I believe most modern Americans have a very low capacity for pleasure. I don't just mean sex. I mean being tactile, receiving touch, feeling the wind rush past your body, swimming, getting in bed at night and rolling around in your clean sheets for a few minutes. Tactile pleasure makes us more whole. I believe we all need sensual touch every day.
It's highly important for me to tune into the subtleties of sensation in my body. It's transformational, and I can bring it into my life 24/7, from writing an article to having a business meeting. I can be present and involved, wanting to expand everything I do to its most delicate and exquisite place -- because that's what I practice during sex. As I just suggested, there are other ways to find that capacity, but sex works for me.
Unfortunately though, as a society, it appears we're going virtual. There are so many ways to communicate these days via electronics that I believe we're going to see a rise in very sophisticated teledildonics -- people remotely controlling devices to stimulate a partner somewhere far away. Stuff like that is already starting to happen.
Also, S and M practices are popular, because people in this culture are constantly craving the next level of excitement, a bigger dopamine rush in the brain. That neural reward circuit is addictive, which is why so many westerners are into compulsive cycles of smoking, drinking, drug taking, internet surfing, multitasking, fast driving, and just pushing the edges all the time, looking for sharper highs. So people's sexuality gravitates to harder faster stronger. "Give me something edgier, more out there."
Neo-Tantric practices are edgy in a different way. When you move backwards into subtle areas of breath, softer presence, sensual touch, those kinds of practices are expandable for a lifetime. You can get more and more detailed and minute with what you're exploring. You can look for a new erogenous zone under the eye or on the neck, or it suddenly dawns on you to try using both your hands in some different way when you're touching your partner, or to get your partner to move energy by brushing energy away from their genitals up to their chest. And then they get the idea, "Oh that feels different! I've got to breathe deeper and expand into this . . ." So you're always in new territory!
Now someone who's really into BDSM might say you can always find more territory there as well. Well, fine, but at some point, doing that, you're going to be playing with seriously dangerous edges. Whereas with tantra, the scary edges are more likely to move you into kundalini experiences, or profound states of consciousness, or super-deep intimacy where you don't know where your body went, where you've gotten so involved in the lovemaking that your boundaries have dissolved and you don't know whether it's you or your partner who's having the orgasm.
Also, the neurochemicals generated during these experiences will deepen your bond with your partner. It's a huge area for two people to expand into together, and it also translates into the everyday life of a relationship.
A lot of people imagine that novelty in sex is all about cheating or having multiple partners. But that just boils down to harder faster stronger too. I've seen that narcissistic approach to sex in the western tantra community too of course, but as people delve into it further, they either fall away from tantra or they begin to realize that their attitude is a trap. It won't lead them where they really want to go.
Portions of the population are now moving in the direction of multiple partners, cyber sex, sex buddies, and lots of sex that isn't particularly sacred. But a strong counter current will balance the scales. The universe always seeks to balance itself, I believe. The reason that secret tantric sex practices arose in the first place was that the Brahmins were telling everybody what to believe and how to behave, but people wanted a first-hand experience of spirit coming through. I am confident that a growing segment of the population will continue to embrace sacredness and a more ecstatic, connected, present experience of sexuality -- and will reap a reward of sweeter pleasure.
Suzie Heumann is the founder of Tantra.com. She studies, writes, has authored three books and makes films about conscious sex, Tantra and the Kama Sutra. Check out Tantra.com Premium for the most comprehensive Tantra training available on the Internet!
Marc Polonsky (marcwordsmith.com) is a freelance writer and editor. He is the author of The Poetry Reader's Toolkit (Glencoe/McGraw-Hill).