Womenpreneurs : Sexuality and Intimacy coach, Irene Fehr.
In this intimate discussion sex intimacy coach Irene Fehr shares her views and wisdom on sexuality, feminism and the quest of female empowerment. She advocates for body awareness, which is key to building self-esteem. In this regard, she sees it as crucial that women integrate all of their wisdom, including the wisdom of the body, to make decisions about what is right for them. -. According to Irene, bodily autonomy constitutes the basis of creativity and problem solving, which in their turn, are values of great significance in the entrepreneurial journey. Having said that, Irene stresses the importance of recognising nuances in gender sexuality. To that end, she points out that men and women should not strive to be the same as each gender brings their amazing gifts to the world. Instead, women and men should get together to recognise and cherish each other’s contribution as “equally important, equally powerful, but different.”
Coachability Foundation: how would you describe your job to others?
Irene Fehr: This is actually a tough question. Most people don’t realise that sex and intimacy can be something that you can work on. The way I work with clients is that I teach skills. I teach intimacy skills. A lot of people just think that you’re either good at sex or not, you’re either good at relationships or not. Of course, we have instinctive ability to be sexual and to be in relationship — our survival depended on it. But having satisfying and nourishing sex? Or having satisfying relationships? We don’t learn from our communities or our societies that this is also something we can work on. I teach women to experience sex in a way that feels good to them, to their bodies, to their whole being. I help couples create a sex life that’s an expression of their love for each other. To make love and sex work in a long term relationship is something that is very challenging for many couples. With my work I provide tools and guidance with the purpose to restore intimacy and sex pleasure in their life.
CF: Do people find it easy to accept that? Are they comfortable requesting guidance and assistance in their sex life and intimate relationships?
IF: For most people this is still very challenging. In every cultural background and nationality, sex is in principle very private. Couples only talk about sex behind the closed doors of their bedroom. Most people avoid discussing and sharing what they want in sex and what their challenges are. Often this reluctance prevents them from seeking assistance and support. It’s all “oh no, i can’t talk about that”, kind of feeling.
CF: Do you observe that more often with women or men?
IF: It shows up differently in men and women, but it’s equally challenging for different reasons. For men it’s hard to admit that they don’t know something, that they are not really good at giving pleasure to a woman. Women for their part, take it personally like “I don’t know how to be feminine and I don’t know how to please my man”. Therefore, for men it is not knowing the way to do something, whereas for women it is a shame. Women assume they lack something. They believe they are not enough.
CF: What is your first advice to your female clients?
IF: It is not so much advice, it is rather a question of “what do YOU want?”. For most women, it is the first time in their life they are asked to answer that. Women are biologically wired to listen to what others want. In the stone age this was vital for their survival. Women were expected by society to take care of others (family, children, spouses) at the expense of their own needs. Women’s liberation and autonomy are relatively new in the world; it’s only been for less than a century that women have been able to vote, buy property and make financial decisions for themselves (and that’s only in some parts of the world). But the mentality that our needs and desires as women don’t matter still prevails — it’s part of our psyche. So, when I ask this question to women and have them consider it, it is truly revolutionary. It is like “wow I’ve never thought about that much. I’ve never been asked what I want”. Surprisingly enough this first thing that I point out to women in form of a question continues being an ongoing learning journey: How to put yourself first and how to know what you want and go for it.
CF: Why do you believe it is so difficult for women to make that choice for themselves?
IF: Like I said, a lot of it has to do with the way women are actually biologically and evolutionarily wired. Since the primitive times, women have been vulnerable to physical threat. Physiologically speaking, women are smaller and weaker (men have as much as 10 times as much testosterone as women). Women of course had lots of babies too, who needed care, so they relied on the protection of the village. The people of the village ensured women’s survival and their babies’ survival — and the woman needed to make sure that she fit into the village to ensure her own protection and that of the babies.
However, you mentioned a very important word: choice. Women nowadays do not live in a primitive society, where they depend on the village to protect them. This gives them the privilege of choice. They can choose how they are in regard to their body and that is really important. Women need to be explicitly often reminded that they have a choice. They do not need to live on that instinct anymore. Women can actually make choices and honour themselves. We can have a different way than the way we lived primitively.
CF: The way you explain the power of choice is like an advocacy of social liberation. You help people move beyond restrictions and inhibitions in sexuality. Feminists also view themselves as social liberators, helping people move beyond restrictions and inhibitions embedded in gender roles and stereotypes that are institutionalised in all aspects of society. Do you think there is an overlapping of aims so as one can claim there is a feminist empowerment in sex therapy?
IF: In my view, there is, absolutely. The focus of my sex coaching is sexual pleasure and specifically in a long-term relationship. I believe we are moving towards better understanding women sexuality when women are single. We find many more conversations about the orgasm gap and a lot more openness around sex and the single woman. But sexual pleasure in a long-term relationship is still something that no one is talking about. And this is where my passion is, and this is where female sexual pleasure is especially important. Many couples struggle with sex in a long-term relationship and in most of them it is the woman who loses her interest in sex. This is where we are not talking about important things. The reason that women lose interest in sex in a long-term relationship is that women’s sexual pleasure is not taken into account. Hence, in the long term the woman’s sexual pleasure disappears. There is no reason for her to want to have sex. If the woman is not satisfied in sex, the couple will not have sex. It starts to affect both equally in the relationship.
Back to this idea of overlapping roles (feminist, sex coach, therapist), my mission is to really change the discourse. To really talk about women’s pleasure. We cannot longer claim that it is the woman’s fault or that she is broken when sex is not working for couples. We need to approach the problem of women’s libido and sexual satisfaction in a long-term relationship as the couple’s problem. We need to look at what’s happening in the couple.
And this brings up big questions. How are we looking at sex to begin with? How do we understand women’s libido? What do women want and need to feel safe to have sex that they want? In society, we are still misunderstanding women’s libido. We think there is only one way to have sex, which is usually the man’s way of having sex. And that doesn’t work for women in the long term. I want to liberate women for having to feel like they are broken or responsible for the lack of sex in a relationship. Women need to stop privatising this issue. This isn’t her issue. This is the couple’s issue, and it is a societal issue. We need to look at what we are teaching women and men about women’s pleasure and libido because sex is there to satisfy both.