How I Learned to Cum
Photo by Ramon Christian
“How would you like me to refer to your genitals?”
“Cock? I guess?” Penis felt clinical, dick felt crass.
I was seated beside sex and intimacy consultant Court Vox in his West Hollywood apartment, about to begin my 4-hour “embodiment session.”
For context: I’m no stranger to therapy. I’ve long been searching for a professional to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with me. Why can’t I seem to get over my ex? Why do my palms sweat the moment I enter a retail space? Why am I finding it harder to cum?
Specifically, when it came to the bedroom, I’ve been feeling increasingly off lately. I was finding it difficult to get out of my head during hookups, analyzing every moment for possible signs of disinterest from my partners (are they enjoying this? am I doing something wrong?), leaving virtually no headspace for pleasure.
Quarantine, of course, didn’t help matters. No longer locking eyes with a potential lover in a bar or, better yet, dark room (RIP), I’m instead home, alone with my neuroses, forced to be intentional and proactive about every sexual encounter (ugh). The fancy prostate stimulator I invested in early-quara was just collecting dust in my bedside drawer (too much work) and most days I skipped masturbating altogether.
Though I consider myself a bottom, I’ve been shying away from bottoming, instead preferring quick, oral scenarios (blow ‘n’ go’s, to use the Grindr parlance) over anything more sustained. And, more often than not, I’ve been brushing my partners’ hands away, saying “it’s fine” and pulling up my underwear to leave without climaxing.
I suspected my antidepressant (shoutout to my girl Lexapro) and 2020 being the least-sexy-year-of-all-time had something to do with it, but I also felt something psychologically deeper was awry. This behavior didn’t feel self-actualized and I wanted to get to the bottom of it (no pun intended).
I tried talking with my regular shrink about these issues but his eyes always seemed to glaze over (or, worse, was he getting... aroused?). Either way, he was useless to me in this department. Talk can only get you so far. So I began searching for an expert, i.e. a sex therapist.
Which brings me to Court Vox. I found him on Instagram of all places, @courtvox, where he identifies as a “sex and intimacy consultant” offering “body-based learning” through immersion retreats at his studio in West Hollywood. His website explains, “My work is designed to nurture, deepen and/or awaken the sensual self.” I was sold.
On the day of my session, Court opened the door to his studio and almost immediately got to work. “Close your eyes and imagine you’re wearing a backpack. Fill it with everything you came here with today: your work stress, your home life, maybe your nerves about this session. Take a deep breath and feel the weight of it all.” I did; it was heavy. “Now take it off.”
With that, he reached for a long rope and my heart started to race. We’re doing rope stuff already? He explained that this rope, tied in a circle, signified our boundaries and trust. We invited various intentions into the space—curiosity, playfulness, eroticism—before he instructed me to stand inside the circle with him and lean backwards, putting my full weight into the rope (trust fall vibes).
At this point I felt like I had stumbled into a college drama class. Intellectually I could guess what he was aiming for with these exercises, but I’m not someone who is typically moved by spiritual, hippy-dippy type stuff. I get it, we have to establish trust, but my anxiety was forcing me to anticipate when exactly the body-based learning would begin.
“Have you ever had your feet washed before?”
“Never,” I laughed. He ushered me to the couch and told me to close my eyes and just focus on the sensation. If my mind started to wander, I was simply to bring it back to the physical feeling in my feet. I tried to relax as he massaged my feet in a way that can only be described as sensual. But my mind was racing, judging the strangeness of this gesture, then judging my judgement of it (I’m exhausting even myself here).
Afterwards, he sat beside me and asked how it felt. “Amazing!” I said, and thanked him. He looked deep into my eyes, waiting.
Fine, I admitted it made me a little uneasy. “I think I don’t feel comfortable receiving things. Like I start to worry about what I’ll have to do in return or I feel an expectation to perform pleasure and then that takes me out of the moment?”
I thought about it some more. “Maybe I don’t feel worthy?”
And there it was. It sounds textbook (and dramatic) in retrospect, but in the moment this was a revelation to me. He’d unlocked one of my subconscious roadblocks, through a foot rub. This guy was good.
We’d found the focus of our session: cultivating worth. Court explained that this is a very common issue for clients. We get stuck in patterns of giving, oftentimes to deflect from ourselves, and we lose sight of who/what all that giving is actually for.
We returned to the couch to communicate our “agreements” before the final portion which he called: body work. Bingo. He explained the next hour or so was all about me learning to receive pleasure.
Some ground rules
- “I am going to take care of myself. Trust that I will communicate what I need,” and vice versa (can all hookups begin with this incantation?).
- “Stay in the yellow,” push yourself to places you might not normally go.
- “Don’t yuck someone’s yum, and don’t yum someone’s yuck.” When your partner expresses a fantasy or desire, do your best to make them feel safe and understood in their vulnerability (even if you ultimately decline to engage).
With these agreements in place, Court asked if I preferred to have him undress me or to do so myself, in private. Fearing the intimacy of the former (sadly I can’t recall the last time even a lover has disrobed me), I decided to strip down myself, sprawling out on the massage table and waiting for him to return for the “active massage.” My instructions were to be vocal, ask for what I wanted, move my body in response to touch, and make noise when I felt like it. This wasn’t some rub ‘n’ tug at a cash-only Weho parlor—this was deeper. Together, we would cultivate a mindfulness of touch.
Out of respect for Court’s practice, I won’t delve too deeply into the secrets of body work. It’s a personal, intimate practice, and I wouldn’t want anyone to misconstrue real learning for some sort of perversion. I experienced a different kind of pleasure, one that I had to actively request, and I think I unlocked a suppressed part of me. Having to vocalize my desires empowered me with a sense of confidence I usually lack during hookups (no more mumbling, “I don’t know, what do you want me to do?”). Not to mention, I discovered I enjoy some light flogging (who knew!). After around 20 minutes, I decided to stop early, wanting to end on a high. I was trembling, light-headed, hungry. The duration of a full hour at such intensity frightened me, and Court understood, commending me for listening to my body.
He ran me a shower and when I returned to the living room I saw he had prepared me some fresh fruit and toast. We sat down to chat about what I had felt, to “integrate” the experience. With the big unknown behind us, my anxiety had almost completely evaporated, and it was as if I was talking with a close friend, a mentor even.
I did have one specific question for him, something that had been plaguing me for a while: why do I feel like I have to tense my legs straight in order to cum? It’s like I’m practically planking for an orgasm. Am I alone in this? He laughed, no. Apparently it’s quite common, and has something to do with our physiology: by tensing your legs you’re helping to push the blood flow to the groin area. He said I could try masturbating in different positions, effectively training myself out of the habit (“try jacking off with your feet above your head!”). I had a few more questions, to say the least, but this was only my first session, and I hoped I’d be back.
The old mental health adage of “you’d go to the doctor to fix your broken arm, why wouldn’t you go to a psychiatrist to fix your depression?” should extend to, “why wouldn’t you go to a sexpert to improve your sex life?” We’re conditioned to think sex comes naturally, and it does most times if we’re lucky, but life can twist us in ways that impede this innate pleasure. Sex therapists guide us back to the path of unbridled joy, back to the “big O.” The lessons I learned from Court were really broader philosophical truths.
The bedroom is a microcosm of our entire lives--strengthen your sex life, and that success can only ripple outward.
Before I left, Court had me write a postcard to myself, which he’d mail sometime in the future. Not quite sure how to condense the expanse of my feelings at the time, I quickly scribbled, “You’re a giver, and that’s good, but start taking a little more. And maybe try some light flogging. Love, yourself.”