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My client is nervous. He is looking down at his hands, unable to make eye contact or form sentences. I’ve just asked him to flirt with me.

I can feel his unease in my own chest and stomach, tightening and bracing. My fight – flight – freeze response is threatening to take me away while I’m working with my own emotional history and defenses. I continue to ground myself and track what he’s feeling and how my own system is responding to him. He’s here because he said he wanted to learn how to have more confidence on dates, how to be a better lover, and last longer in bed.

As a sex and intimacy coach, I get a lot of male clients coming to me with these same desires. They feel they’re not doing their job as “men” and their identity is threatened if they experience difficulty with flirtation, seduction, and fucking someone’s brains out. They seem to believe everyone else has these skills down. In truth some element of intimacy or performance is a struggle for most – maybe even all – men.

I feel for these guys. They haven’t been given the tools to connect emotionally. What’s been reinforced is often a pick-up culture. And this is all about how to distance yourself emotionally and get validated by sex, rather than enjoying the pleasure of exploring connection. This hurts us all in the long run.

Finding Connection with A New Client

We are half-way into our first intimacy coaching session, getting to know each other and learning how to connect. Once we have a better connection, we can further navigate his sexual blocks, triggers, and desires from a place of emotional intimacy. He practices with me just like he would with a partner.

The work in the Somatica Method is a two-way authentic relationship that is built within the container of sessions. Being authentic in session for me means tracking my own reactions to my clients – and letting them know how they are impacting me in a constructive way. This feedback is integral to their growth. Both of us are bringing ourselves into the room. In the spirit of transparency, I want to share this story about what it’s really like being an intimacy coach. (And if you’re curious how an intimacy coach is different from a sexological bodyworker or a relationship coach, you can read up on it all over on SexCoaching.com)

First Steps in Intimacy Coaching

He’s different now than when he first boomed into my office. He was acting larger than life then, projecting power. He was also quick-paced, demanding, challenging, and never wanting to actually take a breath or show any sign of being less than fully in charge. I felt my defenses wake up and wanting to teach him a lesson. My chest expanded, my breathing was heavier, my pulse quickened. I felt the need to respond in a way that would impress him.

After working together for a while however, his demeanor is completely changed. He is acknowledging his nervousness and is ready to take input and listen. He was unsure of himself at first. Once I started to lead us through exercises though, grounding us in the moment, humanizing each other, and asking to look into each other’s eyes without speaking, he remained present. It’s vulnerable and there are no words to fill the space with. We are just there together, feeling each other’s presence and taking each other in.

My Own Defenses Can Also Get in The Way

Through my work on myself, I’ve learned that we’re just individuals with our own emotional histories. We each have defensive mechanisms we’ve picked up to protect ourselves. We can have deeper intimacy when we learn to navigate our own, and how to keep connected with someone else through all of their intimate challenges as well.

I have identified my defensiveness around what I project are typical “alpha” guys. If I were to describe it comically, it would look like me smearing war paint on my face, giant walls erecting around any soft and vulnerable feelings. I’d come out shooting fireballs and screaming a battle cry to show them who the real alpha is. And that I’m not some little girl that will fall for their pick-up lines and power plays.

Now I know I have used this strategy before to overcome my fear of being overpowered. And not necessarily in my practice as an intimacy coach. It’s that need to prove I’m tougher and stronger than them – which actually drives a wedge between us and connection. I don’t want to be hurt again, and neither do they. We are both attempting to prove something and protect ourselves from the other, rather than see if there’s a connection worth pursuing between us.

Something very important to note here is that, when we try to connect, we pick up on our own as well as the other person’s feelings. We feel it resonate in our own nervous systems. My client’s own need to prove himself to me and the nervousness of rejection directly hit on my need to feel safe. I felt as if I was being taken on a sales pitch that I had to say ‘yes’ to rather than being able to check in with myself.

True Intimacy and Connection is Learned

He takes a deep breath and blows it out, finally meeting eyes again with me. I signal for us to take a couple more deep breaths down and hold our eye contact. I feel an unclenching in my chest and stomach. His eyes soften and his face warms into a smile.

“Ha, I don’t know what to say or do right now. This is different,” he says. He looks skeptical but his body language starts to soften.

“I know, I’m really enjoying seeing this side of you though. The no-bullshit side. You don’t have to do anything for me right now. In fact, I’m far more comfortable with you now than when you first walked in. I don’t feel as much that I have to be a certain way for you.”

I can feel the rest of my body start to unfurl and unclench. We take a couple more breaths, and I can feel the heat turn on in my system. His system responds to mine. My eyes sharpen and narrow. His gaze heats. His chest is expanding, and he’s slowly blowing labored breaths out of his mouth. With our eyes locked, I can feel my animal start to pace beneath my skin and course through my veins. I can feel he has one too. We’re facing each other, breathing heavily, soaking each other in and feeling the erotic charge build between us.

It’s so damn satisfying. I feel seen, respected, and like we could talk about just about anything in this moment, and he wouldn’t judge me. He feels the same, I sense.

Earning Your Own Pleasure

I hold out my hand. He looks at me hesitantly, then takes it in his. Electricity shoots up from my pelvic floor and we both look at each other as if we want to devour each other. “Now I want you to enjoy touching my arm in a way that feels good to you.”

His eyes narrow and there is a small drop in connection I can feel in my chest. It’s starting to tighten again. He frowns slightly, but starts to move his fingers along my forearm. He is looking down at first, but then glances into my eyes, searching for signs that I’m enjoying it. The connection starts to feel hollow and so does my chest as I start to feel the need to tell him he’s doing a good job.

“So I can tell you’re doing this for me.” I put my hand over his and gently smile.

“Yea…” He looks confused.

“I can tell you’re not enjoying it, and now you’re trying too hard. I want to ask, “Where did you go?” If you’re not enjoying it, I’m not enjoying it. Follow what feels good to you.”

Breakthroughs in Intimacy Coaching

We breathe together again to help ground him, and reassure him that his pleasure is just as important. The more I feel his pleasure, the more I’ll feel mine. It starts to heat up again, and his fingers begin to send warm tingling sensations through my skin upon contact. His first breakthrough – he stayed in connection with me and didn’t focus on performing.

This is the connection I was hoping we would find. Vulnerability. Getting down to the juice of the connection.

We all want to be seen, accepted, and to be able to explore connection. It’s beautiful, powerful, validating. So many of us are conditioned to shut it off for fear of rejection. When we can be fully present and stay connected to our own pleasure and our partner’s, our fears melt away and real intimacy and eroticism is possible.

AshleyAshley is a sex and intimacy coach in Los Angeles. She loves working with individuals and couples to develop self-worth, sexual confidence and explore new depths of vulnerable communication.

“Um, I have to tell you something. I’m in my 50s and somewhat … curvy. Are you sure you want to have me in your boudoir photography portfolio?”

When Rose spoke to me on the phone, she was definitely pushing herself out of her comfort zone. But then, she had been doing that for a while. She described herself as a professional and a mother of 3 grown kids who had been through a divorce a couple of years ago. She was on a journey to love and accept her body, and felt she was ready to reclaim her sexuality and power by saying YES to new and challenging experiences.

I reassured Rose, “Heck yeah! You’re exactly who I want in my portfolio”. She signed up for a shoot. But as the day of the shoot approached, anxieties and fears reared up in her head:

I don’t look good in pictures usually – what if this is more of the same?

Do I have to do something I’m not comfortable with?

OMG – I don’t have anything to wear!!!

Even with all of that, she showed up for her shoot, nervous and brave, with a suitcase full of beautiful outfits. We took it from there.

 

My Adventure with Somatica

I first encountered Somatica as a client in 2014, working on my own sex and relationship challenges. Working with Celeste (one of the Somatica Founders) for over a year helped me clarify my needs, desires, and boundaries. This ultimately helped me navigate both my unconventional marriage as well as my partner’s gender transition. So, when Celeste asked me if I’d be interested in taking the Somatica Core Training in 2017, it was a no-brainer.

As part of the program, I learned how so many women are traumatized by their experiences around their bodies and their relationship with society and men; how creating a supportive space and a container of trust is critical to healing; how being in your own body can be so empowering for both men and women.

As the program ended, I felt that coaching wasn’t quite the right thing for me, but everything I had learned supported another passion of mine: photography.

I realized that the principles of Somatica – embodiment, attunement, vulnerability, boundaries – are all key components of a great boudoir photo session. This made me think: What if a photo session could also be a time of celebration, empowerment, and healing for my clients?

After that, there was no looking back. I dove into intimate and boudoir photography, and a few months later, launched my business: Shadows and Curves.

 

The Experience of a Boudoir Photo Shoot

We started Rose’s session with a quick check-in where we both talked about what we were feeling and our intentions for the day. Together, we then went through her outfits, laying out what she would be wearing and where. We talked about the story she wanted to tell about herself and her life. This was when she really started to relax. “It felt like a true collaboration, and not like someone just telling me what to do,” she said.

Throughout the session, my assistant and I stayed attuned to her, nudging her to try new things. We also made sure though she was relaxed, taking breaks whenever necessary. In her own words, “It felt like a really fun afternoon with friends, not like a photo shoot.”

The experience of a session itself can be transformative enough, but the real magic happens when a client sees her photos for the first time. In Rose’s case, her first reaction was, “I can’t believe that’s me!”

There’s a reason a picture is more powerful than a thousand words. Words get caught in our head, but an image can bypass the stories we tell ourselves and can carry a message deep into our bodies.

 

The Power of Boudoir Photography + Somatica

The tools and techniques from my Somatica training help me create a fun and supportive space where my clients feel completely in their body and comfortable enough to express their true, gorgeous selves.

I see so many of the women in my life struggle with a lack of self-worth; women who are dedicated to being professionals, partners, mothers and often don’t make enough time to take care of themselves. I’m constantly amazed by how beautiful and powerful these women are, and saddened by the fact that they’re unable to see themselves that way.

As a male photographer, I bring a special perspective and responsibility to my clients. Instead of the objectification and degradation that women often have to endure from men in daily life, my clients choose to have the experience of a man who supports their healing, true will, and self-expression. I want them to feel as deeply seen as they want to be in the world.

With women in their 40s and 50s, it’s about feeling that despite all of society treating them like they should be invisible, they’re still beautiful, sexy, and desirable.

With new moms, it’s about celebrating the changes in their bodies, reconnecting with their partners, and taking time for themselves amidst all the social pressures of being a mother.

For my transgender and non-binary clients, it’s about really, truly seeing themselves in their authentic gender identity.

For couples, it’s about exploring and (re)discovering their connection, capturing moments of true, vulnerable intimacy.

That’s the power of boudoir photography, and that is why I am a photographer. I’m incredibly grateful to Somatica for helping me find this path and this career.

 

What’s Next?

I love working with Somatica practitioners and their clients to celebrate the end of their healing journeys.

I also plan to grow my boudoir photography portfolio quite a bit in the coming months to include more women, men, couples (straight and queer), non-binary and trans people, kink, erotica and more. I’ll be putting out regular model calls for those.

Please feel free to email me any time, or just subscribe to my VIP mailing list, where you’ll be the first to hear about updates, special offers, or model calls.

Love,

Raj

We are excited to announce that the Somatica Institute can now count itself among the elite group of BBS Approved CEU Providers.

bbs approved ceu provider

If you are a mental health professional in search of a CEU for MFT course, perhaps you’d like to add sex and intimacy tools to your practice.

For both couples work and individual work, having the skills to help people embrace their sexual desires can greatly enhance your ability to support your client’s life. We can provide you with the tools to assist your clients with deepening attachment, know what turns them on, ask for what they want, and assert their boundaries.

These training are also suitable for Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCC) looking for continuing education units.

CEU Approval

In order to get CEU approval, we went through an in-depth application process with the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS). As a result, we are now CAMFT CEU approved (this is approval through the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists). The Somatica Institute offers CAMFT CEUs for classes to help licensed practitioners work with clients around issues related to sexuality and relationships.

CEU Approval Guidelines

As a BBS approved CEU provider, the Somatica Institute and like organizations must follow particular professional guidelines. They include such requirements as providing a designated program administrator, and instructional methods that actively engage the learner. Thus, if you are looking for CEU for MFT classes, you can be assured our classes have been assessed, and follow these and all other guidelines.

How to Get Your Units

When you apply for a Somatica Training for Professional Development, make sure to let us know that you would like to receive LCSW, LPCC or LMFT continuing education units. We will track the hours you attend the course and you can get CEU credits for them. That’s all you need to do.

So, for a more holistic approach to supporting your clients in every area of their lives, check out our Core Coach Training on Sex & Relationships and join our merry group of certified coaches.

At their core, people have a profound desire to connect. So Valentine’s Day can feel a little played out. The pressure to please your partner, the expectation that everyone should have a partner, and the external societal pressure to conform to an idea of what the day should look like can really put a damper on it. Even for those of us who have dedicated our life’s work to sex, love, and romance year-round, it can sometimes feel like a burden. At the same time, Valentine’s Day can have a lot of power and excitement – and we want you to get the most out of it.

We wanted some fresh, practical and hot ideas so we asked other Somatica trained Sex Coaches, Sexperts, and Sex Educators what they do for V-day. It turns out they have very different answers – from awaiting the discount goodies on February 15th, to attending just the right sex party. Here are their unique Valentines Day ideas for folks who love or hate V-day – and everyone in between!

1. Just Another Day…To Attend a Kinky Genderplay Party

For many sex coaches, V-day is not so different from the rest of their passion-filled lives. We try and make sure to have impassioned connections and create unique special occasions whenever wcan. This sentiment was echoed by a good number of folks we spoke to, but any given day for a sex coach might look a little different than your average Joe or Jane. For instance Dori – who coaches in the Bay Area – offers a great example of a practical idea she knows she and her partner will love. And it can be encouraging for people to know that even sex coaches schedule date nights and sexual explorations.

Gender cosplay might not be your bag, but planning something you have done before and know you love is a great way to celebrate V-day.

2. If You Gotta Work, Spread the Love

Like Dori, a lot of sex coaches will be sharing their expertise with clients for V-Day. Sex coaching is one of the fastest growing fields, so taking time off might not be what you want to do when you love your work and have amazing opportunities for connection. Unless it randomly falls on a weekend, most people work on Valentine’s day. Spending a day at work and then needing to figure out a special night can feel less than ideal.n.

For example, don’t feel too bad for the multi-talented Xanet. Poor thing will be in Costa Rica this February: “I will be assisting my mentor at a Tropical Couples Valentine Week Tantra Workshop and doing private Somatica coaching sessions with them! Helping to Spread the Love!!”

3. Make a Plan with Friends

Bay Area-based Annie has a fun, sexy and unique valentines day idea: “I’m going to shake my booty to Rhye – one of my favorite sexy bands with a couple foxy lady friends in San Francisco! Come join us!”

A great way to spend Valentine’s Day is to plan ahead and do something you love with people you love – no matter if they are romantic partners. This can work for singles or couples who don’t want the pressure or expectations. It’s a failsafe plan that will make Annie feel grounded in who she is – and she will feel sexy, embodied, and fulfilled at the end of the day. We may join. 🙂

Your plan can be joyous and playful like Annie’s, or you can find your most angst-ridden friend or crew, find a dark corner and sing along to Morrissey or whatever maudlin music feeds your broody soul. Having a plan that reflects what you love and the friends you can be yourself with is a brilliant way to take the pressure off and make this day truly yours.

4. Know Your Needs

For some people, the best thing to do on Valentine’s Day is to know it’s just not for them.

“I set my expectations really low to avoid disappointment on an overrated romantic holiday”, shared Santa Cruz based coach, Megan. “Apparently I am triggered by romance… probably due to the high level of disappointment the whole fantasy inherently brings to my world.”

We really appreciated Megan’s honest answer and agree that it reflects the sentiments of much of the population. Instead of feeling shame about this day by bringing up negative emotions, she strategized ways to take care of herself, knowing that romance fantasies are not her thing. Many people – especially women – feel that romance is the only appropriate kind of love story to desire. From working with hundreds of couples and individuals, we know this is not the case.

If celebrating Valentine’s Day feels like it is about a kind of romance you can’t stomach, you can make it about something else. Or just shift your expectations and wait for a holiday that speaks to you. After all – there’s always International Fetish Day or National Underwear Day. Yay.

5. Make It a Day for Self-Love

What if you could really be your own Valentine? Susan, in Denver, has an amazing plan for spoiling herself that brings this unique Valentine’s Day idea list to a fitting end.

“Whether I have a lover or not, I do a thing I call Courting Your Inner Partner. I ask myself: “How would Susan love to experience this day?” Then I get down to the detail, with self-love notes and pre-cooking food- so ‘Susan’ doesn’t have to. It’s a total mind game, but it totally works and I always go home with myself!”

While this may seem a bit advanced, there are many ways to follow this example and give yourself what you need on Valentine’s Day.

Need more inspiration?

We are always happy to chat with you. And if you want to spend a day connecting with all sorts of lovely folks, check out our FREE intro to Somatica on March 9th in Berkeley + Oakland (or Portland, Seattle, LA, NYC, Charleston NC, Washington DC, Toronto, and British Columbia).

Year after year, we make New Year’s Resolutions trying to turn over a new leaf and change our lives for years to come. The most common resolutions are generally ambitious, or downright unrealistic. More often than not they are motivated by shame and self-judgment.

In psychological terms, resolutions tend to be backed by avoidant motivations, by what we don’t want, instead of approach motivations, what we do want. While this difference might seem minimal or largely semantic, it is actually extremely important in terms of what we can achieve and how. Here are some examples of common New Year’s Resolutions and how we have changed them to make them more possible and fulfilling.

Love My Body Vs. Change My Body

Let’s take weight loss as an example, this is one of the top resolutions every year. Most people vow to go on diets or begin intense workout regimens which maybe last until February or March. Why? Because changing habits is actually a pretty difficult venture and when you do it from a basis of being unkind to yourself it is very unlikely to work. What if your resolution was to think of small, daily ways to try and love your body more. This is not an easy task in a society that promotes self-hatred and unrealistic standards, but it can be done with patience and mindfulness.

So here is a reminder from us – your body is beautiful, strong, and has the potential to experience amazing amounts of pleasure. Think of a few kind things to say to your body – your body will be kind back.

Loving your body may well include exercising more and focusing on foods that make you feel good longer versus foods that fill an emotional void in the moment. But the emphasis on acceptance is much more likely to lead to change than the obsession with change. This goes for much more than body image goals, which is why we encourage people to de-shamify as an essential focus for any personal growth.

Explore My Passion vs Get a New Job

While an employment change may be in your future it can be daunting as a New Year’s Resolution. Also, sometimes simply changing jobs does not actually offer long-term satisfaction. So let’s leave this for another kind of to-do list and make the resolution to explore your passion. Finding ways to include what you are passionate about in your routines about can transform all aspects of your life. Not all passions will translate to a career, but many can even if the connection is not obvious at first. From our own career trajectories, we have learned that following our passions, even when we were not connecting them to a clear career goal, kept leading us back to gaining deeper understandings of sex and intimacy.

When people come to our Somatica Core Training they tell us that the changes they make as a result are not limited to romantic relationships or professional growth. Whether our students become sex and intimacy coaches and apply our method daily in their careers or simply in their relationships and personal growth, it still impacts satisfaction in all elements of their life.

Connect More vs. Make New Friends

Adults over 30 report struggling to make new friends as a major point of dissatisfaction. While the spirit of the resolution to make new friends is great, it might feel a bit overwhelming. What if instead, you resolved to connect more in general and to give yourself points just for putting yourself out there in your daily life.

This might mean making more eye contact, striking up conversations, pming a Facebook acquaintance for a coffee date or a FaceTime date with an old friend. When people join us for a Somatica Training they find a community that they only ever dreamed about before. The nature of the work means that people can’t hide behind small talk or devices, instead, they enter into an immersive experience where they get to know each other and create lasting bonds and support networks. Friendships grow organically once we come to an experience with our full selves.

Explore Your Sexual Self vs. Have More Sex

There is nothing wrong with wanting to up the frequency of your sex life. However, as sex and relationship coaches we can tell you that the way to make sustainable and highly pleasurable changes to your sex life generally involves taking some time to explore what you really want and to learn how to ask for it. This is not as simple as quality over quantity, because, the truth is, both are important.

Read more…

Ok, we like this one as it is. We are avid readers of fiction and non-fiction. Let’s face it, books are sexy. Knowledge is sexy. But once again, we are going to emphasize reading for pleasure as a New Year’s Resolution. It will be much easier to make reading a sustainable habit if you start of with your pleasure reads and cycle in that book on personal finance a bit later. We like a steady diet alternating fiction with new books in the field of sex and intimacy. This way we have something to read for whatever headspace we are in, but we love it all.

Oh, and if you have not already read our books, Making Love Real and Cockfidence we would love to know what you think.

So…what are the Best New Year’s Resolutions?

Anything that makes you smile when you think about the year ahead. We can’t wait to hear all about your New Years Resolution ideas.

The signs of shame are all around us. Sometimes you can see people’s shame seep out slowly – other times it explodes. When you pay attention and listen to people long enough, you begin to hear not only what they are saying about themselves, but what they desperately want to hide. Many people seek coaching or therapy because they want to change something about themselves. We work on overcoming and healing shame first. Then we look to see what the person really needs in order to grow.

What is Shame?

At its essence, shame is a feeling you get when there is something about you that you feel is inherently bad, wrong or unlovable. You fear that, if people knew this thing (or things) about you, it would make you unfit to be in their heart, their family, their embrace. Or that instead, you would be cast out.

While we are ultimately in the business of helping people obtain new tools that will help them live happier, more fulfilling lives, we certainly never want to reinforce the extensive amounts of shame that are part of the day-to-day air we breathe.

Identifying and Uprooting Toxic Shame

We begin every session by attuning to ourselves and others, listening deeply to a person’s desired outcomes, and ruthlessly rooting out toxic shame. We call this last part of the process “de-shamifying”. And why do we start with de-shamifying before transformation? Because shame fills a person with pressure, apprehension, and restriction.

It is very hard to learn something new if you believe you are completely unlovable the way you are. That level of pressure causes a person to freeze, shut down, fake it, and run away. Trying something new is risky – it requires patience, gentleness, and self-acceptance.

And Finally – De-shamifying and Healing Shame

Once you have begun to identify and name your feelings of shame, there are some key ways you can begin to let go and heal shame. In the Somatica method, we de-shamify in multiple ways, including the following three:

1. Admitting we are flawed

Unlike many other coaches and teachers, we very vulnerably share the ways we do not have it all figured out. This helps our clients realize that it’s ok not to be perfect, that we ourselves are not perfect and are ok with it.

2. Exposing unrealistic expectations in our culture

Another way to de-shamify is to shake our fists at a world that creates all that expectation. It practically requires us to pretend that we have it all together and are ok and happy all the time. To point out that this is not true for ANYONE often helps clients realize it is actually the world that is messed up – not them.

3. Loving someone – even as they tell us what is unlovable about themselves

When someone shares their shame with us, then looks us in the eye and sees we have nothing but love and appreciation for them – that is often the key that helps to melt the shame away. This love and compassion, in fact, is often enhanced by their bravery in sharing their shame with us, and by expressing those sentiments, the person can relax, let go of anxiety and breathe again.

YES, AND

Sometimes people get confused by the process of de-shamifying. They ask the question: “Is our job to help a person accept themselves as they are – or to transform?” This is a false choice – the answer is actually YES, AND. Yes, it is our job to help someone accept themselves exactly as they are AND to transform. Our desire to continue to grow does not go away because we accept ourselves. Quite the contrary – self-love unfreezes us enough to exercise our freedom to experiment, to take the big scary risks, and to step more fully into the bigness of all that we can be!
 
If you’re interested in deeper learning around the process of overcoming and healing shame – either for personal growth or your own therapy practice – consider taking part in our Core Training sessions. We also conduct a Free Intro so you can get acquainted with the Somatica Method. We look forward to seeing you there.

Last weekend I had sex at a sex party

Presumably, that is what one does at a sex party. However, I had been ambivalently having sex parties experiences for two years (five in total) – and this was a first for me.

When I attended my first party I was seven months out of a 16-year relationship and three months back home in the Bay Area. In a vortex of long-term monogamy, motherhood, and grief I had lost a vital part of myself. I set out on a journey with no roadmap to rediscover my sexuality; everything felt new again. My curiosity about sex parties was both anthropological and personal. I was intrigued, it was ridiculously outside my comfort zone, and I wanted to see what it was all about.

I like testing my edges

When I go to the edge of my comfort zone, I get to see how much I can handle. In doing so, I open myself to new experiences and people.

The initial party I attended was epic: a weekend-long event at a Northern California retreat center. I was flying solo, invited by a man in an open relationship whom I had met online. We’d been dating for a couple months (online dating, another first). The weekend was a somewhat awkward experience punctuated by moments of brief connection. The fact that it spanned a weekend turned out to have benefits. I had private space to retreat to, and plenty of time to step in and out of the party as my comfort level allowed. I made a few connections that weekend that lasted, and a couple that imploded. Such is life.

For some reason, I kept going to sex parties

I questioned myself as to why I continued to go to parties. Drawn to neither exhibitionism nor voyeurism I wondered: were sex parties experiences even a thing for me? Why was I continuing this experiment? I didn’t have an answer.

I continued to feel awkward, and often out of place. Then, at one party, I had a lovely experience of desire and consent. A sweet and sexy man (who I had initially met at the first epic weekend) asked if he could kiss me and I said yes. He asked if he could escalate a bit, and I said yes. When I told him that was all I was up for, he was great about it.

I experienced an embodied sense of my boundaries, felt empowered to communicate them, and felt genuinely cared for, desired, and respected all in that one exchange. Maybe I was learning something about navigating a challenging space. Challenging because the whole point is exploring the rawest, most naked human experience – sex.

What do you like about the sex parties experience?

I interrogated friends: what is it about sex parties that appeals to you? Why do you go? I received thoughtful and vulnerable answers. One person expressed desire to be in an environment of positive sexual expression, to be immersed in sex positivity. Another described the attraction to expanding boundaries of sexuality and sexual experience, to push edges in service of growth and to keep discovering more of what is possible. These responses stayed with me, affecting the lens through which I observed my own experience, and the changes taking place in me.

The latest two parties I attended were in June of last year and most recently, this month. I surprised myself by enjoying both. In June I had the company of people I really liked, and with whom I felt a blossoming sense of trust and safety. I made out with and had an intimate exchange with a couple of friends. It was a comfortable social experience with a dash of erotic charge.

Know what you want and be flexible

I anticipated the most recent party with a mix of anxiety, hope, and excitement; the anxiety peaking on the day of the party. The experience I was looking for did not involve sex, but rather a feeling of ease and belonging. I wanted to let my guard down, to dance and feel my body, without pressure or inhibition.

OH, this is happening…

It was one of those nights that aligned so well it almost feels like magic. I showed up, feeling confident, sexy, social. I made easy contact with people I knew well, introduced myself to some I didn’t. Later, one of these newer people approached me. At previous parties and for most of the last two years I’ve projected a pretty unapproachable vibe. My guard was definitely coming down. It took me a bit to catch up to what was going on and then I thought, OH! This sex party experience is happening, to me, right now. And I was into it. And into him.

As a sex and relationship coach, embodied knowing is part of what I teach and practice. What does that mean? How did I know? Lots of reasons. First, he was hot. He was also adorable, and seductively shy in expressing interest and asking for what he wanted. My core erotic theme – my biggest turn-ons – was getting lit up. More than anything, I felt relaxed and comfortable in my body and the only direction I wanted to move in was forward.

In some ways this is all new to me, and in some ways not. As I think back, it was kind of miraculous that in my teens and twenties I felt entitled to my desire for and enjoyment of sex. I was enthusiastic about it and not particularly restricted by ideas of how, when, or with whom I should or should not be having it. The freedom of going with the moment and following my desire came back to me that night. I didn’t care if people saw me having sex, or that I was having sex in a room full of other people having sex. I felt my desire, I felt his desire, and I went with it.

Somatica skills at sex parties and beyond

A significant part of my journey has been practicing and refining skills I learned and teach as a group leader in the Somatica Core Training and in one-on-one sex coaching. I practice listening to my body, connected communication, resilience and flexibility in navigating shifting boundaries (whether they are expanding or contracting). A common sex party guideline is a high possibility, low expectation, which is a relational philosophy full of potential. It speaks to a zen of putting what you want out there and being open to getting it (being able to receive), or not getting it (being with disappointment), or getting something you hadn’t even known was possible (presence and flexibility).

Whether the edginess of sex parties experiences appeals to you or not, erotic and relational literacy is for everyone. It empowers and enhances every part of our lives. Come and learn with us – see a coach or join the training. Let them know you heard about it from this blog when you sign up!

Love,
Elena

There is no questions the date between Aziz and Grace was a disaster

We have watched as people have taken sides, but that’s not what we want to do here. It was a bad date, Aziz pushed too hard, Grace didn’t leave. Instead of taking sides, what we’d rather do is ask “Why?” For the sake of simplicity, we will start with Grace.

There’s an important piece of the story missing

While many writers, including Emma Gray from HuffPo, call on the socialization of women to be nice and accommodating, we think this is only part of the story.

A much deeper problem is lack of women’s sexual empowerment. Because women are taught to say “no” to sex, they go into sexual situations from a defensive mode. They are not thinking, “I love sex and have every right to it. So, do I want sex with this guy, under what circumstances would or wouldn’t I? And, what kind of sexual experiences would make me feel great physically and emotionally?”

Instead, they go into a dating situation thinking, “What is this guy going to want from me and how do I navigate it so that I am sexual enough for him, while still getting him to respect and take me seriously?”

Boys are praised and girls are protected

Girls are sexually disempowered from a young age. When you see people talk to parents about their children, they look at boys and say, “Oh, he’s flirting with me, he’s so cute, he’ll get all the girls.” When they look at a pretty girl, the say, “Boy, you better watch out, all the boys are going to be after her, you might need to keep her locked up ’til she’s 18.”

The protectionist attitude is everywhere in our society, and it contributes to women feeling like victims instead of people driving their own lives. We have worked with so many parents struggling with how to deal with their teenage daughter’s budding sexuality. When we float the idea that they might talk about how wonderful and pleasurable sex is before telling them to be careful, it’s like the thought has never even occurred.

So, why didn’t Grace just leave (or why don’t women just leave)?

She probably had a romantic fantasy that she might end up being Aziz’s girlfriend, though he clearly was only out for casual sex. She was probably being nice, because she was socialized that way. And, importantly, it is VERY unlikely that she had any idea of what her sexual desires and boundaries were in the situation, so she was in a reactive instead of empowered mode.

Reactive mode

Unless you’ve experienced it, it is very hard to imagine what reactive mode is like. It is almost as if the world becomes very small and you are only in the current interaction. You are trying to deal with the moment-to-moment experience of decision-making in the face of the force of someone else’s desires. And, sometimes like the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water, you only realize how bad it’s gotten once the pot is boiling.

Trauma

While it may not have been the case in Grace’s situation, it bears mentioning that people with a history of unresolved trauma can have a freeze response, which might lead to them not being able to stop a violating experience. In a similar situation, a woman with a history of unresolved trauma, would have one or more of three potential responses, fight, flight or freeze. Fight is great in these instances — a woman with this response might have pushed Aziz away and said, “Get off of me.” Flight also would have been great — a woman with a flight response would likely have run out of the house. The tougher one in these situations, and one that women will often then be blamed or shamed for and feel terrible about themselves after, is the freeze response. A woman who has the freeze response will generally dissociate, never say no or stop saying no, and let the other person do whatever they want to do until it’s over.

Lack of sexual empowerment

Even if Grace did not have a trauma history (and we don’t know whether or not she did), we strongly believe that the fact that she did not leave the date sooner was not Grace’s fault. We think it is highly doubtful that Grace received the message that she has a right to pleasure and can decide what she does and doesn’t want. Until women are fully empowered to not be so nice and to have their own internal compass, bad dates will continue to look like Aziz and Grace’s. Even when we are highly empowered, women still might occasionally not take perfect care of themselves, but we will at least have the best possible chance. Also, even if we are totally clear and empowered in dating situations, we can still get violated and raped if a man is willing to use force. We must keep all of this in mind if we are going to change our culture around dating and sex.

What does women’s sexual empowerment look like?

At minimum, if we want girls to grow up to be empowered women in these kinds of situations — to ask for what they want, to stay when they like it and leave when they don’t — we need to treat them like adult sexual beings. We need to get rid of the protectionist attitude towards girls and teach them that sex is pleasurable and that they deserve pleasure. We need to tell girls that sex is for them and not something that boys get to have and they get to try to stave off in order to get a relationship.

What needs to change in the minds of men and women?

  1. It is time to celebrate women who have multiple sexual partners as wise women, not sluts (or reclaim the word slut as something positive)! We need to imagine a future of wonderful, pleasurable sex for girls and give them the knowledge to do so once they become women.
  2. Both men and women need to think of women’s sexual desire as an essential part of every women. We need to stop thinking of sex as a commodity that women trade for love and relationships.
  3. It is only through knowing what we want and that we have a right to it, that we can also know what we don’t want and be crystal clear about it.

By now, you have probably read the article about a date Aziz Ansari had with “Grace”, which is sparking a debate about the complexity of the #MeToo movement and starting a much-needed dialogue on the nuances of consent. As Sex and Relationship coaches we have spent countless hours analyzing specific dates, dating culture, and working with men and women to better understand consent, boundaries, and desire. When we hear stories like Grace’s, and we do, regularly, we are reminded just how crucial and rare communication about desire is.

Most People Don’t Know What They Want or How to Express It

As people are taking sides on Aziz and Grace, trying to pinpoint one or the other as a truer victim they are often missing an important point that can help frame this conversation and allow us all to better understand how and why these kind of dating scenarios are both terrible and commonplace. Most of us don’t even know what we want out of dating and sex. And we sure as hell don’t communicate it.

Aziz and Grace were on two different dates

He was looking for his version of a hot sexual experience, likely a one night stand, and she was hoping for something more romantic and potentially ongoing. They were both undoubtedly inside of their own fantasies, not noticing or caring about what the other one wanted. Of course, this was not impactful to Aziz in the same way it was to Grace, but it is still useful to explore where both were likely coming from.

What Did They Each Want?

From the story Grace told, this is what we can imagine it looked like inside of each of their minds:

The Aziz Fantasy

Man, I met this really cute girl, she seems to be really into me, I’m going to go through this whole bullshit dating thing and then I’m totally going to fuck her. I really can’t wait for us to get back to my place. We better get through dinner quick because I want to eat her out and get every part of me in her mouth — my fingers, my dick. It would be so hot to watch us in the mirror, I’m going to bend her over. Then she can see how hot it is that a famous guy like me is doing her from behind. C’mon, let’s get this party started. Sweet, she’s already talking about my counter-tops, that’s a great place to start. Girls in their 20s are really horny, I hope we can just skip all the bullshit and get right to it…

The Grace Fantasy

OMG, I can’t believe I’m going on a date with Aziz Ansari. He seems really cool and I Iove how sweet he is on his show. It will be so romantic, we can sit and sip our favorite wine and have a long, leisurely dinner. We already love the same camera, I bet we have a bunch of other things in common. I hope this dress is ok, I hope he thinks I’m cute, I can’t believe I’m going out with a celebrity. What if we end up dating, what if we end up in a relationship Ok, I’m cool going to his house. Maybe we can go out on his balcony and kiss under the stars. He seems really cool, I bet he’ll know how to kiss me just right, and touch my face, and we can make out and touch all night long. Who knows, maybe we will even end up having sex, but I probably shouldn’t because I want to make sure he still respects me and wants to go on another date.

Did They Care What the Other Wanted?

Obviously, this is not a perfect re-enactment of what was going on in their heads, but it is probably not too far off the mark. More importantly, whatever was going on it was entirely projection on both their parts. On his- a hot, porno fantasy, on her’s -the perfect romantic movie. We can only imagine the countless times this similar dating scenario has been played out, with women feeling used and taken advantage of and men feeling shocked that anything they did was wrong. It seems to us that Aziz didn’t really care what Grace wanted and Grace was in denial of what Aziz actually wanted.They were hoping for really different things but never talked about it.

Aziz seemed to be able to stay in his fantasy regardless of the pretty clear evidence that Grace wasn’t into it. A lack of empathy, insensitivity, or high levels of turn-on mixed with not really caring what the other person wants often lead to this. Aziz doesn’t actually have the luxury of claiming ignorance, since he literally wrote a book on dating, Modern Romance, which leads us to believe he simply thought there would be no consequences for continuing to push much harder than he should. As a culture we don’t consider a one-night stand an ok desire, so Grace isn’t even tasked with accepting that might have been what Aziz wanted.

Why No One Says What They Want

In dating there is way too much unspoken and both men and women are afraid to speak it, often for different reasons. As a guy, it’s nerve-racking because you don’t want to scare a date away by being too forward, or by just wanting sex, or a particular kind of sex. As a woman, if you are hoping for something more long-term, you don’t want to scare men away on a first date by grilling them about whether they want something serious. The fear that talking about sex might impede on the sexual tension or ruin the romantic fantasy means we don’t talk about what we are really after. With this approach, it’s surprising that any good comes of dating.

Regardless of whether or not we agree on how this should have been handled by the media or the parties involved, we can all agree that Aziz and Grace had a bad date. Ultimately, there was actual harm done, even if not criminal. Grace was emotionally hurt and, as a result of the article, Aziz suffered harm to his reputation and, undoubtedly, his feelings. Surely there would have been harm done to Grace’s reputation as well had she used her real name, since many people are blaming and shaming her around her approach to the evening.

While probably not criminal, certainly some of what Aziz did was not consensual. He continued to press Grace even after Grace told him she didn’t want to go any further and he agreed to just chill. Theoretically, Grace could have left at any time, but this would take a level of personal, sexual empowerment that our culture does not teach girls and young women. Check out our upcoming blog on Why Grace Didn’t Leave.

So What Do We Do About It?

Changing our society so that these types of dates are a rare exception and not an unacknowledged norm is not a simple task. We cannot stress enough how important communication is even in the most casual relationship. We need to start talking about desire while also exercising embodied empathy, verbal and embodied consent and gradual escalation. In general this means men need to do a better job of reading their partners; she didn’t say no is not a reason enough to proceed. And women need to learn that their boundaries and their desires are important.

Here are a Few Practical Steps

  1. One way to remain mindful of your boundaries and desires in dating is to get past wishful thinking and projection. Whether your fantasy is for a hot one night stand or a romantic date, pay attention to what the other person actually wants. As long as boundaries are being respected, try accepting what the other person wants without judging it.
  2. Even better, you could openly acknowledge what you want and have an honest conversation about it.
  3. Next, if there is any part of what the other person wants that you want too, be clear and communicative about your desires and boundaries.
  4. Once you know what each of you wants, engage in whatever feels mutually good to both of you.
  5. If it ends up you are on different pages, let yourself feel the disappointment of your desires not being met. This disappointment is not their fault and, likewise, you are not responsible for fulfilling their fantasy when it doesn’t fit with yours.

While this moment of societal reckoning is difficult, we are hopeful that it can move us towards more communication around sex and a better understanding of consent.

So many people call us searching for the right sex coaching training. As teachers and former students of multiple programs, we understand how important fit is since no program is perfect for everyone. There are more and more programs out there and it can be really hard to find the differences between them just by reading a website. As we guide people through this process, we have gained unique insight into what questions people ask as well as the ones they often overlook.

Here are some questions to ask, when you need to find the right program for you:

What is my philosophy and does the program reflect this?

For example, do I believe that verbal coaching and giving advice works best or do I believe in the importance of hands-on, interpersonal work? If you are interested in giving advice you can take a talk coaching training. If you are interested in a relational approach you should consider a training that offers in-person practice and experiential exercises.

Is it only a sex coaching program or does it include relationships?

If you feel like you have a solid grounding in helping clients navigate the complex dynamics of relationships, then a program that focuses primarily on sex might work for you. For some people, these programs feel detached from underlying issues and they need a more integrated approach that addresses the interplay of sexual and emotional connection.

What is my learning style and what are the tools and the learning methodology offered?

If you have an easier time learning at your own pace in the privacy of your own home, you might consider an online training. If you need a higher level of embodiment or interactive learning, it will be better to do in person, group learning.

Do I want to be able to see clients right away?

Some people don’t realize that with the right intensive program they will have the confidence and tools to see clients right away and start earning money while getting ongoing training to learn and build on their skills.

Will it be enough to take a year-long training?

The short answer is no, it is never enough because even the longest, most in-depth program will only give you a foundation, but you there will always be so much more to learn once you get out in the field and start working with people. If it is the right training that offers practice and theory, it will be enough for you to start your practice.

Will I have a place to keep growing?

After you finish your initial training it is your job to keep growing and sharpening your skills as a professional. A good program will offer ongoing classes and supervision so you can keep learning – ideally, you can do this while already seeing clients.

Is community important to me?

Finding a program that has an emphasis on learning from your peers and offering a continued network of support is crucial for most folks to have continued success. You are looking to work with people and who you surround yourself with matters. Each of the people in your training represents an opportunity to grow your personal and professional network. We have watched the Somatica community grow into a thriving resource full of mutual referrals, as well as a place for professional and emotional support.

Do I need letters after my name?

For some people having an MA, MSW, MFT, PhD, etc. after their names gives them a sense that they deserve to do the work they are doing. For others, these letters may be something they perceive as important to impress others either from a marketing standpoint or to feel acknowledged by their relatives etc. There is no right answer here – we ourselves both love higher education! At the same time, it’s important to understand the difference between getting a degree and attending a professional training. Both can be amazing for personal and intellectual development. Just make sure if you want to work with clients that you are going to get a full set of useful tools to work with instead of just a theoretical education.