|The Body Electric for Couples|
My partner and I had just moved back to the US after 8 years in Europe and we were missing our French friends. It is harder to make friends in New York City than almost any place I know. We read about a "couples" workshop given by the Body Electric. Rich had enjoyed a Body Electric workshop that he had gone to several years ago, and this one had the appeal that it was for couples only. In the normal workshops, everyone takes turns massaging each other and I am not comfortable being touched by strangers. Frequently when I have paid for a massage I am more tense when it is over than when it began. Other times I am reduced to a pleasant jelly-like state; I haven't figured out what makes the difference. The flyer for the couples workshop indicated that it would be partner with partner only and that the erotic and sensual massage techniques would be taught with couples in mind.
We signed up thinking that we would meet other couples who were looking for friendships and were sexually adventurous, or, at the least, comfortable enough with their sexuality to take their clothes off and play in front of others.
It was a two-day workshop in a dance space on 14th Street in Manhattan. We hiked up the stairs and up and up and up. There were 11 or 12 couples and three instructors. Everything was clearly explained and laid out, the schedule, a few rules, the philosophy and the hoped for goals. The lead instructor was very open that this was a new type of workshop and that no one at Body Electric had ever given a "couples only" workshop before. He began with some breathing exercises and some spiritual exercises and then we gathered into groups and took turns undressing each other. It was pleasant to be undressed, perhaps because I was with my partner and not entirely surrounded by strangers. By the time we were all nude everyone was smiling.
Because of the sensual-erotic nature of the workshop, I think we were all very aware of the genitals of the men around us. It may have been enhanced by the rule of no touching anyone besides your partner. I had a small epiphany when I saw one of the guys I had spoken to in the earlier spiritual session. Still clothed, we had formed two circles, one inside the other, partners facing each other. With each stage of the exercise, we had moved one position farther around the circle until we came to our partner again. In each of these stages, the instructor would call out a question or statement and each of us would have to reveal something personal to the complete stranger opposite. It was easier than it sounds. The guy I mentioned earlier told me that he and his partner were having a problem because he wanted to fuck his partner in the ass and he wasn't getting any cooperation. The epiphany came when I saw him naked. He was hung like a pony and studded with a huge Prince Albert. This was the first indication that not everyone was attending the workshop for the same reasons as we were.
We did some more group exercises to get over the sensation of being naked and then put our clothes back on and went out for lunch. We stood in line with two other couples and sat down together to talk about where we were from, etc. It was easier than usual to open up and talk because, of course, we had already seen each other naked (although I couldn't remember what anyone looked like naked once they had their clothes on again).
The next part of the workshop was hands on. Two of the instructors demonstrated erotic manipulation techniques. The idea was to get your partner hard and excited, but not to make him come. The instructors had clever names for different actions: waking up the neighborhood, twist and shout, knucklehead, and other things that I have forgotten. Their idea was to avoid the simple back and forth stroke that leads to ejaculation in favor of things that tantalize and provide no relief. If we felt like we were going to come, we were supposed to whisper to our partner to stop playing with our cocks and work on other body parts. To make it more intimate, we sat together one behind the other so that the active partner could reach around the passive partner and work on him while embracing him. And we lined up in two rows facing each other. It was sensual and erotic to have Rich wrapping himself around me and stroking me, but to be watching couples on either side and across from me at the same time was pure arousal. It wasn't so much that anyone was particularly well hung (aside from the guy that I mentioned already), but that the guys were really into playing with their partners this way. I never got close to coming, but I enjoyed every minute of it. The one thing that I had to suppress was the temptation to reciprocate while I was supposed to be passive. I had almost as much fun when I was the active one and Rich was putty in my hands. We wiped the coconut oil off and dressed and went home. There had been a suggestion for a communal dinner, but the couples from out of town had plans for the evening and the ones who lived in the city just went home.
The next day started similarly. There were some spiritual exercises in which we talked about our relationships with our fathers and with other men. We did some deep breathing and anoxia to induce euphoria. I found the spiritual, new age stuff to be a little hard to swallow, but some of the guys were really into it, so I kept my mouth shut. When Rich described his experience to me later, it sounded as though we had been at different workshops (and we had been standing next to one another most of the time). The big event of the second day was the erotic massage training. I volunteered to massage Rich first because I didn't want to get massaged and then go to lunch covered with coconut oil. I would rather stay out of the sun than put on sunscreen, so coconut oil was not a pleasant thought. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the whole erotic massage thing. Part of the pleasure is having your partner be so passive under your hands. I massaged him for an hour and a half, on both sides, with cornstarch and then with coconut oil. The instructors played energetic, but soothing music and walked around to coach us on massage techniques. They offered suggestions and occasionally participated in the massage. It was physical exercise, but that was fun. I felt both energized and fatigued at the end of it. At lunch we ate with the same two couples as we had the day before. To my surprise, the conversation over lunch was even more open. Both couples started to talk about their sexual problems and how it was affecting their relationships. They had enrolled in the workshop to try to inject some life into their sex lives together. Two other couples that we talked to later in the day also indicated that they were trying to hold their relationship together as their sexual interest in each other was fading. So much for finding like-minded couples for us to pal around with. Our security in our own relationship was a source of envy and disruption for some of these couples.
After lunch, we undressed again and I took my place on the massage table. I could see the active guys on either side of me out of the corners of my eyes, but I couldn't see their partners lying on the tables. I lay on my stomach and felt Rich sprinkling cornstarch on my back and legs and then rubbing it around. It was a nice sensation, very soothing. The cornstarch is almost frictionless even under pressure. After the cornstarch he rolled me over and poured coconut oil all over my chest and stomach and legs. It was slippery at first and his hands glided over my skin, but after a few minutes it began to be a little sticky. The pleasant sensation of his hands sliding over my body changed to the unpleasant sensation similar to a band-aid being pulled off slowly. More oil just made it worse. I never achieved anything close to erotic and sensual; it was worse than putting on sunscreen. Finally, I grabbed his hands and whispered that I didn't want him to rub me anymore. He stood over me holding my hands while we waited for the 90 minutes to end. I wanted to get up and go home and take a shower, but I didn't want to disrupt the workshop by leaving in the middle without explanation, and I didn't want to have to explain why I wasn't enjoying it. Other guys were groaning and moaning and I think at least one guy forgot to tell his partner to stop before he came. I felt like I was a failure. Rich was worried that it was his fault. The strength of our relationship is that we have been able to talk to one another about almost anything; when we were in the workshop, we were not able to talk about anything (because it was a non-verbal exercise).
We finished the workshop with the rest of the couples. Most of them expressed satisfaction with the new lease on sexuality that they had encountered during the weekend. I hoped it worked out for them. Despite trying to maintain contact with the guys that we talked to, we have only seen two of the other couples again since then.
I'd like to try the massage again, but without the coconut oil. I do better with water-based products, so maybe something like hair conditioner or KY mixed with water would work for me. And perhaps it would be better for us to go as a couple to a regular workshop rather than to a couples workshop the next time.