Jan 29 2019
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Me: A Sex Educator and Sexological Bodyworker…
Them: You’re a sexological bodyworker…a sexo…do you have sex with these people?
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 bodywork 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).
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, 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 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.
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 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 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:
- 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.
Do I have to live near you to have a session?
No. Sessions, such as masturbation coaching, can be over video conferences 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, before a session with a client.
In other words, I make sure my needs have been met.
Furthermore, I have a routine that includes clearing the space, grounding with my back against a tree, prepping a list of as many tools and techniques that may apply 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 a 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 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 aliveness. Some of the practices we suggest and offer might assist a client’s problem therefore we intend 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 them. 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 at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sep 30 2018
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.
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.
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.
Jul 12 2018
Anyone who has known me, in particular settings, over the last few years, may have seen me naked. It has been a thing I have been doing more and more.
Earlier this year, I’d stumbled across a post for a project called ‘Age cannot wither her’, a set of 16 women in their glory, in their ‘birthday suits’, looking regal, exotic, confident, shy, soft, fierce and so much more. ‘Wow’, I thought.
I left a comment below the post, saying I’d love to have been part of something like this. It was met with a sharp reply encouraging me to contact the photographer.
Did I get naked?
Long story short…..I did. The date of the shoot was booked. The photos were taken. The final image picked.
Yesterday I finally plucked up the courage to write the words to go support this version of me and now, today, it is live. Eeeeeek!
Here it goes. I will now be able to answer, in confidence, the question, ‘Is there a naked photo of you on the net?’
Yes. There. Is.
Seriously, following this link will show me naked
Using my naked body to speak up
These are the words that supported my mask removal:
When I turned 40, everything changed.
Suddenly, I had a voice. It seemed as though I was able to speak up and, more importantly, speak out. There is a permission that comes with age, a credibility.
Now that I am nearer 50 than 40, I realise this decade, for me, is all about transformation.
I started the decade as a consultant in the city, unsatisfied with life and love, and failing to adhere to the gendered, patriarchal societal expectations around me. My curly hair wasn’t neat enough. I wouldn’t wear the obligatory heels as the arthritis in my feet was too painful. I wasn’t small or quiet enough and no matter how good I was at my work, I didn’t fit the mould.
Making the change
I am hardly recognisable as the deeply in love, ethically non-monogamous, pansexual, freelance problem solver, soon to be a certified sexological bodyworker, skyclad howling, dancing, shamanic goddess, little girl, queen, mama wolf, strong, fragile, human I am today. Hallelujah!
This is my first photoshoot, never mind my first naked one. The excitement of being part of something this important, hid the process that was about to unfold. I have been getting more and more naked these last few years. I find it liberating and can often be found in some festival dancing scenario getting my kit off and encouraging others to do the same. We were born this way.
Despite all that, as soon as I agreed to the shoot, my inner critic, judge and jury, went to town, subtly at first, although the town was where they were heading, make no mistake!
I wanted to look good. I didn’t want to embarrass myself. I wanted to be a better version of me. My serious significant chocolate addiction was tempered at first. I got on my bike a bit more. I told myself that this was a good thing, and, to certain degree it was, however, at the same time why couldn’t I show up as I was?
Predictably, the 10 days running up to the photoshoot, involved a foreign trip, more than typical booze consumption, a chocolate mountain, lack of sleep, a dodgy tummy and, wait for it, slashing the sole of my foot open, on an acrylic table, whilst trying to see the moon out of my window, less than 9 hours before the shoot. You couldn’t make it up.
What do I see when I look at this photo?
I see a girl with a woman’s body. Strong, hard-working legs, a tummy that holds lots of emotion and feels delicious to the touch. A Predator. A fragility. Certainty. A pride at getting this far alive. Sadness that I trimmed my beautifully wild pubic hair right down, just a week previously, in a moment of self-doubt because I wanted to fit into someone else’s ideal of what a woman should look like …… a lover, an artist, a sister, friend, confidante. An activist. An aspiring life model?
Most of all, I see a woman in the prime of her life, with hopes and dreams.
I have so much more to do, to learn, to be.