Sunday, March 04, 2018

So what is a Somatic Sexologist exactly?

When I tell people I’m a somatic sexologist, they often look blank. Melody Wright’s article, linked below, does not discuss sex but it does describe elegantly the somatic practitioner’s understanding of how stress is stored in the body and how we work with people to support its release. It may help you to understand more about what I offer.
Many problems within our sexual life are due to trauma or distress from past experiences being triggered by what’s happening now. The events that may leave trauma in our body can range from the seemingly small to the clearly challenging. The body, and especially the sensitive tissues of the genitals, can close down or numb out after eg. a sexual encounter that went wrong leaving us feeling ashamed or inadequate, an uncomfortable experience of penetration that we suffered through rather than telling our partner to stop or maybe simply teasing or unwanted attention about our body shape or experiences of puberty. Events such as these can all cause tension and distress that is held in the bodies tissues as well as the more obviously traumatic experiences of non-consensual, inappropriate or unwanted sexual touch at any age. 
Somatic practitioners understand that these are responses that you can’t think your way out of. What we can help you to do is to re-train your body using practices that support you to deactivate the sympathetic response of stress in your nervous system and activate the parasympathetic, rest, digest and repair mechanism. 
A somatic sexologist can support you to understand how this stress plays out in your body during or around sexual experiences and to develop confidence in your ability to regulate this. We can help you to reverse these stored responses, heal past wounding and as Melody says, to ‘create a more embodied, joyful life’.
If any of this rings a chord with you and you’d like to find out more about how we might work together please pop an email to and tee up a confidential, no obligation chat. Location is no issue as I work via Skype with people all over the world.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Wow! I won an award for my contribution to sexual freedom

I’m utterly thrilled and very very proud to have been honoured by my peers in the sexuality world with a very special award at the 22nd Sexual Freedom Awards in London last week.

I was so blown away to receive the award
The Sexual Freedom Awards, now in it's 22nd year, honours and celebrates pioneers in the field of sexuality and promotes excellence in erotic performance and sexual services. They were created by Tuppy Owens, a pioneering British sex therapist, writer and tireless campaigner for sexual rights especially for those with disability. Famous for their Golden Flying Penis Trophies, hand carved for the event in Bali this auspicious event was originally entitled the Erotic Oscars, then the Erotic Awards and now the Sexual Freedom Awards. The proceeds of the Awards ceremony are used to fund the work of the Outsiders Trust – a charity, which supports disabled people to find partners.

Tuppy set up the Awards to counter negative messages in the media about people working in sex and eroticism. She invited nominations for the Awards from the public, and, to judge the nominees, appointed a diverse panel of sexuality experts and enthusiasts that have included an art historian, a fan of striptease, a fetish club owner, a sex worker, and a writer.

My award amongst a very vulvic workshop altar
Being selected as a finalist in these awards is a glorious accolade and I was delighted to be in such an illustrious line up. Amongst those shortlisted were several of my esteemed colleagues and teachers: 

Ellen Heed is part of the teaching team for the Sexological Bodywork training and has developed an incredible body of work around scar tissue.
Barbara Carrellas is the founder of the Urban Tantra® Professional Training Program, and author of the the world’s first LGBTQ and kink inclusive Tantric sex book: Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty First Century.
Joseph Kramer, Ph.D., is the foremost teacher of erotic massage in the world. Founder of the Body Electric School, the Erospirit Research Institute and The New School of Erotic Touch he also created the profession of Sexological Bodywork and obtained accreditation for it from the State of California.  

Also in the list is the fabulous Deej Juventin who brought the Sexological Bodywork training to Australia and to the UKDeej was one of the other finalists in the category of Somatic Sex Education of the Year. Which was why I attended the Awards evening, feeling confident I wouldn't actually win an award. 

Sister A was amazed at the goings on back stage!
I’d also been nominated as Performer of the Year, however, and although I couldn't be shortlisted in more than one category I was invited to do a performance of one of my ‘Vaudeville of the Vulva’ characters at the awards ceremony. Sister Augusta had great fun not taking her clothes off, discussing the "preponderance of penii" on the awards table and singing her rap number 'Finger on the Trigger'!

Imagine my surprise then, when the judges returned to the stage, after Deej’s award had been given, to announce the creation of a special award in recognition of someone who'd been nominated in four different categories. Yes - it was me! It appears I’d also been nominated as Pioneer of the Year and Activist of the Year and in recognition of the many and varied ways I work I gained the fabulous title of ‘Multitalented Contributor to Sexual Freedom’. 

It's very very good feeling and I want to send out a big Thank You, especially to Anando Bharti, Andrew Cox and my mum, and indeed to all of the awesome people who support me in so many ways to do what I love to do.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Wanna know what’s getting me all excited these days?

The Obturator Internus

Why? It’s a very sexy muscle! The obturator internus is intimately connected with the fascia of the pelvic floor but is rarely discussed in relation to pleasure, or lack of it. Getting connected with your ‘ob in’ can help in resolving a variety of challenges in the base of the body, involving both urinary function and the ability to feel the sensations of pleasure and arousal.

 The Obturator Internus looking at the body from the back
The obturator internus is one of the ‘deep six’, six muscles in your pelvis that work together to turn your hip to the side. It hangs out under your gluteus maximus, the large muscle of your butt. It’s actually quite small but it’s pretty cool and unusual, not least because it’s shaped like a boomerang. On each side of the body it attaches along the inside of your pelvis (check out the diagram), then pops around to the outside and takes almost a 90 degree turn to wrap around the sits bone and attach at the top of your thigh bone. It’s an external rotator. When a ballet dancer’s feet, knees and thighs are all turned out into first position, the obturator internus is at the heart of the action. When your ‘ob in’ engages it opens the front half of your pelvis and closes the back. It’s friend, the obturator externus, is an internal rotator and does the opposite job.

But if your obturator internus holds a ton of unconscious tension this can play a big part in both urinary problems and problems with arousal, potentially cutting off nerve supply to the plethora of pleasure organs of the pelvic floor. (If you feel like plethora is a bit of an over statement then I highly recommend that you watch my DVD The Art & Science of Female Arousal)

The really good news is that we can learn to make a deep and meaningful connection with the good old ‘ob in’ and soothe and stretch it, open and relax it or tone and titillate it as required. And once it’s feeling good, then honey, you are feeling good!

Connecting with and stretching the ‘ob in’

It’s not so easy to get in touch with this muscle by understanding where it sits in the body because of it’s positioning and it’s unusual shape. For most people the joy is in finding it and feeling the difference when you connect, stretch & tone. In this video Christa Rypins, does an excellent job of showing us how to do just that. Check it out and have a go!

Add tone but not tension

In my yOnilates® classes, once we have connected with and stretched the ‘ob in’ we also do some strengthening exercises. Please stay aware that this muscle wants to be toned but not too tight. In addition to the challenges mentioned earlier, an overly tight obturator interns can pull your pelvis too far forward, straining your lower back, and predisposing you to arthritic changes in your pelvis and hips. If you are experiencing pelvic floor related problems then you probably only want to stretch and relax the muscle.

If you try the strengthening exercise please monitor the level of tightness, and stop and go back to Chrysta’s video if you experience any pain or discomfort in your pelvis, lower back or groin.

Strengthening the ‘ob in’ 

One way you can exercise your ‘ob in’ by sitting in a chair and placing your feet flat on the floor in front of you, hip-width apart. Bend your knees to 90 degrees and place your hands on the outside of each knee. Push in with your hands, pressing as if to push your knees together. Counteract the pressure by pushing out with your knees  to keep them hip-width apart. Hold for five seconds and then breathe deeply down to the area you’ve located the muscle to be and feel for the relaxation. Repeat eight times as long as there is no pain.

Want more?

If you are still trying to get your head around where this muscle sits in the body, here’s another cool site that shows the ‘ob in’ in 3D.
And to find out more about the magnificent muscles of our pelvic floor and how to connect with this amazing area of the body then come visit my yOniversity site where you can join my mailing list and check out my yOnilates programme.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On wombs, grief and talking to children about sexuality

Last night I sat in a room filled with parents, mainly mothers, who had come to hear me discuss how best to talk to their children about sexuality. Studies show that children who report having easy, open conversations about sex with mum and/or dad are more likely to do what most parents want for them; delay sexual activity, have fewer partners, and use contraceptives when they do have sex. However, when parents feel discomfort, shame or embarrassment on the topic, young people are left to learn about sexuality from friends, television, music, advertisements and the internet. These are sources which can present a skewed and at times even dangerous perspective. 

So how do we create the environment for these conversations, especially when most of us had very little effective modelling to draw upon? For many of us this calls us to attend to whatever remains of our discomfort around our own sexuality. More on this later.

This morning I've been reading an excellent book called Wild Feminine by Tami Lynn Kent. I'm at the chapter on mothering and the womb and, as with much of what Tami writes, her words resonate beautifully with my own understandings and experience. 
She speaks of the capacity of the womb to hold (create) and release energy and also of the depth of grief that she has encountered while working with women in their pelvic bowl. I'm well aware of the capacity of the sensitive tissues of the pelvis to hold and store unprocessed memory and emotions and the possibility of release with tender, loving touch, focused attention and breath.

The light that went on for me was when she spoke about the lack of grieving rituals in our culture. Not only do we not have a time or place set aside to grieve the small and the large losses of our lives, most 'modern' women do their best to ignore, cover up or minimise their body's monthly release of her womb's lining. And in doing so we miss this natural opportunity for grieving and letting go of whatever has passed in the previous month. Little wonder that so many of our bodies respond with pelvic and uterine issues, both those that involve heaviness, holding and unwanted growths and those that result in weakness and excessive release.

How would things change, I pondered, if we devoted just one hour of each menstrual flow to allowing ourselves to grieve for the losses and deaths of the previous month, both our own and those of our family, our nearest and dearest? For women after menopause and for people without wombs the natural timing for this would be the dark moon. The human body responds to the moon's cycles even without a womb lining that waxes and wanes.

Which brings me back to the parents meeting. I find that a good part of what colours our views on sexuality and thus what we present to our children is determined by our own experiences. Often the bad ones. The process of cleaning the slate so we can be clear about what we want to pass on can be well served by reviewing and taking time to grieve and let go of losses and disappointments in our own sexual history.

Although, for some this can be a more lengthy journey, a simple ritual with a clear intention can be very helpful. Here's a suggestion, that could be used, both for this process or as regular monthly ritual.

Take some time to reflect on and write down those events from your sexual experiences (or those of the past month) that are unresolved within you. Allow yourself to feel the feelings that arise. Give your self permission to grieve these losses. Self soothe with gentle touch and let the tears flow if they are there. When you feel complete then simply take the pieces of paper and throw them into a river or stream of moving water or burn them in a fire and watch them being released or carried away. 

And if you are considering how best to talk to your children about sex then I recommend that you give yourself a couple of days and then ask yourself the question 'What does my child need to know to have a happy and fulfilling sexual life?'. Guided by this reflection, your conversations will be more likely to contain what kids say they want from their parents - honest guidance about values and feelings. 

I'd love to know if this is useful - do let me know how you go.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Adventures of a Vulvalicious Cushion (or Vere's Vulva?)

Earlier this year my fabulous sex geek colleagues Deej and Uma of the Institute of Somatic Sexology took off on their world tour to facilitate the Sexological Bodywork training in the UK as well as educating folks in a few other places en route. Part of their 'must have' training equipment was a Mini Vulvalicious Cushion (code name Vere). The Absolutely Vulvalicious Cushions are anatomically accurate fabric art works, designed by yours truly and constructed by amazing Maggie. Using the latest anatomy research they demonstrate the elegant, intricate, but poorly understood arousal structures within a vulva owners pelvis. 
In this video you can see some exhibition visitors exploring the delights of the cushions on show at Celebration of the Female Form. 

Designed to travel, Vere is a Mini Vulvalicious, little sister to the Absolutelys, but absolutely equipped with the important bits. She's got a taste for adventure and ends up in some interesting places. Check out her world tour!

Deej, Uma, Vere and yours truly at the send off party

On the plane - ready for takeoff

Checking into the Dusit Thani in Bangkok with her entourage. She's always wanted to stay there!

At the food market off Silom - she lives for this!

And onwards towards London - Bangkok was fun. Now for some culture?

Colour co-ordinated with a lovely London bus

Shopping? Look what the new season has brought to Harrods

Hanging out with the boys!

Hanging out with the girls!

So that's what the ugly duckling turned into?

Tea for two in Hyde Park

Vere's vulva?

Nice colours!

Packing for the Embodiment Intensive

Breakfast with Sexological Bodywork Godfather, Joseph Kramer

Meeting old friends

Making new friends 

With her people

Vere's vulva now? 
As of 16/8/14 Deej is still offering a Certified Sex Geek t-shirt to the first to find her it.

Tired but thoroughly embodied - heading back to London

Instead of deciding who to go with - OMG - she's cloned herself! 

Oo la la! Quelle rivière belle.

And a fairly hefty phallic symbol!

Our Vulvalicious Lady

Friend is 'ami' in French

And 'amic' in Catalan

Relaxing in Barcelona

A bit of unfinished business

 And finally, back home in Brisbane, in the 'bosom' of her family.

Find out more about the Vulvalicious cushions at The yOniversity website. You can meet and connect with them by attending one of our workshops or you might like to join the Vulva Underground and get your very own here

Friday, May 09, 2014

Looking at libido myths

I saw a discussion on Facebook today in which vulva cancer survivor and unstoppable gynae awareness advocate, Kath Mazalla, posted about a radio show she had listened to.  In this program, men, she reported, were saying that they had more urges than women, and women are becoming more accepting of husbands/partners having affairs in order to keep their man happy. Kath questioned whether most women would accept this.

What I question is the first suggestion that men have 'more urges than women'.
To start with it simply doesn't make sense to me, on an evolutionary level, that the gender responsible for growing the next generation in their bellies would be distinctly 'ho hum' about the act that starts the whole process. Did nature decide to rely on 'male urges' in combination with the masculine's generally superior strength to propagate our species?
I don't think so!

I believe that during centuries of male dominated society, we in the minority ('western') world, have been sold this myth. And many of us have come to believe it.

Prior to the 18th century it was thought that both the man and the woman needed to achieve orgasm for conception to take place. Once scientists discovered this was not the case interest in accurate education about feminine sexual pleasure dwindled dramatically. It has been suggested that information about women's arousal anatomy has been systematically removed from medical textbooks after this time. Women's natural urges have certainly been socially, morally and spiritually condemned, with those who enjoy sex becoming branded as whores and the only really acceptable archetype's available being the chaste maiden or devoted (and asexual) mother

However there are numerous countries in Africa and many Muslim communities who consider a woman’s sex drive to be extremely powerful. So powerful in fact that young girls genitals are quite literally cut out to preserve their moral values. Female Genital Mutilation affects an estimated 140 million women worldwide. It describes a range of practices in which all or part of a girls vulva is cut, sewn or removed. Fran Hosken's ground breaking report on FGM was published in 1979 and was influential in persuading the World Health Organization, to make efforts to end the practice. She reports that FGM is said to 'protect a women against her over sexed nature, saving her from temptation, suspicion and disgrace while preserving her chastity'. For these people a woman's 'urges' are considered to be so intense, both for her and for her community, that they must be extremely controlled.

And now lets look back at European history.
During the systematic persecution and execution of 'witches' in the Middle Ages chief inquisitor Heinrich Kramer wrote his notorious Malleus Maleficarum which became a handbook for secular courts throughout Renaissance Europe. In Section 1 he says "all witchcraft comes from carnal lust which is in women insatiable".
Insatiable, huh!
So why is it that we believe that men 'have more urges than women'? In part, possibly, because so many of our ancestors who dared to delight in their natural expressions of pleasure were burnt at the stake.

And now the pharmaceutical companies have jumped in on the act, where the church left off. They have created a medical 'disorder' called Female Sexual Dysfunction in order to attempt to repeat the unprecedented financial success of Viagra.
Viagra, the first oral treatment for erectile dysfunction was developed accidentally by scientists at Pfizer Laboratories and was greenlighted for use by the FDA on March 27, 1998. It was a huge success and has made billions of dollars for the company.
In that very same year, sex experts came together at the pharmaceutical industry-funded International Consensus Development Conference of Female Sexual Dysfunction to craft a new classification system. Because, guess what, unless you have a dysfunction, you can sell a cure.

In my practice I find that many women's issues around lack of desire and enjoyment of sex simply arise from lack of understanding of our arousal needs and how they differ from men's. This simple lack of knowledge in both partners has resulted in uncomfortable intercourse, before a woman is fully ready, which, over time, becomes extremely disheartening and quite literally numbs a woman's capacity for sensation. And with nowhere to go for information (other than internet porn which portrays a limited and unrealistic view of female sexuality) many women just give up and resign themselves to believing the myth.

What I believe we need is to lift the taboos, so that sex can be discussed, to educate openly and accurately and to support women to rediscover our natural, delightful, healing & empowering capacity for pleasure.
This is my mission and my passion. If it interests you please check out my new DVD -The Art & Science of Female Arousal or visit my teaching website or FB page to find out more.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Talking to your children about Sacred Sexuality

My article about talking to children about sacred sexuality was commissioned for and first published in the 50th edition of the UK magazine The Green Parent

What is Sacred Sexuality?

When we take away any reference to religion, the word sacred simply refers to something that is "regarded with great respect and reverence".  Traveling in Bali recently I was struck by the grace and beauty with which the women swept the pathway to their homes and placed flowers at the gate. Their attitude of reverence pervaded even this most everyday event and the effect was tangible and as beautiful as the sweet fragrance of the frangipani’s in their offerings.

When we marry this definition of sacred with sexuality we have something just as beautiful. For people, young or old to regard their sexuality with great respect and reverence would be, in my humble opinion, a giant leap for the well-being of humanity. If we were to include with that attitude delight, gratitude and the willingness to learn and explore throughout life I suspect that many people would be living much richer, happier lives.

How Do Young People Learn About Sex?

Whether it's due to issues of morality, religion or social values, our modern culture has yet to develop a meaningful model of formal sex education. The question of how and when to educate children about sexuality remains chronically vague. Unlike our ancestors and traditional people we no longer include rites of passage as a natural part of life nor indeed provide any community support to guide young people through the profound changes of puberty.

Teens often name their parents as the biggest influence in their decisions about sexual behaviour. Studies show that those who report having easy, open conversations about sex with mum and/or dad are more likely to delay sexual activity, have fewer partners, and use condoms and other contraceptives when they do have sex. However, when parents feel discomfort, shame or embarrassment on the topic young people are left to learn about sexuality from friends, television, music, books, advertisements and the internet. In a UK survey of over 400 school students, three in 10 said they learnt about sex from porn, a medium which presents a very skewed view of sexuality in which safer sex behaviours are rarely displayed let alone respect or reverence.

When Does their Education Need to Start?

Dr Laura Berman offers a downloadable guide - the Sex Ed Handbook - to help parents initiate age-appropriate conversations with their children about sex. She starts from birth! “Children learn about love, touch, and relationships when we talk to them, dress them, show affection, and teach them the names of the parts of their bodies.” she says. “Using nicknames to refer to genitals teaches children that theses parts are something to be hidden or masked. Correct terminology helps them to understand and embrace their body without reservations or shame.”

Normalising the natural urge to explore their own genitals is another important part of a child’s early sex education. The bodies of human beings have a unique and very natural capacity for pleasure. In fact both male and female foetuses have been observed self-stimulating to orgasm in the womb.

The same skills of observation that the farmer uses when he scans the horizon, sniffs the air and predicts that a weather change is on the way, can be applied by a sensitive lover to connect with their partner and to sense their needs and desires. Supporting children to observe and connect with the natural world is another valuable step in their learning.  Developing sensitivity to the cycles of the earth, moon and sun and respect for the plants and animals in our environment paves the way for increased capacity to tune into our own bodies and cycles as well as those of of future lovers. Nature is often regarded as feminine and women are considered in many traditions to be the gender closest to nature. For both boys and girls, understanding the parallels in a woman's body to the natural cycles of life and gaining appreciation of the powerful and unpredictable nature of the feminine are invaluable lessons.

One of the most important messages that we can offer to our children is that sex is natural. Watching animals mating or giving birth either on film or, if the opportunity arises, in real life, can be a wonderful opportunity develop and affirm a deep reverence for life and sense of awe at these powerful times.

Conversations with adolescents

However well the education has progressed with your younger child, talking about sex with teenagers can be full of challenges. Social and cultural taboos mean that, no matter how open-minded and sex-positive a family may be, the attitudes of your child's peers and the messages received from the media can be severely at odds with the values that your parenting espouses.  Pre-teens and teenagers in particular, often go through a period where sex is "icky" and the idea of talking about it with parents is "awkward" to say the least! But as children grow into adolescence, the messages about sexual behaviours, attitudes, and values from their families are even more important. And this is when they need the details!

Opportunities to discuss sexuality can occur on a daily basis. Rather than try to fight against the sexual messaging in the media why not use it to your advantage by making it a teachable moment? For example, when a sexual scene or reference occurs or a news item relates to sexuality in some way you can use it as a conversation starter, either in the moment or later in the day. You might ask "Remember when we were watching that movie and the boy was teasing the girl to make her kiss him? Did that make you uncomfortable? How do you think she felt? What might you have done in that situation?"
Heather Corinna, founder of Scarleteen an online sex education resource for young people offers this advice to parents. “Don't get discouraged if you're doing your best to be open and informative, and your teen doesn't respond: it's normative for young adults to prefer to do most of their talking about sex with peers, extended family members, siblings or mentors. Even when that is the case, it doesn't make what you can offer, the door you keep holding open, any less valuable and important.”

Connecting sex with spirit

A wise and effective introduction to sexuality will develop the skills of sensitive observation, emphasise discernment and encourage young people to explore safely. It will instil a strong sense of self worth, responsibility, and respect for self and others. But what about the more metaphysical, energetic aspects of sexual union?  How can we speak to our children about the spiritual aspects of sex?
Jon Russell is a relationship counsellor who runs sexuality education programs both privately and within the Australian education system. I asked him how he addresses sacred sexuality with the youngsters that he teaches. 

"In our programs I spend much of the time working just with the boys. I teach them about their own anatomy, about the power of their sexual drive and how to connect their genital response with the response of the heart. No matter what they may say I find that boys have a romantic heart and a deep longing for connection. I teach them that it is ok to be real, to talk about how they feel and to stay true to and follow their authentic desires regardless of media messages and peer pressures. We talk about the basics of how to make love, how to read the energies coming from a girl, how to approach them and how to appreciate the magic and wonder and the complexity of female anatomy. As we discuss the amazing power of female sexual response and it's role in creating life I also introduce them to the historical repression and fear of that power and the impact that has had on women in the world today. We also look at other cultures where sexuality & spirituality are more connected."

I was curious how the boys related to the concept of spirituality and surprised to hear his observation that they have an immense hunger for matters of spirit. By talking about phenomena such as UFO's, crop circles, astral travel and the ability of martial artists to direct energy outside their physical form, Jon opens the way for discussing the energetic merging that happens when lovers connect. By exploring some of the Eastern traditions of spiritual sexuality he introduces the possibility for transcendence to altered states of consciousness through love making.
In addition to working in the school system Jon also runs Sacred Union workshops for adults with his partner. His advice for parents is simple; get skillful in talking about sex and normalising it, don’t pretend that you know it all but acknowledge that we are all on a life-long path of learning, work on your own relating and to the best of your ability, model the values that you speak about.

Laura-Doe Harris is the founder of the yOniversity a teaching organisation devoted to increasing understanding and appreciation of sexuality. A certified somatic sex educator she teaches internationally, offers private sesions and performs her comic cabaret ‘Vaudeville of the Vulva’. Read more about her work at and

One of the best ways to give yourself more confidence in talking about sex to your children is to get better informed yourself. The yOniversity offer illuminating courses on female arousal for both men and women. The next dates for men are Saturday 16th August 2014 near #Byron or Saturday 23rd August 2014 near #Melbourne and for women near Byron, Sunday August 17  and # Melbourne, Sunday August 24 

Resources  candid advice for young people on a wide range of sexual issues and problems and people's real experiences to help young people find out what might work for them - An amusing and informative video show about teen sexuality  - Sex education for the real world - Lesson plans and background information on topics vital to all sexuality educators
The Sexual Practices of Quodoshka - teachings from the Nagual Tradition by Amara Charles