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April 30, 2023
Image by Hadis Safari on Unsplash.
Words by Mia Klitsas, Founder of Moxie.
My session with a Somatic Sexologist was not what I imagined it would be. I thought we were going to speak intimately about every little detail of my sex life for an hour and to be honest, I felt a bit apprehensive about it. But it wasn't like that at all; the session blew my mind, but not how some may think. This was my experience.
There are some people you meet who are immediately disarming; you feel completely comfortable in their presence. You could sit on their couch all day, drink countless cups of tea and share stories, with no awkward silences in the conversation. Hours will pass like no time has gone by. Their dog will get equally comfortably with you and snuggle on your lap. We all know someone who makes us feel like that. That's how it felt when I met Alice Child.
Alice is a Sydney-based Somatic Sexologist and Sex Counsellor, and Founder of the Vulva Dialogues. I had booked a session with her that was long in the making; partly and mostly professionally (at least initially) in order to pen this piece, but also somewhat selfishlessly too, on a more personal level, to encourage me to get my act together when it came to my own sexual wellbeing. To encourage me to really prioritse 'me' time, partner time and to help myself better understand why I put my own pleasure last on my never-ending to-do list. Lately I've felt guilty for taking time out, for relaxing, for indulging, and that was creeping into places and spaces of my life I didn't want it to. Enter Alice.
We were originally scheduled to meet via Zoom due to Covid, but the minute that was all done with, I jumped on a plane and flew to Sydney to meet her in person - and, I'm oh-so glad I did. We had a one-on-one, in-person session at her home in Sydney, and in a short time that felt like a blissfuly long-time, we covered a lot of ground.
Before I dive into my personal experience a little more, I asked Alice to share some more insight into her profession. Here are some of the basics around sex counselling that we're all curious about.
ALICE: A Sexologist is somebody who has studied the science of sex; learning the anatomy, physiology, psychology, and cultural influences around sex, arousal, desire and pleasure.
Somatics is any practice that develops and strengthens the mind-body connection. Somatic practices teach you how to mindfully scan and listen to your body.
Somatic Sexology takes somatic practices and adapts them to teach people how to have better sex. As a Somatic Sexologist, I help people get out of their head, and into their bodies, giving them the tools, language and skills for a happy sex life.
A: Everyone! No, seriously. The sex education we received at school is not enough. Many adults know next to nothing about basic sex-ed, including pleasure anatomy, knowing what they like (and how to ask for it), how to express consent, understanding arousal, orgasm and desire, navigating libido changes, and how to listen to their own bodies. This impacts our relationships and people don't know where to go for help. In addition, we still live in a conservative society where sexual shame is pervasive, and where many of us are still too embarrassed, fearful, or ashamed to talk about sex.
Even if you already have a great sex life, when it comes to sex and pleasure there is always more to discover! And, the more curious and open minded you are, the more opportunities for pleasure you will find. Talking to an expert in a judgement-free environment might lead to more discoveries than you expected.
A: As it involves sex and pleasure (and these are words still sadly shrouded with taboo and embarrassment!) some people still have misconceptions about sex counselling.
Just like any form of therapy or counselling, sexologists need to be insured and registered with a professional body with a strict code of practice. I am registered with the SSEAA: the Somatic Sex Educators Association of Australasia. In order to practice, we require rigorous training, continued professional development, supervision with our pears, professional indemnity insurance, and ongoing adherence to our code of practice. I do not touch my clients.
A: In our first session together, we would start with some introductory conversations and exercises so that I can better understand what you're curious about, what your goals are, what you've tried before, your level of experience and your current relationship with sex and pleasure. I start to identify key areas for us to work on, and give practical exercises, games, tools and vocabulary to help you achieve your goals.
My sessions are 100% client-led, meaning you're in control. For example, I might give some suggestions of activities or topics for us to explore, and we choose whatever you feel most excited about or interested in.
I also always set home play after my sessions, building on some of the skills we worked on in-session. These are fun things to try at home, consisting of worksheets, games, exercises, or videos to watch.
My sessions combine mindfulness, coaching, education and counselling techniques. No matter what you're curious about, sex counselling gives you an expert-led, judgement-free environment to learn and discover more about sex, relationships and pleasure.
A: Working with couples takes a similar approach (than a one-on-one session), but it's obviously about understanding and addressing both people's goals, desires and concerns. I combine mindfulness, coaching, education and counselling techniques to make sure both people feel supported, heard, and respected.
In a couple’s session, I might use a number of different exercises and games to help me understand more about your unique relationship. I would start to explore what intimacy and connection looks like for each of you, how you communicate, what you enjoy (and what you don't!), what you've tried already, what your desires are. I start to identify key areas for us to work on, and give practical exercises, games, tools and vocabulary to help you achieve your goals.
I also always set home play after my sessions, building on some of the skills we worked on in session. These are fun things to try at home, consisting of worksheets, games, exercises or videos to watch. The games are all designed to appeal to the different ways that we as humans connect; physically, emotionally, mentally and sexually, so you are seeing value from the very first session.
Working with couples as a Sexologist is incredibly rewarding work. I get to see first hand the impact my work has on people’s marriages and relationships as well as their overall sense of intimacy, connection and happiness.
A: More pleasure, less pressure is (one of my many) motos! My top tips for better sex are (in no particular order!):
Get out there and learn. Good lovers are made, not born. Surround yourself with sex-positive resources (not just porn) to help teach you more about sex. Everyone can be great in, and have a great time in, bed with the right education. Know when to seek professional help - everyone deserves a happy, healthy and fulfilled sex life.
Communicate in the bedroom. Great sex is not often about being a silent mind reader - it's about learning what you like AND how to ask for it. Knowing how to communicate boundaries and desires is the key to exploring new things.
Slow down and listen to your body. Many people seem to be experiencing sex that is too fast, and too 'in their head'. If you struggle to stay present and in the moment during sex, try slowing down and listening to the more subtle physical sensations in your body. Savour them.
Mastrubate more, and with more variety. Changing it up alone will also keep things interesting with a partner, and will teach you so much more about your body.
Remove the goal of orgasm. Sex is so much more than just the climax at the end. Instead, make pleasure, intimacy and connection your goal (and you'll probably have better orgasms in the process!)
Try new things.Variety is the spice of life, and novelty is really important for good sex, attraction and relationships. Try new things inside and outside the bedroom.
Embrace change. Everyone's body, libido, sex life and relationships change over time. If you're struggling with the changes you are experiencing, seek professional help. You don't need to struggle alone.
* * * * * * * * * * *
My one-on-one session with Alice was admittedly not at all what I thought it would be. I too had some misconceptions about sex therapy that others also seem to - I really didn't know what to expect, but I was surprised and grateful at how holistic the practice felt. A key erotic theme for me is distraction and my forever busy mind prevents me from staying in my body. Alice taught me really simple yet effective techniques (we practiced some in-session) to help me release that tension 'up and out' of my body when I feel it holding me back.
My favourite, most unexpected and perhaps most exciting (though admittedly, challenging) thing about the session was the exercises we did together. I imagine these would vary from session to session depending on what your key themes were and what you wanted to achieve, but one that stood out to me was around embodied consent and saying 'Yes' or 'No'.
I really thought I had consent down pat and in some ways I do, because I don't necessarily have an issue with this in an intimate or sexual environment (in the sense that I am comfortable vocalising saying "no", or asking for consent or checking in with a partner) - but through this particular practice, I learned that I actually have a hard (virtually impossible, tbh) time saying 'no' in my everyday life, in what may seem ilke trivial situations.
Doing this particular embodied consent exercise with Alice - although I knew it was just an exercise and not real life - was so jarring and difficult for me. I consider myself a confident woman, one that is decisive and sure of herself - but I found myself squirming in my seat, uneasy, I could barely maintain eye contact; I fumbled, struggled to find my words and stammered as I listed excuses as to why I was answering "no" to the questions Alice was asking me.
The exercise really taught me a lot about myself and my boundaries, and it gave me a huge wake up call. The biggest light-bulb moment of all was the realisation that saying "no" is not just a word, but a complete sentence - one that doesn't need justification, or (awkward) reasoning, which I seem to do and have been doing for who knows how long? Appeasing everyone else but myself, often to my own detriment so as to not disappoint others. Just like the answer 'yes', 'no' also carries weight and meaning that should be heard respected by all; not only in the bedroom or in an intimate scenario, but also outside of it, in any life situation - be it at work, in relationships or otherwise. Mind blown, lesson learned. I thought we were here to talk about sex things, but there you go.
Life-lesson/self-realisation about not being a people-pleaser in everyday life anymore aside, the sex-related things got lots of attention, too. Once I truly understood the power of saying "yes" and "no" as complete sentences, without further justification, and accepting that it was ok for others to appreciate those responses or not, I learned to communicate better in the bedroom, too (I get what Alice means when she says "It's all connected"). Not to mention, we did exercises around physical touch (using various sensory items, eyes open and closed), a mindfulness body scan and 'awakening' exercises, to name a few. Intrigued yet? I will say no more, I've already said too much! Everyone's experience will be different, uniquely tailored to the outcomes they want to achieve from the sessions and of course, the themes you uncover with your counsellor.
A little head's up from Moxette to Moxette: Alice, or your chosen practitioner, will likely give you homework to do so you can put what you learned or discovered about yourself in your session/s into IRL practice. Alice calls it 'homeplay' - which sounds, and is, way more fun than regular homework. Did I do mine? Yes, yes, YES, I did (over, and over).
About Alice Child, Somatic Sexologist and Sex Counsellor.
Alice Child (she/her), is a Somatic Sexologist, Sex Counsellor and Sex Coach, certified with the Australian School of Somatic Sexology. Founder of the Vulva Dialogues, she is currently based in Sydney, Australia. She believes everyone deserves a happy, healthy, safe, and fulflled sex life, and has a passion for opening up conversations, confronting taboos, and creating inclusive spaces free of judgement. She works with couples, individuals and groups, exploring diverse topics of sexuality, intimacy and pleasure.
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