Sexological Bodywork 101
For the next two weeks I'm in San Francisco, my favorite American city, co-teaching a group of 19 extraordinary individuals from four countries how to be sexological bodyworkers. It's a modality that is subversive and status-quo irreverent. And it’s the one modality that has infused my private practice with such luminous hope for the healing and wholing of our human community.
Sexological Bodyworkers are educators and guides who tend to the whole human’s experience of their generative, creative energy, which most of us call our ‘sexuality’. Sexological bodyworkers believe sexuality is at the foundation of our authentic empowered human experience; the most radical foundational tool required to build cultures of soulfully reverent and spiritually responsible individuals. The sexological bodywork modality involves, among many other things, bodywork that does not exclude the genitals, sexuality education and self-pleasure coaching and witnessing. Sexological bodyworkers are revolutionaries. They are people willing to risk a great deal to empower individuals to live into their fullest capacity.
This post is an average day in the 14 day intensive training, which follows 6 weeks of distance on-line experiential learning and is followed by 6 more weeks of supervision of clinical hours that eventually result in certification.
On Day 5 everyone arrives at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, barely 'broken in' as we make our way through an intense 14 day process (9-6:30 every day but two with only one break during the day in a room with no windows and barely enough oxygen to keep a small hive of bees alive - ironic, I know). Immediately we invite these courageous souls into the day with an hour of what Dr Joseph Kramer has termed Orgasmic Yoga, which is most often a solo practice of self pleasure. But in this case, it's a group process. That means a room of 23 individuals (including instructors) self pleasuring together. From such an early age most of us are are taught to denigrate and shame our sexuality unless it comes in the most neutered of forms. The nature of sexuality is that it is, in its organic form, anything BUT neutered. Which means we denigrate and shame most all authentic forms of sexual expression. It is a healthy desire to want to experience our sexual expression in some version of community, just as it is healthy to want to parent and partner in community. But we denigrate all these impulses as well.
For one hour the room is full of human beings experiencing the extraordinary process of stripping shame, owning our sexuality and simply getting down to the process of pleasure. On this particular morning my practice is filled with the catharsis of grief and longing. Grief for my mother’s death almost exactly three years ago. It is also filled with both joy and remembrance - of what I’m doing here in the world, what my work is, remembrance of what I love so dearly, what I would fight to the death for. At times I’m in the middle of the floor dancing, shaking and crying. At other times I’m quiet, in my spot on my backjack allowing the chemistry of orgasm to do what it was designed to do: move me back into wholeness as I make my way through these particular deaths and rebirths of my life.
Immediately after this we invite folks to set up five massage tables and find themselves in a form that some of us have called the 'Art Museum' process. This is breathtaking for its simplicity. As I facilitate the timing of this process, I find myself holding back my tears for the beauty of each person on the table hesitantly at first, then joyfully introducing themselves to a small group of three or four others, who, with loving and curious gaze, are taking this person's body in. “This is my penis. Lately I have been calling it a cock because I like the way that sounds. Strong. I love my cock actually. I’m told by partners that it’s just the right size, and that is so important to me, that it can bring pleasure to others.” “This is my vagina. I call it my pussy usually. It likes to be touched this way. I have a lot of grief and shame about my pussy - actually I’m pretty self conscious about the way it looks - ever since I saw my first porn film, because I don’t look anything like those women. And it seems like everyone expects me to look like that.” With each sentence each student utters about their experience, coupled with the loving and curious witness of their classmates, there is deep unraveling happening, of old shame and disconnection. In fact there is measurable neurological re-patterning happening. With this simple process, there is a new space made available for healing. Make no mistake, we all need this. As I witness this process I fall in love with humanity all over again. These 19 students are currently my most proclaimed super heroes.
Once that's done and everyone has straightened their hair out and found their notebooks we invite folks to stay naked and gather in back jacks for the morning's lectures on anatomy, the nature of the human shadow in relation to our sexuality and the importance of strong personal ethics and consistent supervision in the process of becoming a sexological bodyworker with impeccable integrity. This certification process is a rigorous training made even more impossible by the fact that students necessarily have profound personal experiences while they learn a large amount of content didactically. There is no down time. Of course, their own process of unraveling, healing and wholing begins the moment they begin the distance learning portion before they even arrive for the intensive two week study. We count on the container and the power of the work and their own practices of self care to hold them as they each need. Of course, most of them are dismantling deep, old belief systems just as much as they are having to learn data, theory and practice in a traditional academic process. This is not the way education typically works as students are attending this particular morning lecture naked, looking like they've just had orgasms, because most of them have. This form of learning, which does not require us to leave our bodies behind but rather uses the profound intelligence of the body, is permanent and potent learning. Sexological bodyworkers learn how to offer this type of educational experience to their clients, and this is one of the many things that makes this profession so unique and so utterly hopeful.
After lunch students are back and paired into dyads for a process of learning the art of self-pleasure witnessing, one on one. Self pleasure witnessing and coaching is a corner-stone offering of the well-heeled Sexological Bodyworker. If we cannot accept our own pleasure how can we imagine being able to guide another to embrace theirs? If we do not know the process of discovering our own erotic map, how do we expect to educate others. And certainly, if we do not know our own pleasure how can we imagine someone else will? If we have shamed the core of our generative, creative capacity, how do we imagine we will ever harness this energy? If we are ashamed of our sexuality and its myriad expressions, how will we arrive in the world as initiated adults capable of doing the unique and important work we are each here to do? In this powerful form, there is no talk. No process. Just the power and catalyst of being witnessed. What is it like to be the focus of another's gentle accepting attention while you are offering yourself pleasure? It’s edgy. Even these 19 embodiment revolutionaries, age 26 to 60, feel their fear and trepidation. After the exercise is over they are vibrant and smiling, offering proclaiming statements like, “That was the most extraordinary experience I’ve ever had. No, I mean REALLY.” and “I remembered an experience of being caught masturbating by my mother when I was 8 and being told I was bad. As I felt the sting of that memory, I sent some love to my mother, and I sent even more love to myself. I let go of something deep and debilitating during this session.”
Then, we end the day inviting students to dress in something that makes them feel like their gender. Gender is such a tricky thing (or at least it has become so). As many in this field proclaim, "Sex is in your pants. Gender is in your head." If you imagine that sex or gender are binary, that a person is either 'this' or 'that' you might want to truly look around at the people in your life. It simply is not this way. Gender is a spectrum and in my personal and professional life I've never met two people who occupy the same spot on the continuum. For each student in the room there is a different experience of gender. As we listen to both heart wrenching and joyous stories it is clear that no two people experience their gender in the same way. This room is full of people who are reclaiming the truth of their authentic expression and experience so that they, in turn, have the capacity to invite others to do the same.
This is simply one day in a fourteen day process that continues to fill me with hope for our species, with the possibility that my young adult children may find their way into communities of truly educated, embodied, accepting and lovingly wise individuals like these wild ones. Communities of individuals who will have the capacity to look each other in the eye and ask, "And who are YOU?" not only supporting them in the discovery of their response but alive with the capacity to receive whatever truth is spoken, as if all life depends on it. Because, in fact, it does.