An Erotic Education


I mentioned during my talk at White Rabbit (the picture below is the lovely WR Boutique) last week that there’s no “school for sex workers” – no diploma program where you learn all the things you need to know for this industry: business skills, sexual health, counselling skills, let alone anything involving your kegels. But it’s equally true that there’s nowhere to go and learn to be a good client- and worst of all, it’s difficult enough learning how to be a good lover at all!

white rabbit shop

I’ve covered the main points about what I like in a client in this old post, but how to be a good lover is a bit different to that. For some sex workers, all their clients are lovers, for others, only some and for others none at all. If you are a client and you aren’t satisfied with how your sex worker interacts with you, then talk about it with them and if there aren’t changes that you can make together to make the experience better then ask for a recommendation to another provider. It’s ok to try out providers the same way it’s ok to try out therapists – you have to pay for their time, but if you don’t get on, see someone else. Business here works the same as real-life, – if your relationship, (sexual or otherwise, paid or unpaid) doesn’t fulfill your needs, you need to anaylse that and work out why your self-esteem allows you to stay in an unfulfilling situation. There may be a reason, but there may be work you need to do on yourself or with your partner.

Anyway, in my opinion, to be a good partner in the bedroom involves a real willingness to listen and respond to the other person involved. I’ve also found that a certain insight into one’s own vulnerabilities is useful- and the engagement necessary to work on those things which that person might not like about themselves until they find self-fulfillment. You don’t have to be a six-foot model with a gym body (and I am certainly not that- I don’t like the gym and there is no surgery to add 12 inches to *anywhere*, guys- sorry)- but you are more likely to relax and enjoy giving and receiving pleasure if you aren’t freaking out all the time that someone is looking at your wobbly tummy/zit/scar/WHATEVER (Newsflash: most of your partners are ALSO thinking “are they looking at my cellulite/bald patch/weird mole?” too. Because capitalism taught us that variety is not acceptable. Urgh).  Being a great lover is about being able to make your partner understand through the medium of sexy times that they are a wonderful person- and part of that is appreciating how excellent you are too, whatever you look like or whatever your kink.

Self-pleasure and then mutual masturbation are good places to start. If you can tell/show/help someone else give you pleasure then chances are you’ll at least appreciate the chance to return the favour: listen in the same way you’d like to be heard; attentively and with respect and genuine positive regard. Learning how to masturbate on your own enjoyably also helps with those happy-good-feels that make you into a wonderful person. I’m not anti-porn, but I am pro connecting deeply with yourself, sensation, fantasies and so on by yourself too. Otherwise, improving your sex life with other people might involve reading books or blogs, asking people-who-know questions or maybe going to workshops or classes.


You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned watching TV, although I hope there are good TV programs out there which help people know that it’s ok to like what you like; it’s ok to look however you do and it’s perfectly ok to seek out pleasure wherever you can. I heard a paper at a conference recently which discussed the concept of the “celebrity sexpert” – mentioning explicitly that there *isn’t* a diploma program for that either. Many of the TV programs purporting to overhaul people’s sex lives within this neo-liberal culture of self-improvement involve a lot of really normative paradigms which I think are super-damaging to peoples’ ideas of sexual enjoyment. They rarely show non-heterosexual, non-white, differently abled or any other-minority people. The narrative is always “straight couple get married -> boring sex life -> celebrity sexperts interrogate them and then suggest a whole load of things to buy/spend time &money on -> they are cured”

I’m not going to really un-pick that here (instead I’m going to suggest you all buy the book when it’s finished – Ros Gill, Laura Harvey and Meg Barker, who are ALL amazing), nor am I going address the floating pile of excrement that is most self-help books about sex but I am going to suggest that if you want better sex education/to improve your sex life that you start with some of the really lovely people I know and recommend, in order of expense/accessibility/scariness:

Free and accessible from your bedroom/phone/laptop: The lovely Bish on Sexual Health and other stuff like this SPLENDID post on non-penetrative sex

Not expensive, especially if you have a e-reader of some description: Books like Playing Well with Others, by Mollena and Lee Harrington, and anything by Dossie Easton or Barbara Carrellas (Trigger Warning for the hippy-averse: Barbara’s books include the word “chakra”- I still found benefit though- it’s all about filtering out a useful message if there are things that don’t work for you): I have linked their websites rather than *cough* amazon. Please make ethical purchasing choices and support local bookshops that pay their taxes if you can.

From free to expensive: Sessions and workshops with sex-positive community people like: Sacred PleasuresKitty Stryker

Of course, I’m going to plug my own workshops here too, but there’s much, much more out there if you’re looking to learn how to be a good lover:

-London: This Saturday,  a lovely workshop on playfulness and pleasure, also some details on Facebook, plus a discount code

-Edinburghmy White Rabbit talks and workshops

-The Summer House Weekendthe sex positive event of the year


Leave a Comment 

Comments are closed.