Sexuality, more specific?
Sexuality, more specific? How often does that question come up for you? I’m guessing, not that often. It’s an area that most of us want to avoid actually. Who wants to talk with their client about their shame around masturbation, their difficulty achieving orgasm, their secret enjoyment of internet porn, or how they cope with an absent libido in their relationship? While we are all able to get details on the organs and endocrines, specific location of scar tissue, the dynamics with money, or fears with the client’s romantic partner, most of us never go into the specifics of sex. Culturally we have been raised that this area of the client’s life is “private” and personal, and to discuss it would be intrusive, awkward and impolite. We have also never addressed many of these issues ourselves, so we lack the clarity to hold the space for our clients to shift. But we carry on with our sessions and address the whole realm of sexual issues with the umbrella phrase of ” It is safe to be sexual”. But have you ever explored what this phrase really means?
I have been in BodyTalk for just about ten years now, and it has been clear from day one that our sessions are only as powerful as the understanding we have and the questions we ask. In BodyTalk, we learn that we must develop our left brain knowledge of a subject, protocol, etc., before we can utilize our right brain intuition. But how much knowledge do you have on the subject of sex? The well-respected Kinsey Institute reports that 30% of women have pain with vaginal intercourse. Are 30% of your female clients reporting this on their intakes? Do they tell you if they like sex? If it hurts? Do active memories come up around sexual experiences? (I assure you, both men and women have plenty of them.) How well do you understand shame, intimacy, different levels of orgasm, or varying sexual orientations? Without this understanding, how well can you actually address the subject of sex with your clients, much less their overall health?
I recently gave a talk on the subject of sexuality to a group of BodyTalkers in London. We discussed for several hours how sexuality can show up in a session, covering everything from the path of the pudendal nerve in the pelvis (pudenda in Latin meaning “parts to be ashamed of”- yikes!), to our cultural sexual history and how it shows up as 8th chakra links. The feedback from practitioners within days of the talk was that not only did it allow for sexuality related links to come up in sessions (and they found themselves more comfortable and better equipped to discuss them), but that it woke up their own sexuality! Suddenly orgasms were showing up where there previously were none, sexual desire was peaking as it should during Bladder time, and practitioners were excited to get sessions relating to sex, and relieved to have a safe place to discuss active memories they had been holding in for, in some cases, more than twenty years. It was clear to me that BodyTalk practitioners needed more support in the area of sexuality if they were going to work with the subject of sex with their clients.
After struggling with my own relationship to sexuality for a very long time, my search for understanding culminated in a 250 page book on the subject of sex. What bothered me most with sexuality was all the feedback I was getting from the world that my sexuality was not okay. Basically I was receiving the message that is was only safe to be sexual it was with a man, using a condom, and if that man was going to one day be my husband (or at least a serious relationship of some sort). Anything outside of that was shameful, and even to blame for my failed relationships and any problems I was having with my reproductive system. My research into this sexual suppression led me to the origins of our western ideas around sexuality, and ultimately to a completely new understanding of sex and more freedom than I could ever dream of. This, I realized, is the understanding that we all need as practitioners to better support clients on their journey of sexuality, intimacy and overall health.
As I work with BodyTalk practitioners and clients to expand their repertoire in the realm of sexuality, I see that so many of us still think “in the box” when it comes to sexuality. Sexuality is much more than a man and a woman having vaginal sex – the “approved” form of sex. What does the word “sexuality” make you think of? What is sex? Does it make you think of masturbation or anal sex? Does it remind you of the impotent man or the in-orgasmic woman? Do you associate it with the high incidence of depression, anxiety, bacterial infections and polycystic ovarian syndrome that exist in bisexual women? Does it make you think of our worldwide fear of AIDS? Or homosexuality? Or the anti-masturbation devices that were used on men and women less than a hundred years ago? Or abortion, birth control and abstinence education programs in schools? What’s important to understand is that sexuality is a spectrum. Dr. Marita Kufe used to teach this concept in her Body Chemistry class. She taught us that the vials we learned to use would cover the full spectrum of a substance, rather than the narrow idea we had about it. Sugar, for example, might make us think of the white substance we eat in cookies, but the vial would cover everything from fructose to sugar substitutes, and alcohol to lactose. It’s too bad we don’t have a vial to help us address the full spectrum of sex!
To be effective practitioners we must be able to address the myriad of symptoms, belief systems, thoughts, pleasures, preferences and experiences our clients have relating to sexuality. And we must do so without judgment and with deep understanding. Our clients are looking for a safe place to talk, heal, learn and grow in their relationship to sex, and we can be that safe place as practitioners. A broader sexual understanding can come from books like “The New Rules of Sex”, from classes like FreeFall, and from real conversations with friends, clients and family members about sex. But mostly, it comes from your own willingness and openness to explore the limitations surrounding YOUR sexuality. Somewhere beneath the masks and cultural programming, the should’s and should not’s, and things you have and haven’t done, you will find yourself there. In other words, “Sexuality, more specific?” begins with you. How much are you willing to learn about sex? How much are you willing to unlearn? How deep are you ready to go?
Deep, I hope. Then deeper still. Let’s dive in together.
By Lauren Brim, Adv. Certified BodyTalk Practitioner
Author of “The New Rules of Sex”
Sexual and Spiritual Coach
Edited by Lori Kaplan, CBP
Marriage, Family & Child Therapist