We are delighted to welcome Carlyle Jansen as a contributor to Volonté; not only is she the founder of the renowned female-oriented and sex positive Toronto store Good for Her, she has been teaching workshops and coaching individuals and couples looking to enhance their sexual lives since 1999.
Her first piece is an excellent introduction how she came to be the person teaching people to orgasm, and what that kind of workshop looks like!
I grew up in a home where “sex didn’t exist.”
I saw my mom kiss my dad once and we never discussed intimacy, relationships or pleasure. When I told my mother about a Sex Ed. discussion in my grade 10 class, her instant response was “don’t get any ideas about taking your clothes off.”
And I didn’t- until my early twenties. When I was unable to orgasm with my first partner, he suggested I learn more about what I like through self-pleasure. Masturbation had never occurred to me, but I was game. Alas after two years of trying to find the Big O both solo and with him, I was unsuccessful and gave up the quest. I decided to not worry about the orgasm and just enjoy myself. Like chocolate cake: if you’ve never had it, you don’t miss it.
But eventually I was told that I should miss orgasms because without them somehow I was forgoing something essential. Eventually I was dumped because my lack of orgasms made my partner feel inadequate as a lover.
As a result, one of my good friends suggested I try a back massager, very similar to the LELO Smart Wand™. These wand style vibrators have the power that some people need in order to orgasm and with their larger head, they stimulate more nerve endings at the same time. Lo and behold a couple of weeks later, I had my first orgasm. I finally felt “part of the club.”
A few years later, after taking several traditional as well as not-so-traditional courses about sex, I became more aware and comfortable with sex and pleasure. After informally sharing my knowledge with friends and family during discussions about sex, I was encouraged to teach workshops and open a retail store where people could learn as well as purchase sex products in a comfortable, friendly, professional and knowledgeable environment. Thus Good For Her was born in 1997 in Toronto, Canada.
At the store and in our workshops, I met many people who had similar challenges to orgasm as I had experienced. Many felt that their sex lives paled in comparison to the effortless, easy and unrealistic depictions in Hollywood and porn, feeling like there must be something wrong with them. They were struggling to feel “normal” and reclaim their pleasure. I decided to do something about it by offering a class on “Learning to Orgasm” which was and continues to be a big success―always selling out.
Every five-hour “Learning to Orgasm” workshop generally begins by creating a space where women can express themselves without feeling judged or inhibited, which often takes on an emotional tone. This is often the first time where these women are surrounded by others who understand and appreciate their challenges. I am always privileged to observe how freely they share their sexual stories and the impact of their inability to orgasm on their self- esteem and relationships.
Throughout the day, we discuss many aspects of sexuality including physical and emotional barriers to orgasm, helpful strategies to encourage or enhance an orgasm, and toys that can help us more easily get there. We also use a variety of experiential exercises on communication and mindfulness that are helpful once we get home and practice alone. No, there is no nudity in the workshop.
One common barrier to orgasm is the worry about the orgasm. We worry whether it will happen, when it will happen, how to make it happen―whether our inability to orgasm will land us in another fight or tears, or whether another disappointing session will put a further a wedge in our relationship.
These worries add to other distracting thoughts that plague many women during sex, such as whether we are sexy enough, skilled in pleasuring a partner or even how we will complete our list of chores.
All of these anxieties detract from being present to the moment and the pleasure- hence making it harder for us to achieve the orgasm we desperately want.
In the class, we practice being present by maintaining focus on savoring a truffle, pretending that it is the last one we will ever enjoy. It is a metaphor for savoring sexual pleasure and lesson in how focusing and being present can lead to more pleasure and deeper sensual experiences.
The workshop also provides an in-depth anatomy lesson of the female sex organs, illuminating what lies beneath the surface that many of us have never even heard of, such as the vestibular bulbs. With greater knowledge of potential pleasure spots, we expand or repertoire of techniques. Often there are many wide-eyes in the room as participants realize many new ways to feel pleasure. So many come to an awareness of what they didn’t know that they didn’t know!
Another common challenge for many (non-orgasmic) women is that we have a hard time telling a partner what we like. Compounded by the reality that many of us don’t even know what we like or where to start, our partner sex is often fraught with frustration by both partners who have run out of ways to ask questions or make requests of what might make sex better. So after talking about erogenous zones and techniques, we practice our communication skills with each other. We learn ways to communicate our pleasures and desires with confidence, without fear of judgement, offending our partner or feeling selfish for asking for what we want.
Who attends sex workshops? There is no one type. In essence it is people like you: ordinary people you might see on the street or at work.
Participants are people of all orientations, ages, sexes and genders, socioeconomic strata, desires and pleasures. Many people arrive at our workshops and are surprised to find others just like them in the room. And regardless of whether the topic is orgasm, oral sex skills, awakening the temple priestess, (re) discovering your libido or embracing your kinky side, those who show up are always just regular people with a curiosity and desire to learn about sex.
Much of what happens in all of the Good For Her workshops, including “Learning to Orgasm” is that people not only learn new skills about how to create and receive pleasure, but also many incorrect assumptions and myths about sex and pleasure are dispelled.
Knowledge is power. Participants leave our workshops with a comforting sense that they are not alone and that they are indeed “normal.” They also begin to understand how sex is actually a skill.
As a sex store owner, workshop facilitator and sex coach, it has been is such a pleasure to continually observe the transformations in participants- the “aha” moments of finally understanding their and/or a partner’s body and sex response, the promise of pleasure through new innovative techniques and the excitement to hurry home to test out their new skills with confidence. Especially in the “Learning to Orgasm” session, sex is transformed from an uninspiring, routine and/or frustrating experience into an exciting and refreshing opportunity to explore and expand pleasure into new realms.