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The Beloved Is Me

Naomi Wolf, Vagina holy book, Part Four

The Goddess Array

Chapter 13:        “The Beloved Is Me”

Seated upon a lotus, with lotus in hand, is Lakshmi, the goddess . . . riding in chariots the goddesses appear . . .

—Devyah Kavaçam, Hindu sacred scripture

How answer you, la plus belle Katherine du Monde, mon très cher et divin déesse?

—William Shakespeare, Henry V

Let’s look back again at the 1970s, where the feminism of a Betty Dodson and a Shere Hite, and the market opportunity grabbed by Hugh Hefner and his fellow pornographers in the following decades, “set” our model in the West of female sexuality.

This model of the feminist vulva and vagina—joined eventually by pornography’s elaboration of this model—was the one that was formative for women of my generation. The vagina and vulva were primarily understood as mediating sexual pleasure. What was important was technique—one’s own masturbatory technique, and the skills one taught to a partner. Feminists and pornographers alike defined the vagina and vulva in terms of the mechanics of orgasm.

But while technique is important, this model leaves a great deal out of the “meaning” of the vagina and vulva. It leaves out the connections to the vagina of spirituality and poetry, art and mysticism, and the context of a relationship in which orgasm may or may not be taking place. It certainly leaves behind the larger question of the quality of a masturbating woman’s relationship to herself.

The Dodson model of the empowered female did a great deal of good, but also caused some harm. The good is that feminism of that era had to break the association of heterosexual female sexual awakening with dependency on a man. The harm is that the feminism of this era successfully broke the association of heterosexual female sexual awakening with dependency on a man. “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” as one seventies-era feminist bumper sticker insisted. The feminist model of heterosexuality—that straight women can fuck like men, or get by with a great vibrator and no other attention to self-love, and be simply instrumentalist about their pleasure—turned out to have created a new set of impossible ideals, foisted, if through the best of intentions, upon “liberated” women. Feminism has evaded the far more difficult question of how to be a liberated heterosexual woman and how to acknowledge deep physical needs for connection with men. As nature organized things, we ideally have a partner in the dance. If we don’t have a partner, there is attention we should give to self-love as self-care. It does not solve straight women’s existential dilemma, the tension between our dependency needs and our needs for independence, simply to declare that the dance has changed.

The harm of this model of female sexuality is that it reaffirms a fractured, commercialized culture’s tendency to see people, including “sexually liberated women,” as isolated, self-absorbed units, and to see pleasure as something one needs to acquire the way one acquires designer shoes, rather than as a medium of profound intimacy with another, or with one’s self, or as a gateway to a higher, more imaginative, fully realized dimension that includes and affects all aspects of one’s life.

Recent data collected in 2009 by sociologist Marcus Buckingham, drawn from multicountry surveys, show that Western women report lower and lower levels of happiness and satisfaction, even as their freedoms and options have grown, relative to men.1 Both feminists and antifeminist commentators sought to find answers for this broadly confirmed trend: feminists sought to argue that it was inequality or wage differences in the workplace and the “second shift” at home—but the surveys were adjusted to account for sex discrimination. Antifeminist commentators argued, of course, that this was all the fault of feminism, making women seek fulfillment in professional spheres unnatural to them.

I think it is very possible, judging from the tremendous amount of data we have seen about what women need psychologically, which they are generally not getting, that they are saying they are dissatisfied because the “available models of sexuality”—the post-Dodson, post-Hefner, post-porn, married, two-career, hurried, or young and single drunk-with-a-stranger-in-a-bar-or-dorm-room models—are, long term, just plain physically untenable. These models of female sexuality—left to us by a combination of pressures ranging from an incomplete development of feminism in the 1970s, to a marketplace that likes us overemployed and undersexed, to the speeding up of sexual pacing set by pornography—doom women eventually to emotional strain caused by physiological strain. These models of female sexuality are simply extremely physically, emotionally, and existentially unsatisfying. (This model of sex may well doom Western heterosexual men in other ways, deserving of their own book.)

Now that we know that the vagina is a gateway to a woman’s happiness and to her creative life, we can create and engage with an entirely different model of female sexuality, one that cherishes and values women’s sexuality. This is where the “Goddess” model comes in, a model that focuses on “the Goddess Array”—that set of behaviors and practices that should precede or accompany lovemaking. But where is a “Goddess” model to be found in contemporary life?

My search to locate a working “Goddess” model led me first into the past, into the historical differences between Eastern and Western attitudes toward female sexuality. Of course, women were subjugated in the East as well as in the West, but in two cultures in particular—the India of the Tantrists, about fifteen hundred years ago, and the Han dynasty of China about a thousand years ago—women were, for a time, elevated and enjoyed relative freedom. These two cultures viewed the vagina as life-giving and sacred, and, as I noted, they believed that balance and health for men depended upon treating the vagina—and women—extremely well sexually. Both cultures appear to have understood aspects of female sexual response that modern Western science is only now catching up with.

Tantra, from the Sanskrit, best translated as “doctrine,” emerged in medieval India. Tantra sees the universe as a manifestation of Divine Consciousness in a state of joyful play, as expressed through the balancing of feminine and masculine energies: Shakti and Shiva. A subset of Tantra developed, which used sexuality as a path to the realization of the Divine. In Tantra, the vagina is the seat of the Divine, and the fluid (kuladravya) or nectar (kulamrita) that helps initiates reach transcendence is perceived as flowing naturally from a woman’s womb. Tantra even sees the source of female vaginal fluid (especially female ejaculatory fluid, or amrita) as originating in heaven.

From the second century CE until as late as the 1700s, a Taoist tradition of related sexual practices, and a related sexual philosophy, developed in China. In Tao, the vagina was also seen as life-giving and divine. Men were encouraged to bring women to orgasm with great skill and care, in order to benefit from their energizing “yin” essences. The penis was seen to draw life-enhancing qualities from women’s vaginal juices. Men were trained in the classic sexual Yoga texts (“the education of the penis”) to ensure that they sexually satisfied their wives and concubines with long foreplay and carefully timed thrusting, since personal and cosmic harmony, as well as healthy offspring, were all seen as being dependent on female sexual ecstasy.

As historian Douglas Wile describes it in his book Art of the Bedchamber: The Chinese Sexual Yoga Classics, “At the very least, a man must delay his climax to adjust for the difference in arousal time between ‘fire and water’ and to ensure the woman’s full satisfaction.” Wile elucidates the Taoist philosophy further: “The woman was said to love slowness (hsu) and duration (chiu), and abhor haste (chi) and violence (pao). . . . The woman expresses her desire through sounds (yin), movements (tung), and signs (cheng or tao). In her sexual responses she is compared to the element water, ‘slow to heat and slow to cool’. . . . Prolonged foreplay is always presented as the precondition for orgasm.”2 The Taoist sexual texts take it for granted that female sexual intensity is stronger than its male counterpart, and so the sexual training of men was necessary to harmonize those innate disharmonies. Learned techniques cultivated male sexual control and the eliciting of a woman’s health-giving “jade fluid.”

In Taoist sexual texts, women were understood to emit medicinal fluids from various parts of their bodies, including from under their tongues, from their breasts, and from their vaginas. The man’s goal for the sake of his own health was to stir the release of these precious fluids: the Taoist sacred text The Great Medicine of the Three Peaks explains that a woman’s breasts issue “jade juice,” which, if a man sucks on them, nourishes the man’s spleen and spinal cord. By sucking her nipples, he also opens “all of the woman’s meridians” and “relaxes the woman’s body and mind.” This action penetrates to the “flowery pool” and stimulates the “mysterious gate” below, causing the body’s fluids and chi (energy) to overflow. “Of the three objects of absorption,” writes the author, “this is your first duty.” When intercourse takes place, the woman’s emotions are voluptuous, her face red, and voice trembling. At this time her “gate” opens up, her chi is released, and her secretions overflow. If the man withdraws his “jade stalk” an inch or so, and assumes the posture of “giving and receiving,” he then accepts her chi and absorbs her secretions, thereby strengthening his “primal yang” and nourishing his spirit.3

These terms, so alien to our culture, bear thinking about. A woman who experiences her vagina and her sexuality in this framework—one in which the very essences that flow from her during oral sex are considered health-giving to her partner; one in which it is that partner’s first duty, he has been taught, to relax her body and mind in his lovemaking with her—would be liberated from the pressures many Western women experience when they receive sexual attention, from anxiety about how long it takes to reach orgasm to anxiety about sexual selfishness. And the ensuing relaxation, as we’ve seen again and again, is the key to sexual opening for women.

Islam, which the West stereotypes as being repressive to women, has a rich tradition of erotic literature and of careful attention to the vagina: the sixteenth-century erotic classic The Perfumed Garden recounts at least twenty different kinds of vaginas: El addad is “the biter”; El aride, “the large one”; El cheukk means “the chink,” or “the hard yoni of a very lean or bony woman” with “not a vestige of flesh.” El hacene is “the beautiful,” or a vagina “that is white, firm and plump without any deformity” and “vaulted like a dome.” El hezzaz, or “the restless,” is “the eagerly moving” vagina “of a woman starved for sexual play.” El merour, or “the deep one,” “always has the mouth open.” El neuffakh is “the swelling one.” El relmoune is the vagina of a virgin who is experiencing her first act of lovemaking. El taleb or “the yearning one,” means the vagina of “a woman who has been abstinent for too long, or, who is naturally more sexually demanding than her partner.” El keuss, or “the vulva,” is “usually used for the “soft, seductive, perfect” and pleasantly smelling organ of a young woman; plump and round “in every direction, with long lips, grand slit.” In this culture, when one dreamed of a woman’s vulva, it was a positive omen: The Perfumed Garden asserts that the person who dreams of having seen the vulva, feurdj, of a woman, will know that

if he is in trouble God will free him of it; if he is in a perplexity he will soon get out of it; and lastly if he is in poverty he will soon become wealthy.

It is considered more lucky to dream of the vulva as open. . . . If the vulva is open so that he can look well into it, or even if it is hidden but he is free to enter it, he will bring the most difficult tasks to a successful end after having first failed in them, and this after a short delay, by the help of a person whom he never thought of.

Generally speaking, to see the vulva in dreams is a good sign; so it is of good augury to dream of coition, and he who sees himself in the act, and finishing with the ejaculation, will meet success in all his affairs. . . .4

While not all of these terms are poetic or positive, this vista into a different cultural frame around the vagina shows a non-Western directing of elaborate levels of male cultural attention to the subtleties and aesthetics of different women’s vaginas, their moods, varying appetites, and their relationships to the life of the woman in question; and a very non-Western awareness that vaginas are pluralistic, individualistic, and have wills and intentions of their own.

Having seen how much sexual suffering Western women still experience, according to the data, even after the “sexual revolution,” and having learned from my research more about how Tantra and its related Taoist traditions regard the vagina so differently than does the West, I became convinced that Tantra had some answers to the question of how female sexuality was best understood, especially in terms of the brain-vagina connection. Increasingly, many signposts—both historical and now neurobiological—point to the centrality of the “G-spot”—or “sacred spot,” in Tantric terms—in mediating the relationship between a woman’s sexuality and her consciousness. In Tantra, understanding the “sacred spot” is fundamental to understanding the nature of “the Goddess,” which is seen as being an innate part of every woman.

So, looking for where a Tantric trove of wisdom might be found, I went to one of the best-known and most highly regarded regularly recurring Tantric workshops that centers specifically on “sacred spot massage.” The workshop, which takes places over two days, is taught by Charles Muir—whose booming recorded voice had swiveled the heads of all those undergraduates in the college library—along with his ex-wife, Caroline Muir (the couple is amicably divorced). The couple has been teaching “sacred spot massage” workshops for twenty-five years.

I confess that before I attended the Muirs’ workshop, I thought of Tantra primarily as intimidating; whatever treasures it might yield seemed, before I looked into it more deeply, to be obscured by esoteric mumbo jumbo, and people with startling amounts of facial hair. I didn’t doubt that there must be interesting or useful things to know, but Tantra just seemed to me—an overscheduled Western woman—like an alienating, labor-intensive hassle, involving not just my own mastery of a whole new set of approaches, but the roping in of my equally overscheduled mate. Could I glean the basics of what Tantra knew about female sexuality—and communicate them in an accessible way to women who did not want to take on a major new time-consuming life path?


On the weekend I attended, the workshop was being held at a big hotel in Midtown that, while still genteel, had seen better days. All weekend long, the forty male and female participants would learn Tantric skills centered on women’s well-being. On Saturday night, after a day of conversation and instruction, the women would walk among the gathered attendees and select a man (or men) who would give them “sacred spot massage” that night in a private hotel room. The massage would proceed according to careful earlier direction in an all-male seminar taught by Charles Muir. The theme of the seminar? Sacred spot massage is all about the woman.

It seemed clear from the discussion leading up to the deed itself that this model—of a male Tantrist completely focused on releasing female sexual and emotional energies, in all their variability and wildness, and the woman supported in simply receiving this care and not worrying about reciprocity—was what was so apparently transformative for all the participants involved. People who had gone through the training did indeed, in a noncultish way, describe this experience as changing their lives in ways far beyond the “merely” sexual. It seemed to confirm what I had learned about women’s neurophysiologic needs.

Early Saturday afternoon, I joined a group of workshop participants for lunch at a nearby vegetarian Indian restaurant. I saw a gathering of men and women, mostly in their late twenties to early fifties, speaking intently to one another, a sheen of eroticism lifting up over the table like the shimmer from a heat mirage. I took in the scene, with its highly excited atmosphere, and tried to figure out just what was so different about it. Then it hit me: all of the men were gazing deeply into the eyes of the women, and gave the impression, at least, of giving the women their undivided attention.

There was something else I noticed: while all of the women were quite conventionally attractive, many of the men were not at all conventionally attractive. But they were mesmerizing the women nonetheless. Did men who were at some kind of physical disadvantage in the mating game find themselves drawn to weekends and practices such as this, which would give them additional skills to bring to the table? The not-conventionally-attractive men, I could not help noticing, all appeared to approach the women, no matter how conventionally attractive they were in turn, with a rare kind of confidence—not arrogance, but a kind of certainty of their own value to women. Tall geeky men with pens clipped to their shirt pockets gazed confidently into the eyes of sleek sophisticates; grizzled older men gazed into the eyes of women of all ages; men of all shapes, sizes, and physical conditions were deeply attentive to women and quietly self-assured, and so, in spite of whatever they were or were not endowed with by nature, did come across as unusually charming. Amazing what an understanding of sacred spot massage must do for a guy’s confidence level, I thought.

I started chatting with a modest, dark-haired entrepreneur from Australia, who was married to a Belgian woman. He had flown halfway around the world to be at this event: he explained that his wife, after twenty-four years of marriage, had confessed that she no longer felt desire for him; she was belatedly getting in touch with her own sexuality and had awakened to this catastrophe for them both—she was parched in some way. I was amazed at the man’s forthrightness in facing the couple’s problem.

“Because I love my partner,” he said, “I lived in hope of things improving. It was very painful. This journey has taken many steps.” Not wishing to lose the marriage, the man was here at the sacred spot massage weekend to see what he could learn about stoking the fire between them.

Tantra, he said, was already helping the couple. “We started with healing touch—nonsexual massage,” he confided, surprisingly ready to share his insights and not flinching as I took out my yellow legal pad and a pen. “It’s a way to connect without the expectations and demands of having to perform, of sex. The giving and receiving of nonsexual touch is so powerful,” he explained. The Tantric approach of nonsexual massage had helped him “become better friends with his wife.” Their marriage, he said, had, over time, become “an illusion—not real on the intimate love part. We were so busy with a family, raising children—living the expectations of the world around us. I was always the warm, giving one; she was colder. It’s great that [Tantric practice] is finally allowing her to receive; sexually and in general.

“I’m here,” he continued, “because I want to know more about the art of loving: I want to learn this skill. As boys, as men, we are actually taught a lot more about having the ejaculation than about enjoying the moment. We are taught that frequency is everything. The idea of wanting to create intimate moments becomes the last priority, when it is the very thing to which we should look forward.”

Another man I interviewed echoed this desire for nonsexual intimacy, a desire that formed the basis of his Tantric approach. We started talking after I noticed him smiling mischievously at me—he was completely bald and rather stocky, and altogether charmingly inoffensive in his approach. I folded my arms, identified myself as a journalist—that universal antiaphrodisiac—and asked him what had drawn him to the weekend.

He smiled even more broadly.

He had taken the workshop four times already, and he was back, he declared, because, “My lovers tell me I’m getting better and better.”

“What’s the secret?” I asked him. I couldn’t help smiling, too, at his boyish bravado.

“I transmit energy, love, and affection in my touch without doing something necessarily sexual,” he said. “It’s about the art of enjoying the moment rather than wanting to just ‘get it.’ To hold and experience a connection, not to go in a programmed way to please this one or that one, or to please yourself. Every man should learn a Tantric approach at twenty.”

Why had he begun to investigate these skills in the first place, I asked him?

“I found that sexual intimacy without love makes me feel empty. I don’t want to go back into situations like that. I found that it’s not about ejaculating [primarily].”

With a Tantric approach to a woman’s desire, he said, “You’re paying attention. . . . You’re not in your own world. How can you not be more successful?” He said that men often complain about women being emotionally volatile. But sacred spot massage, he said, helps to ground women emotionally: “If you [as a man] are present and can hold space for their emotions, how can you not be successful in relationships with women? Women [who receive sacred spot massage from men] are better able to ground themselves sooner, not hold on to their stuff, not create new stories, like: ‘You never pay attention to me.’

“You’re paying attention, asking permission to enter. Tantric teachers talk about how many nerve endings there are in the vaginal lips—most nerve endings are in the first inch. You’re paying more attention. It’s a whole different experience. You’re appreciating that area, not just trying to just get in as fast as you can, as deep as you can. . . . What is porn? Deep; fast; ejaculate. In contrast, Tantra is: slow; connect; explore every inch of what you’re doing.”

“Do you think most men in our culture understand the vagina?” I asked.

“Men in our culture don’t understand the penis or the vagina,” he said. “Because how often have men in our culture explored either? Get in, release, get out. Most of our sensitivity, too, is that first inch—the crown. Charles Muir talks about seven sections to the penis—each one relates to a chakra. But men don’t learn control in our culture in relation to their own pleasure either. Orgasm can be longer—for some men it stays for days. Do you think most men in our culture learn that the female sacred spot can be reached in different ways—you may have to curl around, or come from a different angle? Why would you learn that?” He laughed. “Angle, depth, rhythm: each creates a different response. Even when [one’s penis] is soft you can part her lips with it. Even if you don’t have a hard-on at that moment, you are exploring; it’s a game; that can be one of the most intense parts of an evening.

“These days especially,” he said, “young men learn from porn. You’re watching people put themselves in rather weird positions. Being subjected to all these images, you compare the person you’re with to a pair of breasts, or legs; you get into this whole comparison thing; and you also compare yourself to the hundred guys in the world with ten- or twelve-inch penises.

“Men don’t talk that much about sex—that is, about technique, detail, or emotions. You might say, ‘Hey, we were on the rooftop, it got crazy,’ but you don’t communicate much that is that useful about women. Most men don’t know about this stuff. It’s nowhere in the culture.”

I asked my new Tantra friend: What comes to mind when he thinks about the vagina? Like many people to whom I had put this question, he laughed. Then he said: “It’s great. It’s wonderful fun—a mystery to explore. A place of fun, enjoyment, magic—confusion at times: if they [women] are not quite reaching an orgasm—us guys are very process oriented, and it can be like: ‘This worked last time!’ It’s a wonderful space; on the other hand, at the same time, it’s bedeviling.”

He mused, “If more women knew themselves better, the more they could explain what is going on: communicate to themselves, or to a partner, how to connect more. It would feel really good if more women communicated what they wanted—offer, invite positive reinforcement.”


On Saturday night, I entered the hotel ballroom where the sacred spot massage selection was to take place, my curiosity intensely piqued by that afternoon’s conversations.

A tangka, a sacred fabric tapestry, hung on the wall by the stage. The tangka featured the goddess Shakti standing in an inverted triangle, the universal feminine symbol. The Shakti had long black wavy hair; she held open pink lotuses in each of her four hands; and a corona of light surrounded her. She looked like the darker, earthier sister of the radiant Mary of New College.

The expansive, shabby ballroom in the hotel’s basement had been set up with a podium ranged with banks of yellow roses, and comfortable cushions were scattered over the floor. Women and men of all ages lounged on them or sat up attentively throughout the proceedings. Charles Muir stood at the podium, delivering a lecture—in a dry, Borscht Belt accent, ready with a grin for every punch line—about how men should approach “the yoni.” He made the same general points that Mike Lousada had made in our conversations and that I had heard in Muir’s own audiotapes: cherishing, patience, respect, care, attention.

“There is a point called the yoni-nadi,” he said, “in the woman, which is found inside of her: behind her pubic hair is the pubic bone. On the backside of the pubic bone—if you go inside her vagina, curl your finger back against her pubic bone—there is erectile tissue there that swells up. About two square inches of it. When the area is activated, the point comes to the surface and manifests in vaginal orgasms. It is the point that connects ‘down there’ to your brain—so many neural circuits are there. This is the South Pole of the clitoris, which in turn is the north side of her sexual energy.” (I would note that this phrasing confirms the latest Western anatomical discoveries about the actual relationship of the clitoris to the G-spot—they are North and South Poles of the same anatomical structure.) “We stop at the clitoris because there is so much pleasure there. But on the other side of the clitoris is the G-spot.”

Throughout the workshop, I noticed that whenever sacred spot massage was discussed, it was presented as a practice more about releasing emotion than primarily about accessing pleasure. Caroline Muir explained that Charles would teach the men “how to be present for a woman as she releases whatever she needs to release—to stand in his love even if she is raging at him. . . . The men will be trained in this art of sexual healing. . . . The encouragement, permission, and invitation from a man to express authentically whatever she’s feeling is a step to amazing foreplay, because she can actually trust you. If some damage happened to us at the hands of a man, as it has for almost every woman, we need to trust that a man can be with our bodies and our yonis without having to fuck us. It’s your hands, heart, lips, spirit that bring healing.”

Charles Muir added, speaking to the men: “Your message is: ‘Tonight I will serve you. No matter what you look like or how big your breasts are, I will serve the Goddess in you. And the women will be asking: ‘Does Goddess move me to choose one of these men to have sacred spot massage from?’ ” The men perked up.

“Science says it takes fourteen days to experience new neural pathways. I say bullshit. This spot is a fulcrum with so many nerve endings to the brain. Will this develop into something serious? It is a healer, not a beloved. This is a one-night hand.” Laughter.

Charles Muir led the men out—they were all going to room 1750. “When they come back they will know things,” he smiled to the remaining women. “You can look at them with new respect.”

The men trooped off behind Muir. As I watched them pass—a group of men about to gather together to watch a sexually explicit video featuring a woman’s body—they struck me as different from any other group of men, off to a night out at, say, Hooters. They seemed—I don’t know how to say this any other way—as if they were heading off to approach the female body in a way that was, yes, sexual, but also respectful.

After the men exited, Caroline Muir took the stage. She is a surreally juicy-looking, witty blond woman who appears to be about forty-three, but who is, in fact, in her early sixties—a fact that when revealed, elicited gasps from the now woman-only crowd. That night her hair was curled in wild tendrils, and she wore a loose salmon-pink top, slim white jeans, and delicate sandals; her toes were painted shell pink.

“Yes, we pamper the Goddess,” Caroline Muir began, and she then segued into a discussion of “female ejaculate,” that awful phrase for the liquid that emerges during orgasm in jets from the urethras of many women, which is called amrita in Sanskrit. “Amrita comes through heavenly realms,” she explained, according to Tantric tradition, and “comes through us into the vagina. Energy comes down and down. You can let go—if there are towels with you. You want to put it on your own face. He can drink it and become very awake—oral sex is not the best thing for him to do late at night—he’ll be walking the halls while you are sleeping like a baby.”

“Why?” asked a woman in yellow. “Does it have caffeine?”

“It’s your life force. Porn films have reduced it from being a sacred experience to: ‘I hear you squirt.’ I have never ‘squirted,’ ” she said with some hauteur. “I have released lots of amrita. The nectar of the Goddess.” I sat down and wondered if it would get less weird, and it did.

“Tantra,” she explained, “says that you miss the boat of love if you’re living in the left hemisphere of the brain—that love is a mystical experience that only happens in the right hemisphere. We’ll do a [niyasa] at a point in the body called ‘yoni-nadi.’ It gives access to the core of the second chakra’s energy—it is the point that male Tantrists press for ejaculatory control. I proposed that women had this same area; I had met some triple-Scorpio women in the swinging sixties; I met my first multiorgasmic, ejaculating women at that time.

“I watched my girlfriends wake up! I watched women come alive, and crazy emotions emerge. I watched them go from numbness to awakening or orgasms to living orgasms—to dancing in the sky. When they release that second-chakra energy, that passion for life emerges: for your kids, for your job; you become able to live all of your life with that passion.”

Now that there were only women in the room, an intimate atmosphere of female secrets shared started to prevail. “Sacred spot massage will begin to awaken what’s dormant,” Caroline Muir said to the women, now gathered closely around her on pillows, like an all-ages sleepover. “Clitoral is what people usually do; but with this G-spot or sacred spot area—which is, again, closely connected to the clitoris—we are going into that deeper soul of your sexuality.” Sacred spot massage, she went on, “is an activation of the second chakra and a banishing of the sexual residue of the past. All of the good reasons to be shut down—guilt, fear, shame—go into this chakra. And you learn to make love from men who never learn to make love. With this massage the question is: What part of the psyche are we going to touch?

“Twenty-five percent of men at the sacred spot massage retreat, when they touch the vagina for the first time—nothing. The labia—it’s like visiting Utah: ‘Nothing’s happening here.’ It’s numb; it’s asleep. Thirty minutes later, same yoni: It’s Rio de Janeiro! Mardi Gras!

“These [vaginas, labia] are places of paranoia and mistrust. You are not told, as a girl, when you touch yourself, ‘Put love into your yoni.’ This [sacred spot massage] practice resolves the sludge that you have picked up in your yoni for as long as you’ve been living.” I was hearing the neuroscience that Dr. Coady had introduced to me; the studies of multisystem dysregulation in the experience of vaginal pain; the dysregulation in the systems of the rest of the body caused by sexual trauma; the studies showing that stress affects the actual vaginal tissue of female rats; Dr. Burke Richmond’s clinical experience that sexual trauma can cause perceptual dysregulation—underneath the gentle Tantric descriptions of what sounded like the same phenomenon. The idea that the vagina has a rich, nuanced memory bank and, yes, a physical and emotional biography of its own, was being confirmed at once, by two separate cultural paradigms.

Caroline Muir went on: “The clitoris has analogies to the penis. It wants release. You feel better after release. We’ve learned to burn it up and hopefully get it over with before a man is done with his pleasure. I was only successful in terms of clitoral orgasm. Vaginal orgasms were a mystery to me. Other girlfriends said, ‘Whoa, it’s like the Fourth of July in there.’

“We discover our sexual pleasure under the sheets ’cause it’s warm and juicy down there—it feels good. But your mom, or religion, made you feel ashamed. Not a lot of good press and PR on female pleasure, owning it and knowing you deserve it and learning enough about your own pleasure to teach a man to give it to you.

“When you start to awaken inside, the sacred spot area—it reveals to you more of the truth about your divinely feminine nature. When you fall in love with your divinely feminine self, nothing will be more precious to you. She will never leave you, ‘she’ being the essence of who you are. As this spot and the clitoris awaken to your potential, it is like a roller coaster. You’re not just expected to orgasm; that’s a support along the way that shows that something is working well. Many women experience a lot more vaginal pleasure with this massage; women wake up. You see light more clearly when you clean the window. This is not taught in Sex Ed 101: ‘You have a yoni, you know, it’s not just a pussy.’ ”

Caroline Muir demonstrated sacred spot massage technique by curling forward the index and middle fingers of her left hand. She demonstrated that the right hand goes on the clitoris while the left hand curls under for the “sacred spot.”

“Penises like it a little rougher than yonis do; we are more delicate, like the petals of these roses.” She gestured at the blooms in front of her. “You don’t want to rip the petals open to put it in.

“If we’re heterosexual women we haven’t actually explored other women. If you have a chance with a friend to explore what a yoni looks like and feels like other than your own, it is one of the great rites of passage. ‘Wow, yours is really tiny, I can hardly find your inner labia.’ ‘Wow, your inner labia are so voluptuous.’ We need to bless the yoni, from a female perspective.

“Here are the stories we tell ourselves:

1.‘I know I won’t come.’

2.‘I know I won’t get wet.’

3.‘I’m sure he’s getting bored.’

4.‘I’m sure he wants to get on with it.’

5.‘I’m sure I must smell.’

6.‘I’m sure he must think my yoni’s ugly.’

“All of these things we do to convince ourselves that we are not beautiful, not desirable.

“The men tonight do not take their clothes off or become naked. They must leave after one and a half hours. This is all about you.”

Caroline Muir opened the floor to questions.

A woman with tattooed biceps and a red bandanna around her neck spoke up: “My orgasms aren’t as intense. I have different types now—not contracting, but whole body orgasms, waves of pulsation—not the traditional thing.” She held up her hand and squeezed it into a fist, as if to demonstrate “the traditional thing.”

Caroline Muir responded, “They are waves of orgasmic energy. When you are twenty, you have hot, fast orgasms. When you are older, they soften and get more intense. The pathways between genitals and brain have had more years to wake up. There are more pathways, so it feels different from fast, hot clitoral orgasms.”

“I feel a loss,” the tattooed woman said, “because I want both.”

“That’s very normal,” Caroline said. “And women in their twenties, if they don’t have children, just don’t have all their energy going to children.”

A tanned woman in expensive sweats, wearing a long sleek braid, said: “I’m thirty-four. In my late twenties I stopped having powerful orgasms. I was with a sex addict . . . I used vibrators constantly for years; every day. Did I damage myself? It’s been years. I can’t get it back.” She started to cry.

I was startled—I had just started getting e-mails from informants who knew I was writing about the issue of desensitization through porn and vibrators.

Caroline Muir replied gently: “Every time we get used to vibrator speed and then we try fingers, it is an adjustment.” A tall blond woman stroked the arm of the woman who was weeping. “The vibrator is that young, hot, fast energy. Yonis don’t love that.”

“You don’t think I caused myself damage?” asked the woman, the tears still in her eyes.

“No,” said Caroline.

“I’m fifty-five,” said a short-haired matronly-looking woman in a bright floral print top. All my stereotypes were collapsing: this woman, who had a Southern accent, would have looked perfectly at home at a Baptist church picnic. “I’m not able to use a vibrator anymore,” she said. “Every time I try, it’s like going to McDonald’s. I don’t want to eat there.” After having sacred spot massage and starting Tantra practice, she said, “The quality and difference in my orgasms is like: ‘What’s that?’ I don’t even recognize what that was . . . these orgasms are so different from what I was used to. My libido was much dampened when I was younger; but now it just went straight up. I’ve had to practice a lot by myself. My hands are small, but I use this; it works.” Out of her well-organized black purse, the woman whipped a nearly foot-long vibrator—or rather, a masturbatory device. It was clear Lucite, not electronic, and shaped like an S-curve with a knob at the end. All the women began asking for details about it, and its owner passed it around.

A woman who was dressed like a trophy wife from Westchester—cardigan sweater, pearls, pageboy haircut—asked Caroline Muir if she could be hired to do personal yoni massage. “I do indeed do yoni massage with women. It costs $250 an hour for two hours. I am not bisexual; arousal happens, but that is not my goal. There is crying, emotion: ‘Oh God, this is so tender!’ The tenderness is what we lack.”

Caroline Muir continued: “The massage awakens a lot of memory. When I had it for the first time, I could smell the ether of the hysterectomy that I had undergone at the age of twenty-six; I could remember childhood transgressions—a finger poked in. Sacred spot massage awakens memories.”

(As an aside, Caroline Muir noted that men’s “sacred spot” is in the anus, against the prostate—which, if the connection of sacred spot anatomy to defenses, emotional vulnerability, and release is true, raises very interesting questions about why heterosexual men are often so hyperaverse to the thought of homosexuality; why they often see receptive homosexuality as feminizing; and why the masculine language of being anally penetrated is synonymous with a loss of mastery. Could the idea of penetration—of male “sacred spot” release—threaten heterosexual men with a potential loss of emotional mastery?)

“The awakening of the unconscious and the releasing of energies through scared spot massage makes room for a new life of pleasure and love. We have given this workshop for twenty-five years, and the success of it is not ‘better sex,’ but sexual healing.”

I raised my hand and put to Caroline Muir the connections I was hearing about regarding blocks in the vagina, or release in the vagina, and female creativity.

“Yes,” she said emphatically. Indeed, in her explanation, female sexual energy doesn’t spark creative energy; it actually is creative energy: “Shakti, or feminine, sexual energy is transferable energy. Shakti is the creative force. In the right combination, it creates life. Meaning: here is the creative life force, feminine in nature, and I’ve deepened my ability to breathe this yoni energy into my brain. The more vaginal—not clitoral—releases in a woman, the more she is going to want to save the world, save her grandchildren, paint paintings, make a difference on the planet.

“The energy awakening doesn’t have to be orgasmic. Every time you receive loving touch of an awakening nature to your vaginal tissue, you will in increments wake up. You may not notice it the first twelve times. Then, Whoa!”


Night was falling outside. I looked around the room one last time: I was skeptical still that a night in the hands of a stranger could be so life-changing—I couldn’t imagine doing it myself—yet I hoped that all those women, in their poignant and brave journeys, would find what they needed to find. Each of them, in her own way, was telling a compelling and fundamental truth: what she knew she had been given, sexually, by our culture, was not enough to reflect who she truly was.

As I plunged into the lighted chaos of Broadway, Caroline Muir’s words to the searching women stayed with me:

“Most of the journey is shedding those layers of ‘I’m not enough.’ The Beloved is not the husband or the lover. The Beloved is in me. The Beloved is me.”


I had became convinced that Tantra had some answers to the question of how female sexuality was best understood. But even with my glimpse at the sacred-spot-massage retreat, Tantra still intimidated me.

I interviewed several Tantric “dakinis”—women from all kinds of backgrounds who had trained at Tantra workshops and practiced Tantra in their daily lives. From their own descriptions, these dakinis were much more orgasmic than groups of comparable women from whom I had also heard about their sexual lives. They also seemed unusually happy and energetic, and no matter what they looked like—and, as in any group of women, few of them looked like fashion models or conventional beauties. Unlike a theoretical control group, they seemed very satisfied with their own femininity, and had a kind of assurance about their sexuality.

The more I learned about Tantra, the more something else emerged: I saw that Tantric practices regarding female sexuality matched up in interesting ways with emerging new science on the brain and endocrinology. The Tantric masters of centuries ago seemed to have identified key points on the female body that corresponded to important neural pathways: the “sacred spot” matched the G-spot. The Taoist texts of ancient China encouraged men to suck on women’s nipples, explaining that doing so causes women’s bodies and their minds to relax; science has shown us that sucking on a woman’s nipples releases oxytocin, the relaxing hormone. The Tantric and Taoist masters had identified significant fluids in women’s vaginas that, though they were esoterically named, seemed to correspond to what the latest science was discovering about trace chemicals and hormones in body fluids. Tantric masters had identified female ejaculation, which is only now being studied by Western science. And Tantra simply got outstanding empirical sexual results for women who took these workshops.

My interest in divining Tantra’s “secrets” is what led me to Mike Lousada, the man whom I would come to think of as “my resident adviser for all things yoni,” and whose conversations would have such a lasting impact on me. His website, Heartdaka.com, is intriguing. The top of the home page reads “Mike Lousada’s Sacred Sexual Healing in London,” and beneath that runs a Rumi quotation, “Your task is not to seek love, but to merely seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

A series of intimate questions confronts the site’s visitor: “Do you hold back from being in a relationship?”; “Do you feel there is more to sex but aren’t sure what it is?”; “Do you feel unable to enjoy sex?”; “Do you have difficulty experiencing orgasm?”; “Do you want to reclaim the innocence of your sexuality?” But the ecstatic testimonials—all from women—quickly neutralize any potential threat.5 “Thank you for holding me so skillfully in my vulnerability,” Ms. D; “After seeing you, I hear my heart beat, I feel so alive—a real woman . . . Thank you,” Ms. S; “Thanks, Mike. I feel grace and courage, feminine, protected, clarity, focused . . . a serene smile on my face,” and so on. And there at the bottom of the page, as if Heartdaka.com were any old business, was a link to Lousada’s Facebook profile, complete with his photo: a handsome man with a beard, seated on a rock, gazing out into the middle distance, and wearing hippieish trousers.

So, after some hesitation, I called Lousada and made an appointment. I learned that he charged a hundred pounds an hour (about $150).

He explained that his mission was to empower women sexually, and that he also focused on healing women sexually—via yoni massage—who had been erotically traumatized. His client base included women from all backgrounds and of all ages. His track record is impressive, to say the least: he has restored the orgasmic potential in hundreds of women.

Wow, I thought, this was a lot more explicit than the vague “workshop” and nebulous “massage” I had anticipated. I explained that since I was in a relationship I would not be open to actual yoni work, and he soothingly assured me that he would respect my boundaries. The fact that I was going to interview a male sexual healer/yoni guru also wreaked havoc on my judgmental feminist reflexes about the sex trade and its morality.

I was fascinated by my own reaction and the reactions of my women friends and colleagues after I committed to seeing Lousada. Not a single female friend expressed horror or aversion; they were either totally captivated, or annoyed that they couldn’t go too. E., a happily married mother of two, kept e-mailing me: “Well? Have you gone yet? What was it like?” We did not maturely consider this notion; our responses were not enlightened or politically correct. Rather, we all regressed to an almost adolescent state, with the feminine equivalent of locker-room chatter flying back and forth among us.

And yet, Lousada did not seem like anyone’s victim or predator; with what intellectual cudgel could I beat his decision to enter an aspect of his sexuality into a market economy? I was brought to a standstill, in relationship to the issue of prostitution, by the very fact of him.

“Do you consider yourself a sex worker?” I asked, in our initial conversation.

He said that he preferred the term sexual healer (though now, a year later, as he has started to address a more mainstream and medical audience about his successful techniques, he identifies himself as a “somatic therapist”). He went on to say that he works clothed or unclothed, as the client wishes, and that the client can be dressed or undressed, as she likes, as well. Images flashed through my head—I couldn’t quite believe that I was about to encounter my first yoni empowerer or, as I mistakenly saw it then, male sex worker catering to women. Did women seeking out someone like Lousada mean that women are just as “horny”—awful word, but there aren’t a lot of good substitutes—as men have been so long portrayed? Or did it, rather, testify in a small way to a widespread sexual sorrow among Western women? Were women who could afford to, really seeking sexual encounters with hired men regardless of how the men described themselves—encounters that they could guide, and for which they could set the pacing—because their sexual lives with their own partners were not working well?

Lousada’s “studio” is actually a charming renovated cottage near Chalk Farm, an area of north London. He opened the door. As in his photo, he was a fit, golden-skinned, curly-haired man who, alarmingly, immediately offered me a hug. Tantra must do wonders for the system, since he was forty-three, but looked a decade younger. I nervously sat on the floor, as he indicated, and looked around: we were in a warm sitting room with piles of red and orange pillows, a shrine to the Hindu goddess Kali on a low table, and candles and incense burning around us. To my horror, a male photographer was there.

I had arranged with the Sunday Times to write an article about my visit to Lousada. A photographer from the paper was supposed to arrive at the end of the session. But Lousada explained that he had asked him to come at the beginning, to spare me from revealing myself too much. “I was thinking of your well-being,” he explained. “Things happen in a session,” he continued. “It can be overwhelming. You may have awakened trauma; you could become ecstatic, or shout—or you might have been crying.” I felt taken aback, and a bit stage-managed. Wasn’t one’s personal sexual healer supposed to keep one calm, rather than stress one out by upending one’s professional arrangements?

Lousada then consulted with the photographer about possible shots, and suggested that I get into the “yab-yum” position with him. He gestured toward a statue that showed Shiva ecstatically entwined with a goddess, her thighs wrapped around his waist, their groins touching. “I’m not going to do that!” I burst out. As a compromise, the photos ended up being Lousada and me simply seated in the lotus position, face-to-face.

Before we began the session, Lousada explained that many of his clients had been sexually abused as girls, and as a result experienced aftereffects ranging from a deep rage against men, which manifested sexually, to an inability to feel deeply or to be orgasmic. Sex with him—he used his hand, for the most part—helped them, he claimed, heal their rage and depression.

Lousada soon began to guide me in Tantra 101. He had me sit before him on a cushion and engage in breathing exercises. We faced each other, inches apart. He had me visualize each chakra, from my head to my “root chakra,” which in Tantra is the sex center (and which, I now know, corresponds to one of the three branches in the female pelvic nerve): “Feel your root chakra extend into the earth. . . . Feel it growing strong. . . . Your yoni is extending roots into the earth . . . now the roots are splitting rock.”

I burst out laughing. The photographer snapped away.

“Nervous?” Lousada asked. “That’s okay.”

“No,” I said, barely able to contain myself. “It’s just funny.”

But somehow the thought of a mighty earth-splitting yoni—in a generally yoni-hating and yoni-insulting culture—was . . . not unpleasant funny, but nice funny; still laughing, I pictured, as if in an animated movie, a mighty yoni superhero—a yoni avenger.

Then Lousada had me stare deeply into his eyes while we breathed in unison. At this point, I was checking my gut to see if he was a cad, a predator, or just a poseur. But in fact he met my gaze levelly and I had to admit, I trusted his motivations. My judgments were flying out the window, and when I considered his repeated mission statement—that his life work was to heal women who had been sexually harmed—it was very difficult to find a reason to dismiss or deride his work.

At the end of the breathing session, he smiled and said, “Welcome, Goddess.”

And I couldn’t help smiling, too. I thought of all the women in loveless marriages, women who were verbally ground down daily with disrespect or simple disregard. I thought, too, of the “whore with the heart of gold” stereotype, and the frequent report that many men visit female prostitutes just for the experience of someone listening to them or praising them. For many women, Lousada’s acknowledgment of the sacred feminine in every woman could alone be worth the price of admission. How many exhausted moms, or taken-for-granted wives, wouldn’t be at least as tempted by an apparently sincere “Welcome, Goddess” for only a hundred pounds, as they might be by a great new outfit or hairstyle?

“How exactly,” I asked him, “do you heal women sexually?”

“I engage in ‘yoni-tapping,’ ” he said, to address the trauma stored in the genitals. For various reasons—including the fact that a body worker can’t get a license to touch the genitals—body workers don’t usually look at trauma in this part of the body, he explained. “But I start with massaging the body. . . . Then I move into working on the yoni. First I work externally. When it’s appropriate I ask if it’s okay to enter [the client] with my fingers. The yoni is a sacred space. It is the holy of holies of your body. No one may enter without your permission. I ask: ‘Goddess, may I enter?’ If I get the consent, I check with the yoni to see. I place my fingers at the entrance to the yoni. If the yoni is ready to receive me, it will draw me in. There is no need for me to push my fingers, or ‘insert’—it will actually draw me in, with a kind of reaching out or suction, if a woman is ready to receive.

“If this [reaching-out action] doesn’t happen when a woman is having sex, she is actually dishonoring her own yoni.” He went on to say that he advises men never to go with what a woman says verbally about her readiness—never to enter “if the yoni doesn’t say yes, too.” I thought that would be good advice to give to young men, as part of their basic sexual education.

Does he ever have intercourse with his clients? “I don’t generally have intercourse with my clients unless it is extremely therapeutic.” He restated that he generally worked with his hands. I asked if his clients ever became addicted to him; he replied that he is careful to keep appropriate boundaries, and that his intention is to free the client from addictions. He admitted that they could develop emotional attachments, but that he handled that situation as any therapist would handle transference. He added that he had a girlfriend, who also does sexual healing work, sometimes in concert with him.

“Do your clients have orgasms?” I asked.

“Generally,” he replied, “but that’s not the goal. I have three types of clients. Women who come to me because they are not happy with their relationships, with their own masculine or feminine. They yearn for a masculine man but they’re not attracting that because they are ‘in their masculine’ [forced to live in an unbalanced way and drawing too much on the masculine side of their personalities] themselves.” He spoke about the pressures of modern work life on women—how it rewards them for becoming unbalanced in this way and discourages their drawing on the feminine within them. When they see him, he claimed, they restore a feminine balance and start to attract grounded, responsible, protective, masculine men. I was skeptical, and he offered to put me in touch with some of them. Lousada said that a man’s task in relation to a woman is to “hold her” as a wineglass holds wine. By now I had heard variants on this Tantric idea that a man’s role in sex is to hold and support the wildness of the woman. “The true state of women is oceanic bliss,” he said; a man needs to let a woman “move and breathe” so that she may enter “her flow.”

This was getting a bit oceanic for me, so I asked him about the second category of client. Category number two, he said, “Are women who have suffered severe abuse or trauma. And they want to deal with it because it is ruining their lives.”

Category three? “Sometimes my clients are women who just want to experience pleasure.”

“What if you don’t find them attractive?” I asked.

“There is always something beautiful about a woman,” he said, rather endearingly. He explained that some of these clients are in their fifties or sixties; some are physically challenged in various ways, or disabled; many are alone in their lives. “In a session,” he said, “I can always see something.”

He says that he typically takes two or three hours for the yoni massage; he wants the woman to feel that there is no rush.

This timetable struck me profoundly, as did the descriptions I had heard from the Muirs’ workshops’ time allotment (an hour and a half) for “yoni massage” alone. This was obviously a completely different idea of the relationship of female pleasure to the allotment of time than the one we inherit in the West. “Isn’t that a little long?” I asked. “I can imagine that if you tell an average man that he needs to take two or three hours to pay attention to the woman in that way, he will immediately look around for the remote control,” I joked.

“That’s why I need to teach men,” Lousada responded seriously.

I was sold, at least on Lousada’s sincerity. On to the massage—or the amount of it I was comfortable with.

He led me upstairs, into a seductive little bedroom. The photographer had left by then. The bedroom was lit with candles and fragrant with more incense. There, once again, we got into a negotiation: he was intent on a yoni massage. It was such a frankly sexual situation, with none of the lotus-y deniability I had imagined when I first looked at his website and thought it would involve some vaguely sensual massage—I couldn’t go there. I was in bed with an attractive stranger and there was no way to pretend that what he was proposing would not be a form of sex. The nice monogamous Jewish girl in me once again drew a line.

“Can’t we do some . . . body work?” I asked. He also had a Reiki qualification. “Reiki?” I added, hopefully.

He looked insulted. “Yoni work is what I do,” he said, with professional pride.

Finally we agreed: he would work with me nonsexually and I would keep my shirt and sarong on. Well, within thirty seconds I was in a state of—yes—oceanic bliss. Within five minutes I was laughing, and within ten minutes I was in an altered state.

What was he doing?

“What are you doing?” I asked. Lousada explained that through a great deal of training he could project his Shakti (male) energy into every part of his body—including his hands, his fingers—and that that was what caused the effect of his touch. He was tracing, he explained, the meridian lines of my body—lines of energy, or chi, that Eastern medicine believes form a network between chakra points—with the tips of his fingers. There was some inexplicable kinetic charge. Our session lasted for an hour, and, yes, even though it was not a sexual exchange, there was something electrifying and life-enhancing about physically “receiving” in that leisurely, agendaless way, for an hour.

When I left Lousada’s studio, I was on what I now knew to be a dopamine high. Colors looked brighter, the world seemed full of joy and sensuality, and the friend who in fact met me afterward said—if grumpily—that I looked flushed and beaming.

I went back to Lousada by phone to try to tease out how his method actually worked—I especially wanted to understand what he saw as the link between a woman’s healing from vaginal massage, and her emergence in areas of her life beyond the sexual.

“When a woman feels safe, she allows herself to herself—not to me—and to her orgasmic pleasure. A man takes four minutes to reach orgasm on average,” Lousada noted again, “a woman, sixteen minutes. Unless he is patient, he is going to come more quickly than she will. So when we talk about ‘normal sex,’ the man ejaculates just when the woman’s body is just beginning to soften, open, relax into that beautiful . . . it’s over. A lot of women have given up on that kind of sex. Women are withdrawing from that kind of sex and concluding it’s not satisfying.

“Many men are not spending the time with their lovers that is necessary. Women experience that kind of sex and think that is ‘sex.’ It is partly due to a lack of knowledge, for both men and women. Women’s true sexuality is suppressed in society. Our culture doesn’t allow the same kinds of response to women that it does to men. Studies show that twenty-nine percent of women never have orgasm in intercourse. Fifteen percent of women do so only rarely. Compared to point six percent of men. Tests on women have shown that there is no physiological reason why all women can’t have orgasms. That tells me that preorgasmia is a psychological condition.

“We [men] need to make women feel safe if we want them to respond orgasmically. We need some rudimentary knowledge of where to touch and how—simple anatomy, and sensitivity. Actually one of the most important things for men to remember is that we all take actions based on our own sexual experiences, so men are doing to their wives and lovers what they think feels good based on their own sexual makeup, and women are not telling them that there is another way. So when a woman comes to me and says, ‘My lovers aren’t giving me orgasms’—she has often not been taking responsibility. Very few of my clients express their own sexual desires. I’ve had clients say to me, ‘I wish I could have an orgasm, it would be a beautiful gift for him,’ or ‘Damned if I’m giving him my orgasm.’ So yes, there are things men can do, but it is women who need to be healed. Women get in touch with their sexual selves and become more creative; spiritual; artistic. They get different jobs! It’s about releasing their life force.”

Well, that was a strong assertion, and I needed independent corroboration. So I asked him to connect me to a client of his who would confirm this far-reaching claim.

He put me in touch with an articulate, thoughtful woman in her thirties, whom I will call “Angela.”

“I read your article in the Sunday Times and made an appointment,” said Angela. “I had felt completely disconnected from men, and experienced a long period of celibacy. My romantic relationships were not positive; I had a problem with sexual harassment as well. I had a boyfriend, but it wasn’t a deep relationship; I couldn’t open up to him physically. I wasn’t ready to open up sexually. It had been a while.

“Seeing Mike affected my creativity completely. I needed healing from a man. I had five sessions around that time, and still have sessions with him every few months. The first two sessions were mainly talking—quite therapeutic. Since the third session I have had yoni work. The first session was talking, holding, and me weeping. Acknowledging how I felt. The second session was profound—acknowledging how angry I was. Mike had me shouting, “FUCK OFF!” at him to release my rage. It was big for me to bring this up in front of a man. . . . I was sure that if I was angry in relationship to a man I would be sent away.

“After that experience, I started to write short stories—I was being more myself. The third session was yoni work: I had ejaculated when I was younger—it was very moving to have that occur again. It was about me, he was interested in me, my pleasure—that was a big thing. I had enough time. In my previous sexual experiences, I had often felt rushed—and often felt quite nervous about what men want. I found it very difficult to relax during sex, though I was able to have orgasms, and had experienced multiple orgasms. Previously, though, I’d often sort of disappeared when I’d had an orgasm—not in a good way, for sure. To stay in my body when I had an orgasm was a big thing. A lot of emotion came up: past trauma. It felt safe: because of the emotional safety I was able to relax more: he knew what to do.

“I’d never had a vaginal orgasm before—they had all been from my clitoris—but I did with him. He found some sort of spot that totally worked. I was able to get into my sexuality very deeply, flow very intensely—I was angry, crying. . . . He’s an example of what a respectful man is. I wanted respect but didn’t know what that looked like, felt like. This helps me to feel more confident in my ability to judge a man’s integrity.

“I have had multiple orgasms before—about two or three in a row . . . with Mike, I had a dozen: I was able to be passionate. I’d had an ‘energy blockage’ previously—here I’d be able to have a good scream. In previous relationships, men didn’t allow me to be emotional. In my family you couldn’t express feelings. To be allowed to be emotional with a man . . . I am now much more able to speak up for myself.

I stood up to my manager. I argue my point more in general—I would not have done that before. I started realizing that I’d always assumed that others were right and I was wrong—I started realizing I didn’t need to parrot people. I could be myself more. I felt more self-confidence. I was feeling better when I looked in the mirror. I had been told I was ugly. [After working with Lousada] I liked my face a lot more. I am accepting that I am a volatile and passionate person. It comes out a lot more. During masturbation, I was able to give myself better orgasms. My sexual fantasies changed. . . . I was always being dominated [in my fantasies previously]. There had always been a warped vision of a father figure. Now I could give myself orgasms without even thinking of a man—now my whole body is having an orgasm. So physical changes are simultaneous with psychological changes for me.

“Another thing—I had always wanted to go into opinion-based writing; but I had moved back in with my parents and was working in an office. After working with Lousada, I got a more creative job. I knew the whole time I would get it.

“Creativity? This time, creatively, it was like I had melted into everything. I was there. My brain wasn’t chattering—I trusted my body to take over; I felt free, with a feeling of integrity. My goals are more physical. I have a sense of being held and knowing I won’t be dropped. Mike talks a lot about women being Goddesses; I definitely feel like a Goddess. I have been writing stories about the Goddess Persephone. Her husband brings her underground but it’s a good thing. . . . She chooses it. It’s all about connecting with the darkness. I’m seeing the Goddess in myself; seeing the Goddess in other people—seeing the God in Mike—I am more compassionate. I can see myself in others.

“After these sessions with Mike, all this was unblocked. It’s like a rocket going off. I’m attracting much more positive men in my life. I feel capable of having a romantic relationship. I have a safe sexual space.”

“Do you feel your emergent sexuality equals emergent aspects of your self?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied. Then she added: “Some wounds women have can only be healed by a man.”


Lousada’s description of the vagina “reaching out” when it was ready, so odd to me at first, made more and more sense as I did further research into Tantric tradition and its Taoist counterpart. The Eastern traditions see the vagina as alive—that is, as expressing its own kind of will, preferences, influence, and agency—a way of seeing that is fundamentally alien to us, and that is so very different from the passive, receptive, personality-less, and effectively voiceless way the vagina is portrayed in our own culture.

The very definition of what it means for a vagina to “open,” though it is the same word, has two completely different interpretations in Eastern and Western cultures. In the Eastern traditions such as the Tantra and the Tao, the man addresses, with caresses and care, the “gatekeeper,” the outer vagina and labia, and awaits permission for further entry, whether by hand, tongue, or penis; and the subsequent opening of the vagina is itself a complex, gradual, and graduated process, which develops over time and under the influence of various attentions and entreaties. In the West, the “opening” of the vagina is understood to be subject simply to a woman parting her legs, or a man’s penetration of it with his penis; the vagina opens, in the West, like a mechanism, or like a door, a curtain, or a box. The Eastern model of vaginal opening, in contrast, is more akin to an “unfolding” or an “unfurling,” a “coming alive” or an “expansion”—more like a time-lapse photograph, like a lotus expanding in the sun.

And I took away from my Tantric explorations a wonderful phrase. As my friends and I now sometimes joke—or half joke—to one another, when narrating a romantic adventure, “But what did the yoni have to say?”


Wait for the next chapter full of secretttts: 14    



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