These practitioners can help you access your sexual self.
When Catherine met with a sexological bodyworker (SB) for the first time, she was in search of “safe sexual fulfillment.” During the meeting, he held her arm and told her she was holding trauma in her body. Catherine’s initial reaction was one of resistance to the idea, still, she said, she had a feeling about him, and about what he could do for her.
“I believe that there are no accidents. I met him, I trusted him, and I don’t trust men.” After 1 ½ to 2 hour sessions over the course of three days, she was “a different human being.”
Sexological bodywork is a therapy based in the somatic, which means relating to the human body.
“SB is an experiential method that helps people heal sexual issues and understand their bodies and pleasure better,” said Xanet Pailet, a sex and intimacy coach and sexological bodyworker and author of Living an Orgasmic Life: Heal Yourself and Awaken Your Pleasure. Sexological bodyworkers are trained in anatomy, physiology, and the nervous system, and they focus on learning touch, as well as “identifying erotic energy – how you help people feel it, and understand things like arousal patterns and how to connect people with their bodies, help them get back into them and feel sensation.”
Pailet’s clients come to her from sex therapists, pelvic health practitioners, and naturopaths, among others. Not many providers have heard of sexological bodywork, she said, but when she does get clients by way of them, it’s because they know something deeper is going on. Folks who struggle with orgasms, painful sex, lack of sensation in their genitals, and lack of libido often see SBs, as do those who want to learn to extend their orgasms and have better sex overall.
Practitioners of sexological bodywork utilize one way touch, as well as brass, sound and movement in sessions.
“People appreciate that there’s no performance pressure,” said Pailet. “You don’t have to touch back.” Much of sexological bodywork is based in tantra, and the goal is to help energy move through one’s body, connecting to it and to sensations, instead of going into your head. Pailet also does online sessions, such as masturbation coaching. “Hands on isn’t right for everyone. There are other ways to do this work without taking any clothes off.”
Catherine’s sexological bodyworker wasn’t wrong about her experiences with trauma – she is an incest survivor and has experienced abuse at the hands of other men. She has also survived rectal cancer, although the radiation essentially destroyed her vagina. The experience of working with an SB involved a regular massage, during which her practitioner intuited spots – not her genitals – which turned her on. “I learned that I can tap into my own sex energy,” she said. “I was so disconnected from my pleasure, so stuck in the limits of it, in the stigma that sex has to be about a person, instead of something you can give to yourself, that you can’t have pleasure for pleasure’s sake.”
Catherine’s experience in sexological bodywork has made her bolder, she said. She’s now able to tell people when they’ve hurt her, and she’s unwilling to tolerate less than she deserves, both sexually and in her life in general.
It makes total sense to Pailet that those who have experienced trauma would benefit from sexological bodywork. “All of our traumas are stored in our bodies,” she said. “For women, that’s in the pelvic space and in the vagina. When we’re traumatized, the body goes into protective mode, and an SB can help unblock and unpack that trauma, physically release it.”
Pailet is also a practitioner of holistic pelvic care, which assesses pelvic symptoms and restores an energy balance to the region. She believes that everyone who’s given birth can benefit from both sexological bodywork and holistic pelvic care, especially if they’ve experienced birth injuries. Another aspect of sexological bodywork is scar tissue remediation. The idea is that scars create adhesions and prevent the flow of energy around the body, resulting in tightness and uncomfortable sex. Scar remediation is often done with castor oil, which dissolves the scar, as well as massage, which exposes and heals the emotional trauma associated with the scar.
“Don’t feel like there’s no solution,” urged Pailet, who wants folks coping with sexual issues to know that they’re not alone. “There’s a lot of support, and you aren’t broken.”