Sexological Bodywork is a modality of sex education that has been around since 2003. Originally developed by Joseph Kramer, it is a way to teach and facilitate embodiment through conscious breath, movement, touch, and sound. Sometimes Sexological Bodywork is synonymous with Somatic Sex Education – somatic meaning “of the body.” It can be a hands on tool to teach people how to expand their capacity for pleasure and body awareness, but it does not always involve touch. When touch is involved, according to the standards and ethics of the Association of Certified Sexological Bodyworkers, it is one-way touch that is gloved, with the Bodyworker always clothed.
Sexual surrogates are hands-on bodyworkers (different from sexological bodyworkers) who work in conjunction with sex therapists to provide an experiential component to supplement talk therapy, and often work without clothing. Surrogates are highly trained professionals who work in a team with the therapist and client to achieve a specific goal of sexual functioning, intimacy, or comfort. The movie The Sessions dramatized the life of a sexual surrogate, played by Helen Hunt.
Sexological Bodywork is an umbrella term for various experiences.
The Bodyworker is there to facilitate those experiences with tools they have learned throughout their training. Under this large net, there is masturbation witnessing and coaching, sex education (which can include lessons in genital anatomy), pleasure and sensation mapping, Taoist Erotic Massage, and scar tissue remediation as well as working to dispel shame around one’s body or sexuality.
The building blocks of Sexological Bodywork are conscious breath and movement.
Yes, we all breathe all the time, but we don’t usually think about it. As a culture, many of us are very shallow breathers. This is because we are constantly stressed. Our nervous systems’ “flight or flight” response is often activated. In part, a Sexological Bodyworker works with their clients to make them more aware of their breath. Expanding belly breaths, pelvic breathing, bottom breathing, and variations of these with patterns and releasing sound can be a very enlightening, profound experience.
Somatic sex education, or Sexological Bodywork, can be incredibly healing, but Bodyworkers are not healers.
They don’t promise to “fix” you and are not therapists. It is a different modality which can help a client into their body for quicker growth than can usually be accomplished in talk therapies.
Transference is not uncommon in Sexological Bodywork. A professional Bodyworker will acknowledge from the beginning that emotions and intimacy can develop, but at the same time reminding their client that this is a safe container in which they can explore those emotions without crossing preset boundaries. There should always only be clothed one-way touch which is gloved when there is genital touch. Other kinds of bodywork sessions might not adhere to these standards, but it is important to know that those are not Sexological Bodywork.
If you’ve ever received a full body massage and thought it was a bit strange that the genitals were left out, you might consider searching for your local Sexological Bodyworker to inquire about a session.