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Jenny is in conversation with Sian Johnson, about her work as a sexological body worker and intimacy coach, working with men as clients. Together they discuss the assumptions and expectations that can get in the way of enjoying authentic intimacy and good sex. They explore how men can be harmed by these assumptions and expectations, and how people of all genders could benefit from improving communication around sex.
Sian is a Somatic Sex Therapist, Tantric Masseuse and Intimacy Coach at Pleasure . Potential . Power. Working from the Leeds Bradford area she sees clients from across West Yorkshire and beyond and is available online anywhere in the world. She is a Professional coach, Certified Sexological Bodyworker, kink practitioner and intimacy coach and has had the good fortune to have trained with Betty Martin in The Wheel of Consent – it was so good she did it twice!
Jenny Wilson 0:01
Welcome to the I Do Consent podcast. We’re recording this episode in November 2021. And my guest today is Sian Johnson. Sian is a somatic sex therapist, a tantric masseuse and an intimacy coach at ‘Pleasure Potential Power’. Working from the Leeds -Bradford area, Yorkshire in the UK, she sees clients from across West Yorkshire and beyond, and she’s available online from anywhere in the world. She’s a professional coach, a certified sexological body worker, a kink practitioner, and intimacy coach, and has had the very good fortune to be trained with Betty Martin, in the Wheel of Consent. You can find out more about Sian from her website www.pleasurepotentialpower.com or by listening to what she has to say to us here today. Welcome, Sian.
Sian Johnson 1:00
Thank you, Jenny. Thank you. It’s a lovely interaction, introduction even.
Jenny Wilson 1:06
So I first met you, because I learned about Betty Martin’s Wheel of Consent from you. And Betty is, is going to be doing a podcast or I’m not quite sure the order these are going out whether she’ll have done her podcast when people hear this one. So hopefully people will reference back to that. But tell us a bit more about sexological body work? What? What is that for people who don’t know?
Sian Johnson 1:35
Okay, that’s a really great question to start off with. So sexological bodywork. It’s a bit of a mouthful. But essentially, it’s when a client works with somebody like me a sexological body worker as a student. So essentially, they come to learn about their own body, their own pleasure, about sensation. And the aim is to overcome any sexual difficulties. And for the client to experience ultimately to experience their full erotic potential. And this is really important because sex, intimacy, touch and connection are very basic human needs. But we’re not very great at teaching each other or learning about these things. So coming to see somebody like myself is a great opportunity to explore that.
Jenny Wilson 2:30
Oh, absolutely. For sure. Yeah. So I think you’re absolutely right, I think most of us have learned about sex and intimacy from very, very poor sex education in schools, that are very focused on the sort of biological heteronormative functions of sex. Perhaps through watching videos, pornography, that kind of stuff, chatting with friends, those kinds of things. And there’s a whole load of kind of assumptions and social scripts about what sex is, what it’s supposed to be like, who’s in control? who’s in power? Who isn’t? And all of those things? Is your work about, you know, is your work about breaking that stuff down?
Sian Johnson 3:22
Absolutely, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think I mean, human human sexuality. I mean, it’s a complex, it’s complex, because it touches into our emotions, it touches into our body, into our histories, into our present time, into our trauma, you know, into our bodies, obviously. And it’s such a complex mix. It’s never just about “how does my cock work?” Or “how does my pussy work?” Or “I don’t understand my genitals, you know, they don’t feel like mine. They belong to somebody else”. It’s so much more complex than then the simple mechanics of it. And yet, nobody talks to us about these things. We never really get an opportunity to, you know, learn about how to relate to each other in ways other than porn, sex, or in ways other than the myths that are out there for men, for women for other genders, diversity in relationships. We don’t have those conversations anywhere. We don’t get it modeled for us. We don’t see it in theatre enough. We don’t see it in movies. We certainly don’t see it at home. Where are we meant to go and learn about these things? Well, that’s what people like myself sexologists, sexogical body workers. That’s what the profession has grown out of this need for people to really begin to understand their bodies in a deeper, more authentic, mythbusting way. I’m quite proud of the myth busting that we do in this work.
Jenny Wilson 5:13
And, you know, because those sorts of assumptions and myths are where we end up outside of consent aren’t they, you know?
Sian Johnson 5:20
Yes, absolutely, yes. I mean, I work primarily with men. So men, who come to me often talk about body confidence issues, the size of their penis, how athletic they need to be in the bedroom, there’s also myths around, they have to be in control, they have to be the one pleasuring their partners, they have to be the big ‘I am’, they have to not be vulnerable, but also at the same time be vulnerable. They have to know what they want. And they have to be really articulate about that. And they have to, you know, be some kind of Tarzan person. And, you know, then there’s this, ‘oh, all the other men out there getting laid every Saturday night’, or, you know, ‘her husband is able to keep that very sexy woman satisfied, you can tell they’re deeply happy. And yet, I’m deeply ashamed of the fact that I can’t bring my wife to orgasm’ and all kinds of myths. And those are just the ones to do with relating. That’s without the universal mess around; Men have to be in charge. Men have to know the way, you know, men aren’t allowed to express their feelings. You know, it’s such a disservice. There’s so many myths out there for men, that understandably, a lot men come to me and they’re confused.
Yeah, of course. I think that, that those sorts of social scripts that say, you know, sex has to happen that particular sort of way; that there’s a thing called ‘foreplay’. I really hate the concept of foreplay. It implies that there’s some stuff you do before you have sex. And then there’s this thing called ‘Sex’, which I think the assumptions are that there’s some penetration involved in that, the various, regardless of the genders and organs of the people involved. It’s, you know, it’s it’s ‘fucking’, for want of a better expression, and ends when somebody has an orgasm – there is a goal of orgasm as the end, and then it’s “after” glow, and that this is the sort of structure that we’re supposed to have sex in. (Yeah). But that doesn’t work at all for lots of people does it? Regardless if gender, But, you know, yeah, huge expectations.
Yeah, massive expectations and You know, it does everyone a disservice when we look at sex like that. Yeah, but the thing is, we don’t know, different. We don’t know what we don’t know, until something goes wrong. “Why can’t I last for more than three minutes?” “Why? Why can’t I give her an orgasm” or “why can’t I have an orgasm when I want to?” It’s, that’s only when something goes wrong, that people will go on this journey of wanting to discover more about sex, and often, they’ll come to me. And then we can kind of blast open this idea of the ‘escalator model of sex’, as I call it. And I can’t quite remember where I heard the ‘escalator model of sex’, so I can’t credit the person I heard it from, it’ll be one of my trainings somewhere. But it’s this idea that we kind of get on the escalator at the bottom step, there’s some activity, and then there’s some arousal and then there’s more activity more arousal, and it’s this constant, steady, upward trajectory to actually get off at the top. And that’s it. That is sex, exactly, as you described, it’s a little bit of this a little bit, that little bit, that little bit, and the goal is to get off the top or there’s an orgasm. Yeah, I kind of try and introduce this idea of an elevator model of sex, where people get on at the ground floor, there’s there may be some arousal, or an inclination or an agreement, you get on at the ground floor, and arousal might, you might get off at the third floor and spend some time there. And then you might go up to the sixth floor in terms of arousal, and there might be some, some interest there. And you might go to an eight on the scale of rounds on this, like, this is all happening. And then you might choose to drop it down again and go to level five, and get off and spend some time at level five. And it’s, there’s suddenly, when you take away the goal of orgasm, whether that’s an ejaculation or an orgasm, or however that peak is for you, when you take away that goal, and you start to then really begin to enjoy the process. And that enables a lot more connection. And when you have connection, either whether that’s with yourself or with one partner, or more than one partner, when this connection in the space, it becomes a whole lot more about pleasure and sensation, and joy. And you can focus on your partner, and then the partner can focus on you. And then there could be movement around in the space, it becomes much more of a dance, rather than this ‘get on the bottom, get off at the top’. It can be truly beautiful. When we take the goal of orgasm away.
Yeah, very true. I think I’m just hearing as well, in between the lines of that thing you were just talking about.. when we’re talking about ‘men’ and ‘women’, and then the sort of binary social stereotypes we have about those gender roles in heterosexual relationships. There’s, there’s this notion of consent as being the permission that the man has to get from the woman. (Yes.) to do stuff. (Yeah.) Rather than a mutual agreement to share pleasure together. (Yeah.) And does that come across very much for you as well?
Yeah, it does. And the way that it manifests in many of the clients that I see is that like, “I don’t have the confidence to do that. How can I do that?” Or “I have the confidence to do that. I can get shagged anytime I want. But what where … Where’s me in that?” Where’s the nuance in that? Where’s the her in that? Where’s the him in that? This the stereotypes – they don’t help us. Whether we’re successful at ‘pulling’ as they call it or not – It’s not helpful. The invitation here with me certainly is to follow what the body wants. “What does my body want in this moment?” Or “actually, my body really wants to connect with her.” Okay, great. How do you want to do that? “Well, actually, I’m not up for sex. What am I up for? I’m up for some touches and connection, and some cuddling on the sofa.” Okay, let’s see if we can negotiate that. And learning the negotiation skills, but it comes from the need in the body first. So that that’s the kind of the training that I do. ‘So what is your level of arousal? How horny Are you? And how can you? How can you express that in a way that makes sense? To not just yourself, but the people or the person you’re with’.
Yeah, that makes lots of sense.
I have to say, I’m not quite sure if this is making sense. But if you’re making sense of it Jenny, then that’s good!
No It’s really beautiful what you’re describing, and I think so far away from the experience that a lot of people have. And a lot of people expect from each other. And I mean, I do your clients come to you knowing what to expect? And you know, with a sense of this kind of work? what do they come to you thinking that they’re going to… What do they arrive with?
Ah Jenny, I get all kinds of calls and all kinds of questions. And mostly, mostly the men. Because again, because I work with men – this is, by the way, this has nothing to do with the fact that I don’t want to work with women or people with other genders and non binary people. It’s not that, it’s actually a specialism, just the same as if I was a medical doctor, I might choose to work in pediatrics, or I might choose to work in gynecology, and I’m a sexological body worker, and I choose to work with men. And so most of the men that contact me they generally they have to go through some hoops. I don’t just answer the phone to anybody, they have to arrange a consultation call. So I know already by the fact that they’ve arranged a consultation call, they’ve had to go online, they’ve had to book it, and they’ve had to give me details. I know already, that they’re serious about engaging with me in a way that makes sense to them. So they already have a sense of who I am, by the time we get to speak. But the majority of men come with sexual dysfunction, often that’s premature ejaculation, or erection dissatisfaction, body image issues, sexual inexperience, and a whole raft of related sort of niggles that .. the men know that there’s something not quite right. Sometimes they don’t know how to express that, but they know they want something. And my role initially, in the first instance is to work out what that is, ‘what is it that you want to experience? What is it that you aspire to?’ A dear, dear, dear friend of mine, and my mentor for many years, has this phrase, “If you don’t know what’s available to you, how can you ask?” And so sometimes my role is about helping clients to broaden their vision of what is available to them, particularly in the realms of pleasure, sensation, communication, relationships, all of those kinds of things.
That’s wonderful. Yeah, I mean, the FRIES framework, which I reference quite a lot. When I when I’m talking about the I of Informed consent. I think you said this phrase earlier on – that feeling of ‘you don’t know what you don’t know until you realize you don’t know it’. (Yes, exactly. Yes). That’s a huge thing, isn’t it?
Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s massive. Its massive. And like I said, because sex and intimacy and connection and relationships are so shrouded in myth and mystery, and we’re so ill informed, generally speaking, as a population.. you know, it’s very difficult for people to find their way through the mists and fog of it all. So, speaking to somebody like me, even if it’s just an hour long conversation, can be revelatory in itself. Many clients have never spoken about these, their fears and their expectations and their fantasies, you know, many clients have never spoken to anybody about what’s going on for them. And so that in itself is is like a liberation. And it’s an honor. It is an honor to work with people in this way. So
it’s, it’s great. I mean, I think you mentioned earlier that you choose to work with men. And I know you, and I know that partly because you want to challenge those , you want to challenge those patriarchal assumptions that that are damaging for men as well as women, isn’t it?
Yeah. Yeah. No gender flourishes in an environment where men, or erm, where patriarchy exists, and nobody flourishes under patriarchy, particularly men – because they get shamed and blamed. And often, I mean, there are men who are perpetrators. So, and I don’t mean just of sexual assault and those kinds of things. There are people in power structures that continually day by day uphold those and they are part of a system that is dysfunctional and unhelpful and oppressive. But most men are wandering around going, “I’m part of the patriarchy, but I don’t understand my role in that. I’m part, I’m supposed to be a part of the problem. But I don’t understand how I’m part of the problem. I’m just trying to be a good guy here”. Most men don’t understand how they are part of the problem. And that’s not helpful for most men, because most men want to be part of the solution. They want to have positive conversations, they want to have positive relationships, they’re as sickened by the violence and oppression as the next person. So but on top of that, they’re carrying male genitals, and therefore that makes them a perpetrator, they, you know, it’s really hard for boys and men, to understand how they’re so much part of the problem when day to day, they’re trying to do the best they can… they’re working they’re, you know, they’re trying to be productive. They’re trying to be, you know, good guys, especially to the women in their lives. And it’s really tricky, really tricky for a lot of men. And I just have a lot of empathy for that, really. And I just want to see, I mean, I used to describe my work as working with one man, one man feels more grounded, more at home in himself, more powerful in himself. That’s why I use power as part of my branding, is because it’s about helping men to step into a healthy power… to step away from unhealthy power, power that’s toxic, that they don’t really understand that they have and stepping into a healthier power, so that they can own the power and then use that in a really constructive way… to create beautiful relationships, to create intimacy that feels really good for them. Yeah, to get their needs met in a way that is really healthy. And in learning those skills, in a sense, being a guiding light themselves, they can pass on those skills to the people they interact with, in relationships, in intimacy. It’s a pebble in the pond, as I say.
Absolutely. But it’s part of this ‘being the change we want to see in the world’, isn’t it? (Yes. Yeah). And you know, we can’t just expect men to just sort of like wave some magic wand and, and, you know and just be okay, when actually they’ve absorbed the same toxic, difficult messages that everyone has.
Yes, yeah. Yes. Yeah. Yeah, it’s tricky. It’s tricky. For all of us. Patriarchy doesn’t help any of us. And certainly, when it comes down to consent, because our boundaries, our own personal boundaries, right from day one have been overridden. Sometimes necessarily, you know, you don’t want your child to put their hand in the fire, you know, you have to restrain them and stop them from doing that. So sometimes we do need to cross children’s boundaries. But most of us don’t ever really fully recover from that – we don’t really understand what our, what boundaries mean, because in the workplace we’re overworked, because at home we’re often are overridden by partners and children. In the workplace, we’re often ‘well yeah, you work a 38 hour week, but we need you to work extra this week’. Your boundaries are constantly overridden, advertisers are unwelcome often in our home, but on TV on our phones, or emails, everywhere we go, we’re constantly sold to and it overrides our boundaries without us even realizing. It’s not helpful for anybody really those circumstances. So essentially working with somebody like me, or certainly working with me, other sexological body workers work in different ways, but working with somebody like me, boundaries, consent, understanding what you want, what your needs are, and how to get those needs met in consensual and negotiated, safe, honoring ways. That’s what I’m about. That’s what this work is about.
Well, thank you very much, Sian. I’m very glad that you do what you do. Thank you for that. Before we go, I’m asking all of my guests to give us a quick fire answer to the question. What would your one message be for the International Day of consent?
Wow, that’s a big – the International Day Consent, that’s amazing. Amazing that you’ve created this Jenny, I think it’s just incredible. And what would my message be okay, so… Get in touch with what you need. Have the courage to step away from stereotypes that you can express that need. Communicate it, communicate it, communicate it!
Yeah, that’s a great message to take us away. Thank you very much, Sian Johnson. It’s pleasure to talk to you.
Thank you, Jenny.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai