I'm sitting in a busy cafe on Nicola Street in the quiet big-treed neighbourhood of the West End. Seated across from me is Rachel, a strikingly beautiful young woman with long dark brown hair, refined features, and bright open eyes. This is the first time we've met, although I feel I know her well. Her husband is a regular client, who has been seeing me for sessions for over a year now.
Rachel tells me she has always known about and supported her husband's sessions with me. Intelligent, worldly and only in their early 30s, they are both ivy league graduates and highly successful executive professionals who have already lived and worked on several continents. They've been together for a decade and a year ago they decided to open their marriage and are in outside intimate committed relationships, both with other women.
I marvel at the courage and open-mindedness of their approach to sexuality beyond the tight box of heteronormative monogamy.
We're meeting this morning for coffee because she's considering booking a session with me, and so I ask what draws her to this idea. She says, "I've never had an experience where I totally immersed myself in my own erotic experience. I'm always thinking about the other person, and often using sex instrumentally as a way to connect or solidify the relationship, rather than a pleasure in and of itself, for myself. I'm curious about what I'd learn about myself, my body and what I actually like if I booked a session where it was all about me."
My eyes light up and my heart starts beating a little faster with excitement. I resonate with Rachel’s experience of being other-oriented in sex and I love the challenge and unknown possibilities of turning the tables, so to speak, and exploring her own inner world of erotic energy.
"That is a fantastic intention" I say, "there's so much we can learn about our own bodies and desires outside of the enmeshment and history of our primary relationships. All of which can help us bring more of ourselves back into our relationships, if we want, but is just so valuable as a way of knowing and loving ourselves for our own pleasure of being alive."
I know from her husband that she's been considering a session with me for a little while now, so I make a guess that there's more bubbling beneath or intertwined with her desire. "Do you have any fears in booking a session?" I ask, "Is there anything holding you back?"
She pauses and bites her lip. "Well, I've only ever been with two people. First with my husband, who I obviously married, and secondly with my girlfriend, who was a good friend of ours and who I thought I was just experimenting with at first. But then I fell in love with her and my whole life turned upside down" she explained, referred from their shift from a monogamous hetero relationship to a truly polyamorous open life.
"So my fear is, what if I fall in love? Can I really handle that? Sex for me has always been about love and relationship, and I'm just not sure I can have a sexual experience without that consequence."
I'm touched by her passion and vulnerability in revealing how loving she is, and I suddenly understand something of the significance of our meeting today. I say, “I love that you have such a big open heart."
And then I ask, "How can I best support you, knowing this, if you decide you want to book a session?"
She replied, "Maybe you can reassure me that people don't actually fall in love. That is is possible for me to just have my own sexual experience."
I pause. My automatic impulse is to supply the reassurances she's requested to ease the anxiety with simple unambiguous "yes". But I realize even before opening my mouth that I think the truth is more complicated. "Okay, yes, it's absolutely possible to experience intense pleasure and intimacy with someone and not fall in love with them. I imagine this is how it is for many of my clients and is often my experience as well. And, people do fall in love as well.” The truth is, I fall in love all the time. (I don't mention this but I think, when I'm with someone touching their whole body, seeing them in the fullness of pleasure and erotic feeling, being invited into these intimate moments of their being, it would be hard not to fall in love.)
Over the years, that has been one of the most beautiful and sometimes difficult parts of my job. And definitely one of the biggest surprises. At least it was difficult at first, when I'd come home after an intense session of deep pleasure and heart opening with a client, feeling completely overwhelmed, like I am a cup of water filled to the brim, with emotion and feeling. I'd feel confused, because I didn't understand why I felt "bad" or sad, after having such a wonderful experience. What I've realized is that it's hard to let go. When my clients leave, they go back into their lives and I do not follow them. I don't know if they'll ever come back and my job is to let go. It's an essential part of the deal."
Rachel leans in, nodding empathetically. "I can see how that would be difficult."
I go on, "But now that I recognize the pattern, I can make space for that part of myself. Usually, I know that I need a good cry, and I'll ask a friend or lover to hold me. I like that this how I am. I love very deeply, and I believe an essential part of love, and life, is letting go.
So I can promise you that container for whatever happens between us in a session. And I believe it's a worthy skill to learn. It's basically the art of heartbreak, love and letting go."
We've gone over the 30 minutes we planned to talk, and I bundle up to walk home in grey cold fall day. I'm inspired by her courage and the path of open loving she's choosing, and my heart is dancing a little, expanding with gratitude for the conversation and future possibilities. I feel a little taste of it already what we've just talked about, that I've fallen in love with her -- her willingness to speak so openly and vulnerably with a new person, to 'share' her partners in sessions with me, to reach out to connect. I feel a little yearning to be close and an opening of excitement combined with an ache in leaving, a contraction that says "don't feel that". I take a deep breath in says "it's ok to love. It's ok to let go".
Offering people permission to experience more erotic aliveness is a core part of my work. Recently I came across a journal entry of my early days of training in somatic sex education and I was touched by the memory of my own struggle and joy in obtaining permission for pleasure. I wanted to share it with you.
April 20, 2015
Today marks the start of my hands-on training in Somatic Sex Education through the Institute for the Advance Study of Human Sexuality. Somehow, I have the miraculous good fortune of doing practice exchanges with one of Vancouver’s best sensual massage practitioners, Casey, another student in my cohort.
Today, our assignment is to try something called Erotic Massage Dancing. It’s a practice where the person receiving the massage moves, breaths and makes sounds to expand their range of arousal beyond their typical patterns of staying still or tightening up their body, holding their breath or moving hard and fast. The theory goes that when they integrate new patterns of breath, movement and sound, while receiving erotic touch, they establish new neural pathways to pleasure, and expand their capacity for sensual joy. Or so it says in our course readings. I’ve never tried anything like this.
It’s a glorious spring morning. The warm sunshine dances in golden sparkles on the surface of False Creek as I cycle over the Granville bridge. I feel a rush of erotic aliveness that’s mirrored back at me by flamboyant daffodils, crocuses and snowdrops. As I walk into the lobby of Casey’s upscale Yaletown building, my heart beats so loudly I worry it’ll jump out of my chest.
Casey greets me silently at the door, and welcomes me into her warm studio. She has long chestnut hair and eyes that twinkle with mischievousness. Her movements are direct and efficient and she begins undressing nonchalantly, gesturing towards the massage table. As she asks me how I’m feeling, her voice stutters slightly with what I imagine to be nervousness, but her anxiety is soothing to me. I can connect to it. I don’t feel alone as we wander out into the wilderness.
The room is lit by the glow of a himalayan salt light and tiny candles. There’s a small shelf with a collection of books about sexuality and a table where Casey has laid out fruit and tea. The massage table is covered by crisp white sheets, giving an air of purity and simplicity. Like an alter waiting for worshipers to arrive.
She is wearing a matching bra and panty lingerie set that strikes me as incredibly sexy and sophisticated compared to the simple white cotton bra and undies I’m sporting. Instead of feeling ashamed, I am inspired and grateful. This is the goddess I get to study with. I can’t keep my eyes off her.
She notices I’m slow to undress and asks me if I’m worried about nakedness or my body. Obviously, I think to myself, who wouldn’t be nervous around a goddess? She reassures me that she has a background in anatomy and she has seen a lot of bodies. Everything is normal and ok to her, she has a medical approach. I take the cue. There’s safety in that role and structure of medicine. The idea of anatomy as neutral and healing as universally available and all bodies being ok. But I’ve seriously never had such a drop dead gorgeous sexy clinician.
I have printed out a waiver we’re supposed to complete for our coursework and I offer it to her with sweaty hands. We’re both going to sign it and initial after every sentence. It says we’re not going to date. It says we’re going to not endure any touch we’re not enjoying. It says gloves will be used for any genital massage. It says all touch will be one-way, from the giver to the receiver. (note: This is the protocol commonly used somatic sex education, which I found very beneficial for my learning at that time. I currently use a less restrictive protocol in my practice.)
I cling to that waiver like it’s a permission slip to skip class. It’s the waiver that says, I don’t have to get drunk at a party and go home with the random dude that’s been hitting on me all night in order to feel physical pleasure. And I don’t have to say no to a million unwanted requests for sex. And I don’t have to go down on anyone out of a sense of obligation. And I don’t have to buy him breakfast in the morning, or return phone calls, or move in with him, or meet his parents.
The waiver says in no uncertain terms, “This sensual experience is for learning - sanctioned by The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality.” This means no one has to feel bad or guilty or obligated to do it again. This waiver is a get-of-jail-free card.
I take a deep breath and pass Casey the waiver. I’m feeling wild, giddy with nervousness. I’m on an edge about to dive off a cliff into a dark pool. I don’t know what’s in those depths but I want to find out.
I undress and lie down on the massage table. My breath is tight and my muscles are tense. I feel shy. I worry, what if I don’t get turned on? What if I get too turned on? What if I look silly? Her hands come to rest gently on my back and we take three deep breaths together.
She asks, “How would you like to be touched?”
My words are caught in my throat. Or actually, my mind is just blank and I literally cannot think of any words for touch. ‘Umm, can you massage my back?’ I awkwardly ask.
She responds with a menu of options, “Would you like feather-light pressure or deep compressions? Full hand or finger tips? Fast like a river or slow like caramel?”
Words. Words. Okay, there are words for touch. Yes. “Feather light. Slowly, with your finger-tips only,” I say.
She invites me to let my body move however it wants to move. This is new to me. Massages usually happen to my body, while it lies still. Just like sex usually happens to my passive body. There’s no me actively ‘doing’ sex.
So with permission and her invitation I move.
I stretch and reach and twist and shake. I try out different movements, tentatively at first, guided by my mind. Then gradually my body takes over with impulse, when I notice something I like. Ahhh, there we are, now I’m moving with pleasure and not just my minds idea of how I’m supposed to move or guess at what my body might like.
I am remembering that I am in charge of my body and its pleasure.
At one point I yearn to ask for more focused attention on my clit. But my mind bombards me with excuses like, “This is the best touch you’ve ever had. Just take this as it is,” and “If you make a request, you might ruin the mood,” and “The whole body is supposed to be your erotic playground, stop being so clit-focused,” and even “ If you do try ask, you’ll get the words wrong and you won’t the touch you want.”
My mind is not co-operating. I breathe and sigh.
I get very quiet and still, and Casey’s hands come to rest on my belly. Very gently and slowly, my pelvis starts to rock in circles, like a spoon stirring a deep cauldron. Her hands mirror the movement, slowing swirling and matching me in speed and intensity.
So we speak through movement instead of words. My body moves and her hands calls back in response.
Movement and touch, this is my first language. I arch my hips. My hands reach down to touch her hands, gently guiding her up, up, to the apex of my vulva. Yes. That’s what I want.
Gradually, gently, her fingertips trace the map of the archipelago of heart, pussy, belly, lips, tits, arms. Formerly isolated islands of sensation are now linked together by waves of pleasure that flow between and lap upon the shores my erogenous zones. Her hands slide over my smooth belly, inner thigh and her finger tips graze over my pubic hair and vulva lips. My skin feels so electric, so on fire, so melting like butterscotch over ice cream, so fingertips on pussy lips sliding into folds up and through and down to toes and back winding around my calves and knees and yes please, yes please, yes please.
Finally, her hands rest on my chest. My core tremors and my own hands reach up to hers. Hold me there, steady on my ribcage, the rooftop of the cathedral of my heart. Boom, boom. echo. The choir of my moving limbs are silent now, resting. I feel open, expanded, filled with love, freedom and gratitude.
After I leave Casey’s studio, I head to my office job. I walk down the long generic hallway and find my desk in a little beige cubicle. My head buzzes, my body vibrates. I notice that I still have the waiver folded in my hand. I carried it like a passport, my travel visa, an official document. It says, I was allowed to do that. That was legitimate. It’s my permission slip.
Clients often arrive at my studio for a first time sensual bodywork session feeling curious, excited and very, very anxious.
This is perfectly normal. If I were coming to a new place with a person I'd never met, to get undressed and have a sensual experience, I would be nervous too. That's a lot of unknowns and newness and anxiety understandably arises when we don't know what comes next.
Part of the reason that you're reading this blog right now is probably to try to gain more information, lessen the unknowns and gain a sense of security before taking the risk of booking. I applaud your excellent sensual risk management skills!
When I first started offering sensual massage, I would sometimes make myself anxious when people would say they'd feel anxious, thinking I had to do something to change the way you were feeling.
But I don't anymore, because I quickly discovered that people who say they are feeling anxiety before a session are usually the most alive, erotic and engaged sensual people. Also, these clients often experience the greatest transformation and shifts of energy through sensual touch, leaving the studio feeling remarkably calm and joyful.
This is why I now find anxiety extremely sexy.
If you feel anxious and come for sensual bodywork anyway, what that means to me is you are willing to tolerate a high level of excitement, risk and aliveness in your life. You may have felt terrified to book a sensual bodywork session and you did it anyway because your longing for erotic aliveness, touch, connection is stronger than your fear. That is very sexy.
You could have taken that fear of booking a session and just decided to push it away, staying in your comfort zone and numb yourself with depression, social media, netflix, booze, food, work and buying stuff on amazon. Instead, you embraced the unknown, risked discomfort and took a step towards a more exciting (and anxiety-provoking!) life.
Anxiety is really just excitement with a PR problem.
Physiologically our bodies are experiencing the same arousal of our sympathetic nervous system when we're anxious as when we are excited. In both states, our pupils dilate, our hearts beat faster, our temperature rises and we feel butterflies in our stomach. Recent studies by Harvard Business School found that, compared to those who attempt to calm down, individuals who re-label anxiety as 'excitement' feel and preform better at anxiety-provoking tasks.
So, I don't try to 'get rid' of anyone's anxiety before a sensual bodywork session. Instead, I use deep breathing, loving presence and touch to make space for your anxiety to be felt as excitement. Over and over, I have seen that attentive sensual touch invites very anxious, tightly held, controlled people to expand, soften and vibrate into wild sensual beasts. What could be sexier than this type of transformation?
People don't typically come for sensual bodywork to connect to their grief.
We come to feel turned on, loved and enlivened. We want to feel lighter, happier, more confident and relaxed.
But grief is sneaky. And sometimes sadness bubbles up in the midst of ground-shaking pleasure.
Over the years of giving and receiving sensual bodywork, I have found that paradoxically and mysteriously, pleasure and sorrow are often intertwined.
As we connect deeply to pleasure, our bodies may suddenly feel the pain of years of not feeling pleasure. Only once we begin to taste the sweetness of sensual pleasure, are we made aware of all the holding-on or touch starvation or bad touch we’ve endured up until to that point. What a relief to finally feel pleasure. How painful that it took so long.
I also have clients come for sensual bodywork when they are in the midst of living through intense losses, such as the death of a parent, the end of a relationship or the loss of sexual intimacy within a marriage.
In the absence of opportunities to express our grief, our bodies may tighten to protect us from feeling pain and armour us against our sorrow. When we are touched in sensual massage, we reawakened to sensation and our bodies receive the message that it's okay to feel.
Sometimes, only as our sensational capacity comes on board, do we actually feel the impact of the contraction, pain, sadness and armouring we’ve done to protect ourselves from loss. And so we hurt. If we welcome our tears alongside our pleasure in a bodywork session, both can flow freely and we actually experience more intense pleasure, joy and aliveness.
Just as pleasure can be an opening for grief, I have also found that sadness and grief can be an opening for pleasure. Sometimes when I’m receiving sensual touch and I want to open to my pleasure, I’m surprised and frustrated that I feel numb and disconnected, rather than turned on.
I’ve learned that this feeling often comes when I’ve been avoiding feeling some sadness. I’ll tell my partner, "I think I just need to cry a bit and then I can be present to you and my body". Without interrupting the sensual flow of our connection, I can then intentionally tap into my sadness, which softens my body so that pleasure can sneak in.
You may be experiencing loss, grief or numbness and want to make more space in your life for pleasure. Or, you may be in the throws of ecstatic pleasure during a sensual massage and suddenly feel your sadness rise up from nowhere. Let that come too. Welcome any crowd of sorrows who sweep into your house for, as the Sufi poet Rumi says, they may be clearing you out for some new delight. From Rumi's poem The Guest House:
This being human is a guest house.
Last Saturday evening, three friends and sensual bodyworkers gathered in my studio. We ate fruit and sipped kombucha, laid sheets on the table, warmed oil, set music and lights down low.
We left our lovers at home. We left unfinished work, to do lists, email inboxes, text replies, family. We left relationship dynamics and unsolvable arguments. For one evening, we left it all and took in a celebration.
A birthday. Our friendship. The simple revolutionary act of women honouring our pleasure together.
Between bites of almonds and pineapple, we asked each other what our edges were in sensual touch, what we might be afraid of and what we wanted.
Then we undressed and moved to the table, taking our turns and diving into the oceanic world of touch, sound, movement and breath.
A client recently shared with me that he believes there’s something ‘pure’ about a professional sensual bodywork session. The boundaries and skill of a session offers a kind of pleasure that is unique and distinct from the depth, complexity and often messiness of sensuality within romantic relationships.
When we aren’t contained by the baggage of the past or the expectations of the future, something new is allowed to be born. A different kind of love blooms, one rooted in pleasure of the present moment.
I have habitually assumed that my sexual growth and satisfaction tank is kept full by lovers and by offering sensual bodywork to clients. On Saturday I realized my sexual expression is shaped and invariably contained by the particular history and dynamics of each relationship. A different sensual ‘me’ comes forward I’m in a sensual friendships, just as another expression arises in a ritual of pleasure with professional bodyworkers. Last Saturday night, I noticed new tenderness, new power, and new joy to be with women.
I would love to hear from you (in person or in comments below) about any particular aspects of your sensuality, identity, spirituality or creativity finds expression in a sensual bodywork session.
It’s easy to mess up the magic of an interactive bodywork session, as I outlined in my last blog entry.
The good news is that sharing exquisite sensual touch can be simple (if not easy!), if you follow these tried-and-true pathways to pleasure. I recommend that you use these skills in sessions with service providers as well as any sensual encounter in which you want a deeply satisfying connection to yourself and the other person.
1. Breathe. Synchronize your breath to your partner’s to more easily find connection, shared rhythm and attunement. Conscious deep breathing also opens you to increased sensation, allowing you to focus on your body rather than your thoughts, which makes it easier to stay in your pleasure.
2. Slow down. The slower you move in offering touch, the easier it is for the receiver to take in the sensations they’re feeling. Slow touch also takes less effort give, so you’re less likely to fall into the trap of ‘working hard’ to turn someone else on. Slow also movements give your partner time to adjust or make requests. Follow the lead of your bodyworker -- if she’s moving very slowly, do the same.
3. Go Light. Less is more when it comes to pressure in sensual touch. Like going slow, feather light touch awakens the body to sensation, increasing arousal and pleasure. A caveat: light touch may feel ticklish at times, especially if arousal is low or anxiety is high. If you notice your partner is squirming or moving away from light touch, then come stillness and switch to deeper, firmer touch. This can ground your connection like rocks around a fire, providing a safe container for the spark to fly.
4. Follow the moans. Asking the question, “would you like me to adjust my touch in any way?” is a great straightforward way to stay in the zone of shared pleasure. But you can also receive instant non-verbal feedback by listening for moans, sighs or sounds of pleasure. Use the sounds to guide your touch. If you aren’t hearing any sounds, I often recommend coming to stillness and doing a verbal check-in. Stillness gives your partner a chance to connect with themselves so that they can make the juiciest, clearest requests.
5. Spiral in. Start with touch on less intimate areas of the body (back, legs, hands). If you are hearing sounds of pleasure that may be a sign to gradually move to more intimate areas, checking as you go if the sounds of pleasure increase or decrease.
6. Find the pleasure in your hands. Bring your awareness to the sensation in your hands and the pleasure you are feeling in offering touch. Move your hands touch in ways that feel good to you. This will both heighten your awareness of your pleasure through touch and will also help your hands relax, which will feel better to the person receiving your touch.
These are my favourite pathways to pleasure to connection. If you know any other tips, please in the comments!
We come together for sensual pleasure because it feels good to feel good with others. Contra Charlotte and Virginia, I like the taste and ‘relish’ of solo-pleasure -- but the reason I love interactive sensual massage so much is that there is truly nothing more awe-inspiringly hot than shared pleasure.
The alchemy of mutual touch is so powerful that it can sometimes generate an ecstatic state of being that Sheri Winston (award-winning author of Women’s Anatomy of Arousal and Succulent Sex Craft), calls ‘conjoined trance”.
In conjoined trance, the biorhythms of both individuals begin to synchronize through mirror neurons. Their heartbeats harmonize, breathing synchronizes and brain oscillations begin to correspond.
This artful exchange of touch is an exquisite experience for client and bodyworker alike, but it also requires high levels of attunement, communication and awareness, as there are many hazards that can easily derail potential passengers on “conjoined trance” train.
Here’s the top three interactive touch hazards to avoid:
1. As a client, the first hazard is that you may start working so hard to please the other person, that you lose connection with your own sense of pleasure as the receiver of the massage.
You also might distract yourself with thoughts - is she having a good time? Am I doing this right? - and then lose touch with both your pleasure and hers because you’re so consumed with anxious thoughts. Often, the easiest way to get out of your head and back into your body is to slow down, breathe and if desired, do a verbal check-in with your partner.
2. At the other end of the spectrum, the second hazard is that you may unintentionally offer unwanted or unpleasant touch. This is particularly likely if you are so overcome by your own arousal that you don’t have the capacity to read the other person’s arousal level and the corresponding type of touch they want. Caught up in the heat of our passion, it’s easy to project our own desire or preferences on others.
Occasionally, for example, after the first 20 minutes of simply receiving a full body massage, a client may turn over and reach out to touch me directly on my pussy or breasts, before touching anywhere else. Driven by their own desire for intimate touch, their attempt at pleasuring me feels jarring rather than sensual because my body hasn’t had the same warm-up of 20 minutes of touch on non-intimate areas.
3. The final hazard is that you end up with what I call a Gift of the Magi massage. This happens when both the client and bodyworker are focused on trying to please the other person that you end up in touch-version of O. Henry's christmas story, the Gift of the Magi, where no one is actually able to fully receive and enjoy the other’s gift. In one sense, it's a romantic story of self-sacrificing love, but this kind of unmet exchange invariably robs a sensual encounter of charge, spark and pleasure.
So, how do we make sure that our sensual touch is easy to offer and happily received? Check back next week for my upcoming post, Simple Tips for Sensual Touch.
2017 has been a monumental erotic year for me, both professionally and personally.
My most inspiring, hottest development has been a rise of group sensual experiences, within an emerging community of erotic explorers -- including clients, students, friends and fellow bodyworkers. From setting up duo sessions with other service providers to facilitating sensual bodywork meetups and orgasmic yoga classes, from training and mentoring new providers in the Art of Sensual Massage to dabbling in Sin City and kink events and hosting private sensual parties with friends, I’ve had a radical year of breaking out of the cage of sensuality-only-in-coupledom. While overwhelming at times, I’ve found unparalleled freedom and creativity when eros is held in community.
Alongside these sexy group events, this fall I joined a Sex Worker Wisdom writing group facilitated by celebrated local author, Amber Dawn (How Poetry Saved my Life). The group includes tantrikas, dancers, pro-dommes, escorts, agency workers and managers, street and indoor and more and has been an invaluable opportunity for re-narrating our worlds with whore-positive stories about sensuality and work.
We recently had a writing exercise on ‘our ideal workplace’, which got me dreaming about not only of a place but also the broader community, legal system and cultural understanding of sex I want to build. I thought I’d share the fantasy that came to me with you here.
The day the temple rises
Your heartbeats quickly as you make your way through a sea of crowds, smiling, singing, chattering people wearing red dresses, feather boas and sparkling high heel shoes. You’re headed to work, for the grand opening, where the ceremony is about to begin. As to get closer, you see the mayor walk up to the podium at the entrance and clear her throat:
“On this day, the City of Vancouver formally declares that the Temple of the Erotic Arts, as all sex worker-run workplaces, is a holy site, exempt from taxes and law enforcement. We commit a one hundred million dollar endowment fund to your operation, for extended benefits for your workers and income-adjusted subsidies for clients so that every citizen can learn to feel deeply, touch lovingly and open fully to pleasure.” She smiles and then the smile fades as her gaze turns downward as she swallows hard.
“I’m sorry it took us so long,” she continues. “I visited the rose garden this morning, at the heart of the temple. I sat on the carved wooden bench and watched as hummingbirds and honeybees danced around the flowers. I read the names placed at the base of each rose bush and I looked at the photographs and love letters for all those workers who didn’t live to see this temple rise. Here, may all be guarded by thorns and carried wings.”
She cuts the red ribbon to a cheering crowds and goes inside to book herself a session.
You move past the television cameras and news reporters and enter your workplace, an elegant old building with marble floors and vaulted ceiling and skylights and huge picture windows facing the water, snow-capped mountains and cruise ships sailing into port. There are fluffy white bathrobes and slippers and hallways leading to swimming pools and hot tubs and steam rooms and cold plunge baths with waterfalls. There’s cozy session rooms with views of the water and walls covered with erotic art. The air is infused with the scent of warm coconut oil and fresh flowers arranged on every table.
You follow the sounds of laughter out to the patio, where your colleagues and friends invite you to join them for breakfast, prepared by the temple chefs. You look at the list of clients booked for the day and share notes on who they are and how best match their and your particular turn-ons and preferred types of sensual touch. Then make your way into your session room to prepare for your first session.
At this temple, clients come to offer their bodies and money for the learning and pleasure of the sacred whores and bodyworkers. They pay to be of service as you dedicate your working days to the cultivation and teaching of sensual pleasure and wisdom. Clients are men, women, non-binary people of all body sizes, ages 18 to 108. They arrive knowing they will be offered a sensual touch experience of unparalleled quality, but they won't know what or how or with whom it will happen. The mystery is the appeal. There is untold ecstasy for those willingly surrender to the wisdom of whores.
Workers join first as apprentices and after years of learning, guidance and community, become masters and mistresses of the erotic arts. You see one or two clients each day and connect with other workers after your sessions to reflect: What did you learn? How did you find your pleasure? What speed, what pressure, what quality the touch most pleased your body and theirs? How did you speak to your client, in words, breath or movement? Did they listen? Did you ask for the type of touch you wanted? Did you receive it exactly so? What vision came to you, as your hands rested on her heart? What memory emerged as your finger tips encircled his cock? The answers arise in poems, paintings and songs and are shared with temples all over the world.
A few hours later, your day is over and you walk home. You pass by the residential building you first worked in when you left your desk job to become a sensual bodyworker and sex educator. It was at the top of a tall building on the same street where cops and condo developers drove away the west end stroll a few decades earlier. Your clients arrived discreetly to the tidy one-bedroom apartment. You greeted them alone. After the session, you dressed and left, moving quickly through the hallway, down the elevator and out the door. Once you were one block away, you exhaled and smiled. Your body still reverberated with the pleasure you’d just been paid to feel. Your skin shone with coconut oil, your eyes dilated with desire, your senses opened wide to the scent of new rain and rose bushes. You held your head high and kept your secret close. You knew even then that you worked in a temple and you knew that one day, the temple would rise.
No body part polarizes people quite like assholes.
For some, just the thought of anal touch triggers disgust and judgments about uncleanliness or ‘manliness’ or sexual orientation.
For many of my clients, however, light pressure and gently swirling strokes on the surface of a sensitive little rosebud provides profound relaxation. For others, nothing offers the same mind-blowing release as a deep, penetrative prostate massage.
For myself, I went years with no clue that the anus and her puckering lips, the rosebud, were powerful erogenous zones.
Most of us deny ourselves sensual anal pleasure, ignoring the fact that fully half of the pelvic nerve endings are located in the anus.
Which means that excluding your ass from sensual play is basically akin to deciding to throw a party and then telling your sexiest, most fun friend she is not invited.
This is fine, if you like mild, humdrum parties.
And if you're okay with missing out on half of your capacity of erotic fulfilment.
However, If you want to host a total blow-out of a sensual fiesta, you'd best get your ass to the party.
The stigma, taboo and the sensitivity of anal play can make it tricky to explore without a basic roadmap to rosebud bliss and, ideally, an experienced guide. If you’re curious about prostate or rosebud massage, consider these three tips:
I was preparing to teach a sensual massage training recently and took down Caffyn Jesse’s excellent manual “Erotic Massage for Healing and Pleasure” off my bookshelf.
I was struck by a section I hadn’t noticed before, in which she highlights the perils of the ‘donut massage”. Unfortunately unrelated to my fantasies of a foot massage with a side of honey crullers, Caffyn explains that a “donut massage” is any standard RMT-style massage, in which the bodyworker touches every part of your body EXCEPT your genitals.
Caffyn pulls no punches, pointing out that donut massages harm our erotic selves, “inasmuch as they communicate the message that our genitals and surrounding tissue are untouchable…”.
I’d never considered the harmful sex-shaming undertones of something as seemingly-innocent as an RMT massage, but now that she pointed it out it seemed obvious. The genital-touch taboo of a ‘vanilla’ massage tells us: ‘Every other part of your body deserves touch and pleasure, except your genitals.’
Following the same logic of a body/sex divide, our culture also separates genitals and the rest of the body in how we express ourselves sexually. In porn, self-pleasuring and partnered sex, we often fixate on genitals and neglect the erotic potential of the rest of the body.
This culturally-created chasm between genitals/sex and the rest of the body is why sensual massage offers such deep pleasure and healing potential.
In sensual bodywork, no part of ourselves is overlooked or overemphasized. Each part of the body is honoured, integrated and welcomed into wholeness.
Integrating cock or pussy touch with seamless strokes on and towards other areas of the body, for example, allows for the discovery of new erogenous zones in the toes, neck, inner thigh, belly, back of the knee and fingertips.
As new pathways of pleasure are formed throughout our body, we connect with different areas of erotic function, meaning and sensitivity, supporting and strengthening our sensual being as a whole.
For example, we can foster connection between the heart and genitals by holding both in stillness or having hands glide up from the genitals to heart, drawing erotic energy up to ignite our courage and our openness to loving.
Stillness or firm touch on our feet during a sensual massage can provide grounding for clients who might otherwise energetically ‘lift off’ or feel light headed as they explore new heights of arousal.
After all of the body is fully touched and attended to, my clients sometimes speak beautifully of feeling seen in their true essence, more intimately and fully than ever before. It is a sacred and profound experience. With each part of their body witnessed through the lens of pleasure, their spirit soars.
With that option on the menu, are you still settling for donut massages?