What makes a massage Tantric? There are a number of elements, but these are the essential ones:

  • a lot of us have had massages which, although they might be done by someone with a lot of anatomical skill and experience,  somehow just touches our body. It don’t touch us. A tantric massage is touch which is in loving service to you as a person through your body, in all your uniqueness. Because this is so, every tantric massage is unique. ‘Tantric Massage’ is often a euphemism used by sex workers towards male clients, where it is understood to mean a very cursory touching of the body generally, swiftly leading to genital touch with the understood aim of orgasm. A real tantric massage is not like that. It may  involve genital or other intimate touch, that’s up to you, but there’s no aim. It’s not about evoking a particular response from you. It’s about deep connection, both between the giver and the receiver, and within the receiver. When you receive a tantric massage, you are completely accepted, and so can be completely accepting of yourself: everything you feel, everything you experience, is valid.
  • the giver of the touch is entirely in loving service to you, but in a particular way. Obviously, anyone could be in service to you too. Not to be funny about it, that’s the essence of capitalism. You want – or believe you want – something, a price is agreed, then that something is done. But this is very different. The giver of the massage is in service to you in the moment, is in deep communication with you through your body. And that allows something new to happen. Giving a tantric massage is an act of devotional love.
  • there will be a ceremonial holding of some sort. This varies amongst practitioners. The pre-eminent tantric massage practitioner in Scotland, Lynn Paterson [she’s in my Links page] has quite an elaborate ritual before the massage, I have very little, but the intention is the same, to create a sacred space where the giver is completely safe and completely accepted, and all experience is welcome
  • the giver will not sexually interact with you. The touch is just one-way and will be within the boundaries agreed at the start of the session. If you don’t want intimate touch at the start of the session, you don’t get to change your mind during it, because there needs to be a safe container. Practice varies among practitioners, some remain clothed and some don’t. But my practice has always been to remain clothed throughout the session.
  • the receiver is completely present and open to the touch, and does not have a specific goal, but is encouraged to have an intention. For example, to feel more, to be more embodied, to be open to whatever arises, and so on. It’s the opposite of the false “tantric massage”: there isn’t something to get, and because of this you can experience yourself in all your aspects: sensual, energetic, erotic, fluid, limitless
  • the essence is Yin, not Yang.Yang touch is what we’re generally familiar with. It is goal directed. It is intended to bring about a particular effect. It is focused on increasing arousal. As arousal increases, the touch is liable to get stronger and faster. The touch is very focused on the place of arousal, and tends to ignore the rest of the body, and the rest of the experience. It’s the kind of touch we’re liable to unthinkingly acquire when we first learn masturbation as kids, anxious about being discovered. Yin touch -tantric touch – is completely different. The aim is expansion and opening; spaciousness and exquisite feeling. And within all of that, pleasure and arousal occur, but arousal isn’t the point. With Yang touch, over time people tend to need more to get the same outcome. They feel they need to break through a glass ceiling, or force themselves over the finishing line. Yin touch isn’t like that at all. It is like creating a vast and changing land of pleasurable receptivity, which gets larger and deeper and more vivid the more you allow yourself to just be there, and which is characterised by wonder and surprise. I call this The Erotic Body, and there’s a link to my October Sex Lectures talk on the Homepage, where I discuss this more.
  • You might also be interested in ‘Tantric Massage For Women’, which you can read here.

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Almost every Couple I’ve worked with has been to Couples Therapy.

It’s not surprising, given the ubiquity of Relate and similar organisations, and the widespread belief that sexual issues within a relationship are best addressed by talk therapists.

As part of their therapy, the Couple will have been given Sensate Focus exercises. These would either have worked a little bit, or not at all. The Couple would have lost heart and discontinued the therapy. And then, through the dizzy mystery of the internet, they found me.

Sensate Focus was created by Masters & Johnson around 60 years ago. In essence, it takes heterosexual intercourse as a given and dramatically slows it down. Instead of focusing on the goal of intercourse and orgasm, the couple are encouraged to take turns to explore the body of the other in a sensuous way, pleasing to them and, at least intially, avoiding explicitly erotic touch and intercourse. The other partner is encouraged to say what they like and don’t like. It is specifically intended to reduce performance anxiety and stress around sexual activity, and to encourage better communication.

To the extent that it works, it’s completely unobjectionable, but often it doesn’t. Why?

We can understand better how it doesn’t work by understanding the ways in which it does.

It makes sexual intercourse less rushed But what if, for you, sexual intercourse isn’t actually that great? Your partner might enjoy it, and want you to enjoy it too, but what if you don’t? What if you never, or very rarely orgasm in partnered sex?

It encourages touch But what if this is problematic for you? What if you don’t particularly like how you’re touched, but you can’t seem to say what you prefer? Or you don’t even know? What if you lack a language of touch?

It encourages saying what you want But what if you don’t know what you want? Perhaps you only know what you don’t want, which makes your partner feel criticised and you feeling disappointed. Perhaps you have a vague sense “There must be more than this”, but don’t know what.

In other words, Sensate Focus takes a whole load of things for granted:

  • the point of [heterosexual] sex is intercourse
  • that’s what everyone wants, so long as there’s enough build up
  • sex is natural, so people don’t need to learn how to touch or how to communicate, they just need to let go of their hang-ups
  • sex is purely physical; it’s just  learning to do it at the right speed so there’s enough arousal and little anxiety

But what if none of this were true?j

When I started working with [heterosexual] Couples, one of the things which struck me was that one partner, usually [but not always] the woman, would complain that it was impossible, or at least very difficult, for there to be any physical intimacy which didn’t have the expectation of ending in intercourse. If it didn’t, their partner would be annoyed or disappointed. In consequence of that, intimacy would often be avoided altogether. And often, when intercourse happened, it was more to keep the peace than because of genuine desire. The partner would still be annoyed or disappointed -just not quite so much – because they expected their partner to enjoy intercourse as much as they did.

A variation of this was that one partner, again usually the woman, would complain that their partner would avoid any physical intimacy, and they didn’t know why.. On enquiry, it was usually that the man had anxieties around intercourse,around getting or sustaining an erection, but didn’t feel able to share those.

And a very common complaint was boredom and repetition.

So what can be done?

The most obvious thing is to widen the sense of what sex is, and can be, and that widening can take a number of forms.

sexual styles. There’s lots of different schemas. For example, there is an idea popularised by David Schnarch in ‘Passionate Marriage’, that there are three sexual styles: trance, partner engagement and play. Trance is where our experience is very inner. We will tend to be quite still and fairly quiet. Partner Engagement is the opposite; lots of talking, eye contact, connection. Play is newness, experimentation, role-play. If you know your partner’s style, then behaviour which appears disconnected, or wanting approval, or insincere, suddenly makes sense. And if you understand your own, things might become a whole lot easier. I write about this more here. Another perspective is the idea of erotic blueprints. The American Sex Educator Jaiya has said there are five: The Energetic, The Sensual, The Sexual, The Kinky and The Shapeshifter. I write about this more here.  The thing about these topologies is to think of them, not as absolutes, but as useful lenses to see the sexual world, our own and other people’s, in a way which is inquisitive and expansive rather than blaming or shaming.

the realms of sexuality. I believe there are eight dimensions of sexuality. I write about this idea here. Carefully curated exercises exploring these various realms is a wonderful antidote to boredom caused by a very restrictive idea of what sex is.

the use of the imagination. The greatest single failure of the Sensate Focus perspective is that it fails to take into account people’s erotic fantasy life.To remedy this, I have developed work on The Erotic Imagination, which you can read about here. I find it very helpful to use this in my private work.

challenging the idea “there’s something wrong with me”. An exclusively physical notion of what sex is, and an over focus on orgasm through intercourse, leads many women to think there’s something wrong with them. It is a human catastrophe, and entirely avoidable. I write about that here

How do you start working with me?

Firstly, you email or text me to arrange a chat. This can be on Zoom or in person. In person is better. The only catch is you have to bring cake. During this chat, which is free, I can get a sense of your situation and whether I’m right for you, and you can get a sense of whether I’m the guy for you.

I set out the process in more detail here

If you’re interested in learning more about my approach, why not subscribe to my free online course ‘Sexuality Maps’? There’s a subscribe button on the Home Page here

You can also browse my extensive and diverse list of articles here

 

 

 

The idea that sex is natural is one of the many terrible ideas which – alongside Revolutionary Terror and Totalitarianism – we can attribute to the appalling 18th century philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau. It’s the source of a lot of our unhappiness about sex: “If sex is natural, why is it so difficult for me?”

Fortunately, the ‘one size fits all’ model is now challenged by the emergence of a different perspective on sexuality: the idea that we have individual erotic natures, or maps.

Those of you that have seen Netflix’s ‘Sex Love and Goop’, which I highly recommend, will have come across the idea of erotic blueprints, the creation of the contemporary American Sex Educator Jaiya.

She says there are 5 erotic blueprints: The Energetic, The Sensual, The Sexual, The Kinky and The Shapeshifter.

I’ll write about this in more detail elsewhere, but I think you can immediately see how this can be useful. The Sexual blueprint describes the person whom our society would deem ‘normal’. The focus is on the genitals,  and on arousal leading to intercourse. Because sex is really straightforward for this type, they’re liable – in the absence of information – to think of the other types as weird or deficient. They’re likely to think of the Energetic type, for example, as very easily and peculiarly put off sex by something extraneous like the duvet cover or something, rather than appreciate the Energetic as having a much wider sense of what sexuality is; the capacity to have energetic orgasms, for instance, without any touch at all. The shadow of the Sexual type is that they can be somewhat limited and goal focused. If you’re the partner of a Sexual type and not this type yourself, you’re probably bored and dissatisfied, and they think you should get yourself fixed.

Our socialisation as men and women can mask our type. Because men are supposed to be Sexual, many men have to distort their natures. Likewise for women, who are expected to be Sensual or Energetic, when a lot of them might well be Kinky, or Shapeshifting.

When I started working in this field, a map I found very useful was Donald Mosher’s idea of three distinct sexual styles, popularised in David Schnarch’s ‘Passionate Marriage’: Trance, Partner Engagement and Role Play.

Again, this is very helpful in understanding and appreciating behaviour which is not your own. My dominant sexual style is Partner Engagement: I like a lot of eye contact, talking and heart connection. The problem for my type is being with one of the other types while taking our own type as being ‘natural’. The Trance style, for instance, is very inner: this style can often be very still, because they are focused on their own sensations and experience. But Partner Engagement people are going to think they’re something wrong: why isn’t the person reacting more? Maybe they’re bored, or not into me? Likewise, if I came across a Role Play type, I’d be likely to wrongly see them through my lens as emotionally shallow and insincere. And, like the Sexual type in Jaiya’s system, the Partner Engagement type is the one approved of by our society, so the other two are liable to be dismissed.

My own attempt at creating a map focuses more on the different areas of sexuality, rather than individual types, but within this map, I can position the maps of other systems. I call this map the Compass of Sexuality, and it breaks down the areas of sexuality into 8: Agreement, Energetic Practices, Tantra, Intimacy, Innocence, Risk, Body and Play. I particularly like using this in my Couples work, because it enables me to take people to lots of different places, but then for them to explore those places in terms of their specific natures. You can read more about this here

The idea that we have different sexual natures and we can understand these and connect across our differences is a major corrective to simplistic notions like ‘incompatible sex drives’ which bedevil sexual relations between people, particularly Couples.

These maps should be treated as tools, or lenses, not reality. We shouldn’t cling to them too tightly, or identify ourselves too much with our type, but used fluidly, they can be tremendously useful in explaining ourselves to ourselves, and -crucially- getting out of this idea that there is something in us which is broken and needs to be fixed. You wouldn’t call a ziggurat a broken pyramid, would you?

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If one person feels something, that’s a personal issue. If a lot of people feel the same thing, that isn’t just personal; it says something about society too. The problem of sexual inexperience falls into this category.

We live in a hyper sexualised society, but a large number of us seem to have no or minimal sex, or have very unsatisfactory sex.

What’s going on?

Well, one factor is that we tend to view sexuality in terms of recreation, and of performance. It’s something that you do, not a central part of who you are.  We overemphasise the body and underestimate feeling and connection, partly because we often think of desire as a hunger. Like a hunger for food.  And we give the body only provisional value: if the body looks great and ‘performs’ well, then great, otherwise, not so much.

This Tinder-ising doesn’t work for a lot of people. But because the model is so dominant, they think there’s something wrong with them, rather than something wrong or incomplete with the model.

So, I get young women coming to me whose boyfriends have a very pornified idea of what love making should be, and they blame themselves for being inadequate. Other people can’t seem to get started, and don’t know how to.  It’s as if everyone else is speaking a language they don’t understand.

It’s really widespread, but silent, like a secret epidemic of shame.

I don’t do sexual surrogacy work.  It can be very valuable, but often it operates within the dominant model of doing, rather than feeling, being and connection.  It’s those latter qualities I want to bring out when working with clients who have issues of sexual confidence and sexual inexperience, because it seems to me that inexperience is in some sense a choice -perhaps an unconscious one – not to participate in this dominant mode of low-feeling, high action performative sex. However, I do offer intimacy coaching. You can read more about what that entails here

I also offer the option of you working with me and another sexuality practitioner, and that practitioner – male or female – not being just ‘the body’ upon which we can practice and demonstrate touch, but also a full participant.

My starting point is not somehow to reconcile the client to getting out there and get with it.  It is to start with an open enquiry into what the body and the heart feels and wants. Starting from that place, we then ask what wishes, sensations and worlds can come into being.

My perspective is that feelings of perceived sexual inadequacy or inexperience are best addressed not by fixing the body, but by opening and connecting the heart.  Everything positive flows from that.

You can make an analogy with conversation. As a society, we tend to think that the point of sex is orgasm.  But suppose we imagined that the point of talking was to make jokes.  Well, no doubt that would work for some people. And those people, doubtless, would accuse others of having a low humour drive, or being unskilled at punchlines.

It’s a ridiculous analogy, isn’t it?  But is it really?  Sexuality, like communication, involves the whole, unique, feeling person.  The range of expression is endless. It’s not something simple and straightforward, like appetite. Although, of course, it does involve hunger.  But hunger for what?

More prosaically, a lot of people feel that they are unskilled at sex. They don’t know how to do what they think they should do. For example, a lot of women lack confidence when it comes to touching a man’s genitals, so they tend to follow what they’ve learned from porn, or from friends, who have probably learned from porn. And so, they will touch a man’s penis rather like a plumber would approach a blocked drain: fast vigorous, anxious to get the job done as soon as possible. But where can you learn how to touch differently? Well, from me, for one.

And part of that is getting more confidence. How do you take the intiative? How can you open things out, so it’s not just the same boring journey, just a bit slower?

I don’t view my work as just learning  technical skills, so you can “make love like a porn star”, but as a way to get more confidence, and through that, finding a way of having more satisfying sex. So sometimes, in my work with a client, as a starting point I may work with them to acquire more skills, because that’s part of having more choice. If we’re under confident, we’ll either just do the same thing over and over, or we’ll be done to. And if that’s so, our society’s awful fixation on intercourse as the whole point of heterosexual sex becomes even narrower and more unsatisfactory. Being equipped with skills gives you the confidence which makes it possible to break out of this straightjacket, particularly if you are also equipped with a sense of what sex might look like from a tantric or kink or energetic perspective, for example.

[you can read my articles here

you can contact me here

if you’re interested in this work and want to work in person, but aren’t in Glasgow, check out my Links Page, which also details sexual surrogacy services]

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