If one person feels something, that’s a personal issue. If a lot of people feel the same thing, that isn’t just personal; it says something about society too. The problem of sexual inexperience falls into this category.
We live in a hyper sexualised society, but a large number of us seem to have no or minimal sex, or have very unsatisfactory sex.
What’s going on?
Well, one factor is that we tend to view sexuality in terms of recreation, and of performance. It’s something that you do, not a central part of who you are. We overemphasise the body and underestimate feeling and connection, partly because we often think of desire as a hunger. Like a hunger for food. And we give the body only provisional value: if the body looks great and ‘performs’ well, then great, otherwise, not so much.
This Tinder-ising doesn’t work for a lot of people. But because the model is so dominant, they think there’s something wrong with them, rather than something wrong or incomplete with the model.
So, I get young women coming to me whose boyfriends have a very pornified idea of what love making should be, and they blame themselves for being inadequate. Other people can’t seem to get started, and don’t know how to. It’s as if everyone else is speaking a language they don’t understand.
It’s really widespread, but silent, like a secret epidemic of shame.
I don’t do surrogacy work. It can be very valuable, but often it operates within the dominant model of doing, rather than feeling, being and connection. It’s those latter qualities I want to bring out when working with clients who have issues of sexual confidence and sexual inexperience, because it seems to me that inexperience is in some sense a choice -perhaps an unconscious one – not to participate in this dominant mode of low-feeling, high action performative sex.
So my starting point is not somehow to reconcile the client to getting out there and get with it. It is to start with an open enquiry into what the body and the heart feels and wants. Starting from that place, we then ask what wishes, sensations and worlds can come into being.
My perspective is that feelings of perceived sexual inadequacy or inexperience are best addressed not by fixing the body, but by opening and connecting the heart. Everything positive flows from that.
You can make an analogy with conversation. As a society, we tend to think that the point of sex is orgasm. But suppose we imagined that the point of talking was to make jokes. Well, no doubt that would work for some people. And those people, doubtless, would accuse others of having a low humour drive, or being unskilled at punchlines.
It’s a ridiculous analogy, isn’t it? But is it really? Sexuality, like communication, involves the whole, unique, feeling person. The range of expression is endless. It’s not something simple and straightforward, like appetite. Although, of course, it does involve hunger. But hunger for what?
More prosaically, a lot of people feel that they are unskilled at sex. They don’t know how to do what they think they should do. For example, a lot of women lack confidence when it comes to touching a man’s genitals, so they tend to follow what they’ve learned from porn, or from friends, who have probably learned from porn. And so, they will touch a man’s penis rather like a plumber would approach a blocked drain: fast vigorous, anxious to get the job done as soon as possible. But where can you learn how to touch differently? Well, from me, for one.
I don’t view it as just learning a technical skill, but as a way to get more confidence, and through that, finding a way of having more satisfying sex. So sometimes, in my work with a client, as a starting point I may work with them to acquire more skills, because that’s part of having more choice. If we’re under confident, we’ll either just do the same thing over and over, or we’ll be done to. And if that’s so, our society’s awful fixation on intercourse as the whole point of heterosexual sex becomes even narrower and more unsatisfactory. Being equipped with skills gives you the confidence which makes it possible to break out of this straightjacket, particularly if you are also equipped with a sense of what sex might look like from a tantric or kink or energetic perspective, for example.