Secrets of Desire

Article excerpt


ON A rainy Saturday afternoon I am lying on the floor of a conference room in a West London hotel, wrapped in an electric blue blanket, listening to the soothing tones of a hypnotherapist telling me to get in touch with my inner 'sexually-confident' self.

All around me, women of varying ages are trying to get in touch with their inner sexually-confident selves, too. But with the distinctive sound of bear-like snoring coming from one corner of the room, it seems that not everyone is managing it.

It is all slightly surreal, but then, learning how to enjoy great sex on a wet summer's day was always going to be slightly peculiar.

We have all signed up to a course by Australian mother-and-daughter psychotherapy team Beverley Anne and Georgia Foster whose new book The 4 Secrets Of Amazing Sex claims to have discovered the key to a healthy sex life.

The difference between their book and other sex manuals (apart from the lack of a bearded man doing unspeakable-looking things with his partner) is that theirs is all about the importance of the mind.

'Sex books, by and large, are about the mechanics of the physical act,' Georgia explains. 'Our book is all about what's going on in your head.' Their mission is 'fabulous sex' within a long-term relationship: the Holy Grail.

The youthful-looking Beverley Anne should know something: at 69, she has been married to her husband for 45 years and still has a healthy and satisfying sex life. Her 42-yearold daughter Georgia, meanwhile, is single, but says her many years as a psychotherapist specialising in sexual issues have given her a unique insight into how closely our emotional and sexual selves are entwined.

When sex breaks down, Georgia believes, it is an effect, rather than a cause of relationship disharmony.

'When there's a problem in the relationship, a man can still have sex, while a woman tends not to want to. She withdraws. Then they both end up blaming their lack of sex life for the fact that their relationship has broken down, whereas, in fact, there is always a problem preceding it. There is always a reason why the sex has stopped you just need to find the emotional trigger.' THE Fosters acknowledge their debt to previous pioneers in the field of human sexuality such as William Masters and Virginia Johnson, who identified the four stages of physical sex: arousal, plateau, orgasm and resolution.

More recently, Dr David Reed came up with a new model of desire. He identified four stages which emphasise the psychological aspects of human sexual response over the physical ones seduction, sensation, surrender and reflection. It is by exploring these four states of mind that the Fosters came up with their four 'secrets'.

Initially, it feels like stating the obvious. In an ideal world we all want to be seduced, we all want to have all our senses engaged with 'sensation'. After all that, we 'surrender', and after that we can lie back and reflect on how lovely (hopefully) it all was.

However, Georgia and Beverley Anne say my cynicism is precisely the point: most of the time our minds are engaged elsewhere during at least one of these four stages or, in the worst cases, all of them. Just neglecting one is enough. As Beverley Anne puts it: 'If any one of these stages is missing, then there will be a problem with sex.' The key, they say, is rethinking the way we see sex. …