I remember bumping into my good friend in the "self help" section of the university library, both of us desperately trying to find the answer as to why, at 19, theoretically in the prime of life, our love lives were so disappointing. If only I had found tantric sex back then.
When I eventually found a book about tantric sex that didn't seem too weird or scary, it took me about 30 seconds to decide to buy it. And I think it took about 30 minutes for it to start to improve my sex life.
Sex is everywhere, on billboards, in magazines; you can't walk into supermarkets without seeing some kind of weird entanglement barely hidden on the cover of a man's magazine. (Yes, this bothers me!) As a society, we're obsessed with sex. I think maybe we're so obsessed because we don't really understand it. Tantra is the real sex education.
Tantra embraces the fact that sex is holistic; not just physical or mental or spiritual, but all of these things. And it explodes two of the biggest myths that can cause unhappiness with our sex lives.
The first is that our sexiness is derived from our desirability - that we need another person (or people) to feel sexy. Instead, tantra teaches how to get in touch with your own sexiness. Can you imagine someone like Sophia Loren waiting for a boyfriend to give her permission to be sexy? No, it comes from within. Whether you are in a relationship or single, all you need is within you right now. Tantra places a lot of emphasis on self love, whether you're a man or a woman, as many students of tantra believe that you have to know your own body in order to have mind blowing sex with another person. And it takes the pressure off - of finding another person to make you feel sexy or your partner if you're in a relationship - why should they be responsible for your sex life?
The second big myth is that sex is all about orgasms. Instead tantra teaches us to learn to enjoy every aspect of sex, to use all of our senses, to enjoy every moment, to relax and let go. What happens when you do this? Well, not only does sex become more pleasurable, so if you don't achieve this particular goal, you don't feel let down or disappointed, but also, without the pressure, orgasms are often more likely to happen. (And when I say orgasms I do mean multiple orgasms - for women and men.)
Let me give you an analogy. You're going to a fireworks display, and you really hope at the end of it there's going to be one of those huge rockets that you love. You can either stand with your loved one (or by yourself) and look at each firework and think "yes but where's the big one?" or you can choose to enjoy everything in the moment. The sparklers, the catherine wheels, the roman candles, enjoy them all for themselves, and then if the big rocket goes off you'll probably enjoy it that much more because you're already having a great time - or, you can go home, knowing that you enjoyed everything else.
The most important thing that I learned through tantra, is that it is impossible to really love another person, or have a great sexual relationship, until you truly learn to love and respect yourself.
We think we can isolate sex, but whatever is happening in our heads and hearts affects our sex life. For example when talking about making love for hours and hours, what we're often talking about is communication making us ready to be intimate. I always say that a date starts 24 hours beforehand. If I know I am going on a date I can look forward to it, choose my clothes accordingly, put on perfume, arrange my room, get excited, so that even when my partner walks through the door I am feeling loving. If on the other hand I get a call or text only a few hours beforehand, I am thinking whether what I am wearing is appropriate, what I was supposed to be doing, and a hundred other things, and often feeling more rushed than loving.
Another great situation (or rather not so great situation) is arguments. It's perhaps more common for women to do this: You're annoyed about something - he forgot to put out the rubbish, or he's really, really late. You were looking forward to a nice romantic evening. Instead of letting go, not only are you furious with him but you also feel it would be inappropriate to have sex now. You basically punish him by withholding sex - but in so doing you're also punishing yourself. So now you're not just angry about the original problem, you're also angry because you don't get to have sex. And so it goes on, sometimes over weeks and months until it's almost impossible to have sex without feeling that you are giving in. Not nice. I warn you, even knowing this, there are times when it's hard to let go - but perhaps you can let go and embrace your partner sooner if you are aware of what's really going on!
Tantra also has some wonderful exercises, to help us let go, heal sexual problems, enjoy intimacy without feeling that it has to lead to sex. All in all, learning about tantric sex has helped me to learn to let go of any old hang ups and bad habits attached to sex, and to remember what it's all about, enjoying the beauty of the physical, mental and spiritual, feeling safe, relaxed and never pressured and enjoying every moment of my sexual experiences.