The most obvious idea we have about our sexual bodies is that they have a structure. And if we know that structure, then we are on the way to acheiving sexual happiness. In fact, it seems so obvious we don’t really think it’s an idea at all, it’s just reality.

In Sexological Bodywork, there’s a technique called ‘Genital Mapping’. It’s a way of working with the body to bring the structure of it into consciousness. It is empowering to know, for instance, what part of your labia is being touched so, as it were, the sensation can find a home in your consciousness. You can get a sense of the structure of your genitals, and in consequence you can be more empowered with regard to your pleasure, to the touch you give yourself and -crucially – to the touch you ask others to give you.

Sheri Winston’s wonderful book ‘Women’s Anatomy of Arousal’ maps out, in a lot of detail, the structure of women’s genitals. The G Spot, obviously, but lots of less known areas too. It has helped me tremendously, and many other practitioners.

So it seems churlish, as well as nonsensical to say that I think the idea is wrong: our sexual bodies don’t have a structure, at least not in the way we normally think. And not just wrong: harmful, inimical to the profound happiness and connection that we can experience as sexual beings.

How so?

The idea that our sexual bodies have a structure derives from the more general idea that our body overall has a structure. In turn that rests on a fundamental mind/body duality. Our Self, what makes me ME, and our consciousness, are mental qualities, and our body is a sort of container, housing this. The idea was first expressed in its modern form in Descartes ‘Meditations’ [1641]. And this in turn was grounded in the practice of anatomists, who gained their knowledge of human bodies through the dissection of corpses, rather than, say, the observation of living beings.

And that has an obvious hierarchy: the Mind acts on the Body. And when we are touching another, our Mind acts on their Body. The Mind is active, the Body is passive. Do the right thing, and the Body will respond appropriately. Find the G Spot, rub it long enough, and arousal will happen.

I think not.

In my experience of giving genital touch, this isn’t what happens. How I experience it is not giving touch and getting a response, but rather that the touch itself is relational. I do think the genitals have a structure, but not in the way that a building has a structure. Rather, when I touch someone’s genitals, it is as if I am encountering a person. And the touch is a kind of conversation with that person. And as a consequence of that, the apparent fixed structure of the touched part changes.It’s not -or not primarily -that the change is from non-arousal to arousal. Rather, the change seems to be from structure to fluidity.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t, for instance, a ridged structure on the upper wall of the vagina which people identify as the G Spot area. There plainly is. I don’t want to deny the obvious, just to say that we misunderstand it: our bodies are waiting to be engaged with like persons, not engaged with like buttons. And if they are engaged with like persons, something remarkable and beautiful can happen.

Let me give an example.

I’m meeting regularly with my friends and fellow sexological bodyworkers Katrina Clark and Lucy Iredale. We are planning to give a sexuality training for next year, and when we meet we always do some bodywork together. Recently, we were exploring the clitoris.

Like the G Spot, I think it’s fair to say there’s a clear idea about how the clitoris should be touched.You focus on the head, like a magic button. We did something different. After a slow and connecting general massage, we placed a finger slightly to the side of the clitoris, and waited for the relational connection to arise. And when it did, to our surprise, we found a whole fluid texture which felt as if it was underneath the visible detail of the clitoris, and which was full of feeling and sensation. The touch felt internal to the vagina, but wasn’t.

This was completely new to us. It wasn’t that we’d found a deep structure to that whole area, although there might be the temptation to say that. Rather, a different way of touch had revealed how that area was: dynamic, fluid, vividly alive.

And this raises the possibility of a whole new perspective on touch: a move away from the where of touch to the how of touch. From a doing to to a doing with.

We’re continuing to explore this perspective, and I’ll write further about it as we do.