Psalm Isadora is the top tantra expert in the world and a highly sought-after sexuality, relationship, and trauma expert specializing in women’s health and empowerment as well as modern sexual education. In this weekly advice column, Psalm brings her expertise to sexual and relationship issues most people face at one time or another. If you want to ask Psalm your questions (anonymously), email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question: I have been a victim of traumatic sexual experiences and, while I am trying my best to move past my pain into a more pleasing and enriching life, I still struggle, especially with sexuality. At times I feel very sexy and attractive, but other times not so much. I want that to change. I am currently dating a man who is very gentle and eager to please, but I struggle to have orgasms with him.
He tries everything he knows to do and performs well. Sometimes I have orgasms, but mostly, I don't quite get there. I am still learning my own body, so I haven't been able to guide him to my supersensitive spots. I don't know what to do, so I am reaching out to you. Any advice helps.
First, thank you so much for asking this question! I want to let you know that you're not alone.
Statistics vary, but according the Centers for Disease Control, one in four women experience violent trauma, and one in five report being raped. That doesn't even take into account other less "criminal" traumas women experience.
So, congratulations on the work you've done to heal and create an enriched life that includes good sex!
As somebody who grew up with abuse and sexual trauma—which I experienced growing up in a religious cult—helping people heal from trauma and abuse is the foundation of my work. It took many years for me to heal, but the process and the end result are more than worth the work. I promise you don't need to be a victim of past trauma. You CAN find solutions and be more powerful than before you were wounded.
I encourage you to try to approach your sensuality without judgment and without shame. The saddest part of trauma for me is that most victims feel shame, and as a result, they don't speak out or find ways to heal. Practicing tantric techniques will help. They are effective ways to heal because they work with the body and spirit as well as the brain. Sexuality, in tantric thinking, is physical, psychological, and spiritual. The good news is, your difficulty reaching pleasurable orgasms is most likely psychological, and tantra will help you break through that imprint.
One more note before we dive in. Remember that as you heal yourself, there are women around the world who've also experienced trauma. Even asking this question will help thousands of readers, so, kudos!
The problem with surviving trauma is that most of us do this by shutting down some part of ourselves in order to survive that moment.
We are still primal creatures. If we think about the traumatic times as being, say, a saber-tooth tiger we had to run from, it explains a lot. While running from the tiger you might have stubbed your toe, but stopping to feel that pain slows you down, which is a bad idea. Instead, your brain tells you to ignore your toe and keep running.
Because there's no time to experience all the emotions that you felt during that trauma, you shut them off, go numb, and survive.
But, it's only by un-numbing that you'll be able to truly heal. You have to allow yourself to feel pain, and then let it go—let go of the rigid control so you can become resilient and flexible and not break apart because of your past hurts.
Why? Because experiencing an orgasm is, in many ways, the ultimate act of relinquishing control. It's a total release at the physical, mental, and spiritual level. Before an orgasm, the whole body tenses and then completely loses control in climax. You are unable to move over from the tension to the letting go for the orgasm to be a complete climax if you can't relinquish control.
So, how do you do that? I'll show you.
The good news is that you have attracted a kind partner who wants to help you and is not judging you. Make sure you are not shutting him out of communication about your past trauma and how that is affecting your experience. It sounds like he will be able to handle you sharing, and opening your voice will be healing to you and build deeper intimacy.
The fact that you really like him could actually be part of the difficulty. It's scarier to lose control, sometimes, with someone you really like and are afraid of losing. What if you get hurt again? You have to risk opening your body, mind, and spirit in a moment of orgasmic bliss.
Know that you will always be OK because you love yourself first. It's easy to get your body naked with a partner but scarier to be naked with your authentic self. Lose the fear and you'll find yourself better able to relax with and connect with your partner—and possibly have a really good orgasm!
To work on connecting and letting go, I recommend my KISS meditation, which I developed after traveling in India for nine years to learn the secrets of tantra. I have concentrated it into a potent exercise that can change your intimacy and sex forever.
In my classes and workshops, I use a method called KISS to explain the true mission of tantra:
1. K: Kinetic
Tantra is about tapping into and embracing our inherent sexual energy.
2. I: Intimacy
Tantra principles create deeper intimacy and make a true "heart connection" through mindful sex.
3. S: Slow Down
By slowing down the foreplay and intercourse, you are able to be more present and pay more attention to the feelings and needs of both you and your partner.
4. S: Sensuality
Feeling sensual before you get sexual will allow you to feel more in your heart, body, and soul and help you feel more in tune with your own body and with your partner.
With that mission in mind, here are my five tips on how to incorporate tantric sex into your sex life:
1. Avoid judgment.
We tend to be in our heads, creating stories about ourselves and/or our partners when we are having sex. We often judge our bodies, our ability to please our partner, or what our "O face" looks like. When trying something new, those judgments and fears can be amplified. The key is to go into this with no judgment and no agenda—just let go and have fun.
2. Breathe together.
Bliss breath is a tantra technique that makes you feel much closer to your partner. It helps you have a deeper tantra experience. To try bliss breath, lightly constrict the back of your throat and take long, slow, deep breaths through your nose. It sounds like a sexy Darth Vader. You can inhale and exhale together to the speed and rhythm of your lovemaking, sometimes fast, and then slowing down to ride the edge of climax longer. Being in sync with our breath can bring you into a trance-like state.
3. Make eye contact.
Intimacy is not just about being naked and engaging in intercourse. Even when you are, you can still hide from true intimacy. As they say, the eyes are the windows to the soul. So, try holding eye contact during foreplay and during sex for a prolonged time. It might feel uncomfortable at first, and, sure, you might even giggle from the awkwardness, but the benefits far outweigh that initial uncomfortable feeling.
Prolonged eye contact during sex lets you see deep inside the other person and lets them see deep inside you. When people close their eyes during sex, they are often focusing on their own pleasure or thinking of something—or someone—else. Or, they are just afraid to be truly connected. Eye contact helps you be fully connected to your own sensations and feelings and to your partner's as well.
4. Try feather-light touching.
Caressing your partner with a feather-light touch is one form of foreplay in tantra. You can run your fingernails gently up and down his arms, his back, his neck, etc. The skin is a powerful and sensitive organ. This is a great way to tease and delay gratification, which helps to build sexual tension and increase your arousal. It also raises the anticipation of sex, which increases dopamine levels in the body. In tantra, foreplay is not about oral sex or heavy making out. It can be gentle, sensual, and loving and still create a magnetic build-up.
5. Practice yab-yum.
Yab-yum is a Tibetan word that translates to "father-mother" and is symbolized as two Buddhas in a seated position with the woman seated on top of the man, straddling him with her legs wrapped around her partner. To get in position, start by sitting up straight, cross-legged in front of each other and look into each other's eyes.
By sitting still, holding the aforementioned eye contact, and breathing in unison, you create an instant and intimate connection. There is no sexual touching involved here, but you do want to use the feather-like touch to caress your partner. The second position has the woman's knees over her partner's legs. In the third position, she straddles him and wraps her legs around him—chest-to-chest, heart-to-heart, and genitals-to-genitals.We are prolonging intercourse to build up that arousal and tension. I recommend that couples try this position for at least five minutes in the beginning and build up to 10 or 15 minutes. Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil, a licensed sex and relationship therapist who has studied oxytocin, says, "Oxytocin is a powerful hormone. With the 20-second hug—chest-to-chest—you will feel a rush." Can you imagine what you will feel with 15 minutes of yab-yum?