Tantric Massage: A Review
‘Why do to your man what he can do to himself?’
This week I ventured into the erotic world of Tantric massage by attending the Erotic Tantric Massage Workshop at Passionfruit the Sensuality Shop in Richmond. I have always shied away from Tantra. Devotees tend to come across as a little intense and otherworldly, emphasising energy flows and daylong full-body orgasms that nobody has time for, or cosmic encounters where participants simply stare at one another and breathe their way to orgasmic bliss. And so I tended to lump Tantra in a category for older hippies and born-again new-agers who couldn’t have, or didn’t want, regular in-out, let’s-make-it-to-the-finish-line sex.
Still, I was curious. How valid were my preconceptions? Would I discover why so many people in my field have found a home in the Tantric community? Would I learn a new way to approach love and intimacy that I was comfortable working with?
On arrival, I received a glass of champagne before being ushered upstairs. In the centre of the room was a massage table, surrounded by chairs. The décor reminded me of a museum of erotic art and the scent was of a new age merchant. Mood music played faintly in the background.
Our instructor, Carol, described herself as a Somatic Sexologist and Tantric Teacher. The brochure described her as a ‘Tantric Sex Coach, renowned Tantric healer and sexual deviant of extreme talent’ whose ‘humor and no-holes-barred approach’, ‘hand-on (sic) style, searing honesty and deep understanding of male sexuality, will teach you things about pleasuring a man you never thought possible.’ Wearing a black oriental silk dressing gown over a slip and leggings, she introduced herself to the eager onlookers: women of a range of ages and backgrounds, who were each hoping to get something a little different out of the evening.
Carol began by giving us some basic principles of Tantra, which she enunciated with the same breathy intonation I have heard from other practitioners (‘Tah-n-tra’), and I wondered if this was part of the Tantra schooling. Tantra, she said, is unlike the linear, race-to-the-finish-line intercourse most westerners are used to. Tantra is about riding the peaks and troughs of erotic energy throughout the encounter, which can last and last, and which is worth making time for. Orgasm is not the goal for either partner, but heightened pleasure experienced in the entire body, not only the ‘yoni’ (womb) and ‘lingam’ (penis).
Before the demonstration began, Carol encouraged us to breathe and let go of any feelings of awkwardness and discomfort. What we were about to see was not a typical encounter, and even though we had self-selected to participate, it ran counter to our societal taboos.
Her male model, Greg, very bravely put himself in Carol’s public rubber-gloved hands, while she demonstrated how to please and explore every part of his body. As Carol demonstrated various strokes, assuring us that these places were highly pleasurable for a man, Greg nodded an enthusiastic yes into the massage table. She began with his head and hair, before applying olive oil liberally to his back, working her way from the sacrum out to his limbs. She finished by showing us how to massage the inner thighs, buttocks, cleft, all the way in to Greg’s rosebud.
At this point, the audience gathered in to see more: erotic anal play is not something many women get to see performed on men, so Carol discussed some dos and don’ts, the benefits of using gloves, and how to avoid shaming your partner if you happen to encounter any faecal matter along the way. After playing with Greg’s backside, she simply and easily removed her gloves, ready to move on. This was certainly more educational and practical guidance than I’ve found in any Cosmo sealed section, and more realistic than anything you’ll see in porn.
Carol then demonstrated how you could use your breasts and body to massage your lover’s back, no matter what your size and shape, a reassuring message for someone on the petite size, like me.
Next, it was time for Greg to turn over and to put on his blindfold. I’m not entirely sure if this was for his comfort or ours, but Carol recommended using blindfolds when starting out if you feel self-conscious or if your partner has difficulty relinquishing control.
With a new set of gloves, Carol proceeded to explore Greg’s breasts and nipples, his belly, and the other regions that we often ignore on men’s bodies. She worked his limbs and then moved to the lingam. What I saw next I would have assumed came from the list of most bizarre Cosmo sex tips if I hadn’t witnessed it. Carol showed us a completely new world of ways to stimulate your lover’s shaft, testicles, perineum, and pelvis. I can’t even begin to describe some of the techniques without giving the impression that Carol was torturing Greg’s balls or giving three-quarters of his dick Chinese burns, but she assured us that one of the chief complaints she hears from men is that women go too soft on their partner’s privates. We couldn’t always judge by his well-controlled erection how Carol’s ministrations were being received, but Greg nodded his enthusiasm throughout.
The grand finale of this demonstration was Carol showing us how to keep a man on the brink while you work together to control his ejaculation until you give him the go ahead to blow. Carol even taught us how to make the post-ejaculation clean up a part of the erotic experience, and not how you’ve probably seen in porn.
We thanked Greg (who hadn’t actually blown his load), and then moved on to part two of the workshop, where we practiced some of what we had learned on an obliging carrot. Wearing gloves and using oil, we worked the shaft and head of the carrot, learning how to change our grip and strokes to provide a host of sensations, ready to take our new knowledge home.
On occasion, I found Carol’s ‘searing honesty’ confronting. More than once she commented in an off-hand way that if you don’t service every part of your partner’s body, they will find someone else who will. While I understand where she is coming from, I found her flippant manner a little too black-and-white and over-generalised, and when you have a room full of strangers in your audience, you don’t know what their backgrounds are or how hearing something like that might make them feel. I tend to think relationships and sexual fulfilment are a little more complex, and try to be more delicate, but everyone has their own approach. For me, comments like this reinforce the notion that it is a woman’s job to do whatever it takes to ‘keep’ a man. I grew up with that sentiment and it rubs the feminist in me the wrong way. I feel it takes away from giving pleasure as a gift and shifts it to an obligation born of insecurity and fear, where every woman competes to hold a man’s attention at all costs, which is very disempowering and seemed counter to all of Carol’s other teachings.
I don’t want to take away from Carol’s very obvious skill and positive approach, where erotic pleasure is about showing deep love for your partner, whether that partner is someone you picked up at a bar for the night, or your husband of thirty years. It certainly opened my eyes and mind, and was a very timely reminder that racing to the finish line every time limits your sexual experience, and can lead easily into what I call ‘married sex’. No one’s sex life should erode into the colour-by-numbers, your-turn my-turn routine that stifles erotic energy and can eventually put you off sex altogether. And that’s where Carol’s approach was so powerful, encouraging women to take control and take an active role in providing pleasure, completely switching the traditional gendered sexual roles, which is something too few of us feel confident doing. It also highlighted how much I pay lip service to not making male orgasm the focal point of every encounter, and the dangers of doing so.
I also need to work to keep my practical side in check. A Tantric approach requires making time to enjoy the experience fully. It also requires a set of towels or sheets that can be comfortably covered in oil, and maybe a day when I haven’t just washed my hair…
Overall, it was a very entertaining and educational evening. Seeing a man pleasured in a non-linear full-body way is not something you ordinarily get to see. Even watching a man pleasure himself only teaches you so much. ‘Why do to your man what he can do to himself?’ Carol said. ‘Do for him what he’s never had done before.’ And that’s what I intend to do.
To book a place in this or other workshops offered by Passionfruit the Sensuality Shop, visit Passionfruit Sensuality’s events page.