Tantra, Men, and Sexual Healing
Some years ago I wrote an article on women and sexual healing which was published in the Kali issue of Tantra: The Magazine. While the article examined women's feeling of being disenfranchised and sexually unfulfilled, men also responded very warmly to the findings. That is why I felt moved to write about men with a sense of personal responsibility in furthering our common healing. At the same time, I hope to cultivate an awareness of mutuality between genders.
My purpose here is to explore the many ways how men have also been wounded- such as the lack of sexual initiation, circumcision or social factors- and to suggest some initial steps men can take to begin healing.
I have worked privately with over a thousand men as an instructor of basic Tantric and Taoist practices and as a sexual healer over the last ten years. I have loved many men in my life, including six younger brothers. However, I must admit that it is with a limited confidence that I approach the subject of male sexual woundings because I am not in a man's body. I can't access the same cellular memory as when I talk about women. Nevertheless, I have seen, felt and heard men's woundings and the unnecessary suffering that results from having a penis.
Attempting to understand how a man experiences himself as a sexual being requires that we take a closer look at how we've all been wounded. We've all been victims of a socialization and discrimination process which defines our sexual identities and roles. We are seen only as either a "man" or a "woman. Eventually I came to understand how gender roles hurt everyone. Before being seen as a human being with very individual characteristics and choices, we are being labeled by our genitals as a male or a female and treated accordingly within our culture.
What It Means To Be A Man?
To be a "man" in most cultures requires the "person with a penis" to be a performer and provider. Men are are trained and conditioned for these roles from an early age. The core of this macho training is a denial of the full range of emotions and body feelings. As Robert Bly says: "Contemporary business-life allows competitive relationships only, in which the major emotions are anxiety, tension, loneliness, rivalry and fear. Having no soul union with other men can be the most damaging wound of all. Much personal power is given away in the process of denying one's true feelings.'' (1)
Competition, success, ownership and external rewards become the foundation of Superman pseudo power.
Since emotions are categorized as "something for girls" young boys learn very early that:
A: it's not okay to feel like girls
B: there must be something wrong with being a girl
C: to be a man must mean he has to be strong, to be in control, to not show feelings and to see himself as superior to women; misogyny becomes identity.
This conditioning insidiously crystallizes the male role of performer, hero, macho, provider, achiever and doer. That's how we transform a human being into a human "doing". From that place of isolation from his true self, he becomes an easy prey to a system that only values external rewards such as success and ownership. Competition becomes the rule and the way to relate to other men. The degree of his denial of emotions and bodily feelings may lead him to extreme abuse of power, greed, destruction and violence. Wars and the destruction of our natural environment are just examples of such denial.
While Men Strive For Power, Sexual Powerlessness Results
An interesting study of Warren Farrel, Ph.D. further points out that "men are socialized to want sex as long as one condition is fulfilled: physical attraction. Women are still taught to be sexually cautious until two, three or all four conditions-attraction, respect, emotions, and intellect- are met. Many women add a fifth and a sixth condition:- singleness and status/success. Many add a seventh, eight and ninth: the man must ask her out; he must pay; and he must risk rejection by initiating the first kiss, being the first to hold hands, and so on. Men feel as if their expectations are so much lower than women's-there is only one condition-and they can't even meet that. And so men feel sexually powerless.'' (2)
While men are focusing on physical attraction and external rewards, internal rewards, such as communication, intimacy, love and commitment, remain unsatisfied. Lack of sexual fulfillment results in powerlessness for both men and women. Rarely do we think of men as sexually powerless mainly because we associate the male phallus as the symbol of sexual power. I see this powerlessness manifested in many ways. In my work I constantly encounter men having premature ejaculations, difficulties with erections, lack of sexual feelings, and lack of skills and confidence in their sexual expression.
''During sex, a phenomenon that Western psychologists call premature ejaculation happens to 75% of men, preventing them from experiencing a deep union. What this usually means is that the man has not allowed his partner to develop her energy into an orgasm. As a result, in normal sexual relations the percentage of women experiencing frustration and no orgasm may be as high as 80%.'' (3)
Can you imagine when this situation persists? The results are performance anxiety, lack of self confidence, feelings of embarrassment, frustration and shame, lack of sexual fulfillment and deep suffering.
I am a firm believer in ejaculation control as a solution to World Peace, starting at home, by creating more sexual fulfillment. My personal contribution to this are two beautiful audio tapes: A step-by-step Sexercise Training which teaches Total Ejaculation Control and how to prepare the body for male multiple orgasm and A Guided Erotic Journey/The perfect companion to the Sexercise Training in which ''Ishtara'' reveals more of her sexual secrets and takes the listener "into the world of sacred pleasure and endless ecstasy".
Male Are Wounded By The Absence Of Sexual Initiation
The absence of a rite of initiation into malehood with proper sexual training also contributes to male sexual wounding. Men are not trained to know how to love women. A man's first experience of female love is with his mother. This relationship will determine a man's capability to love and trust a woman. Most men have been severely wounded from deeply unfulfilled mothers who projected their own needs, dreams and expectations onto their sons. The son often became a substitute for an absent father and lover.
A man's fear of women's control affects how willing he is to surrender to women's sexual power. His unconscious fear of women's inexhaustible sexual power confronts him with his vulnerability, especially if he fails to meet his own expectations as a sexual performer. His desire for control is challenged by a temperamental male phallus which can let him down at any given moment without notice. We call it "cuming" while it should be called "going." Because, unless a man learns to transmute his energy before he ejaculates, once he "cums" he is gone. His energy and his interest in his partner are gone. The man who repeatedly experiences this lack of control over his sexual energy will often end up feeling powerless.
The Abuse of Circumcision Is The First Sexual Wounding
Such experiences of powerlessness may tap into a man's earliest experience of having his genitals mutilated by circumcision: "No one is aware of the deep implications and life-long effect of circumcision. All that takes place in the first days of life on the emotional level and shapes the pattern of all future reactions. How could a being aggressed in this way, while totally helpless, develop into a relaxed, trusting person?" (4)
''Could the trauma from this event have anything to do with our later feelings of shame about our bodies, our concern about the size of our penises, our anguish over sexual performance, our frozen feelings, or the male ability (liability?) to ignore pain? In order to begin healing our wounds we need to remember what happened to us and name it correctly. Cutting the genitals of newborn male babies is child sexual abuse. I encourage all men to join in ending this practice.'' (5)
The more I read on the subject the more upset I become. (For additional information on circumcision, see bibliography at the end). (6)
Social Factors Further Objectifies The Wounded Man
A more recent factor which, unfortunately, has also contributed to men's woundings is feminism with its oftentimes vehement objectification of men. In the spirit of retaliation there isn't much room for discernment. Sensitive men took a hard blow, right under the belt, in their power center. While the male power structure was actually the object of attack, many receptive men's personal power was blasted. On top of not having adequate male role models, now simply being a man was a cause of shame, blame and discrimination!
Finally, I am suggesting a last, yet certainly not the least, important factor of sexual woundings. It is the fear around sexuality which men have also inherited at a cellular level from patriarchal religions. Indeed patriarchal religions throughout the ages executed people for being sexually alive. The human body and its erotic power became a source of evil. What if, instead, it would have been considered a source of divine embodiment?
The New Age Man Attempts To Compensate For These Wounds
Perhaps the phenomena of the New Age man is a natural response to these woundings. I think it's a rather creative one. These men have opened themselves to their intuitive and receptive side. They know how to be gentle and sensitive which is exactly what women wanted from men. The problem is that through this process, men have often lost the more bold, active and penetrating qualities required for personal power. In that way they've compromised their maleness. And of course it's bound to affect their sexual power.
Whether or not modern man is in touch with his emotional pain, his body can't lie. The most striking way that sexual wounding is affecting men is through prostate disease. In this country, over 50% of men experience prostate difficulties beyond the age 50 while prostate cancer is one of the leading cause of male death. The medical establishment treats the symptoms of prostate problems while ignoring their causes. Aside from the physical causes, shouldn't we pay closer attention to the most obvious cause which is the surrounding environment: the quality of the air, water and food? Where you aware that the chemical substances present in the environment become particularly concentrated in the sexual organs?
At another level, the significance of the disease of the male sexual organ reflects the difficulty to convert this tremendous testosterone power used for wars and destruction of the planet into a creative, peaceful and sacred source of energy. It is time to collectively give birth to the peaceful warrior. We celebrate the wise man who can meet the wise woman in true power and equality, mutually supporting our freedom of Being divinely human.
Gaining Awareness Of The "Core wound": Separateness From Being
I feel moved here to share part of my latest personal investigation in relation to healing. All my life, whether I could name it or not, there has been this deep undercurrent of isolation and distress at the core of my Being. I have devoted a great deal of time and energy trying to heal my core issues of abandonment, self-love and love of others. I finally came to feel that the primary focus of my investigation of Being was redirected to the "Core wound" of separateness from my essential nature,-and that the "Core wound" is at the root of all other psycho-physical wounds, limits and issues, and it is present in all beings. As a result an important shift in my process has occurred where I am experiencing a beginning and deepening of Freedom at the Heart of my Being. Since all this is fairly new I feel a certain level of vulnerability in sharing it here, and it's as much as I can say for now. As this process keeps unfolding, I certainly will have more to say.
How Can Men Begin To Reclaim Their Sexual Power?
First of all, by getting out of denial to recognize that they've been wounded. By moving through the pain of these wounds, one can find the key to the true erotic self. This connection to the erotic self is our connection to the life force. It is sacred in itself and should not be exclusively limited to the pleasure of the senses. The highest Tantric exploration is where sex is not used as an escape, no matter how blissful it is, but as a means to know who We are. As long as we identify with the realm of the phenomenal we're bound to be disillusioned. Once the key to know oneself is found, the whole body becomes the human receptacle, the holy grail, for erotic energy to move more freely and to be transformed into love, healing and creative expressions.
Secondly, men need to develop a whole new relationship with their penis. Most men are dissociated from their phallus. that's why for many men, their relationship to their car, for instance, is so significant. It is the modern stereotype of sexual power and identity. Dissociation also occurs when men masturbate in a very mechanical way, like a sex machine, with high speed, force and intensity. This creates rigidity which over time becomes armoring in the body. The natural sensitivity for the more subtle sensations and feelings is lost. They've also lost the intimate connection with themselves and the richness of the whole erotic body. Their experience is a very limited one strictly localized in the genital area. For most men, orgasm equals ejaculation and love making becomes a performance and a race to orgasm. Moreover sex easily becomes a routine to release stress. The compulsive need for outside sources of stimulation, such as pornography and the use of fantasies as necessary conditions to get turned on, indicate the level of dissociation from the sexual organs.
Vulnerability is the essential condition to reclaim sexual power. I have found that this is probably the most difficult quality for men to express, particularly in intimate relationships. Although a man might be a great adept of sexual and spiritual disciplines, he may precisely have used these practices as a way of reinforcing his more refined egoistic sense of power and the denial of his emotional body.
Healing Through The Work Of A Sacred Initiatress
A long time ago, men were initiated in the arts of love by women who were trained as sacred courtesans. I know I have been one of them. It is from this deep recognition that I felt called, in 1989, to begin to offer my sacred sexual healing work.
My work as a Sacred Initiatress has mainly consisted in instructing men and women in how to circulate their sexual energy throughout their whole body for the purposes of health, rejuvenation and sexual ecstasy. The techniques I have used are mainly based in ancient tantric and taoist systems although adapted to our modern needs.
By using the breath and specific muscles which I called "the pleasure muscles" a man can learn to delay his ejaculation and prolong his love making for extended periods of time, strengthen his erection, experience orgasm without ejaculating and learn to prevent prostate problems. You can only imagine what these benefits can do to a man's self-confidence as a lover not to mention his partner's sexual satisfaction.
I believe that this information should be available to everyone. I knew that my work as a Sacred Initiatress will sometime come to an end and I feel responsible for passing on the precious information that I have received.
I felt committed to making the essential instructions of my training available in an easy, concise and totally enjoyable way. That is how I created a personal guide and companion named Ishtara. With her sensuous voice she will keep encouraging the listener on his special intimate journey.
My joy keeps growing as more people come to discover the great value of these teaching tools. It is my personal contribution to men and the women who love them, on their sacred sexual journey. I'd like to complete this article by honoring the divine male in all of us with my poem.
Robert Bly, Iron John, 1990
Dr. Warren Farrel, Why Men Are the Way They Are, 1986.
Jwala, Sacred Sex, 1993.
Dr. Frederic Leboyer, Birth Without Violence, 1975.
Jed Diamond, The Silent Knife: Why isn't Circumcision a men's Issue? The warrior's journey Home, 1994.
National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC), P.O. Box 2512 San Anselmo, CA 94979-2512 USA
Listen Peaceful Warrior
Come here and relax
Let the eternal feminine hold you tenderly
Come and penetrate softly
The fountains of silence
And rest in the depth
Of her golden cavern.
The return to innocence,
To the eternal womb of creation.
Let her hold you tenderly
While you be still and receive
The nectar of her inexhaustible passion
There is nothing to do
And nowhere to go
you've come here
To taste the ecstasy
That is your birthright.
Copyright 1995 Ishtara, Revised edition ,1999