“Breathe into it slowly. If you feel pain, try to ease into the sensation. Feel your body.” While a motley crowd of young Berliners are writhing with pain and pleasure caused by hot wax dripping on their bare skin, Catarina Brazão quietly moves around the room, individually encouraging and supporting the nine participants of her aptly named workshop Sex Tut Gut (“sex is good for you”). “Make sounds and move your body if that helps you deal with the shock and heat.” Tonight’s session topic is wax which, Catarina explains, is in its melted form a perfect tool to experience your body in exciting and new ways.
What seems at first sight like an unusual method of exploring sexuality is part of Catarina’s project to help people reconnect with their bodies. “I believe that you have to awaken your body consciousness to reach your potential. Free your body to free your mind!” It is no accident that Catarina’s workshops find such an avid audience in Berlin, the Old World’s cultural melting pot where Swabian mentalities clash with East German nudism, gender fuck movements collide with Muslim belief systems and Mediterranean flirtatiousness runs into German walls of awkwardness. Walking around posh Prenzlauer Berg or multicultural Kreuzkölln, the spectator will notice that, despite sexual liberation and gender empowerment, sexuality remains a puzzle in the 21st century. When did hipsters start dressing like school children? Why is sex omnipresent although we rarely speak about it openly? What is really going on under the sheets?
Explore your body with a twist
Catarina, who was born in Madeira and came to Berlin as an Erasmus student in 2007, was a practising psychiatrist before turning to holistic body work in 2010. Although many of her treatments are sexological, her work isn’t focused on the genitals only. “The somatic approach isn’t about sex really, but about mindfulness and awareness. Sexuality comes into play at a later point because once you’re really embodied, you’ll realise that everything is sensual and sexual.” This is why she and Federica Fiore, an alternative practitioner and dancer from Italy, encourage body awareness in unconventional ways. “In our workshops, we’re covering topics like body composition, self-pleasuring and erotic constellations in a playful and down-to-earth way”, Catarina explains. “We were surprised to see how well this concept worked! At the end of our sessions, everyone is happy, although some people are completely naked and others completely clothed.” Among the participants, you will meet young couples as well as single people of all age groups, genders and cultural backgrounds. After all, in the quest for a more wholesome sexuality, everyone is in the same boat. “If we’re honest, no one ever taught us anything. When we were adolescents, we just learnt to get rid of our erotic energy as fast we could”, Catarina points out. “I have always enjoyed masturbation from a very young age, but in the last couple of years I have expanded this into a true practice of self-pleasure and self-love.” This is one of the many things she is eager to share. At the same time, she emphasises that feeling out of touch with your body is far from being a specifically female problem. “Surprisingly, men face almost the same issues as women. Very often, they are being mechanical and unable to savour the sexual experience.”
“It’s just the genitals after all”
That is why Catarina, with her German colleague Mareen Scholl, offers sessions in Genital Meditation, which aim to contribute to individual erotic embodiment. Through three different strokes which are slowly applied to the genitals for periods of up to 15 minutes, the practice invites you to simply enjoy a “healing touch" without being obliged to give anything back. “It’s just the genitals, it’s just sexual energy. It’s yours and it’s not a bad thing to feel it,” Catarina emphasises with a smile. “In our sex lives however, we always want to give something back, to a point where we can’t focus on simply receiving and feeling pleasure anymore.” The Genital Meditation workshops seem to be especially appealing to women, although Catarina has noticed an increase in the number of men interested in refocusing on their bodies as well.
Even though Catarina has been based in Berlin for several years now, she is also organising workshops in other European countries aimed at raising awareness of the need for unity between body, spirit and mind. “This is not just about the stereotype of Northern Europeans being cold and inhibited. I see my work affecting people in Portugal, the Czech Republic and Spain just as much.” According to her experience, people from supposedly “sensual countries’ simply have different problems with their bodies. “Just because Mediterranean people are more flirty doesn’t mean they are better lovers,” she adds, laughing.
Giving attention to the body as a whole
While the drip of hot wax on bare flesh continues, provoking the occasional scream, sigh or groan, the atmosphere at the Sex Tut Gut workshop is relaxed. Some participants are visibly experiencing their bodies in different ways, exploring their personal approach to sexuality by themselves or in pairs. Others are simply becoming more aware of their bodies. “It’s a very interesting process,” Catarina whispers with a smile. “Once you become truly embodied, the genitals are just another part of your body and almost lose their exciting quality. When you begin to accept and to respect your whole body, you’ll also love yourself more.” As young Berliners start rethinking their concepts of the body and sexuality, they are embarking on a long journey that is sure to lead them to unforeseen and exciting regions. And those won't lie solely between their legs.