis but can’t teach you spontaneity and joy, an approach solely based on the body – as we normally conceive it -has significant limitations.

In my experience, I can work with a client and get them into an orgasmic state quite easily, but something is still missing. What is that something?

An example: Quite early on, I remember working with a woman and during the session, she became very orgasmic. After a while, this became too much for her, and she asked me to stop. She then just rested on the massage table. I understood that what was needed was for me to lie on the table with her, holding her. When we were talking after the session, she said “What was that amazing technique you were using?I felt so much?” I thought she was referring to the bodywork part of her session, but she corrected me and said, no, it was afterwards, when we were both lying on the table.

This is the amazing ‘technique’: connection, heartfulness, love.

Another time, I was working with a very sexually active man, who couldn’t get erect other than by progressively greater physical stimulus. A lot of people are like that. They touch themselves accidentally as children and get aroused, but over time the effect fades, so the touch has to be harder, faster, stronger, and eventually, it only gets you part of the way, and then, not at all.

I touched this man’s genitals as I would have touched a wounded person, forced into servitude and injured and hurt by that: touching with respect, enquiry, tenderness.

Each part of us is all of us.

Bear this in mind when you next read an article in The Daily Mail about vaginal massage, or you read about techniques on how to be a better lover: it isn’t that it’s wrong, or not useful, but it’s incomplete.

Imagine you own a string of fitness studios. Things aren’t going well. You’re on the verge of bankruptcy. In desperation, you sack your advertising agency and look for a new one. Someone recommends a new agency with an unusual name: The Tourette’s Agency. You go to see them. There’s a lot of swearing going on in their offices, because it’s cutting edge. You speak to the head guy, who tells you he’ll save your business with a winning message, and to come back in a week.

A week later you go back. There’s still a lot of swearing, but in different languages this time. The guy proudly produces the message. This is what it says:

“ Come to our gym right now if you don’t want to have a heart attack, you fat bastard”

Absurd, isn’t it? But in a slightly more subtle way, workshops for couples take exactly the same approach. They tell you that you can recapture the magic. They tell you that with their help you can relight the fire.

Except, what do you think? What I would think is: “If I go to this, everyone will know that my fire has gone out. My magic has left the building”. Would you go? I don’t think so.

When my dear friend and sex coach Alison Pilling set up her business, she called it Sex School For Grownups. It’s a witty name, but it expresses a truth. Nobody teaches us how to be good at sex and intimacy, particularly within long term relationships. And that lets couples down. Then they get blamed if they divorce. But the blame lies elsewhere, with a society that blithely assumes that sex is “natural”, whatever that means, and if things aren’t going well for you, you’re to blame.

In our work, we don’t peddle nonsense about rediscovering the magic or “spicing up your sex life.’ We start from a position that everyone is trying their best, and it’s part of human nature to get stuck, to have an incomplete understanding, to experience difficulty in knowing, far less saying, what we want. So what we do is to provide different perspectives.

What would it be like if you extended your sense of what’s possible? What if you were given some tips about communication? What would it be like if you were given exercises where each of you could explore different aspects of yourselves? What would it be like if you consciously decided in any intimate encounter who was giving and who was receiving? What if you could take it in turns to initiate and be led. What if the responsibility for pleasure was shared equally between two human beings and you had a greater sense of hat that might encompass?

Alison and I love and respect couples, and we want to support them, to help them flourish, not condemn them as broken and then claim to fix them.

In our Glasgow workshop recently, we were so happy to work with three couples who really cared for each other. We just gave them things they could try, like giving a wonderful singer new songs. And to watch these couples trying these things out was wonderful for us. The energy they showed was exactly the same as meditators: present, embodied, connected, loving. It takes courage to try new things, to adopt unconventional ways of seeing and to step off a sex conveyor belt based on little more than old expectations and hearsay.

We really want to keep working together. We plan various ways. One way is to take a small number of couples, no more than four or five, away to somewhere nice for a couple of days, and share what we know, giving the couple plenty of time to relax, to experiment, to converse with us, to make that cable which connects one heart to the other stronger, not by fixing the fractures, but by increasing the strands.

How do people like myself work with clients who have sexual issues?

 

It’s an important point, because until it’s clarified, many people who would benefit from working with a sexuality professional are unlikely to seriously consider it.

 

My guess is that most people can’t imagine the ways of working with a sex therapist like me: is it talking? Are they naked? Will I be touching their genitals? Am I teaching them how to touch their own, or their partner’s genitals? Will it be safe?   

 

All of these things may happen, but apart from the first (and the last – safety is my number one concern), they aren’t a major part of my work. To understand why that is so, I need to explain my perspective.

 

The more I work with clients, the more I am confirmed in my belief that most people are in a state of chronic tension, which is a major obstacle to them feeling the moment to moment, pleasurable aliveness of their bodies.

 

This chronic tension leaves them, unsurprisingly, with a limited, tension based view of sexuality: it’s about the genitals, it’s about performance and it’s about release. Somehow being able to temporarily ignore the chronic and general habitual tension through tension-based sexual activity, later discharged through orgasm, leading to an all too fleeting sense of relaxation and release.

 

In contrast, I believe that sexuality is all about relaxation, not tension. It’s not about fixing anything. It’s coming to understand how we block our own aliveness. When we relax, we can feel the pleasurable, responsive aliveness of the body, and when we can feel that, then more identifiably sexual feelings arise naturally.

 

So for me, the critical question with a client is: how can I help them relax?

 

Well firstly, through agency and choice. When I do Bodywork with a client, I ask them where they want to be touched. I tell them they can wear as much or as little clothing as they wish. I explain I am happy to touch them over their clothes, or over a blanket, or under a blanket. If the client is sensitive about their body being seen, I am happy to work with my eyes closed, or the lights off, or wearing an eye mask. The point is: they choose. That’s vitally important. Unless the client is empowered, we can’t go anywhere.

 

Second, I make it clear that I am in responsive service to the client. They decide where the touch is to go, and how that touch should be. We maintain a dialogue. We’re connected.

 

Here’s the thing: when clients feel relaxed and embodied and connected, very often, to their surprise, sexual feelings arise. They are both relaxed and aroused, which feels unusual at first, but which, after a while, is wonderful.

 

Sometimes, the client will have experienced trauma, which makes touch quite problematic, or it may be problematic for other reasons. In those cases, I encourage the client to freely experiment with me to find a way forward. One client found being touched while she was lying down quite triggering, so we experimented with other forms of touch: embracing at her request, dancing, and other relationally focused forms which proved empowering and enlivening for her.

 

And with the bulk of clients, there isn’t genital touch at all. It’s true that some clients wish to explore genital sensation, but most don’t feel it’s necessary, because they understand that what was really necessary was getting back in touch with their bodies. And once they did, the problems disappeared.

 

I have a very specific perspective on bodywork. I don’t touch the body. I touch the person, through the body. Each part is the whole. And, I don’t believe the body to be passive. I believe that wherever the body is touched, that part enters into a sort of unfolding dialogue with the touch, gradually uncovering layers: layers of tension and relaxation, layers of emotion, layers of memory. And because I believe this, I expect this. And so, it can happen.

 

So, working with me isn’t about me fixing you, but about you changing your perspective, and becoming more embodied.

 

Embodiment, Agency, Connection: it changes everything.

 

(Transcript of my talk at the CCA, Glasgow, 23/11/19, as part of The Glasgow Sex Lectures)

 

I have an unusual background for someone working in the field of sexuality: I was a divorce lawyer for more than 30 years. My office was about 800 yards from here.

 

In Scotland, you need to give a reason to get a divorce. You either need to have been living apart for a minimum period, or there needs to be behavioural grounds; essentially adultery or unreasonable behaviour: violence, drunkenness, general craziness. So we’d always need to establish that before going on to arguing about the house, or the money, or the children.

 

Once we had our reason for the breakdown, we didn’t need to enquire further.

 

But it became clear to me after a while that the behaviour we said caused the marriage to break down was – generally speaking – not the cause, but the consequence. The marriage had already broken down, due to something else.

 

And that something else was, almost always, the collapse in sexual intimacy between the partners. It was as if a mass of termites had eaten away the heart of the building, leaving the structure standing, but empty. And when one of the partners slammed the door on the way out, the whole structure collapsed. And often, with the other partner left inside, in turn collapsing into depression, alcoholism, loneliness.

 

Sometimes, rather than come to a divorce lawyer like me, the couple would seek marriage guidance counselling, or therapy. The main organisation in this field is Relate. What happens there?

 

Well, the clue is in the name. Although not explicitly stated, there is an assumption that if there are sexual issues in a relationship, then the cause of that must be something else, because sex is a natural urge, like hunger. Natural, and physical. So, you identify and resolve the non sexual issues in the relationship which are the cause, and sex will resume.

 

They will give you exercises in sensate focus, where you are encouraged to do non sexual but intimate things together, like massage. This may work sometimes, but often it doesn’t, because generally held notions of what sex is, and what it’s for, aren’t challenged.

 

This idea of sex being natural is often attached to a wistful nostalgia: how do you rekindle the flame? How do you get the magic back? 

 

That’s suspicious, because in  that regard, our intimate relationships are an anomaly. We don’t, for instance, wish long lasting friendships to become like they were when we first met.

 

I need to say this plainly: We’re wrong.

 

 Sex isn’t a natural urge, whatever that means, and our ideas about what sex is aren’t natural either. They are highly artificial and tightly constricted, almost as if the purpose is to cause the maximum amount of unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

 

Psychotherapists aren’t allowed to touch their clients. But there is an emerging field of professionally trained people where touch is central, and one of the disciplines in that field is Sexological Bodywork, in which I trained in 2015, along with two of the other speakers tonight.

 

I first got involved in the field of sexuality in 2004, with the great tantra teacher Hilly Spenceley, the founder of Shakti Tantra and worked with a number of the tantra and sexuality schools in this country: Quodoushka, The Human Awareness Institute and others, so by the time I trained in Sexological Bodywork, I had a lot of knowledge and experience.

 

 But what I didn’t have was an overarching perspective, and specifically one which enabled me to work with couples, until I came across Donald  Mosher.

 

Mosher’s idea is simple but revolutionary: our normal understanding of sex is only one of three modes of sex. He calls these three modes Trance, Partner Engagement and Play.

 

What we generally think of as sex is the second one, Partner Engagement. It’s what I describe as Hollywood Sex: the partners are very engaged with each other, The sex is very connecting, orgasm is the goal, simultaneous orgasm the ideal. That’s what people think good sex is. Except, they’re not getting it. Everyone else is getting steak and chips, and they’re just getting a pie. The same pie, on the same plate. No wonder they want to tuck into someone else.

 

Consider the other two:

 

Trance is where you’re really absorbed in your own experience. The world drops away. Time disappears. You are totally relaxed and present. Except, if you think that sex is The Hollywood Model, you’ll think you’re being selfish. You’ll think you’re taking too much time. You’ll think you have to keep showing your appreciation. You’re thinking what you need to give in return. If you’re the giver and you don’t understand Trance, you’ll think your partner is bored.

 

Play is as it suggests: it’s role play, BDSM, power play, fantasy.

 

Hollywood Sex is like a romantic meal in a friendly restaurant. Trance is like a meal for connoisseurs: you want to savour the foie gras, not reassure the anxious waiter about the great service. Play is a custard pie fight. In costume.

 

Taking Mosher’s idea transformed my work with couples. I now understood that I could best work with couples in three interacting ways: embodiment, communication and variety.

 

Embodiment is the most important. Each partner needs to regain a sense of themselves as a sovereign sexual being. Often, the soft animal of the body is pinned beneath the concrete block of expectation and its twin, resentment. So I work with the body to reawaken and to free it, so the person can understand their range and capacity for pleasure and sensation.

 

And what I also do is to expand the sense of what is possible. When people say that they don’t know what they want, or they don’t want anything, that often means they don’t know what’s possible. They think it’s choosing between being touched in a particular way. But our body isn’t just the body of our flesh: it’s also the body of our dreams, of our memories, of our associations. So, I also encourage people to expand into these realms by asking

 

I would like you to touch me like….. you were saying goodbye to me

I would like you to touch me as if….. you were an angel, incarnated in a human body for the first time.

 

Understanding their own pleasure palette, I then teach the partners how to communicate, primarily using Betty Martin’s Wheel Of Consent. Michael, one of the other speakers tonight and I both did her Inaugural Practitioner Training, and he will speak on The Wheel in his talk, so I don’t need to speak about it here.

 

The third is Variety, the antidote to boredom and repetition.  Quodoushka, one of the tantra schools I mentioned earlier, has a concept called The Wheel Of Sexuality. The Wheel is like a compass.

 

. Each point of the compass marks a different region of sexuality. So, for instance, South is Innocence, West is Body, North is Agreement and East is Spirit. And there are the midpoints too. So NE is energetic practices, NW is power, SW is risk and SE is normal Sex. Normal for you.

 

And combining this with Mosher enables me to create an almost endless series of embodied exercises personal to the couple, which expand their ideas of what sex can be, redresses imbalances and, most importantly, gets them away from an unbalanced focus on intercourse and orgasm. 

 

For better or worse, we have built our society on the foundation of enduring sexual love. But we do little or nothing to nurture that, and the price is paid in diminished, unhappy lives for the partners involved.

 

And also by their children, who carry it on, like a dark stain that can never be entirely washed off.

 

If we were to change this, then we need to agree that couples need to be supported in their sexuality. Not to wait until they are at daggers drawn, because it’s too late by then, but as part of their ongoing relation and expansion. The way out of mediocre sex, which morphs to bad sex then no sex isn’t to freshen up the punchline, but to expand the language. It isn’t to burn down the restaurant and dine elsewhere. It isn’t even to replace the chef. It’s to learn how to cook yourself and your partner into something delicious, and always new. Bon appetit. 

 

The Sex Lectures are the creation of Alison Pilling, and were brought into being in 2018 by a collaborative effort between her and Roger Bygott, a Manchester visual and interdisciplinary artist and dancer.

Alison’s intention was to manifest a place where people could talk about sexuality in all its many aspects, in a way which was friendly and open, neither too sleazy nor too spiritual; a place where people could be challenged, but not confronted.

So far, there have been seven events in Manchester. The evening at the CCA on 23 November will be the first in Scotland. Events are planned for London next year.

The CCA is a perfect location. Urban, arty, risk taking, and at the same time welcoming and friendly. In Manchester, the Events have been held at The International Anthony Burgess Centre and The Whitworth Art Gallery. Not in a basement with sticky carpets.

If you go on YouTube and search ‘The Sex Lectures’ – and you should – you’ll find 31 of the talks that have already been given, with topics such as:

Vulnerability and Intimacy

Orgasm Re-imagined

The Art Of Love And Desire

The Joys Of Real Communication

Sex, Risk & Writing

Female Sexuality & Osho

How To Love A Vagina

Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Sex

Touch Changes Lives

In assembling speakers for the CCA event, Alison has tried to maintain this kind of diversity and eclecticism. So, there will be something about Art, something about Porn Addiction, something about Authenticity, something about Consent..incredibly varied, and because each talk is only 12 minutes long, even if something doesn’t quite float your boat, there’ll be another one along shortly.

There are only 60 tickets available, and over half have been sold as at 4 November, so if you want to be part of something new, go to https://ccaglasgow.ticketsolve.com/shows/873613215/events/

Of all the forms of unhappiness in our society, sexual unhappiness is the most tragic, because it is so widespread, and because it is avoidable.

We are taught that sexuality is about bodies, techniques and orgasms. It’s not true: primarily, it is about expression of the deepest aspects of ourselves, and the overcoming of a profound loneliness and isolation through heartful, embodied connection.

In this workshop, I will join forces with my friend and fellow sex coach Alison Pilling ( www.sexschoolforgrownups.com) to teach Couples how to enable their erotic lives to flourish and deepen.

We will teach you about Mosher’s sexual styles, so you can understand and appreciate the different ways human beings are in their sexuality, rather than see difference as a sign of failure or disappointment.

We will introduce you to the Wheel Of Consent, which can dramatically enhance clear communication with your partner.

We will teach you different ways to touch, and how to greatly widen your touch vocabulary.

We will show you how you can expand your idea of what touch is, so it becomes a source of creativity and innovation, rather than repetition.

We will introduce you to the Wheel Of Sexuality, opening you up to a vast landscape of variety and connection.

We will give you a series of practical, heartful exercises which you can practice at home.

This is the only workshop that Alison and I will be offering in Scotland until Autumn 2020,  we’re inviting 12 couples to spend time with us, enjoying learning new ways of relating.

To book, please email johnwebberfraser@gmail.com or text 07545707751

 

” The soul feels unsafe in a frightened body. The Bodywork is to breath courage into the frightened body, to feel pleasure in its own edges again. It is a way of preparing the body to be a home for the soul again”

( Mehdi Darvish Yahya, with thanks to Caffyn Jesse)

The first time I came across trauma in a visceral way was about thirty years ago. I was a young lawyer. A client had just been telling me about appalling abuse she had suffered as a child, and suddenly became very upset. I reflexively put my hand on her hand to comfort her, and it was as if I’d given her an electric shock. I immediately withdrew my hand, unsure what to do.

When the body has experienced something which makes it feel radically unsafe, two responses to touch are common: startle and freeze.

It seemed obvious to me when I started out in this work that, in Bodywork, the key to untangling the trauma was to re-empower the body, to give it agency again. So, I would agree with the client exactly what we were going to do, maintain constant dialogue, tell the client what I was going to do before I did it, ( and then, not to do it without specific consent), be very aware if the client was going to zone out, and so on.

I don’t think that working in this way is wrong, but I think it’s incomplete, because it places insufficient weight on relationship and active autonomy: the client doesn’t just need to reduce the grip of historically based fear, they need to actualise their capacity for active relationship and joy. There’s a difference between the body feeling safe and the body feeling pleasure, joy and connection. The first is necessary for the second, but not sufficient. I think I thought that if the body is free from fear, it will find its own way to joy, but I now think that isn’t necessarily so.

To this end, I’ve been working in a much more flexible, client-led, experimental way, enabling the client to decide when there’s contact and when there isn’t, and the form which that contact will take.

For example, the client might want to embrace, but feel anxious about what sort of touch they will receive. A way round this is to allow the client to lead the touch, and for the practitioner simply to mirror that, at first in the physical movements and then, as confidence builds, in the intent which informs the touch. The client is always in control, and can decide when they’ve had enough.

One client said to me that I was a surrogate. She didn’t mean that I was a sexual surrogate, because I don’t have sex with clients or engage in sexual acts with them, but rather, in one of my modes of working,  I use my body and my intent for the benefit of the client. So, where a client’s body has been traumatised in an experience where they had no power, perhaps involving a man, that trauma can be gradually unravelled by an empowered and autonomous connection with me, and then the body, because it’s safe, can gradually feel pleasure and connection.

This is still quite a new approach for me, and I’ll write further on it in due course.