Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Men, Orgasms, and Ejaculation

Part of the curiosity about Tantra is the general awareness that Tantric sex lasts longer, often far longer, than normal sex and that it usually involves more orgasms. Both are true, but misunderstood. For example one of the myths about Tantra is that male Tantrics have extraordinary powers of endurance. Just look at the fascination with Sting’s drunken comment about having Tantric sex “all day long.” Even though he quickly repudiated it, it is still, more than twenty years later, the first thing that many people think of when the subject of Tantra comes up.

One version of the myth is the “ironman” – a sexual superstud, immune to sensation, maintaining an erection for hours on end, thrusting with never a pause or a climax, but providing his partner with an endless string of orgasms. The opposite version is of the sexual superstud who has orgasm after orgasm and never stops. There’s a small kernel of truth in the second one – about half of the men I interviewed have learned how to be multi-orgasmic – but both create a false impression of continuous, high-intensity sexual activity.

The reality is that non-stop rapid thrusting will produce an orgasm fairly soon in almost any man who is not anorgasmic. Tantrics simply don’t do that. They use a variety of methods to extend the arousal period and to delay orgasm (particularly ejaculation), but the most basic is this:  Slow down!  Tantra is about pacing yourself and knowing your limits. Do other things when necessary, things that feel great, but that don’t push yourself or your partner over the brink. Value the sensual over the intensely erotic until you are ready to finish.

The other extreme, I’ve noticed, is that writers who describe a typical Tantra session often gloss over the individual variations and make it sound as if the man invariably has two peak orgasms with ejaculation, one at the end of lingam massage and one at the end of vaginal sex. However, the number of ejaculative orgasms reported by my interviewees actually ranges from zero to four, and in one case occasionally five.

Among the Tantric men I interviewed, the three who said they sometimes or often have no ejaculations during Tantra were always doing so intentionally. At first I assumed that they were following a hybrid Tantric/Taoist approach to sex that is based on the idea that ejaculations are harmful and weaken the man, but this turned out not to be the case.

(According to many Taoist gurus, having sex without ejaculation allows the man to "absorb the woman’s sexual energy” while conserving and increasing his own.  By storing up enough of this "energy," he can supposedly heal disease, perform powerful magic, and potentially achieve immortality. This is a common notion in primitive folk medicine and religion and has had some highly visible advocates in the West. The claims for the supposed evils of regular ejaculation are often absurd, including the claim that every man is born with only enough semen or “sexual energy” for a fixed number of ejaculations, and when he has the last one, he will immediately wither away and die. Research consistently shows the opposite: the body produces semen on demand and regular ejaculation is healthy and beneficial. And, of course, the claims to be able to cure cancer and do magic are simply fraudulent.)

However, the three Tantric men I talked to who sometimes or often avoid ejaculation are experimenting with a more positive tradition, a fusion of Tantra and Karezza. Here, the idea is to forego not just the ejaculation, but the orgasm as well, concentrating instead on the intimacy, intense bonding, euphoric feeling, and sheer sensual pleasure of the prolonged mutual “caress” (“carezza” in Italian). In this case, the orgasm is seen as a distraction, a big bang that becomes the overriding goal or focus. By removing it, it becomes possible to focus instead on the entire sensual, intimate experience, valuing it and appreciating it fully, and stretching it out as long as possible.

When there is only one ejaculation, it generally happens when the man, usually an older man, chooses not to ejaculate at the end of the lingam massage because it takes him too long to regain an erection after ejaculating and he and his partner want to be able to enjoy yab-yum and maithuna.

When the total number is three, four, or five, the “extra” ejaculation(s) can come at or just before the start of the ritual, early during the lingam massage, at the conclusion of the yoni massage (some couples really prefer to end it with vaginal intercourse), during yab-yum, or during an extended session at the end of maithuna.

Nearly all of the men also say that they have at least occasionally had orgasms during Tantra that are separate from ejaculation, and several of the men describe having multiple orgasms only seconds apart, sometimes leading up to a final ejaculation and sometimes not. Many of the men who experience multi-chakra or full body orgasms with ejaculation also report having “pre-shocks,” “aftershocks,” or both, separate non-ejaculatory orgasms that occur during the build-up to or aftermath of the main event.

[For a much more detailed look at how all of this works, see Understanding the Male Orgasm and Multiple Orgasms for Men.]

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