“Desire is how we get to know who we are. We put a lot of ‘shoulds’ and conditions — just stuff on top of what we actually want,” she said. “When you let those things dissolve and really feel what you want in life, you get freedom.”
For the past six months, senior and psychology major Maya Gilbert has coached both individuals and couples in slow sex and desire. With her open light blue eyes and her patient expression, Gilbert engages her clients in deep conversations about intimacy and relationships to help them discover what they want the most out of from sex. Her method, which is known as co-active coaching, is meant to help her clients overcome their fears about sexuality by working alongside them.
“Really what my job is is to be a beacon of light; to hold you to your desire, keep you focused on it and let you have it,” Gilbert said.
With the help of her training at OneTaste, an experimental research center in San Francisco specializing in sexuality, Gilbert helps her clients uncover what they desire most — whether it’s better sex or a stronger relationship with their partner — and how to get it. Each weekly coaching session lasts for about an hour and ends with “homework,” an experiment Gilbert devises for clients to do on their own to feel closer to their bodies.
Portia Marchman, a recent University of Texas at Austin graduate, is one of Gilbert’s clients. So far, Marchman has done two coaching sessions over the phone. A mutual friend of Marchman’s recommended her to Gilbert when she was experiencing heavy self identity and esteem issues and needed someone to talk to. The homework Gilbert assigns to Marchman is to go on dates or out by herself and be honest with friends and romantic interests.
“(Being coached) really helps me put my behaviors and my concepts of myself in perspective,” Marchman said in an e-mail to The Campanil. “(Gilbert) often calls me out on my self-sabotaging behavior — which is good for me to hear. I need that.”
Most of her clients have a difficult time moving past fixations on their fears because they don’t believe their desires are attainable. Gilbert believes part of their struggle stems from sex being one of the biggest places people harbor shame. Her goal is to help her clients overcome the negativity they associate with their bodies, thereby empowering them to have self-worth.
“By allowing yourself to have the sex life you want, you allow yourself to have this whole part of you that, in many cases, might not have been expressed ever before in the way you felt good about it,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert also specializes in Orgasmic Meditation – coyly nicknamed OMing – which sprung from the Eastern philosophy of Tantric sex. It is an experimental partnered practice during which a woman is intimately massaged by her partner for fifteen minutes. After the meditation, the couple discusses their experience — the sensations during and how they feel afterward. Gilbert is present in the room to guide the whole procedure by offering advice.
“People get naked” during this meditation, Gilbert said. “What this practice does is have our sexuality be something that can be clean and not something we have to be embarrassed about. But everyone does it at their own gradual pace.”
After taking coaching classes at OneTaste for the last ten months, Gilbert also saw improvement in her own sex life that she feels obligated to coach as she was coached.
“I was having sex with these beautiful partners, but I couldn’t feel that much,” Gilbert said. “Through doing the work, I’ve realized just how powerful it is to have your sex wake up. How couldn’t I share this with other people? I have to, it’s almost required of me.”
What secrets does Gilbert have to share with Mills?
To let desire be your compass, Gilbert advises people to make lists of what they desire — without thinking too much about what they’re writing — and write that list over and over again.
“Anything from chocolate to the best sex life you’ve ever had to living in Paris — it doesn’t have to be realistic,” Gilbert said. “The more you can hold them and feel them, the more active they’ll be in your life, the more you’ll start thinking about your life that way.”
For students who feel stressed and rushed by their busy schedules, Gilbert suggests they slow down, because she believes taking your time can make everyday tasks pleasurable.
“So, in things that you have to do — like eat — just spend a minute to eat that fig in your hand. Really look at it, smell it and taste it and it’ll give you this momentary relaxation and nice feeling that brings you back to your body so you can feel more connected to yourself, to other people and to life,” Gilbert said.
As Gilbert has noticed, people hesitate to be coached because there is a social stigma attached to counseling. Marchman was initially skeptical as well. However, in just two weeks, she saw herself changing the way she lived her life. Her life was becoming exciting.
“Working with Maya provides clarity to what I need to do to be completely turned on as a human being,” Marchman said. “Who wouldn’t want to live life to the fullest every day?”
Currently, Gilbert’s clients range from age 20 to 56. While they tend to be heterosexual, Gilbert has coached some lesbian couples. Although she doesn’t have a client from Mills College yet, Gilbert hopes to coach a fellow student soon.
“The women here are amazing, and I would love to have all of them be in touch with their desire and sexuality in any deeper way that I could help them,” Gilbert said.
— Stephanie Scerra contributed to this report.
Want a better sex life? You have a lot of ways of getting it. Here are just a few:
1) Contact Maya Gilbert for coaching services at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit her personal website WonderUniversity. Gilbert charges $100 per month for desire coaching and $500 per 3 sessions (about 2 weeks) for Orgasmic Meditation.
2) Go to the local OneTaste center, located on 1080 Folsom Street in San Francisco, CA 94103.
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OneTaste offers a number of workshops that last anywhere from a day to six weeks. Classes include Foundations of Slow Sex, Sex & the Modern Woman and Relating Revealed. You can find workshop schedules and even sign up on their website at OneTaste.us.
3) Become a desire coach yourself. The year-long process involves everything from teleclasses to books. Many argue that the best thing about becoming a coach is learning about your own desire as you go.
Visit OneTaste.us to download an informational packet, listen to recordings of past classes and sign up to start your training.