My first pop-culture encounter with tantric sex was—like so many other “edgy” sexual practices, from threesomes to fetishes—during a “SATC” episode. The women attend a tantric sex workshop in which a white-haired woman massages her elderly, blissed-out husband, who, after some buildup, ejaculates into the air and … onto Miranda. Educational? Sure. An accurate depiction of tantra? Not so much, according to my sources.
Tantra as a broader category refers to the ancient practices and customs of Hinduism. Tantric sex grew out of this larger religious umbrella as a form of ritualized sacred sex—one that may have inherited some of its tenets or inspiration from tantra, but which most proponents of Hinduism and Buddhism deny sharing much heritage with the religion. So everything you’ll learn here is in the context of tantric sex as it exists today, casually and unofficially—it has no affiliation with a religion, culture, or organization. It’s a practice that is shared and passed down, and followed with devotion by the people whose lives—and sex lives—it has changed for the better.
I spoke to California-based Advanced Certified Tantra Educator Mare Simone, a teacher at the Source School of Tantra, who gave me her own definition of tantric sex. “The first words that come to mind are a real, true coming together,” says Simone. “It’s when women learn to fully feel their body’s sexual needs and desires, allowing them to become much more orgasmic than they usually are. And men slow down and learn how to harness their sexual power so they can ride the orgasmic wave, rather than coming quickly, which they’re hard-wired to do.”
London-based tantric sex instructor Rebecca Lowrie is quick to point out that a tantric experience isn’t just sexual, either. “It’s really a spiritual path that embraces sexuality,” says Lowrie. “It’s a path of letting go of fear, shame, and conditioning so that you can be your full self. It provides a framework and set of resources for being utterly present and therefore intimate with life.”
When Mare described her idea of a successful tantric sexual experience, I was in awe. “I think a woman should have at least two, or even three orgasms before sexual penetration even begins.” Say what?! “When the roots of the clitoris are fully engorged after orgasm, penetration is so much more desirable for a woman and much more pleasurable for men. There’s more contact, the vagina is juicy, wet, and might even involve the female ejaculation that can send a man into seventh heaven.” OK, listening…
How all of this actually goes down is both mysterious and intriguing as hell. “I call it the orgasmic magic zone—the OM zone,” Simone says. “It can happen with partners, but also on your own. It’s an erotic sexual meditation, a zone you can feel even before touch begins when you’re in tune with your orgasm energy, through breathing and muscles that pump through your whole pelvic region and make it engorge.” It works for both men and women, she says. When you come this way, especially with a partner through penetration, the orgasm has a deeper, whole-body quality, and lasts much longer, she explains.
“It’s so much more emotionally, spiritually, and physically satisfying,” she says. “You can even go into a deep, meditative healing state. Sometimes old emotional traumas or wounds come up and are cleared through that orgasmic energy. That’s when tantric sex becomes what I would call magical and distinct from just pump and grind, get it off and go to sleep.” Oh, and men don’t necessarily have to ejaculate—but that doesn’t mean they don’t come.
“Really, men should have fewer climaxes and more orgasms,” Simone says, “because if he ejaculates on the first orgasm, there’s nothing left.” But if a man internally ejaculates—yep, that’s a thing, it’s called injaculating—without releasing semen, “he’s reinvesting in his own erotic bank account. That serves him sexually, making his orgasms much more powerful, and even gives him more energy, rather than making him feel depleted and want to roll over.” So really, if that old couple had been properly tantra-ing in “SATC,” the man wouldn’t have shot his load all over Miranda.
After picking Simone’s brain as much as I could, I asked her for a couple of tantric rituals that can be tried at home—alone, or with a partner—for the curious newbies among us.
Beginner’s Tantra for One: Self-Love Initiation
On a day when you want to honor yourself, start a Jacuzzi or bath to wash away the day. Make your bed as you would for a lover—laid out beautifully with candles, towels, or toys. This sets the stage for a special ritual. After the cleansing bubble bath, begin to caress your inner thighs and up and around your genitals, without trying to come. “Just feel what your sexual body center needs,” says Simone. “Invoke self-loving communication.”
Make a yoni mudra (“sacred position of power”) with your hands, letting your index fingers touch right at the tip of your clitoris, and the tips of your thumbs touching over your pubic bone. It should look like a heart shape. “Meditate in that place,” says Simone. “This position creates a tremendous amount of power, so feel the circuitry connect over your vagina with your hands in the mudra, pumping thoughts of love and appreciation into that area while breathing deeply.”
The next stage might be a massage, but not with the goal of orgasm. “This is like the antithesis of masturbation,” says Simone. “Give yourself loving pleasure with your hands, rather than a vibrator. The beautify is that later, when a woman wants to guide a partner to find those sacred places in her, she’ll know how to teach him or her what her body needs because she listened to it.”
Beginner’s Tantra for Two: Maximum Pleasure
Look into each other’s eyes. Breathe deeply. Take turns caressing each other’s hands one at a time, one finger at a time. Notice and talk about all the feelings in each hand. Then move on to the face. Touch, kiss, and learn about all of the feelings in different areas—the cheek, the forehead, the chin.
“There are so many parts of us represented in our hands and face—every organ and chakra,” says Simone. “For those who like feet, every toe can be an erogenous zone. It’s not about manually stimulating each other’s genitals; it’s about the tender places that need to be touched. These places are hidden some of the time, so they hold secrets and feelings, and can be so erotic when they’re touched the right way, with communication and a lot of attention.”
Pay attention to unlikely locations: The arches of feet, the soft spots between each finger and toe, the cracks of the elbows, the crease behind the knees. Use fingertips or whole hands or soft scratching of nails—use every nuance of touch to create maximum pleasure. Guide your partner to find the maximum amount of pleasure in every place that he or she goes, explaining what feels good and requesting the things you want them to try.
“If it’s not the right way, the exercise is to say what feels good and ask for more of that until you get it right—even if it’s just saying, ‘It feels really good that you’re trying to find what feels good for me,'” says Simone. The goal of this ritual is to create a safe environment where you and your partner feel comfortable experiencing things you’ve never felt before and establishing vulnerability and intimacy. “When this happens, the amount of connection that can happen is really powerful.”
A version of this article was originally published in August 2016.