I was recently reflecting on sexuality and fertility.  One of my friends is an acupuncturist, and she told me that increasing numbers of women were coming to her with fertility issues.  One way she treats them is to increase their receptivity and their heart connection.  She imagined that couples trying to conceive thought of intercourse as a means to an end, a necessity, rather than the theatre of glorious pleasure. She thought if I could work with these clients, they could re-learn to receive, to feel, to experience, and not be so caught up in the goal of conception. And that would help them conceive. And it did.

 

Another friend is a student midwife. She wants to write a dissertation about sexual arousal while giving birth, but finds that the literature is silent on it.

 

A third friend is a physiotherapist working in the NHS. Her speciality is working with women who have problems with their pelvic floor. She can touch the women, obviously, but is absolutely forbidden to talk about pleasure.

 

This division and ‘scientific’ approach is all very weird, because pleasure, anatomy, conception and birth are all intimately connected.

 

Why?

 

Because pleasure is the proof of our bodies – of ourselves – working properly. Pain, or numbness, is what happens when there’s something wrong. It’s simple.

 

The erectile tissue in the vagina that becomes engorged during sexual pleasure has a function. It protects the vagina during intercourse. It seems pretty obvious that the same erectile tissue which is there to protect the vagina when the baby’s coming out, is the same tissue which during intercourse, produces the pleasure response.

It doesn’t seem a big leap to suggest that pleasure, far from being a side effect is, thankfully, central. It’s part of our joy in being alive. But if we’re stressed and our body is tense, which is where most of us habitually are, then we won’t feel this normal natural bodily pleasure: we’ll either feel nothing at all, or pain.

My work is about restoring your natural capacity for easy bodily pleasure. I believe that pleasure makes our bodies work as they should. And that includes fertility.

Lots of people think that erotic touch needs to be high energy. If a lot of sexual energy isn’t flowing, so goes the idea, then the touch isn’t working. I don’t think that’s true, and actually I would argue it’s positively harmful.

 

I say this because if you scratch beneath the surface of this idea, we find the further idea that our sexuality can be explained in a primarily energetic on/off button kind of way. If I stroke your face, you might feel all sorts of things: energetic, emotional, connective. But somehow that doesn’t apply to the genitals, which are thought of in quite a functional way: are they “working” or not? We then think of our sexuality as something separate from us: our genitals are like a slave that we can order about. But sometimes, the slave will protest.

 

I have thought about this when working with clients who have reported feelings of genital numbness. This seems quite widespread, particularly among women, and I think it’s misunderstood.

 

I don’t think that numbness means that the body isn’t working properly and needs fixing. Through working with a number of women, I’ve come to the view that numbness is the body’s response to being touched in a way it doesn’t like. And the solution is to work with the client to uncover the feelings underneath the numbness, and allow those feelings to be expressed.

 

Learning to feel again

 

One client felt that she was quite constricted, and when she had attempted sex, it had been painful. She felt both numb, and anxious about sex.

 

We agreed to focus on very soft, gentle touch. We agreed where and how she would be touched, so there would be no surprises. And we agreed to stay in dialogue throughout: she would tell me what she was feeling from moment to moment. This was a very slow process, as you might imagine, but as we carried on, it became clear to the client that she did have sensation, that she wasn’t numb in the physical sense at all, but that she was emotionally indifferent to the sensation she was feeling. Telling herself she was “numb” closed off any inquiry. Realizing this, she remembered that she would always feel anxious at the prospect of being penetrated.

 

Another client, who also reported feeling numb, when we worked together, again in the same slow way, actually experienced physical discomfort, then irritation, then both gradually disappeared. Her body’s reaction to touch it didn’t like had been expressed, and so didn’t need to stay, covered over by “numbness”.

 

We all came into the world with a love to be touched. But when we’re touched in a way we don’t like, there’s a reaction, and that reaction can get stuck in our bodies. To return to the analogy of the slave, if she can express herself, and be heard, and discover what she loves, then everything changes.