The Zen of Sexual Surrender; Or, How D/s is Saving My Soul

Only a few weeks in, my D/s experience with my husband is now hitting me with all the power of a religious conversion.  I have that ‘born again’ feeling of being a new person in thrall to a new understanding of God.  I lie over Michael’s lap for a spanking and it feels like a spiritual exercise.  I make myself vulnerable, allow him to whatever he wants to me, and somehow the more painful and invasive, the more my body feels opened and my soul feels saved.  This fascinates me.  Why is it impacting me this way?  Am I simply drunk on all the chemicals released from the intense sexual stimulation?  Or is it possible there is real salvation in sex?

Conventional wisdom says no.  In our puritanical culture, sexuality is relegated to the base urges of “the body,” the temporary house for the soul.  Judeo-Christian religion especially considers the sexual urges of the body to be a troublesome impediment to soulful concerns.  To have sex outside of procreation is to wallow in sin and forsake one’s soul.  This unnatural separation of body and spirit has caused all manner of misery and shame for centuries.

Fortunately, “sex is bad” has not been the view of many Eastern cultures.  Taoism boasts a millennia-old tradition of cultivating sexual energy for the good of the spirit.  I once attended a talk by Taoist teacher name Mantak Chia, and he described the importance of honoring one’s sexuality.  “Sexual energy is the commander in chief of all the cells of the body,” he said.  Blog23Quote1“All cells in body and brain respond to the energy of sex, the commands of sex.  It is our original pattern.  Sexual energy creates us.  When you forget sexual energy, you get crazy, you get sick, you get lost.”

Michael and I spent some time exploring the philosophy of Tantra, and learning how to heal the false divide between body and soul.  (The word Tantra literally means “woven together.”)   Traditional Tantra is not merely about sex, but how to get into a right relationship with all things material.  However, the popular version of modern Tantra that shows up in the New Age-y seminars these days focuses almost exclusively on sexual union as the path to God.  Workshop Tantra has introduced Americans to the idea that sex, undertaken consciously, can be a holy act which weaves together not just man and woman, but body and spirit, humanity to the divine.

So Tantra at least offers a way to embrace sex as a path to spiritual salvation.  But I have to say, the few Tantric workshops Michael and I attended, despite overtly inviting spirit into the sexual arena, did not give me any great bursts of either sexual energy or spiritual insight.  Mostly I felt uncomfortable with the loud histrionics of it.  Making noise is highly encouraged while doing Tantric exercises to “raise sexual energy.”  Pelvic tilting, and mirroring movements, with lots of loud breathing and moaning and, for me, giggling.  Of course, many attendees are empowered by such activities, but it struck me as inauthentic.  Each experience left me unsettled, like hearing people speak in tongues in church.

Looking back, perhaps another reason Tantric workshops didn’t open any spiritual-sexual doors for me is because of a heavy emphasis on elevating the power of the feminine.  The workshops are all very egalitarian, with women encouraged to go after their pleasure and voice their wants in what strikes me as a nice, respectful 50/50 way.  It all pointed to more of the same of what we were already doing – just slower.  And louder.

Now I know from our BDSM explorations that what seems to raise my sexual energy – make that explode my sexual energy – is to turn over my power to my husband.  To become to the opposite of noisy, to become still and quiet and yielding.  I gain my sexual power by relinquishing it.  Interestingly, David Deida’s theory on sexual polarity between the masculine and feminine – which has been so helpful to me in understanding the power of BDSM – is supposedly drawn from Tantric philosophy.

I wonder what Deida would make of workshop Tantra failing me, but the practice of D/s liberating me.  Would he be surprised?  Of course, Deida does not explicitly talk about D/s, although it seems to me he is speaking code for it when he uses terms like “ravishment.”  When he talks about a woman submitting to her lover, he explains that the woman is submitting to the force of love rather than the individual man.  He also talks about our drive to break out of 50/50 ways of relating, and “embrace the taboo.”

After living in a 50/50 relationship for awhile, Deida writes, one begins to “long for the next stage,” where you are no longer equal, no longer serving your own preferences, no longer even serving each other’s preferences.  “All you want is to let go and serve love’s preferences, do whatever love demands of you, go wherever it takes you.”  You no longer care about your self anymore, he says, or your self’s so-called needs, because you don’t even need a self at all anymore at all.  You are only interested in “being lived” by something bigger than you, only interested in dissolving into the ecstasy of big love.

I think of where Michael and I were a few months ago, wandering from one Tantric workshop to another, seeking a doorway to transcendental sex, and not finding it.  Then we stumble into D/s, almost by accident, and whoosh!  We catch fire, serious fire, and boundaries are dropping away.  Blog23Quote2I am being ravished, he is being worshipped and adored, and we are being lived by this wild force, just as Deida describes.

I am convinced there was no other way for us to get to where we are now, get to unguarded all-consuming and life-transforming love without D/s.  Without embracing that taboo.  What a surprise to discover that BDSM in general, and D/s in particular, is the doorway, providing us entry to the dynamic of sexual polarity.  The abstract idea of surrender to love becomes a concrete action I can experience viscerally.  And it gives me the feeling of a Tantric-like joining of body and spirit like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

I imagine most people look at BDSM a curious fetish, or odd perversion.  So I suppose it sounds a little crazy to assert that sexual submission to my husband is a spiritual path.  But I don’t feel that Michael and I indulge in this only in order to get off (although it clearly leads to more and deeper getting off).  I believe it is our way of getting past the normal 50/50 barriers that have been instilled in us, a way of opening to the mysterious power exchange of love.  By serving him, I am serving love.  True, it often feels all about him.  Each day I am becoming more and more unguarded with him, more and more trusting of him.  But in the process, I feel more and more open to love, trusting of love.  I am offering up my will to him, but it is the love rushing so madly between us that is consuming my will, taking me out of myself.

I do, however, remember my Buddhist lessons not to confuse the “finger that points at the moon with the moon.”  I will endeavor not to confuse the means with the end, not confuse the doorway to getting there (D/s) with the actual there (the love).  But I also think it right to acknowledge that the doorway – the way in – is important and necessary and marvelous.

Who’s Afraid of Tantric Sex?

Before my sweet husband and I discovered the joys of Dominance and Submission, we took a quick detour through Tantric sex.  Although perhaps detour is not the right word; Tantric experimentation might have been the actual road to D/s for us.

You see, it was love at first touch for Michael and me.  We met later in life, veterans of unsatisfying and often punishing relationships, our kids grown, not expecting much.  Yet, we found everything in each other, and with a feeling of great giddy celebration at discovering each other, we got naked and jumped into bed, very, very frequently.

Having just turned 50, I felt sexually seasoned and self-aware.  I was pretty sure there was nothing I had not tried, from threesomes and foursomes all the way to BDSM exploits (as the leather dominatrix outfit sitting in a wrinkled paper bag in the back of my closet could attest). I knew exactly what I liked and didn’t like, and would have rolled my eyes at the idea that I could be surprised in the bedroom.

Yet surprise me my new, supposedly less experienced lover did.  Or perhaps it is more accurate to say, we surprised each other.  My openness and “I want to try everything with you” attitude was unlike anything he’d experienced with the conservative, no-that’s-gross women of his past. And his lack of judgment toward me and my sexually varied history was unlike anything I’d known from the jealousy-based, how-could-you-have-done-that men in my past.  With such a sense of freedom and safety with each other, we felt spiritual stirrings in our lovemaking.  And we’d lie in each other’s arms in the afterglow, talking about wanting to hone that feeling, make it more explicit.

I had been introduced to the idea of Tantric sex in the past, but never really practiced it in a determined way.  But six months into my sex-soaked relationship with Michael, I became determined and bought a bunch of Tantric DVDs.  We watched a few of those, and gave some of the exercises a try.  Staring into each other’s eyes, and synchronizing our breathing was… sweet.  Yes, some of it felt slightly silly but it was also romantic. Why not go a little further?  I did a Google search for workshops.   I found an evening seminar called “Sacred Sexuality:  An Introduction to Tantra.”

“Want to try this with me?” I asked Michael.  I showed him the class advertisement on my laptop screen.   In answer, he grabbed my hand and put it on his growing erection.  My enthusiastic lover was game for anything.  I paid the $170 to register us for the class.

Bright Rainbow Blessings

When the teacher sent us a welcoming email that offered us “Bright Rainbow Blessings,” we laughed, entertained.  When the day arrived, we drove hours through Northern California traffic to get there, and an old hippie directed us down a long drive that snaked through thick foliage to park our car.  About thirty people were enrolled, most of them around our age. Almost as if not to disappoint the New Age stereotype, a large carpeted room waited for us, empty except for floor cushions, and Zen-like with the smell of incense.  A cat roamed in and out.  I was giggly and excited and nervous as we all sat in a circle on the floor.

The teacher, probably somewhere in her 60s, began by showing us how she could bring herself to orgasm with her mind.  She sat cross-legged on the floor, then said, “Here we go.”  She made puffing, trilling noises, rocking back and forth with her eyes closed, then claimed success.  The rest of the class, centered on loudly “raising” our sexual energy with the same forceful breathing and pelvic rocking, felt… decidedly unsexy to me.  And the breathless fake orgasm sounds struck me as absurd.  I could not take it seriously, and spent a good portion of the class hiding in the hallway, feeling vaguely threatened by the overzealousness of it all.

“Spiritual Sex”

Next, we attended a “spiritual sex” lecture based on the teachings of a writer I never heard of, named David Deida.  A lecture better suited me, the role of student, sitting in a chair, listening, detached.  But when the class leaders talked about the energy of sexual polarity, how the feminine “surrenders” to the masculine, how “equal 50/50” relationships lead to bland, uninspiring sex, I bristled.  First, Michael and I were having anything but bland sex.  Second, I considered myself a feminist, fiercely independent, and probably more on the dominant side than the submissive.  In fact, early in our relationship, I talked Michael into letting me tie him up and whack him with a paddle, a little BDSM game that had made a previous partner of mine melt in ecstasy and beg for more.  Michael thought it “kinda fun,” but never asked for a repeat.  I thought, too bad, he’s probably still a little too uptight to let go.  Not once did it occur to me that maybe he was not suited to be submissive.

Still, despite the politically incorrect description of raising sexual energy, I found the lecture interesting, and when I got home ordered several books by David Deida, which I put on my shelf without reading.  But I also found myself on the organizer’s mailing list and received an invitation to another Tantric class, this time on genital massage for a man.

“What do you think of trying this?” I asked Michael.  He grabbed my hand and placed it on his erection.

This class was held in someone’s living room, mostly empty of furniture, again filled with floor cushions, and taught by a warm, long-haired woman with a spacey air and girly laugh.  We were treated first to a live demonstration on a brave man willing to lie naked in front of us strangers while she “massaged” his penis.  The teacher spoke throughout, as would any anatomy teacher, and we all watched with studious looks.  At least there were no strange noises to send me scurrying into the hall.

After a break, it was time for the men to strip, and most of the women took off their tops off in solidarity.  I did not.  I stayed fully clothed, back against a wall, trying to pretend I did not notice all the other naked men around me.  I was impressed at Michael’s lack of self-consciousness as I covered his cock in coconut oil, then followed the instructions.  For the next half hour I practiced moves like “The Corkscrew,” and “Around The Clock” on his very, very hard cock.  His favorite was when I placed my fist under his balls and vibrated it. His eyes grew wide in surprise, he began to moan and writhe.  I knew he was on the verge of orgasm, but he kept control.  Afterward, we laughed all the way home, and had ourselves a good, hot time in bed.

We went back a month later to do the genital massage “for her” class, throughout which I secretly sipped vodka from a water bottle to help me get up the courage to strip down in front of strangers.  I can’t say I enjoyed being sprawled naked on the floor, my head only inches away from several other women, while we were being fingered by our lovers, the instructor calling “Good!  That’s it!  Let’s hear your pleasure!”  I felt more like the detached star of a porn film than anything.  (Although I admit that in the weeks that followed, the technique he learned, patiently stirring my pussy open with two fingers, would introduce me to unexpected bliss and transform my entire experience sex, but that’s another story.)

Entertaining, if a Little Strange

Overall, our Tantric explorations were highly entertaining, if a little strange.  Yet, after several months of the classes and watching DVDs and trying different exercises, the promise of transcendent sex remained unfulfilled for me.  (Well, except for that pussy-stirring revelation.)  Mostly, I felt like I was missing something which all the other Tantric explorers we met, with their easy nakedness and beatific smiles, seemed to get.  Slow, voluptuous Tantric union, while lovely to me in theory, just didn’t do much for me in actual practice.  The exercises felt forced, even a little boring.  And I was more disappointed in our explorations than I let on.

So that’s it, I thought, we’d gone as far as we could go into sexual experimentation.  Today I laugh when I remember that.  We think that by mid-life, we really know ourselves, know exactly what makes us tick.  Actually, we don’t just think we know, we are certain of it.  Even with dozens of sexual relationships and experiences behind me – including a BDSM relationship in which I acted as the top (acting being the operative word) – I had very little inkling of what might truly open the door to ecstasy for me.  Even after our little spanking role play, I still had no clue.  At least my conscious mind had no clue.  My subconscious sexual awareness, however, had just been smacked awake.