It doesn't take a bodyworker to tell you that sexuality is a touchy topic in modern life. Sex is one of the driving forces of our human existence, and its prominence in what drives us is evident equally in the suggestive images and messages that bombard us daily, and in the repressive messages we still receive from family, church, and politics. Sigmund Freud—perhaps a bit too obsessed with sex—based his entire theory of psychology on what he called the "sexual model". But whether he was obsessed or not, it is undeniable that sex and sexuality are major issues for many people seeking therapy of one kind or another. Sex is powerful, and society’s mad efforts to control it, promote it, discourage it, regulate it, sell it, and use it to sell us other stuff we don't need can seriously screw up our relationship with it.
The therapy world has a problematic history with clients and sexuality, starting with Freud and continuing to this day. Therapists have taken advantage of patients who, in their vulnerability and trust, have expressed sexual or romantic interest in them. Bodyworkers—particularly massage therapists—often have to navigate sexual responses in clients, inappropriate requests, and even assault; some also assault their clients. Our professions are rife with potential issues because so much is in the room: emotional difficulty, sexual difficulty, deep connective trust, and in some cases, touch.
In Rubenfeld Synergy, the focus on the body and the touch—though explicitly clothed and non-sexualized—can easily evoke sexual response, remind a client of a sexual experience, put the client in touch with his or her emotions and fantasies, or trigger a traumatic response associated with a sexual assault. I explicitly deal with clients who have issues around sexuality, and I've encountered a number of different questions around how to deal with sexuality in sessions. I want to explore them individually, in an effort to bring light to something that is too infrequently discussed.
In future posts, I will discuss clients who come in for other issues but then reveal sexual difficulties; clients who become aroused during sessions; clients who attempt to take advantage of the therapeutic relationship to indulge their fantasies, and clients who need grounding around touch and sexual trauma. There are strategies for walking the fine line that can thread itself through these sessions, and I will explore them in detail in future articles.
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