Psychologies: Women still find it difficult to talk about sex. We feel the need either to turn it into a joke or just keep it to ourselves. How do you make women feel comfortable and confident enough to ask questions in your classes?
Midori: There’s an instant bonding process that happens when you have a room full of intelligent, professional women, who are all interested in improving intimacy with their partner as well as their own sexual pleasure. It makes women feel less anxious when they realise so many other women have the same hang-ups and questions as they do. We can get information from books, DVDs and the internet, but without someone to relate to we might be left feeling even more inadequate.
Do you think your degree in psychology influences your work as a sex educator?
Having a psychology background helps in dealing with different personalities and complexes. I try to provide a trusting environment where we can share our sex bloopers and relax enough to learn and develop. My classes in London are full of discerning women. To break the ice I start by saying, ‘I’m an American, so why don’t you tell me all the naughty words you use here to describe a penis?’ This helps me to establish an emotional relationship with the class, so that they know nothing they say will offend me. And by reducing the likelihood of judgement everyone feels much more comfortable asking questions.
Which myths do you dispel?
I try to reduce the mystery of men. We have a habit of speculating about what men really want — complicated moves, props — and we forget that they’re so easily pleased. There is no mystical, magical technique that will work. I offer an assortment of things that people can try and encourage them to experiment with afterwards. If someone is in a long-term relationship, for example, it can be terrifying and embarrassing suddenly to suggest trying something new. Self-doubt can paralyse us into thinking, ‘What if I try this new trick and my partner doesn’t like it?’ The beauty of my class is that it means women can abdicate responsibility for the things they try — they can lay the blame on me instead. A partner will be much more comfortable with telling you they don’t like something if they know you’re merely experimenting with some techniques you’ve learned in a class.
What do women get out of this class if it’s based on thrilling their partner?
The class helps women feel more confident, sexy and comfortable. We will talk about positions that make the woman look and feel beautiful and desirable. For example, the standard blow job position involves the woman being on her knees in front of the guy. But if you’re kneeling right up against his feet then all he can see is the top of your head. However, if you scoot your knees back away from him, then he can see the graceful line of your back. This position also makes your waist and bottom look smaller and your legs longer. If we’re talking about comfort, another good position is lying across the bed with your head thrown back while he stands over you. It means you’re comfortable, you look beautiful and, because your body is facing him, it allows him to pleasure you. Part of the pleasure is also the sexual confidence you will gain by knowing that you’re looking great and turning him on.
There’s a feminist argument that classes on the perfect blow job are not about sexual liberation but are actually a new kind of slavery.
It depends on whether there is an equivalent class for the gentlemen. At erotic boutique Coco de Mer I also present the class How To Eat A Peach: Pleasuring Her, and it’s always over-subscribed. When I first started presenting this class, men were thin on the ground, but slowly the women who had come to my classes started sending along their boyfriends and husbands, because I’d earned their trust — and improved their sex life. I don’t think there’s anything disempowering at all about wanting to enrich your sex life on all levels.
Do you think there’s more pressure today to be good in bed than there was 20 years ago?
There’s more pressure to be good at everything now. You’re supposed to be business-savvy, clever at economising, you’re expected to dress well and maintain your figure, and you’re expected to be the perfect parent and a sexual goddess. It’s not realistic and I think part of the charm of my class is that I’ve based it on realism. What do you do if you’re with a new partner and you make that funny sound in the middle of sex? What do you do when your five-year-old knocks on the door at exactly the wrong moment? I don’t present a glossed-over, airbrushed image of perfect sex. I’m being a realist and I’m talking about pleasure and intimacy in our fabulously joyous, imperfect lives.
How would you define sexual liberation?
It means getting closer to being comfortable with your authentic self. So if someone chooses to be celibate until they’re in a long-term, monogamous relationship then liberation should allow them to admit that openly. And the same person should be able to turn to her best friend, who loves to have multiple partners, and say to her, ‘Well that’s nice. How was your weekend?’