When the editor of of Xtra West asked me to review a book about Tantric sex, I thought she was crazy. Me, a cynical, mildly prudish ex-Catholic who can’t say “porn” without blushing?
All I knew about Tantric practice was that it claims to help men prolong their orgasms, and that Sting credits it with his success in the sack.
After hanging up the telephone, I sent out a frantic email, inviting a few pals over for chocolate brownies and sex talk.
In between friendly gossip and debates about The L-Word, we pulled out Christa Schulte’s new book, Tantric Sex for Women: A Guide for Lesbian, Bi, Hetero, and Solo Lovers. Soon we were flipping through the pages, checking out the lists of exercises and rituals.
“What is Tantra?” asked one of my friends.
After lamely admitting my ignorance, I was intrigued to read that Tantra originated in pre-patriarchal India, developed by a woman-centred cult. The exercises were initially part of a spiritual practice designed to worship female sexuality and energy.
Today, Tantra is embraced in the West as an exotic solution to intimacy problems. But it continues to endorse a heterosexual model, focusing on a male/female polarity and emphasizing straight sex between men and women.
Christa Schulte, a lesbian psychotherapist living in Germany, wants to change all that.
Introduced to Tantra at the tender age of 19, Schulte spent years developing exercises specifically for women.
“Initially, I found the diminutive figure of Shakti (a Hindu goddess) sitting on a huge Shiva (a Hindu god) to be unattractive to me as a large, round, freedom-loving woman,” she admits in an email sent from Germany.
“Many lesbians have criticized the patriarchal structures and ideologies of both ancient and new Western forms of Tantra,” she adds.
By writing Tantric Sex for Women, Schulte hopes to share rituals that are both a return to the woman-centred traditions of Tantra and a re-working of practices to suit modern queer women.
“It has been my desire to go back to Tantra’s original essence as a cult that reveres women,” says Schulte. “At the same time, Tantric exercises and communication structures need reforming to bring them up to date.”
To accomplish this goal, Schulte incorporated influences from the Western Wiccan tradition and emphasized the importance of lesbian sexuality, adding an entire section titled “Lesbian Love as a Form of Self-Love.”
With over 50 exercises ranging from “fire-breathing orgasms” to the “dancing dragon woman,” there is enough material in Tantric Sex for Women to keep any girl-loving girl warm at night. Each ritual, described in detail, uses sexual play and meditative awareness to expand spiritual and physical pleasure.
“My all-time favourite exercise is still the Magic Mussel Massage,” Schulte states emphatically.
Using focused breathing and a variety of “pussy petting” techniques (including Tour de France and Lip Shiatsu), the Magic Mussel Massage is designed to spread energy through the entire body.
Obviously an avid researcher, Schulte also enjoys Taoist breast massage in the shower and a weekly date with her sex toys.
Back with my Sunday night brownie buddies, we pore over the exercise descriptions.
I read aloud, pointing out on an anatomical diagram where we can find some new erogenous zones (ever heard of the M spot or the U spot?). And how about Schulte’s list of names for a girl’s private parts? Lust grotto, pleasure forest and for the Canadians in the audience, little Niagara Falls.
I have visions of the nuns at my high school falling over in a dead faint.
After my pals leave, I finish my tea, wash the dishes and flip through Schulte’s book one more time.
Being single, it’s a relief to find an entire chapter dedicated to some “wild and tender games” I can play solo.
Feeling like a cross between Bridget Jones and a medical researcher, I take a notebook and pen to continue my research under the covers.
After reading some of the descriptions, I realize that my tried-and-true masturbatory techniques are going to be challenged.
With years of practice, I’ve developed a business-like efficiency to my nightly fumblings, and I’m now able to get orgasmic in just a few quick minutes. But Tantra is all about process, taking the time to get in touch with ourselves, our bodies and our spirit.
After some awkward attempts at deep breathing that sound more like hyperventilation, I get into the rhythm of things. And although the results don’t trigger any personal transformation, I do enjoy myself.
Tantra, I remind myself, isn’t about finding some instant version of nirvana. It’s about the journey. And if the journey involves lots of “creative breaks in the pillows,” as Christa Schulte puts it, I couldn’t be happier.