Thursday, 7 June 2012

Other people's problems and a talk on tantra

My friend Ava is getting over the effects of Marcus, with whom she had an open relationship for two years. Virgil and I know them pretty well. They recently split up. It was a very drawn-out break-up. We watched it come from far away like a ponderous tsunami. Admittedly Marcus is odd. I don't understand him but I do feel very sorry for him. He is in a bad place and she is moving on.

Ava told me that, after never wanting to have sex with her when they were together, Marcus is now attracted to her. When she went to pick some things up from his place at the weekend he propositioned her hard. I don't even like the idea of break-up sex so I definitely don't understand why someone would want it after a relatively sexless relationship has ended. Break-up sex is not something I do. It concerns me that Virgil says he always has break up sex once with his ex's. I worry that the last time we have sex will be break-up sex but I won't know at the time - that he'll essentially trick me into having it with him.

Ava and Marcus hardly ever had sex when they were a couple. They just had sex with other people, sometimes together and sometimes apart. Marcus once told me that he found Ava physically unattractive (he has a taste for unattainable twenty-somethings). The irony is that most guys I know think Ava is amazingly hot and several women I know (including me) have taken one for the team in foursomes involving her and Marcus.

Ava invites me to attend a talk on tantra. It's about awakening female sexual energy. She really likes the teacher, whose workshops she has attended before. Spirituality. My parents lost their religion by the time they'd had me. They weren't looking to replace one set of strictures with anything else. I'm from a mixed marriage and no organised religion claims me. I'm officially a nothing but like many bourgeoise raised in a vacuum of spirituality, I have at times longed for something more. The best of these phases was a flirtation with Buddhism, the worst probably involved chasing some guy in Thai fisherman trousers around a festival I had no business being at.

So I am vaguely aware of what tantra is. I've meditated and I know my chakras. I know that tantra is more about conscious, spiritual sexuality rather than simply being able, like Sting, to maintain an erection for five hours and come without losing your sperm.

But I've a cynic's mistrust of alternative-types and sex, particularly older male hippies. A naive yogini I know was impregnated by her tantra teacher who prematurely ejaculated inside her out of class one day. What I have heard of tantra's focus on masculine and feminine energies sounds somewhat old hat. But... well... I'm all about the heart chakra these days, and my sexual energy is at a low ebb. I also think I might have broken Virgil. Thinking it is about time I found out a bit more, I pay money and show up.

It's a very straight crowd: I had imagined it would be more alternative for some reason, maybe because Ava suggested it and maybe because it's about sexual energy. Nandi is a warm, vibrant, energetic, radiant older woman. I don't know whether it's because she's choosing her words for her audience, though, but it is rather old-fashioned. Even though several times Nandi says that we all have masculine and feminine energies, the overall message is that men and women are completely different beings. I've never bought that one.

I love hearing about female divinity and how all the oldest relics of deities are female fertility figures. Sadly, for me, statements like 'the feminine is not rational, it's not thought: it's emotion' just play into all the old stereotypes. My interest perks up when she starts to talk about how power is sexy in our culture but I don't believe that the natural order is men being dominant and women submissive or that kink is an eroticisation of people's experiences of abuse. 'Not in my friend-set,' I think. Then I wonder what if you haven't got a lingam and a yoni but it's two lingams? or a lingam and an arsehole? or a yoni and a fist? Not wanting to be that person, I don't ask this out loud.

We leave the talk as soon as we can do so politely and I cycle home to my brother's, exhausted; I think my period is starting. The stuff on chakras was good though. I might buy the book and ignore the bits that send my hippiometer into the red.

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