On a recent Sunday afternoon, a 35-year-old university professor in New York closed the door of his office and sat down to talk about how he’d discovered he could have multiple orgasms, or at least something that sure felt like them. Tall with straight dirty-blond hair and blue eyes, he was wearing Gap jeans and a long-sleeved purple polo shirt. He asked that I not print his name; he doesn’t want his students to read about his sex life. So we’ll call him the Professor.
Two years ago, he said, he was subletting an apartment from a friend. He found a book on the shelf titled The Multi-Orgasmic Man by Mantak Chia.
“I’ve known women who have had six orgasms in a row,” the Professor said. “That’s always something I’ve greatly appreciated-I would be like, ‘Wow!’ It’s a terrific turn-on, and something I didn’t think was possible for men. I thought we were just wired differently. For me, orgasm meant ejaculation.”
He read the book because he wanted the “Wow!”
“I wanted to have the sheer pleasure of that,” he said. “And I thought it might be a way to understand women better, and improve how you are together.”
He said he also had an occasional problem with climaxing too soon, and he hoped the techniques might help.
“A long time ago, I came after a few minutes,” he said. “It was like, ‘ Whup ! Sorry !’ And this particular woman I’m thinking of was like, ‘ Uck !’-and she slapped me on the back. It was a friendly slap on the back, and we just laughed about it. But the next time I didn’t come so fast.”
He read the book and started taking various Taoist meditation classes, including one called “Sexual Kung Fu,” where he learned how to “retain semen.” He practiced for about two years and just recently was able to experience his first orgasm where he did not ejaculate.
“It was breakup sex with a former girlfriend of mine,” he said. “I knew we were saying good-bye, but subconsciously I didn’t want to say good-bye. I wanted it to last. And I lasted for a mighty long time. I think we made love for one and a half hours. And then I had this warmth going up my spine. I was thinking, ‘Hey, wait-something else is happening here!’ I think it’s similar to what women have.”
Why didn’t he ejaculate in the end?
“Women need to realize that it’s not important whether a man ejaculates or not,” he said. “They have this idea that they’ve performed better when a man ejaculates. Well, they can let go of that idea now.”
After the breakup sex, he said he’s been focusing on his “solo cultivation.”
“I like ejaculating!” he said, “But now it’s a game: How long can I last?”
A more elaborate version of withholding semen is sometimes called “injaculation”-a technical term describing when a man pulls his semen up into his body and, according to Taoist teachings, it gets absorbed into his blood. Most of the men I spoke with did not claim they had actually injaculated; they said they are practicing “semen retention.”
In any case, the Professor said that he’s ready to take on even more.
“One of my fantasies has always been to make love with two women. That sounds completely horrible!” he said.
Perhaps not surprisingly, he’s started seeing a woman from his class. He said she likes the threesome idea, too.
“A few years ago, I would have been more tense: ‘Am I doing it right? What should I do? What do the women like? Will they make love with each other?’ All of that. Now I’ve got my staying power. I can just let it happen, he said.”
In between forkfuls of baked eggs at Café Gitane on Mott Street, a 29-year-old yoga teacher and graphic designer told me how, within the last month, Tantric sex has turned his relationship with his girlfriend of two years upside-down. And not necessarily in a good way.
He had swirly brown hair, brown eyes and a slight gap between his front teeth, and was wearing a blue denim shirt with the sleeve rolled up above a diamond-patterned tattoo that circled his forearm. We’ll call him Aaron.
A few years ago, he’d read some books and briefly took classes with a Taoist master in the city, but there were no fireworks.
“It wasn’t even sexual,” he said. “He was like, ‘Learn this meditation and that meditation.’ We were moving energy up and down the spine. Up and down, up and down. At the time I was like, ‘I want to get to the fucking good stuff.’”
About a month ago, he found a shortcut.
“My friend went to a one-day workshop with a teacher named Carla,” he said, “and he was like, ‘I learned the techniques and they actually work and it’s nuts!’ And in my own sex life, there were lots of limitations. I wanted to go deeper with my partner. Deeper with myself. Deeper with sensual experience, on so many different levels.”
So he booked a private session with Carla, who describes herself as a “Tantra Teacher, Love Coach and Intimacy Guide.” The session was at her house in Queens. The price was $300 per hour. “Well-spent money,” Aaron said.
The modern semen-hoarders can trace their roots to two traditions: “Tantra” is used to describe sexual practices coming out of the Indian Hindu tradition; Taoist sexual practices come from China. Ejaculation control is an important aspect of both. Anton, a Taoist instructor in New York who has studied both Taoist and Tantric techniques, said, “The Taoist practices have created more state-of-the-art techniques for mastering ejaculatory control.” But becoming a master non-ejaculator can take two years. Men like Aaron who want to get to the “good stuff” faster get impatient and switch to Tantra. Which is how he ended up in Carla’s apartment.
“When she told me to take my clothes off, I was like, ‘Oh, my God,’” he said. “I felt like a 3-year-old boy who was suddenly naked in front of the whole first-grade class. And she’s strong and powerful, and that’s the scariest thing: I’m naked in front of this woman who knows this shit. Who lives this.”
But he went with it, and soon he was having a kind of naked psychotherapy.
“We got through some shit that was so raw that I would never have gotten to in therapy, or it would have taken years,” he said. “So I learned these breathing techniques and movement techniques and started playing with it .’”
With it ?
“Yes, it,” he said. His eyes widened and he leaned forward and lowered his voice. “I did have an ejaculation, but it took fuckin’ two hours. At first I was a little creeped out, and I was like, ‘Now’s the time to get the fuck out of here,’ you know? And she was like, ‘You were very honest and vulnerable and sweet and strong, and you’re a special person, and go out there and see if you can engage your partner. Try it for a while-and if you can’t, get out and find somebody who will.”
He hasn’t been able to get his girlfriend interested in his Tantric explorations, and furthermore she only wants to have sex about once a week.
“It becomes a drag,” he said. “Honestly-because you become needy. And that neediness affects the interaction. I’m not getting the connection that I crave often enough. Sex once a week is like, ‘Oh, seven days have gone by since I’ve had this.’” He looked sad.
“She’ll have an orgasm, and then she’ll be like, ‘Are you done yet? What the hell is wrong? What’s wrong? Why didn’t you come? Could you please stop with all this?’”
So he’s been doing a lot of “self-practice.”
“When you get the control, you get to that point where you drive the energy up the spine,” he said. “You feel little contractions, but nothing’s coming out. I’ve gotten myself there a bunch of times in the last month.”
Michael, a 29-year-old art director and design teacher, took a coffee break on a recent Tuesday afternoon at Dean & DeLuca on University Place to talk about how he accidentally discovered Tantric sex. He had almond-shaped green eyes, freckles and longish, mussed-up brown hair. He said he didn’t really know anything about Eastern sexual practices when he met a woman last summer during a two-hour meditation workshop with about 200 other people inside a “Temple of Ishtar” at Burning Man, the annual massive be-in of artists and seekers in the Nevada dessert.
“We ended up in the desert, and it was the most intense sex. It was out-of-body,” he said. “Our breathing was somehow just right. When you start using that breathing, it’s amazing. My whole body got lighter. All the attention was taken away from my midsection. I was having this moment where I was blown out of the top of my head.”
He wasn’t on drugs.
“Time looped,” he said. “I can’t tell you how long we had sex; I would say probably two hours.”
I asked her name.
He blushed and wrinkled his forehead.
“There was no space for names,” he said. “We were both in pure ‘Yes!’”
Back in the city, he took a seven-hour-long Tantric-sex workshop at the New York Open Center, where he met a practice partner, whom he described as “an Isabella Rosellini type.” They practiced at his place.
“We had sex in almost a workshop fashion,” he said. “It wasn’t like, ‘I’m going to rip your clothes off as soon as you get home.’ It was fun and mutual, but after a while it was like, ‘Yeah, this is ritualized and I want a relationship.’”
And he was eager to put his new knowledge to use.
“I used to get lost in this space of ‘ Wooh ! Woman !’” he said. “I used to come too soon. Why was I coming so quickly? Look at all the things I’d done to get in bed with her! Why didn’t I want to be there having sex longer? What was I running from?
“With Tantra, you’re confronting things. It has a way of talking to your heart that completely bypasses all the bullshit that happens here,” he said, waving his hands in circles around his ears.
After he ended the “workshopping” with Isabella, he noticed that he was just generally living more in the moment. It wasn’t just about the sex, though the sex was pretty good, too. Recently, he had a one-night thing at the Paramount Hotel with a woman he described as an “incredibly sexy fashion girl” from Chicago whom he’d known for just a few hours.
“I wasn’t keeping score,” he said. “I don’t count orgasms. There were definitely peaks; there were waves and plateau changes. I was doing cobra breathing, where you’re breathing strictly through your mouth as opposed to your nose. She was right in my lap, and we were able to really look each other in the eye. She was not aware that we were having a Tantric moment. I said, ‘Slow down a second. Here. Does that feel good?’ And she was like, ‘ Wooh !’ It was fun! It wasn’t like, ‘Let’s stop for a second and discuss the fact that we’re going to have Tantric sex.’ It was not like, ‘Do you want to put some flowers by the bed so that I can be reminded of the fertility goddess?’ Or, ‘Let’s fill a bowl of water so we can both look at it.’”
Alex bounded out of his office building just off Wall Street. He had an attractive, angular face and wing-nut ears, and he was wearing a dark suit, a purple dress shirt, purple socks, scuffed shoes and no tie. He said he was 30 and lived with his girlfriend of one and a half years in Park Slope. His mom is an energy healer in London, which explained his faded accent and maybe the purple socks. He didn’t want to run into anyone from his office, so we took salads to Pier 17.
He said he first stumbled onto the concept of multiple orgasms for men when looking for information on the Web about Taoist meditation practices such as Tai Chi and Chi Kung.
“I was fascinated by the idea that I could have multiple orgasms for as long as I liked,” he said. He took a seminar. He practiced the breathing and meditation techniques for four months. His first non-ejaculatory orgasm wasn’t quite what he expected.
“The first time, I circulated the energy up and I had an orgasm on my tongue,” he said. “It was like an explosion, like having Pop Rocks poured on my tongue, like an explosion of pleasure. I was absolutely clear that I was doing something off the chart. I was buzzing with energy.
“What you’re doing is prolonging the millisecond before you ejaculate and keeping it going and extending it,” he said. “So you have an orgasm, but you don’t ejaculate. And then you can build up again and go further and higher each time.”
Like the Professor, Aaron and Michael, Alex said several times that it’s not just the sexual highs he’s after, that he’s also looking for intimacy and spirituality.
“I think guys are realizing that there is more to sex than just these tiny spurts of three minutes,” said Judy Kuriansky, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Tantric Sex. “It can last longer, which can lead to tremendous benefits for them and also the woman. Guys are becoming more romantic and more spiritual and realizing this is cool instead of being goofy. “
“I do think men want to have more control over their ejaculation,” said Sharna Striar, a sex therapist in Manhattan who sometimes teaches basic Tantric and Taoist principles. “Men want to be great lovers. It’s not just about having a good erection; it’s not about ‘getting off’ anymore. It’s really about just ‘getting on’ with your partner in a very intimate and erotic fashion.”
“I think what men are talking about with this is that it makes them feel more competent. Men want to feel competent, in control and powerful,” said Dr. Frederick Woolverton, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and director of the Village Institute for Psychotherapy.
Does he think they’re also using these practices to seek intimacy with their partners?
“Women are far more enthusiastic about intimacy than men are,” he said. “This has just been demonstrated to me so many times. But despite everything, men yearn for intimacy. The problem is, when they get it, they don’t know what to do with it. Intimacy, while desired, becomes threatening, and men sort of have to find their way out of that conflict.”
Even if Tantric sex doesn’t solve the male intimacy problem, it seems to make the lack of intimacy much more bearable.
“I think for a lot of guys, masturbating is like, ‘Brush your teeth, wash your hair, jerk off, go to work,’ said Aaron. “I think ejaculatory sex can start to feel that way. I know it has for me. To not have it feel like that is pretty cool. To maybe not even ejaculate-or if you do, to have brought it far enough so you’re literally buzzing and shaking as opposed to feeling like, ‘All right, grab a towel.’”
And maybe, without the climactic moment, it’s not just the sex which is prolonged.
“When you’re not ejaculating, it’s hard to shut off,” said Michael. “But it’s nice. To not ejaculate and then get up and go for a walk with her after-that is probably the most incredibly romantic thing you could ever do. The city is dead. You’re out, running around this grid, and you are just this live, electric conductor. You can hold on to her and feel really connected.”