Intimacy coach Aili Seghetti sometimes demonstrates consent using a framework from the world of kink or non-conventional sexual practices. “I ask if there’s a body part they don’t like people touching and say ‘may I touch it now’. And then, later in the session, when they’re talking, I touch it randomly and that gives them a jolt,” says the 48-year-old, who helps people negotiate desire. Consent, she demonstrates, is an ongoing process, not a one-time all-inclusive pass.
Also read: Consent is always essential
Teaching consent to a nation that largely believes children shouldn’t have agency must be a monumental task. Even if you’re working with a privileged, poly-curious big city clientele, like Seghetti does. As a young Indian woman in a recent Tinder video on consent asks: ‘Why does nobody teach children that you can say no without feeling guilty?’
And that’s only part of what Seghetti, a Finnish Italian, who fell in love with India when she first came here on a holiday in 2000, does. In 2009, by which time she had made multiple trips and even spent a year in Jaipur learning Hindi, she fell in love with, and married, an Indian man. A few years later, they opened their monogamous marriage. For the past three years, Seghetti has helped people excavate shame, map pleasure, navigate infidelity and date more effectively. One-and-a-half years ago, she expanded her solo effort into a business by partnering with other experts.
Fears and dreams
She offers non-sexual cuddling sessions (₹10,000 for two hours) for those who have issues with touch, and dating surrogacy services where younger, trained colleagues, role-play going on actual dates. Recently, she began organising ticketed poly and kink events, which she advertises through her social media account The Intimacy Curator. Next up is a dating reality show.
Her interest in dating and relationships grew when she worked in brand strategy and research for online dating sites. She enjoyed the front-row seat to the stories, fears and dreams of other people’s relationships and decided to immerse herself in the field. Her mother-in-law, a Hindi speaker who lives in Chhattisgarh, is one of her biggest supporters, she tells me, when we meet in her compact, plant-filled Mumbai apartment, where she lives with her rescued cat Mimi.
“Most of my clients are very timid, very shy,” says Seghetti who relies on breathwork, talk coaching and the experiential but non-sexual Somatica Method that she learned at a Los Angeles institute. Men come to her because they feel sexually inadequate or because they cannot communicate effectively in the dating landscape. Many discuss their partner’s loss of desire and the consequences of having an affair.
Women schedule appointments because they want to open their marriages or because they are struggling to find someone. “Lots of women don’t have orgasms. Many don’t even know if they have orgasms,” says Seghetti, reiterating one of the world’s worst kept sexual secrets. “A lot of women haven’t even touched themselves except when washing. There’s no exploration.”
Her clients also seek guidance on physical issues such as premature ejaculation or vaginismus. Then there are those who seek answers to basic questions during the introductory 15-minute free call. She recounts how such a conversation might go:
“I think of sex all the time.”
“What’s all the time?”
“I masturbate twice a week.”
There’s something very comforting about Seghetti. She’s always kind and empathetic about her clients’ woes. The first time she was groped by a stranger was at a mall when she was seven and she faced multiple consent violations right upto the time she turned 40. When she first introduced touch sessions, loved ones worried about her safety. Clients are vetted over multiple meetings and asked to sign a form before such sessions.
Through all her methods, she helps people extract and connect to their erotic self. “It’s about understanding what is it that you want to feel when you are intimate with someone and usually that’s connected to an unmet need in your childhood,” she says. So an adult with an exhibitionist fetish, she adds, could be someone who didn’t get noticed enough as a child in, say, a large family or someone whose parents were too busy.
When she role-plays consent, she also shows people how to amp it up. “How do you ask for a kiss? You look at the person, maybe say your lips are really beautiful, I would love to kiss them. You’re seeking consent but it’s also erotic. Don’t just say, can I kiss you, make it a little sexy.” Amen to that.
Priya Ramani is a journalist on the editorial board of Article 14. She is the co-founder of the India Love Project.