Mike Lousada is the Jesus of sex. After chatting to him for twenty minutes, I thought about abandoning everything and spending the rest of my life following him around wearing bad sandals and telling everyone I met that they should shag happily and joyfully in his name. He kindly and firmly told me that he’d prefer it if I just wrote about what he did, instead.
Mike is a sex therapist who specialises in Psychosexual Somatics. He understands that your mind plays as big a role as your body, when it comes to having great sex. He’s a sex positivity warrior. Collectively, we talk about sex a lot, but it’s rarely good. We worry about rape, promiscuity and disease. Women who talk about sex are “slutty” and we get frightened about men - and when it’s in the media, it’s always men - watching too much porn. For too long, women have been shamed for taking control of their own sexual destinies. Sex is the currency we swap for security, and if we give too much of it away, there will be some kind of terrible erotic stock market crash. Mike knows that our dysfunctional sexual politics are creating problems, and he’s here to fix them.
He’s featured in Naomi Woolf’s book, Vagina, and he’s the world’s first state approved sex coach (he’s accredited by the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco). And he’s on the brink of changing the way we feel about sex, our bodies and eventually, the world.
What inspired you to become a sex coach?
I came from a place of my own sexual shame, my own body shame, my own dysfunctional sexual relationships. When I started to heal myself, I could see how widespread it was. I could empathise with people who were in similar situations.
Where does sexual shame come from?
It comes from lots of places - family systems, social input, teachers, religious backgrounds, authority figures and institutions. We don’t have a very sex positive view in this country and that’s sad. If we had a healthier relationship with our sexuality, we’d have a less violent society.
There’s a myth that men get more out of sex than women do...
This is part of the internalised patriarchy that women suffer under. When women stand up for their right to have good sex and good relationships, men will take note. But they need to invite women to step up and make the men do it.
The idea that sex isn’t for “nice girls” is a very modern myth. A couple of hundred years ago, women were thought to have a higher sex drive. It was believed for some time that women needed to have an orgasm if they’re going to have children. But women’s sexual pleasure has been denigrated. I believe women have more sexual power than men. Men tend to come to their hearts through sex and women sometimes come to sex through their hearts, and there needs to be a balance. We all have both masculine and feminine energies and it’s about creating a balance.
You’re in Naomi Wolf’s book. Has that exposure made you busier than ever before?
I’ve been crazily busy for a while, but it has brought my name to more prospective clients. I’m interested to see how the book has been written about in the media. Lots of the negative reviews have been written by women. There’s a call to women to no longer tolerate mediocre relationships and mediocre sex, and I think that idea is quite frightening. But I think that Naomi’s book is part of a wave of an evolution of consciousness of the evolution of women’s empowerment. You can’t ignore the 50 Shades of Grey effect - whatever it’s literary merits, you can’t ignore that it’s allowing women to have fantasies, just like Nancy Friday did.
I believe we’re in a second wave of sexual revolution - men and women who are a little bit older and wiser. It doesn’t have the frenetic teenage energy, but it’s still very powerful.
Do you have any instant tips to help people become more comfortable in their own bodies quickly?
Lots of things help. Breathing deeply into your abdomen helps - you can do it when you’re sitting on the tube. Most people are totally disconnected from their bodies during a lot of the day. Or do your pelvic floor exercises when you’re waiting for the bus. You can do all sorts of things that strengthen your sexual response as part of your normal routine.
Can we talk about masturbation?
Well, back to 50 Shades - I think lots of women have been inspired to fantasise. The word ‘masturbation’ is loaded, so I prefer to use the expression “self pleasuring” - but the more women do it, the more comfortable they will be in their bodies and the more they will experience sexual pleasure. It’s a journey into their body.
What are your feelings about porn? I think we demonise it - is that a disproportionate response, or a necessary one?
I think it polarises people. Porn can have a place in someone’s sexual connection with themselves and with a partner, but heavy use of porn has already been shown to have a negative effect on users. It rewires their neural pathways. People start having a relationship with porn and not with people. When it’s being used to avoid intimacy, it’s detrimental. People get used to a certain level of stimulation and it desensitises them. It’s like a drug. It has numbing effect on the body.
If we’re all sexually maturing and evolving, will porn evolve too?
It’s not about making porn right or wrong but having a healthy integration of what has come before and what we have now. I’d like to see more porn made by and for women. If you watch the movies of Candida Royale, that’s got a very different energy to it than any male made porn. Something that shows more of a sense of balance, emotional connection, where the camera is focusing. It’s interesting that straight porn is so focused on male genitals. It’s kind of homoerotic.
I suppose that when you watch a film, you’re identifying with the main character, so when porn is made for men, it makes sense. I think that women would watch more porn if the ladies on screen ditched the plastic shoes and nylons for some Rigby and Peller knickers...
...I think you should start making fashion porn
Maybe I will! I’d like to know what you think about sex and long term relationships - typically, you have sex all the time for the first year or so, but eventually the novelty wears off. How can you stay sexually close with your partner for a long period of time?
We need to understand that love and desire are two separate things. Love is about closeness, desire is about separateness. When you’re always together, you lose the polarised attraction that great sex requires - like magnets being together and losing their charge. Perceived obstacle also creates erotic charge. If you think there’s an obstacle preventing you from reaching the person you’re attracted to - well, that’s why people pursue unavailable partners, or why it’s more attractive when your partner goes out of town for a week and they come home and you want to tear their clothes off..
I suppose that’s why couples flounder when they retire.
Yeah! It’s got less to do with menopause and more to do with availability. Risk helps as well - I met one couple who would go and ask to see hotel rooms, pretending they were coming for a conference and they’d like five minutes in the room to check it out. They’d have a quickie, and then come out and straighten themselves up! It’s important to have trysts - love meets. The mundanity of everyday life creates boredom.
It can be hard to balance your sexual identity with your family identity. As a professional sex therapist, how do you do that with your family?
My daughter, who’s 18, has got over her embarrassment and she’s really supportive. We have some really good, appropriately adult conversations about it!
Are there any client results that you have been particularly proud of?
There are lots. The client who was on this morning with me lived a sexless life for 30 years and is rediscovering her sexuality. One client confided that she’d had fantasies about women. We did lots of talk work, and one body work session and after the body work session she said “I want to thank you so much! I’ve realised I’m a lesbian!” She’s in a relationship with other women - it made me so happy, because this work isn’t heteronormative. I just want people to integrate their sexuality into their lives and enjoy it. Sex is really, really important, and we need to talk about it as seriously as we talk about politics and the environment. Because if we don’t, we’ll continually have a sexually dysfunctional society.
But sex can be hilarious!
It can! it’s meant to be fun! Enjoy your body! The better relationship you have with your body, the more you’ll enjoy it. Have a sense of humour. If you fall over backwards trying to execute some kind of trick maneuver - it’s about having a laugh with it.
And you’re so vulnerable when you’re having sex that you’re building closeness when you reveal you’re not perfect...
Yes! There’s a neuroscientist whose name I can’t remember who identified seven things necessary for positive neural growth. And all seven of those criteria are readily found in healthy sexual experiences. Good sex is helping your brain involve. When you have a heightened sexual intimacy with someone, it operates at all different levels. It’s really important and really exciting that we’re living on the crest of this wave. I feel so blessed to be in this - what’s happening in this movement.
What’s the most common misconception that men have about women?
Men need to understand that women typically take longer to get aroused - it’s said that man is like a fire. You light a match, and it goes out quickly. Women are like water. Once they come to the boil, they can go and go and go. Women have an endless stream of sexual energy.