As you know, many intense and sensitive people have felt different and on the fringe of society all their lives. For this reason, I have started to make episodes that are all about being different— different meaning being non-mainstream in terms of lifestyle, life choices, and the way you are. Consider this episode as a first step, and I hope there will be more to come!
Today, we are talking to Becky Crepsley-Fox. Becky is a registered sexologist and relationship therapist, and the host of a podcast called Sex Unshackled. We will talk about non-mainstream sexual orientations such as Sapiosexuality, Demisexuality, Asexuality, kink… and how to negotiate to get your needs met in relationships. We have really just skimmed the surface with regards to these complex topics. If you are interested, I would refer you to Becky’s work or even reach out to her!
Imi: Hi, Becky. Good to see you again.
Becky: Hi, so nice to be here.
Imi: Yeah, thank you for agreeing to come on Eggshell Transformations.
Becky: Yeah, I love it, of course.
Imi: Well, actually we have never had any guests who specialize in what you do, so maybe before we start, can you just tell our audience about yourself and what kind of things you do?
Becky: Yeah, of course. I’m Becky and I started off as a Yoga teacher, so I came from a very… Yeah, you too. We came from a very spiritual/ movement based practice. And then from that I started getting in to tantra, or probably more neo-tantra so tantra without the use of the scriptures, but more how it relates to sexuality and connection and I did a lot of that with my husband. And then from that, I transitioned and now I work as a sex and relationship therapist.
Becky: What that looks like is I see clients from a whole range of issues, so maybe if there’s a physical dysfunction, an erectile dysfunction or ejaculation issues. For people with vulvas and vaginas, it could be vaginismus or pain around the vulva, or I might work with couples who have mismatched sexual desire. Or impulse control or out of control sexual behavior, or working with people coming to terms with their orientations, as well as any type of relationship issue or many, many more sex issues, as well.
Becky: So I work with individuals and with couples on a one-to-one basis, and I also teach what I call sexual embodiment classes, which is my take on what I’ve learned from neo-tantra and it’s lik embodiment and breathing and connection aspects.
Imi: I loved that you just dived right in. You spared our audience no warmup. That’s really cool. Well, I have a lot of questions. Obviously, I know what you do and I have prepared some questions, things that I’m curious about to ask you. But before that, I know that you also identify as someone who is emotionally intense. Do you want to tell us a little bit more about that so our audience knows that you are one of us, so to speak.
Becky: Of course, I’d love to. So I always knew that there was something, I don’t know if volatile is the right word, it kind of has a negative connotation, but I felt very volatile. I felt like, when I was growing up, I couldn’t control myself, I felt very raw and open. And I didn’t have any words for it. I didn’t know what it was, I just knew that I had these feelings and these deep thoughts and emotions inside of me.
Becky: Then, actually when I started training in psychotherapy, before the sex therapy work, Pam, who is one of my teachers, and I think one of your teachers, too.
Imi: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Becky: Suggested to me to read your book. And at the time, I was getting… A lot of my stuff gets [somatized 00:03:24] so I get really ill, I get migraines and I get upset stomach. And it’s like my body can’t contain the wealth of emotions that I’m feeling. So she suggested for me to read your book and that the same time-
Imi: She probably knows I get migraines all the time, too.
Becky: I think she did, yeah. It was quite a few years ago, now. But I think I remember that. Yeah, at the same time I was also seeing a hypnotherapist and the hypnotherapist was saying, “Oh, I think you’re emotionally intense or emotionally sensitive. Do you know much about this?” And it was kind of happening at the same time and I didn’t know much about it. So she also was telling me about it.
Becky: Yeah, for me it’s being what other people might call too much in the world, because that’s what I’ve had said to me, time and time again. It’s feeling so intently, so deeply and being moved in beautiful ways and also not so beautiful ways in different situations.
Imi: Thank you. That’s how we got in touch. That’s lovely.
Imi: So I’m going to dive in and ask you about your subject matter.
EMOTIONAL AND SEXUAL INTIMACY
Imi: First of all, emotional and sexual intimacy, because obviously I work with people who feel a lot like you do, but not many of them talk about sex and sexual intimacy. So what are they, emotional and sexual intimacies? And what are the differences?
Becky: Yeah, so emotional intimacy is a connection with someone else, or a collective, it could be more than one person. The way I would describe it is, feeling as if that person gets you. Maybe they see your soul, they get the underneath stuff. Or the stuff that’s level things that maybe we portray into the world.
Becky: Sexual intimacy is where you’re connecting with someone sexually and I think there’s that old saying of men need to have sex to feel emotionally connected. And women-
Imi: Is that true, or is that a myth about gender?
Becky: Well, I think that it’s a myth about gender, but it does ring some truth. The second part is, women need to have emotional connection to feel like they want to have sex. And that bit, in my experience is quite true for a lot of women. I see that in my practice quite a lot and it’s something in which we call sexy body, sexy brain. So sexy body people are people who might be up for sex at the drop of a hat, they might not need certain contexts to be in place to be open minded. They might feel arousal in their genitals as they’re going for a walk or doing the washing up.
Becky: And sexy brain people, are people who, in opposition might need more specific context. They might need emotional connection and things like that. In my practice, I have witnessed that a lot of the women have a sexy brain, they need that connection, they need that intimacy, whilst men are more sexy body. However, we’ve got to think. I only see people who believe they’re experiencing a difficulty.
Becky: So, if we did that survey to the general public who are not seeing sex therapists, the information we get back could be very, very different. So I think a lot of that is a myth, but there is also some truth behind it.
Imi: Can we have one without the other?
Becky: I think some people can. I think some people can feel very strong sexual connection and when they’re not experiencing that sexual connection, it doesn’t seem to click. They don’t get each other on other numerous levels, but-
Imi: In your experience of working… Sorry to cut you off. In your experience of working with people, what’s the percentage of people you think need both? Or need one in order to have the other versus not?
Becky: Well, again, I’m only working with people who feel like there’s something in which they want to change.
Imi: That’s true, it’s a biased poll, isn’t it?
Becky: Yeah, because if we’re thinking about the general public, they might be happy with their sex life, but I’m seeing people who feel like there’s something lacking. So I would say in my practice, like 75%, but that doesn’t mean that that would relate to the general population.
Imi: So do you think, or in your experience, do you think emotionally intense or sensitive people crave more one or the other? Is there any tendencies or patterns that you’ve spotted?
Becky: I think in my experience, emotionally intense people, they definitely crave emotional intimacy. Like a huge depth of it, because I think emotionally intense people need that richness to thrive on. And if they’re not being matched with a connection or a richness, it’s a bit flat. Saying that, I do also think many emotionally intense people crave a sexual intimacy, sexual intensity as well.
Becky: And I think it’s down to, I’m going to use the word richness again, because I think it’s down to feeling that richness of experience and yeah, I think that intensity again, using the same word, intensity needs to be there for that to feel passionate. These are huge generalizations. I’m sure there’s emotionally intense people who do not want that, or are not interested in that.
Becky: But I would say in my experience, yes, both of them but probably more emotional intensity than emotional intimacy.
Imi: I mean don’t be afraid to generalize because that’s how we discuss anything, but of course, we also understand that we can’t brush stroke and paint everyone with the same tendencies or guesses.
Imi: Yeah, so there’s something that pops up in the dating world or in the internet world in recent years which I personally have an interest in, and I also see it in a lot of people I see. It’s called sapiosexuality, or being sapiosexual. It’s really growing in popularity.
Imi: Here’s the definition I pulled from the internet. It’s an attraction to someone’s intelligence. So it’s someone who’s sexually attracted to other people’s intelligence and prioritize above all other qualities. So maybe having a scholastic big discussion, or being intellectually engaged really turns them on.
Imi: From your perspective as a sex and relationship therapist, is this a legitimate thing? Have you seen it in your clinical practice?
Becky: So this is a really trick one because if we think about sexual orientation as a word, it is referring to gender. So if we’re thinking about in a traditional sense, it’s not an orientation, because orientation is based on gender. But if we’re going to go down that route, it also means we need to exclude things like demi-sexuality, which is being appeal to people because of their emotional connection, so if you’re a demi-sexual person-
Imi: That we need to talk about. That’s probably more relevant to our tribe, too. But go on.
Becky: Yeah, so a demi-sexual, they’re people who might not fancy people unless they have that bond. So maybe they fall in love with their friends or they fancy people they have been dating for quite a while, but they don’t have that initial attraction. So again, that’s classified nowadays as an orientation, but if we think back to where it comes from, where the orientation comes from, it’s based on gender.
Becky: So sapiosexuality I haven’t seen, and I think that is circling back to the point I made earlier of I only see people who believe they have a problem or they need something to heal. And if we think about what sapiosexuality is, they as a collective, probably haven’t been oppressed, so they haven’t had the issues that come with maybe coming out or what LGBTQ+ collectives have. And I guess it wouldn’t really show up as a problem because they just go after the people who have this intellectual intelligence, in which they crave.
Imi: Which I supposed can be difficult though.
Becky: Hmm. Well, I think sexuality is a spectrum. So it depends how much that is important to each individual person and if they can only be with people of a specific intelligence or whether it’s quite varied. And I think that is the same as anyone else who has very specific things, qualities in what they want from a partner. So is someone is only after people who are looking a very specific way, I guess that minimizes the pool as well.
Becky: In a sense, I do think it’s an orientation, because if that is what gets you going, and if that’s what turns you on and arouses you, then yeah, I think that’s your preference, that’s your orientation, but on the other hand-
Imi: Is there a difference between preference and orientations, then?
Becky: Yeah, so orientation is innate, you have no control over it, when a preference I believe could be swayed a little bit. The whole thing is tricky because orientation can always change. A lot of people stay in the same orientation for their whole life, but as I said, it is fluid, so some people might dip in, dip out, and that brings me onto gray-sexuality. Actually we’ll talk about gray-sexuality in a minute, I think.
Imi: Sure. We will definitely want to come back to that and the demi-sexuality, but go on.
Becky: Yes. So I think the answer is it depends who you ask about whether it’s an orientation, and there’s not many sacred sexualities portrayed in the media. So I think people don’t really know what it is and don’t really know what it is and don’t really know if they have permission to think that that is their orientation. And perhaps if it was portrayed more, or more people were speaking about it, it would be more mainstream and there would be more of a community.
Imi: Sure. What about demi then, do you think are a lot of people are… because actually many people are confused. Obviously, a lot of people do have an emotional bond with a person that you have sex with. But for those who are demi-sexual, you basically cannot get turned on unless you have a strong emotional bond. Is that right?
Becky: Yes, exactly. So the bond comes first, and with the bond attraction arises. So if you’re demi-sexual, you probably won’t fancy celebrities, you won’t pass someone on the street and think, “Whew, they’re really sexy.” Because that aspect is developed in you after that intimate connection is there. So I think-
Imi: Go on.
Imi: Is everyone a little bit demi-sexual then?
Becky: I think a lot of people are a bit, I am, definitely. But then there are also celebrities where I think, “Wow, they’re really hot.” So myself, I wouldn’t class myself as a demi-sexual, but I can really see the appeal. But then if we think about it the opposite way around as well, in lots of longterm relationships, people lose the sexual attraction. When, if we think about a demi-sexual, that would probably grow and grow and grow.
Becky: So I think there’s a bit of both in people who do not resonate with any sexualism term, because it will come at the beginning when you’re getting to know them, but then it might drop off towards the end.
Imi: Yeah. What kinds of things do they struggle with, do you think?
Becky: So I guess getting to a point of relating with a person because we’ve all heard the terminology, friend zones. So we imagine friend zones being more a woman befriend zones a man. So if we’re thinking about the demi-sexual being a man, that could be a legitimate problem, because by the time that they are feeling attraction to someone, the other person is thinking, “Well, no. You’re my friend now.”
Imi: That’s because well today, things move so fast.
Becky: And if we think about dating apps. If you don’t fancy people until you have that emotional connection, how are you supposed to know who you’re resonating with to swipe? So it already cuts off a huge dating pool.
Imi: Hmm. Yeah. That’s a really good point. You may want to text more before you get to…
Imi: Yeah, yeah. I mean I’m on this website. It’s called demisexuality.org. And in there it says, “Many demi-sexuals grow up feeling different with those around them.” It talks about their struggle because most people have their first instance of sexual attraction in their pre-teen years. I’m not going to read the whole thing out, but it’s just about how they can find things confusing and they feel alienated because they don’t seem to be interested in sex. Or, don’t find people sexually attractive, or like you said, when the conversation turns to talking about celebrities, they just feel very confused.
Imi: So they might have assumed that there’s something wrong with them. I also know, which we’re going to talk about it now, but I think a lot of people may confuse demi-sexuality with asexuality.
Becky: Yeah, and as you were reading that description, it was making me think of asexuality, because asexuals experience a lot of the same issues as in they grow up thinking there might be something wrong with them because everyone around them might be saying, “Oh, that guy’s really fair. Look at his abs.” And if you’re a demi-sexual or an asexual, you are not going to notice that because that’s not what attracts you with regard to a demi-sexual.
Becky: But asexuality, for the listeners, is someone who doesn’t fancy other people. So they do not feel that sexual attraction. Now, what I really want to highlight is, it does not mean they are celibate. It does not mean that they are abstinent or they don’t partake in sexual behavior. Some asexuals may not because they don’t feel the sexual desire for other people. They may not want to have sex or even masturbate. But some asexuals may still feel the desire in their body, and therefore they masturbate or have sex, almost to get the itch scratched. To have that release, but without that sexual connection that people of other orientations feel.
Becky: So I do think that in that aspect, demi-sexual and asexuals have links, but demi-sexuals would grow to have the sexual feelings later on, when asexuals would not. And this is going to link me on to gray-sexuals which I mentioned before.
Imi: Define it please, for us.
Becky: Yeah, gray-sexuals are underneath the gray-sexuality umbrella and they are people who resonate with being asexual the majority of the time, but every now and again, they feel a sexual attraction for someone. So that’s why it’s gray because it’s blurred, a little bit blurred. They, maybe in a lifetime, there’s a few people that they feel sexually attracted to. But the rest of the time, they resonate with being asexual.
Imi: I think a lot of people in the public, who are not aware of it, a lot of the general public would assume there’s something wrong or pathological with someone that’s asexual, especially in the western culture. I think in certain western cultures.
Becky: Yeah, so the best way I can describe this is, if you are heterosexual, let’s say you’re a heterosexual man and being asexual is how you feel about other men. Because your orientation is that you’re heterosexual, so you fancy a different gender to yourself. And asexual people just feel like that about everyone else. So there’s nothing wrong with them. That’s just their orientation. The same as being heterosexual is yours, being gay is someone else’s, being pansexual is someone else’s. There’s nothing wrong with anyone, it’s just your orientation.
Imi: How is it different from medical problems like sexual dysfunctions then?
Becky: Yeah, so sexual dysfunction, so let’s talk about erectile dysfunction. If you have erectile dysfunction, you might have erectile dysfunction in situations where you’re with someone that you find sexually attractive. So it might be the person you think is the hottest person in the world, but for some reason, which could be down to multiple issues, your penis is not responding.
Becky: That could be a medical issue such as diabetes, it could be issues of performing, so it could be anxiety, getting adrenalin to flood the body, there could be multiple issues. It could be that you’ve had negative sexual experiences in the past so your body is kind of somatizing that. Now, that does not mean the person with erectile dysfunction doesn’t want to have sex with the person in front of them.
Becky: They are still feeling that sexual attraction. When if we think about asexuals, their genitals might respond if you stimulate them, because their genitals, there’s nothing… Well, unless that person also has erectile dysfunction, their genitals, it’s very different. So as I was saying, sexual behavior is different to finding people sexually attractive.
Becky: Does that answer the question?
Imi: Yes, it does. It’s actually really clear.
Becky: Okay, good.
Imi: Yeah, yeah. I would imagine people who are asexual would feel really alienated in the world. I believe they can still have fulfilling and passionate relationships, because not wanting sex is not the same as not wanting romance or intimacy. So if someone listening identifies with this, do you have any advice for them, or how they can find their people? I don’t think there’s asexual dating app, yet.
Becky: There should be. There should be. There might be. But just not one that I know about. So I think they worked out that there’s 1% of asexuals in the population and it sounds small, but in reality, it’s bigger. That’s not that small.
Imi: One in a 100.
Becky: One in a 100. So they’re around, they’re out there. I think there’s lots of forums. They’re a great place to get started. There’s also an asexuality week and an asexuality day, which is new. I think that started this year, or maybe last year. And in those events, at those times, there are loads of events. So you can join them online, you can see if there’s any happening in real life near you. I think the last Pride, so Pride for those who don’t know is an LGBTQ+ celebration.
Becky: We have it in England. I don’t know if we have it in other countries.
Becky: Some. And the last one that we had before COVID, they created the first asexuality arena. So more and more in real life, events are popping up, but if you’re from a small town or you’re not from a city, I would say online is the best way to go. However, lots of asexual people do want to have relationships, but there’s also people who are aromantic. So aromantic people are people who do not have an interest in romanticism. They do not want relationships and someone could be both a sexual and aromantic. Or you could be aromantic, not wanting relationships but still fancy people and want a sex life.
Imi: I imagine it would be the hardest for those who are romantic, but asexual.
Becky: Romantic, but asexual. Exactly. Because they need to negotiate with a partner or partners-
Becky: … a life that is fulfilling for everyone. So some asexual people match with other asexual people so that-
Imi: But where to find them though, isn’t it?
Becky: Online, yeah. I think it’s easier now than it ever has been, because we have the internet, which is amazing. And we have travel. Not in COVID, but we have travel, so if there’s no one near you, you can travel to be with them. Lots of other asexual people might enter into polyamorous relationships. So for the listeners, a polyamorous relationships I where you could have multiple partners at the same time. So there’s consensual non-monogamy, which is like an umbrella and polyamory is one part of that. So polyamory is specifically multiple relationships when you could have a main relationship and then the person who’s not asexual has sex with other people, instead of relationships with them.
Becky: So it can look in 100 different ways, but that is also an option. Monogamy is also an option as well, it really depends on the compromise and the other person and how important sex is. But that’s not to say that there can’t be sex in the relationship, because if the asexual person is happy to do that, or happy to do some forms of that, either for their sexual needs or for their partner’s, then that could be a possibility, too. But it definitely is trickier and requires a lot of negotiation.
NEGOTIATIONS IN RELATIONSHIPS
Imi: Yeah. I mean you brought up a good point, which is you need to negotiate so everyone in the relationship feels fulfilled. And that leads to the question that, what happens when there’s this, asexual or not, because it’s all a spectrum, what happens when there are discrepancies, when there is a difference in a couple’s sex drive or sexual needs? Can the relationship still work or can it last? Do they come to you?
Becky: Yeah, they come to me, exactly, so that it goes back to negotiation. And I always ask the couples who come to me, what amount of sex would you be happy with, and they look at each other and they say, “Oh, we’ve never asked each other that before.” And I think that’s so bonkers because they’ve made a step to come to therapy but they haven’t even had the conversation of, “What would you actually be happy with versus what am I happy with?”
Becky: And some people say three times a week, and other people say once a month. There is no right or wrong, but it is about, “Well, what could work with you two?” And I quite often work with the will of consent. Are you familiar with that?
Imi: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Becky: Yeah. So for the listeners, it’s a way of looking at consent to do with giving and receiving and taking and allowing and highlighting that just because it looks like someone is receiving, they actually might be giving or allowing, depending on what the dynamic is set up to be. I talk about the will of consent if it’s mismatched desire or something like that, and we fill it in.
Becky: So who would be happy with this? And what is on the table sometimes and what is never on the table? And what could be on the table, and sometimes it can work. Most of the time, it can work, but I think also, in a relationship we need to get our needs met and sometimes getting our needs met is more important than the relationship and if the two people are going to stay together, and struggle and not get their needs met, then maybe for them, they should open a relationship or they should split up.
Becky: But for many others, there is a center-point that can be found just with negotiation and talking and discussions and doing home tasks learning more about each other. So I talk to them a lot about spontaneous and responsive desire. So spontaneous desire are people who might initiate more. They know they want to have sex. And responsive desire people are people who might not know that they want to have sex until they are in a sexual situation. And then that desire comes.
Becky: So just some psycho education like that, because if one person’s initiating always and the other person isn’t. And the initiator’s getting upset because they’re saying, “Well, that one doesn’t initiator and that one doesn’t want me.” But just by knowing, actually your sexual responses are very different. And what this person needs is a bit more time and a bit more space. And if you give that to that person, there might be sex. You’re opening up a space for something.
Becky: So just by them knowing that, that can already create so much change in the relationship.
Imi: That’s really useful. I can tell that this is what you do day in and out.
Becky: Yeah, I love this stuff.
COMMON STRUGGLES FOR INTENSE AND SENSITIVE PEOPLE
Imi: What common struggles do you see in people who are emotionally intense and sensitive when it comes to intimacy, sexuality?
Becky: Yeah, so with intimacy, I think the main one is not being understood by the partner or partners. So being shamed, being shut down, I think that’s the main one.
Imi: Being shamed for what and being shut down for what, usually?
Becky: Yeah, so being shamed for, I think I said it earlier, but being too much. So being dramatic, being over the top, for feeling-
Imi: What might they have done that warranted this criticism?
Becky: So if an emotionally intense person is in a relationship and they are upset about something, perhaps say their partner did something and it upset them. And their partner can’t understand why it upset them and they’re trying to explain, “This upset me because it made me feel like this. And this is a big deal for me.” And the other person almost gaslights them, because they’re saying, “Well, this shouldn’t be a big deal.”
Becky: “But it is a big deal for me.”
Becky: “But it shouldn’t be a big deal.”
Becky: “Okay, but for me this is a big deal. So I’m trying to talk to you about it.” And this happens in a lot of relationships, not just with emotionally intense people, because it’s to do with people not seeing eye-to-eye and communication issues, but definitely with people who are more emotionally more intense, because they feel the emotions more, things tend to be a bit more heightened.
Becky: And the other person gets defensive, they shut down, which is a typical response, but then with the defense comes the shaming. “You’re too much, you’re too emotional.” Maybe even, “You’re crazy.” Things like that. Which I see as gas lighting because you’re denying that person their reality. And I see that in relationships of all people.
Imi: And how would that damage the person?
Becky: Well, that person is going to think, maybe even think that they are crazy. Think that their response is not valid, and that they should keep things to themselves in the future instead of exploring their feelings. What I think should be done is, “I see that’s how you feel. Can you tell me more about that? That’s not my intention, but I understand that’s how I made you feel. How can I not do that in the future? Or, how can you let me know earlier, so that this doesn’t happen again?”
Imi: So that’s really good advice for partners of someone who is intense?
Imi: What would you say to someone who is intense, and actually my question is, how would that show up in the bedroom, then?
Becky: It’s a really interesting question. I think emotionally intense people may struggle to stay in the room, mentally. So they may drift off, maybe in their imagination. They might be thinking about different things that happened through the day, they might have compulsive thoughts that pop into their head. And with that, could be distraction, which takes you out of your own body’s sexual experience.
Becky: So my advice for intense people or anyone that experiences those distractions, which many people do, just notice when your mind wanders and like you would with a meditation, or a mindfulness practice, bring it back to the sensation. Bring it back to what can I feel right now? Can I feel my partner brushing my skin? Can I feel warmth? Can I feel pleasure or even a micro expression of pleasure?
Becky: And there’s a homework which I give to my clients which I think would be brilliant for emotionally intense people. It’s called self-focus, but the part of it that I think would work really well is try this a couple of times a week as an embodied practice. You touch your body. With one hand, you touch the other hand. You could do it at the beginning without any genital or breast or chest contact, and once you’ve got used to it, include those parts of your body.
Becky: As you do, you’ll be thinking about what you can feel underneath your fingers? You might think, “Oh, that bit feels smoother, and that bit feels hairier and this bit feels oilier.” But also what you can feel on the bit you’re touching. So, “Ooh, if I touch that it feels kind of ticklish. And on this part I want to press a little bit harder.”
Becky: And what you’re doing is training the mind to stay with the sensation as well as noticing those micro expressions of pleasure, so when you are in a sexual situation and your mind wanders, you can think, “Oh, there is something pleasurable that’s going on.”
Becky: I also think that emotionally intense people might be preoccupied with wanting to please the other person. So instead of them getting their own needs met, they are thinking, “What’s my partner wanting? Is my partner enjoying this? What’s going on for them?” And although that is honorable and lovely, when we’re in a sexual situation, we really want the onus to be on themselves.
Imi: Yeah, this is what we have discussed when I was on your podcast, isn’t it? The hyper empathy-
Becky: Yeah, I think it’s so important.
Imi: … that turns up there. Yeah.
Becky: Yeah, because you can still give from a place of integrity, a place of you enjoying it as well. And if you do that, your partner’s probably going to enjoy it more, because you’re going to pick up and feed off each other’s energy. So trying to stay centered, trying to stay in your own body, your own mind, and just tune into the sensations. And your mind will wander and that’s okay, just bring it back.
Imi: That’s really good. Have you successfully worked with people who become more fulfilled in their sex life with these tips?
Becky: Definitely. So this is only one part that I would do with my clients, but this is such a huge part. And it’s definitely something that I would suggest for anyone, anyone who’s listening. They can’t do any harm. For anyone, this is going to be helpful.
Imi: Good, that’s useful. Well, we don’t have that much time, but I still want to touch on more space of the spectrum. We’ve touched on polyamory before. The question is, is the preference for monogamy or polyamory inborn or innate? Or is it more a cultural thing? Is it nature or nurture? Do you have the answer?
Becky: So, monogamy is definitely nurture, because there’s so much research that shows actually we shouldn’t be monogamous beings and we weren’t. It came from agriculture and it came from getting married to we could keep the farmland.
Imi: I think some people are arguing against those, too. But go on, I want to hear what you think.
Becky: And if we think of modern day, so let’s forget about the farming, but we think about what’s happening now. Yes, it is changing a little bit. There is a little bit of consensual monogamy and polyamory being shown in the media but it’s very minimal and it’s very specific to one type of relationship.
Becky: It is what is all around us. Many of us didn’t grow you knowing that there was any other option. So of course, that nurture is going to have a big influence because what, is there something else we can do? We don’t have to go on what we call the relationship escalator? Which is meet someone and move in, buy a dog, get married, have children and crawling away up this escalator.
Becky: Now, it’s changing a bit because, well in the cities and in populations where there’s more open mindedness, and when people are seeing that other people are doing these things, I think it’s giving them permission to also explore what they want from a relationship as well.
Imi: Yeah, it’s really interesting. I don’t know if it’s because of the high needs of the spectrum of needs. I do see a lot of intense people who are very loving but are considering opening up the relationship because they feel that their needs are not met by one person.
Becky: Yeah. And I think that’s exactly right. Esther Perel talks about how a whole city used to, or a whole village used to help raise a family. So you’d have the grandma looking after the child, and you’d have the sister helping with the housework and you’d have all these people joining in and helping and now we look at our partners to do all of that.
Becky: So they are the accountant, they are the partner, they are the babysitter, they are the cleaner, and we’re all trying to fulfill all of these parts, and it never used to be like that. It is probably one of the reasons why a lot of us are experiencing chronic fatigue and burnout because we’re trying to do all of these things. That’s why polyamory can work so well, because you can get one thing… If one person likes going to museums… My husband loves going to museums. I really don’t like them. I find them really… Unless it’s to do with sex or cats, I find it really dull.
Becky: So we are not polyamorous, but if we were, and maybe one day we will be, who knows, he could go to museums with someone else, and he would love that. And yeah, he can go with friends, for sure. But it is about getting those needs met, because not one person’s going to be able to do that for you. So again, it comes down to compromise. Are you happy not to go to museums with someone you’re romantically involved with, or is that something in which you really want in your relationship?
BDSM AND KINK
Imi: I hear that. I do note that some people find that after they opened up their relationships, they are able to find deeper intimacy and I do know that’s people in… We’re probably not going to talk about kink today, but people in the kink world who engage in BDSM or in the world of polyamory, they find that good communications so essential. So actually people are better communicators in those worlds, because they have to.
Imi: And because they’re better communicators, there is more emotional intimacy and they enjoy it more.
Becky: Yeah, because I think in, especially cis heterosexual relationships, especially in England, you can tell me about where you’re from as well, I don’t know, but especially in England, it’s like, “We’re not going to talk about sex. It’s something in which we do, and it’s over and done with. We don’t talk about it. We don’t give any direction.” And that is the problem, because there’s no communication.
Becky: When if we’re going to open our relationship, we have to. We have to talk about what we’re happy with, boundaries, consent. We have to talk about, evolve all of this together. So I think-
Imi: I know that in BDSM, sometimes people need to sign a contract.
Becky: Exactly, yeah. Or a verbal contract. And there are safe words, and there are discussions of what might you be happy with in the time, or what can I check in with you? And that allows for better connection, better love, better sex, everything. And I think also, if we’re talking about opening up an original relationship and the original relationship having better sex, it also comes down to something in which they call mate guarding.
Becky: So mate guarding is like a subconscious feeling that you might get. I’ll explain it in this way. If you go to a bar with your partner and you see someone looking at your partner, giving them the eyes. In that moment, you see your partner through that person’s eyes and you think, “Wow, I forgot. You are really good looking.” I now see through that person’s eyes. And what that can do, as well as invoking a little bit of jealousy, it can also invoke this thing called mate guarding, where you want to guard your mate.
Becky: I think that probably comes back to, “Okay, well I’m going to have sex with them to keep them mine,” back in the day. But it allows a sexual arousal and its desire because you’re seeing your partner as a person separate to yourself.
Imi: Yeah, I hear you. Oh, my God. There are so many questions I want to ask. A common myth, I believe it’s a myth, is that, “Oh, aren’t poly people just afraid of commitment? Aren’t people engaged in BDSM, just psychologically damaged?” Which the later, at least, I know the research had said that it’s not the case.
Becky: Hmm. I think the opposite is true for polyamory, for sure, because if you think about polyamory, what it is, is multiple romantic relationships. So if anything, they are more committed than the rest of us. And consensual monogamy as well, if you’re having sex with other people but still have a partnership, you’re still in that partnership. You’re still maintaining it and still putting the work in.
Becky: So I get why people who are not so knowledgeable about these topics might assume that, but it is definitely not the case. And with BDSM, it’s not the case either. I think with BDSM and kink, well, let’s talk about BDSM. So, it’s people again, are trying to get their needs met.
Imi: Audience might be asking what is… I assume most wouldn’t, but some may be asking what’s BDSM. We’re not going to go into lots of detail because I think that would be an episode in itself. But since we are on it, why don’t we say a bit more about it?
Becky: So BDSM is quite varied. It’s bondage and discipline, domination and submission and then sadism and masochism. Now, what that means is, it could involve something like tying someone up, using handcuffs, it could involve someone instructing, the other person what to do. I’m trying to explain this in bite-sized terms, obviously there’s a huge wealth of information underneath there.
Imi: There is, yeah.
Becky: And also whipping or spanking someone. Or, being spanked yourself.
Becky: Yeah, so a lot of it is involved with physical contact, but a lot of it is also involved psychological, power play, or humiliation play, which again, if you do not know much about the subject, I understand why you might jump to conclusions about why that’s negative. But if we think about it in this way, if you are a business person and you spend your whole life, maybe you’re a big CEO of a big company and you’re in charge of everyone, in your sex life, you might crave the opposite.
Becky: So you might crave being told what to do. You might crave being free and vulnerable, because maybe that’s the only space you can be that person. So you might want to be the submissive person. You might want to be tied down. You might want to be spanked, because again, you’re getting that need met from that act of sex.
Imi: So that’s one of the releases people make as. What other release may people get from engaging in BDSM sex acts?
Becky: Yeah, so if we think about humiliation play, which sounds not very nice-
Imi: And I do think people need to learn about the differentiation between that and real abuse.
Becky: Yes. So the idea behind this one aspect of humiliation play I’m going to talk about is so, say there’s something that has really upset you in the past and then someone is repeating it back to you. You tell them what it is. This person, you have this agreement, the other person’s repeating it back to you. At some point, your emotional connection to those words is going to disperse and you can reclaim the words back for yourself.
Becky: So say it is, “You’re rubbish.” And you’ve been told you’re rubbish all your life, and with this person saying it to you, and saying it to you, or you telling them, when to say it to you, you can take back the power of, “I’m rubbish doesn’t mean what it used to mean anymore. I do not have that emotional connection to it.” So it’s done in a safe way with people who are in it for your benefit, are in it to either make you feel sexual, make you feel eroticized or to help you. They do that in a kind of therapeutic way.
Becky: That is very different from abuse, although I do need to say, in England, exploring BDSM physically, is illegal.
Becky: Yeah, because-
Imi: I did not know that.
Becky: People have been prosecuted in the past, but let’s talk about, I don’t know, it depends. If you’re spanking someone, I’m sure nothing’s going to happen. But if you are using needles, for example, which some really get a lot of enjoyment out, I’m sure again, nothing would happen. But some people have been prosecuted for it in the past.
Imi: I mean choking is known to be quite dangerous.
Becky: Choking can be very dangerous, so that does not mean I think it’s bad. The law and ethics are very different when it comes to-
Imi: I’m sure there are underground communities.
Becky: Oh, definitely. I just needed to put that out there. But abuse is where you are not wanting it to be… You’re wanting to inflict pain and you’re wanting it to be a negative experience for the other person. But in BDSM, you’re wanting that person to get pleasure and eroticism from that. So that is the difference.
Becky: Yeah, I know.
Imi: Learned a lot.
Becky: I learned that when I was studying sex therapy and I was absolutely gob smacked. Hopefully it will change, but these laws take a while. They’re not going into people’s bedrooms and penalizing people for this stuff.
Imi: Yeah, well I suppose it would make it hard to have parties or things like that.
Becky: Exactly, yeah. It’s very unusual for anyone to be prosecuted for anything. Very, very unusual, but it has happened.
BEING MISUNDERSTOOD OR TRAUMATISED IN THERAPY
Imi: Well, we need to wrap up, but I think the last thing I’m going to ask you some, I suppose someone who hears this and maybe it’s the first time they hear about certain things and they really want to explore it further, I would imagine people may have been damaged by close-minded therapists or coaches, actually. They might have gone to some psychologist or someone and then they regarded them as sick or abnormal and shamed them.
Imi: Do you agree this has happened? I’m assuming it does.
Becky: It definitely happens, unfortunately. Really unfortunately. I hope it’s going to happen less and less and I would say if you are finding a therapist, just make sure that they seem knowledgeable on this stuff. That they include kink and polyamory aware and LGBTQ+ knowledgeable-
Imi: Because I think people who don’t know will just go to and I don’t want to [inaudible 00:50:23] at therapists, but someone who doesn’t specialize. Honestly, if they come to me, I wouldn’t have as much knowledge as you do. I may have to refer them… If this is the main and only thing they want to work on, I may not be the best person.
Becky: Yeah, I think also with therapists who don’t understand this stuff as much, they can make the therapy about this. So maybe someone’s coming for anxiety, but they’re polyamorous and the therapist who doesn’t understand polyamory, might make it all about them being polyamorous when that’s not the issue.
Imi: That’s a really good point. That’s a really good point, isn’t it? Or, “That must be why you’re sick. That must be why you’re depressed. That must be…”
Becky: Yeah, exactly. “And as I well know, actually that makes me really fulfilled and I love that part of my life.” So that could also happen, or people can be shamed for their choices. So I think if you feel like either of those things are happening, stop seeing the therapist. There are many therapists out there, and try someone else.
Becky: Yeah, I just want to say, there’s nothing wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with you. Everything is very normal.
Imi: Yeah. Good. Well, I think that’s all my questions. Are there any things you would want to add or actually say to people who are intense and sensitive and wondering how they can have a happier and more fulfilling sex and romantic life?
Becky: Yeah. So I think just the word breathe is coming to me. I think I do a lot of breathing. So just breathe and bring the awareness back on yourself sexually. Tune into yourself, prioritize yourself and just know that you are not too much. You are amazing, actually.
Imi: Thank you. I think myself and all the audience have received that.
Becky: I hope so, and myself, too. Maybe one day.
Imi: Thank you so much for coming on. It’s absolutely a delight to have you.
Becky: You’re so welcome. It’s such a pleasure.
Imi: Thank you, Becky. I’m sure our paths will cross again.
Becky: Yay, I hope so.
Imi Lo is a consultant and published author with extensive and international experience in mental health and psychotherapy. Her books Emotional Sensitivity and Intensity and The Gift of Intensity are available worldwide and in multiple languages. Imi has two Master’s degrees; one in Mental Health and one in Buddhist Studies. She works holistically, combining psychological insights with Eastern and Western philosophies such as Buddhism and Stoicism.