Have you heard of Sexological Bodywork? It is still a relatively unknown modality with many misconceptions about it. In this article, we’ll explore what Sexological Bodywork is, what it isn’t, the history, and who can benefit from it.
While we believe that Sexological Bodywork is the perfect complement to our training at Sex Coach U, and we use many elements from this practice, we do not teach Sexological Bodywork or any other touch modalities. Sex Coach U students learn a talk-only approach (read more about what sex coaching is here), which can also be adapted for touch approaches, and many of our students and grads have also sought training in Sexological Bodywork.
If you’re interested in adding touch to your work, we highly recommend the training. In fact, Dr. Patti’s book, The Art of Sex Coaching, is one of the core textbooks in many sexological bodywork training programs.
Sexological Bodywork is also known as Somatic Sex Education. It is a form of coaching that Dr. Patti calls, “hands on, hands in” coaching where practitioners are trained to work on the body and also on the genitals, although much of the work is also done without touch.
It uses methods from Taoism, Tantric bodywork, embodiment, breathwork, and evidence-based sexuality education.
Sexological Bodywork and Somatic Sex Education training includes:
- Trauma theory (including Polyvagal Theory)
- Nervous system regulation
- Erotic bodywork
- Empowering embodied consent
- Scar tissue remediation
- Orgasmic Yoga coaching
- Masturbation coaching
A core component of Sexological Bodywork training is in boundaries and consent. Most curriculums include The Wheel of Consent© by Dr. Betty Martin, who pioneered this model specifically for sexological and erotic bodyworkers.
“One of the somatic realms that Somatic Sex Educators introduce to our students is a state of arousal that is free of fantasy, unfinished emotional business, religious dogma, cultural caveats and habitual sexual behaviours. In this meditative state, an individual becomes aware of the body as a source of wisdom and freedom. One of the ways to access this fecund state is by actively receiving erotic bodywork. Helping others access and make use of a variety of erotic states is foundational to the education we offer.”
- From sexologicalbodywork.com
Sexological Bodywork and Somatic Sex Education are primarily embodied practices, allowing the client to feel their bodies and experience their erotic energy from inside of their bodies.
As part of your training, you are required to commit to your own embodiment and Orgasmic Yoga practice so you can serve your clients from a deeper place.
You may be surprised to know that not all Sexological Bodywork actually involves touch! Most practitioners will say their client sessions are around 30% touch and 70% non-touch— such as establishing boundaries, breathwork, nervous system regulation, embodiment techniques, and movement.
All touch is strictly “one way”— from the practitioner to the client, and any genital touch is done using gloves and hygiene measures. Sessions are client-led and client-centered, with an educational purpose, and practitioners abide by a clear Code of Ethics.
What Sexological Bodywork is not
There are many misconceptions about sexological bodywork.
Sexological Bodywork is not:
- Erotic massage with a “happy ending”
- Erotic entertainment
- Another form of Tantra
Many people trained in Sexological Bodywork are also trained in erotic massage, Tantric massage, and/or may have done or still be doing sex work. Sexological bodywork is a welcoming and inclusive place for people in the adult industry who want to bring a more healing and therapeutic modality to their work. Many people who practice Tantra go on to train in Sexological Bodywork and incorporate this into their work.
There are distinct differences, however, primarily that Sexological Bodywork sessions have clearly defined boundaries, the approach is client-centered and client-led, any touch is one-way, and there is a clear educational agreement for sessions.
This is different from the world of Tantra or Neo-Tantra where the boundaries and roles between practitioner and clients vary and are often not clearly defined, and where many Tantric practitioners do not practice embodied consent throughout the whole process.
Who can benefit from Sexological Bodywork?
Sexological Bodywork is designed for a wide range of sexual concerns, and practitioners believe that anybody can benefit from it—even if they don’t have a specific problem—because it is also designed to teach enhanced pleasure skills and sexual wellness practices.
Many people choose to work with a Sexological Bodyworker after having done prior work with a talk-only professional because they need somebody to work with touch and nudity.
Sexological Bodywork is especially helpful for:
- Early Ejaculation or Delayed Ejaculation—by teaching body awareness, breathing techniques, genital mapping, and masturbation coaching.
- Scar tissue remediation—especially for women and vulva owners post-childbirth and for trans/nonbinary folk after gender confirmation surgery.
- Vulvar and vaginal pain—such as dyspareunia, vaginismus, vulvodynia, and vaginitis
- Anal pain—anal dyspareunia and pain on penetration.
- Healing after sexual trauma—by empowering the client to understand consent, experience healing touch, learn to feel safe in their body again, trust their arousal, and learn new pleasure practices.
- Sexual inhibition—by teaching the client to feel good in their body, to embrace their pleasure, heal their relationship with their genitals, and feel more sexually confident.
- Issues with porn dependency—by learning new self pleasuring skills and ways to cultivate their erotic energy without needing the intense stimulation that porn can provide.
- Couples who want to learn more about each other’s bodies and be more sexually satisfied
- Trans and nonbinary folk who want to explore their pleasure potential and learn how to have sex while affirming their gender.
Sexological Bodywork is a distinct practice in that it teaches clients how to relate differently to their genitals and sexual pleasure. However, it is not suitable for everyone, as many sexual concerns may need prior work with another professional, such as a trauma therapist, a relationship coach or therapist, a licensed mental health provider, or a medical professional.
Most Sexological Bodyworkers will offer a consultation call before working with clients, which is to ascertain if they can help you or if you need to work with somebody else.
At Sex Coach U, we encourage our students and graduates to build a professional referral network of allied professionals to refer your clients to if you are not the right fit for them. If you are not trained in Sexological Bodywork, we highly recommend that you add a few to your network so you can refer your clients to a competent professional. See below to find the professional organizations and directories for Certified Sexological Bodyworkers.
The History of Sexological Bodywork
The practice of Sexological Bodywork was originally pioneered by Dr. Joseph Kramer—a former Jesuit priest—in the 1980s as a response to the AIDS epidemic. This approach was designed to enable homosexual men to connect to their sexuality. He founded The Body Electric School in Oakland, California, where he trained thousands of professional massage therapists, erotic bodyworkers, and somatic educators. In 2003, he created the first certification program for the profession of Sexological Bodywork™.
Kramer has described how his 10 years in the priesthood informed this work: “My psychoanalyst says that Sexological Bodywork is my secular, erotic version of the Jesuits.”
Since the founding of the Body Electric School (which is still running today in many countries around the world), the practice of Sexological Bodywork has evolved, with many leading figures within sexology and the world of somatics contributing.
Notable figures include:
- Barbara Carrellas
- Annie Sprinkle
- Caffyn Jesse
- Betty Martin
- Kian De La Cour (Chair of ASIS)
- Katie Sarra
- Jack Morin
- Deej Juventin
Is Sexological Bodywork Legal?
Unfortunately, due to fact that Sexological Bodywork can involve intimate touch, many states in the USA and countries around the world classify it as a form of sex work, and thus, it is illegal to work with touch. Thankfully, there are many elements of Sexological Bodywork that do not require direct touch from the practitioner, so many Sexological Bodywork professionals who live in these areas can still work with clients using a talk-only or non-contact approach.
Of course, there are some that will work using touch and fly “under the radar,” or combine their expertise with sex work. While we would never encourage a sex coach to engage in any illegal activity, we want to acknowledge the healing power of touch and that some sexual skills are best taught on the body. We also acknowledge and support the work of sex workers who provide unique care, skills, and expertise to their clients.
This is up to your discretion and risk tolerance.
Many sex coaches who are cross-trained in Sexological Bodywork still prefer to work without touch, even if they live and work in areas where it is legal. This is either due to personal preference, the code of ethics of other professional organizations they may be part of, or because it means they can work online and therefore need not be tied down to one location.
Where can I train as a Sexological Bodyworker?
There are many places you can train as a Sexological Bodyworker and Somatic Sex Educator:
The Institute of Somatic Sexology, in Australia
The Sea School of Embodiment, in the United Kingdom
International Institute for Sexological Bodywork, in Switzerland
What professional organizations can I join as a Sexological Bodyworker?
Graduates from any recognized Sexological Bodywork training are eligible to apply for membership from the following organizations:
Sexological Bodywork is a comprehensive practice that we believe more people need to know about. Sexological Bodyworkers are highly skilled professionals who provide a unique and much needed service: healing touch and pleasure-focused sexuality education. Many in our community of students and graduates are also crossed-trained in Sexological Bodywork and we fully endorse this work.
What was most surprising to you to learn about Sexological Bodywork? Would you consider working with one—or even taking the training? Tell us in our free Facebook community, Sex Matters!