Sexological Bodywork entered public awareness through Gwyneth Paltrow’s Netflix show Sex, Love and Goop. So what is this touch-based approach to embodiment and sex?
Sexological Bodywork is a way of learning about your body
You can learn a lot of theory from reading books. You can address a lot of issues with talking therapies. But when issues involve the body, reading and talking aren’t enough. You can’t learn to ride a bike or play the piano without doing them. If you’d like to connect to your body, teach your body something new, or unlearn something it experienced in the past, the easiest path is to engage your body in the new experiences you want. New experiences, particularly pleasurable ones, create change at a fundamental neurological level.
Sexological Bodyworkers don’t try to “fix” people. We offer a neutral space, free from expectations and judgement, to practice new tools, techniques and ways of being. And, in that space, we coach, teach and support people to learn about their bodies.
You can learn about your body through coaching, education and embodied experiencing
The work is partly coaching. Clients reflect on their own sexuality, experiences and relationships to discover more about themselves. The work also involves sharing knowledge related to sexuality, such as anatomy, function of the nervous system, forms of arousal, sex drive and types of orgasm.
What is special about Sexological Bodywork is that it allows people to design new experiences involving their bodies, sensations and sexuality. Clients choose the experiences they want and will help them learn most. Experiences can range from simply noticing their body or a short touch, through to full body or genital massage. These can be practices the client takes home to practice or that they experience in a session.
Clients are always completely at choice in these experiences. They can choose experiences based on breathwork, nervous system regulation, movement, sound, touch, embodied consent, orgasmic yoga coaching, masturbation coaching, and erotic bodywork. And whatever the experience, clients can stop it whenever they like.
At its core, Sexological Bodywork has a trauma-informed, consent-based structure that aims to always keep clients safe, and always at choice. As practitioners, we have clear boundaries and ethics. And this structure and ethics ensures the experiences our clients have are ones they really want and are highly beneficial.
Overcoming sexual or emotional trauma often needs work with the body
Almost all of my clients have a history of therapy, which has often been helpful in integrating traumatic events in their lives. And yet, they still have triggers, anxieties, poor relationships or unsatisfying sex lives. Sexological Bodywork helps resolve the physical and sexual aspects of trauma. It is unafraid to talk about anatomy, desires, fantasies and fears. As practitioners, we train to accept diversity of background, gender, anatomy, sexual preferences and relationship preferences. We can hold a deeply accepting and empowering space. And we are trauma-informed, so we understand the body can hold trapped memories and emotions. We know how even simple activities can gently and safely access and re-integrate those aspects of a client.
As Sexological Bodyworkers, we are used to working with the difficult emotions that come up around sex, and particularly where someone has a history of sexual or emotional trauma. Shame and guilt are common, but so are anger and grief. We can use our body-based approach to help clients be with the emotions, learn from them and integrate the messages they bring.
For many of my clients, our sessions are the first time they’ve felt truly accepted or able to express what they really want. Many of them have spent their lives looking after others, or intimidated or abused by others. And so experiencing a loving touch that is exactly what they asked for and stops exactly when they want it to is utterly transformational.
Sexological Bodywork can address a variety of difficulties around sex and intimacy
There are many reasons people ask for Sexological Bodywork. Here are a few:
- Lack of sex drive
- Genital numbness or pain, including pain during sex
- Lack of pleasure
- Inability to orgasm
- Concerns about body image
- Anxiety or trauma around intimacy
- You’d like to rediscover your body
- You’re stuck in a pattern that isn’t helpful for you
- An interest in enhancing your sex life
- Learning to give and receive sensuality, touch and pleasure
- Self-acceptance of your own body, gender and preferences
Sexological Bodywork has a fascinating history
In the 1980s the gay community was facing the dreadful impact of AIDS. Dr Joseph Kramer and his Body Electric School developed new methods of having fulfilling, safe sex lives. He expanded the knowledge of what was possible with intimacy, pleasure, and the body. Later he worked with Annie Sprinkle, a leading figure in women’s sexual liberation, to expand Sexological Bodywork to include women and then all genders and sexualities. What they developed is also widely used in Taoist and Tantric Erotic Massages.
Modern Sexological Bodywork has expanded on that work, to include fundamentals of anatomy, the nervous system and to incorporate trauma-awareness and techniques for working with consent and boundaries, including Betty Martin’s Wheel of Consent.
Practitioners belong to a professional body with a code of ethics
The field of sexual empowerment has many questionable practices and practitioners. People can find it difficult to find someone safe and reputable to help them. Sexological Bodywork has set out to be a reputable profession, with trustworthy practitioners.
To qualify as a Sexological Bodyworker, you complete over 330 hours of training over seven months. You have supervision from experienced practitioners. You complete 25 real client sessions. The leaders in the field assess your skills. Sexological Bodywork has a professional body: the Association of Certified Sexological Bodyworkers. There is a code of ethics that we all work to, which establishes clear boundaries with our clients. And there is a grievance procedure, so clients are supported if a practitioner does not act professionally.
Sexological Bodywork is unashamedly positive about diversity and sexuality. As a practitioner, I’m proud to belong to a professional field that is dedicated to improving the lives and happiness of so many people.
Continuing your exploration...
If you'd like to find out more, feel free to explore the articles on this site. And when you're ready, you can schedule a free friendly chat with me to explore what's possible and whether we'd be a good fit to work together. There's no pressure to do anything or sign up for sessions, so if you think this work might help you, then feel free to schedule some time with me.