Decoding romance in the digital era with 50 Shades of Love
In a world where technology and societal pressures can complicate matters of the heart, intimacy curators serve as trusted allies, empowering couples to navigate their romantic journeys with confidence and authenticity. Acting as guides and facilitators, intimacy coaches help couples explore and cultivate deeper connections, both emotionally and physically.
They provide personalized guidance, offering insights and techniques to enhance communication, trust, and intimacy within relationships, offline workshops, mixers, et al. The Social Nation Team spoke to one such intimacy, dating, and sex coach. We had an extremely eye-opening and insightful chat with Aili Seghetti Of “The Intimacy Curator“. Read on to know more:
What you offer is unique, how did you think of building your company?
I was working a lot with people who were trying out dating apps. So, I have been working for a research agency and in research for over 10 years. I realized that I really enjoyed talking to people about love, relationships, and sex, so I started writing some blogs.
Then I decided that I don’t just want to do this for brands, but I want to do it for my own pleasure and the benefit of others. Initially, I realized that a lot of people had issues, especially in today’s dating world and that’s how I started building different services that could address those needs and issues that people are facing.
You have various services like dating surrogacy and renting a boyfriend on your website “The Intimacy Curator”, could you tell us more about your offerings?
Renting a boyfriend and dating surrogacy are part of our “dating offerings,” we have other sorts of offerings as well that are more in tune with couples or people who are coming out as non-monogamous or kinky.
We see dating as almost like learning to cook. And dating is pretty new, not just in India but across the world. But the idea of dating is changing all the time so people are not really ready yet for it. I mean because human beings take a lot of time to change. Nowadays everybody’s on dating apps.
We are used to romantic stories where all the narratives that have come from people of my generation, or for example, your parents, are built around romantic love. So the expectations are of a romantic relationship in the dating world but today’s dating world is not just about that it’s about that. It’s about finding yourself and understanding yourself better.
It’s not just about falling in love, yes, some people are looking for that, but others are just looking for fun and adventure. They are looking for companions to experience certain things like for example, travel because they don’t want to travel on their own. So there are different expectations.
With the services that we offer, we look at what is it that the person really wants. And we want to make sure that it doesn’t really fit into this idea of like ‘Okay if I’m dating I’m looking for sex or love only.’ Because people are looking for multiple things today. It’s not like it used to be back in the day like your Bollywood romance. That’s kind of moving away now.
Does that take away from the natural way of finding love, vibing, connecting, and learning while you are on the journey?
What is the natural way? What is a vibe? We need to look at dating in a slightly more aware way. It’s not that you vibe with someone because there’s something going on between you two, it’s probably something that you’ve not spoken about or you are not aware of consciously. There’s an exchange of, we call them energies, but it’s probably a hormonal exchange.
You are attracted to what is familiar to you. And within the dating world relationships, you are attracted to something that you have learned through your attachments from when you were a child. So when your parents or your caretakers have taken care of you, they have taught you how to attach to someone.
When you feel the vibe, you might think ‘Oh I like this person because they look a certain way or their attitude or personality or they make so much money or that’s their focus in their career…’ but actually you are seeing something that you recognize from your childhood in that person. We call it a “vibe” and it’s been romanticized in movies and narratives because as human beings we want to believe in something that is out of our control.
It’s this like hope for something that is beyond you that it’s that will take you away on a journey where you just let go and become one with something – it could be a person or a spirit or whatever. So we think that the vibe is based on that but actually, it’s an illusion that we’ve created in our mind.
Now if you are looking for a long-lasting relationship like your parents had or whatever is being sold to you through narratives, you have to look at certain things. ‘Are your goals and values similar? Is there anything in common? How do you address conflict? How do you fight? How do you repair after a fight?’ It might not be exciting and attractive, but eventually, that’s what is going to make your relationship last longer. But not everyone wants that anymore also.
If you want to feel the vibe and connect with someone and feel all dizzy in love, sure but just be aware that it might not last very long because this is a phase. You’re exchanging a certain amount of hormones with someone and it usually lasts between 1-2 years. There is a science to it.
You have helped several couples from different age groups, but what is the most common problem that couples face today?
Most couples come to me because they don’t have sex anymore or they’ve never had sex or the sex has been that great. “Sex” is not a condition, it’s just an expression of a condition, like when you have a fever. Most of the time, we have a lot of expectations from our partners. We think that our partners need to be our best friends, they need to be the best lovers, the best fathers or mothers to our children, and confiders, almost like therapists.
I think it’s a lot of pressure that we’ve put on our romantic partners which then builds up because you are actually living together. Most people decide to live together so they get married and have kids – that’s the path they decide to go for, but that situation is it’s not really conducive to any sort of romance or sexual attraction. Because you’re dealing with issues every day.
When you’re trying to run a household or a family, there are lots of responsibilities, so that carefree dating phase goes and therefore the attraction or the sexual excitement also goes. So most of the work that I do with couples is to make them realize that there were these expectations – maybe one person wants to have a type of sex and the other person doesn’t want to have that but they’ve never discussed it because people don’t talk about sex, right?
We read about “The Somatica Method” on your website, can you explain how you use it and why you think it’s an effective method?
Somatica is a method that uses physical touch to make people experience intimacy and make them understand what pleasure feels like. We use touch and bodies and visualizations for people to experience what it feels like to be intimate with someone.
It’s like cooking, you can watch a lot of cooking shows and videos where people are chopping onions, baking things and everything is going right, but you will only learn how to cook when you start using your hands.
Sensations that you can have with your hands or with your body or touch are crucial for you to understand how to go about it. Now, there are a lot of people who have not experienced physical touch with someone that they might be attracted to, this could be holding hands as well. Many people have not even held a hand ever right so it feels very scary if you haven’t done that.
It feels very scary if you haven’t had sex and you are in your 30s because it’s like you’re supposed to have sex before that and then it builds a lot of tension. So to ease them out into the experience we have this method that really helps them to understand that if someone touches you or if you touch someone it’s not that they are going to die or something bad is going to happen because it is consensual.
We always speak about consent, how to ask for it, how to give consent, and have conversations about it. It’s a bridge between the real experience and whatever is in your head. Because certain things become much bigger in your head if you don’t talk about them, and again people don’t talk about sex.
Talking about consent, how do you ask for or give consent on the Internet?
It’s a very simple question: ‘Are you okay if I send this?’ There are lots of people talking about consent, I will just go through the kinky route. People who are into kink, have been talking about consent for more than 40 years through different models. What is consent? It’s somebody else asking if they are okay with something and the other person replying whether they are or not.
Women are socialized to say “yes” more often but I’m not saying only women, even those who are not used to saying “no” to people, struggle. So sometimes they say “yes” when they actually mean “no.” And it happens to all of us. We still haven’t reached the point where we say “No I don’t want it” because we are scared of offending the other person.
In the kinky community, there are lots of acronyms. We say that consent is specific to an act. If I have agreed to receive a photo from you, you cannot send me a video. It is a responsibility for both to make sure that what they agreed on is discussed in detail. Consent is reversible, it can be taken away at any point. You can change your mind at any point in any circumstance – this could be sexual or emotional.
Consent needs to be risk-aware, especially with respect to sex. You need to be aware of what are the risks involved – STIs through penetrative and oral sex, pregnancies, HPV or cervical cancer. Whatever ways have been used in the past few days perhaps are wrong but cervical cancer or HPV is one of the biggest killers for women and it’s an STI that can be contracted through oral sex.
What are your thoughts on Gen-Z adopting new dating terms like situationships, benching and more?
I think the terms are very useful for people to understand themselves and how they feel. We live in a capitalist world where brands are a part of our lives. What are brands? They are just like names to things, whether you create an image or give a name to a concept. And it helps you better understand that concept and how you feel.
So it’s great, I mean there’s nothing wrong with that. Also, people are not used to talking about dating since it’s a new thing. So we are creating a vocabulary for how we feel and how we want to express ourselves, right?
One of the services you offer is heartbreak healing & cuddling. A large part of the younger generation deals with loneliness, how does this service help?
We are offering it as a service which is paid but I hope that one day there will be no need to pay for these services. And we’ll be a little bit more open about hugging our friends and being more open about listening to those who are going through heartbreak. People come to us because they feel too ashamed to talk about these things with their friends and their loved ones.
It’s not easy because we’re supposed to be productive and strong. It’s not easy to come in front of someone and cry especially if they know you, right? So, sometimes it’s easier to go to a stranger, pour yourself out, and start talking about your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner when you feel lonely or hurt. You need that space for you to be heard.
And sometimes people don’t want to go to a therapist because they still feel that if you go for therapy, there’s something wrong with you, like you’re unwell or sick. So it’s easier for us to offer this. Something that we also tell them is that you need to have people around you who you can trust and feel vulnerable with, it’s very important for even general mental wellbeing.
How much of a role do emotional and physical intimacy play in a successful relationship?
There are different forms of intimacy, not just physical and emotional. I think the only genuine way to connect to people is to be vulnerable in front of them. And it’s hard, it’s not easy when you’re showing that you’re not always this great person but you have your flaws. It’s very difficult for us to accept our flaws, so the moment we start accepting or expressing our fears to others, that’s when we start connecting.
So romantic or physical and emotional intimacy are broad terms. There are other ways of connecting with people like platonic and queer-platonic intimacy. Where you connect with someone and it’s a bit more than friendship, you don’t have sexual feelings but you’re really close to that friend. this is what you need – best friends. Intimacy is you opening up to another person and feeling that you’re not alone.
What role does an intimacy coach play? Tell us about the process.
An intimacy coach deals with all things around intimacy. There are different types of intimacy but the most common is emotional and physical. Intimacy coaching is very structural so you set up a goal and then work with the the coach to come up with strategies to achieve that goal.
The goal can be I want to be sexier in bed or I want to be able to express my emotions, so we look at the challenges that are stopping you. Is there something that we can do to facilitate that? Someone could struggle with receiving touch or someone could be a kinky person into feet who wonders ‘How do I find a partner?’
So usually, you have a question and a goal and then through talk-based or touch-based sessions, you try out things and achieve your goal. It’s simple, like life coaching. The difference between coaching and counselling therapy is that coaches are not therapists, they will focus on the present moment today and the future. Therapists spend a lot of time in the past. So if you have deep-rooted issues or if you want to look at who you were and why you are like that then you go to a therapist.
Often coaches work in collaboration with therapists. The coach would help you address issues right now and where you are going, and if there is a challenge where you’re getting stuck then you would speak to the therapist about it.
What are some of the most bizarre relationship issues that you have come across in your sessions?
I think nothing is bizarre for me anymore. I mean everybody is unique, what might sound bizarre to you may not be bizarre to me or somebody else. But the ones that are close to my heart are when someone comes and they discover themselves that they had no clue about. For example, there was someone who really enjoyed being squashed. So that might sound bizarre. They could not actually articulate it but once we got into a touch session, they realised.
So in a touch session, you don’t get undressed, you wear shorts and a T-shirt and then the coach runs across your body with hands or with objects and asks you what is pleasurable, what is relaxing or arousing. For some people, a very soft gentle touch is arousing, for some maybe a spank or a slap is pleasurable and for some, it’s a squeeze. It depends.
So for this person, it was like a real squeeze – a full kind of squashing of the body. When they actually came up with this and realised that this is what I really really like, it’s beautiful. And they were in their 40s, so imagine they spend their entire life not knowing this small little thing. These are the things that I really cherish.
What is one basic but important thing that women and those who identify as women need to know about men?
Men are going through a very tough phase, they are confused and we should support them as well. It’s very confusing for them to see that women are suddenly fitting into new roles. It’s easy to be angry with men, especially for us women when it comes to patriarchy and stuff. Yes, it’s good to express the anger, but that doesn’t mean that all men are bad. We need to be slightly more compassionate towards their situation right now as well because they’re getting a lot of stress.
And what do men need to know about women?
That women have gone through a lot of socializing so even they are very confused as well. Ask a lot of questions, don’t tell them what to do, and ask how they feel. It’s important for women to express how they feel and to understand themselves. Women had to go through generations of patriarchy to realize that that wasn’t right. So just be compassionate towards each other.
On Valentine’s Day, what advice would you give someone looking for love?
What is Valentine’s? It’s the celebration of romantic love. Romantic love doesn’t have to be a lifelong story, you can role-play romantic love for a night. So if you are into romance, you can role-play romance even with a stranger for a night, that doesn’t mean that you have to be stuck with them for the rest of your life. Just enjoy the moment and don’t think about it as a forever thing, because nothing is forever. Think about today, enjoy yourself.
Well, that is a very unique and unconventional take on how to look at relationships in the modern day and age. If you feel the need to speak to a coach for any issue relating to relationships or intimacy or just wish to explore your desires, you can book an appointment here.