Saturday, July 5, 2008

Club Tantra: My Experience, Unabridged

The word “tantra” inspires visions of breathing through the chakras, full-body orgasms and spiritual oneness with a partner. So when Charlie and I set out for a night at Club Tantra, we expected to fuse our breath with some sexy people, exchange spiritual energy through sensual touch then make love in an orgiastic mass of soul-buzzing bodies. Instead, we got a tango lesson, bad hygiene, and amateur porn. Not that the evening didn’t have its tantric moments. It just didn’t quite live up to our expectations.

The tango lesson, though not tantric, was a beautiful introduction. Anton, the founder of Club Tantra, and his partner, who I will call Kinka, demonstrated the Argentine tango, which is arguably the sexiest dance in the world when done well. Watching Anton and Kinka dance was incentive enough to learn the sensual moves. Anton, who is also a former professional dancer and dance teacher, taught the basic steps. It was a wonderful opening act - not only did it stir up sensuality between the couples, it loosened our bodies and promoted social interaction, prepping us for the more intimate Puja.

The Puja is a sort of spiritual ice-breaker in which the participants connect through body language and communication exercises. Following the dance lesson, Anton and his lovely assistant Anya, dressed in a red lace body-suit, picked up a couple of mics and instructed us to form two concentric circles—women on the inside, facing their male partners on the outside.

To paraphrase Anton: “Look at your partner, gaze into your partner's eyes and feel all the love you have for him or her, send him or her all your love and gratitude that you are feeling in this moment…now men, look at your partner, take her in, and notice something about her body that you haven't noticed ladies, notice something about your man that you’ve haven’t noticed before...” Dimple on my nose? You know, your earlobes are attached. I never noticed that. Wow.

The Puja continued with the rotation of men. With each new partner came a new exercise. Some were more inspiring than others (both partners and exercises). For example: “Find something attractive about your partner...then compliment them on that attractive part.” Nice and easy if you’re facing someone attractive. Or: “Touch your partner, stroke them, whatever you feel, however you want...” I don’t want to touch this person! Nor do I want him to touch me! Of course we didn’t have to touch the person, but the suggestion encourages people who may not think to ask before touching. Charlie and I agreed that this idea was ill conceived for making people feel safe among strangers (i.e. lecherous men).

Many of the Puja connections were forgettable, but a few left lasting impressions on me…

“The man standing before you is the man you've been waiting for your whole life...he can give you all the love you've ever desired, everything you’ve ever wanted and needed from a man, he can give you, everything you’ve ever wanted from your father, your brother, and your lovers…you’ve been waiting for him your whole life, and now he is here right in front of you.”

The man standing before me was at least 30 years my senior, so the father part was believable. Although I had no sexual attraction to him, I was somehow able to put myself in a state in which I believed all the things Anton suggested he was to me. It involved looking at him in a way so that I wasn't focused on one eye at the expense of the other. (Notice, the next time you make intense eye-contact with someone, that your eyes tend to go back and forth between that person’s eyes, seeking clear vision. However, if you allow yourself to gaze without manipulating your eyes through the uncomfortable blurriness, you can see the whole person.) This is called soulgazing. The eyes of this man who I had never met before, told me a story of loneliness and longing. I felt that he either had a wife who died, or that he never had a woman look at him the way I was looking at him. His eyes were wet. I felt profound love and compassion for him in those moments. I was everything to him and he was everything to me. Then we rotated and I never saw him again.

Charlie and I exchanged stories. I told him about the guy in a tight vinyl corset dress. I had to find one attractive part of him and say something about it. He was pasty and goofy-looking, with crooked teeth and blond hair all over his body. After he told me in expressive eloquence that I was beautiful with lovely features and gorgeous skin, I said matter-of-factly, "You have nice legs." This was all I could say, after looking him up and down. That was the truth. I meant it, in spite of his effeminate pose and clownish, expectant grin. He did indeed have nice, muscular legs. I appreciated them and silently wished him all the pleasure he desired that had nothing to do with me.

Then there was the guy who couldn't shut up. He had to comment on everything. "You look're this your first time here? Great, great, you look the looks really sexy on you…did you come with your boyfriend? He’s a lucky guy…have a great time..." It was uncomfortably clear that he was overcompensating for his social awkwardness. I forget what we were supposed to do with each other, but whatever it was, he sputtered through it with forced interjections, as if he felt the need to impress me with compliments. As if he believed simply being there with me wasn't enough. It would've been enough for me. It would've been more than enough. I was as present as I could be, but by the time he moved on to the next poor woman, I had had enough.

Charlie told me about his experience with a woman who was so uncomfortable she couldn't look at him for more than two seconds at a time. She was overweight and unattractive, but physical flaws were the least of her problems. The issue was her red lipstick stretching so far beyond the lines of her lips that she looked like a scary clown. But even more disturbing than her poor make-up skills was the way she darted her eyes around in frenetic frenzy. They were supposed to look into each other's eyes. She was incapable of doing so. It turned out she was Mr. Sputter Mouth’s date. We couldn't help imagining the dysfunctional nature of their relationship. We didn’t imagine it for long.

So there were some unattractive people at this event. That’s what happens when there is no screening process at a sex party. If you pay to become a member of Club Tantra, you’re in. The lack of selectivity is great for diversity (a roomful of supermodels is far less interesting to me), but it risks creating an unsafe environment. Physical attractiveness is not the problem--that's subjective. I'm referring to people's energy and behavior. In unscreened group sex situations, you can't trust that everyone has the integrity to respect personal boundaries, even if rules are presented before the fun begins.

So we used our own screens to filter out the inexperienced, the disrespectful, the inauthentic undesirables, leaving us with two prospective couples in our age range:

1. A cute blonde in a pink and black garter get-up and her Latin boyfriend.
2. A poetically handsome hunky guy and his shy, sandy-haired Eastern European (or Russian) girlfriend.

I connected with the handsome hunk during the Puja, when for a few minutes I became the woman of his dreams. There was one other person who I was mildly interested in—a single French guy—young, cute, and quietly normal. I was interested in him for linguistic reasons. I could whisper les gross mots to him and no one else would understand. They would say to themselves, “Wow, she speaks French. That’s sexy.” Then they would want me even more. And to be perfectly French, I wouldn’t offer them one little morceau.

Charlie was also attracted to Kinka—cute, sweet, sexy and a little bit dirty. I knew her and felt connected to her through Anton. She was keen on both of us…a sprightly little flirt.

The Puja closed with the mutual feeding of aphrodisiac chocolates. After going through all those men, I was thrilled to be facing Charlie again. Charlie, my love! It seemed like we had just returned from parallel trips that we embraced and endured separately to grow as individuals and come back more grateful than ever that we have each other. I gazed into his eyes. Then he licked chocolate off my nipple.

To be continued...