Firstly, what is kink? Here’s Wikipedia’s definition…
“In human sexuality, kinkiness is the use of non-conventional sexual practices, concepts or fantasies. The term derives from the idea of a “bend” (cf. a “kink”) in one’s sexual behaviour, to contrast such behaviour with “straight” or “vanilla” sexual mores (social norms) and proclivities. It is thus a colloquial term for non-normative sexual behaviour.”
I like things that are non-normative and have a bend in them! Let’s acknowledge that sometimes things get called kinky or weird just because they don’t fit neatly into the heteronormative ‘penis in vagina’ sex script.
First of All, What is Somatic Sex Education (SSE)?
A definition from Caffyn Jesse (SSEA), “We teach through body experiences designed to nurture, deepen or awaken the sensual self. These experiences can include coaching in breath, movement, body awareness, boundary-setting, communication, anatomy, sensate focus, massage, erotic trance and other body-based teaching about sex…We touch in ways that assist students in developing presence within the body, opening interior awareness, and learning how the body can feel more and more alive.”
A Story of a Marketing ‘Fail’
A few years ago, I was due to hold a Quintimacy® event in Birmingham. A month before, I decided to hold a stall at the large, local fetish fair. The idea was to talk to queer kinksters about Sexological Bodywork (SB), Somatic Sex Education (SSE) and especially about the upcoming event.
My stall and my roller banner were blue, purple and pink, and I wore my blue ‘Certified Sex Geek’ t-shirt. I suppose it was rather a contrast to the black latex, shiny dildos and gimp masks all around us. I have never been one to ‘fit in’ anywhere really, but beyond the aesthetics, I still felt completely in my element; I am KINKY. To me everything I do in the realm of SSE and my training and work feels congruent with risk aware, consensual kink.
I collected around 30 email addresses for my email newsletter and to keep in touch with people about the Quintimacy® weekend. It was a local event aimed especially at LGBTQ+ people and the facilitators were kinky and kink positive.
For myself, everything I’ve learnt about the Wheel of Consent, embodiment/embodied consent, use of conscious awareness and mindfulness in our erotic lives, has enhanced and become embedded into my kink activities and relationships. I think it’s super relevant to queer people who practice all sorts of kinks and fetish activities.
However, a few weeks later, I had NOT ONE booking from anyone I met at the fetish fair, despite emails following up about the (as far as I was concerned, highly relevant and unique) event on their doorstep!
I wondered about this, and I still do! There is so much crossover between the two scenes, both in terms of the individuals who are a part of them and our values and interests. For example, there is a multitude of consent geeks in both communities! People into kink and Somatic Sex Educators are among the people in this world who are the most thoughtful, knowledgeable and invested in building Consent Culture!
Side note: Did you know that Betty Martin’s Wheel of Consent is based on the work of Harry Faddis who developed the ‘Three-minute game‘ for a 1998 BDSM workshop on power, surrender and intimacy?
Somatic Sex Education and Kink
So, how do Somatic Sex Education and kink relate to each other – are they like oil and water, contrasting opposites, one community in yoga pants and the other in black leather, never to meet?
Seven Ways My Work is Relevant to Kink
1) Transferable Skills
Every single session and workshop (without fail) is in some way supporting people to ‘get in touch with what they want, and to voice it’.
This is massively transferable when we want to play with power, or enjoy more intense experiences and sensations. Our erotic communication skills, and the ability to negotiate, is essential in navigating relationships in which we hand over our power temporarily to another person. The work we can do creates a whole foundation of consent skills. These are essential for our work together (to be able to do erotic bodywork and touch), and our interactions and relationships out in the world.
The consent exercises where we ask another person a simple request like ‘can I stroke your eyebrows?’ and listen to their answer, may not look relevant to kink. Yet the same principles and skills apply to ‘can I tie your arms behind your back?’
Embodied Consent is relevant to all of us in relationships, whether we are formally a dominant, a submissive or a switch. A dominant has as much right and responsibility to feel their emotional and somatic yes and no, and to act on it, as anyone else.
The piece about what gets in the way of asking and what comes up for us is just as relevant. Why is it hard to ask? Fear of being rejected? Shame? Worries about being judged? Fear of offending or triggering the other person? The more non-normative our requests seem, the more challenging this can be because of the fear of being kink-shamed.
2) Transferable Practices
Betty Martin’s Bossy Massage practice can be used to connect our inner desires, some of which may be what people call ‘kinky’. There’s no reason why the person doing the asking in the Bossy Massage cannot ask the person ‘serving’ them to spank them, hold them down or run a pinwheel up to the inside of their thighs (and the serving person can agree or not).
The ‘Three-minute game’ offers the opportunity for both partners to be in every quadrant of the wheel. This is entirely possible for the flavour of this game to be 100% kinky, with the agreement of both people.
An exercise that often kicks off Quintimacy® workshops and one to one sessions is a proximity-based game of leading the other person using hand gestures. I frame this as temporarily ‘agreeing to give control to the other person’. The same with the game of ‘puppets’ where one person manoeuvres the other person’s body into any position they want. A simple, clothed ‘vanilla’ game with the essence and basic ingredients of kink, which we can expand on if we want.
Genital and Anal Interviews can give voice to many a ‘kinky’ desire our intimate parts may have. It’s perfectly possible to do a ‘Show and Tell’ wearing a Pup play outfit or silky crotchless lingerie.
‘Witnessing’ activities allow us to interrogate the difference between witnessing, gazing and voyeuristic ‘taking’ with our eyes for our pleasure (which can be hot if conscious and based on consensual agreement).
3) Exploration of the Erotic Mind
The human erotic mind is not all blue and pink like my logo or the trans flag. The erotic mind can feature all shades of darkness, shadow and the red of blood!
People are aware of sexual turn-ons that are not conventional, consensual or even legal if you were to act on them. It’s common for people to wonder with curiosity (and perhaps fear and shame) about what they get aroused by. Queer folk who are deeply committed to social justice, equality and who deeply value consent, can feel confused and troubled by fantasies and kinks that seem out of line with their feminist, or other, values.
I take an approach that’s informed by research and ideas about sexual fantasy and our ‘Core Erotic Themes’, that normalise the range of human sexuality (This includes The Erotic Mind, Jack Morin and the work of Justin Lehmiller on sexual fantasy). I give people the permission to share their fantasies and the inner workings of their erotic mind, and introduce concepts like the ‘eroticisation of trauma’ to create a more compassionate and non-pathologising understanding.
We separate fantasy, roleplay and ‘troublesome turn-ons’ from actual sexual harm, non-consensual behaviour and illegal behaviour. I acknowledge that being in the ‘taking’ quadrant of the Wheel of Consent is commonly a very challenging one for this very reason — people desperately don’t want to harm anyone, but they still want and need to touch for their pleasure.
It’s possible to integrate all the different parts of our erotic selves into consensual solo, partnered and collective erotic lives. My work can help people to explore desires and fantasies safely and without judgement, and introduce those practices to relationships and solo sex.
4) Fuelling your Erotic Curiosity
Being in a workshop of queer folk at a Quintimacy® event means you are sharing the room with 25 other queer erotic minds and bodies — can you imagine what is available? You only have to listen to the pair working near you to hear new ideas and to experience a wide-eyed ‘oooh you can ask for THAT?’
Working with an SSE or SB, we can invite ourselves to drop into the body and explore the realms of desire and curiosity in a new way. It can be easier to be in a space of exploring and learning with a practitioner, or in a workshop, than when we are with a partner for a date or sexual encounter. The intention and expectations are different.
I have done hours of exploration with clients using body mapping and sensation play combined. During these sessions, clients can ask for a whole range of different touches using hands (from tickling to drumming or slapping) and tools (pinwheels, floggers, feathers, fur, cold and hot things). We can play on the axis of intensity and all over the landscape of the sensational body.
I will never forget an ass workshop that descended into the whole room exploring each other’s belly buttons and finding immense pleasure in penetrating navels. The surprises that can occur when you let go of any assumptions or goals are fantastic!
5) Yet Another Thing That Isn’t Binary (Shock!)
Rather than vanilla and kink being two separate binary categories, I would suggest a spectrum. We all get to decide and define where we are on this spectrum and we can move around on it. Interpersonal power is always around whether we consciously harness it and play with it or not. Sexual interactions between bodies exert forces and elicit intense sensations, and a passionate love bite is technically a sexual injury!
When I am working with clients, without even referencing kink, I talk about playing with power and with stronger, more intense sensations. We might do an exercise that’s about temporarily agreeing to give away your control to another person. What state does our nervous system need to be in for us to access pleasure and surrender to an experience. People who don’t think of themselves as kinky discover the pleasures of consciously playing with these dynamics.
If kink is about things like interpersonal power and intensity of sensation, then the possibility of it is ever-present, and, in my sessions, welcome for curious consideration.
6) A Boost to Trauma-informed Everything.
In my sessions, people sometimes come in with preconceived ideas for what they want to happen and what goals they want to achieve, as they might when entering a play party or kink encounter. When we acknowledge there is anxiety and trauma around (there is collective trauma even if not individual), we can create a situation where all of our obstacles and emotions are welcome.
Yes, emotion and tears are helpful and can clear the way for the next stage of readiness for erotic experience in the body. We have to have enough safety to do this.
Slowing down is not just okay, it is sometimes necessary (and the path to greater pleasure). I have personally realised I can slow down and be in my body more and use pauses (titration, little drop of experience at a time).
The learnings we have through this work can then be transferred to a process of negotiation about a kink scene, taking our time to consider and feel into what we want, resisting being rushed or rushing ourselves, and becoming more conscious about what we are doing. This enables us to be less performative and more in contact with our moment-to-moment experience. SSE is very conducive to this.
This work can offer us principles and practices for how we steward ourselves through challenging and exciting territory, with a good balance of risk-taking (just enough) and self-care and protection.
7) What Doors Might Open?
I have worked with clients who were really nervous, unsure of their sexuality and ashamed about their kinks. People sometimes worry about taking care of themselves in kink spaces or in negotiations because of trauma and communication struggles. Others with more experience have the emotional and difficult realisation that they’re not always in consent in their interactions.
Developing skills and actually practising them in real life (on the table with me or practising with a partner or erotic peer), can give people a sense of confidence and personal agency. It’s not just theory; they have a real embodied memory of asking for what they want, saying no and influencing an intimate encounter so that they got a pleasurable outcome for themselves.
I am able to be alongside people in their explorations of their erotic selves and to hear the stories of their kinks and fantasies. Together, we can be both curious and mystified, as well as equally normalising and reassuring.
There are pieces of work that are beyond the scope of my work and my skills. When I say “no”, it’s the kind of no that expresses “that sounds awesome, thanks for asking. It’s not something I can offer, but I might know someone who can!”
So, I have also supported people to access ethical porn, kink community, kink professionals and sex workers.
The journey does not end here!
How Does This Land With You?
Do get in touch if you want to explore working with me or attending an advanced Quintimacy® workshop (at some point) where kink is welcome and embraced!