I Did It For Science: Intimacy Coaching

Can the secrets of good sex really be taught?


All photography by Susan Egan

By Ella Milgrom

Experiment:
To get over my inhibitions by visiting an intimacy and sensuality coach.

Hypothesis:
I've taken classes for just about every other area of my life, so why wouldn't a mindful-sexuality class work, too? I'm hoping these experts can help me loosen up, get down, and end my six-month-long dry spell.

Setup:
As a single, twenty-something woman supposedly at the peak of her desirability, I should be running wild like a pre-kids Angelina Jolie. Sadly, my real sex life is another story. If things continue at this pace, I'll be a de facto born-again virgin. It's the nunnery for me. Ever since my cherry was popped at eighteen, the fears and insecurities I associated with sex had been mounting. I continued having sex with boyfriends, fuck-buddies, and random strangers until my feelings of guilt and emptiness made me avoid sex all together.

That's when I read about the Slow Sex movement. (If it was anything like the Slow Food movement, I was already on board. When you're not having sex, spending three hours on a Saturday baking suddenly makes perfect sense.) Founded in San Francisco, Slow Sex is based on the belief that by being mindful of the value of raw intimacy, we can bring meaning back into our sex lives. It sounded a little new-agey, but I was willing to try anything for science.

I scheduled an appointment with intimacy coach, Jessica. She helps individuals and couples build their confidence and enhance their sexual potential. Jessica explained that the other half of her company — her boyfriend, Sam — would assist in the playful exercises that were part of the process. I wasn't sure how "playful" things would get, but Jessica encouraged me to give it a try.

Method:

My first session was on a Sunday afternoon. I had been at a party until ten that morning and still hadn't slept. I'd also been seconds away from having sex when the guy went limp-dick on me and passed out.

The fact that I was still pretty drunk from my breakfast of Coronas and whiskey on the rocks also helped.

Another failure seemed to be just what I needed: I'd been nervous when I'd scheduled my appointment with Jessica, but now my sexual frustration outweighed my nerves. The fact that I was still pretty drunk from my breakfast of Coronas and whiskey on the rocks also helped.

Jessica opened the door in a lacy low-cut top, worn over an effective push-up bra. I felt overdressed, but I relaxed when she greeted me with a warm hug. Sam gave me a big hug too, smiling, "Welcome, come in." He was tall and slender, and his fisherman pants and loose T-shirt made him a very low-key presence. 

Jessica led me to their "office," a small bedroom furnished with a massage table, a queen-size bed piled with earth-toned cushions, and a few armchairs. Naturally, Enya played softly in the background. "Make yourself comfortable," she said, removing her sandals and climbing on the bed beside Sam, who'd propped himself on a pile of pillows. We sat cross-legged facing each other, and Jessica explained that in the first hour of the session, we'd talk through my sexual history and figure out what I wanted to work on. The second half would involve a communication game or exercise. I couldn't tell if this college-orientation vibe was comforting or disturbing.

"So what brings you here?" asked Sam. I had never really discussed my sex life with anyone before. I used to write a sex column for my college newspaper, under the name "Jenny Tails," but now there was no pseudonym to hide behind, and I was expected open up a raw part of me to two people I barely knew.

"Well... I haven't had sex for a really long time. And to be honest, at this point I'm convinced that I have no sexual appeal or potential." Jessica and Sam listened attentively. As I forced myself to keep on oversharing, they continuously reassured me, encouraging me to let down my guard. Gradually, we realized that past rejections had made me feel sexually inadequate. In response, I'd started spending all my energy worrying about the other person's pleasure and wondering if I was acting the "right" way. Hence my post-coital anxiety. Whoa, did I have issues.

FIND MORE
I Did It For Science: Female Pick-Up Artist - What happens when a woman plays The Game?
I Did It For Science: Selling Panties on Craigslist - Can I make money hawking dirty laundry?

Q&A with Debby Herbenick, author of Because It Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction

Commentarium (12 Comments)

Apr 07 10 - 12:22am
cc

i'm sorry, the photo of the panties- is that real? girl needs to size up, that's gotta be uncomfortable.

Apr 06 10 - 6:16pm
N

Ew. Am I the only one who finds the couple super-creepy?

Forced intimacy with needy strangers for money seems like a really good way to neglect real intimacy.

Apr 06 10 - 7:25pm
RE

Quite interesting, a good read all around IMO.

Apr 06 10 - 7:52pm
dl

The person who wrote this seems very immature.

Apr 07 10 - 1:44am
Jayd

I agree, N. This was kind of odd. I couldnt imagine signing up for something like this.

Apr 07 10 - 5:05am
jf

it is weird, but curiously interesting. I like her naive approach. I guess there is a time/moment for all of us when we realise that, YES, we can have what we want! And isn't it reassuring that now we can pay for it if we can't find it ourselves.

Apr 08 10 - 11:09am
Mand

I liked the writing. This was refreshing and honest.

For those of you who are disparaging her for being "immature," for partying all night, or for hooking up with drunk people, she's in her 20s for crying out loud. Have you completely forgotten what it's like to be young and foolish?

I appreciated her honesty and that she opened up a rather embarrassing part of her life to us to demonstrate a rather brave attempt at gaining some self-awareness.

May 08 10 - 1:46pm
Alicia

Not sure how it can be considered "slow sex" if you're jumping into intimate physical contact with people you hardly know, who are trying to "push past your boundaries" by engaging in contact that is uncomfortable for you. It just doesn't sound particuarly "slow..."

May 08 10 - 6:12pm
Liberty

"Sorry, you didn't finish"...I think this is a problem for a lot of women. If you want pleasure you not only have to ask for it, you have to take responsibility for it. Good for you for exploring your sexuality, but you have some work to do, girl!

May 14 10 - 7:39am
NS

Beside the Slow ( or not so Slow ) sex dilemma. I think that if this couple helped someone' s sexuality to improve, as odd as their methods might be or as odd as it seems that a girl lets her boyfriend kisses someone else' s nipples... it worked. for this girl.
There are a lot of inner issues going on on everybody and a little perspective always help.

May 14 10 - 8:37am
Olivia

As I was reading this I was finding it hard not to see the writer as a 17 year old virgin.

In the peak of your 20s she is as she stated "at the peak of her desirableness".

There's only one reason she felt differently. Maybe if she hadn't been silly and "made sure my bedmate was a) not an alcoholic and b) someone I really trusted." she wouldn't have had this problem in the first place.

Jul 31 10 - 8:31pm
Aly

This was really inspiring. As someone who's got a lot of baggage from past sexual trauma, I want to thank you for inspiring me to look into sexual therapy - look at that, not only is it okay for women to have problems with sex, but we can actually find help for them, too! The fact that you could open up and get help for such an intimate, uncomfortable thing makes me think maybe I can, too.

As for people who are saying that the couple are "super creepy," or whatever, hey... I wouldn't be comfortable in that situation, but I think the point here is that it worked for the author and that's what matters.