Because I write about Slow Sex, people assume that I’m into Tantra. Which I am, to some degree. But I see a lot of confusion and misrepresentations of Tantra in some circles. In this article, I am addressing the misconceptions around Tantra that I come across.
What is Tantra?
First of all, do you know what Tantra is? Have a look at Wikipedia’s page under the term Tantra. Good luck figuring that one out…!
Here’s a short summary of things: From an Eastern philosophical viewpoint, tantra refers to a spiritual practice that (instead of withdrawing from worldly activities in order to connect to the divine) takes our everyday experience of the world and uses them as a mean to connect to our spiritual selves.
Like other Eastern philosophical ideas (YOGA, anyone?) we Westerners took this word and we’re using it in one context only. Tantra in the Western world is usually referred to the esoteric practice of sex, and more often than not it is marketed as the solution for many sexual problems: from simple boredom to severe sexual dysfunctions.
Tantra is Promoting a Revolutionary approach to Sex.
Now, although I chose quite a provocative title to this article, I have nothing against Tantric traditions. In fact, to be totally honest, the first book which I read that started my shift into a mindset of connecting, non-goal-oriented sex, is Tantric Orgasm for Women by Diana Richardson. I highly recommend this book to everyone, by the way. But to be even more totally-er honest with you, the introduction section of the book was all I needed from it. The rest of the book, which goes into details about male-female energies, circulating magnetic poles in our bodies, and the hierarchy of which body part to pay more attention to while you’re having sex was interesting but did not apply to the way I practice sex so far, even after years of practicing slow sex. I don’t dismiss it whatsoever, and at the same time, coming from a very scientific background (as someone that holds a Bachelor’s degree in Physics, I consider myself quite scientific-oriented), I find it irrelevant to my own practice. That does not mean I dismiss it. Not at all! I have a deep respect to (actually, I’m also slightly jealous of) people who do feel energy flow and magnetic fields through their bodies. If you are one such person then you will most probably connect with the approach of Tantric teachings.
As for someone — like myself — who is far removed from feeling energies in their bodies, the significance of Tantric teachings is that it redirects our attentions from trying to do more in order to have a more exciting sex life (which is the conventional Western approach to sex) and replaces it with focusing on the here and now. From trying to achieve a goal by means of increasing the excitement, it pulls our attention to the connection with our partner.
But there are many other slow sex approaches that promote the same thing — approaches like OM (orgasmic meditation), which is a modern, quite confrontational approach to slow sex. Or like the Polynesian style of lovemaking which is depicted beautifully in James N. Powell’s book Slow Love. Or simply practicing it intuitively by following the lead of the subtle sensations in your body.
For many people, the sheer opportunity to communicate freely, express themselves without fear of being ridiculed or shamed, and feel completely normal and natural around sex, is a major leap forward that will catapult their sex life tremendously.
Tantric workshops provide that, which might explain why they’re so popular and sought after. Yet many people, searching to enhance their sex lives, fall prey to so-called Tantric workshops of teachers that are riding the wave of how much of a buzz word Tantra has become. These teachers do not necessarily teach Tantra – but they advertise their workshops as Tantric in order to spark the interest of people who are interested in Eastern philosophies and sex.
The Pitfalls to Be Wary Of.
For example, there are workshops in which Tantra is taught as merely another sex technique. These teachers are still very much goal-oriented, and they lure you to their workshops by telling you about these amazing, out-of-this-world orgasmic experiences that will become available to you if you only learn how to have sex the Tantric way. Want a full-body orgasm? Want a nipple orgasm? Come and learn how. I would more accurately describe these workshops as: “a workshop that teaches how to have a mind-blowing orgasm by using breath and energy techniques”. Achieving such tremendous orgasms might be an awesome experience, but if your approach to sex is still completely goal-oriented, then you are missing the whole point — and the most important benefits — of slow sex.
There’s another type of Tantric workshop that is often offered around my neck of the woods. In these workshops, everyone is encouraged to touch and hug everyone else (with consent! Or shall I describe it as pseudo-consent? I challenge you to go to one of these workshops and tell people you prefer not to be touched…) because touch doesn’t have to be sexual and you can enjoy the release of oxytocin without starting to feel attached to the people you touch. These workshops I would more accurately describe as: “a workshop to enjoy the touch of other people because touch is a very important aspect of our lives and you might not be getting enough of it in your daily life”. Yes, receiving and giving touch is a very important aspect of our lives, but it won’t suit people (like yours truly) who feel completely uncomfortable hugging and touching people just for the sake of touching people… I have my close-knit circle of family and friends whom I hug ongoingly, in ways that feel natural and comfortable, not imposed.
And then there’s the Tantric sex gurus, the ones that will teach you that sex is a window to a spiritual world. Sure, it can be. And I can see how meditating while having sex (which is pretty much what you do when you practice Tantric sex: focusing your attention on your breath and bodily sensations) might be a powerful tool to connect with the divine. The sensations that are experienced in our body while having sex are usually much stronger than those that are experienced while we’re doing a seated meditation — or any other meditation that is done solitary, for that matter. And it can lead us to that space of thoughtlessness, where our mind stops and we are left with the awe of pure consciousness.
If you look upon the acquisition of sensational experiences as spiritual, then I would like to challenge you. As much as these experiences are lovely, spiritual evolution comes from a practice that gradually transforms you to be a more integrated human being: someone that responds to the world, moment by moment, from a deep place of knowingness.
To quote my favorite teacher, Rupert Spira — “Don’t use sex to become more aware. Become more aware and use that to enhance your sexuality.”
Is Tantric Sex for ME?
If you are curious about Tantra, and you are the type of person who is excited by the energy that flows inside you and the notion of your own magnetic pole dancing with someone else’s, then by all means, Tantra is for you.
I would advise that you choose your teacher wisely. I personally would chose ones that teach the principles of Tantric sex, and send you off to practice with your partner — or by yourself, mind you — whenever the time is right for you.
What are the Alternatives?
If you’re a bit more like me — meaning, someone that’s a bit more right-brain oriented, and you still want to learn how to have a truly satisfying sex life, then I suggest looking at other resources.
Any approach to slow sex that is emphasizing focusing your entire attention on the points of contact between your partner and yourself is a good start. Invest in learning how to shift your attention from achieving an orgasm to the deep connection that unfolds while you’re touching your partner with the intention of exploring each other’s body. Relax into sex, instead of getting ahead of yourself.
In other words, remember to slow down and be fully present while you’re with someone else.
For an introduction to a more right-brain approach to slow sex, I offer a free e-course “How to Truly, Wholeheartedly Enjoy Lovemaking”.