Undoing sexual inhibitions – Rolfing the pelvis and the penile area.
Rolfing is a system of deep muscular and tissue manipulation which is intended to bring balance and harmony to the body by undoing years of constriction that have caused particular patterns of muscular activity to develop. These patterns can be thought of as a defensive reaction to the adverse stimuli that are encountered in life, and they often mirror the storage of some repressed emotions in the brain.
For example, if patterns of bodily constriction represent a defense of some kind, then men may well have constriction around the testes: the very real fear of injury will cause a “pulling in”, both consciously and unconsciously.
In addition, there’s so much inhibition around the expression of sexuality that men tend to somehow express the non-verbal message “don’t touch me there” around their anus, penis and testicles.
The writing below describes briefly how one experienced Rolfer works with these areas in men to get the sexual and libidinal energy flowing again. These ideas are based on the work of R. Louis Schultz, as described in his book Out In The Open: The Complete Male Pelvis.
Undoing sexual inhibitions
So, if you think of your anus, how does it feel? Tight, clamped, like a tight-assed expression of how you feel about the world? That somehow you have to keep things out, and you’ll only release your hold on it when you feel like it? Or is it about keeping things in?
And when you walk, do you hold your pelvis stiff or do you let it rotate? Do you think that a twist to the pelvis, even a slight one, when you walk, is feminine?
Do you clamp your buttocks together, or hold your legs close together so your penis and testes are protected between them? Is your pelvis tilted upwards or downwards? That will mostly depend on how curved your back may be.
The likely answer to all these questions is that you probably don’t know. The way you use and hold your body is a fundamental part of how you present yourself to the world – in fact, it is you, in some sense. As such, you are unlikely to be very aware of what have become unconscious muscular habit patterns: but they may be strangling or restricting the expression of your sexuality.
Questions which might give you some insight into these issues include: Were you ever ridiculed for staining your underwear with natural bodily excretions as a child?
Was your sexuality invaded in some way? Were you taught that your sexuality had to be kept hidden? Was the sight of your genitals in your clothes commented upon?
Were you constantly told to stand up straight? Was nudity permitted, forbidden or encouraged in your family? Was sex accepted as a natural part of life, or was it strictly taboo?
And so on. I’m sure you get the idea: we respond to such implied non-acceptance (well, rejection, really) by adopting muscular patterns which try to counter the aspects of ourselves apparently unwanted by others.
In addition there are many sources of physical “wounds” which lead to defensive bodily patterns: the hurt of an insensitive touch on the testicles during babyhood when a boy’s diapers are changed; the pain of a penis being circumcised; the moving of a child’s hands away from his penis when he plays with it (a very natural thing to want to do!).
And more: the negative reaction of parents (usually the mother) when a boy urinates in the air while his diaper is removed and his penis uncovered; the traumas of toilet training; the parents’ reaction to the inevitable elimination “accidents” of childhood: all of these insults to the developing boy, and many more as well, no doubt, are somehow incorporated into his attitude to the world and his physical presentation later in life. They are, in fact, potentially deeply wounding messages about the acceptability – or otherwise – of his body. The potential here for the incorporation of shame into his sense of self about his body image is considerable. This could be a lover wound, in archetypal terms. This means that a boy receives some sense of his Lover energy not being acceptable. It means that his enjoyment, exploration or experience of his body, and its natural, sensual pleasures is somehow not acceptable. (For more information on what the lover archetype actually involves, please check out this excellent account.) The sense of shame is a wound to the healthy development of the child’s Magician archetype – a part of the psychological / emotional system which holds the awareness of threat and danger. In response to such perceptions, this part of a child will react by working out defensive or protective strategies which are intended to prevent the same emotional wounding happening again. Some emotional experts call this the Safety Officer. This is still a (vital) part of the Magician archetype. The patterns of behavior which we manifest as adults will always be related to the childhood strategies evolved by the Magician archetype during childhood, and be modulated by the Safety Officer in adulthood.
It may not even be too far-fetched to assume that men’s sexual problems, such as delayed ejaculation, are related to these childhood safety patterns, such as “holding in” this Lover energy.
The issue ultimately becomes one of control, of course: self-control, control of bodily feelings and functions. And the best way to achieve total control is to become numb, not to feel. One way to deal with all this is attention to the area of the pelvis. Rolfing is one technique that can be very helpful.
The Lover Archetype
This is why so many men (and women) are cut off from what their bodies are doing, telling them, informing them.
What constitutes acceptable social conduct between males is well defined our culture. Intimate contact between men is not usually a part of it, no matter how much men (or boys) may want it. Instead, rough-housing, “friendly” punching, slapping, butt-grabbing, testicle-squeezing, and so on, take the place of real intimacy.
So for some men at least, contact itself is associated with the need to draw in and be protective of the penis and testicles.
R. Louis Schultz, in his book Out In The Open: The Complete Male Pelvis, describes in great detail the muscles around the male pelvis and how they may affect the appearance of the genitals and the level of sensation in the penis, testicles and pelvis generally.
It’s certainly the most detailed analysis I can find of what can happen to the penis and testicles under the influence of inhibitory muscular patterns. By this I mean patterns of muscular activity which are about holding in or cutting off rather than the healthy, uninhibited expression of feelings, thoughts, needs, wishes, desires and behaviors.
His comments on erections are especially interesting, for he makes the point that when he is working with male clients with the deep massage techniques which cause long-held tension patterns to break up, they will often get an erection which cannot be attributed to sexual stimulation.
The obvious implication is that we would be much more sensuous and perhaps sexual if we didn’t carry such tension in our minds and bodies. The less obvious implication is that the process of emotional cutting-off is accompanied by some cutting-off of blood flow to the penis.
Schultz also makes the point that many men are so negatively conditioned that any non-sexual touch anywhere on the whole of their abdomen will result in a protective start, a flinching and a drawing back.
Such inhibition denies men the chance of an orgasm which extends beyond their genitals: the closing down of their sexuality means that their orgasm is penis-centered, not whole body centered: he talks of the man’s sexuality being constrained, and represents this with the image of a metal jacket or diaper round the man’s abdomen and pelvis with an opening for the man’s penis.
I am sure that this response is generally very common, and I suspect it comes form childhood sexual abuse, which as a precursor of abdominal tightness must be a major factor. So I think Schultz is correct, but I am not sure he has explicitly stated the connection between abdominal tightness and the originating factor.
I would be interested to take this a stage further and conduct interviews with men to establish what any link between childhood experiences and sexual problems such as delayed ejaculation – see www.delayed-ejaculation.com for more on this.
Another key sign of inhibition and tension is lack of flexibility in the movement of a man’s pelvis. Men may actually be so tight around their pelvis that, while having sex in the missionary position, for example, they don’t thrust with a rocking pelvis but actually do a kind of press-up on their arms and legs.
The correct movement, one which speaks of flexibility and lack of constriction, is seen when the hips rock forward with the pubic bone leading.
When more flexible men are on their back during sex the rocking motion of their pelvis is seen as their tailbone moves downwards and their pubic bone moves headwards.
Their lower back lengthens and their abdominal muscles contract. In these cases, the pelvis is free, and feelings can reverberate through his body before, during and after the man’s orgasm. Such whole body orgasms are much more powerful than penis-centered orgasms.
One of the reasons, says Schultz, that men hold their pelvic region rigid is that their early experiences of masturbation were hurried and furtive. In adolescent masturbation, holding the muscles of the pelvis rigid will lead to a more rapid ejaculation: unfortunately, of course, the same remains true years later when sex “should” be a more relaxed, unhurried, sensuous, whole body experience, with a long build-up to ejaculation and orgasm. So we can see how all of this would contribute to the energy of the sovereign in a man. It would be a heart centred way of moving into the world. A man would have a relaxed mind and a body which were both in service to the man, rather than trying to make their own needs felt while full of conflicted and conflicting energies and pressures.
By then, though, the man has been conditioned to hold his body in that rigid way as he moves through arousal towards orgasm, and sex therefore becomes much less rewarding that it could be.
Of course, such pelvic inhibitions also affect walking, running, jumping, sports, and much more besides. They may cause prostatitis; they certainly can contribute to arthritis. They may be responsible for hiatal hernia.
It’s an obvious feature of social situations that many men try to hide their penis and testicles (even if they are wearing clothes) with their hands. For a man with a strong urge to protect himself in this way, the first recourse is the unconscious pulling in of his penis, using the muscles at its base, so that it appears shorter than it actually is.
He may also use the muscles of his abdomen as a kind of constricting band around his waist, which diminishes his feeling and awareness of his penis.
Schultz describes men whose penises have become erect during body work and yet have been totally unaware of the fact, and men whose posture squashes their testicles between their legs even though they remain unaware of the fact because their whole pelvis is desensitized.
The good news is that all of these restrictive habit patterns can be modified by a combination of sensitive movement techniques and sensitive body work. The only effective way to do this is to see a good bodyworker with whom you are comfortable and who is comfortable working with the intimate areas of your body. (See list of Rolfing organizations below.)
They must have good knowledge of the muscles and systems of the pelvic region, and an absolute awareness of sexual boundaries. Schultz prescribes specific methods of bodywork which can release a tight ass, tight hamstrings, tight pelvis, tight back and so on.
Under normal circumstances the penis itself is not addressed in body work: it is the muscles and deeper connective tissues of the testicles, perineum, abdomen, pelvis, scrotum and such like which receive the bodyworker’s attention. Shy about showing your body?