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Real talk about sex, love and relationships with sexologist Juliet Allen

WORDS BY INDAH DWYER

Let’s talk about sex, baby.

Sex. Most of us have it and all of us came from it, some of us even make a career from it, but still, the pleasure we experience privately is a taboo topic. Juliet Allen is a pioneer in the field of sexuality, educating people through her podcast Authentic Sex and her online workshop Pleasure School.

By opening up the dialogue around sex, Juliet helps individuals explore intimacy practices they have been curious about, may currently practise or maybe haven’t even considered yet. I began listening to Juliet’s podcast a few years ago after my friend Amelia Zadro told me over a Skype call that I would love it. Soon, it became something that I made reference to whenever my friends and I spoke about sex and love.

Juliet’s approach made so much sense to me and changed my attitude to my love life at a young age. I called Juliet to get her take on FJ readers’ questions, as well as my own musings, and we immediately dived into the deep end. 

So Juliet, how’d you get to be in this line of work of sexology?

I’m a sexologist and sex and relationship coach, tantra practitioner and I’m a mother which is a huge part of my life too. My journey with sexology began when I was quite young, I was always interested in and curious about sex. I was always the girl in the friendship circle that would help everyone with sex so it just comes really naturally for me to talk about.

I began reading books and studying sacred sexuality and tantra and that side of sex when I was a teenager, I was really curious about it. I went to university [and] studied phycology, I became a mum, I became a yoga teacher, I had a huge different career path before I found sexology.

I said to a friend that I would love to make a living out of sex, but not be a sex worker because that isn’t the path for me in this lifetime, so I studied sexology. I jumped in the deep end, marketed myself as a sexologist and that takes me to today, a few years later.

Was tantra explored in the institution side of sexology or did you find that on your own path?

No, not at all! I found that on my own path to it. The institution doesn’t talk about the sacred and spiritual side of sex, it is more the scientific side of sex and I found that quite dry and boring. Tantra came about for me because at the time I was in a relationship that I felt was lacking depth. I wanted to find answers and so I meet a tantra teacher who I really resonated with, I asked if I could study with her and then we did a lot of training together. When I found tantra it really was the missing piece of the puzzle for me, personally, and also as a practitioner and sexologist.

Not everyone is into the holistic approach to sex, but when I hear you speak about scared rituals around sex it resonates with me. Can you speak about the benefits of bringing a more tantric experience to the bedroom?

Well, tantra is basically choosing with awareness what brings up joy. It’s a myth that tantra is just sex, tantra is more a practice of making choices in all areas of our life that feel more truthful to us, bring us joy and pleasure. When it comes to tantric sex, the benefits are huge. I personally feel lot more connected when I bring tantra in, it is not just a physical experience of sex, like you would see in porn. It brings a deeper, more spiritual experience, to myself (if I am self pleasuring) or connecting to a partner in a deeper way and then connecting with a greater energy than both of us when making love.

Would you start by making your space really calming to be in, to make you more aware of the experience?

Yeah! Definitely and firstly being more aware of who you are having sex with and not just having sex for the sake of having sex. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think one night stands or casual sex can be fun or fulfilling – I actually believe that they can. You can still have a one off sexual experience when you’re practicing tantra.

The difference between a usual one night stand and  a tantric one night stand would be that both people are bringing their heart and bringing love into the experience, not necessarily being in love, but bringing a deeper part of themselves that a lot of people don’t bring to sex. Creating a sacred space is a great start too, being aware of where you make love and the environment that you are in. First see your body as a temple and your partner’s body as a temple and then take the time to explore it.

What inspires you to make love and enjoy sex, either alone or with a partner? How have you found a healthy relationship to sex?

What inspires me is the connection that I feel to myself and to my partner. Feeling connected is a core value for me and sex is the way that I feel connected. Sex for me is a time when I let go of everything in my life and I am fully present, it is like a break from life and I like that. What inspires me is that I know it’s great for me, I know I am a happier woman for the rest of the day or I get a deeper sleep if its at night time. If I have sex every day I am an easier person to be in a relationship with and I enjoy life more because that’s what inspires me.

I feel like people are always wondering how they can be having better sex, for themselves and lovers. What are some things that you recommend people do to have a more fulfilling sex life?

The first thing would be practising being present with yourself and being able to sit in stillness, to not feel like you have to do anything or be anything. Then when you are having sex with someone else, be fully present in the moment rather than having to be a certain way or sound a certain way or [be] rushing to the finish line. To have better sex is to be in the moment and take out any expectations. Choose to have sex with people who also want the same thing as you.

If you want to have really present and deeply connected sex you need to be choosing others who want the same thing. Because you probably won’t get what you want if you choose someone who just wants the cookie and that’s it. So then it comes down to communication, speaking about what you desire, about what type of sex you want, about what you need and what your boundaries are and super importantly, what your exceptions are.

Definitely! I know you have spoken about how enthusiasm to connect is essential for you. There are a lot of people, woman especially, who disconnect during sex. How do you think people can begin to find a deeper connection?

If you are dissociating and you are feeling numb during sex or you don’t feel like you’re in your body then I would say stop sex, because that for me is a red flag. The more common thing is that people are in their head a lot and overthinking, so during sex if that happens I recommend bringing your attention back to your breath. You don’t have to be doing particular techniques, but just notice where you are breathing. Like, are you breathing into your tummy or your chest? Or, are you holding your breath? Then notice your breath going in and out of your body.

Always bringing your awareness back to the body is the basics. If you feel like you are tolerating sex at any point – stop. Nobody should be tolerating sex, so if you are tolerating something then that is a sign that you need to stop doing that thing, you may pause and move onto something else or stop sex altogether and that’s ok too. 

Perhaps leading on from this, you’ve spoken a little about the four sex centres in the body and I would love for you to let our readers know about them and what you mean when you say that all of them need to say ‘yes’?

Yeah, definitely. So there are four centres, there is our sex centre which is located in our genitals. There is our tummy centre which is located in our tummy, this is our intuition and deep inner knowing. Then our heart centre, which is the heart connection we have with ourself and with others and then we have our head, which is that voice we have inside our head. So often at times, we connect with only one or two centres of our body, for example, our sex centre would be a common one. We are deeply attracted to someone and feel a strong connection in our genitals and with our head we say, “They are hot, I should have sex with them.” Then our heart is not connected and our intuition is like, “No, don’t have sex.” Then, we have sex and it might be fun in the moment but as soon as it’s over or moments after, we feel deflated and dissatisfied.

We don’t know why but it’s often because all of our sex centres are not connected. Another example would be [when] we feel a deep connection in our heart but our sex centre is saying ‘no’ but we still have sex anyway. The sex ends up being disastrous because our sex centre was never saying yes. Ultimately, I encourage people to check in with their centres. I do have a meditation in pleasure school that takes people through this so that can drop it into their body and identify if they are yesses or nos. I just encourage everyone to have a yes at all four centres, that definitely determines good sex and long term successful relationships.

Love that. So how can we navigate speaking about sex and our sexual needs to our partners? What are some tips for asking what you want in the bedroom if you don’t feel confident to express your desires? Especially if these are kinks?

I have to preface that conversations about sex are not always easy and they can be awkward and so you have to lean into the awkwardness of it, in a way. It’s still a taboo topic and not many of us have had parents who have bought it up in a really casual and holistic way so we do reach adolescence feeling like we don’t know how to communicate.

So it may feel hard but you just have to dive into the deep end, that’s the reality. There is no special trick when it comes to communicating, it’s just that the more you practice the better you will be at it. First, you can begin by talking to someone that is not your partner e.g friends or a coach like myself. Do this so you’re not going to get an emotional response from them, they will just be someone who is supportive and open. And when you bring it [up] to your lover and open the conversation up, it could be good to say, “When is a good time to talk to about something that is important to me?”. So asking them when is a good time rather than just bombarding them with it on the spot when they don’t feel prepared.

Also, use I statements instead of you statements. So – I feel this way, I desire this. Another good trick is to use the sandwich technique. For example, say you were wanting to express that you want rougher sex but you think that might trigger your partner. You could say, “What I love about our sex life is X, Y, Z and something that I would love to try with you to spice it up is rougher sex.” But sandwich it up with, “But, what I love is that you are so gentle and caring all the time.” Kind of sandwiching it with good and good to lessen the impact.

Such good advice! These next few questions were from our readers. Do you have any tips for staying connected in a long-distance relationship without being too demanding?

I always find long-distance questions hard, because I am not a fan of long-distance relationships. My answer to that is accepting you are in a long-distance relationship and you are choosing this and, naturally, if we want to feel connected, having distance physically between us is going to inhibit connection because we are not getting physical touch. This person could focus on their relationship and intimacy with themself, ultimately though maybe if you are feeling demanding and needy then you need to be living with your partner, to feel more connected. 

What is the average time it takes a woman to reach orgasm?

Well, there is no average time and every woman is completely different. It also depends on what kind of orgasm they are asking about, there are lots of different types of orgasms. How I explain it is an orgasm is not just a big bang, an orgasm is energy in our body that may begin at the start of the day but we might not have sex until the end of the day, so there is orgasmic energy present in our body. So there is no average time, we are all unique.

How do I not instantly fall in love with somebody just because the sex is good?

Hmm well, if you fall in love with someone, you fall in love with someone… you can’t help it. I think people need to bear in mind that woman in particular, men too, but the feminine in all of us wants to be chosen and feel connected and loved. When women connect sexually we can feel deeply connected on an emotional level very quickly. If you feel this is something that happens to you then only connect with people who are open to connecting in other ways than just being physical.

Because if you try to have sex and not bring love into it then you are not honouring yourself and your truth, which is that you fall in love. You need to be true to yourself and not fuck for the sake of fucking if you are someone who falls in love easily, unless the other person has the intention of falling in love and a relationship. 

So you think it’s important to voice your thoughts on what you want from the sex early on?

Yep, just voicing expectations. Like, “If we were to sleep together, are you thinking a one-off or are you thinking a relationship? What are your expectations? Because what I am ready for is to open my heart up to a new relationship and [I’m] looking for something more than just a one night stand. If we are on the same page I would love to engage with you, but if not then it’s probably not the right connection for us to continue.” That is just the sort of dialogue you can have.

Wonderful. So how can you have a sexually alive and passionate long term relationship?

This is a normal scenario and this happens a lot, many people are in long term relationships and start to feel like the passion dwindles. I would say firstly prioritising solitude and connecting with yourself is important and then connect with each other and prioritise sex. So if sex is a priority for you both, then you will make time for it and make time to explore it in different ways. I think in long term relationships we can’t just get into a routine… it’s going to get boring. So the key is to explore together, go to different workshops, read books together, watch videos and things like listening to my podcast.

Things that can inspire couples to connect in different ways are really important. Stay healthy, that helps with libido. Prioritise movement, eating well etc. Surround yourself with other people who are in great long term relationships and are having great sex that inspires you, because you can always learn from other couples. Communicating is really important too and just seeing your relationship as a big sexual adventure.

Another reader question was why do you think women in particular choose partners who have elements they think they can change? How do we avoid the saviour complex?

Well, when we are wanting to save or fix someone it is just a mirror to ourselves [and] what we want to save or fix. My answer is to see the relationship as a mirror. If you want your partner to be more present, you need to be more present, or if you feel that your partner is too much of something, perhaps that is something you need more of in your life or you are too much of. A relationship is a big fat mirror and it is so annoying because it can be so triggering. Like my partner is such a triggering mirror for me, it isn’t always easy. I see parts of myself in him that I don’t like or I see parts that I want. You have to bring it back to the inner work, stop projecting your stuff on your partner and turn inwards.

What was the message your mother gave you about sex as a little girl? What is a message/advice you do or will share with your daughter about sex?

Well, my mum didn’t talk about sex much, but she was really comfortable in her body and being naked, like, she would eat breakfast in the nude. She was very comfortable with herself in that way so that had an impact on me in a good way. As for my daughter, I have never had to have ‘the talk’ with her just because it’s just been apart of our lives since she was little. Instead of always talking about it, I model the behaviour. She knows intimacy is important, she knows it’s a priority, she knows that I make love.

Every partner I have had she knows that we are intimate, she knows that when the door is closed that we are making love and she finds that normal. I speak about our bodies being a temple and that we need to be connected at all four centres and when she chooses to have sex one day that she really needs to check in with her centres. I speak to her about sex but I think the best education is being sexually empowered parents and being comfortable in our own skin, then children get more of an energetic transmission of what it is like to feel that way.

To find out more about Juliet’s work and podcast, head here.

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