Sara Davidson visited a Tantric sex seminar in Santa Monica, sceptical about the G spot, the vaginal orgasm, and female ejaculation. Now she is not so sure. This piece is extracted from a longer report in the US magazine Mirabellaby Sara Davidson / April 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
It is friday night and I am standing in the Wilshire room of the Sheraton Miramar in Santa Monica, registering for a workshop in Tantric sex. A friend I have known for 20 years, who urged me to do this waves and walks across the room. As I pin on my name tag, he says he has to go out of town in the morning. “I might be back Sunday. What I’ll miss is the stuff about sacred spot massage. You know, G spot?”
I look at him quizzically.
“Vaginal orgasm,” he says.
“Oh, come on,” I say. “Vaginal orgasms don’t exist. We settled that 25 years ago.”
He smiles and looks away. A bell rings and about 90 people, nervous, curious, take seats on the thick brown carpet. I had been hearing about this workshop given by Charles and Caroline Muir of Hawaii for 10 years and the journalist in me was intrigued. I had shown the brochure to my boyfriend, Richard, a cowboy artist who had never taken a workshop of any kind. We had been enjoying the best sexual relationship of our lives, and I thought what I knew about female sexuality was state of the art. I had gone to Berkeley in the 1960s, taken part in love-ins and written a book, Loose Change, chronicling the 1960s and the sexual revolution. Still, Richard and I had been together three years, we had fallen into certain rituals, and, as he put it, “How can you ever know too much about sex?”
The participants, who ranged from their 20s to their 70s, were accountants, doctors, musicians, filmmakers, and 22 of them were single. We all waited, then Charles and Caroline walked on to the dais and sat on pillows. Charles was tall and slim, with pale skin and dark curly hair. Caroline was blond, full-breasted, and moved with catlike grace. They wore matching shirts and pants and no shoes. They were, respectively, 49 and 53; both looked younger.
Charles said that Tantra was a tradition that began in India in 3000 BC. “It was a way of life that included exercises for the body, breathing, meditation, music, art, and practices for making sex sacred.” Caroline spoke, in a surprisingly deep voice. “We’re going to give you information that will make you a better lover, a sexual healer.”
Charles said the names we have for the sexual organs do not honour them. In Tantra, he said, for penis “we use the Sanskrit word lingam, which means ‘wand of light.'” He took out a puppet-a child’s toy, a magic wand that lit up with orange sparks when he pressed a switch. “We’re going to ask you to trade in your dick or prick for a wand of light, and use that wand as a master artist uses a paintbrush.”
Caroline said “the Sanskrit word for vagina is yoni, which means ‘sacred space.'” She picked up her puppet, a foot high yoni made of purple velvet with red lips and a gold clitoris. “This is a sacred space, and through this space comes life itself.” Then Charles put his lingam puppet in her yoni puppet to demonstrate some of the “thousand-and-one varieties of movement,” such as altering the angle of entrance. “Keep her surprised,” Charles said. “You don’t always want to go straight down the fairway.”
By this time, people were laughing and lounging on the floor, as if the puppets were from Sesame Street and it was perfectly normal to be talking about lingams and yonis in the Sheraton Miramar.
The next morning, the Muirs began preparing for that evening’s ritual: sacred spot massage. Charles said there is an area in the yoni called the sacred spot, also known as the G spot, after gynaecologist Ernst Grafenberg, credited with discovering it in 1944. It struck me as curious that this spot, which supposedly has been in women’s bodies for millennia, was “discovered” by a man who named it after himself.
Caroline said, “Most women have had traumas in this region. You’ve had infections or abortions, a difficult pregnancy, cancer, sexual abuse, sex you didn’t want, sex that hurt.” She said the traumas are stored in the yoni and cause it to shut down. Charles said the G spot is located on the upper inside wall of the vagina, midway between the opening and the cervix. “It’s not one spot, it’s more like an area that can shift and grow. It’s the south pole of the clitoris, the internal pole.”
He explained that sacred spot massage should last at least an hour and could bring on vaginal orgasms. I raised my hand. “I have a problem with this.” I asked Caroline if she could describe the vaginal orgasm. “For me, the difference between clitoral and vaginal orgasms is like night and day,” she said. “A clitoral orgasm is like a male orgasm, a big bang. A vaginal orgasm feels like waves of pleasure through my whole body. You don’t have to work and strain.”
Despite the scepticism in the room, Charles went further; he said that sacred spot massage could lead the woman to ejaculate a clear, sweet-smelling liquid called amrita, or divine nectar. “It comes out of the urethra, but it’s not urine,” Charles said. “And it’s not just moisture or lubrication. It’s voluminous. We measure it in cups, sometimes quarts, and I’ve seen it shoot eight feet in the air and hit the wall.”
“No!” someone cried.
Charles said this ejaculation had been written about in ancient China and India. “If this is available to all women,” I asked, “how come we don’t know about it?” Caroline said society has a vested interest in the accepted wisdom of the time.
The accepted wisdom about female sexuality, until the late 1960s, was that immature women have clitoral orgasms and mature ones have vaginal orgasms. Freud wrote, in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, that when girls grow up, they “change their leading erotogenic zone” from clitoris to vagina, and if they do not, they will be prone to neurosis and hysteria.
Then came the first women’s liberation groups and pamphlets such as Anne Koedt’s “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm,” and Susan Lydon’s brilliant essay, “The Politics of Orgasm.” Lydon stated that the clitoris was the centre of all orgasms and that men had trumped up the notion of a superior, vaginal orgasm to keep women dependent on them. Lydon’s assertion was backed by scientific evidence. Masters and Johnson had hooked up women to electric sensors, monitored them during orgasm, and found, as they stated in Human Sexual Response: “The dichotomy of vaginal and clitoral orgasm is entirely false. Anatomically, all orgasms are centred in the clitoris.”
This ushered in the reign of the clitoris, supreme. While the clitoris ruled, the vagina was made an inferior place, lacking the nerves and exquisite sensitivity of its cousin. Gradually, this changed the way men made love. The new attitude was conveyed in the 1978 movie Coming Home, in which John Voight, paralysed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair, was able to give Jane Fonda such pleasure it made her ready to leave her macho husband. The penis, while pleasant, was clearly expendable.
During the Tantra workshop I began to consider the possibility that for three decades, women had been deferring too readily to the women’s movement line. Was the vagina more potent and responsive than we had believed? Or were we now being taken in by a New Age shill?
During the lunch break, I went to a bookstore and browsed through the section on health and sexuality. There was no mention of vaginal orgasm. I found several discussions of the G spot, including the book The G Spot, by psychologists Alice Ladas and John Perry and sex educator Beverly Whipple. When published in 1983, The G Spot was a bestseller, but was criticised by doctors for sketchy data and by feminists for resurrecting the vaginal orgasm. The G spot still gets no respect from science. As for female ejaculation, Masters and Johnson, in their most recent book, Heterosexuality, state that it is probably a form of urinary stress incontinence.
After lunch, the Muirs showed a segment from a video they had made, Secrets of Female Sexual Ecstasy: Charles and Caroline are nude as he massages her “sacred spot” with his fingers. He is looking in her eyes, speaking softly, and then a clear liquid squirts out of her and drenches her legs.
When the lights came on, there was stunned silence. Charles said, “I know all you women are thinking, I’m the only one who doesn’t have a sacred spot, and the men are thinking, Holy shit.” People laughed, nervously. “Remember, the only goal tonight is to try the technique, observe the results, and report on what you find.”
On the ride home, Richard was cranky. He had been bored and irritated by the other men in his group. But that night we found the G spot. An erogenous zone I had not known existed-a zone just as feverish and riveting as the clitoris, if not more so because of the novelty. I felt as if concrete were cracking; a whole political edifice was toppling. It was as if a switch had been pulled, klieg lights turned on. I had a strong memory of being 19, in college, with my first lover, and I remembered how startling and wonderful it had felt-simple intercourse. That’s what it was like again.
I could understand, though, why people might have trouble finding the spot after reading a book. It was not a single locus, but a constantly shifting field, and it required a certain level of arousal to be activated. I could understand, also, how this information would be threatening in certain quarters and welcome in others. For when the vagina is put back in play along with the clitoris, the penis is wanted, essential.
Sunday morning, back at the Sheraton Miramar, the men and women looked as if they had taken ecstasy. Couples were kissing, lacing their fingers together. The women did not sit so much as flow over the chairs, and the men looked powerful. Charles asked people to describe their experience. Gary, an English teacher, was typical. He said his wife, a sex therapist, had not wanted to make love for the past six years. “When I started the massage last night, Ellen didn’t feel anything,” he said. “But then she started crying. This memory came to her-of having urinary infections and painful dilations in the hospital when she was in seventh grade.” Ellen said, “I made myself open my eyes and look at him, and I felt so unburdened.”
Only one woman in the room had not found the G spot. Charles suggested to her, to everyone, that for the next 10 days, “you’re going to practice this for 10 minutes a day. This is an art form. It takes study.” Charles asked if anyone had experienced amrita. One woman raised her hand, but she was a veteran. She and her boyfriend had been attending a university of sex in San Francisco. No one else had spotted the elusive vaginal orgasm, either.
In subsequent weeks, I questioned many women and found two who said they had had ejaculations. For one, a novelist, it had been an accident that had unnerved her and that she was not eager to repeat. For the LA Law actress Jill Eikenberry, who experienced it after almost a year of practising Tantra, it was “an incredible release. It feels like it’s washing away all kinds of things.”
It is now eight months since we took the Tantra workshop and our friends want to know, did it work? Does it last? What I can say is that levels of delight, for both of us, have increased exponentially, and higher peaks may still be ahead. Charles telephones to ask how we are doing.
“Are you having vaginal orgasms yet?”
“Have you ejaculated yet?”
I note the word yet. He suggests that we come to Mexico for a course that lasts a week to make “real progress.” But we haven’t booked any flights. Yet.