What is sexological bodywork?
Me: A 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 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 it 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, in order to embody and differentiate the ‘Serve’, ‘Accept’ quadrants and the ‘Take’, ‘Allow’ quadrants.
If 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.
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:
- 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org