At 92, Alice Kahn Ladas is a pistol. “I hear you like to write about food,” she tells me moments after stepping into her West Alameda residence, “and I see, you probably like to eat it, too.”
The small talk out of the way, we head into her home office where the lead author of the 1982 groundbreaking book The G Spot and Other Recent Discoveries About Human Sexuality still practices somatic psychology.
A desk is pushed back into a corner, certificates and degrees line the walls, books fight to stay in place within their confines, and the room is peppered with mid-century furniture.
"I went to a conference with a research paper done with all of the women bioenergetic therapists," Ladas reminisces on the book's origins. "I went with a paper called 'From Freud Though Hite: All Partly Right (And Partly Wrong)' and there's where I met my co-authors. The G spot is really about that, that women are not…" she stops and recalibrates her message.
"I want to emphasize what I wrote, which is that sex is one wonderful way of expressing love, but in order to be loving you have to be able to communicate—really, honestly and without fear—with your partner," she says.
Ladas makes a clear point in not wanting to focus the conversation solely on the book, which brought the
erogenous vaginal area to the forefront, openly discussed the sexual function of the prostate and delved into multiple orgasms and female ejaculation.
"See, the Freudians said that the whole thing is the vagina and if you weren't vaginally responsive, you were immature," she says. "And then the sex researches came along—that's why I said 'From Freud Through Hite'—Hite said it's all the clitoris; well the two things are connected; they're not independent of each other."
"All of us are very different and that's OK," she continues. "You don't have to be like anybody else."
She elaborates: "The third eye may be your key, or your left shoulder—you have to be able to communicate about it, and the area which is called the G spot, which in some women leads to ejaculation, is one area that some people are sensitive to and they don't know how to tell their partners about it."
Ladas recalls that at the time, the medical community had dismissed female ejaculation as incontinence. "They used to operate on people for that," she says. "But this mania that everybody has to ejaculate is nonsense—some people do, some people don't," she says.
"You know why it's called the G spot?" Ladas, who coined the term, asks.
"It's a crazy German name, isn't it?" I respond.
"It's not a crazy German name, it's a German name—Gräfenberg. He was the first person to write about it in modern medical literature."
Still, as passionate and knowledgeable as she is on the subject, Ladas is swift to point out that the sexual experience—as well as her practice—is far more than that.
"The body and the mind are connected," Ladas insists. And that's just the beginning.
"To be able to know what you feel and communicate about it, you have to be able to breathe freely, you have to be able to stand your ground—stand on your own two feet—and be flexible," she says, after pointing out that I shouldn't lock my knees. "A lot of the people I see, they don't breathe very much, and one of the reasons is, if you're a little kid and you're not supposed to do something, or you're not supposed to cry or have temper tantrum, how do you stop yourself? You stop breathing, and that becomes chronic [when left] unfixed."
Moving past words and working with individuals, couples and words while standing, sitting and lying down is paramount for Ladas, who taught the first Lamaze course in the United States and is also a trailblazer in the areas of breast feeding and educated childbirth.
"I work with breathing, muscle tension and touch when it's appropriate and agreed upon— even though that's a very controversial subject in Santa Fe—but touch is a very basic, human thing," she says. "Sometimes people want to be touched or need to be touched—literally—in order to begin breathing."
She'd later demonstrate this using a breathing stool—an apparatus developed by Alexander Lowen, co-founder of the Bioenergetic Institute, which she jokingly refers to as a "torture rack."
"You can call it 'energy psychology' which people think is something very new, but it's really something very old," Ladas says about her technique. "The Chinese worked with it, acupuncture worked with it, tai chi works with it, kung fu works with it."
A certification in Seid karate hanging on her wall alongside myriad other degrees and recognitions makes it obvious she knows what she's talking about. Just don't expect for her to sweep the leg anytime soon.
"That's really not what it's about," the 20-year Santa Fe resident says. "It's about being strong in yourself; being able to stand your ground and being able to use your energy. It's not about chopping anybody up," she laughs.
Bringing somatic psychology to the forefront, even though the American Psychological Association looks down on it, is front and center in Ladas' days. Well, that and being a "very big-time grandmother."
Smiling, she insists success in any relationship all comes down to basics. "The problem isn't so much what happens at first, when you get excited because you're really interested in this new person—the so called 'in love'—but the loving part is where it's important," she explains. "The 'in love' is usually, partially a fantasy—'This person is gonna fulfill everything I need' or 'This person is marvelous'—and then you go to the bathroom with them and you discover they're very human."
Far from a silver bullet, not losing interest or inherent curiosity in your partner is a welcome springboard.
"Keeping that interest alive, keeping that sensitivity alive to the other person—whether it's sexual or nonsexual—that is a key," she points out. "I don't have the key or the answers."
At its core, Ladas insists a healthy sexual relationship depends on communication.
"Everybody wants to be heard and understood, that's part of being loving," she says. "When diplomats don't hear or understand the other side, we go to war. The same thing is true of couples."