What do we really want sexually?  Imagine that we lived in a society where you could have sex with anyone, but conversation was strictly circumscribed.  You could only have conversations with your beloved.  The rest of social communication is conducted through some kind of bleep technology.  Imagine the sort of conversations that could come up:

 

“I thought you were just going to have sex with Doris.  I felt betrayed when I found out you were discussing French literature.  What’s wrong with my French literature?   I did night school classes on Proust. Bastard.”

 

Imagine further that in this society, instead of sex workers, there are conversation workers, who you have to make clandestine meetings in order to have a good talk.

 

What sort of conversations would you pay for?  Would you pay to have your views affirmed, your jokes laughed at, your vocabulary favourably compared to your wittiest friends?

 

I think not.

 

My guess is that you would want to pay for a real conversation.  Not a safe and habitual conversation but one that has risk and uncertainty so that there is some new stimulation. Talking that would allow both seduction and rejection to be possible. Having a conversation that gives you success or failure.  Wouldn’t that be more interesting?

 

So turning to our world, what do people want when they buy sexual services?

 

Kant defined marriage as a contract for the reciprocal use of the other’s genitals, and in the common understanding of sexual services, the genitals and the wallet are in one place, as it were.  But the actual experience is generally joyless and dispiriting.  You know the other person is pretending.  You know it’s not real.  It’s pretend real.

 

Is that what we really want?

 

My dear friend Ali Grace thinks not, and to test it out, she has recently started offering a tantric escort service.  The idea is that initially you pay to meet up over lunch.  No sex is on offer, but you can agree certain other things.  It’s a kind of audition.  If she likes you, you take it from there.  There’s no promise of anything.  It all depends how you get on.

 

So far, it seems to be working very well, and I think she’s on to something, because she’s offering something both real and relational.  It’s fun and flirty, and as she’s a brilliant conversationalist, discussions can dip and soar like an exultation of swallows.

 

Her work is very different from ours in content and form, but both are rooted in actually meeting the other.  With her, the primary thing is excitement, and with us, it’s probably devotional love.

 

Different kinds of conversations: but both equally real.

Whenever I come back from a meditation retreat, people will dutifully tell me that I look much better, much more relaxed.  Not having done it, they imagine mediation calms the mind, and makes you peaceful and serene. They probably imagine too that you learn techniques to quiet and empty the mind.

 

Ideas like this make it difficult for people to persist with meditation, because the reality is so different.  Frequently it is an experience of an endless cascade of repetitive nonsense.  People don’t understand that what we require to do is move the nonsense from the centre of our attention; we don’t have to get rid of it.  We need to understand how deluded we are, not to become enlightened, but to be  more responsive, flexible and open. And to move the nonsense from the centre, we need to become more embodied.  That is why there’s such an emphasis on breath and posture.

 

On the face of it tantra seems the polar opposite of meditation. People imagine it is about lots of techniques for having great sex.  And they assume tantra retreats are a way of having a lot of sex with a lot of people.

 

And it’s true that tantra teaches us to be more embodied, and opens us up to more possibilities for pleasure, but to me, what a tantra group experience is primarily about bringing all our suppressed matters out into the open, in an accelerated way.  If we’ve just had a lovely experience with someone, the ego can’t normally just let that experience be, with gratitude. No, instead all our patterns of attachment come into play. We want to be with that person again. We get jealous and envious. We make all sorts of stories.

 

But suddenly we can catch ourselves caught up in our mind and missing the moment. It is just like in meditation, when you realize that you’ve spent the last fifteen minutes idly thinking and dreaming about something or another.

 

So, although they might look very different, meditation and tantra are very similar.  Of course, individual work with a practitioner is different from group work, as you don’t have the added the fuel of other people inputs and interactions.   But in both cases the general direction is still to loosen the grip of thoughts and to become more embodied.  In this way  you can be in the felt and embodied experience of your life right now, rather than staying stuck in the nonsense.

The Wheel Of Consent is the invention of the legendary Dr Betty Martin. It deconstructs our habitual sexual behaviours in order to make them conscious and to reassemble them in a form more conducive to our growth and happiness.

 

The most controversial part of the wheel of consent is the ‘Taking’ aspect. In that mode, we are primarily interested in our own curiosity, desire and interest. We don’t have to look after our partner, and our partner doesn’t have to look after us. It’s consensual so obviously if I want to do something, I have to ask you. Unless you actively want to allow this, you say no, and nothing happens. If I want to stroke your face and ask you if I can, if you feel no energy for that you just say no. Then I need to ask you for something else until you do feel a yes.

 

But the reactions people have when we introduce this approach are extraordinary. You would imagine that Takers are molesters, rapists or monsters! But when you point out that the whole point of the Wheel of Consent is that it’s about consent, that doesn’t change the objections at all. “It’s selfish” people will say. But is that true?

 

A number of ideas are wrapped up in that judgment.

 

Firstly is the idea that we are beastly, and left to our own devices, we will just want more and more extreme things. “Yes, I know it’s consent but even so…”  In my experience it just isn’t true that people demand more and more extreme or unpleasant requests.

 

Second is the idea that it’s oppressive to women. We will be just like our male Victorian ancestors, coming back from the pub with a skinful, clambering in an entitled kind of way onto our luckless wife, left only to think of England, or, to bring it up to date, possibly the government’s Brexit policy. Yes, you say, but we take turns. Even so…

 

Third is the idea that if we men aren’t to be chauvinist brutes of yore, we need to be consensual in our approach to pleasure. But, of course, that’s a weasel word. We really mean contractual. You scratch my back – or some other part – and I’ll scratch yours. And if one of us defaults, the other will be irate. It is like two misers giving each other £5 for Christmas. Is that the best we can do?

 

This idea of equal exchange, like a business transaction, is the spectre at the feast. It chills and deadens everything.

 

Explicit taking is powerful in that it banishes more insidious forms of behaviour.

 

One of these is fake giving. Fake in two senses. Firstly, I am giving you something that I think you want, or should want. Second, that because I am giving, you are contractually obliged to respond. Because I deign to give you unsolicited oral sex, you are under a duty to moan. And if you don’t moan, I will.

 

Another is the idea that my partner is a mind reader. My partner should know exactly how to pleasure me, without me offering any guidance, and when my partner fails in his or her responsibilities, I am entitled to feel irate.

 

I’ll be exploring these issues further at The Wheel Of Retreat Introductory Workshop at The Wee Retreat on 16 November.

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, worse still, 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  where our ‘servant’ seems most uncooperative is usually our genitals. They often resolutely won’t do what we wish or expect them to do.

 

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

 

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 and love. But also, more prosaically, if the touch we experience from ourselves or others is only given with the intention of arousal, then our experience is incomplete.

 

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, and just keep going with much the same pattern, 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 and tenderness.

 

Every 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.

 

Afterthought:

 

In Sexological Bodywork, we talk about ‘Genital Mapping’. A fellow Sexological Bodyworker, Beck Thom, describes this:

” many of us are disconnected from our genitals for a range of cultural and social reasons, and because of our socialisation and experiences. When you go for a regular body massage, your genitals are diligently ignored. Your mind creates a map of your whole body, it’s sensations and pleasures, with a big gap in the middle where your genitals are! If we mindfully include the genitals, your mind will map this part of your body’s landscape too. Do it over and over, and your mental pleasure map will become richer and more detailed. You’re enhancing your pleasure pathways and making new ones, which can only be a good thing. You deserve to feel yourself as a whole human being”.

One of the clients I found most challenging when I started as a sex coach was a delightful young woman with cerebral palsy.  Let’s call her Rachel.

 

The challenge was threefold.

 

Firstly, there was a change in the normal way of setting up the contract.  I was contacted not by her, but by one of her carers, who sent me an email, as Rachel couldn’t type.  We set up a telephone call with the three of us (I’d normally have met up for a preliminary chat, but Rachel lived in Bolton, and I only visit the NW sporadically), and most of the conversation was with the carer, as Rachel seemed shy.

 

So, that was very unusual.  Normally the contact is just with the client, and it felt weird to have another person involved.

 

Second, because I try my best to be scrupulous about what I offer and what we agree to do each session, I really prefer to meet.  If that isn’t possible, I send a very detailed email outlining what we have discussed and agreed to do in the session.  But here, my correspondent wasn’t my client but her carer, so I was concerned that I would be going into a session without clear agreement.  What if her carer was doing something of her own bat, or was in some other way not acting in good faith?

 

And third, I was painfully aware that I hadn’t worked with a person with disabilities before, and I wouldn’t really know the extent of her disability until we met for our session.

 

In all of this, I was aware that I was reflecting some of the discomfort that our culture has with sex and disability.  The assumptions, often completely unconscious, that we have, include:

 

  • the unexamined idea that people with disabilities don’t have the same sexual needs as the rest of us

 

  • then the related idea that, somehow, the disabled are like children, and so, by extension, anyone like myself seeking to address their sexual needs is akin to a pedophile

 

  • and the strong idea that sexual matters should be private, and natural

 

Having at least some awareness of this reactivity, I tried to keep at the forefront of my mind, that I needed to see the person, not the disability.

 

Rachel had never had a sexual experience with a man, and this is what she wanted to explore.  The people around her were overwhelmingly female. She had a lot of experience of being ‘done to’ but none of receiving pleasure collaboratively and in dialogue.  So I decided that was where we would start.

 

I would have preferred if she had been able to make specific requests for our session, but as she didn’t – or, more probably, couldn’t.  So I structured the session by asking her permission each step of the way.  “Can I touch your face?”  “What does that touch feel like?”  “How could it be better?”  “This is what firmer/softer/slower/faster feels like, which do you prefer?”, and so on.  Sometimes, particularly for women, this dialogue can be annoying, as it can take them out of their felt experience, but here it felt absolutely the right thing to do.

 

It was necessarily slow, and in that slowness, a confident sexual person could gradually emerge.

 

It was a lovely session.

 

Where to go for sex and disability support

 

Rachel contacted me through a colleague in Liverpool who works with the Outsiders Trust (www.outsiders.org.uk).  They do wonderful work for people with disabilities. They offer a Facebook Clubhouse, local meet-ups and lunches, group chats and a Sex and Disability Helpline.  They also offer access to a wide range of therapists and workers in the sexual field.  More power to them!

EBL Hummingbird Events

Tantra teaches us that sex is sacred and that our aliveness as sexual beings is the dynamo that heals the barriers between sex, heart and spirit.

 

Tantric practices open us up to a greater capacity to experience pleasure in all things. They free us to expand emotionally and spiritually. This introductory event is practical and experiential. It introduces techniques that can be applied immediately in everyday life, to enrich our inner lives, our creativity and our relationships.

 

We are hosting another introductory workshop led by our colleague Annabel and will be supporting her through the day.  She is tremendous fun to work with and we are happy that she has agreed to join us again following on from the success of the last  workshop earlier in the year.

 

It will be a safe, playful day to expand our awareness of pleasure and exploring how we negotiate meeting the other. It is a fully clothed. This event is hosted by Every Body Loves, Glasgow. It will be taught by Annabel Newfield, a senior teacher of Shakti Tantra.  More details about this well established tantra school can be viewed at www.shaktitantra.co.uk.

 

June Introductory Tantra Day Details

 

Saturday 10 JUNE 2017 13.00-19.00

Cost £65. Booking is essential. To book and for more information call, text or email John on 07545 707751 dakaoflove@gmail.com

Venue: Body Sense, 22 Mansfield Street, Glasgow G11 5QP (next to Kelvinhall underground and 8 minutes walk from Partick station).

Please bring a snack to share in the break.  We look forward to seeing you there.

I first encountered the jade egg on my very first Tantra weekend workshop many years ago. I became interested in Tantra when I realised that it was a way to harness the force and creativity of my sexuality.  It also values the sacredness of sexual expression and intimacy and connects us with ancient practices that hold hidden wisdom for the development of potency in men and women.  The workshop was an experiential introduction to Taoist approaches that showed me how generate and circulate energy around my body in a powerful way.

 

This centre also sold jade eggs. I had heard about this wonderful ancient practice of using a jade egg within the yoni as a daily practice to enhance muscle tone and stimulate energy, health and juiciness. It seemed too good to be true but here was the proof and I immediately bought one. At the time Mantak Chia’s classic book on female sexuality “Healing Love Through the Tao, Cultivating Female Sexual Energy” was available for me to teach myself but it felt a bit overwhelming to follow this alone.

 

It is not often that we can access a simple focused practice that contributes to our natural stimulation, yoni health and joy in life both by doing our daily practice and in keeping the egg in place throughout the day to continue to support our bodies just by its presence inside us.  Doing the practices arouses, warms and brings healing energy throughout the body.  Then as we end the practice we store the energy we have generated to continue to be available for us.

 

I have often met fellow tantra practitioners  in the UK and especially in the USA who are happy to pop their egg in and let it create it’s beneficial effects during the day without needing to learn more about how to cultivate their energy through focused exercises. But my personal experience has been that knowing how to manipulate my egg and how to visualize and direct the energy for the benefit of my whole body system brings my feminine potency to a much higher level than just inserting the egg and leaving it there.

 

Jade Egg Teachers and Resources

 

Imagine my delight when a deep Taoist teacher of these practices, Saida Desilets, visited the UK and I was able to train in both her standard and advanced classes. She has been the inspiration for my practice for many years and her cd and manual are my bible. Her comprehensive guidance is available at http://saidadesilets.com and it is invaluable.

 

So knowing how much I benefitted from personal tuition I highly recommend Saida Deselits’ resources and it is worth checking out when she may be back in the UK on tour. Uta Demotis was one of my fellow students with Saida who was already a gifted Taoist tantra practitioner at the time and has since gone on to become a Doctor in clinical sexology and much more. Her jade egg manual and jade eggs are very accessible and she offers many services in London. Contact Uta at https://www.manawa.co.uk.

 

Anamata is a Taoist who is deep in the traditions of feminine juiciness and classic Chi Kung. Qigong and Kuan yin. In addition to running foundation and advanced training in jade egg and monthly jade practice circles in London she also offers an annual training in Edinburgh for my Scottish sisters see http://www.jadecircle.co.uk/jadeegg.html.

 

All three of these teachers are radiant, expansive and inviting.  They richly personify the womanly attributes that using the jade egg cultivates in us. It is great to see how these once secret approaches are becoming increasingly available to interested women across the globe. I love spreading the love with these practices and so I am also happy to support anyone in Glasgow and Edinburgh with your jade egg development or with any questions you may have.

In a recent blog, I talked about one way of opening out and revitalizing sexual fantasies, but there are other ways too.

 

One is a technique I learned from a wonderful friend and fellow practitioner in London, called Consensual Non Consent. It’s consensual because you agree boundaries with your partner beforehand, and you agree a safe word. If either of you don’t want to carry on, you say the safe word, and the game ends.

 

You work with a partner, and you take turns to imagine a scenario. In this scenario, one of you, the dominant one, has a sexual intent towards the other, but the other, the submissive one, is not (apparently) aware of it. The scenario is time limited and is relatively short. Ten minutes is a good length. You do this for ten minutes then switch roles.

 

You can imagine the type of thing. It might be a policeman, conducting an interrogation. Or a bossy doctor at a school medical examination. Or a Queen with a bracing sense of entitlement.

 

Adapted, it is a great addition to the possibilities a sex coach can offer.

 

And obviously, if I’m working with a client, we’re working solely with the client’s fantasies.

 

What scenarios would you have? If you were to imagine it for a moment, what would that be?  Would you be the ‘victim’ or the ‘perpetrator’? Would you be interested in trying both sides, or do you definitely prefer one role rather than the other one? What would the atmosphere be like in your scenario?

 

What’s the point?  Well, it’s expanding the field of sexual possibility, obviously, and it’s really helpful for people to get into their sense of playfulness, to lift the dead hand of puritan literalism and to lighten things up.  But the main thing is to try to find where the sexual charge is for you. For some people, it’s in the domination. For other people, it’s in the submission. But usually, it’s not quite as simple as that. What kind of domination works for you? What kind of submission? What feelings are brought out? It’s very illuminating.

 

Kink

 

You can see this kind of thing as an aspect of Kink. For most people, Kink means BDSM, which in turn means visions of ferrety men with bottomless leather trousers, people being spanked or whipped, and so on. For some people, this physical BDSM is fantastic, but for others, it has no charge at all, and seems formulaic and dull.  I’m in the latter camp.  I didn’t realize the field was much wider until I chanced upon Rose and Thorn, run by the wonderful Shakti Tantra, which is a kind of smorgasbord of kink. They give you a taster of everything.  I was unmoved by all the spanky stuff, but I really loved fantasy and role-play.  It was so sexy and such fun.

 

We are often stuck with one particular perspective with our sexuality.  A dominant attitude at the present time is for us is to think of sex as recreational.  So if we are given another perspective, say that sex can be devotional or spiritual, we might think that risible. But if we are just trapped at one or two points on the wheel of sexuality, it becomes boring and repetitive.  I’ll write more about the wheel of sexuality in due course.

Most people have one or two sexual fantasies, which they use when self-pleasuring. But just as the physical aspect of self-pleasuring can get repetitive and stale, the fantasy can too. Also both the physical and the fantasy elements can get very shortened and brief. Our mind moves quickly to what ‘works’ so something that should be leisurely and delicious often turns out to be rather a damp squib!

 

We often acquire these fantasies out of an experience in early childhood.  Mine is a medical one, acquired through a close encounter with an obese female chain-smoking doctor, who was fond of corgis. Best not to ask.

 

Anyway, what can we do when these fantasies go stale? Well, as you might well imagine, there are at least a couple or approaches.

 

The first is to have the fantasy re-created by someone else, in an embodied way.

 

Let me explain:

 

Say that your fantasy involves coming into contact with a group of building workers, and naughty things ensue. But after a lot of use, the fantasy doesn’t work quite as it should. You don’t get very excited. You immediately go to the [as it were] punch line. You find yourself bored.

 

There are two aspects to the fantasy.  One is the narrative of the story. The other is the atmosphere or the feeling aspect that the narrative is trying to convey.  This is where the real meaning is found. So the same story could have completely different feelings behind it for different people. For one person, the feeling could be coercion. For someone else, it might be pleasurable release.  And for a third person something entirely different could come up.

 

A sex coach works can work with you to get both of these aspects working better.  You can really understand what excites you.  Then the coach can re-create the fantasy as a sort of narrative film. You would lie down, and the coach would re-create the world of your fantasy, telling it to you. You would probably have your eyes closed, or be blindfolded. The fact that it is someone else speaking your story and telling it in a panoramic way, opens up lots of hidden or overlooked possibilities in the story.  This can revitalize your fantasy for you. It makes it fresh again.

 

And also [depending on your agreement with your coach], the story can be accompanied by sensual touch, so the fantasy is re-rooted back into your body from where it came in the first place.  So there is an erotic feedback between the eroticism of your body and the eroticism of the story.

 

It is an extraordinary thing to experience.  It makes something that was internal and mental into something that is also shared and embodied.

 

There are other ways to work with sexual fantasy and I’ll write about them in a subsequent blog.

Do you know this story?  Life has been a bit frantic recently and it feels like its time to give your relationship a boost.  You find some precious time that you can both get together and you make that special little effort.  Perhaps it’s clean sheets or a candle or some special music.  Time is ticking away as you sort out the details but finally there you both are, in the same place, at the same time, with the same intention to really enjoy your intimacy.

 

As you snuggle down together your expectations are high and you have no intention of being interrupted by the phone ringing or anything else.  You reach out to meet each other but something’s wrong.  One or other of you is not really feeling it.  What to do now?  Try to relax?  Ask for something different?  Or grit your teeth and ‘give’ your partner a good time assuming that they won’t notice that you aren’t really all there?

 

This situation occurs for many of us with alarming frequency.  And it can feel not only disappointing but also like our sexual chemistry with our partner is being lost.  But often this may not be the cause for alarm that it feels like at the time.  It’s worth remembering a simple truth that many of us already know: the body remembers.

The Body Remembers

 

Our bodies respond like children do to appreciation and gratitude from our selves as well as our partners.  The body also lives very much in the moment.  So in this moment there may be tension arising and wanting to be released from things that have happened earlier in the day.  Or there may have been times when this body has been touched in ways that irritate or distress it.  Now something in the present touch is recalling that previous distress and those feelings are rising to the surface right now.  Don’t worry this is normal.

 

What a luxury it is when we can share what is coming up for us without blaming our partner but just say what is true right now.  Or even just acknowledge that something needs to change in how we are interacting together to allow this body to relax.

 

When I am unexpectedly prickly and uncomfortable with my partner it has been great learning for me to trust my body and allow myself to be given the space to soften.  I really appreciate hime for the generosity of just being accepted as I am in that moment.  Perhaps our intention that evening needs to change but the intimacy that we give each other by acknowledging our true feelings is priceless.  It builds the basis for deeper loving when we allow these challenging emotions and sensations to be valid.  And by accepting these feelings something changes between us leaving us free to really respond to each other.