I spoke to one of our senior therapists Katie Sarra about her expertise as a Somatic Sex Educator. I wanted to find out what a Somatic Sex Educator does, what the word ‘Consent’ means in an intimate relationship and finally, how to get what you really desire.

Katie, please can you tell me what a Somatic Sex Educator and a Sex and Relationship Therapist is?

Somatic Sex Education is the advanced training in Sexological Bodywork. ‘Somatic’ means body and ‘Education’ is all about learning.

So a Somatic Sex Educator is co-creating learning experiences that involve our body as the teacher for us to be in receptivity for a deeper connection with our naturalness in relation to our sexual expression and intimacy needs.

I am also trained in Art Psychotherapy, Tantra, Playback Theatre, NLP, Quodoushka, Group Analysis and Shamanism, which informs my practice as an expert in sex and relationship therapy.

This broadly means I can offer those on a SHH retreat psychoanalytic, neuroscience, eastern philosophy and shamanic insights to support what a person is wanting to understand, whilst also helping them find liberation and naturalness.

Sessions are healing and educational, supporting people to overcome inhibitions and blocks that are limiting their naturalness in intimacy. On the retreats, I teach people how to educate themselves in listening and being receptive to what their body is communicating.

It is well researched and proven that we are liberated from fear when we can trust our availability to being present and connected with the wisdom of our body’s mind, whilst making intimate decisions.

Fear comes from the hard-wired assumption that we are going to be ‘done to again’, which is deep in our nervous system from all the times we have been touched in ways that we did not want.

We learn to allow or go along with what is happening, which can be good or it can lead to ‘tolerating’ what does not feel good.  People even create a blanket shut down strategy in case what happens is as bad as last time.

‘No’ sex, is better than ‘tolerate’ sex.

Please can you tell me what ‘Consent’ actually means in regards to being intimate.

Consent is essentially an agreement to engage in some sort of action that may involve receiving something, doing something or allowing something to happen.

Consent sometimes gets muddled with ‘Permission’. Permission is allowing someone to do what they are requesting to do to/with you and you going along with it but not necessarily what you wish for yourself.

Because we are so used to going along with things or going the other way and controlling, it can make intimate decisions a minefield of putting up with some touch we don’t want or controlling what happens at the expense of naturalness and receptivity.

At a SHH retreat, I teach people to learn how to make decisions from our body’s intuition and it’s these embodied decisions that are the ones we can actually trust.

These embodied decisions involve learning what we need to facilitate the switch from action roles into relaxation and receptivity. Then we learn how to listen to what we want and overcome the fear inhibitions that keep us in unhelpful patterns of either shut down, putting up with what we don’t want or not knowing what we want.

When we feel both physical and emotional stress, there is a connective tissue surrounding the spine and the brain called the ‘Dura’ that tightens to support us not to feel pain. It prevents communication from our body’s mind, and what it’s actually doing is shutting down our receptivity, so we are disabled in receiving information to make decisions, therefore the mind is making decisions separate to the body.

In this state the mind uses strategies from the past that either have or haven’t worked and during this we are more vulnerable to coercion, other people manipulating us, or from a place of fear. So our choice is based around projection and not from a place of receptivity.

If you are in a long-term relationship and you consented to an intimate act years ago, which may have been good then but not now, how do you tell your partner or navigate that situation?

Typically long term relationships get into grooves, with the same record playing over and over with both people invested in keeping the structure of the relationship together, which once upon a time worked. But, engaging in activity that involves the body experiencing what they don’t want leads to ‘split attention’ and we become unavailable for pleasure when in this.

Understanding such relationship grooves and split attention is the key for couples to help change their behavioural patterns and learn what they might like to intimately explore together. Awareness and communication of what is happening is the first step in two people coming together again. Both agreeing to explore something new, whilst also acknowledging that what they have been doing isn’t working.

For two people to step out of a pattern to explore being present takes enormous bravery. Tools that are learnt on a retreat can be applied within the home and help people make the transition from action roles into relaxation and receptivity. By supporting people to understand and create their own rituals for this transition opens the body and mind into giving, receiving, taking and allowing pleasure with each other.

The first step for any individual, whether they are in a relationship or not, is to find out what they want. How can your partner know what you want if you don’t know yourself?

How do you learn to receive information from your body, find out what you want in intimacy and also be in ‘Consent’?

Very often one partner will know the other one is just going along with it, they will also be putting up with disconnected sex and both partners will feel lonely.

There are some lovely games to play that facilitate the body’s mind to communicate desires. For example, the ‘No Game’ is where two people can experiment to safely explore without actually doing anything.

This game supports creating the neural pathways with what they might like to feel or do without follow through. This creates incredible liberation and freedom so that two people can share their inner worlds with each other without going into presumptuous or putting up with patterns.

Instead of sex, imagine two people running a bath together to bathe and relax in. Both people will naturally like different temperatures.  Typically one person might be hot with direct action goal desires and the other might be wanting heart connection, massage or relaxation. If one person is running the hot tap, the other may wish to run the cold tap or even put ice cubes in to regulate the temperature for them both to swim in together.

In this scenario, people need to learn how to have luxurious warm sex rather than split attention sex. Sex lasts for much longer when the temperature is right for all involved. As soon as its too cold or too hot, both people will be in split attention and not be able to receive pleasure that is consensual with each other.

How do you connect with yourself to trust your body’s mind decision?

You need to be relaxed to start getting into your body and listening to it, for instance you can use breath, body work massage, a hot bath, listen to music, go for a walk, whatever you use to relax into your body. Once the Dura is relaxed you can make decisions that are more connected with integrity.

It also takes courage and bravery to have enough compassion in ourselves to listen to, value and share what we want to do or receive.

What tools can you give a woman to help her achieve this?

A good easy tool to use is to write a daily want, need, feel, desire, long for, demand list: Each sentence starting with ‘I want’…., “I wish…., ””I desire….”, “I demand….”, “I long for….”, “I dream about….”, I need….”, “I crave….”, “I feel….”.

This somehow unearths or lifts out of the waters of our unconscious what the silent drivers are inside of us. It helps us understand and become aware of what needs and desires are driving us unconsciously. With awareness we can take action, choose what we welcome into our life, liberate ourselves from disappointment and/or putting up with what we do not want.

Supporting yourself with self witness is the first step. Rehearsing with yourself to establish what you want before you share it with your loved one can help with feeling confident enough to share. Then you can be spontaneous to take action and to ask what you want and receive what you need.

If you had to choose two books to educate readers on intimacy what would they be?

“5 Languages of Love”, by Gary D Chapman. This book supports people to become aware of how we need to be loved. Very often a complaint in intimacy is that we are not being loved how we want and need to be. Identifying how we need to be loved is the first stage in communicating that and liberating us from patterns of complaint. These five languages are a great translation of what Jaak Panksepp identified as our instinctual, mostly unconscious drivers that are influencing our emotions in every moment.

“The Power of Focusing”, by Ann Weiser Cornell is also a great book that shows how we can learn step-by-step to listen to our body’s wisdom.

Who do you admire most in the field of sex education?

Betty Martin is my biggest mentor with her ‘Wheel of Consent’. She is very generous on her website in sharing these invaluable teachings that support consent and shared pleasure.

To find out more about SHH Retreats click here

Interview by Lucy Arrowsmith



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