An Interview with Chris Unity Bowness Part 1
I had the pleasure of meeting Chris on FaceBook about six months ago, I think it was, and almost immediately we began a dialogue with the plan of getting him onto my site as a guest. After some long conversations and some planning and scheming, I’m very glad to welcome Chris to my site for a two-part interview that’s a true celebration of sexuality. Welcome, Chris, and thanks for joining me!
KD: Chris, we first met online in connection with some lovely discussions we had about my writing, which led to discussions of writing in general and a topic near and dear to both of our hearts, the celebration of sexuality. It’s always lovely when someone who has been merely an acquaintance on social media, through some strange quirk becomes a three dimensional person with an amazing story of their own. And that’s what I feel happened with us. Could you share a little bit about what led you to study sexuality.
Chris: Firstly, I’d like to thank you for inviting me onto your blog, it is a great honour, especially from someone I have a lot of admiration for. Secondly, it’s wonderful when you make a connection with someone in these modern times who, before social media and the internet, may have never met…or was it destiny anyway…but that is a debate for another day.
I’ve always had a passion and thirst for knowledge when it comes relationships and sexuality even in my teens I was far more comfortable in the company of female friends discussing the latest articles in magazines like Cosmopolitan rather than in the stereotypical male domains. Also in those pre-internet times there were programmes like Sexcetera and The Good Sex Guide to name but two which just oozed not only sex positivity but also exploring pleasure within relationships.
After college, two of these friends started running Ann Summers parties and they not only kept telling me how I’d be good at them but also asking me how to give advice to customers. It was quickly after, though, I found out that men weren’t allowed to attend a party let alone run a party business I realised how I’d have to make my own way. Sure there are many jobs behind the scenes of places like this but I wanted a more frontline hands-on approach.
Since then there has been a long evolution to where I am today, happy not only with all the ups and downs that got me here but also how I now see myself fitting into this sector; what I want to provide, but also I have a clear idea going forward of how I want to deliver it
KD: From your own research, why do you think honest, truthful information about sex, especially in the information age, is so hard to come by?
Chris: When I started researching how I could fit into this area there were two main seeds that were planted in my mind. The first one came a number of years ago when I read an article that said that the main reason cited on divorce papers was lack of sex and intimacy and sex and the correlation between, not only the breakdown in communication within those relationships but also the breakdown in communication in society, not only about sex but the discussion of issues surrounding sex and intimacy.
This led me to the second seed being planted, I started researching how and where people could glean information and advice about solving problems of an intimate and sexual nature. This broke down into three areas ‘Googling’, websites, forums.
Firstly, searching the web I feel is bad enough when you’re ill and want to know if it’s serious enough to bother a doctor with. The ‘I’ll just Google’ approach can not only be quite contradictory but also sometimes prove dangerous for many reasons. I feel the same goes for relationship and sex issues. Searching a term like ‘Why has my partner gone off sex?’ can bring contradiction, confusion, and the whole range of results. But also, even in this information age, people still worry about searching for what would be deemed sexually explicit terms and the results that might bring.
Then came websites and blogs. There are very great informative websites out there – ones I have recommended articles from to people myself. However this is still very much a one-way form of communication with no accessible long term support.
This led me to forums. From mums forums, parenting forums, women’s forums and relationship and sex forums — all of them are flooded with people crying out for positive information about relationship and sexual subjects. I often found the responses to these from other forum users – often contradicting each other – frequently brought anxiety and stress to the original poster.
What I garnered from my research is that people wanted long term support and guidance through a range of relationship and sex subjects available to access whenever they wanted.
I know that there are many different types of relationships and I believe along with that everybody’s relationship is unique, like a fingerprint of intimacy. And while many places provide great advice templates to help introduce new things or solve issues, there seems to be a miscorrelation between that template and how people go about implementing it into their situation.
“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”
KD: Could you explain to our readers what you see as the difference between a sex therapist and a mentor?
Chris: In searching for my place within the relationship and sex support area I realised just how many facets there were to it. There were not just therapists but also coaches and teachers who provided lessons in things like tantric sex or BDSM but also many more being areas being created. Only recently I read about learning intimacy through a sex surrogate. The counseling end of the spectrum felt like the last chance critical point of the relationship. As someone put it to me, ‘how could I go to a therapist and pay all that money just to find out how I can give my husband a good spanking!’
However, none of them really felt like they fitted for me. I generally have an issue over labels and stereotyping, anyway. I want to provide a more humanistic personal one-to-one approach almost a one stop shop for sex and relationship advice, providing on-going support or giving information that could be useful at the time or help prevent future problems — an MOT for relationships if you will. I wanted to provide a more humanistic personal one-to-one approach towards not just support and advice for problematic things but also the fun things people want to work on too.
It was then in an unrelated way I came across the definition of mentoring, and over time I have developed my own definition for relationship and sex mentoring:
“Mentoring is about a relationship approach to providing an ongoing and sustained level of knowledge and support in relation to improving the recipient’s personal, relationship or sexual development; through various forms of informal communication most usually – but not limited to – face-to-face; as well as providing answers to occasional questions and ad hoc help. It also goes deeper to providing a long-term relationship of learning, support, advice, dialogue and challenge.”
There is often an idea based around knowledge and development, about the planting of seeds. I also believe when it comes to relationship and sex development the ground you plant those seeds in has to be ready, prepared and happy to receive such seeds. I have often found that planting seeds by the positive promotion of sex and relationships messages is enough to make me available to those people who are quite often looking for help.
KD: What role did reviewing sex toys play in the journey you’ve made to mentoring?
Chris: We chanced upon a call in a now defunked magazine asking for couples to review a range of adult products for a regular feature. When the opportunity fell through we started to email adult retailers looking for an opportunity to review items in return for free products. Not only did this bring a lot of fun into our lives but it also allowed us to provide clear concise knowledge to others not only on what’s best to spend their hard earned cash on in the bedroom but also advice on how to introduce and have fun with these products.
In these modern times, in these post 50 Shades times, there are still limited places you can go and actually get your hands on sex toys, see them for yourself, what they really look like and feel like and what they do – don’t you think that’s strange? This helps bring a positivity to sex by adding things which help explore pleasure. That allows us to help others choose such products.
Finally somebody took a chance on allowing us to dip our toes into the review pool of pleasure devices. Now we are regular guinea pigs for a couple of websites and the developers of sex toys and other adult products. This gave me the motivation to begin looking at how I could be a part of this fabulous industry. Hopefully we can dispel that myth that suggests the use of sex toys is out of boredom or a failing relationship and get people thinking that this kind of exploration can help create a long term, healthy, passionate relationship.