Story By Georgina Berbari
Art by Georgina Berbari + Elsa Marie Keefe
With Valentine’s Day approaching, Luminary editor Georgina Berbari explores the area of eroticism and the power of self-pleasure.
The body has an immense capacity for intense pleasure. Too often people have sex without ever asking what their body needs. This extends both to partnered sex and to self-pleasure. Moreover, too often dissociation and sex can go hand-in-hand. Sometimes, the body shuts down due to stored trauma. The result of this is the execution of a version of what we think sex should be, even if it’s far from empowering. Overthinking can also be a very real blockage to experiencing the full spectrum of pleasure our body is offering.
“[Tantric sex] can help you release shame, trauma, and blocks around sex.”
There are so many ways of healing the relationship to the body and to sex. Here we’ll explore tantric sex, a profoundly healing sexual practice that attenuated cultural conditioning blocks us from. “[The] path is simple but profound: It’s about wholeheartedly celebrating the sacredness of our bodies and desires while bringing a quality of mindful awareness to the shared expression of pleasure,” Leslie Grace, R.N., certified tantra educator and body worker told mindbodygreen.
When I did some research, I learned that Grace is the founder of Ritual Tantra, whose mission is to illuminate a new paradigm of sexual relating based on love, respect, and celebration. According to Grace, the purpose of tantra is to harness sexual energy as a means to discover union with all of life beyond the separate sense of self.
“[Tantric sex] can help you release shame, trauma, and blocks around sex, unleashing the transformative power of your erotic energy and leading you to some of the most soul-shattering orgasms ever,” Grace told mbg. “Time slows down, your intuition expands, and you can find yourself in nearly psychedelic realms of orgasmic possibility that you might have only heard about or imagined.”
Whether you’re masturbating or having sex with a partner, all the stimulation and pleasure coursing through your body can have long-lasting effects that go far beyond a single, toe-curling moment of satisfaction. So how does tantric sex tie in here?
What is tantric sex?
Tantric sex is a sexual practice that’s part of the ancient spiritual path of ‘tantra’ (a Sanskrit term that translates to ‘weave’). Grace writes: “[The word tantra] refers to weaving together or uniting the masculine and feminine forces within all of us, heaven and earth, the human body with the transcendent, collapsing the polarities.”
Simply put, tantric sex is a practice of being in the moment and leading with the intention to experience a pleasurable sexual experience.
“It is about being curious to explore your body and your partner in a slow, nonjudgmental manner,” Dr. Janet Brito Licensed Psychologist, LCSW, and AASECT Certified Sex Therapist at the Center for Sexual and Reproductive Health tells Luminary. “It is about being open to the process of connecting to the present in order to enhance your sexual relationship.”
According to Brito, with tantric sex, the goal is not about performance, but about pleasure. It is not about orgasm, but about exploring and appreciating each other’s bodies. No pressure and no judgment of the self or the other—just curiosity. By stripping away expectations and self-consciousness, your sexual relationship with your partner and with your own body begins to heal.
“The goal is to be aware of one’s sexual energy in the body, to know what one’s body enjoys as far as pleasure, and to tune into one’s energies,” Brito says. To achieve this, tantric sex encourages self-pleasure/masturbation as a means to identify pleasure points and/or blocks on the body.
Finding pleasure points
This practice of identifying pleasure points might involve closing your eyes, breathing, and slowly touching your body everywhere with tenderness. Notice what sensations come up in each area. Know that each sensation belongs. Release the tension you are unconsciously holding. Give yourself permission to receive pleasure where there was nothing moments before. This is your sacred creation.
Exploring your pleasure zones may also be done with a partner that you feel comfortable and safe with. Brito says that by inhaling and exhaling together, you can connect at a deeper level and become more grounded in the experience. It can be really hard to stay in the moment during sex due to all of the past experiences each of us bring to the table—the hurt and pain; the confusion and oftentimes trauma.
In response to this, Brito explains that “tantric sex has techniques to assist with being in the moment, such as breathing, and mindful touch.” By slowing down, and adopting a curious attitude to getting to know your body rather than punishing it for its short-comings with mental degradation, your relationship to yourself will deepen. Brito confirms the benefits tantric sex has had in her own life—as do an array of spiritual teachers who refer to orgasm as divine; a melting of the egoistic self.
And to the non-spiritually inclined, tantra is for you too. Brito concurs. “I mean, who wouldn’t benefit from slowing down, and appreciating their body more?” she says.
Fundamentally, tantric sex is about endless discovery: an awakening and embracing of the free-flowing sexual energy that lies dormant in us all. So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, love embodiment, and earth-shattering orgasms, why not try tantra?
Given the fact that, according to RAINN, approximately one in six women + one in ten men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime, healing practices are vital. Unfortunately, these numbers are likely projected lower than the actual occurrence of sexual assault, as there are many instances that go unreported. It is not your fault and healing is possible. If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, you can call the sexual assault hotline, which is free, confidential, and available 24/7, at 1-800-656-HOPE or visit RAINN for more options.