Blog: Alison Pilling

The founder of Sex School For Grown Ups writes about the importance of learning how to speak about intimacy without embarrassment

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The most important things are the hardest to talk about. Sex is one of those things – sex in the broader sense of connection and embodied pleasure.

At the beginning of a relationship the sex can be great, but naturally over time things change. When it’s all wonderful at the beginning and the attraction is high, it doesn’t matter that we don’t know how to talk about our uneasy feelings or ask for something different, as we’re slightly in awe. It can be hard admit we don’t like something or ask for something slower or more sensual as we might feel vulnerable, shy or scared. There’s a lot of performance anxiety involved with pleasing your lover, especially when you’re feeling self-conscious or unsure of your body.

Over time, and often quite quickly, we can see that things could be better and at this point we have a choice about whether to keep quiet or be brave enough to have a conversation about what’s going on for us.  Although we run the risk of upsetting someone, how do we have the words and the courage to broach the subject and talk about what feels important? Sex is so personal and our egos are a little fragile and it can trigger all sorts of insecurities and fears of rejection. And if we’ve been in a long relationship and the sex is becoming less frequent or non-existent it can become the elephant in the bedroom.

None of us have been to sex school and I’m pretty sure neither mainstream education nor porn are teaching us ways of relating that can be meaningful in terms of mutual support, relaxed discovery, embodied pleasure and easy communication. Frankly if sex is seen as akin to either car mechanics or household chores, we’re missing the potential of something a bit more pleasurably time-consuming, sensual, nurturing and erotic.

How do we get good information and find a way to approach sex that can feel natural, informed and confidence building? Ways that increase the connection rather than the distance in the bed?  How can we learn about intimacy, especially if we’ve not had many real good experiences?

It’s a chance to shine a light on the stuff we just don’t know, are embarrassed by or simply just curious about

Let’s agree that telepathy generally doesn’t work and that it’s unlikely that a knight in shining armour or an insatiable woman in PVC will show up and save the day. However, as the best lovers on the planet will tell you, good connection, sensuality and eroticism are skills like any other and can be learned.

Sex School For Grown Ups is a chance for people to learn about some of the things nobody dares talk about seriously. It’s a chance to shine a light on the stuff we just don’t know, are embarrassed by or simply just curious about. A space to understand more about what you need. It can help overcome shame, shyness and trauma, understand what boundaries are, and what consensual experiences could mean for you. It could teach you about relationships – whether you are in one or not – touch, consent and pleasure, how to date, how to move beyond fantasy, how to last longer in bed, how to touch beautifully, how to find a long-lost libido and how to notice and feel more. Ultimately how to recover the joys of love and desire.

I needed this stuff. Don’t we all?  My story is of repressed Catholic childhood, conventional relationships and the corporate world. I’d always sensed there was more to life than I was experiencing.  Six years ago, at 49, I stepped into a women’s sexuality course and life began to change. I trusted teachers to show me things I didn’t even know were missing. Some things resonated deeply, some were challenging.  Then I was invited to train as a sexological bodyworker with some of the leading sex educators in the world. While I confess it’s probably not the career with a pension my mother had hoped for me, I understand this work is badly needed in the world.

Of course sex school for grown-ups doesn’t have a pebble-dash grey building with classrooms and backboards. And it’s not like you can sign up for sexuality classes at a local yoga studio. At least not yet. But there is new wave of sexuality professionals like me – pioneers in a growing field, who can support you to learn at a school where the truancy rates are low and the homework’s compelling.

Alison Pilling is the founder of, which is hosting the Sex Lectures on  20 November and 6 December at the Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester

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