A slightly odd feature: published in Ralph magazine in 2003, I started out in a mocking frame of mind and ended up being rather taken-aback and later quite impressed. The mixed-up tone of this is an accurate reflection of my state of mind.
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And I mean it!
I blame Sting.
I find myself in a dark room with candles lit and whale music playing and a woman I don’t know touching my naughty bits. And I blame Sting for the whole thing.
The reason I blame him is not because his bland pop has haunted my life. And it’s not because of that irritating rainforest thing. It’s because he does Tantric sex. He can have sex with his wife Trudie Styler for about a million hours straight, and Trudie Styler has never been seen in public without a really big smile. I’ve got to find out how and why. Which is why I’m in a room with whale music. Great, Sting.
This is the sum total of what most people know about Tantric sex: you can go for hours, and you have to think about Sting having sex. Here’s some more news for you – in fact, here’s a simple exercise: one of the keys to being a legendary lover is the PC muscle.
PC stands for pubococcygeal, and it’s the muscle that makes you stop peeing when you feel the dodgy dude in the corner looking at you. Because it’s a muscle, you can develop it by flexing it, just like you’re doing now.
The woman in the room with the whale music is testing my PC muscle.
Now this sounds like a fantasy, one of those mythical sessions at the doctor, where a pouting blonde nurse cradles your clockweights and whispers “cough” into your ear. But actually it’s just like a real visit to the doctor and all I feel is uncomfortable.
Let’s rewind. The woman is Michelle, a Tantric sex goddess, and the practical side of my course. The course is run by Kerry Riley, and his aim is to make you a better lover. There are three parts to it: ejaculation control and maintaining virility; making love as well as having sex; and getting into a higher state of ecstasy.
None of which mean a damn thing unless you can do it. This is where the goddess comes in.
“We developed the work with the goddess about two years ago,” says Kerry. “The idea was that, besides just getting the theory of it, to have a physical experience with a Tantric goddess – a woman who’s skilled in these practices.”
The first obstacle to being a legendary Tantric pantsman, is a phone conversation with Kerry. He wants to know if you just want to get your rocks off, or have a massage. If so, you’re in the wrong place. But Kerry knows how to sell it to you. “If you really want to know what to do with a woman, that’s [going to a hooker] not going to help you. If you meet the right person, and she’s got what you want, there’s a lot of other guys who will want it too. You’d better have a few things up your sleeve. If you haven’t got a Porsche out the front, at least you’re a good lover.”
If you manage to sound genuinely interested, a session with the goddess is next. After that, you can quit, or sign up for three further sessions of ever increasing, er, naughtiness. If the goddess likes you, that is.
Which is why I find myself meeting a woman I don’t know in a small, clean, anonymous flat in North Sydney. Michelle is about 30, with intense eyes and great breasts. That’s not all she has going, but, afterwards, that’s what I remember most.
Michelle used to manage a dental practice but now she’s a goddess. Good switch. She did a six-month training course at the Australian School of Tantra, before Kerry approached her three years ago. “I was comfortable with and enjoying my own sexuality, but I felt there was something missing,” she says. “With Tantra, I feel like I am making love instead of just performing and having sex.”
We sit on nice lounges like it’s a bible study, and Michelle asks me whether I’ve got any ejaculation or erection problems. Someone laughs weakly, and I realise it’s me. I stop it and say, “no”.
Ten minutes later I stand in the bedroom with her, wearing nothing but my underpants and a sarong. She wears a G-string and bra.
We have a hug.
This feels like an emotional meeting of the AA, or I’ve just been rescued at sea. I hug her back, to be polite.
After some breathing exercises, we sit in chairs facing each other, put our hands on each other’s chests and say, “I honour the shakti and shiva within you.” She rings a small bell, while I quietly freak out.
Tantric sex is all about energy flows, which isn’t as out-there as you might think. Martial artists know all about this already, only they don’t use their energy to have sex, they use it to destroy bricks or big blokes in pubs.
When Michelle starts testing the flex of my PC muscle, she asks me to visualise energy moving like blue toffee from my groin to my heart, because the heart is the site of the emotions. I’d previously thought the heart was a big useful bag of blood, but perhaps I’m being too literal. The middle of the chest is the site of the heart chakra, and that’s all I ever want to say about chakras. Whatever, Michelle can’t feel my energy movement well enough, so she asks me to remove my underwear.
Yes, yes, it’s all very Penthouse, but it’s not how it feels. Trust me. Even when she asks me to monitor her own energy movement. I place one hand between her breasts and the other, er, below the equator. She breathes deeply and I feel a strange flexing, sucking sensation.
“Did you feel that?” she asks, looking at me intensely. Yes, I say hoarsely.
None of this is as taxing as our heart-opening session. Kerry has told me that these practices help you get more connected with your partner. “Michelle will try to get some warmth into your heart and feeling more in touch with your emotions and intimacy. Lovemaking should be a matter of trying to let those barriers down.”
Americans love this stuff. They do it on national television. Personally, I would rather leap off a cliff onto a spike, but I can’t escape. Michelle and I sit there and I tell her how I miss my cat and love getting mail and enjoy rolling on wet grass. I know what she’s trying to do, but I don’t feel any more intimate. While she has her go, I’m desperately trying to think of the next thing to say.
Then I sit on the mat cross-legged, while she straddles me and takes off her bra. My brain throws up its hands and says, “You’re on your own, mate.”
Look, I can’t vouch for my physical reaction here, I tell Michelle’s breasts, while she breathes in my ear. “That’s alright,” she says. “We always need extra energy.”
I’m supposed to be concentrating on drawing my energy from her, and then sending it back. I breathe deeply, visualising blue toffee looping up and down between us, while she rocks and writhes against me. There is plenty of energy to go around.
I’m given a book to read and video to watch as part of the course, which will help me prepare for my next session. In this case, the term “Tantra” covers modern techniques as well as the ancient ones. “One of the meanings of the word Tantra is ‘expand’,” says Kerry. “So what I’m doing is just an expanded approach to sexuality. I’m including Tantra, Taoism and modern research. If you’re exploring Tantra per se, you might go to someone who’s studied in India for 20 years.” In other words, more praying and bell ringing than you would really need.
By now, my new-age-bullshitometer is on the alert. The video is a mish-mash of common sense, mysticism, porn and new-age sentiment. In between hardcore scenes of couples enjoying penetration, surrounded by candles and saying I love you, we have footage of “loosening up”, where groovy nude people gyrate like they do in the background of ’70s party scenes. There is far too much pubic hair for my liking.
Kerry and his wife Diane are shown canoodling and doing breathing exercises. Having met him, it feels icky. I don’t want to watch him telling his wife how he feels about her. At the same time, I don’t want him telling me how to treat my own girlfriend. “Why not have a relaxing bath together?” burbles the voice-over, showing a soppy couple surrounded by a virtual firestorm of candles. “Why not tell your partner you love her?” (Really? Get away.)
The second session is much the same as the first, only I get to feel her PC contractions without the interference of underwear. I’ve also had time to prepare a few of my fascinating “heart-opening” revelations, so she can’t catch me on the hop.
The book tells me I should regularly be flexing my PC muscle for three whole seconds at a time. I can’t do it for longer than one. Without exercise, the muscle gets weaker as you get older, but mine’s lousy now. By now it’s preying on my mind. Every time I try, I’m flexing every muscle but the correct one, including some in my upper body. No-one’s ever asked me to stop going to the toilet so many times in a row.
Michelle keeps telling me I ought to be feeling energy movement, but I’m doing so much deep breathing it might just be oxygen rush. I don’t want to be too suggestible; I also don’t want to over-analyse. She also tells me to try and stop trying so hard, but that’s impossible – like “acting normal” or “trying to sleep”.
I decide to speak to a few of my fellow Tantra students for reassurance.
Jacob, 24, is about as average an Aussie guy as you’ll get. In other words, he’ll take a swing at anything – even Tantric sex. “I had no real problems [in my sex life], but my girlfriend noticed a big difference – I can last much longer and it’s more fulfilling,” he tells me. “Before, I had sex like I was in a porno and talked dirty to get her revved up. Now it’s more emotional.”
Mike, who’s 45 and done yoga for 10 years, says he is “amazed by the power of moving energy around the body. It was mind-blowing”. I ask him if he’s had sex for six hours yet, like Sting.
“Never have I gone anywhere near that. But my partner’s smile has got a bit bigger. These are techniques that can help a man delay orgasm and create the space for your partner to have more than one orgasm.”
But what about all that spiritual stuff? “If you had talked to me a couple of years ago about Tantra, I would have had a hippy-style image of it. But it [the course] hasn’t struck me like that at all. I haven’t come across anything that I have thought, “No, this is absolute crap.”
I tentatively ask him how his PC exercises are going. “OK – I never knew that part of part of my body existed.”
Neither did I. Apparently I’ve got a weak one.
“I think I was given the same message.”
Barry, also 45, who’s been teaching yoga for 20 years, also says something very reassuring. “Even as a yoga teacher, I don’t talk spirituality. I want practical stuff that works, not something airy-fairy. Because that’s what guys want. If we can get the practical stuff, the airy-fairy stuff will eventually come to us. [With the course] work on little bits at a time. If you try and take on the whole thing, it’s just too much.”
In the third session, I get it. Or it gets me.
The idea of the entire session is to get a hand-job. Or to “receive”. The theory is that, in the last 20 years, guys have become conditioned to performing wonders for their woman and expecting little in return. I’m not convinced, but because my lesson consists of lying there and having a great time, I’m not arguing.
Kerry tells me that I can’t just lie there. I’ve got to put that toffee thing into action. “Keep breathing – don’t hold your breath. Breathing makes you less tense and has the ability to spread energy through the body. Pull the energy right up and spread it out.”
My other job is not to come. One of the reasons for sucking all this energy away from the genitals is to make you last longer. Another is to give you a “spiritual experience” – to put you into a state of ecstasy. “Valley orgasm is where the energy moves through the body,” says Kerry. “It feels like a flood of warmth or a deep peaceful sensation. It’s a whole body experience. It’s not common in a western culture to think about having sex without coming,” he admits.
Unlike normal courses, I seem to be getting more nervous the longer it goes on. “Just relax and enjoy yourself,” says Michelle, during our pre-session bible study. Easy for her to say.
It’s funny the things you think about when you’re getting a hand-job. I think about blue toffee. It’s pooled in my sex chakra, but I’m forcing it up and out with my PC muscle, up through my heart chakra and out through the top of my head.
My left hand begins to tingle. Maybe I’m having a stroke. I ask Michelle if she can stop what she’s doing and tell me if I’m having a stroke instead. She says I’m doing very well. The tingling is all the energy I’ve breathed up.
The feeling in my hand becomes more intense, and starts to move up my arm. Now it feels like I’ve slept on it for six hours and all the blood is rushing back into my dead limb. It’s a bit scary.
I was promised a “flood of warmth” and a “nice delightful feeling” but something has turned my stupid hand into a tuning fork. It’s visibly vibrating. It’s too much. I’ve been hexed with the wrong magic.
I couldn’t come now even if I wanted to. I’m too busy getting my arm back under control. Michelle does this weird sweeping, stroking ritual over my body and out through my feet and eventually things calm down.
“That was amazing,” Michelle tells me enthusiastically. “I could really feel the energy.” I’m a charged battery. I’d bounce around the room, but I might knock over candles. And, most amazingly, I’m not frustrated.
This is the point, really. I had to get over the barrier of falling without landing – the mental wall of sex without climax. With my new magic power, I could have sex for ages and still be ready for more. If I had the physical stamina, that is. I’m still a clapped-out journo, after all.
The third session is a breakthrough. Something definitely happened to me, which is a relief (so to speak). But I’m still much nearer the beginning than the end, and I still can’t buy into everything I’m told. Like Barry said, I’ve got to work on bits at a time; take what I like and leave what I don’t.
The fourth and last session deals with female sexual energy. The book can’t say enough about it. “Soon the true shakti [female energy] will emerge from within women and heal the world of what’s happening now,” it rants biblically. Not only that, but it is “healing, rejuvenating, and a source of enormous power… if you drink deeply of its energy, you will gain power.” Yes, and if you trust your feelings you’ll be able to use a lightsabre, and all.
What this boils down to is Michelle sliding herself naked along my lower spine. Kerry has told me that the purpose is to sexually excite herself so that she’s generating energy up my spine. The spine is apparently a sexual path, and the yoni (vagina) has got a hell of a lot more energy than a pair of hands.
The least I can do is play along. I’ve got nothing better to do. I breathe in, imagining myself psychically absorbing sexual energy. A small voice in my head wonders what I think I’m doing. I tell it to go away. Especially when Michelle gets me to roll over.
From here on, session four is much like session three – it’s back to the old hand-job. Only as well as breathing blue toffee, I have to do for her what she’s doing for me. It’s full-on.
Within 15 minutes the pins and needles are shooting through both hands. I’ve plunged my arms up to the shoulders in static electricity. I’m still not sure I like the sensation – it’s bordering on painful – but once Michelle has spread the energy around it’s better. I feel great. I can’t deny it. And I still haven’t come.
I am not Sting. I don’t save rainforests; I don’t sing about messages in bottles; and I can’t have sex for a million hours straight. But give me a chance and my girlfriend might start appearing in public with a really big smile on her face.