When a client enters your sex coaching office, they bring with them a multitude of voices. The voices of their parents and guardians, teachers and mentors, partners and lovers, friends, colleagues, Hollywood directors and editors of glossy magazines. All those voices have had something to say about your client’s sexuality. Perhaps their chatter has drowned out your client’s own voice.
Many clients are exhausted by the chatter and wish to find their own voice. Yet they feel helpless because they don’t know where to start. They’re used to other people having opinions about their sexuality, their body. They’re used to being defined by others. They’re used to others (seemingly) knowing what’s best, what’s right, what’s wrong. They’re used to being punished for expressing their needs and their boundaries. They’re used to not having their “no” respected.
With so many voices coming from outside, it’s no wonder your client’s voice may have grown quiet. Not being heard feels like reason enough to stop speaking, not to mention when speaking up gets you punished. With experiences like these, your client may have learned to avoid self-defining, believing it inevitably leads to trouble.
How Do You Help Your Clients Reclaim Their Own Voice?
This is where you can shine as a sex coach! Take this chance to practice non-pathologizing, client-focused approaches and help your client create new experiences. Make the sex coaching session a space where they can be in charge of themselves and be appreciated for it. Where they can self-define and remain safe. Where they can say “no” and be heard. Show them they can use their voice and have it respected.
Giving your client validation can help you do this. Say, “I hear you.” Give them a list of 50 sexual activities and ask them to group them into yes’s, no’s and maybe’s. Help them create a list of their soft and hard boundaries. Tell them to pick their favorite way to ask for a specific sexual activity during sex (“How about we…?”, “Could you…?” or “I’d really like you to…”?). Encourage them to repeat the sentence until it becomes nothing more than a string of sounds, too familiar to be threatening.
Your client using their voice and you validating it creates new experiences to balance out the old. Each in-session experience like this gets them one step closer to developing the habit of using their voice and rightfully expecting to have it heard.
Helping Your Client Practice Using Their Voice is Great, but Not Enough
There is one issue, though. Unless you are a bodyworker, your client stating their sexual needs and boundaries to you is only a dry run. We learn well with dry runs—they’re great practice for when “the real thing” comes along. But you will need a lot of dry runs of your client’s voice being heard to balance out all the real things that made it go quiet.
In talk-only sex coaching, the client verbalizing sexual needs and boundaries to you is not “the real thing” because you’re not in a sexual relationship. “The real thing” in a coaching session is the coaching relationship between you and the client. And it’s in this realm that you can create powerful new experiences of their voice being heard.
The Power of “No”
Say you offer a specific suggestion and your client responds with, “Erm, I don’t think I’d like to do that…” Resist the urge to immediately correct course, to flee the discomfort of suggesting more than your client is ready for. This is not about you. Instead, notice what has just happened. Your client has just used their voice to say “no” to you. This is not a dry run. This is the real thing—a real suggestion, and a real refusal. A real experience of boundary setting between two human beings in a (coaching) relationship.
Stop. Breathe. Notice it. Validate it. Thank your client for using their voice, for telling you their truth. Congratulate them on setting a boundary. Make sure they know that you hear it and appreciate it.
This is the real thing.
Saying “no” to the coach and having that “no” heard and validated may be one of the most powerful in-session experiences for a client in search of their own voice. That is not to say you should go out of your way to design opportunities for your client to say “no” to you—don’t. But do use the opportunities if they arise.
Let your client experience having their voice heard “for real.” Chances are, they’ll take this new-found voice with them to their bedroom.
* This week’s essay was written by Agnieszka Szeżyńska, Sex Coach U Curriculum Associate