Recently, I had an experience of a male breaking a clearly stated boundary I had, in what was meant to be a sexual healing session. At first I pretended it wasn’t upsetting and tried to rationalize the situation away. It wasn’t long before my body insisted otherwise. (The body does not lie. The mind does.)The more aware of what happened I became, the more I was enraged, beyond words. I lose my voice when my PTSD is triggered. It took me weeks to work through the experience to a place of healing. It was a reminder that the very community in which I went to experience sexual healing, after decades of trauma, is a place where I have also experienced sexual harm.
About the same time that this new violation happened, the #MeToo movement, that has outed so many men in powerful positions abusing and victimizing women, hit the tantra community. Including the school I have Advanced Certified Tantric Educator Certification from, Source Tantra.
Wounded healers who have not done and continue to do (as it’s ongoing!) their shadow work, consent and boundary violations, “intentions” instead of clear contracts, lack of integrity, awareness, and proper education and training (especially around consent, boundaries, trauma, and the potency and use of sexual energy!), all contribute to sexual misconduct being unfortunately prevalent in the tantra world, too.
An article by Amrita Grace explains much of what I have witnessed, and experienced first hand…
“The recent eruption of sexual misconduct and boundary violations has finally reached the world of tantra and spirituality. As a teacher of Sacred Sexual Awakening and Healing®, I’ve long been aware of tantra and “spiritual” sexuality practitioners who bring their own wounding into their work and who do more harm than good. Even those with the best of intentions for healing often have not done enough of their own shadow work, which must be an ongoing process.
It can be especially challenging to untangle boundary violations in the western tantra world, where the teachings are often focused on sexual techniques and exchanges. It can be confusing, especially for beginners, to have clarity on their own boundaries when they are learning how to generate and circulate sexual energy. When violations happen, it’s easy to excuse them as part of the practices. It can all seem a little fuzzy. But it does not have to be.
Many tantra and spiritual sexuality practitioners (of all genders) come into the work because they want to heal their own sexual wounding. Often, they do not get far enough along in their own healing before they decide they can start helping others. Some come in because they are attracted to the “taboo” aspect of the work or to get in on the “action.” They get cocky and overly confident and consider themselves “experts.”
More Harm Than Good
I think one of the biggest mistakes that these cocky practitioners make is that they underestimate the power of sexual energy to create unseen energetic bonds between people. When sexual energy is exchanged in a session, something much bigger is being created. When the session is over and the exchange is supposedly complete, those energetic bonds don’t just go away. All people, but women especially, can be re-wounded and traumatized by generating and then abruptly cutting off this powerful connection.
I have seen male practitioners using their charm, good looks, and sexiness to attract women as “clients,” making them feel like cherished lovers and then “dumping” them at the end of the session after the money is paid, sometimes very substantial amounts of money. Or perhaps a series of sessions where the client gets totally “hooked” on the practitioner and sometimes even falls in love. It doesn’t matter what kind of agreements were made or intake forms signed, it’s up to the practitioner (whether male or female) to hold CLEAN, CLEAR space for the client to have their own experience. It’s up to the practitioner to hold professional boundaries at all times for the vulnerable client. Period.
It’s not just male practitioners, either, although male clients get “hooked” for different reasons. There female practitioners using their beauty and sexiness to make their living as well. Because tantra and spiritual sexuality is an unregulated field, there are no established requirements or standards for education, practice-hours, or professional conduct. (The exception to this being sexual surrogacy and Sexological Bodyworkers).
I myself came into the sacred sexual awakening and healing because I desperately needed it. I was lucky to find my way to a very high-integrity school and receive my 2-year certification and 4-year apprenticeship with a teacher who had clear boundaries and held her students to very high standards and ethics. I also encountered teachers along the path who did not hold clear boundaries and saw the impact of that on others and felt it in my own being. It took me years of practice and study to fully manage my own boundaries and to be able to hold safe, clear space for others. To this day, I am vigilant about stalking my own shadows and maintaining the highest integrity and ethics in my teachings.
Crystal Clear Boundaries
My own philosophy in my work is that there are clear, distinct roles in sexual healing. There’s a giver and a receiver, and sometimes, a witness. There is clear intention that there will be no “exchange” of energy. The giver holds a safe, sacred container for the receiver to have her own experience, whatever that might be. The receiver may be processing anger or rage, or she may be experiencing the awakening of her sexual energy, and it all belongs to her.
Presence – The Feminine Way
The way I teach this work, the giver comes into pure, empty presence and holds clean, clear space with intention for the greatest good of the receiver. The giver’s only engagement is with herself, keeping herself grounded and fully present. It’s a deeply magical space that allows the receiver to have a pure, unadulterated experience of HER OWN ENERGY. Whether she is laughing, crying, screaming, sounding, or silent, it’s all about her. The presence, clarity, and emptiness of the giver allow the receiver to be guided by her own soul to her perfect healing, expansion, and integration.
Like Amrita, I am not at all surprised by the new public outcry of prevalent abuse of (sexual) power, and/or breaking of, or overriding boundaries in the tantra community. In a field where the Goddess is meant to be worshipped, and sexual healing done with the utmost integrity, I experienced sexual trauma early on in my 20’s at tantra workshops. I also trained a partner in tantra, who misused his sexual energy, and power, with me, and other women. I take full responsibility for that experience. I was the one who let him become the dominant influence, when I was the one with the years of education and training. How common it is, and expected, for women in a patriarchal culture to be under the influence of men, even while claiming to be empowering the Goddess, and creating a different reality. With that said…
For anyone I have negatively influenced…
If I have ever, in any way, misused my sexual energy and power, and/or influence with any: person, client or student, and caused harm, for this I am deeply regretfully sorry. I was not as properly educated as I am now, about many things, especially about boundaries, and consent. I hope I have not hurt anyone with my own possible consent violations. I am the first to admit how powerful sexual energy is, and how I am still learning to become a master of mine, rather than it mastering me. I am acknowledging this to be held accountable by anyone whom I have harmed in any way. I know that a simple apology is in no way enough, and I would want to make any amends and healing possible that I can. I am cleaning up my awareness, expanding my consciousness, and creating new boundaries to not fuck up in this way. Please do reach out to me if I have ever influenced you, or someone you know, in such a way.
Some tantra teachers initially reacted to allegations against them, or their school, and/or top sexual healers, with dismissiveness, and even disempowering (to the victim) responses. As the movement heated up in the community, more integrity, alignment and congruency has been acted upon.
One Tantra teacher, Tanja Diamond, who has been calling out abuse in the community publicly through Facebook videos and more, is not only contributing greatly to what the endemic issues are, but to the healing action steps needed, for individuals and the collective. Here are some videos of hers on this subject…
One sex educator, Reid Mihalko, who was accused of sexual misconduct originally publicly in an article (Click here to read), now has multiple claims against him. He issued a public apology, after he first responded in a way that enflamed the victim, and the sex ed community at large. In an article on this situation from intimatehealthconsulting.com, author Bianca brings up the following super important topics:
- There are many complexities on how justice and healing is carried out in the sex ed community
- We all contain multitudes. Many of us exist as both perpetrators and survivors. We each have the capacity to harm, whether through selfishness, impulse, purposeful manipulation, or miscommunication.
- It is in the accountability process that we separate malice from misstep.
- The pattern of behavior Reid demonstrated was not an isolated incident, but part of the larger way he interacts with the world.
- What does true accountability look like?
- What constitutes a good apology?
- That Reid’s behavior is extra troubling because of his position within the (sex ed) community as a widely respected expert. He used his power and relative acclaim as an educator to his advantage in situations of coercion.
- All of us have the power to do harm in the circles where we have local power.
- Proper education on consent is necessary.
World renowned self-development super star, author and speaker Tony Robbins, was also called out in the #Metoo movement. He is obviously not part of the tantra community, but I bring him up as in sex educator Amy Jo Goddard’s article on Tony Robbins “Victim Guru-Complex and Leadership, article she gives us the low down on what happened, and brilliantly summarizes what could have happened instead.
“A woman brings attention to the problematic way Tony Robbins speaks about #MeToo, and rather than needing to be right and hold to his position, he pauses, listens to her, asks her to “tell me more” and takes it in.
Tony acknowledges that sexual violation and harassment is a problem that needs solutions (in line with his teaching) and asks the audience to consider what they can do in their lives, workplaces and communities to create more safety for all.
He shows leadership among men, “Men, it’s important to listen right now. Women are feeling righteous anger and even if it’s hard, we need to listen because there is a reason for that anger and we have a lot of work to do.”
If he chooses to do a physical demonstration he asks permission before touching her, modeling consent.
He vows to create environments that feel safe for women and humbly thanks this woman for helping him see his blind spots or the things he misses because he is a tremendously privileged white, heterosexual man and isn’t always going to catch things. He tells the woman he values her perspective and wants to continue the dialogue.
That could have been a powerful way of bringing people together and helping to bridge the deep gender and racial gaps that are apparent. It could have inspired men who might not otherwise give two pennies to be more vulnerable and willing to stand for women and against sexual violence. It could have made women feel like he is an ally and cares about our well-being.
But that didn’t happen.”
(What did happen?)
His response to her included:
- Not listening to her
- Interrupting her
- Invalidating her
- Touching her without consent
- Using his group-think tactics and power in the room to move people away from listening to or agreeing with her
- Using his physicality and size to intimidate her
Tony Robbins has since issued a public apology.
We are all so confused.
As Tanja Diamond points out, 90% of what is happening is a misunderstanding. It is less than 10% of the population that is deliberately sexually, or otherwise, harming others. Being part of Jaiya’s Erotic Blueprint Certification™ course, and community, is bringing me into higher alignment and consciousness with what ethics, integrity, boundaries, rules, and contracts must be established, upheld and agreed upon between teachers, students and clients. Through my diligent certification work through Jaiya, I am so appreciative to having been exposed to powerful resources such as…
Betty Martin’s Wheel Of Consent
In Betty’s Wheel Of Consent, depending on the agreements verbally made, and on where you are located in the wheel, would determine what influence/position/role within the wheel you are in, and possibly under. Her Wheel Of Consent is a necessary tool I recommend to everyone to become more aware and conscious of consent dynamics by at minimum:
When I interpreted my most recent tantric healing session consent violation experience, using Betty’s framework, this is what I came up with:
I had agreed to be in the Receiver in a consensual agreement for a sexual healing session from a colleague. I distinctly set my boundaries at the beginning of the session (as he did his), and I specifically named and said no to a specific sexual act being any part of the session. As in my training, and firmly held rules for female sacred spot massage ritual, it should not be included in, and I also did not want this particular sexual act. Deep into the session, when my orgasmic energy was running very high, he did the named specific sexual act which I said no to, clearly, in our original verbal agreement. At that point, I disassociated and made up excuses in my head as to why that was ok, instead of stopping it immediately. I lost my voice, went out of my body, and tried to justify instead. This is my typical PTSD response. My body continued on responding orgasmically as I tried to make it ok. As it began to shut down more, he kept forcefully trying to amp it up. At this point what I now understand happened, from the Consent Wheel framework, is he moved from the quadrant “Serve”, commonly called “Giving” to the quadrant of “Take” (without verbal consent to do so), as in I sensed in the sexual act I had specifically put on the no consent for list, him doing so to me did not feel as he was still serving/giving, but now taking (my sexual energy specifically) instead. When one person moves quadrants, the other moves to the opposite quadrant of the new one they inhabit. I moved to the “Allow’ quadrant when I did not speak up or stop what the sexual act that was specifically against my verbal consent. Inside the circle of consent, the act would have been a gift given that I would have received, or I if I had given verbal consent I may have allowed the taking energy and willingly enjoyed it. It is because this act was on my “no” list, and consent was not given in changing that, that we both not only changed quadrants, but also now moved out of bounds on the wheel into no consent which is the shadow side. Outside the circle (without consent) the same action becomes stealing, abusing, assault, rape etc.
This is a very brief synopsis and explanation, but I suspect you get my point, and encourage again please check out Betty’s body of work and how it can empower you in your consent agreements, not just with lovers.
So how did I heal from this experience? I am still healing. Honestly, I have a long way to go when just while writing this post I have the voice of my ex in my head shaming me for this experience. I can hear him saying something like, “what do you expect from these creepy tantric sexual vampire colleagues of yours?” I feel the double/triple shame of him not only pointing out how it’s my fault, somehow, but I also have shame on top of that since I trained my ex, and he regardless refused to ever take any of my trauma seriously, and added to it, and became a part of the sexual energy vampire team. (That actually was my fault. I know exactly where I did in fact fuck up there!) Additional shame piled on when this happened as it caused me to feel I have to hide it, so my ex isn’t justified in his opinion of my other male colleagues. It’s a shitty place to be when the sexual healer that was my partner that I trained I can’t go to, so I go to a more highly trained professionally certified sexual healer for healing on that situation, only to find myself traumatized by a consent violation. Where do I go from here? Since I don’t have any other sexual healers I trust left or available, I work on healing myself, sexually hands on, and otherwise.
What has helped the most is that I’ve acknowledged what happened, and how it effected me, to my new community, and close friends, and I was met with safety, acceptance, empathy and support. Other women in the community also shared how they have had experiences where they, too, rationalized ridiculous excuses like these that I also had:
- I am a Goddess, it’s not hurting me, he must really need this from me.
- My body is still responding orgasmically, it must be ok. (NO. Your body can have an orgasm during a violent rape. It is the bodies way of release.)
- I create my own reality so this is my fault. (Even when in reality I did not give consent.)
It’s been a long devastating road to learning more about boundaries and consent, personally and collectively.
My teacher Jaiya recounts her early experiences in the tantra community where consent wasn’t discussed, boundaries considered a bad and unhealthy thing-an impediment to enlightenment, in her blog on Safety is Sexy! And Consent is the Key! (link below, too). A decade into tantra, and when several women and clients have shared with her that a “Sexual Healer” in her community violated, even raped them, she learned (after confronting him, and others in the community about) the lessons that:
- “If there is a consent violation and you speak up about it, you will be shunned from the tribe.
- If there is a consent violation, many women will hide in silence or turn around and blame themselves for the violation occurring.
- If there is a consent violation, or even a lack of a consent conversation it is the client’s fault.”
Jaiya left the community and went deep into learning about consent. She offers the practice of Conscious Consent Conversations (read more about in the link below), which she says, “has become mandatory in our modern culture as movements like #Metoo have emerged forcing us to confront the unspoken harms, injustice, and emotional carnage that has been swept under the rug for far too long.”
What else is possible for creating a healthy sex positive society with sexual healers, educators, tantra teachers, and other self-development professionals, getting on board and demonstrating the safety, awareness, and integrity necessary for us to heal personally and collectively?