Ancient practices of the Far East are creeping into Western
bedrooms -- and gaining a lot of attention from Western sex therapists. The
ideas and exercises of tantra -- a sexual practice and philosophy found in
Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism -- help enhance sexual experience and deepen
emotional connections. Much of tantra will be familiar if you've ever heard
what Western sex therapists teach.
"It took me a while to realize this," says Ray Stubbs,
PhD, a longtime devotee of tantra and author of The Essential Tantra.
"What I studied in Western sexology, and what I was studying with a Tibetan
lama at the very same time, were very similar concepts, but because the
language was different and the framework was different, I didn't think of them
as being the same. And one day I had this realization: Oh, they're talking
about the same thing."
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Beverly Whipple, PhD, the sex therapist and neurophysiologist
whose 1982 book coined the term "G-spot," says she uses tantra in her
workshops today. "I help people to see that the genitals are not our only
focus," she says.
Basically, tantric sex is about enhancing the sexual experience
by expanding your senses, as well as by deepening the connection between you
and your partner.
When the famed sex researchers Masters and Johnson began to
teach techniques for improving people's sex lives, they were often rephrasing
what was written in a set of Hindu texts called the Tantras (tantra, in
Sanskrit, means something like "interwoven") around 300 A.D. "In
Masters and Johnson's terminology, it's moving from sexuality as 'performance
or demand' to really an enhanced experience of the full aspects of sexual,
sensual expression," Stubbs says.
What it's not about, modern tantric teachers say, is copulating
in convoluted sex positions. It's fun to look at illustrations in the Kama
Sutra, but for most of us, the more gymnastic positions would be no fun to
Many Roads Lead To Rome
How, exactly, do you do tantra? It depends on whom you listen
to. Popular books on tantra written in English are adaptations of the ancient
Eastern rituals and philosophy, and interpretations vary among authors.
Sometimes what they describe would bear little resemblance to the original
rituals, because what worked for people in India 1,700 years ago may not
necessarily work for Americans now.
For example, in Stubbs' book, he details techniques of sensual
massage and how to perform a "Secret Garden" ritual with your partner,
which involves a bath, whipped cream, and chilled champagne. In Tantra: The
Art of Conscious Loving, authors Charles and Caroline Muir discuss
techniques of G-spot stimulation, kissing, and oral sex, in addition to ways to
improve communication between partners.
Other sex manuals that aren't specifically tantric also teach
these things. But you will find ideas in books on tantra that are not in
TheJoy of Sex, or Nina Hartley's educational videos.