The Politics of Pleasure - a new vision for SexEd
When it comes to sex, pleasure and desire we’re left to our own devices, and lack of communication is one of the main reasons for an unfulfilling sex life. While sexuality workshops may not be everyone’s cup of tea, one pioneering couple are aiming to change perceptions with a new approach to SexEd. We spoke to Mike Lousada and Louise Mazanti about Psychosexual Somatics® and what it has to offer.
You have three workshops on offer – ‘Authentic Sex: Know Your Sexual Self’, ‘PSST Basics’ and ‘Intimacy and the Body Mind’. How did these come about and who they are for?
Each of these workshops arose from demand from clients or people that heard about my work. The Esalen Institute invited me to teach there this year and I feel very honoured to be running my first ever US workshop from such a prestigious place.
‘Authentic Sex’ is the idea that I have with my partner, Dr. Louise Mazanti that there is something missing from our culture right now – and that is a healthy model of sexuality. Authentic Sex is the provisional title of our book, which we are just finishing, which offers seven keys to what we think makes for great sex. The workshops arose from those seven principles. They are aimed at personal development. Very often we don’t ask ourselves why we want sex, we just have it. Here we help you examine what motivates you to have sex and what you hope to get from it. We also look at how to make sure that the different sexual needs you have are met.
‘PSST (Psychosexual Somatics® Therapy) Basics’ is both a personal journey and a professional introduction. Psychosexual Somatics® is the therapeutic model that I have developed to help clients understand their sexuality more deeply, to see the blocks that stop them from allowing intimacy and to help them finds ways to engage with intimacy. Basics is a journey. It guides participants through different stages of their sexuality into a more empowered place. It also introduces the model of Psychosexual Somatics® and is pre-requisite to the year-long professional practitioner training that starts next year, aimed at training professionals in this field.
At Esalen I will co-teach a five day workshop with my partner, Louise, and use a combination of talk and bodywork to take participants on a journey into their bodies, to help them feel the old stories they hold that stop them from realising their dreams of intimacy, and step into their authority as sexual beings.
What does the Esalen Institute do? Are you excited to be working with them?
Esalen is a legend. It is the birthplace of the human potential movement and it has been one of the most respected cutting edge therapeutic venues since 1962. Many of my heroes have lived and taught there – Fritz Perls, who developed Gestalt therapy, the Zen philosopher, Alan Watts, Ida Rolf (Rolfing) and many others. I feel so honoured that Esalen should choose me to represent it through teaching about sexuality and relationships.
Your focus is intimacy with self and in relationship – what are the biggest issues that come up for your clients?
We all have a deep longing for love and to feel our aliveness, but fear and shame stops us. The biggest block to sexual intimacy is probably shame which is rooted so deep in our culture that we don’t even acknowledge it most of the time. To feel shame about sexuality feels almost normal for most people – but that doesn’t mean its healthy. Vulnerability is the other big fear – we need to take a risk for love, the risk of showing our vulnerability. Only by doing this can we really find the path to love, empowerment and full aliveness.
It’s often easier to talk about sex with strangers. Any tips for when you need to talk about something with a partner or want to change a routine?
Just be lovingly real – with yourself and them. Talking about honestly about sex is one of the hardest things we can do sometimes. I’m not talking about “dirty talk”, though that’s a struggle for many people too. The real challenge in sex is sharing your vulnerability. Just remember that the other is also a human being, with all their own fragilities, vulnerabilities and emotions, respect them and their sensitivities too.
When communicating about sex its important to speak from the place of your deepest need. So you want more sex? Ask yourself why, what need would it meet? Perhaps it’s the need for deeper connection or more love. If so, ask for what you want from that place, rather than focusing on the surface level of “I need more sex,” which can feel like criticism. If you say “I’d love to have more sex with you because I want to feel more connected with you,” you’re much more likely to get your need met.
Blocks to intimacy can be unconscious – how can we be more aware of our behaviours and habits?
By slowing down and having an attitude of curious self-enquiry about what’s going on inside. If we listen to our hearts and our bodies they will often give us valuable information about what we feel and what we want and what we fear. Awareness is the first step to growth. With that we have conscious choice and when we have choice we become empowered.
Can you tell us more about ‘sex magic’ and how we can use orgasm as a tool for empowerment to shift blocked energies, enhance creative flow and to manifest things we want?
Now we’re talking very “tantrically.” My feeling is that our orgasm is the spark of life force energy, if we know how to we can use this to manifest in this world. We need to focus our awareness in the moment of orgasm, but this is tricky because orgasm is a moment of no-mind, le petit mort, the little death, a kind of ego death. In that moment I feel that we are closer to the transpersonal, to the divine, call it what you will and in that closeness we can call in whatever our hearts desire. But it takes practice. If we assume that sexual energy is our life force then it follows that when we access it we have access to greater creativity and empowerment.
What tools does Louise bring to the work? Does working together enhance your personal relationship?
I love working with my beloved, she is an amazing psychotherapist and has a deep sensitivity for this work. As well as her professional trainings in psychotherapy and in esoteric wisdom and energy psychology, she adds a more feminine perspective that beautifully balances my masculine energy. For more information on her work please visit her website, www.louisemazanti.com.
Where are you hoping to take the work – what’s your vision for it?
I’m so excited about where Psychosexual Somatics® is going right now. I have an amazing team, a dozen people around me, each a specialist and expert in their own field – business planning, marketing, journalism, as well as different clinical practices. We are developing professional trainings and personal development workshops as well as finishing our book. We hope to have more news on all this and more exciting projects to announce very soon.
Any practical suggestions for releasing old stories and habits around sex so that it doesn’t become too familiar in a relationship?
Awareness is the key, as I said above. When we own the parts of us that feel small or young or vulnerable they begin to lose their hold over us. When we name that we’re feeling vulnerable I experience that this creates trust in the relationship. When I deny that, it increases mistrust – because your partner is not an idiot, they can feel it anyway. It is only the adult in us that can admit to the child part of us because the child likes to pretend it’s a grown up.
How can we be our own lover first?
I love this idea. Society seems to have sex on its head – it tells us that sexuality is something that happens when we meet another. I’d say that we need to have a sexual relationship with ourselves first. Once we have that, we can really begin to engage with others. That looks like slowing down, taking time for yourself and your sexuality, listening to your body and what it wants (and doesn’t want!) and giving yourself permission to explore your own pleasure. If we don’t have a relationship with our own pleasure, we got into performance. That just makes for bad sex! So we need to reconnect with our own pleasure and then we can really begin to enjoy ourselves with others.
What did you think of the recent NATSAL survey? Do you think we have progressed or regressed in terms of attitudes towards sexuality over the past 50 years?
I think we’re making progress, more people are having same sex experiences, more women are self-pleasuring, more people are talking about sexuality more openly – this is all great. And we still have a long way to go. I think female sexuality is the “next big thing.” 50 Shades has been a phenomenal success because it is giving women permission to have sexual feelings and fantasies, it is normalising female sexuality to a certain extent. I think it’s up to women to ensure that they step up and into their sexuality more fully – and when they do, guys we’d better shape up because women have a lot more sexual desire than most men do and they’re going to be demanding higher standards of sexual experience!
Your workshops involve exercises such as the ‘sexual wheel of life’ and a ‘pleasure contract’. How can these help us and should we share them with a partner?
Again we’re talking about awareness, what parts of your sexual life are fulfilled, which aren’t and how can you go about getting those needs met? It’s only if you consciously know what you want that you can go out and seek it. And yes, I’m all about sharing with your partner. Authentic sex requires authentic communication, remember if you share from that deeper place in yourself, you’re more likely to get your needs met.