If you Google anything to do with couples, you’re very likely to get Relate. They must spend a fortune on Internet advertising.

 

What you’re very likely to get at Relate is exercises in sensate focus. You may be encouraged to engage in some sensual activity with your partner – massage for example. And the idea is that you completely concentrate on what you’re doing and feeling, you don’t fret about whether or not you’re going to have sex. You just try and bring yourself back into your actual body experience.

 

The problem is, it often tends not to work. Couples often aren’t very interested in doing the exercises, and assume there’s nothing else that can be done for them.

 

We have a different approach.

 

Firstly, we think that over time, couples tend to get into a bit of a tangle. They tend to want to try and please each other. They aren’t in the habit of having conversations about what they want or like, and they very often confuse giving and taking.

 

Desire can be clearly explored

 

We work so that desire can be clearly explored and then spoken about, because that’s the starting point. What you would like to do? What you would like to have done to you?

 

Second, we think that couples need to rediscover themselves as sexual and sensual beings. So exploring your senses is a good place to start. But if you start with your partner, it’s difficult to be aware of what you feel, because your concerns and anxieties about your relationship tend to overwhelm what your body is feeling.

 

For both of these reasons, we will often start our work with couples with us giving erotic massage, as you can then become familiar with your pleasure again – people often don’t know and can’t say what they want – and then move onto untangling the intimate language of the relationship: how to give, how to receive, how to express what you want, how to say yes and no, and so on.

 

Couples who love each other, but who have got into a bit of a block and want to address that: you are our ideal clients.

In coital alignment technique, the man lies on top of the woman, but moves upward along her body, until the upper side of his erection is pressing against the clitoris. Instead of the thrusting of the missionary position, there’s a kind of rocking. Movement is focused on the pelvises. There’s no leverage from the arms or legs. The man’s weight is mostly on the woman, rather than resting on his arms. The woman leads the upward stroke and the man leads the downward stroke.

 

The technique is now about 30 years old, and there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that it’s a significant improvement for women’s sexual experience. But I fret that it fits into a set of assumptions that don’t serve any of us – men or women – well.

 

The principle assumption of course is that woman’s sexuality is just like men’s, and if only that pesky clitoris could be engaged, then women would enjoy sexual intercourse as much as men. The secondary assumption is that what men want from sex is the build up of erotic energy and subsequent orgasmic release.

 

Fostering intimacy

 

What if the first assumption was true, but the second assumption was false?

 

What if the reason why coital alignment technique “works’ is that it fosters intimacy? The giveaway is that there’s lots of skin contact, and it’s very yin. In fact, it’s a bit like a horizontal version of the tantric practice of Yap Yum.

 

Isn’t there a risk that we’re constantly making better versions of the same car, but it still takes us to a place that isn’t quite where we want to go?

 

The legendary Betty Martin is visiting Britain this Summer. Karen and I will attend one of her trainings, in June, organised by The Sea School of Embodiment.

 

So, this post is the ‘before’.

 

Betty is best known for The Wheel of Consent where she outlines the four kinds of touch.  She’s generously put a lot of material on You Tube, and the reason why it’s so good is that you think ‘that’s right!’ and ‘that’s simple’. Of course, it isn’t simple. She makes it appear so because she’s a brilliant teacher.

 

Two pairs of the wheel creates four kinds of touch

 

The Wheel of Consent is composed of two pairs, which can be named as giving/ receiving and taking/allowing.

 

An illustration will help. Suppose your lover starts doing something. Stroking you, for example. You haven’t asked for it, but it’s ok. in due course, your partner says “well, I have been giving you all this touch, now I want you to give something to me”. You are furious. And you say “You weren’t giving, you were taking! And now you want to pretend it was giving so you can take even more!”. An argument ensues. The ‘giver’ is offended. The ‘receiver’ is indignant.

 

In Betty’s terms, it’s only giving when it’s asked for. Otherwise it’s taking. Taking isn’t bad, but we need to own it.

 

If we can get clear about these four kinds of touch, then a lot of difficulty can be avoided. But when we reflect on it, we can see that we mix them up repeatedly. Take oral sex for example. Your partner asks you to lick her. But neither of you stay in the giver/receiver mode. You expect her to show her arousal and appreciation. She feels obliged to reassure you how much she’s enjoying the experience, rather than just receiving it. It’s messy, and produces a lot of unnecessary pain.

 

Amrita or sacred nectar is the yoni’s response to pleasure. When I first found this experience many people claimed that this was not a ‘real’ experience. Perhaps women were really urinating. How could there be female ejaculation if doctors’ did not know about it. Now, with further examination there is clear bio-chemical evidence about the different nature of female ejaculation. But a new challenge now faces women.

 

With the porn industry over-emphasizing the most intense experiences as ‘gushing’ and ‘squirting’ women (and men) often feel under pressure to see women release large amounts of liquid to prove that their love-making has been ‘successful’. For some women this is natural and easy. For others it may not even feel right or necessary for their bodies. And many, many women are just in between those two extremes.

 

The sensation of amrita

 

As so often with the female body, there are a wide range of subtle experiences that are not shouted about or even recognized in public where women enjoy deep satisfaction without a big display. Many women have experienced amrita and do not even recognize it as it may seem to be part of the general experience. Often the sensation of amrita starting to flow can be confused with the sensation of wanting to pee, even though it is coming from a different but close part of the anatomy. Sadly many women will have had negative experiences of being accused of peeing by their partners when this special response gift has been understood in the past. Or we may stop the flow by tightening up against ‘peeing’ that also stops the flow of Amrita.

 

So for women who are curious about experiencing their female ejaculation more deeply there is one very important rule. Go to the toilet before you start your love-making. And if you are anxious about ‘accidents’ have a good towel ready to place under yourself. Then the trick is to relax and let the sensations that may feel unusual really let go. In doing this you have the opportunity to allow more of you body’s marvelous system to show you what is possible when you trust and feel without expectations and demands.

I saw a client the other day for a tantric massage, which included some anal massage work. When she had got dressed afterwards, she told me that when she was tightening her trouser belt, she realised that her belt tightened 2 notches more than it had that morning. She attributed this to the effect of our work. And speculated how much tension must have been holding in her pelvis and stomach, which had been released.

 

If you mention anal massage, you’re likely to be met with silence, or embarrassed humour, and I think the reasons for this, which are most probably unexamined are:

 

-the anus is dirty

-interest in the anus is perverted

-anal touch is painful

 

None of this is true.

 

One of the innovations of sexological bodywork is working with the anus. And there’s at least 2 very distinct benefits: regulation of the nervous system, and pleasure.

 

For sexological bodyworkers, direct touching of the anal sphincters is one of the few ways to get direct access to the nervous system. And it acts as a major down-regulator (relaxant). If someone is very stressed, relaxation of these sphincters has a major effect on the level of tension they feel in their bodies. Indeed, people very often fall into a deep sleep.

 

Landscape of different sensations

 

So far as pleasure is concerned, there are a phenomenal amount of nerve endings in the anus. More than almost any other area of the body. Because of this, the anus is an extraordinary landscape of different sensations. Move the finger a tiny amount, and the sensation is entirely different. And it very often comes with a huge and liberating emotional charge too.

So there’s an irony: delicate, thoughtful and minuscule touching around the entrance of the anus is exquisitely pleasurable, and also emotionally very moving. It takes us back to our youngest self. Yet when people think of anal pleasure, they tend to think of anal sex, which often is far from pleasurable, indeed often painful, due to people’s selfishness and ignorance. But I don’t think this is an accident: one of the curses of patriarchy is that it bifurcates our pleasure giving organs artificially into Male and Female. And because we all have anuses, our common humanity is kept at bay by thinking of the anus only in terms of penetration.

 

In the introduction to the 4th edition of his groundbreaking ‘Anal Pleasure & Health, the late Jack Morin noted:

 

“It was never one of my career goals to be known as ‘Dr Anal’, as I am in some circles.  Although I’ve accepted the nickname as a playful compliment, it’s only been during the last decade that my embarrassment has faded away completely. Like almost everyone else, my earliest attitudes toward the anal area were shaped -warped, more accurately – by the incredibly powerful anal taboo. Obediently, I thought about it as little as possible. The vast network of nerves that makes this area so sensitive was, for all practical purposes, out of commission. Once, when I was obviously upset, a perceptive therapist asked what I was feeling in my anus. The revealing answer was “Absolutely nothing”.

Please read his book. It clears up so many misconceptions.

So how would a session potentially including anal touch work? Well, firstly we would agree the boundaries for what I would do, which I would not go beyond. Second, we would start with a long, slow, relaxing and connecting whole body massage, accompanied by suitable music, which would enable you to completely attend, without worry, to what you were actually experiencing, to drop into a slightly trance like state, where you are very awake yet very relaxed, just attending to what you are feeling, and the outside world can drop away. When it comes to contact with the anus, it’s really important to be led by the body, and not to force anything, or proceed along a prearranged plan. What you want next should always be the result of what your body is feeling now, and where it wants to go next. And perhaps I should stop there, because there isn’t a standard way to experience this, only the unique way of each person, but if you want to know more, please get in touch.

If you’re interested but aren’t geographically able to work with me, please see my links page. This predominantly covers the U.K. only, so if you are further afield, you might want to try:

The Worldwide Association of Certified Sexological Bodyworkers

http://www.sexologicalbodyworkers.org

The World Association Of Sex Coaches

http://www.worldassociationofsexcoaches.org

In the Woody Allan film ‘Manhattan’, a female character says “I finally had an orgasm, and my doctor told me it was the wrong kind”

 

The joke derives from Freud’s dictum [as it were] that clitoral orgasms were immature and masculine, and that the mature woman should confine herself to vaginal orgasms.

 

Why Freud felt entitled to pontificate about woman’s genitals without being the possessor of any is far from clear. But many since have felt a similar entitlement.

 

Strong similarities

 

Fortunately, we’ve moved on, specifically, we’re much clearer on the structure of the nervous system. And that clarity enables us to see strong similarities between male and female experiences of orgasm.

 

The clitoral orgasm is connected to the pudendal nerve. How can a man know what that’s like? Easy. The glands of the penis are connected to the same nerve.

 

The vaginal, or g spot orgasm is connected to the pelvic nerve. This is the same nerve that connects to the deep structure of the penis.

 

The cervix orgasm is connected to the hypogastric nerve. Both this nerve and the pudendal nerve are connected to the male prostate.

 

Lastly, the enigmatic Vagus nerve is connected to the uterus orgasm. In men, researchers aren’t yet sure, but I discovered it by accident during my sexological bodywork training when one of my colleagues located it as part of the pelvic floor, near the root of the penis. The sensation was felt in the head, like stimulation of the prostate, but at the side of the head. Corresponding with the vagus nerve’s upper positioning, rather than the middle of the head.

 

The similarity between male and female orgasmic experience has been overlooked, I think, for two reasons. One is the confusion between male ejaculation and male orgasm, which are actually distinct. But the main one is the insulting disinterest that the medical profession has historically had to women’s bodies and women’s pleasure.

 

Seeing these strong similarities will, I hope be a way of enabling all of us, women and men, to understand our common human inheritance of pleasure.

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 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 the interest in Goddess archetypes has been to connect with the abundant and lush nature of being a woman and sometimes this is 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 men and women 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 a woman to connect with her juicy femininity is to start the day with a breast massage.  Their lovers love women’s breasts which of course makes sense: they are direct extensions of the heart.  But how often do women stop and appreciate their hearts and bodies directly through contact with their breasts with no expectations?  Connecting with the sensuality of their own body in the morning is a great way to stay centred in femininity for the rest of the day.  Even five minutes is enough to remember the woman that you are.

 

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