SHADOW -DANCING TANTRA

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Trials, Tramps, TanTrickery and Transformations -PART 3

Author demonstrates tantric teaching to workshop attendees

by Marcia Singer, MSW, CHt

TRANSFORMATIONS

My new massage and hypnotherapy healing practice was challenging. Most of my clients were men, most became aroused during my touch therapies, to my dismay. It frightened, angered, confused and haunted me: I was a good girl− not a tramp. But I felt uneasy a lot, bad about myself. What were the criteria for being a real healer?

Debates between my inner Tramp and Prude sent me into therapy, determined to embrace all the shadowy parts of me until I was clear. Contradictions raged: how to feel safely distant, asserting power with men, yet feel desired, close; how to effect sexual healings, yet be invisible (safe) sexually; how to be free of repressive limitations, yet maintain healthy boundaries; how to be rewarded financially for the difficult, exacting work I did, without usery; how to be emotionally honest and non-placating in face of great fear over angering men….

In answer to my prayer for help, an offer arose to take a private course on sexual surrogacy. In a subtle abuse of his power, the instructor, a well-known sex therapist, sexually violated me during my so-called “final exam.” Too ashamed and confused to report him, I stuffed my rage.

Stumped for reliable mentoring, bursting at the seams, I proposed an exploratory article to Massage Magazine. “Sexual Turn-ons During Massage” (May 1990) created a national scandal by suggesting that massage therapists might play a role in healing sexual problems, that it can be appropriate to touch the genitals or breasts of clients, with their permission, IF the therapist is skilled in emotional release work. Over the next six months of heavy readership debate, the AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association) yanked their full-page ad in protest, and I wound up mentioned in Esquire Magazine. A Wall Street Journal feature in 1998 reported that tantra has become big business. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Los Angeles: in the Hollywood sex trade, “anything goes” for a price. Hundreds of beautiful women clamore for a share of the market: phone sex babes, bondage partners, escort models, and tantric masseuses. It was now 2001, and I found myself arguing from a conservative POV (very coyote): Haven’t massage and tantra practitioners become too liberal in distributing sexual releases of all kinds, handing out promises of god and goddesshood like candy? Are we getting confused? “ESCORTS-STRIPPERS-TANTRA” read a banner ad in a local weekly. Ads in new thought publications promised model-body type young women that in just one month, they can be dakinis, healers. Featured on the internet, naked “goddesses” and “priestesses” compete with porn sites for male attention and financing.

Ten years earlier, there had been a decided separation between secular inquiries for sexy massage favors and those for tantric inductions; now there was not.. Where practicing sacred sexual relations automatically meant discipline and respect for the transformational process− for its requisite shadow journeys to liberate our hearts, increasingly the focus had become (and remains) primarily sensate and power driven. Also dismaying, now in 2024, is the fact that in Sonoma County, here in northern CA, a slew of young women professing to be dakini healers and tantric masseuses, entice a mostly male audience to come hither, posing suggestively, sexily, just as do escort services, charging hundreds of dollars in fees for 60–90 minutes sessions… While the emphasis, officially is in the realm of sacred sexuality and sensuality, and professed to differ hugely from the escort trade, exchanges initially at least, rely on enticement. And the fees take advantage of clients, in my not so humble opinion…

So while it saddens me to see that over the past 23 years, these questionable practices have spread, perhaps become a national norm, every dark cloud has a silver lining. We are growing. Life’s thrust is for Love and Play, the realm of Coyote and Dakini Woman. Let’s trust that as we continue to throw off repressive, puritanical legacies and embrace bodily pleasures and sexual congress as spiritual and/or healing, we’ll be less afraid of the emotional dark. And more trusting of all that life brings, so that we may be the Gifts that God/dess design us to be.

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Marcia Singer, LoveArts Foundation

Seven decades of exploring the Inner Life, writing down the bones. Careers: singer-entertainer, tantric-shamanic healing artist; mindfulness/shakti educator