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Aug 28, 2022
A rising field of professionals is breaking taboos by coaching people, particularly women, in sexual pleasure, helping them discover what they desire and what makes them quiver between the sheets. Said one coach, “It’s like finding who you are for the first time.”
– with reporting by Lorena Ríos
Introducing ‘pleasure sovereignty’
Queens of their kingdom
Pleasure isn’t taught in today’s classrooms — but perhaps it should be.
“What turns you on? What do you want? What's going to make you excited?” asked Celeste Hirschman, a sex therapist in San Francisco and the co-founder of the Somatica Institute, which trains sex coaches across the U.S. and abroad.
Pornography, TV and movies tend to shape people’s perceptions of what sex and pleasure should be. These industries historically have been controlled by men, while pornography in particular caters to male audiences, as men are often more willing to shell out money to pay for it. But what about female pleasure? And is it possible that women and people of all genders stand to benefit by getting a lot more familiar with what turns them on and gets them off?
Hirschman thinks so, as does Lila Guerrero, a pleasure coach based in Mexico. She and other coaches teach women about “pleasure sovereignty,” and the knowledge that girls and women are “queens of their own kingdom.” In practical terms, this means Guerrero coaches women on everything from masturbation to the psychology of pleasure.
When they first walk through her door, clients are often misinformed about their own anatomy. They don’t know where the clitoris is. And they don’t know that they are allowed to give themselves pleasure. She sees women in their 30s who don’t know if they’ve ever had an orgasm, and women in their 40s and 50s who are recently divorced or are extricating themselves from toxic relationships.
For these women, receiving coaching and learning that they are in control of their own pleasure is “an act of freedom, autonomy and empowerment — knowing that we are autonomous and don’t require another body to feel pleasure,” said Guerrero.
Enjoying the body starts with the mind
“When it comes to pleasure, we work a lot with accepting the body,” Antonia López, a sex therapist and sex educator in Miami, told OZY. She helps clients become familiar with their own anatomy and helps them begin to “conceive of themselves as women with desire.” She has patients who have never looked at their genitals in a mirror, and, she says, the work starts there.
In Monterrey, Mexico, Ingrid Quiroga is a sex coach who regularly works with millennials who have grown up in conservative, Catholic households. “We have to re-educate how we experience pleasure and what sexuality really is,” she said, noting that this means getting rid of beliefs and ideas that stigmatize sex, pleasure and women’s desire to enjoy it.
“The restructuring of the mind is the first step towards liberation,” Quiroga explained. “Getting rid of the voices of mom, your strict teacher or the priest … all the voices that don’t let you enjoy sex.”
Can you trust a ‘coach’?
The concept of sex “coaching” raises certain issues. Can anyone be a sex coach? What’s the difference between a sex therapist and a coach? The confusion surrounding this field is akin to that of nutritionists versus health coaches, and the difference in both cases has to do with required credentials. Sex therapists require licensing. Coaches have to go through training and acquire credentials, too, but it’s much easier to put out a shingle as a coach without pursuing training first. López worries that a lot of people without credentials use the title of coach to treat people who have sexual dysfunctions or psychological problems that require the assistance of a therapist.
“You have to be careful because sexual dysfunctions come with beliefs rooted in the past, trauma, a medical history, anxiety, depression, physical ailments and more,” she explained. “It’s worrisome that, when trying to help someone, they might do more damage.”
The bad rap associated with coaching has meant that therapists and sexologists are the go-to choice for most people who seek help. Yet those who pursue sex therapy or sex coaching are all typically seeking a space where they are not judged or deemed broken, and where they can work — and even play — their way to better health and greater pleasure, said Guerrero.
“I believe we shouldn’t pin therapists against coaches,” she said. “We work for a common goal.”
Another key difference between sex therapy and sex coaching involves the guidelines and boundaries covering the professional relationship. Sex therapists, like all clinicians, are required to maintain a professional distance from patients: Picture the coolly detached therapist who sits in a chair taking notes while a patient lies on the therapeutic couch. Coaches, however, are not required to maintain such detachment.
Hirschman is the co-creator of the “Somatica Method,” which, she said, is “experiential.” Coaches trained in this method are encouraged to be vulnerable alongside their clients, and to share their emotions and even an erotic touch. This method can raise eyebrows.
“We're not having sex with our clients, we're not taking them to orgasm, we're not kissing them,” said Hirschman. But coaches of the Somatica Method do sometimes help clients develop better touching skills and experiment with what Hirschman calls “power dynamics.”
You can’t do any of that in sex therapy, and not all sex coaching is experiential, but it is one approach.
The benefits of sex coaching and therapy are not intended only for women. Men experience shame and misinformation surrounding their sexuality and sexual performance just as women do — and may be even less likely to talk about it with peers. All of the coaches who spoke with OZY work with people of all genders, individually or as couples. Men and women alike seek coaching because they want to be better lovers, because they experience low sexual desire, difficulty reaching orgasm, or because they want to feel more empowered in their dating and relationship life, said Hirschman.
Say goodbye to the kiddy menu
Quiroga has found that, the younger her clients are, the more they know about their bodies and what they want. Women in their early twenties, she said, are the ones most likely to come to her because they want to experience an orgasm. They are “in tune” with the fact that their sex life is unsatisfying, and they want to change that. “The older they are, the harder it is for women to pay attention to having an orgasm,” said Quiroga. But her coaching services don’t start with how to experience an orgasm; that comes later. “It starts with facing fears, asking and demanding things — which is hard in a patriarchal society.” The fact that younger clients are more in tune with their desires may represent a trend in which more people have a chance at enjoying bodily pleasure.
Once she starts working with a new client, Quiroga notices how potent the experience is, as clients begin to regain power over their sexuality. “It’s like finding who you are for the first time,” she told OZY.
The repression and taboos around sex are present across cultures and countries. Hirschman recognizes that there are countries where the work of a sex coach could land them in jail. The fact that people are sexual beings, however, is universal, and pleasure coaches recognize that everyone could have an ever-better erotic life, especially women who are multi orgasmic, said Hirschman. Referring to women, she said, “We are eating off the kiddy menu.”
“We're not getting that eight-course meal that we deserve.”
Are there new trends in sex or sexuality that you’d like to read about on OZY?
OZY is a diverse, global and forward-looking media and entertainment company focused on “the New and the Next.” OZY creates space for fresh perspectives, and offers new takes on everything from news and culture to technology, business, learning and entertainment.