Monday, June 29, 2015

Tantric Sex as Therapy II / Premature Ejaculation

In my last post, I discussed the similarities between tantric sex as described in this blog and the therapy program for couples described in Becoming Orgasmic: A Sexual and Personal Growth Program for Women, the pioneering guide for pre-orgasmic women, written in the 70s and updated in the 80s by Julia Heiman and Joseph Lopiccolo.  And I speculated about two reasons for this similarity

First, there's the possibility that the authors were secret tantra practitioners, who used what they learned from tantric sex to fashion a therapy program for couples.

Second, it's possible that once it became possible to explore sex in a more open way, sex researchers would more or less inevitably rediscover the principles on which tantric sex is based, because once you start experimenting with slow, extended sex, you find out what works and that doing it right can have really powerful effects in terms of pleasure, in terms of altered consciousness, and in terms of bonding between partners.

However, there's a third possibility that surfaced during a discussion with a long-time friend. He suggested that the borrowing may have gone the other way, from the therapists to the tantric practitioners.  He thinks that there were people in the U.S. who had heard vague descriptions of tantra and who fell in love with the idea of learning "sacred sex" based on secret ancient rituals.  When they couldn't get useful and authentic answers from the supposed experts on how to do it, he thinks they borrowed ideas from sex therapists like Masters & Johnson and Heiman & Lopiccolo and used those ideas to invent a mostly-Western version of tantric sex.

I didn't consider this possibility in part because I'm not quite old enough to have experienced the beginning of this process.  I breezed through the "sexual revolution" of the seventies as a pre-teen/teenage science nerd with no interest in boys or sex, so I wasn't paying much attention to what was going on around the time when Becoming Orgasmic was written. By the time I became seriously interested in tantric sex in 1992, it was already a counterculture staple.  Furthermore, what I learned about its history came entirely from second-hand accounts, which could well have been made up by various gurus to help sell their product.

How tantric sex supposedly came to the West

The official story is that what we call tantric sex is based on a set of sexual practices that originated in the Indus Valley 2,000 - 3,000 years ago, and that are connected with Tantrism, a very old tradition of ritual magic found within Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Jainism, and other Asian religions.  There is some truth to this, but it's not the whole story.

Early information about Tantrism came to the West in the 19th century through such writers as John Woodroffe, a British civil servant and Sanskrit scholar.  Woodroffe and others described Tantric practitioners manipulating "spiritual energy" through yoga and sexual rituals in order to do magic, but they left the actual sex rather vague.  This provoked a great deal of interest in tantric sex without anyone in the West really knowing how to do it.

These sexual practices were then supposedly brought to America in the 60s and 70s by various gurus, including Rajneesh, aka "Osho," a notorious spiritual fraud who built a large cult following that allowed him to buy over 90 Rolls Royces.

Although he was called "the sex guru" by the press even before he fled India for the U.S., there is no evidence that Rajneesh actually studied tantric sex from a master before he started preaching about it.  He may have had some "secret teachings" he passed on during sex with his devotees, but there's nothing in his writings to indicate that he had actually ever had what we call tantric sex!

This made his teachings about sacred sex rather strange.  If you read through his collected writings and the books written by his followers, there's lots of talk about mystical concepts and spiritual energy, but there's no practical information about the sex.  None!

None of the other supposed tantric gurus in the West during the 20th century were any better.  They recommend lots of yoga, meditation, eye gazing, spiritual inspiration, and then ... **waves hands in the air** ... sexual magic happens!

And that's no help at all if you're a young couple trying to figure out what to do and how to do it.

In fact, that's what inspired me to start looking for couples who were actually having great tantric sex, couples who would be willing to describe what they were doing.  My interviews with them helped my partner and me as we learned, and this blog is my way of thanking them for their time and generosity by "paying it forward," and making what we learned available to others.

But the strong similarity between tantric sex and late 20th century sex therapy raises a serious question about the official narrative....

How new is neotantra?

Is what we call "neotantra" or "modern tantra" really based on some set of ancient secrets? My friend thinks it might not be, at least not directly.  He thinks that sexually adventurous Americans were tantalized by descriptions of tantric sex that included intriguing hints but left out all the important details.  The hints included bathing and meditation, a connection with Kundalini yoga, and some kind of unspecified link between having sex for a long time and experiencing different and more intense orgasms.

He thinks that led to a lot of experimentation as people tried to "reverse engineer" those hints, trying to come up with a sexual process that would create the intense orgasms and psychological effects often attributed to tantra.  And when they did that, they relied heavily on the discoveries and ideas of sex researchers and therapists like Masters & Johnson and Heiman & Lopiccolo, discoveries that had become part of the popular culture, at least for the sexually curious and adventurous.

It's even conceivable that the tantric ritual as we know it today actually originated with a couple doing the therapy described in Becoming Orgasmic.  As they progressed through the exercises and moved successfully to better sex and more and better orgasms, why would they stop?  Yes, the point of the extended therapy was to help the woman become orgasmic, but once she reached that goal, why would they settle for routine sex and give up the far greater intensity and pleasure of the "therapeutic" sex?

It's easy to see how one couple might pass on a description of what they had discovered to others, and that this would have matched the general outlines of the long-sought tantric ritual in an irresistible way.  The one missing piece is the use of controlled attention to regions of the body, as in Kundalini yoga, to produce "multi-chakra" or full-body orgasms. Add that to the new therapeutic ritual, with emphasis on delaying orgasm as long as possible, and -- voila!  "Modern tantra" is born!

I don't see any way to tell which version of the story is "true."  Even more interesting, I don't think there's any way to tell whether what we do now is similar to the tantric sex of legend. I think it's quite possible that it is, because once people start experimenting with meditation and slow, deliberately-extended sexual arousal and climax, they are likely to discover the same exotic phenomena described in this blog, and so they will end up with something that is broadly similar to what we call "neotantra" or "modern tantric sex."

If that's the case, then the "secrets" of tantric sex may well have been discovered and rediscovered repeatedly over the last few thousand years!

Premature Ejaculation (PE)

I mentioned in my last post that I would be addressing three more topics related to therapy in the next few posts.  The first is premature ejaculation.  However, when I had finished pulling the information together, it was too long for a single post.  I decided that it would be better to put a short version here and put the whole thing on a separate resource page instead of in a blog post that will slide off the front page and get lost.  So here it is:

       The Best Ways to Control Premature Ejaculation

I've also added another new resource page:

       How Much Does Penis Size Matter?

It's a long article that will help men find out how they actually measure up and why in almost all cases, they have nothing to worry about.

These two pages were written primarily for young men who are inexperienced and looking for help.  For that reason, the primary link to both of them is from the end of The Better Sex 101 page.

Please share both of these with anyone who needs them.

Here's an edited summary from the PE page:

Therapy for Premature Ejaculation

The frenulum pinch or frenulum squeeze is the best known and most reliable therapy for PE.  It was developed by Masters & Johnson, and it is basically a desensitization method that depends on your partner giving you a gentle handjob and maintaining your arousal for an extended period, while applying pressure with her thumb on the frenulum area (on the urethra side, just below the head of the penis) for around 4 or 5 seconds every minute or two.

In doing this, it's important for your partner not to wrap her fist around your penis.  The only contact should be with the tip of the thumb and the pads of the two fingers, like this:

[Source:  Heterosexuality, by Masters, Johnson, and Kolodny]

Important! Your partner should not wait until you are approaching orgasm!

In fact, she should begin doing the squeezes while your penis is still soft and continue doing them at roughly equal intervals thereafter.

It's also important for her to control the timing entirely on her own, so it comes as a slight surprise to you each time.  You should not tell her when to squeeze, and you shouldn't get any advance warning from her or from a timer.  (Many men find that it helps if they keep their eyes closed for the whole massage.)

Unfortunately, you can find articles all over the web giving completely incorrect instructions about when, how, and how long to squeeze.  This is not like classic "edging," where you want to stay as close to the edge of orgasm as possible.  Instead, you want to stay in a comfortable mid-range of arousal, around 50-75% of the point of no return (PONR), not 80-95%!

Squeezing as shown above, and doing it briefly, at short, semi-regular intervals like this will help keep you from getting into that upper range.  However, most writers describe an entirely different squeeze technique, a "full fist squeeze" that is used only when orgasm is imminent. In this version, the man or his partner squeezes the entire head of the penis in a fist for 20-30 seconds, squeezing most of the blood out of it.

This is useful for "edging," getting close to the PONR and then backing away just short of it. But edging is mainly useful for creating more intense orgasms.  It is not an effective way to cure PE.

Because incorrect instructions are so common, you will often find people saying on the web that they tried the Masters & Johnson squeeze technique and it didn't work.  That's because it doesn't work if you do it wrong.  But if you do it right, this is the best tested and most successful form of PE therapy, and it is recommended in almost all sex therapy programs.

You can learn to cope with PE alone, but it works much better if your partner is willing to do the squeezing for you.  Most couples see a definite improvement with 5 to 10 sessions.  If the two of you practice this regularly over the course of several months, it will gradually reduce your urgency and sensitivity and enable you to last longer and longer.

You can find detailed instructions for Sensate Focus Therapy and the frenulum squeeze technique in chapters 2 and 5 of Heterosexuality, by Masters, Johnson, and Kolodny. (Highly recommended!)

Alternatively, the "Rising Master" blog also has a good detailed guide to PE, including the frenulum squeeze technique.

However, I think even this classic, proven approach can be improved on.

Kegels, meditation, and relaxation techniques

Strengthening your pelvic floor (PC) muscles with Kegel exercises is one of the simplest ways to improve not only your ejaculatory control, but your overall sexual performance.  For instructions on how to do Kegel exercises, see Do Your Kegels!, in the middle of that linked page, or see the "Rising Master" website.

One of the main reasons men come too rapidly is that they are mentally and physically very tense.  Of course, anxiety about ejaculating too quickly will make a man even more tense mentally, which creates increased muscle tension, and thus more PE.  So one good way to reduce PE is to break this cycle by reducing stress levels from all sources.

Learning to meditate can help a great deal with anxiety and stress.  I highly recommend mindfulness meditation because learning it can also play an important role in the extended arousal play of tantric sex, should you choose to experiment in that direction.

You should also learn to be conscious of your muscle tension during sex.  In many cases, guys will reflect their mental tension by tensing all of their muscles.  Their backs and legs are rigid, so they can't get into any kind of relaxed rhythm and they are expending a tremendous amount of energy, all of which contributes to PE.

If you find yourself doing that, you can learn to do a variety of deep breathing and relaxation techniques.  This page at Dartmouth University's wellness website has a number of audio files that are really good at talking you through several different approaches: Relaxation Downloads.

I particularly urge you to learn progressive muscle relaxation.  It is simply a process of first tensing and then relaxing all the major muscle groups in sequence.  Once you've done it with the audio a few times, you can do it on your own along with your Kegels several times a day.  After a few weeks, you will find that you are much more conscious of excess tension and how to avoid it, even during sex.

Simple things, like getting more sleep and exercise, can do wonders if you are short of either one.  Restructuring your life to avoid aggravation can also make a big difference. Some men see a noticeable improvement when they have sex in the morning after a good night's sleep.  And if you have erection problems as well as PE, get treatment for the ED first.  It will often cure both problems!

Full body massage

If you and your partner are going to try the squeeze technique, I found from my interviews with tantric couples that it is actually more effective if you can get your partner to do this for you during what we call a lingam massage, a kind of full body sensual massage that ends with a deliberately extended genital massage with oral.

Her goal in the second phase is to use gentle massage and the frenulum squeeze to keep you moderately aroused as long as she can without letting you go over the edge, while you remain completely passive and physically relaxed.  If you get too close to the brink, there are some tricks, like the "full fist" squeeze, that she can use to pull you back.

One big advantage of doing a full-body massage as the intro to any kind of sex is that it calms and relaxes you at the same time that it gradually arouses you.  This helps you break the unconscious association between being sexually aroused and being tense and anxious. (Giving a massage can be as much of a benefit as getting one in this respect.)

By remaining passive, consciously relaxing your muscles, and focusing internally on your sensations during your massage, you avoid tensing up, which helps delay your orgasm. So if you have the time and a willing partner, I strongly recommend it!

To pull it all together, consider following this script adapted from tantric sex:
  • Take a long relaxing shower or bath (with your partner if possible).
  • Meditate together and do a full set of PMR (progressive muscle relaxation) exercises.
  • Have your partner give you a nice, relaxing, 30-40 minute full-body massage, paying particular attention to any back, butt, and thigh muscles that are still tense. 
  • Continue to meditate and consciously keep your muscles relaxed while she begins a long, gentle penis massage with some oral sex mixed in. 
  • Have her use the frenulum squeeze for 4-5 seconds about once every minute. (She can gradually extend the interval during later sessions as your stamina increases.)
  • If you still get too close to the edge too soon, she can gently tug your testicles away from your body and firmly squeeze the whole head of your penis in her fist for 20-30 seconds, squeezing as much of the blood out of it as possible. She should then move her attention to a different part of your body for a minute or two.
  • If you start to cum while she is doing either kind of squeeze, she should immediately release the pressure and let you ejaculate naturally.
It's important for your partner to provide very gentle stimulation the first few times you try this.  She should rub the shaft and head of your penis with her open hand, or even just a fingertip or two, stopping occasionally to cup your testicles, rub your perineum, and stroke the inner part of your thighs at intervals.  Oral should be light licks, nibbles, and kisses, not full insertion or suction.  Except for the second squeeze technique, she should never enclose your penis in her fist or stroke hard.

If you reach your target goal for endurance for that session, she can stop doing the squeeze and increase the intensity to help you finish if the two of you prefer to end that way.

When you are done, if your partner agrees, return the favor by giving her a long, loving full-body massage, ending with as many orgasms for her as she wants and can have.  In addition to helping you maintain balance in your relationship, it will help you become accustomed to attending to her body and needs without being overly focused on your own, an important part of the therapy process.

Even for men with severe PE, most women have found that, with practice, they can keep their partners at fairly high arousal levels for 30-45 minutes or longer using the two squeeze techniques, leading to some truly awesome full-body orgasms for the guys.  Once you have learned to last that long under her special care, you will have much more control during normal intercourse.

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