So You Say You Want a Revolution: Introduction to the New Edition of Urban Tantra
As I began the first draft of the first edition of Urban Tantra, I wrote, “I want a revolution!” Not only did I want a revolution in cultural attitudes about sexuality and spirituality, I wanted a revolution in Tantra: the only spiritual practice I’d ever found that welcomed sexuality as a path to spiritual freedom. I wanted that revolution. Then and there.
Now it’s eleven years later, and that revolution is well under way. I looked around the graduation circle at my most recent Urban Tantra Professional Training Program, and saw: a transgender professional dominatrix, a cisgender male medical doctor, a gay male sacred intimate, a nurse, an escort, a relationship coach, a social worker working with indigenous peoples, several sex educators, several more Tantra teachers, two yoga instructors, a performance artist, and an ordained minister. One-third of the group were people of color. We ranged in ages from early twenties to late sixties. We loved, cried, howled with laughter, felt deeply, experienced life-changing “ah-hah” moments, and supported and shared love with each other for an entire week. These were beautiful, brave, passionate explorers—and now they were my colleagues and friends. I initially wrote Urban Tantra because it was the book I had always wanted to read but could never find. I knew there were fierce, loving, spiritually minded, erotically focused people in the world who wanted that book, too. I wanted to meet them. To play with them. To work with them. To learn from them. And here they were. I wrote it, and they came. My dream come true.
So many of my Urban Tantric dreams have come true since 2007. The phrase conscious sexuality is now common. Sacred sex has expanded to embrace all sorts of different beliefs and practices. The field of sexuality education has exploded, providing resources to people of all races, religions, and cultural backgrounds. BDSM was taken off the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders list as of 2013, making it a consensual choice, not a mental illness. Non-monogamous relationships came out of the closet and invited us all to take a fresh look at how we create and maintain relationships. And then there was gender. Oh my! In recent years, the twin explosions of gender identities and trans rights initiatives have changed everything, opening a box of unlimited gender opportunities that can never be closed. Today, Urban Tantra is a global movement. The Urban Tantra Professional Training Program alone has graduated hundreds of practitioners from twenty-six countries, and they, in turn, are taking the practice into corners of the world I’d never dreamed it would go.
I got my revolution. Big time.
Now that we’re post-revolution, it’s time for Urban Tantra to grow into a new era. I’ve made revisions, updates, and additions to this edition, not only to bring Urban Tantra up to date, but also to cast my gaze toward the future. I have always regarded Urban Tantra as an ever-evolving practice. Where might we go next? What might Urban Tantra become next? This revised edition is a step into that future.
As often happens in revolutions, when someone raises a flag, everyone else who’s been longing for a revolution runs over to introduce themselves and ask how they can help. That’s just what happened in 2007, when the first edition of Urban Tantra was published. Everyone who had felt shut out of other schools of Tantra discovered a flag under which they could rally. We first gathered online and then in person—from all around the world.
In this revised edition, I’m extending an invitation to even more inclusivity. I offer practices and suggestions for people in multi-partner relationships. The number of people openly practicing consensual non-monogamy has grown enormously. Over the past decade, I’ve developed Tantra workshops for triads, quads, and more. In this edition, I suggest ways in which partner Tantra can include more than one partner.
Many schools of Tantra have become more inclusive, and so groups of people with common interests and identities have formed their own Tantric groups or incorporated Tantric principles and practices into existing organizations and schools of thought. Gay Tantra, Dark Tantra, Pagan Tantra, Queer Tantra, and Women’s Tantra are just a few of the new flavors of Tantra. I find inspiration in the many creative expressions of Tantra blooming around the planet and I hope this new edition of Urban Tantra can, in turn, inspire them.
I have also been inspired by the rise of the asexuality movement. An asexual is someone who either does not experience sexual attraction, or experiences attraction, but feels no need to act out that attraction sexually. Lack of sexual interest and/or desire is commonly pathologized in our culture. I applaud asexuals and aromantics (people who experience little or no romantic attraction to others) for refusing to be pathologized. And it turns out that an increasing number of asexuals and aromantics are becoming drawn to Tantra. In this edition, I point out practices that allow people with different sexual and romantic affinities to find ways of relating, running energy, and creating connection and intimacy that do not have to include sex and/or romance.
TANTRA AND BDSM
The relationship between Tantra and BDSM—considered radical and heretical when I first wrote about it—is now common practice. The explosion caused by the book Fifty Shades of Grey catapulted BDSM above ground and into the middle class. Those BDSM practitioners who had always played with a Tantric touch now had a name for the energy play they had long enjoyed. Tantrikas who liked things a little more physically or emotionally intense had permission to go there. Some Tantric practitioners are now combining elements of power and intense sensation with traditional Tantra in a variation sometimes referred to as Dark Tantra. Longtime BDSM players are coming out of the closet as spiritual seekers and creating scenes intentionally designed to welcome god/goddess/universe/all-that-is into their dungeons. Communities in which kinky people and Tantrikas meet, mingle, and play together are growing and can now be found all over the world.
Tantric sex and BDSM have much more in common than may seem apparent at first glance. Both are erotic arts of consciousness. Both arts add intensity to life and sex. Both embrace a wide variety of powerful consensual practices. Both Tantric and BDSM rituals are about raising erotic energy. Both practices involve conscious giving and receiving. Both encourage risks—either physical or emotional. Both erotic arts encourage personal freedom, individuality, and imagination. And both produce trance states, and transcendental, transformational experiences. In this edition, I provide a larger toolkit for those who wish to explore this intersection.
Everything about how we look and talk about gender has changed. When I wrote the first edition of Urban Tantra, I wanted to use they instead of he as the gender-neutral pronoun, but my editors (justifiably) felt the general public would find that confusing or grammatically incorrect, so I wrote around the problem by using gender-neutral names instead of pronouns, switching between he and she, and using s/he. During the editing of this revised book, the subject was not even raised. Now most English dictionaries include they as a third-person singular gender-neutral pronoun.
The language of gender is changing so rapidly that by the time you read this I’m quite sure it will have evolved to name new aspects, or new understandings, of gender. This necessitates a new mindfulness in using this evolving language of both sex and gender. As I remind people in both my workshops and my books, defining our terms before we speak or write is critical to accurately communicating our feelings, identities, and desires. In that spirit, here are my definitions for the gender-related terms I’ll be using:
• Cisgender (or cis) is a person whose gender identity matches up with the sex they were assigned at birth.
• Transgender, at this writing, refers to a man, a woman, a boy, or a girl who has transitioned from another gender. As recently as a few years ago, transgender was a term inclusive of anyone who was messing around with gender. That inclusive term is now trans.
• Trans, at this writing, is an inclusive term for anyone whose gender is in any way at odds with cultural norms for gender. This includes nonbinary, genderqueer, and gender-nonconforming people.
• Nonbinary, genderqueer, and gender-nonconforming refer to people whose gender identities and expressions are neither, both, or other than male or female.
In this edition, I am offering more Tantric erotic possibilities for both transpeople and the people who love them. When I wrote the first edition of Urban Tantra, I titled my Erotic Awakening Massages as being for “People with Pussies” and “People with Penises,” instead of for women and men. I wanted people to understand that not all people who identified as women had pussies and not all people who identified as men had penises. Now, as more and more people understand that genitals do not equal gender, it’s the perfect time to be more explicitly trans-inclusive by introducing my new chapter, Erotic Awakening Massage for Trans and Gender-Nonconforming People—an erotic/spiritual adventure based on the knowledge that all erotic tissue is simply the same Jell-O poured into different molds.
The word Tantra is, alas, now virtually synonymous with sex in mainstream Western culture. Although I have tried to keep focus on the larger spiritual practice, I want to honor and support people’s profound need for a spiritual practice that embraces sexuality. In chapter 1, I take a more nuanced view of the nature and history of Tantra and its evolution into a modern Western sacred sexuality practice.
When Urban Tantra was first published, my primary intention was to create a Tantric practice that welcomed people of all genders, races, abilities, sexual preferences, and spiritual beliefs. I wanted a school of Tantra that was down-to-earth, fun, accessible, and transformative. I also wanted to expand the boundaries of what Tantra was and could be. In the ensuing years, I’ve watched people experience countless emotional and physical healing miracles through their personal Tantric practices. Today, I’m asking, how can the practice of Urban Tantra heal not only ourselves, but also our world? How can we be of service? What else is possible at the intersection of spirit and sex? How can Tantra—and specifically Urban Tantra—not only inspire people to become their best selves but also to create change in the world for the benefit of others? Part 5 of this new edition, Tantra: The Next Dimension, points us toward that future. I invite us all to use the Tantra-related art of sex magic to create our own personal brand of sexually and spiritually fueled social activism.
Whether you have been on the Urban Tantric path since the first edition of the book was published or you are just beginning your journey with us, welcome. It is my fondest hope that this new edition of Urban Tantra inspires you to create your own flavor of spiritually infused sexuality, and/or erotically infused spirituality. You could call that practice Tantra, sacred sex, conscious sexuality, erotic spirituality, or sacred kink. I call it simply, How I Love.
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