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: My husband and I are committed to our marriage, but the cultural differences are proving more difficult than I imagined. I am Latina and he is African. Certain things, such as oral sex, are taboo for people of his culture (Ashanti). Other things, such as touch, are uncomfortable for him. I also feel (though he has never said so) that it bothers him that I am older (by 15 years) and more experienced than he is. He only wants to have penetrative sex. There was a time when I might have been OK with that, but now, I feel like this is the only time we connect, and I want it to last longer than a few minutes. Did I mention he doesn't really engage in conversation with me? We've been together almost three years now, and I have even lost my desire to masturbate.
It seems like your husband likely grew up in a culture where worshipping the vagina through oral sex was not only taboo but seen as unnatural or an affront to masculinity. The good news is that more and more people are becoming open-minded to oral sex.
You said your husband is Ashanti, but many cultures throughout the world actually share these beliefs. It's this sort of thinking that limits the sexual potential for connection on a soul level.
I have a lot of compassion and understanding for your situation. I myself came from a very religious upbringing where sexuality was heavily wrapped in secrecy and shame. I was raised to wear clothing that covered me from my neck to my ankles and was taught that if a woman showed her body or her sexual energy, she would cause a man to sin—men being unable to control their sexual urges.
Being taught all of this as a child set the stage for me to blame myself when I was eventually sexually abused. It must be my fault, I thought, because of something I wore, said or did, even though I was following all of the rules. Sometimes the religion or culture we grow up in is at odds with our own sexuality and ultimately prevents us from having a healthy marriage or a healthy relationship with ourselves.
You actually raised several different issues—your age, the communication issues, the cultural barriers you're dealing with. So, let me try to address these one at a time.
1. Differences of culture/religion inhibit your sexuality.
I briefly touched on oral sex being taboo in certain cultures, but there are many more cultural and religious taboos intended to protect that can harm or inhibit a healthy sex life.
The cultural or religious filter is ultimately a psychological one. If you and your husband truly love each other and want to make this work, you will break through that filter by connecting on the physical and spiritual level.
2. Differences in age and experience level are causing a disconnect.
Your husband might be threatened because you're more experienced than he is, which has caused him to retreat into machismo ideas. He probably grew up in a culture that taught him if a woman has had more partners than him, she's slutty. What's really behind that is men feeling threatened by women enjoying sex (with anyone other than them).
3. Lack of communication is keeping you at a distance.
Whether someone writes to me about being in a sexless marriage or not being able to masturbate by themselves, lack of communication is always the No. 1 issue at play. You can't control your husband, but you can start to control yourself. You are a substantial part of that equation.
In fact, you might fall into one of these two categories, which can negatively affect your communication in different ways. The first category is comprised of people who push their partners to communicate when they're not ready to (which always fails and never gets you what you want). The second is comprised of people who are silent and are disappointed when their partner fails to read their mind.
Here's my personal advice on how to deal with all of these issues.
1. Say no to talk therapy.
My first suggestion to move past these issues is to avoid talk therapy. I've seen too many scenarios where couples spend sessions pointing fingers and talking about why they're upset with each other instead of remembering the attraction and deep chemistry that brought them together in the first place. Then they go home, and the last thing they want to do is have sex, which is the point at which many couples will truly reconnect.
2. Say yes to physical therapy (of a certain kind).
Using my KISS method will help you warm up your communication. Often, our words get in the way of what our hearts and our bodies want. I want you to communicate—but not with the language that you might use in therapy or when complaining to a trusted girlfriend.
Hold silent eye contact with your husband. Do the KISS method both inside and outside of the bedroom, and especially during penetration. For many people, this is difficult because it requires being naked emotionally. Tantra is about sexual connection on a physical, psychological, and soul level. It is only when you communicate in that silent space that your primal physical attraction can reawaken, your primal bodies can talk to each other, and your souls can truly communicate. Stop acting out sex and start having real, naked intimacy.
The real barrier is ignorance. We're trying to build new, healthy sexuality through tantra. And a word to everyone at home—don't think of this as though you're just reading an article about someone else and their problems. Even if you personally don't have any issues of shame around sex, please think of someone you know who does. Open your mind and heart and share this with other people. You can be part of this new, healthy sexual revolution.