I know it all: each intimately spoken mantra, each tempting encouragement to engage in that very first touch.
I know, for example, that Tantra is, essentially, a bastardized form of massage – with its original Hindu and Buddhist influences incredibly hard to pin down and invariably changed beyond original recognition by practitioners in the nineteenth and late twentieth centuries.
If anything, our modern tantric massage can be considered part of the neotantric (or, if we’re going to bring Sanskrit in to this, ‘navatantric’) movement. This movement is mostly concerned with tantric sex, but proponents of tantric massage suggest that tantric massage is possible without any kind of sexual exchange.
Its Theory Fascinates Me
And I feel intrigued by this: I mean queer people have long been dismantling the notion of penis-in-vagina penetration, including climax (typically on the man’s part) as the only form of ‘sex’, broadening definitions of sex to include everything from typical foreplay actions and beyond.
But by this definition tantric massage – with its intimate touch, and even climaxes at time – could technically be considered as inherently sexual if only going by physical action as the marker for what is an isn’t sex.
Instead tantric massage adds to dialogues about just what sex is and isn’t by highlighting notions of intent. Tantric massage is meaningful, intimate, and can include physiological actions and responses that could be sexual. But just because they can be doesn’t mean that they inherently are or that a person can only derive pleasure and intimacy from them if they seem them as sexual in nature.
It’s a fascination defiance of conventional Western notions of ‘sex’ and the ‘sexual’.
And, of course, I am aware of the many parlours in areas such as London which offer the tantric experience.
The one that I work with (and whom have kindly sponsored this article on my random tantric musings) is Tantric Top Massage, and I have looked at their services with tempted curiosity. I would love to sample their services: to see what the experience may offer me and if it, perhaps, can help me dance the boundaries of my own preconceptions of the sexual.
But, as for leading a tantric massage first-hand – in my own home – I just can’t bring myself to do it.
What Is Holding Me Back?
Probably many of the same things that stop anyone from taking the first few steps.
Fear, apprehension, a certain amount of shyness brought on by inexperience.
I believe a lot of it also stems from my background as an academic and how I like to take on new projects.
Even with my kettlebell exercises, rather than diving in to the may Youtube videos and magazine guides I had read, I made sure that I got myself a few personal training sessions first. I wanted to get the form right – know that what I was doing with my body was right and that I wouldn’t be damaging myself.
It’s that sense of senior confirmation, learning from those who know, that gives me a sense of personal confidence in striking out on my own. I guess, to some degree, it’s learning by doing, but more ‘learning by being taught how to do’.
I’m sure my friend would call it ‘Senpai Syndrome’ or something similar, and I can’t say they’d be entirely wrong. I don’t necessarily want the conventional ‘Sensei’ that guides me all the way through every step, but sometimes some senior guidance and intervention is just reassuring.
And, as it stands, I don’t have that for tantric massage. I’ve never felt the touch of a well-versed trained tantric professional, nor had them guide my own hands across a willing client happy to go through the ‘trainee’ experience. As such I feel wholly ill-equipped to take those first steps that, in theory, I could be embarking upon.
But if I tried alone I know that I would be too nervous and, thus, too in my head, and that simply just won’t do.
If there’s anything to be said about tantric massage it’s that the deep and intimate exchange that it fosters – its focus on the here and now – is a crucial part of the physical and emotional bond that is forged through each session. This simply isn’t possible to achieve if, when gazing in to my massage subject’s eyes, I’m too busy running through a check list of body posture, actions to come next, and even thoughts on my current thoughts in that moment.
It’s too counterproductive.
It’s not tantra.
Should This Worry Me?
The irony of this situation isn’t lost on me: I’m sat here, on my laptop, worried about the lack of authenticity that I may or may not bring to a practice that is fundamentally inauthentic.
But just because tantra has entered a neorevolution and western redefinition of meaning and method doesn’t mean that there isn’t still inherent value to how it is currently practiced.
By all accounts, people who experience a tantric massage seem to recount just how significant (perhaps even life changing) it has been for them, and there is nothing to be gained from engaging in a mockery of such practices and drifting further and further away from authentic neotantra while simultaneously feeling like its benefits have been conflated.
That’s not something I’m interested in at all.
I have an incredible amount of respect for the new approaches to tantra that have emerged, and what they mean for massage practices, spiritual practices, and sexual politics.
I admire without restraint those who have taken tantric massage up as a profession, and wonder just what it’s like to forge deep connections with multiple clients, sometimes attempting such bonding experiences after only briefly meeting.
If I could sit down with a tantric professional and discuss such intricacies I would do so in a heartbeat.
Then I’d ask them to impart upon me their tantric ways. Because, y’know, sharing is caring.
And The Solution Is Just That
As it stands, I don’t see myself feeling confident enough to lead a tantric massage session unless I have both experienced one and been given a physically present crash-course myself. And that process, although exciting, isn’t necessarily a small endeavour either.
Tantric Top alone document ten different massage types provided through their masseurs: Sensual, Erotic, Body to Body, Four Hand Massage, Aqua Massage, Prostate Massage, Yoni Massage, Happy Ending Massage, Nuru Massage, and DUO Massage and, although I wouldn’t be interested in learning all of them, I’d certainly like to embark upon a few.
Some, for example, like the Aqua Massage eliminate the conventional intimacy of body-on-body tantric massage and instead use a machine to run water jets over the body in various ways (and at different intensities). This sounds very far removed from conventional tantric notions, but also has that quirky new-Western yoga feel to it – where technology meets tradition and creates a chic and novel new way of approaching things.
‘Happy Ending’ Massages are performed by the best that Tantric Top offer and are basically the equivalent of getting the head stylist to do your hair at a salon. I imagine this is the type of massage I would like to receive (and certainly the people I would like to learn from) but I imagine I would also be a shy babbling mess if given the opportunity.
Body to Body Massage, although something I would love to try in time, sounds like an experience that would be too intense at first. I can already imagine it now: An amazingly beautiful (and extremely well-trained) tantric masseur caressing me, our chests rubbing together, lips close, and all I can think is ‘Shit, did I have onion today? God, I hope I don’t smell like oats or herbs or some crap. I really need to invest in an electric toothbrush’.
Not exactly the headspace of a graceful and fully composed adult industry professional.
No, I think the type of massage I would first like to embark upon is Sensual Massage: general, holistic, and tender. This is, for me, the tadpole pond of tantra and I feel like dipping my toes (or lil tadpole tail, or whatever) is what’s needed to really start getting a feel for tantra, literally and emotionally.
Then Again, Maybe I Should Just Stop Worrying
Maybe the best approach isn’t to look through Tantric Top’s methods in the same way I’d browse my Amazon Prime on a run, and to just get stuck in.
The first practitioners of tantra were, no doubt, completely unskilled at first, and most likely learnt their trade from just fulfilling the needs of their body as they met them.
Much like hatha yoga – which was developed as a practical way to enable long bouts of sitting meditation – tantric massage probably started by just rubbing the right areas and finding what felt good, so maybe I should do so myself.
One day this may involve being brave enough to simply contact a reliable parlour and ask for what they recommend, or maybe it will happen in my bedroom, when I’m least expecting it.
One thing I know for sure: I’m looking forward to the day my tentative tantric fantasies become a reality.
Many thanks, again, to Tantric Top for sponsoring this article and giving me free reign to write whatever I wished. This was a super fun introspection and I hope you enjoyed it too. If so then please check out https://www.tantrictop.co.uk and see what they might be able to offer you.