You’ll notice the word Tantra is used in a very limited way on this website. The primary reason is the chasm between my own awareness and integration of these practices into my own expression and the culture’s projected fantasy about ‘tantra’. While I am not yet ready to share my own perspective beyond what is already expressed in this website and in the direct ‘work’ I do, Bonnie Bliss graciously shared the following:
WHY I DON’T CALL MYSELF A TANTRIKA OR A TANTRA PRACTITIONER (EVEN THOUGH I LIVED IN A TANTRIC ASHRAM FOR 3 YEARS & STUDIED TANTRA FOR 7 YEARS NOW)
Oooh this is a BIG can of worms and I know lots of people might be offended by it… but I’ve felt this post coming for a while and I can’t not write it! Ok here goes…
DISCLAIMER: Tantra itself is f**king great. I love it and I’m happy to see more versions of Tantra-inspired things in the world. I have deep respect for the many many committed Tantra practitioners who offer sessions or events -who share their work with integrity – many of whom are close friends and colleagues whom I admire. This post is intended as a general rant about the bastardisation of Tantra and why it annoys me personally (Plus some other random shit that wound up here!)
IN THE POP UP TANTRA-PRENEUR WORLD
So I’ve noticed this thing lately – more and more ‘Tantra’ practitioners popping up all over the place. It seems like basically everyone who works with sexuality or conscious anything is suddenly a ‘Tantrika’, ‘Tantra Teacher’, ‘Tantra practitioner’, ‘Tantric Priestess’ or ‘Tantra Expert’. There’s a whole field of Tantra-preneurs and ‘Tantra Teacher Trainers’ and ‘Tantric Bodyworkers’. It’s a fully fledged THING.
TANTRA IS THE NEW YOGA
Basically ‘Tantra’ is the new yoga. All the cool kids are into it. We see that conscious sexuality is important – and Tantra is a great buzzword and catch-all phrase for anything to do with vaguely spiritual sex. And lots of people want to learn it / teach it / create businesses based on it.
There’s nothing wrong with that, right?
AND IT’S GREAT TO WANT TO SHARE CONSCIOUS SEXUALITY WITH THE WORLD
I think it’s great that more and more people are interested in conscious sexuality, and there’s a rise in people who want to share it with the world. This was always going to happen. And we can all use whatever words we like for our offerings. It’s just that for some people, using the term ‘Tantra’ might be a bit misleading, in terms of what they are actually offering.
BUT THERE ARE A FEW THINGS TO CONSIDER…
1. WHAT TANTRA ACTUALLY IS (SPOILER: NOT SEX!)
FIRSTLY, REMEMBER HOW ASANA IS NOT YOGA?
Some context: So a lot of people commonly think that doing some stretches in a hot room wearing toxic clothing made from micro-plastics and petrochemicals is called YOGA. However, in fact YOGA is a whole path of exploration with many different elements and aspects, also involving things like introspection, morals and ethics, breath awareness, self discipline, internal exploration, concentration, meditation and bliss states (but not limited to those things only). The stretchy-bendy-body-shapes thing we do is called ASANA – and the way it’s done by most mainstream yoga enthusiasts often has little to do with the original yogic traditions.
SO ALSO TANTRA IS NOT A BUNCH OF SEX TECHNIQUES
In the same way that we bastardise YOGA by thinking it’s the fitness classes that people go to, we bastardise TANTRA by thinking it’s all about sex, eye gazing and candles and it’s something you can learn to TEACH OTHER PEOPLE in a week long retreat.
Tantra is a whole realm of spirituality that has thousands of vastly different traditions and lineages from various parts of what is now India and other surrounding countries. It is not a random new age thing that sprung up recently. And It is NOT about sex. I repeat, Tantra is NOT about sex.
It’s also not about how many orgasms you can have. Or if you can injaculate. Or if you can not ever ejaculate at all. Or how good you are at squirting. Or if you shake violently in workshops because of the ‘energy’. Or how deep you can breathe. Or how long you can hug. Or how spiritual your pick-up lines are. 😉
‘TANTRA’ CAN INVOLVE ALL KINDS OF SHIT
There are traditional Tantrics who are celibate. There are Tantrics who practice all kinds of other things and don’t focus on sexuality at all. There are branches of Tantrism where practitioners drink wine out of human skulls and frolic in graveyards. There are branches of Tantrism where practitioners just meditate in caves in the Himalayas. There are whole lineages of advanced Tantra where people have kids and just go about their daily life in much the same way as other people.
BUT REALLY IT’S ABOUT USING WHATEVER WORKS
Tantra in it’s essence is about finding the sacred in all of life – using whatever WORKS to access higher states of consciousness, or a deeper connection to who we are.
So whatever works might be meditation, expansion of consciousness, silence, the awakening of the senses, intimacy with yourself or another, song, dance, prayer, devotional practices, ritual, deity yoga, asana, kundalini practices.. OR indeed sex with lots of incense and candles and deep breathing! 😉 Or a combination thereof. Or something else entirely. And none of the practices themselves would be actually TANTRA – just part of a Tantric approach to life.
2. THE UNREGULATED OCEAN OF TANTRAPRENEURS…
BUT ISN’T IT ALL SEMANTICS THOUGH? WELL KINDA.
On one level, it doesn’t really matter right? I mean, people know that modern yoga is mostly fitness classes anyway, who cares what words we use? Yeah maybe. But it’s a slippery slope. Gateway drugs. Blah Blah. Where was I? Oh yeah…
THERE IS ALSO THE DUBIOUS QUALITY OF A LOT OF ‘TANTRA’ EDUCATION OR TRAINING
To be clear – the people with the most ‘qualifications’ are not always the most qualified – as it’s not all about courses and trainings – traditionally those never existed anyway. But I personally don’t believe Tantra as a path can be taught to someone to the point where they can safely guide others, just in a weekend course or a week long course (or even a month long course unless they have a shit-tonne of personal experience!).
There are some great Tantra trainings out there (please don’t ask me which ones – it’s not my zone) AND there are also some really shit and dodgy ones.
There are people who I know only started in the field of self development or conscious sexuality 2 months ago – and they are suddenly calling themselves “Tantra Teachers” or “Tantrikas” – which to me seems a bit misleading.
AND ‘TANTRA’ IS GETTING SMOOSHED IN WITH SEX WORK AND EROTIC MASSAGE
I’ve also noticed there are some people offering ‘Tantra sessions’ that are literally just regular happy ending massages, hand jobs, blow jobs or even ‘full service’ sex.
I think there’s definitely a place for those services, and there are some wonderful sex workers and erotic massage therapists who do great work in the world (yay for sex positivity!) but I don’t think it’s fair to just use incense and candles and call something that used to be a regular ol’ BJ ‘Tantra’, because it’s a buzzword and it sells… It can create a lot of confusion for other people who offer different services that ARE actually more based on Tantric principles.
TO BE CLEAR: TANTRA IS NOT A SET OF SKILLS OR TECHNIQUES
Becoming a ‘Tantra practitioner’ isn’t about doing a course. Tantra is NOT a set of skills. It’s NOT a theory or a concept. Or a technique or even a system of techniques. It’s not a bandwagon to jump on because everyone is doing it. it’s not a name to throw around because whatevs.
IT’S A WHOLE APPROACH TO LIFE
TANTRA is a whole approach to life that only comes through LIVED EXPERIENCE and ongoing practice. Tantra is a path of direct experience. Of self exploration. Of embodied understanding. Of actual practice.
AND IT CAN TAKES YEARS TO BE ABLE TO TEACH IT WELL
In one school where I studied, it was a 6 year training to become a Tantra teacher – starting with doing lots of your own personal study / practice / exploration / embodiment over 3 years – THEN doing another 3 year training to learn how to teach it and support others to embody a Tantric approach to life. This was only one particular approach and understanding of what Tantra is, and I’m not saying it was the ultimate approach or system by any means, but it puts the weekend courses in a new perspective for me.
3. ALSO, MANY OF US HAVE SEXUAL TRAUMA SO THERE IS HUGE POTENTIAL FOR TRAUMA TRIGGERING WITH PSEUDO TANTRA WITH INEXPERIENCED PRACTITIONERS
So if suddenly any random person who has done a weekend ‘Tantra’ course proclaims they are a ‘Tantric Priestess’ and starts offering bodywork sessions involving genital touch… They will likely have clients who are genuinely seeking to overcome sexual trauma or resolve multi-layered challenges – people who have heard that ‘Tantra’ practitioners are trained to support them with that.
And those people with the 3 day training will not be equipped to deal with issues that may arise in sessions / to support clients through their trauma / to create a strong sense of safety / to know what to do when someone freaks out – and what often happens then is that these trusting clients can wind up with trauma from the ‘Tantra’ session (which to be fair, can happen no matter what you name the session!)
4. NO-ONE EVEN KNOWS WHAT ‘TANTRA’ IS ANYMORE
OFTEN THE WORD ‘TANTRA’ GETS A BAD NAME
People go to events with the word ‘Tantra’ in the title – because they are interested to explore conscious sexuality – and sometimes those events are EPIC and amazing and people have great experiences… but it has happened that those events end up being a really messy and weird mass orgy, or a free-for-all random thing with heaps of creepy people stroking you, or you are pushed into interactions you don’t want and told you are un-evolved if you don’t do certain things… and the result of that is a whole bunch of really curious people end up feeling sad / confused / traumatised / taken advantage of / abused / misled – and then (and I’ve seen this happen a LOT) they decide:
“Hmmm… Tantra’ isn’t for me”.
“I tried ‘Tantra’ once, it was weird!”
“OMG ‘Tantra’ is just like orgies and stuff”.
And they never go to another Tantra-related event. This makes me so sad, because there can be so much to gain from some of the powerful practices that are used in Neo Tantra.
SO THAT’S WHY I’M NOT A TANTRA TEACHER
(THE END OF MY RANT)
So yeah I guess this is all unavoidable and it’s just the ‘Tantra’ climate we live in. And that’s ok, I’ll deal with it.
I just personally don’t use the word ‘Tantra’ as a name for any of my offerings because I don’t want people to get confused and think I’m offering something that I’m not. And because I’m actually not a Tantra teacher.
Even though I’ve studied Tantric approaches and practices intensively for many years through multiple different schools, traditions and lineages, to be honest, I cannot personally say that I’m adept at Tantra or that I’m even an experienced Tantric. No teacher or master has ever authorised me to teach it (not that that is always necessary!) And I’ve never really fully committed to an ongoing deepening exploration of Tantric principles.
In closing, I do TOTALLY respect and honour those amazing practitioners who love the word ‘Tantra’, use it with their beautiful offerings and choose to reclaim the word as sacred and pure.
Bonnie Bliss is a sex educator, somatic sexologist, speaker, writer, founder of a pelvic wellness modality called Yoni Mapping Therapy – The Bliss Method and co-creator of The Yoniverse – a series of workshops and retreats in ‘real sex education for adults’.