John and I were recently reflecting on sexuality and fertility.  One of John’s friends is an acupuncturist, and she told him 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.

 

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 is there to protect the vagina when the baby’s coming out, with the same pleasure response. And it doesn’t seem a big leap to suggest that pleasure, far from being a side effect is, thankfully, central.

As I was reflecting on my breast massage practice this morning I found myself remembering my childhood.  I was lucky enough to grow up in a household where inquiring minds were welcome.  “The Joy of Sex” sat on the bookshelf with all the other books and I could dip into that as much as into the French novels I enjoyed as a teenager.

 

A teacher lent me “Nana” by Balzac after checking that the subject matter (a devastating prostitute dies a horrible death from small pox after being the ruin of many men) was acceptable to my parents.  It was. Another family friend gave me “Querelle of Brest” at 13.  As I read with surprise about the robust gay lifestyles of French sailors, I kept an eye out for parental outrage.  Did they know what I was reading?  Apparently it was fine too.

 

Did this accepting approach to human sexuality as a natural part of life mean I didn’t have any challenges in expressing my sexuality exactly as I wished to do.  No it didn’t.  It meant I trusting was enough to start with little guilt or misinformation.  But nobody shows us how to be everything we can be.  Nor how to negotiate our partners and lovers when they bring their baggage into the bedroom!

 

Connecting with the sensuality of my own body

 

Much of my interest in Goddess archetypes has been to connect with the abundant and lush nature of being a woman because I have sometimes felt this hard to find as a professional woman.  In Tantra we describe this as being ‘juicy’.

 

Taoists have discovered over thousands of years how to cultivate our bodies as woman for our health, wellbeing and aliveness.  Like western medicine, they have applied a rigorous attention to detail to find out what works over and over again and so can be relied upon to support us.

 

One of the easiest ways for me to connect with my juicy femininity is to start the day with a breast massage.  Our lovers love our breasts and of course this makes sense, they are direct extensions of our heart.  But how often do we stop and appreciate our hearts and our bodies directly through contact with our breasts with no expectations?  Connecting with the sensuality of my own body in the morning is a great way to stay centred in my femininity for the rest of the day.  Even five minutes is enough to remember the woman that I am.

 

Feminine First, as we Goddess admirers say.

Lots of people think that erotic touch needs to be high energy. If a lot of sexual charge 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 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 amongst 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, and telling herself she was “numb” closed off any enquiry. 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 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.

Real Tantric Massage

 

One of my friends worked in the sex industry for a while, and she once gave me the menu for the place where she worked. It was very specific. It went something like:

Massage £x

Topless Massage £x + a

Nude Massage £x + b

 

And so on. If the same place is still in business, it will probably be offering “Tantric Massage”, and what it means by that is that the [male] customer will get a cursory massage, focused on his genitals which ends with a happy ending; ejaculation. The [female] practitioner will probably be naked.

 

In this context, ‘Tantra’ simply means ‘pricier’, but essentially it’s still the same as the purchase of a sexual service has always been: The customer pays for a familiar experience, and [hopefully] gets that experience.

 

And that’s absolutely ok, but it’s a pity, because it’s a travesty of what real tantric massage is, and it’s one of the reasons why we don’t use the term; whilst we do genital and anal massage [although we remain clothed], we come from a different position, a position of love, expansion and shared exploration.

 

We’re not offering to give you what you already know: we’re offering to help you open up to what you don’t know: that’s the difference. And it’s a big difference.

 

So if you want something familiar, we’re not the ones for you. But if you want to explore and expand…

 

Hello

When I was doing the Sexological bodywork training, one of the other trainees, Michael, talked to me about porn addiction.

 

He said that a lot of younger men have become completely immersed in porn, and it was affecting them sexually. Specifically, they found it hard to have sex when it wasn’t pornified, and they would find sex boring. The consequence was that impotence, low libido and so on had gone from being a problem of older men to an epidemic amongst younger men. He was interested in Sexological bodywork, because it was about becoming more embodied, and less reliant on fantasy.

 

Disembodiment

 

Anyway, since starting practice, I’ve learnt that Michael is right: it is a widespread problem. And without getting too philosophical about it, it does seem to be part of a more general disembodiment in our culture that’s getting worse. When I would come home on the bus as a kid, everyone was rioting, fighting and destroying the seat fabric. Now, it’s as quiet as can be, because everyone is on their phones. You hear of some young men in Japan that don’t go out at all, they just stay at home watching porn.

 

In my other identity as a meditation teacher, I find this disembodiment too. People seem to think, not that they are a body, but that they have a body, and that it is a distant and unreliable servant.

 

And applying it to sex, it’s a disaster. The one adult chance for adult joyful play and connection is being played out to a sort of script. We are not interested in what we do, we’re interested in what we ought to do. We’re not interested in what we feel. We’re interested in what we ought to feel, and anxious that we’re not feeling it.

 

It’s a big problem.

 

Karen and I recently did a Tantra course at Tao Gardens in Thailand. This is a Taoist centre just outside the town of Chiang Mai, in north west Thailand. It was set up by Mantak Chia about 10 years ago. The course was taught by him, teaching the taoist approach to sexuality and by Karen’s tantra teacher Charles Muir, who’s based in California. Master Chia is unusual amongst Taoist Masters as, although sexual energy is fundamental to taoism, it’s hardly ever talked about explicitly. He has written ‘Multi Orgasmic Man’, amongst a vast range of books. He’s nearly 72, but has incredible vigour and youth.

 

One of the things Charles taught us was Sacred Spot massage. In women, the sacred spot is the g spot. In men, the sacred spot is near the entrance to the anus. It feels different from the prostrate being massaged. The male sacred spot is connected with what’s called ‘the million dollar point’, which is the point you need to press if you want to inhibit ejaculation.

 

Being receptive

 

This sort of experience is wonderful for men, because it teaches them to be receptive, and teaches them about diverse pleasures other than ejaculatory orgasm.

 

However, what I found altered my perspective was something else he taught: soft cock entry. The funny thing was, he didn’t really teach us anything, he just opened it up as a possibility. Essentially, if the man and woman lie in a particular position, and they use lubrication, the woman can- to be inelegant, “quelle horreur!” place the man’s cock inside her, and it can just rest there.

 

And of course, once it’s there, it can feel all the female energy, and may well become bigger, but that isn’t really the point. It’s to get us out of a perspective where we think that a hard cock is a prerequisite to entry. It isn’t. And once we realize that, everything else changes too. Intercourse, for men, can be about receiving rather than doing, about simply experiencing. And it can also make us much more aware of the exchange of energy between the man and woman.

 

It changes everything.

EBL Hummingbird Events

Women’s Embodied Sexuality Group, Glasgow, 28 January 2016

 

What does it mean to be truly embodied as sexual beings and as women?

What can a male coach’s reflections add to our understanding of the dynamics between men and women?

At what stage of sexual expression are you at in your life at present?

What hopes, dreams and fantasies would you like to make more real in your life?

How can other women sharing their views deepen our own understanding of our sexuality in our relationships?

What would just make our lives more fun?

Come and share laughter, wisdom, life experience and new ideas and theories with like minded women in this lively forum.

When: Thursdays 7.30- 9.30 from 28 January 2016

Duration: Fortnightly for 6 sessions

Where: Glasgow, West End

Cost: Free/donation

Booking: email to book a place. 12 places maximum.

Learning with love and sex coaching takes many directions

Many of us are interested in increasing our sexual desire and learning to please our partner more.  Shouldn’t this just be easy and fun, and be a positive change, you would think so wouldn’t you?

Going through from Glasgow to Edinburgh at 6.00 on Saturday morning I am struck by my reaction to getting a new car that would save me money and support me in developing a new practice that I love.  It is dismay!  I had grown used to being carried into town and home again by the train driver.  All I had to do was turn up and I could sleep on early and late journeys and study and reflect during the rest.

Now I would have to concentrate on working out new controls and navigate the whole journey.  I would have to avoid bad drivers, make calculations about extra time for bad weather and road works.  I would be sitting in traffic jams and trying to avoid those pesky traffic cameras.  All this seemed like stress and anxiety to me!  I didn’t know the route in and I missed my comfy old executive saloon car with the roomy boot!  So I drove in the first few times at the maximum speed limit, hands clenching the steering wheel hard when I hit difficult situations and road conditions.

A month later I marvel at all the self-induced stress.   My response to the new is rather perfectionist.  How do I do it right?  What problems could come up that I can avoid or be prepared for by planning in advance?  How can I make this new situation work best for me?  Like many people my approach to the new is not the childish glee of a child with a new toy but starts with adult worry.

Relaxing and reconnecting

When it comes to changing our sex and love lives we can interrupt those habits of stressing when trying something new. It can be as simple as relaxing and reconnecting with the original nature of our bodies. Taking this approach gives opportunities to find easy and enjoyable ways to learn new things that you can practice at home and in your relationships.

John’s attitude to driving a new car is exactly opposite to mine and reflects a large part of the dynamics of our relationship.  He just rolls up and drives off gloriously oblivious of anything that could go wrong.  And we both get there!! Each of us can be impervious to the other’s good driving points and loudly indignant if our partner ‘helpfully’ suggests any driving hints (or forgets to help when navigating in John’s case!)  How we navigate these differences is what gives surprise, challenge, energy and sometimes joy to our partnership.

The joys of sailing

Still driving, I started to wonder what type of car would describe my sex life and to see how it has varied over the years from a low-slung speedy roadster to a regal Bentley and all points in between.  I have discovered the joys of sailing along at only 60 mph on the motorway.  Then my mind can be happily engaged with things of interest rather than on overtaking and the racer tailgating me in the outside lane.  I have found that in an older model I can turn off and go down side roads where I will see new landscape and arrive in a different frame of mind.  And when I’m feeling wicked I don’t need to worry about the paintwork so much when I am making a cheeky manoeuvre!

When an Aston Martin was my dream car I couldn’t image many other choices.  Happily, every make and model of car has its surprises and detours and as I navigate the different stages of my life, energy and interests I appreciate the slow as well as the fast.

So I wonder, what sort of car would best describe your sex life right now and what type of journeys do you usually take?  What would you change if you could be a different model and what type of roads and scenery would you enjoy in your life if you had the choice?  Maybe you do.

Image: Paul Bica Nature’s Painting (Flickr) 

Why choose sex coaching?

Why do people choose sex coaching to support their relationships? It may not be what you think. In our experience people often decide to explore their sex lives because they find they are dissatisfied or uncomfortable with an area of their life that they value. But for others it is just because they want more fun and play and new ideas.

Many people, like the two of us, go through different phases in their sex lives. Like all aspects of life there can be highs, lows and sometimes, just indifference! Life shifts like the pressures of a new baby, challenging work. Even weight gain and loss can change our feelings about our bodies and how much time and energy we have to give to them.

Reduce suffering in our lives through our bodies

Shouldn’t sex enhance our relationships? We are born with this capacity for pleasure and erotic tenderness and yet how often it can just feel out of reach. For John and me, the easiest place to reduce suffering in our lives is through our bodies. Our experience is that the body is the only place where life is actually lived, not in the imaginings of our minds. Because our bodies are our own, they are one place where we can choose to make changes that have an immediate impact.

We feel passionate about the simple routes to pleasure that can be opened up with appreciation and acceptance, of our own bodies and of our partners’. Our agenda is to support people who want to be free of assumptions and expectations of what sex ‘ought’ to feel like or ‘should’ accomplish. Instead of what you think is happening, what is happening? How can you shift your attention to expand your connection and pleasure?

Noticing feeling

So often people come to us with unrealistic beliefs that everyone else is enjoying an incredible sexual relationship that is being denied to them. Sometimes this is due to lack of confidence in their skills or way of communicating. At other times it is due to past experiences, physical issues or habits that undermine their pleasure. Often though, people seem to have wildly inflated assumptions about what ‘normal’ standards of sexual relating must be. Instead of noticing what feeling is available to them people are focused on what is not apparently happening. This way lies misery!

So a good starting place for exploring sexual relating is by focusing on the body’s sensations. Healthy sexual relationship is not about changing our minds but changing our experiences by paying attention to our bodies. If this sounds true to you why not take 5 minutes every day to really listen to your body. It could be in the bath or shower or slowing down to feel the air on your skin during a walk. Just starting to pay attention to your body can pay dividends down the line when you want to feel more satisfaction in intimate moments.