Many people believe that tantra is an ancient Indian erotic technique that leads to hours of sex and mystical orgasms. Well, that’s not true… but orgasms are definitely involved! Here’s a guide to avoid being fooled and become a guru in no time.
What is “tantra”?
In the Sanskrit language, the word ‘tantra’ simply means ‘framework’ or ‘loom’, like the one weavers use. Its root ‘tan’ is part of many words related to the concept of creating something composed of multiple elements, and can roughly be interpreted as ‘doctrine’ or ‘discipline’. For about 750 years, it has also come to refer to sutras, the texts that collect guidelines for proper behavior according to the many variations of Buddhist and Hindu religions. You have probably heard of the Kama Sutra (literally ‘The Principles of Love’), which is not a “sacred book” at all but simply a manual – in fact, there are tantras that teach cooking, how to organize hunting trips, or treat wounds.
Being ancient texts intended for cultures different from ours, it’s no surprise that they also contain many odd parts. If you have indeed tried to read the Kama Sutra expecting to find an arousing book, you were probably disappointed to discover that the chapter on sex positions fills very few pages only, while the rest is preoccupied with almost ridiculous advice (‘sleep on your stomach in a hammock with a weight attached to your penis, it will lengthen it’, or ‘if he pats your buttocks, respond with the sound ‘phat’ or ‘phut’ based on your spirit animal’) and sections dedicated to household budgeting.
Nevertheless, when Europeans landed in India in the 1700s to colonize it, they encountered a way of life so different from what they were accustomed to that they interpreted many aspects of the local culture as “mystical, ancient, and forbidden”. It didn’t take much for former prisoners used to missionary-style sex in the brothels of Manchester to perceive these aspects as exotic. As was often the case at the time, the tales of those returning home were further exaggerated to deceive the gullible – especially those who could invest in new ventures in distant lands. Thus, the myth of the Mysterious East was born, including the idea of strange cultures where even sex was completely different from “ours”.
Perry Baker’s great scam
Fast forward to 1905, when the Almighty and Magnificent Oom inaugurated the Tantric Order of America – an unprecedented school of Eastern arts. In its many locations, including a gigantic estate near New York, the man taught not only a simple form of yoga but also the “living death of Kali Mudra” (a kind of trance) and, of course, Tantra.
If you are now thinking that something doesn’t add up… you’re absolutely right. Mr. Oom was actually one Perry Baker, son of an Iowa barber, who had already changed several names to escape convictions for fraud. Then he met (in Nebraska) an Indian who taught him a few meditation techniques and Hatha Yoga positions, he read a few adventure books, and reinvented himself as a guru – for a fee, of course.
The Kali Mudra was simply the analgesic effect obtained from smoking opium, allowing him to have his ears and cheeks pierced without screaming in pain. As for “Tantra”… well, historical accounts vary greatly – but the fact that Baker faced several complaints of sexual harassment from his “disciples” (including minors who were forcibly kept in the school) speaks volumes.
Nevertheless, the shock caused by World War I, the Great Depression, and the 1920 influenza pandemic had driven the whole world to believe in spiritualism and any supernatural charlatanism that could offer hope of reunion with their deceased loved ones. So, Oom continued to have a grand old time for quite a while, especially because the principles of his tantric sex weren’t all that bad after all.
Tantric sex today
There are currently many branches of sexual tantra; most of them just nonsense like Baker’s, but some are a bit more serious. What they all have in common is the concept that sex must not necessarily be focused on the genitals, and that through simple couple exercises the partners can achieve better harmony and experience more pleasure.
These exercises are the same you would find in any mindfulness course: meditation, breathing, relaxation, stretching. In addition, emphasis is placed on communication, synchrony – for example: breathing together while looking into each other’s eyes – and on the pelvic floor muscles, which are often too contracted due to our lifestyle.
Some of the practices may be performed while naked, and in the case of penetration or masturbation the focus lies more on the body and soul union rather than trying to come as quickly as possible. That’s it: nothing more, nothing less than having sex calmly and together, instead of being neurotic about it. However, for many people, a “mystical” atmosphere is required to allow themselves this type of relaxation.
A large part of the success of tantric sex today comes precisely from this: having an “excuse” to explore one’s physicality and sensuality, or an “alibi” to let go of inhibitions. Not surprisingly, many schools and courses quickly devolve into common orgies – yet “spiritual” ones, at least in words. Someone even invented “dark tantra”, which is essentially the same as BDSM, but spiced up with chakras and kundalini-flavored hypocrisies!
Regardless of the reasons, however, having sex with greater awareness truly is much more rewarding. Letting go of the fixation on “reaching orgasm” (as if it were something trying to elude us…) makes everything more pleasurable, and whenyou eventually come, the intensity is proportional to the anticipation.
Give it a try and let me know. Just be aware that there is nothing esoteric about wanting to love yourself.