The Feel Institute

embodiment

  • What is sexological bodywork?

    Me: A Sexological Bodyworker…

    Them: You’ re a sexological bodyworker…a sexo…do you have sex with these people?

    Me: No.

    Them: Are you a prostitute?

    Me: No. I am a sexological bodyworker who is trained to work with, and include, sexuality.

    Them: Did you go on a weekend course, or is it one of those certificates you can print off the internet?’

    Me: No, it’s a proper, intensive, study programme.

    Them: And you are definitely not a prostitute?…

    These are just some of the questions I get asked when I explain to people what I do. I get it. The term ‘Sexological Bodywork’ doesn’t reveal much and can pose more questions than it answers.

    In this article, I am going to answer, and address, some of the real questions, and comments, I have been asked and received, to try and shine some much-needed light, on this growing profession.

    These are my answers and my views, and I have asked permission for those who posed the questions and made comments to use their words anonymously. Thank you. You know who you are.


    Is sexological bodyworker even a real qualification?

    Yes, it is a professional qualification and is gained after a period of training for 6 months.

    The training amounts to 330+ hours, and includes in-depth anatomy, extensive hands-on & trauma-informed practice, plus 25 supervised sessions.

    When all practicum, and assignments have been completed, the person is recognised as a Certified Sexological Bodyworker (CSB).

    (Below) On the final day of the 2-week residential intensive. The facilitation team (from left to right: Katie Serra, me, Joseph Kramer, Kian de la Cour).

    Sexological bodywork practitioners (left to right): Katie Serra, Sue Sutherland, Joseph Kramer and Kian de la Cour.

    (left to right) Katie Serra, Sue Sutherland, Joseph Kramer and Kian de la Cour

    It was started in 2002 by Joseph Kramer and was originally accredited by the State of California. At the last count there were approximately 1,500 CSBs worldwide from independent training centres.

    You can read more about the UK and Ireland certification here.

    Do I have to take my clothes off?

    You do not have to take your clothes off. However, you have the choice to wear as much, or as little as you want, and change your mind, during the session.

    Are you taking your clothes off?

    No. I will remain clothed in sessions.

    Do I get to touch you?

    Touch is uni-directional, in other words, it is one way.

    That means I can touch you, at your request, as the sessions are client led.

    If we were working on Betty Martin’s Wheel of Consent, we could, as part of an educational agreement, use 2 way, non-genital touch, in order to embody and differentiate the ‘Serve’, ‘Accept’ quadrants and the ‘Take’, ‘Allow’ quadrants.

    If sexological bodywork sessions are client led, does that mean I have to come up with all the ideas?

    No. As sex coaches and somatic practitioners, we offer the techniques and tools we learnt and practised, as offerings to the client. Often, we will suggest a couple of options and a ‘something else’. The client may come up with a ‘something else’ from hearing the suggestions. Ultimately, the client chooses what they want to explore, for how long etc, and this forms the educational contract.

    Are you actually going to touch ‘my bits’?

    Assuming that ‘my bits’ means your genitals, I can touch them, if you ask me to and we agree to it, yes.

    All CSBs are required to wear gloves for genital and anal contact.

    A soothing belly massage being given to a sexological bodywork client.

    A belly massage can relax the client, soothe the nervous system and develop trust. It is also a new experience for most people.

    For many people, having a hand on their belly is a massive step, never mind being naked and having genital touch.

    I have found belly massage to be an incredibly intimate and vulnerable experience for even the most adventurous amongst us, and a way to create trust and relax the nervous system.

    What does that actually mean you can offer people?

    Sexological Bodywork is designed to improve the connection between the body and the mind, and to allow the sexual and erotic aspects to awaken or deepen.

    CSBs coach, teach and support individuals, partners and groups to learn about their bodies by offering a neutral space, free from expectations and performance, to practice and integrate new techniques.

    We can support people in their exploration of their sexuality and work through sexual issues or concerns.

    Sessions can allow people to direct their own erotic development, access their arousal, and experience pleasure for pleasure’s sake. To many we are best thought of as sex coaches.

    The modalities offered in the sessions may include some, or all, of the following:

    • breathwork;
    • sound and movement;
    • body awareness, focusing and sensation;
    • conscious consent using techniques developed by Dr Betty Martin;
    • embodied counselling;
    • scar tissue remediation founded in research by Ellen Heed;
    • sexual anatomy education;
    • neuroscience and interoception, and how to process memories and experiences stored in the body;
    • genital mapping;
    • anal mapping;
    • sensual and erotic massage;
    • erotic bodywork;
    • breathwork and erotic trance;
    • mindful masturbation and orgasmic yoga coaching.

    What if I’m asexual?

    Sexual attraction and/or desire does not preclude anyone from this work. Sessions can be used to explore breath, movement, feelings, sensations, expression using words, non-sexual touch and so much more. A person’s gender, sexuality, identity or relationship status is irrelevant in terms of participation.

    Can I have a session and not be touched?

    Yes, for example, we could spend the entire session on breathing, moving and talking techniques, as well as using educational props to learn more.

    Exploring genital anatomy using anatomically correct vulva cushions during a sexological bodywork session. Image courtesy of Laura Doe Harris.

    Exploring genital anatomy using anatomically correct vulva cushions courtesy of Laura Doe Harris

    Do I have to live near you to have a session?

    No. Sessions, such as masturbation coaching, can be over video conference such as Skype or Zoom.

    How do I know you aren’t going to project your issues on me through guru complex, the way some/many therapists do?

    I have been on the receiving end of this and it is awful and damaging.

    First of all, I take great care to make sure I am emotionally, physically, sexually, sensually resourced, and full, prior to a session with a client.

    In other words, I make sure my needs have been met.

    Furthermore, I have a routine which includes clearing the space, grounding with my back against a tree, prepping a list of as many tools and techniques that may be applicable to the client, so that I can be as present as I can be in session, and make the session about them and not me. These are offered to the client, and the client chooses.

    It is essential to me that I have a coach, a supervisor, a therapist, and peer support which support me so I can be in service to clients.

    Finally, recognising that I am also human, and there are times where I will make a mistake. I will try as hard as I can to own what is mine.

    What if something goes wrong? Is there a complaint’s procedure?

    There is a code of ethics for Sexological Bodyworkers, which is one of the first areas covered in the training, and most are members of ASIS (The Association of Somatic & Integrative Sexologists), which also has a code of ethics and a Complaint’s Procedure. Many CSBs show the ASIS logo on their site. If in doubt, ask your CSB or contact ASIS.

    Are you going to put your finger up my bum?

    If you want a finger up your bum, you can have a finger up your bum. It will be a gloved finger.

    Can I have an orgasm?

    Yes, you can have an orgasm.

    I am intrigued. Is it expensive?

    Different practitioners charge different rates, depending on location. It can be anywhere from £70 to £150 per hour. Sessions can range from 1 to 3 hours, and can be face to face, or by video conferencing. Some practitioners offer discounts if you book and pay for a series of sessions in advance. Many offer a free, brief, initial telephone call for those who are curious and want to know more.

    Who is paying for this sexy bodywork?

    A whole variety of people. Clients usually have common reasons to seek this kind of help and it is starting to become better understood by people.

    The most common reasons are they have or want:

    • more choice around orgasm, in contrast, they could be unable to orgasm, have early or delayed orgasm
    • erection difficulties
    • to rely less on porn
    • anxiety or trauma around intimacy
    • they are bored
    • desire to practice something new
    • there has been a change in their libido
    • to experience more pleasure
    • feel disconnected from their genitals
    • to rediscover their body, as a result of a change, such as childbirth
    • recognise they are stuck in pattern that doesn’t satisfy them anymore
    • struggle to ask for what they want, or even know what they want
    • want to be touched
    • have scars from gender reassignment surgery, or from childbirth, and feel uncomfortable about their bodies
    • don’t know how to masturbate
    • didn’t have sex education that was meaningful to them
    • want to have better sex…and many, many more reasons.

    Are you going to fix me?

    A few days ago I was checking some facts in my research and Joseph Kramer said “What I think is most important is that Sexological Bodyworkers do not fix people. We don’t do therapy. We help people become more embodied and more aware of their own aliveness. Some of the practices we suggest and offer, might assist a client’s problem therefore our intention is to help students/clients have better sex which always means ‘more embodied sex’.

    Most noteworthy is that we are not therapists, we are somatic sex educators and sex coaches. Much of what we do can be beneficial and is consequently therapeutic.

    We offer new experiences rather than fixing. It is therefore a broadening and whole body approach.


    So, there you have it. My take on Sexological Bodywork. Your questions answered.

    If you would like to ask another question, are sufficiently enthused by what you have read, or simply curious, you are welcome to contact me on sue@thefeelinstitute.com 

  • Is masturbation a part of your self care?

    I don’t know about you, but nobody ever spoke to me, in a healthy way about masturbation. Come to think of it, nobody really told me about touching any part of my body in a caring or loving way.

    In a world where having a self care ritual is core to being a healthy human, I wonder, how many of those rituals involve masturbation, touching your body, or self pleasure?

    Masturbation remains heavily stigmatised. If you are having sex with another, or others, then you must be doing something right, right? But, having sex with yourself. Touching your own body for pleasure! No, no, no, or at least, keep it to yourself. Shhhh!

    Why? Is it a problem with the word? I think it could be.

    What is masturbation?

    The definition of masturbation is, ‘stimulation of the genitals with the hand for sexual pleasure’.

    Masturbation is, inherently, goal orientated. Often, it is so we can have an orgasm, and once we’ve got it, we stop. Job done. Worse still, it might not be as big as we wanted, or maybe we couldn’t get to an orgasm. What a failure! So much shame and judgement. No wonder so many of us don’t talk about it.

    Could it be different?

    What if, we took away the need for success or failure to be orgasm related, and instead, change the emphasis, so that the stimulation was of the body, including the genitals. An invitation to explore our amazing bodies, rediscover the sensations, unlock the emotions, and be a lover to ourselves.

    What if we added some mindfulness to it with some intention setting? ‘I want to touch my body with the tips of my fingertips and feel as much as I can’, ‘I want to give myself the most sensuous shower, and enjoy the feeling of water running over my body’, ‘I want to notice the difference between excitement and enjoyment’.

    The best bit about the mindfulness part is, that this is your body, your time and your exploration. You can pick the intention you want and the only person you need to please is yourself.

    What if we scheduled it in, like we would a massage, or a haircut, or a therapy session? What if we carried on for the full scheduled session, no matter what happened?

    I have been coaching people on this for the last few months and this part, this is the ‘oddest’ part for most. What do you mean schedule it in? Well, why not? Seriously, why not?

    As well as all this, we have to start talking about self pleasure. We have to reduce the shame, the judgement, the secrecy. The body shaming can’t win if there is body loving!

    Masturbation education in schools?

    There is a push going on in the UK around the schooling system and sex education. I welcome this. I had nobody to talk to about masturbation at school. It wasn’t even mentioned, well apart from as an insult, ‘so and so is a wanker’. Even that, there, is adding to the taboo. It is something that ‘bad’ kids do. My ‘masturbation’ was something I kind of did, not really having a clue, in a very quiet, small way, not really sure of what was happening or why.

    I didn’t know what an orgasm was, that happened by mistake, many years later, with my boyfriend, whilst having sex. Even then I couldn’t share the excitement as I had been faking them until then. My friends told me it was what we did. It is funny now, and also such a waste.

    As an adult, not that much has changed. It is still something many refuse to admit to doing, and often something perceived as not needed when we are in relationship.

    Why masturbation is important

    When it comes to relating to others in a sexual way, we typically need to know what we like. Through self touch, we can discover the parts of our body that yearn to be touched, the parts that feel so good and so naughty, the parts that make us shrill with delight, as well as the parts that make us feel sad, upset and anxious.

    As wonderful as it can be to have sexual, sensual and erotic partners, we are sexual beings in our own right. We can tantalise and tease ourselves. We can soothe and stimulate our bodies. It also means that we are less reliant on others for touch. We can enjoy the connection for the sake of the connection rather than a desperate need for intimacy.

    Be your own lover.

    Make self pleasure a part of your self care.

    Tell someone something new you discovered about your body.

    Go on, I dare you.

  • Harvesting the gifts of pain

    5Rhythms – an ongoing practice

    He did it again, except this time it was deeper and longer.

    I’m talking about Richard Wiltshire, a 5Rhythms movement meditation teacher based in London. This weekend, he led ‘A Deeper Acceptance: creating healing through movement’. A sister to the workshop where I found the words to write permission and pain

    Embodiment is challenging at the best of times. Those who experience chronic pain are often trapped in a no win situation.

    A Deeper Acceptance employs the 5Rhythms wave to heal, by being true with what is actually happening, rather than the fabricated, tortuous, pushing through and putting on the brave mask affair so many of us adopt.

    5Rhythms – shadow work

    Flowing was the inertia. The resistance. ‘Can’t get off the floor’. ‘Won’t get off the floor’. Sloth and petulance in equal measure.

    Staccato was tight fists, head to the carpet, silent screams, clenching every muscle to contain the rage. The ‘I can’t even get onto my feet’ dance.

    And then there was Chaos. The overwhelming, engulfing, massiveness of the sheer volume of crap we are trying to take on. The, ‘too many things to do’, ‘can’t stop’, ‘can’t start’, ‘can’t get out of my head’, and there, there, over there, back, forward, darting everywhere and getting nowhere. The ‘whirling dervish’ dance.

    Overwhelm

    I had never danced my overwhelm. I know this head space so well. Once I started moving, I wondered if I would ever stop. The tears inevitably came. There was that all too familiar urge to pull myself together. My body had waited too long for this moment and kept the momentum, discarding my mask, face wet and red. And then it slowed, the body had expressed itself. It was cathartic.

    The rest of the wave was one of liberation. A lightness. The realisation that this practice is still accessible to me. This is the elusive alchemy we strive for.

    Gratitude

    After our stillness and integration, we got into 3’s and spoke of our gratitudes. What the pain, the illness, has gifted us. 4 minutes of uninterrupted stream of consciousness with ears and attention on you. It is surprising what comes up.

    I am much more creative

    When you can’t stand on your feet for long you find alternatives. I have a brilliant scooter now, which I zoom around on. In dance spaces, I am a diva on the floor and a chair. I find different ways to get what I want and need.

    I give less unsolicited advice

    There isn’t much worse than well meaning people offering a variety of suggestions and fixes for the ‘problem’ you shared. I have learnt to say less, mean more, and try really bloody hard to only give advice when I’ve been asked to. I also don’t change the subject. This is important!

    I see duality everywhere

    I am physically strong and can wrestle most people to the ground, yet the weight of that bag I’m carrying magically bears down on the exact point in my foot that hurts the most, and every single gram feels like a kilo. I am strong and I am fragile. It’s not just me. When I see someone using inappropriate words to chat someone up, I also see someone wanting connection. When I see someone pushing themselves to burnout, I also see someone wanting appreciation and acceptance.

    I am aware of the invisible

    Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. The vast majority of chronic conditions are invisible. Often the only clues are props like walking sticks, hearing aids and wheelchairs. I rarely assume that the people around me are healthy and trouble free.

    I am learning to speak my truth

    I kept quiet for a very long time about anything I thought might rock the boat, or upset the apple cart. I didn’t want to be needy. I was a people pleaser. I learnt the hard way how vital it is to express with mouth words. Despite what most people think, we are not mind readers. Plus, when you identify yourself, your tribe can find you and quite often the ones that don’t get you, drift away, or, ironically, accept you as you.

    It’s not ok

    Anyone who knows me will tell you I am not a fan of the permanently happy, smiley, fake, woo woo, all peace and love stuff. Show me the darkness, the grit, the struggles and the matters of the heart.

    The not pretending everything is ok, when it is not, helps me see you. With that recognition, we can thrive, and that’s the point. When we can be seen in our mud pit, get the chance to roll about it in like happy pigs, and still look you in the eye without shame and judgement, we can cope so much better.

    Then, and only then, can we appreciate what else it has given us.

    There is always something to be harvested from the pain.

  • Dirty Secret

    This is a post I made on Sunday 11th February 2018 on Facebook. It was at the tail end of another brutal winter….this declaration was a game changer…

    I have a secret.

    A dark dirty secret that I simply cannot contain anymore.

    The thought of putting a declaration on Fakebook about it jars with me.

    I judge people who put ‘notices’ on here.

    Who do they think they are?

    Why do you need to share this?

    What is wrong with you?

    Don’t you have any ‘real’ friends you can talk to?

    Have some self-respect.

    Contain it saddo.

    See. I am doing what I always do. Distracting you (me) from the real truth.

    I show you my courage and bravery. My vulnerability. My discovery.

    What you don’t see is that I am hiding something.

    I am the mistress of illusion.

    I don’t even tell myself the truth so how can I possibly tell you.

    I just did it again.

    Did you notice?

    I don’t know how to say it.

    FUUUUUUUUCCCCCKKKKKKK!

    I have a secret.

    A dark dirty secret that I simply cannot contain anymore.

    The tears, rage and despair and leaking from my body.

    For 2 decades I have been in pain. Physical, excruciating pain.

    It’s my feet.

    I’m trying to make this sound pretty and whimsical.

    Fuck it. I can contain it in bullet points. Let’s do bullet points:

    • ‘Moderately severe osteoarthritis’ is the large toe joints of both feet
    • Haven’t been able to move my big toes for years
    • I wake up from the pain (mainly in the winter)
    • I can’t get to sleep because of the pain (mainly in the winter)
    • The undercurrent of pain makes me edgy and bitter sometimes
    • Sometimes the pain is so bad that any kind of non-soft touch on the rest of my body feels like an attack
    • On the really bad days, it feels like a sharp, hot tip of a kitchen knife is burrowing into the middle of my big toe joint
    • The arches scream to be released
    • The spasms up my toe to the nail gnarls at my nerves
    • My calf muscles are really really tight. Ask to feel them. I might let you.
    • Sometimes, there are moments, when I don’t feel it
    • Sometimes I want to cut my toes off (yes I know, I know)
    • Maybe, you can ask me more when you are drawn to

    Why am I writing all this down? Good question.

    Many of you know me from dancing.

    I bring it. I bring the energy.

    The pounding. The fierceness, all that.

    Can’t let the side down.

    Can’t admit it hurts even when I am in agony.

    Why?

    It’s exhausting. Or maybe I am exhausted?

    I’ve exhausted my container that’s for sure.

    I am boring myself with this. That’s how unattached I am to my feelings about this thing that I don’t want to be true.

    I’m telling you all this, in the most ungraceful of ways so you will be mirrors, reminders, confidantes, advocates, allies, soldiers, catalysts, teachers and so much more.

    Most of all, I AM SICK OF THIS CRIPPLING PAIN BEING THE CLOSEST THING TO ME!

    My dirty secret is out with the help of some patient, challenging and loving people. Rob LondonStainsby, Judith Antell, Carrie Gow, Nikki Ashley, Anthony de Sigley, Sam Wells to name but a few. You know who you are.

    I am not sure what is supposed to happen now and I am a bit scared, embarrassed, hopeful and angry.

    I don’t want you to treat me differently
    I do want you to treat me differently.

    There’s that rub again.

    There are a lot more tears to come.

    Sometimes I don’t know I need to slow down. Sometimes I don’t know how much pain I am actually in. Sometimes I need to lie down. Sometimes I need a chair. Sometimes I really need to dance through it, over it and under it.

    I have a request. I want to keep dancing. I just started! Can the amazing space holders, guides, mentors and students continue or start to have a couple of chairs available on the dance floor in the movement practices?

    I’m naming Sue Rickards, Nikki Ashley, Ruth Hirst, Christian de Sousa, Bodhi Nick Hunt, Liz Baron Cohen, Sarah Davies, Killian Strong, Becca Parkinson, Jane Belshaw, Alex Svoboda. Please consider it.

    It means we can participate.

    Some of you do this already. Some of you know this.

    It means we can belong. I want to belong. I just need to get off my feet sometimes. I want be on the same/similar level to my fellow movers.

    Maybe the truth can heal after all.