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Internet Adventures in Intimacy

I did my first guided self-touch session with a client yesterday. Since entering lockdown I have wondered what I could offer virtually that might give me a similar sense of satisfaction to the one I gain from my in person-session work. I love involving the whole body in pleasure, I love connecting and seeing what feels good for the other person and for me. I’m able to be authentic and present and so is my client. It’s enriching and expansive and exciting for both of us. It’s fucking cool. When first offering The prospect of doing performative Skype sessions until I’m able to work in the way I prefer was disheartening to say the least.So I brainstormed and wrote a script. Prompts for different kinds of sensation on different body parts, figuring out the best way to progress through areas to lead us to the genitals, ways of encouraging the client to talk about how they are touching themselves.

This is new territory for me. I have a story that I am bad at asking for things. This story comes to the fore when thinking about ways I could be a better lover and have better sex. I suppose it’s appropriate to get a bit meta and acknowledge that we all come to physical intimacy with scripts. Most of the physical intimacy we are privy to is scripted. Speechless Hollywood sex, where lovers fall into bed without a conversation about birth control or sexual health status, porn where actors switch seamlessly between positions and happen to thoroughly enjoy all the acts being offered them. When we do see actors engaging verbally, it’s “dirty talk” and often emerges out of a clear power dynamic – Daddy telling the little girl what to do, whether she likes that (the answer is always yes), appraisal of body parts and how good they feel. There’s nothing wrong with any of this. It’s hot, and it’s fun. But it doesn’t set any sort of example for asking for what you want, or for speaking up when your lover is doing something that isn’t doing it for you.

I’ve thought about this a little bit. I’ve been to a workshop where I was taught games to play around sexual communication – how to say no, make requests and let your partner know when you’re unsure about something. With clients I make space for them to speak up about what they want to try, what kind of touch they want. I offer language to do this with, and sometimes I am taken up on it. I have clients invite me to ask for what I want, and I can tell they really are interested in learning how to please me and my body.

Still, I have this story that I can’t ask for what I want. Or I don’t know what I want from someone else. And a weird self-sabotaging belief that if I do ask for something and it turns out I don’t like it so much, I have somehow failed. That enduring less than sensational touch is preferable to the potential horrors of putting a stop to it or giving directions. That it will be awkward, or that I will shatter some illusion of being the female sexual ideal. That’s a big one to put down for posterity. My identity and value feel at stake. There’s a total No Exit, hell is other people vibe. Ugh. What this means too, is that I am prioritising someone’s imaginary opinion of me over the quality of the experience I am having. That is not what I would advise for anyone else, or how I would want a lover to engage with me. It flies against my own values, and it’s not who I want to be as a lover. We all (including me) deserve the highest quality touch and relating that we can secure for ourselves. I should probably learn how to talk about what that is for me.

Enter guided self-touch sessions. When I am facing someone, and touching myself, when I can show them what I like, without fear of hurting their ego, when they can show me without fear of hurting mine, talking about it is no problem at all. That social distancing requires me to do these sessions via video call is an extra layer of comfort – I am in my cosy space, and they are in theirs. There is no immediate graduation to touching each other, and because touch from another isn’t imminent, there isn’t any pressure to be instructionally competent. No fallout from possible misunderstandings. It’s really nice to treat sharing what feels good as an end in itself rather than a means to an end.

There are of course obvious other ends this exercise could be a means to. Personally, I am hoping to build more comfort verbalising what does and doesn’t feel good to me in the moment so that it spills out of my mouth rather than being trapped in my brain.

I can envision it being wonderful to work with people in relationships – couples and throuples, new partners, old partners. The possibility of discovering ourselves and each other anew is always there, but a little bit of structure and prodding can really help.

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