“When people tell you about the best sex they have ever had, they weren’t thinking about anything — there was no analysis going on,” says Kate Moyle, one of London’s most in-demand sex therapists and host of The Sexual Wellness Sessions podcast.
Mindful sex is the latest wellness buzzword, but it’s something psychosexual therapists have been teaching behind closed doors for years, she says. And business is booming. For some couples, the pandemic has shone a light on what they want — or need to work on in their sex lives, she tells me over Zoom, while for her single clients, fewer opportunities to date have given them a chance to reflect and focus on their sexuality.
Moyle sees clients for everything from erectile dysfunction to premature or delayed ejaculation and vaginismus, a condition when the muscles around the vagina involuntarily contract to prevent penetration. Her clients include millennials in their twenties or thirties who have had little or no sexual experiences, people who are questioning their sexual identity and couples who have lost that sexual spark.
Issues related to desire — typically a lack or loss of desire or a discrepancy between partners — are most common. “Sometimes couples can be struggling with the fact that something has changed, but they don’t know how to update their sexual default,” Moyle says. So, after a year of being cooped up in lockdown with your partner, how do you relight that fire?
It won’t happen on its own —it takes a conscious effort to address challenges in our sex lives
“The irony is that the hardest person to talk about sex with is the person we’re having it with — but it won’t happen on its own. It takes conscious and deliberate effort to address challenges in our sex lives.”
Desire is “context-dependent,” she says, and one of the many things the pandemic has robbed us of is a context shift. “We have worked, worked out, parented, coupled, cooked, life admin-ed all in the same space — this doesn’t help us when it comes to desire.”
What happens in a sex therapy session? Moyle takes a biopsychosocial approach and begins by assessing a client’s triggers — what has brought them here? Has someone just ended a relationship because of sex? Is it a miscarriage, a birth or an ultimatum from a partner? She builds up a picture of their lives, assessing everything from past relationships to their childhood and entire sexual timeline.
There’s no physical contact between therapist and client, so you get homework instead. Sensate Focus is a commonly used technique in psychosexual therapy. A couple who haven’t had sex in a while could be assigned touch-based exercises to do at home that don’t involve intercourse.
In practice, that could be spending time touching each other’s bodies, experimenting with different pressures on your stomach, arms or legs to notice where and how you like being touched.
Removing the pressures and “goal-orientated nature” of sex makes people more relaxed and encourages communication. Card sets which offer prompts to encourage conversation around sexual desires can help break the ice, too.
Moyle recommends The School of Life’s 100 Questions: Love Edition and Pillow Talk (theschooloflife.com). Small things like creating sensual cues that engage the senses and help you switch off from the rest of the day can set the scene for intimacy. This Works Love Sleep (thisworks.com) functional fragrances are blended with ylang ylang, patchouli and frankincense to turn you on. The real thing that will transform your sex life? Mastering the art of mindful sex, or mindful masturbation. It might sound a bit goopy, but learning to stay in your body, moving away from the anxious thoughts in your head and focusing solely on what you’re feeling can be transformational, she says. To get started, build a mindfulness practice outside of sex. “Try it in the shower in the morning — a shower is a good place to start as it’s an everyday, multi-sensory experience in which there is no other objective or expectation,” she continues.
“If you notice your thoughts start to wander, instead of pushing them away, allow them to pass or visualise them as a cloud floating.” One of the biggest things that interrupts our arousal process, she says, is focusing on how we’re performing.
Don’t know where to start? A new wave of sex tech platforms are using audio erotica to get people engaging with sex mindfully and creatively, whether with a partner on their own. Apps like Ferly offer audio-guides to mindful sex, while sexual wellness app Kama offers masturbation meditations and non-explicit video tutorials on everything from squirting to fingering guides for couples. Literotica is one of the most popular sites for erotic fiction and Dipsea is an app offering short, sexy stories to get you in the mood.
Much of Moyle’s work involves rewiring the way people think and feel about sex. Too many people feel isolated or “like they’re broken,” because they think everyone’s at it and they’re not. Today’s “sex positive” movement, which she explores in her podcast series, is all about moving away from “negative or shame-entwined” feelings around sex and towards a “more inclusive and accepting definition of sex.” In other words, just do you.
Kate Moyle is a psychosexual and relationship therapist, EFS & ESSM certified psycho-sexologist and host of TheSexual Wellness Sessions Podcast (apple.com). katemoyle.co.uk
HOT TIPS REIGNITE YOUR LIBIDO (NSFW)
Post-lockdown libido lacking somewhat? Here, Kate Moyle shares more tips for getting turned on
Hand over control with sex toys
Swedish sex toy brand Lelo, for which Moyle is the UK sexpert, saw a 148 per cent rise in sales at the peak of the first lockdown, with many other brands reporting similar figures. Her top picks include the Sila for clitoral stimulation, the Tor 2 cockring and the remote-controlled Tiani for couples. (lelo.com).
“Lubricant can be so helpful for sex lives at so many different stages, particularly if there is an impact of hormonal changes going on.” Try Yes Organics Lubricants (yesyesyes.org). Ohnut (ohnut.co) allows you to customise the depth of penetration and is a “game-changer for couples experiencing painful sex”.
Do your own homework
Improving sexual wellbeing doesn’t have to be explicitly sexual. Reading a book like Mind The Gap by Dr Karen Gurney, or podcasts like Moyle’s Defining Mindful Sex with Dr Lori Brotto can offer other perspectives.
Get the right help
If you’ve decided to seek help use the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists directory (COSRT).
SPEED DIAL LONDON’S TOP SEX THERAPISTS
With therapy rooms in Harley Street and Beaconsfield, Christophers, above right, is a sex and relationship psychotherapist who focuses on helping clients overcome sexual dysfunctions and difficulties by improving self-confidence.
Dr Amani Zarroug
Clinical psychologist and relationship and psychosexual therapist Dr Zarroug, right, works with individuals and couples to improve relationships and sexual satisfaction.
Psychosexual and relationship therapist Blacket is the UK spokesperson on men’s issues for the College of Sexual andRelationship Therapists directory. He treats couples and individuals on issues related to sex and relationships.
Faulkner is a psychosexual and relationship therapist who works with couples and individuals to deal with sexual dysfunction, pornography use, conflict, infidelity, sexual shame, sexual abuse and trauma, and sexual orientation.
The psychosexual therapist and relationship counsellor works with couples and individuals on a range of sex issues.