~ MARCH 2022 ~
Practice makes perfect, right?
While “masturbation coach” absolutely sounds like a fake job title cooked up by a calculating Bachelorette producer, it’s a real job that helps people, especially those struggling with sexual dysfunction, get more comfortable with their bodies.
You might think you’ve got masturbation down; after all, Malcolm Gladwell assures us that after 10 000 hours doing anything, you become an expert. But you know what? Even professional athletes have coaches.
In fact, masturbation coaching is one of the best tools sex therapists and coaches have to help with erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and inability to orgasm.
But it can also be helpful for folks who simply want to improve their overall sex skills or increase their pleasure. As Amy Weissfeld, a somatic sex educator and coach based in Portland, put it, “This is about saying to yourself, ‘I know there’s more out there. I can experience more pleasure and I deserve it.’”
Unlike being a sex therapist—a licensed therapist who specializes in sex—there are not specific, universal requirements to becoming a sex or masturbation coach, which is partly why the field has historically lacked some legitimacy.
That said, there are a lot of organisations that offer training and licensure, such as the Somatica Institute and the American Association of Sexual Educators, Counselors, Therapists.
Some of the need for retraining people in masturbation comes from our society’s complex relationship with jerkin’ it. Each of the sex educators I talked to mentioned the shame tied in with early masturbation experiences, how we’re taught to be silent, to be afraid of being caught, to lie still.
“I help people recapture the innocent joy and exploration in our bodies,” Weissfeld says. “When we can recapture that, we become healthier, more whole people in general, but also better lovers. It can be about improving not just your solo loving but your partner loving.”
Men in particular can benefit from masturbation coaching because they often get stuck in one specific pattern that they’ve carried over from adolescence, according to Dr. Shannon Chavez, a clinical psychologist and certified sex therapist.
“Often [men] have a death grip—a dry hand, intense sensation—maybe they haven’t touched any other part of their body during self-stimulation. I give them permission to explore other parts of the body, to relax the body.”
Chavez explains how coaching differs from therapy.
“Therapy looks more at thought patterns and relationship patterns and goes more into depth into past issues, whereas coaching is looking at what’s going on right now.
It’s a lot more present-focused.” The coaching lasts as long as you need to meet your goals, which of course varies from person to person, but Weissfeld says, “I suggest people plan on four to ten sessions depending on what we’re working on, but am happy to do a one off session if that’s what someone wants.”
Sometimes, coaching alone isn’t enough, Chavez says, “If the problem is lifelong and goes deeper into family dynamics, attachment styles, and past trauma, I will recommend a more thorough treatment plan that may include intensive therapy looking at past behaviours, relationships, and patterns in sex and intimacy.”
These sessions take place either in person or over video chat— licensed therapists may use secure video chats that comply with HIPAA confidentiality agreements, but most sex therapists I found were open to video sessions—and usually involve some homework afterward. During early sessions, the coach discusses intentions, goals, and what you’d like to work on.
Often, people aren’t coming in with masturbation coaching in mind, but with some kind of sexual dysfunction or desire for improvement, which masturbation coaching can help.
Those exercises centre around Weissfeld’s MMBST acronym, which stands for Mindfulness, Movement, Breathing, Sound, and Touch (or, as she calls it, “Mmm Mmm Better Sexy Time”).
For Weissfeld, mindfulness means “staying in your body. Not spinning in your head. Not getting caught up in performance anxiety. That’s a huge thing for men.
Set that bullshit down and feel and follow the pleasure in your own body. Especially when you’re solo loving, you don’t have to worry about anybody else.”
Both she and Chavez focus on embodiment, the concept of better connecting your body and mind.
One exercise Weissfeld uses is a “body scan” from head to toe—an exercise you can find on YouTube if you want to try it—where you, “start with your feet and slowly work your way to the top of your head, noticing how each place feels as you go.”
As Chavez says, “ We know these exercises are working when a client reports feeling relaxed and more present during self-stimulation.”
Movement? “A lot of men are frozen in their pelvis, they’re always lying down in their beds or on the couch. Freaking get up and move around!” Weissfeld begs, “Stand, sway, dance, rock, change hands, rotate the pelvis, shake, slap, bounce, tap… You name it! Let your body move however it wants to.
Movement prior to sex or masturbation can be hugely helpful, too. Go for a run, ride your bike, walk around the block. Exercise increases circulation to all areas of your body, including the genitals. It also tends to generate feel-good chemicals and clear your head.”
Breathing is another area that masturbation coaches focus on, since it’s one of the best ways for men to either increase or decrease pleasure, a helpful tactic for both those who aren’t able to come fast enough, but also those who come too soon.
“Breath really helps you control how quickly you get excited, and helps you relax. It’s not always about how hard and fast you can pump your dick into someone. Breath can help you expand your pleasure throughout your entire body, and that’s a big thing for men,” Weissfeld says.
I’m a massive proponent of men being vocal in bed (silence is like the male equivalent of starfishing), and it’s true that making more noise can increase pleasure. When you make sounds in the back of your throat—the kind of guttural weird noises we all make when we’re turned on—you stimulate the vagus nerve, which is, as Weissfeld explains, “the primary transmitter of feel-good chemicals throughout our autonomic nervous system.
So, when you allow yourself to make sound, you’re actually helping to move the oxytocin throughout your body.” Once again, the silent, proto-shameful masturbation sessions of our youth did not prepare us well for experiencing pleasure as adults.
And, lastly, T is for touch. All the coaches I spoke to explained that men especially are not used to touching anything other than their genitals during masturbation. Coaches often try to break this pattern and get men to feel pleasure from different areas of the body.
Sometimes, it’s just a matter of switching up what men are already doing, from using their other hand, using both hands, or even keeping their hands still and moving their body rather than the tried-and-true dominant hand jerk motion.
As Chavez explains, “I think of it like a gential workout, and we’re developing a workout plan to reach your goals around sexual performance.”
I asked Weissfeld who can benefit from masturbation coaching, expecting her to say, “everybody,” which she did, laughing, but she warned, “It’s just like any other self-help: It’s only helpful if you’re interested in it.
You have to recognize that something could be different.” And not just for you—while it will certainly help with solo-sessions, learning to masturbate more mindfully, and with more of an eye towards pleasure promises to help make you better in bed in general.
Weissfeld explains, “You’re really learning to be a better lover to yourself first, and then taking those skills if you choose to, into a partnership.”