You would think that academic research on sex abounds with fascinating details of unknown pleasures, right?
Nope. It turns out that sex research is mostly dominated by work on sexual dysfunction, leaving pleasure and satisfaction largely by the wayside. The hottest parts of sex are rarely studied, and the doctor’s office is a more likely backdrop than the bedroom for much of what’s up for discussion. What’s more, most research on female pleasure has been conducted by men, and male researchers’ definitions of sexual satisfaction have been blindly applied to women. It’s only recently that female sex researchers entered the scene and started asking women what they think of as good sex! The small body of work that has been done shows that women think quite differently from the male sex researchers that have been studying them all this time, and that their sexualities are linked to many aspects of their lives and psyches far beyond the bedroom.
Just recently, a new study has been published that finally explores female pleasure and sexual healing in a radical new way. This work is done by women, for women, on women’s terms. It examines a version of female pleasure free from a partner’s demands and researcher’s ideas, one that prioritizes finding wholeness, healing, connection, and even sacredness alongside the sizzle of satisfaction.
Where exactly can these keys to women’s pleasure be found? A place called Back to the Body™ Sensual Retreats for Women, founded by author and sex educator Pamela Madsen. After her own journey to finding pleasure and power in her own life, Pamela wrote Shameless: How I Ditched The Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure and Still Got Home In Time To Cook Dinner. Her insights have graced the pages of esteemed publications such as O Magazine and Cosmopolitan, and she has spoken on shows like Sex with Emily and Shameless Sex, cementing her as a leading voice in the field of women’s sexual health and wellness.
Her retreats distill all her hard-won wisdom into a special formula that takes women through her years-long journey in just a week or so. It’s like the supercharged, sexy version of Eat, Pray, Love, but without leaving your job or your husband.
These retreats involve time in nature, educational talks, bonding with other women, and most importantly, time on a massage table with Pamela’s team of elite practitioners who specialize in somatic healing. During these individual healing sessions, women receive one-way touch and expert guidance around their sexual selves, learning to relax and receive like never before. They come out with increased self-esteem, a greater understanding of their own bodies and sexualities, and more access to pleasure, connection and power. And now we have proof.
Researchers Betsy Crane, Kaci Mial, and Elise Becher found out about Back to the Body™ retreats, and saw a golden opportunity to study women in this special environment. After years of research and writing, their work has finally been published in The Journal of Sexual and Relationship Therapy. This groundbreaking study features interviews with women describing their experiences of sexual healing and pleasure on their own terms, giving voice to experiences that have evaded capture by scientists for decades. It also supports Pamela’s personal experience, and her intuitions about what happens in her retreats.
Pamela is particularly passionate about her retreat formula because she’s seen the transformation first-hand. She knows what happens when women learn, in an embodied sense, about their own desires. She’s seen women recover from eating disorders, leave toxic relationships, get in touch with a deeper calling, and even contact a sense of mysticism. The way she sees it, sexual desire is linked to desire of all kinds, and once women sense that deep undercurrent in their lives, it changes everything.
The recently published study confirms her intuition. Researchers found that women who attended her retreats reported significant positive changes in sexual self-image, body image, arousal, feelings about their genitals, sexual assertiveness, sexual satisfaction, and feelings of sisterhood. The open-ended interviews revealed themes such as feeling safe and contained, connecting to self and others, feeling acceptance and permission, and maybe the most important of all… transformative life changes.
In a world of research that focuses on dysfunction, this study breaks all the rules in the best way. It shows us, with statistics, rigor, and science, just how powerful pleasure really can be. Far from being simply a problem that needs to be fixed or a function that needs to be optimized, sexuality can be a life-changing, transformative force. It can break down old wounds, connect us to each other, bring us closer to our self-knowledge and agency, let us contact eternal wisdom, and lead us to places in ourselves and our lives we never imagined we’d go. And science just proved it.
Through her trademark openness and humor, Pamela breaks the silence surrounding a well-known yet unsaid truth: the erotic core found within every woman is profoundly powerful.
Pamela and her dedicated team at Back to the Body have created a paradigm shift in what constitutes a women’s wellness retreat. Instead of juice cleanses and yoga, women participate in a transformative self-school, receiving somatic touch in a week-long immersion format. Rather than a superficial wellness tune-up, women reconfigure their sense of themselves and their lives in ways that are impossible to forget.
To learn more about Back to the Body and explore their transformative retreats, visit their website at backtothebody.org.
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