When she met a new man af­ter years of be­ing sin­gle, Is­abel Losada signed up for a tantric sex work­shop to get her mojo back

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How a tantric work­shop helped one writer get her mojo back

Iwas one of those sin­gle peo­ple who had for­got­ten that the body is de­signed for plea­sure. I’d been celi­bate for five years, apart from the oc­ca­sional glo­ri­ous stu­pid­ity. I had bro­ken my heart over a man and I just couldn’t find another one I wanted to get hor­i­zon­tal with.

But then a new man came into my life. It’s a shock. He is kind and pa­tient, bides his time and makes me laugh. Sud­denly sex is back on the agenda. The new man is of­fer­ing me the pos­si­bil­ity of a good sex life, but I find that five years of celibacy and lots of bad sex in pre­vi­ous years have left me as lost and con­fused as most of the women I talk to. So I’ve de­cided to make plea­sure a pri­or­ity.

I thought I’d start with an all-women tantric sex work­shop, even though any kind of women’s work­shop scares me. It con­jures up ter­ri­ble images of be­ing car­ried off to the woods by groups of women with gold teeth and nose rings and in­formed that I have to do un­speak­able things in front of them or the de­vel­op­ment of my sex­u­al­ity will be eter­nally doomed. I have never heard of a work­shop where this hap­pens but it would be just my luck to end up at one.

The woman run­ning the work­shop is Hilly Spence­ley, an earth-mother type in her 70s with a sense of hu­mour. Hav­ing had six chil­dren by five dif­fer­ent men, she has had a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence of male sex­ual en­ergy. And she’s been teach­ing tantric sex­u­al­ity for 30 years. If we could clone peo­ple it would be a good idea to make mil­lions of Hillys. Ev­ery town needs one, ev­ery vil­lage, ev­ery street. I’m ter­ri­fied of her. And some­how I’m about to over­come all my qualms and go away with her and about 30 other women to a place that you’d never find on a map.

When we ar­rive in the main room af­ter din­ner I learn that they call their work a ‘mys­tery school’. They don’t al­low women to talk about some of the meth­ods they use be­cause lots of us would never have the courage to show up if we knew what was go­ing to be asked of us. Once here, miles from home and trapped in a silken web of en­cour­age­ment from other women, break­throughs are made. They want women to do this ‘work’ and they don’t want peo­ple like me mis­rep­re­sent­ing it. But I can tell you how the weekend af­fected me.

We are asked to think about how we feel about be­ing a woman. I sit

Five years of celibacy and lots of bad sex have left me lost and con­fused

mood­ily and don’t join in the con­ver­sa­tion. Then they have a vari­a­tion on this ques­tion about how we are feel­ing.

‘How does your vagina feel?’ This is just not the sort of ques­tion that gets asked ev­ery day. I say noth­ing but I think about it. I mean, phys­i­cally or emo­tion­ally? Phys­i­cally right now, I can’t feel it at all. I do not re­ceive sen­sa­tion from my vagina in the nor­mal course of a day.

We are then in­vited to con­sider our re­la­tion­ship with our breasts in a kind of med­i­ta­tion. They tell us that breasts nur­ture our chil­dren and our lovers, but we don’t of­ten think about nur­tur­ing our breasts or them nur­tur­ing us. In ev­ery ‘process’ we’re in­vited to con­sider the won­der of the fe­male body. I don’t dis­like mine but it’s true that I’ve taken it for granted. Even when it mirac­u­lously pro­duced a child, I was young and I barely no­ticed the mir­a­cle. How can we en­joy be­ing women more? These are not ques­tions we usu­ally con­sider in the nor­mal work­ing day.

Talk­ing hon­estly about sex is hard. The fol­low­ing morn­ing I ad­mit that I’d found the ex­er­cises strangely threat­en­ing and that be­ing in a room with all these amaz­ing women was in­tim­i­dat­ing. Some women cry as they share their sto­ries, ad­mit­ting that they want to run away, or they are not or­gas­mic or they just don’t have a good time in bed with men in any way. Recog­nis­ing our­selves in oth­ers, we want to keep the group com­plete and not al­low any woman to take her fears home with her.

The sec­ond morn­ing, a group of women in the show­ers com­pli­ment each other on how beau­ti­ful their breasts are. They’re laugh­ing and it’s funny be­cause some of the afore­men­tioned breasts are huge and some are al­most com­pletely flat. I won­der how we’ve been brain­washed into be­liev­ing that some shapes are bet­ter than oth­ers. We don’t judge trees, do we, or flow­ers? That daf­fodil isn’t more at­trac­tive than that tulip. When are we women go­ing to en­joy our

bod­ies as na­ture in­tended and take care of them in­stead of so of­ten de­stroy­ing them with bad food and cig­a­rettes? If more women felt good about them­selves this would make their men hap­pier and every­one’s sex lives would be much bet­ter.


On the cou­ples train­ing week­ends, it is al­most al­ways the women who drag the men along. For a man to come to any work­shop with the words ‘sex’ and ‘train­ing’ in the same de­scrip­tion, he has to be open to the rad­i­cal con­cept that he might have some­thing to learn. For my new man T, this is not a prob­lem, sim­ply be­cause he is in­ter­ested in any­thing and ev­ery­thing that will lead to ‘more sex. What man wouldn’t want to learn a mil­lion ways to please a woman and be pleased by her?’ he asks.

‘Sadly, many men,’ I tell him, re­minded of a mar­ried, 53-year-old taxi driver I once en­ter­tained with my favourite joke: ‘What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween a golf ball and a cli­toris?’ (An­swer: ‘A man’s pre­pared to spend ten min­utes look­ing for a golf ball.’) The taxi driver’s re­sponse: ‘What’s a cli­toris?’

So here we are. Away in the coun­try­side with six cou­ples. We have a large pri­vate room with a com­fort­able dou­ble bed and a view of fields. The birds are singing out­side and I’m singing in­side.

A cou­ples work­shop is a lot gen­tler than the one for women. The cou­ple run­ning it, Sue New­some and her part­ner Martin Hellawell, are not in­tim­i­dat­ing, which is a good thing as they ex­plain that you have to take things slower with men. Talk­ing about sex rather than just get­ting on with it of­ten makes men more scared than women.

The first night we con­sider dif­fer­ent ways of be­ing to­gether and apart. Can we thrive and be joy­ful whether we are to­gether or apart? There is one sim­ple ex­er­cise where we move to­gether and apart across the room. I end up not be­ing sure whether it’s good or bad that I pre­fer look­ing at T from across the room, but I love the feel­ing of want­ing to walk to­wards him. Es­pe­cially when he has the sense not to walk to­wards me so that I have to move if I want to be closer to him.

The most pro­found learn­ing can come from these sim­ple gains. You’ll un­der­stand this if you’ve ever been in a re­la­tion­ship where the per­son al­ways wants to be close to you. I re­mem­ber a brief re­la­tion­ship years ago where I fre­quently ended up cling­ing on to the edge of the bed. The phrase, ‘Dar­ling, please will you give me a lit­tle space,’ ceased to be metaphor­i­cal. It went on all day and all night un­til, in­evitably I sup­pose, I pushed him away.

At the work­shop, we end the evening by ex­plor­ing en­ergy through ‘melt­ing hugs’ – a kind of full body hug (no pelvic thrust­ing) where you sim­ply en­joy the other per­son’s en­ergy.

Our Satur­day morn­ing ex­er­cises and dis­cus­sions are about say­ing ‘no’. It’s very im­por­tant to be able to say this sim­ple word be­fore any­one can re­ally say ‘yes’ to any­thing. ‘Would you like to watch cheap porn in bed tonight be­fore we have sex?’ ‘No thanks.’ ‘Would you like to be tied up, den­i­grated and hu­mil­i­ated?’ ‘Er – no thanks.’ It’s good for us, the women es­pe­cially it seems, to es­tab­lish ‘an au­then­tic no’. ‘How many of you find it hard to say no?’ All of the women’s hands go up. The men ad­mit gen­uine sur­prise. They don’t seem to un­der­stand why women lie to them. Women don’t like the men they love to feel re­jected. Most women are good at em­pa­thy and know how re­jec­tion feels. ‘I’ve got a headache’ has be­come a cliché be­cause the man knows that it’s not nec­es­sar­ily hon­est. What the woman ac­tu­ally means is, ‘I don’t want to have sex with you tonight.’ But if she says that, this begs the ques­tion, ‘Why not?’

This is an ex­am­ple (and I am cur­rently guilty of this) of women be­ing cow­ardly and not do­ing what needs to be done for us to cre­ate bet­ter sex lives for our­selves. This, in turn, is dis­em­pow­er­ing for men as an hon­est ‘no’ gives them the com­pli­ment of as­sum­ing that they can deal with the re­jec­tion. And if they can’t, it gives them the op­por­tu­nity to learn how. In a re­la­tion­ship that is hop­ing to im­prove and deepen it can lead to an hon­est con­ver­sa­tion about why it’s a ‘no’.

The next words that we ex­plore are ‘yes’ and ‘wait’. Both are equally dif­fi­cult words to ex­press in a sex­ual con­text. I re­mem­ber hav­ing a dis­cus­sion with some­one at the women’s tantric work­shop when I was giv­ing her a shoul­der mas­sage and get­ting zero feed­back. When I asked her if she’d like me to be softer, harder or move up a bit she replied, ‘Can’t you feel what needs to be done?’

I said, ‘Yes, to some ex­tent but it helps if you give me guid­ance. Don’t you give your hus­band feed­back on shoul­der mas­sage dur­ing sex?’

‘No. I ex­pect him to be able to feel and know.’

She ac­tu­ally said that. Ah, the myth of a man who un­der­stands us in­stinc­tively.

Hav­ing told you that I’m not al­lowed to de­scribe the pro­cesses in these work­shops be­cause every­one would be too fright­ened to at­tend, nei­ther do I want your imag­i­na­tion to run away with you. So, yes, we had a lot of fun tak­ing turns with an ‘ask for what you want’ process. But we only did it with our own part­ners and the room was dimly lit.

At the end of the weekend we moved away from sex and came back to love. I know many celi­bates who thrive with­out sex but their lives are still full of love. But find me a per­son who has reg­u­lar sex with no love and is truly happy. So it felt very beau­ti­ful and ap­pro­pri­ate to end our weekend with emo­tional con­nec­tion.

We fin­ished our thank-yous and good­byes and put our stuff in a cab to get the train back to Lon­don. T had done some­thing that no man has ever done for me be­fore: he had booked us first-class seats home. ‘And I’m happy to do it again.’ ‘Re­ally?’ ‘When­ever we spend the weekend away ex­plor­ing sex, I’ll pay and we can travel home first class. I ap­pre­ci­ate a woman who thinks a good sex life is im­por­tant.’

I can also re­veal that since the cou­ples work­shop, T and I have pur­chased, from a posh sex shop, a very long black feather on a stick. It’s a gen­uine thing of beauty. And I do en­joy ask­ing to be stroked with it, ever so gen­tly, for ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time. And so does he.

This is an edited ex­tract from Sen­sa­tion: Ad­ven­tures in Sex, Love and Laugh­ter by Is­abel Losada, which will be pub­lished by Watkins Pub­lish­ing on Thurs­day, price £9.99. To pre- or­der a copy for £7.99 (a 20 per cent dis­count) un­til 1 Oc­to­ber, visit you-book­shop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on or­ders over £15.

‘How does your vagina feel?’ is not a ques­tion that gets asked ev­ery day

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