The sexual healers next door

Ben and Jen Rode offer women coaching, massage — and G-spot orgasms. It's legal in California

Topics: Sex, Love and Sex, Sex Work, massage, reiki, California, erotic touch,

The sexual healers next door (Credit: Wallenrock via Shutterstock)

Just over eight minutes after getting onto the table, Becky is crying. “Let your goddess out,” says Ben Rode, the 29-year-old man rubbing down her naked body with oil. “This is your goddess ceremony.” Meanwhile, Ben’s 31-year-old wife, Jen, who is five months pregnant, performs Reiki, floating her hands over Becky’s head and neck, asking questions about a past life as a queen. Swelling, chiming New Age music plays in the background, as the picture-perfect pair let out long, throaty exhalations to prompt Becky to breathe deep.

Most surfaces in this Alameda, Calif., bungalow bear crystals and lit candles. It feels like being in a womb: In the kitchen, a stove is on with the door cracked open and next to the massage table a faux fireplace blazes. After nearly an hour of working her body over, Ben’s hand slides between Becky’s legs and he begins walking her through a guided meditation on her ideal man. “Imagine seeing him for the first time,” he says. “You lock eyes from across the room.” After a lengthy narrative buildup, he says, “His lips gently touch yours. Your knees melt out from under you.” Ben, a tall all-American sort with ice-blue eyes, moves his fingers to her clitoris, ”Let your pleasure spread, down your legs, all the way up to your boobs.” As Becky’s moans deepen, he announces, ”K, I’m going inside.”

He slides on a pair of latex gloves and liberally applies lube to his middle and ring finger. As he enters, Becky’s “ahhhs” almost turn into song, and then she begins sobbing after Ben tells her, “You’re ready for him.” Jen, a petite, near-platinum blonde, begins to recite the affirmations that the three agreed upon during the intake interview. ”You’re ready for your beloved,” she says. ”Your dreams are your own!” Ben shouts to Becky, “Rub your clit,” and she does, her moans turning into yelps. “Good goddess. Feel your goddess,” he says. “Feel the Becky inside you. Feel her. Feel how powerful she is, ready to take on the world. She gets exactly what she wants.”



Ben intensifies his hand movements and then yells, “Push it out! Let it go! Surrender to the process!” Here she starts wailing like a mother who’s lost her child, then howling like a wild animal caught in a trap, and then making a sound I’ve only ever heard in a scene from “Saw II.” “You’re so fucking ready, woman,” he says. “You’re so ready, goddess.” Her back arcs, butt hovering in the air, and clear liquid begins spraying out from between her legs. With this, a droplet of ejaculate lands on my shoe.

- – - – - – - – - -

While their sessions encompass a host of services — from past-life readings to motivational coaching — there is clearly a sexual component in the literal climax. But unlike a “happy endings” masseur, Ben is licensed in the state of California as a sexological bodyworker. Last year’s release of “The Sessions” starring Helen Hunt and John Hawkes increased pop-culture awareness about the existence of “sexual surrogates,” who sometimes engage in sexual intercourse with clients — but the realm of sexological bodywork, which in the U.S. is only recognized in the Golden State, is still little known.

The Rodes, who married seven months ago, just a month after meeting, call their particular brand of therapy “explosive sexual healing.” Most of a typical three-hour session, which costs $497, is spent talking to the client about her personal challenges and goals, developing affirmations, and then engaging in full-body massage and Reiki. This all builds to the G-spot orgasm, which they use “as a state of hypnosis or trance,” says Ben, who is also a hypnotherapist. He compares it to “hacking a computer.” As their website explains, “What we’ve noticed is that a woman’s blocks to having a FULL release (1 or 2 steps beyond orgasm), are the same blocks she has to getting what she wants out of life.” They also claim they can cure everything from depression to migraines.

Ben says they limit their services to women because his expertise is in the female body (although they have hopes of Jen getting her sexological bodywork certificate so that they can develop a way to offer couples joint treatment). At 17, he set out to read everything he could about female pleasure. He says his sexual partners started telling him, “This is sexual healing. What are you doing to me?” and he began to think this might be his calling. He completed a two-month program at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco to get his certificate in sexological bodywork and started booking sessions in the evenings after his full-time job as a mailman.

After falling in love with Jen, who was formerly a preschool teacher who offered Reiki, clairvoyance and “intuitive counseling” services on the side, he quit his postman gig and began doing bodywork full-time with his new partner at his side. Jen’s wifely presence seems to neutralize the practice. At the same time, it’s easy to imagine clients worrying, “Is she really OK with this?” But Jen tells me jealousy is simply not an issue — not even on the rare occasions when she can read a client’s mind and tell that she’s thinking naughty thoughts about her husband. (When Jen told me how rare this was, Ben joked about being disappointed.)

Comparisons to sex work are inescapable. Joseph Kramer, founder of the New School of Erotic Touch in Oakland, Calif., estimates that 90 percent of sexological bodywork does not involve genital touching. “We teach people to touch themselves well, to touch their partners,” he says. “We keep our clothes on, the touch is one way. We’re playing with erotic states, but there’s not any interaction.” He allows, though, that “it’s a form of sex work.” The key difference from prostitution, he says, is that “it’s contained.” Kramer explains, “The playground is not our bodies. The playground is your body and I’m here to help you to map out what’s possible with your body. This is foundationally about how you feel your own erotic embodiment.” And referrals are often made from psychotherapists, he says.

In California, the certification is recognized by the Department of Consumer Affairs, but Kramer still advises sexological bodyworkers to first talk to the county clerk, district attorney or police force about what they do. There’s a movement in several other states to recognize sexological bodywork. Kramer says it’s been “much easier” to get the profession recognized in British Columbia, Australia, Switzerland and Germany. This surprises him none: “Some [U.S.] states are still teaching pure abstinence for sex education, even though it’s been proven not to work,” says Kramer, but he remains optimistic. ”I think the actual breakthrough will come when there’s enough data on what we do.”

Kramer compares sexological bodyworkers to Freud and Jung at the turn of the century. “They were starting their psychological investigations and it’s taken 110 years or more to get to this place where psychotherapy is so prevalent,” he says. ”Not too long ago people thought psychotherapy was really weird.”

- – - – - – - – - -

In the denouement to Becky’s session, following a second explosive orgasm that did not quite reach my foot, the flushed 31-year-old yoga instructor showered and got dressed. Then she sat down with me next to a table bearing a crystal ball and tarot-like Oracle Cards. “It doesn’t feel sexual at all,” she says, wearing a blissed-out expression. “It’s not a place of thinking about sex.” She describes it as “an alert type of meditation” and a “restful awareness.” Indeed, the triad’s throaty exhalations were very reminiscent of your average yoga class. The squirting? Not so much.

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>