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.
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?