What is Cupping and Why is it Good For You?
As a Somatic Sex Educator, with a mission to heal sexual shame and empower people to reclaim their wild, innate erotic intelligence, one of the foundational practices I teach all my clients and students is a practice called “Cupping.”
It’s most likely not the kind of cupping you’re thinking of if you’ve tried cupping therapy as prescribed in Chinese medicine.
The kind of cupping I’m about to tell you about, you can do entirely by yourself and you don’t need any equipment! And cupping is also fun to do with partners.
Cupping is the practice of holding your genitals with your hand(s) to generate awareness and intimate contact as well as nervous system regulation. That’s right, you can (and often do subconsciously) regulate (and dis-regulate) your nervous system through contact with your genitals (and other parts of your body and breath).
In addition to being a potential source of great pleasure and arousal, our genitals can also be a great source of comfort and relaxation. This is why as very young children, we often make contact with this place on our body – not only for the pleasure it brings, but also for the comfort. That is, if we are not impeded by our caregivers’ discomfort or awkward looks, or worse, outright judgment and shaming of our natural impulses to reach for this area.
Unfortunately all too often, when we are young, we are discouraged from touching this place on our bodies. Or we are told that it is dirty or inappropriate or wrong. We can become confused by this, because somatically, if not consciously, we experience this place in our bodies to be a great resource.
By somatically, I mean informed by the soma or body, which includes the nervous system. The branch of the autonomic nervous system, which controls bodily functions that happen when we are relaxed and at ease – the parasympathetic nervous system – is also the same branch that controls sexual arousal.
When we know how to regulate our nervous systems, not only do we feel better generally speaking, but we also tend to have better, more pleasurable sex.
Cupping is a wonderful practice for nervous system regulation, among other things.
I have had countless clients report back to me, after they learn this practice, that they used the practice to ground themselves and to reduce anxiety in stressful situations. Several clients have reported that cupping got them through stressful or turbulent flights. Other clients have said that practicing cupping before or after a stressful meeting or encounter has been very soothing for them. Other clients and myself included, use the practice upon waking or going to bed to connect with this resourceful place in our bodies.
Cupping is also a great way to bring awareness to a place where most of us have been taught to ignore, neglect or pretend doesn’t exist, except for very specific purposes and in very specific contexts (usually only for or when we have sex). Cupping is a way to re-integrate this generative place in our bodies and to eliminate what A.H. Almas refers to as the “genital hole.”
A. H. Almas coined the term 'the genital hole' and describes it as: "the experience of the genital area as a dark, empty hole, with no anatomical parts. The individual feels and sometimes envisions a lack, an absence between the thighs. The experience can be very definite and clear, with the boundaries of the hole clearly demarcated. It almost feels like a physical experience, even though the individual is always aware that the hole is not physical."
It’s not surprising, in our puritanical culture, that we have a phenomenon like the “genital hole.” Just look at Barbie’s and Ken’s genitals (which are anatomically non-existent if you’re not familiar with the popular American dolls) and how the media treats bodies. This is also part of what explains the rise of labiaplasty, a cosmetic surgery where women choose to cut off some or much of their genital labia to look more like Barbie.
Cupping is not always soothing and some people may even find the practice alarming. If we’ve experienced sexual shaming and/or trauma, which unfortunately is most of us, we may be so dissociated from this part of our body that touching it can create feelings of numbness, discomfort, or even (emotional or physical) pain. If this is your experience, please know that you are not alone and that you can reclaim this part of your body as a place of resource, comfort and generativity, as well as pleasure!
I recommend starting this practice with an amount of time that feels doable to you. Even 5 minutes a day is a great way to connect with this part of yourself. You can do it first thing in the morning as you’re waking up or as you’re going to sleep, in the shower, in your meditation practice, or even in your office if you have a private one, or in the car (cautiously!).
Notice what you feel emotionally and physically. What kinds of sensations arise as you connect to this part of yourself. Do certain beliefs or memories arise? If possible, simply notice what you notice without passing judgment on yourself.
Connecting with your genitals through the practice of cupping is a great way to expand your awareness, learn about nervous system regulation and arousal, and free or expand your erotic intelligence.