Remember that SATC episode with the sex therapist couple who demonstrates together? Yeah. Going to see an intimacy coach is just like that, except you do more than watch.
In the latest installment of Nerve's "I Did It For Science," writer Ella Milgrom , in the midst of a serious dry spell, decides that for science, she might as well explore the world of "intimacy coaches." Specifically, she decides to explore the Slow Sex movement. Writes the intrepid Milgrom, "Founded in San Francisco, Slow Sex is based on the belief that by being mindful of the value of raw intimacy, we can bring meaning back into our sex lives. It sounded a little new-agey, but I was willing to try anything for science."
So she books an appointment with an slow-sex/intimacy coach named Valerie.
Valerie led me to their "office," a small bedroom furnished with a massage table, a queen-size bed piled with earth-toned cushions, and a few armchairs. Naturally, Enya played softly in the background. "Make yourself comfortable," she said, removing her sandals and climbing on the bed beside Bruce, who'd propped himself on a pile of pillows. We sat cross-legged facing each other, and Valerie explained that in the first hour of the session, we'd talk through my sexual history and figure out what I wanted to work on. The second half would involve a communication game or exercise. I couldn't tell if this college-orientation vibe was comforting or disturbing.
What follows sounds like a therapy session, complete with trust games. Then it gets kind of...odd. Valerie, you see, uses her partner, Bruce, as an aid in the session. In an exercise that promotes asking for what one wants in the sack, the reporter had to get physical with Bruce: "In the second part of the game, Bruce asked me to lie down on my stomach and stretch out on the bed, then rubbed his hands over my hip and down my legs and gently kissed the nape of my neck. I in turn wondered if we could go back to the part when I was painfully detailing my sexual past." But by the next session, she's emboldened and requests a sensual massage. Which turns into another unorthodox pedagogical technique.
I grabbed Bruce's hand and guided it over my legs, my inner thighs, and under my shirt. Bruce let out a soft "mmmm" of surprise and approval. I felt turned on by my actions and excited that I had received a positive reaction from Bruce. Would it be so terrible if I let him wander under my bra? I pressed his hands closer to my breasts and encouraged him to squeeze and grope them. Before long, I'd let him kiss my nipples and my collarbone and nibble my ear. When he glided his hands over the tender region of my genitals, I joined him and kept them there. This was kind of fun. "Mmm... good, that's nice," said Valerie, her cheek rested on her hands, with the dreamy expression of someone who'd been listening to a lot of whale songs.
Not my idea of "nice," maybe, but the author finds the whole thing really...helpful. She feels less inhibited and more comfortable with her sexuality. Oh, and ends her dry spell! So: good on her. I guess my issue is that I'm way too inhibited (and, um, adverse to getting sexual with either teachers or men named Bruce — too many years of conventional therapy and friends' dads with that moniker, I guess) to ever do such therapy in the first place, and I'd say anyone who isn't too inhibited is already in the 99th percentile of barrier-breakers. Some people do better opening up to strangers or pros. Others of us...don't. In fact, I'll just say it: this sounds like my personal hell. But that makes it all the more worthy an exploration "for science!"