I remember going to AVN–the annual conference of the adult industry in Vegas and schmoozing with porn producers, and sex toy inventors and sellers.
One of them asked me what I did.
I said, “I teach tantra.”
From their reaction, I might as well have said, “I have ebola and am highly contagious.”
They stepped back. A look of disgust crossed their face.
What the hell?
I had done my training in sexuality Europe, where I had lived the past 15 years. And there, tantra is a curiosity and a movement.
However, in America, things look very different.
Here, due to a renegade few seeing something new they can cash in on, get laid with, and sometimes even abuse others with, there has arisen somewhat of a negative view around tantra.
Some people in the sex-positive world in the US see people using the word tantra as:
- Having few boundaries, nor respecting others’ boundaries
- Not teaching consent
- Being predatory
- Just a way to get sex
These are real problems.
I sometimes jokingly say, “A tantra workshop is where you go to learn a technique that has been handed down in reverence from guru to student for 5000 years after years of dedicated practice in a weekend from a guy who read a book on it two weeks ago.”
A famous sex educator in frustration told a group of tantric ‘teachers’: “I get to fix the people you people screw up.”
One of the most famous ‘tantra’ teachers in the US said, when asked how many women he had slept with, “I don’t know. Somewhere between one and two thousand, I think?”
All of these things contribute to people being wary of the word ‘tantra’ as taught and practiced in the United States.
Add that to the fact that numerous ‘tantric practitioners’ have been arrested and sometimes imprisoned on prostitution charges, and that ‘tantra’ is a cool word for an escort to write on her ad to drum up business, and it’s no wonder that it has a bad rap.
Indeed, even when I studied tantra, it was mostly about how to squeeze the most pleasure or healing out of every encounter. Little was said about what happens before that, in terms of negotiation, or after the experience, in terms of longer relationship dynamics.
And, many of the tantra teachers I know go from train wreck to train wreck of relationship. They enter someone’s life like an addictive drug, get them hooked, move on, and leave a trail of stilted lovers behind them.
To some degree, so did I when I first discovered this path.
So, with all of the crap that can go wrong and is bad with tantra, all of the abuses that can and do happen, why do I feel tantra is so important?
Tantra was life-changing for me. It was the first space in which my natural desires and skills regarding touch could be expressed freely, without guilt and shame.
It gave me clear ways to learn about both my body and my partner’s…and methods to maximize our pleasure together.
It became a non-denominational spiritual path for me. A way to discover my own divinity and that of my partner, and to connect in that devotional space as divinity–leaving outside whoever we thought we were before.
Tantra was my healing for guilt, shame, and fear. It became a doorway to loving and accepting my body.
A lot of great work is being done under this umbrella. And people’s lives do change.
We have Christian priests and yoga gurus who have been embroiled in scandals and embarrassed themselves. This doesn’t mean that yoga nor Christianity are without value. It means we learn and move on.
However, tantra needs to be redeemed, even if it will always mean something different to each person who participates in it. Because some people have caused offense with it, it needs to be redeemed.