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May 31, 2021 4 min read

If you’ve found your way to this delightfully debauched corner of the internet, odds are you’re interested in investing in your sexuality (fuck yeah!). I’m Sam, a sex worker, sexological bodyworker/ sex educator in training and general erotic enthusiast. I am outrageously into investigating ways for folks to expand their sexual repertoire and enrich the way they relate with self and others. New toys are a great way to explore by yourself or with a partner (and there are heaps of sublime ones here), and so is involving sexuality professionals, whether they be sex workers, a sexological bodyworker or somatic sex educator. 

Maybe you have heard of sexological bodywork and somatic sex education, maybe you haven’t. Because this field is growing rapidly and attracts professionals from diverse backgrounds, everyone has their own take on the modality, their own specialties and areas of interest. Here, I will talk about how I understand what sexological bodywork is, who it’s for and what kinds of questions and learning objectives people might come to a sexological bodyworker with. 

When I’m asked by people what sexological bodywork is, I describe it as embodied sex education or sex therapy where there is the option of receiving touch. This generally gets a bit of a blank look. So before I give more detail on what it is, it’s probably best to talk about what it isn’t. 

Two hands massaging uncovered back close up

Sexological bodywork is not a two-way interactive sexual encounter. In Australia, sexological bodywork is not a licensed profession, but is governed by the SSEAA, which outlines a Code of Ethics for practitioners to adhere to. Practitioners are to keep their clothes on, genital touch must only be one way (from practitioner to student), practitioners must use gloves for any genital touch and practitioners will not engage in a sexual or romantic relationship with their clients (for at least a year after the professional relationship has concluded). 

Cool. We got that out of the way. Maybe a bit of history would help? Sexological bodywork and somatic sex education was developed by Joseph Kramer during the AIDs epidemic in order to offer ways for people to enjoy eroticism without fluid exchange. With a large emphasis on building pleasure and modulating arousal level through full body and genital touch, breath, movement and sound, sexological bodyworkers supported clients in expanding their experience of pleasure both in sessions and in their self-pleasure practice in ways that minimised the risk of viral transfer. 

Two gloved hands forming a heart shape

The remit of sexological bodyworkers has expanded in the last few decades. There are sexological bodyworkers and somatic sex educators working with erotically active people of all life stages, genders, sexual orientations, cultural backgrounds and abilities. This presents almost limitless erotic inquiries to work with.Take note of the language - in Australia, sexological bodyworkers are trained by Deej and Uma at the Institute of Somatic Sexology, who emphasise the educational contract at the heart of sexological bodywork sessions. This approach, which frames erotic encounters as learning experiences, has influenced some of Australia’s foremost sex positive sex educators, sex therapists and counsellors.

You will often hear the phrase “embrace the clunky”. This mantra abounds among somatic sex educators, and is informed by recent developments in learning theory and research in neuroplasticity. The clunkiness is where learning happens - where your brain rewires itself to form new connections and cement new skills. In my experience, framing the sessions as a practice space (and indeed, taking this framing into sexual encounters with partners) can relieve the anxiety that all too often arises from the pressure to perform, to get things right, to flow effortlessly in sex.

Sexological bodyworkers are trained to structure their sessions around their client’s learning objective. Based on the learning objective, the practitioner and client will work together to create an educational contract that outlines the activities and boundaries that apply to the session. The practitioner will offer embodiment exercises or somatic experiences that invite the conscious use of breath, movement, sound and touch to develop the skills and awareness necessary for supporting their learning. This might look like a guided body scan, a game that develops consent and communication skills or teaches different kinds of touch, some form of massage or mapping, or experimenting with up and down regulating of the nervous system.

Some examples of learning objectives you might bring to a sexological bodyworker are: 

  • Naming and knowing your own anatomy
  • Increasing sensation and pleasure
    • Genital, anal and full body sensation, pleasure and orgasm. 
  • Staying present during sex with self and others
  • Changing habitual patterns of pleasure
  • Developing sexual agency and assertiveness
  • Competently and confidently communicating and doing consent
  • Understanding your turn ons, turn offs and arousal style
  • Dismantling sexual shame
  • Working with your body when it doesn’t behave the way you want it to
    • low arousal
    • lack of erection/ engorgement
    • lack of ejaculation choice (early or delayed)
    • Vaginismus
    • pelvic or vaginal pain during sex
  • Supporting eroticism as the body changes with age, reproductive choices, gender confirmation or other procedures and illness.
    • This may involve scar remediation, or working directly with scar tissue (that is older than 8 weeks)
  • Bringing all of the above into relationships
  • Learning new ways to orgasm or how to orgasm with a partner

I am currently in the process of completing my training as a sexological bodyworker, while working as a sex worker. For me, the most beautiful thing about receiving a session from a sexological bodyworker is being able to explore my sexuality with another person with whom I am connected, who can act as a guide and as a witness and who is focused on my experience without bringing any of their own erotic agenda to the table. I can practice asking for what I want or rejecting offerings without the fear of alienating a partner, explore my own arousal without having to be conscious of the arousal level and trajectory of another, and without feeling any need to reciprocate. This receiving space can be incredibly challenging - letting go of all that other stuff is hard for someone who has identified as a people pleaser. But it’s also really fun to let something be selfishly (beautifully), all about me.

If you’re interested in finding a practitioner, check out the SSEAA website or look for folks offering somatic sex therapy/ sex education/ sexology who have completed a Certificate in Sexological Bodywork and Sex Education.  

- Sam Beer

Sam Beer is a somatic sexologist in training. Follow Sam's journey at @Somatic_Sam on Instagram and find Sam at www.4eroticexplorers.com.

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