Rebecca Moore In Conversation with Sexological Bodyworkers Rose Bonham Carter and Aisha Paris Smith.
On a mild Autumn afternoon in Soho, I sat down with Sexological Bodyworker Rose Bonham Carter and Somatic Sex Coach Aisha Paris Smith, to discuss their experience of sex and spirituality and how the philosophy of conscious sexuality informs their work.
The pair candidly share what sexological bodywork entails and why reconnecting with the body through pleasure can be a potent tool for healing. They also discuss common misconceptions around their work, the importance of boundaries and safeguarding from a client and practitioner perspective and the science behind orgasmic energy.
I am a Sexological Bodyworker, Somatic Sex Coach and Energy Worker. My work is about deepening the connection to your body and being in relationship with yourself. That can mean so many different things, but it comes into just feeling. I create space for people to drop into that. To find their sensitivity. To awaken their senses. To open their ears, listen to their body and find out what they want, what they desire. To listen to the pains, the memories, the traumas that are encoded into their bodies. I do that through Bodywork, Energy Healing, EFT, and Somatics. Mostly I work with women, especially when it comes to Bodywork. It’s where I feel most supported in that work, through being able to support people that relate to my experience as a human being. With my energy and spirituality work, I have clients of all genders, sexualities and expressions.
My work as a Somatic Sex Coach and Sexological Bodyworker is about helping people to be more of themselves. How can you live life more in your body? How can you feel more comfortable expressing who you are around other people?
“Sexuality just happens to be the area that I’m playing in, but it’s a great area because it’s such a sensitive, covered up, powerful place to start.”
It’s the most intense training ground for being ourselves. To accept our body with all the shame we’ve heaved on top of it; for our body to be seen, for our body to be touched. With my clients it’s not about fixing anything, it’s just about having them hear themselves. Giving their body a voice and having the person with that body deeply listen and hear what their body is saying. It always leads them to their deepest truth, and then it just so happens that the truth is also very erotic.
Sex is spirituality, spirituality is sex. For me, there isn’t a duality between the two.
“In my experience of awakening and of deepening my connection to spirit, I found my initiation into sacred sexuality.”
These fields play parties and experiences are what connected me deeper to spirit than I’d ever been before. There was one moment when I was in a workshop and we were marrying what we call our inner masculine and inner feminine – the two polarities that live within us – and at that moment I found this unity, this sacredness in myself that opened up. Suddenly there was space to shoot up, to move through my body and open up to spirituality in a whole new way.
I think of sex and spirituality as tools. Tools that we use on our journey to live a more conscious life. But I think that we often get it mixed up. We cluster together certain experiences, we give them a label, we say that’s how you do sex and that’s how you do spirituality. One of the biggest triggers for me in this work is seeing people teach others how to do it the right way. They say “Come and learn how to do it right, come and learn how to be spiritual! Come and learn how to be sexual”. They’re selling this prescribed notion, when it’s something unique and personal to every person. And you’re right, Rose, it is about coming into union. It’s about realising that we are part of something that’s beyond time and space. You experience that in pleasure and within spiritual containers too.
All I can say is if you want to get high, go to your body.
“Through sexuality, I’ve found states where I’ve experienced colours and visions and found new levels of energy in my being.”
We can completely alter our state, through connecting with our energy, our sexual energy. All of those delicious chemicals that help us get there, that’s what’s coming up when we’re in pleasure. So yes, you can go for a run and you can get a spike of oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine. All of these good hormones that you want, you can get in a pilates class, when someone is clapping at the end of your speech, when you’re hugging a lover or stroking your cat. All of these things you can receive in your body. It is there and in plentiful supply. We have an abundance of all these juicy, delicious chemicals just sitting there, like a cocktail waiting to be cracked open and drunk.
Having something that puts me in relationship with my body means that I can self soothe, I can nurture, I can heal myself. And it’s right at the end of my fingertips or it’s the tip of my vibrator. It’s that delicious, sucky, snouty thing that I put on my clit or it’s my butt plug. All of these things can all of a sudden become my apple a day.
First thing I’ll say is that at the beginning of this year I had gastroenteritis, which is inflammation of the stomach lining. I decided to self-pleasure for at least half an hour a day, for 30 days and see what happens. It was a journey – and it was beautiful – but I still have gastroenteritis. At the same time, what I would talk about here is that people are no longer connected to certain parts of their bodies, with many conditions of bodily amnesia; they no longer feel their pelvis, genitals, anus or gut.
Coming back into connection through touch and awareness is very powerful. Anal mapping or anal penetration is the only way in which you can touch the enteric nervous system. After touching your nervous system, such a sensitive part of it, you start to feel more in your body. So then when you eat the wrong thing you feel it more, and then you’re more likely to respond with the right thing intuitively. Also, if we aren’t feeling our vulvas, our uterus, then our brain is no longer mapping that area, it’s not taking care of it. The lymphatic drainage is stopping, the circulation is stopping as tension builds. Women taking 45 minutes to orgasm is partly about lack of circulation coming to their genitals. If we can start to touch that area and start to look at it, start to connect with it and tell the brain “hey this part is important, start taking care of this part again,” I have seen and I believe conditions will naturally clear up.
I think that when some people hear about sexuality work, their perception is sort of based around this one-dimensional view that society has given us around sex. That it is sex for pleasure, sex for orgasms. It’s this very goal-oriented approach and actually what I think a lot of people will find when they start going into this work, is that it’s deeply sensitive and beautifully innocent. Eroticism and pleasure might be a byproduct of what we’re doing, but it’s not the focus. Pleasure can be the most deeply healing and most amazing thing, but it’s not our only focus.
“Let’s learn about what it is to be in this body and experience what it is to be this creature that is here to feel.”
There’s no other space where it’s ok for you to experience your sexuality with a practitioner. People go to psychosexual therapists and they’re not allowed to get aroused as this is against the practitioner’s ethics. Their governing body says no, but our governing body says yes! We’re in a framework of learning and educating, of growth, of self-development and that’s what it is. This is self-development. It’s the kind of self-development you feel naughty asking for but then you come to someone like me or Rose and you realise that it’s so normal. Of course, I have genitals and of course, my genitals deserve light, space, permission, pleasure and to be loved – just like all the other parts of me.
“People have cut off their sexuality and they come to us to integrate it back, to become more whole, more seen and to see those parts of themselves.”
This is a hot topic for me. I made a grave mistake earlier this year when I was in South America. I got an enthusiastic recommendation from someone who had been healed by this bodyworker. And so I went running in, feeling like my prayers had been answered, that I was going to get the healing of my gut that I needed and I ended up getting sexually violated. How? How have I, who knows this area so well, who has trained in it, how has this happened to me? But it was a brilliant opportunity to look at this issue of safety.
The tips I would say are number one, go to someone who is a certified practitioner and who is certified in the Wheel of Consent – it trains practitioners to remove their ego and have clear communication about what they’re doing and allows the client to lead. It removes manipulative, coercive guidance in a session.
Number two, which is also a real must is that they’re with a governing body, so there’s someone that you go to and complain to. There’s someone responsible for whether or not this person has a licence and insurance.
Number three is spending time getting clear on what it is that you want to happen. And make sure you have basic consent skills. Don’t go for bodywork until you’ve had training on boundaries. Also looking for a trauma-informed coach is important because if you have experienced boundary violations or you have experienced sexual abuse, then going to someone who understands the nervous system, who can identify when you’re in a trauma response and knows how to support you and not re-traumatise you is very important.
Thanks Aisha. That got me just thinking about how our traumas show up with this work and understanding your trauma and your story is a really vital part of how you move into work with a practitioner. It’s a very active experience. It takes body literacy, it takes being able to communicate. We are all held by a governing body, it’s called the ASIS. An association where we have strict agreements about how we work and how we show up. We wear gloves, so you won’t have someone touching you directly skin to skin in the same way as if you go to a gynaecologist they are wearing gloves. The practitioner remains fully clothed and most of us tend to work with a table.
Everything is intentionally set up for safety and clear boundaries. Not only do we speak verbally about our boundaries and agreements but we have talismans, items in the room that support that. Other things are making sure the agreements are very clear at the beginning and the closing of sessions. We’re dealing with sensitive topics in such an intimate space and it’s the job of the practitioner to hold that space and close that space at the end of each session.
A lot of people love to talk about sex magic, but very few of them understand what is happening. Ellen Heed speaks about this very clearly, and she was one of our teachers on the Sexological Bodywork training. I believe in magic, I do. And I don’t think it’s always fun to strip it back to science. I also know that if you can imagine what you want in your mind during a very high energy experience, then you are deepening the cognitive pathway and focusing the brain on that possibility.
There is also something called somatic openings, which are moments when the body reveals something that has been stored there, that you didn’t have conscious awareness of before. It aligns so many other things; our ability to listen to our bodies, to trust in our intuition, to act on what we believe to be true, what we believe to be our rightful future, what we believe to represent who we are. That is powerful. That brings up emotion for people. It’s that sort of emotion that creates the high energy experience that manifests whatever we want to manifest.
“Sex and being sexual in our body creates a lot of energy, partly because it’s so pleasurable when you do it right.”
And that is how it comes into doing Sexological Bodywork. Knowing how to turn the body on, to liven different parts of the body, to become receptive to touch, to all matters of affections that we can offer towards it.
Our sexual energy is held in our base chakras, when many of us embark on a spiritual journey a lot of the work is about the higher chakra stuff. We’re meditating, we’re chanting – it’s the throat, the third eye, the crown. So we’re all up here and it’s floaty and it’s light. I’m wearing white muslin and it’s gorgeous. Then sexuality is like oooh, this is shadowy stuff. This is dense, gooey, icky stuff. This is money. This is power. This is food. This is pussy juice. This kind of base chakra stuff is very primal and with that comes a lot of density. This energy has a different quality, and I think when it all marries together you’ve got a fucking supernova. Suddenly it’s not the seven chakras, it’s one powerful beam of light. You are the powerful beam of light. You are the supernova and actually, I think it’s in heightened states of orgasmicity where creation is born. I say orgasmicity instead of orgasm as it’s orgasmicity that we teach.
“When we are in pleasure we are creating something. We are creating a whole new state in our being. We are changing the very form of ourselves.”
When I’ve been in a healing state of pleasure, my cells tingle and I can feel myself suddenly feeling like I don’t have form. Suddenly I’m this vibrating thing; I am energy, I am sexual energy, I am creative energy, I am spiritual energy. Sex is so often perceived as this really scary, dark, taboo, shadowy thing when it’s the most innocent thing in the world. It’s the start of life, most of us have come through the act of sex. So we can absolutely create through our sexuality, we can birth ideas through it, we can birth visions, we can set intentions, we can manifest. For me, the beauty of manifestation is when we manifest with ease and without attachment. It’s surrendering into your orgasmicity and seeing what comes through, what’s emerging in your body. Suddenly the ego gets out of the way and you are in communication with your higher being. You are in your centre, in your power, and it’s from that place that you can create anything.