Polarity and sacred union are fundamental principles in Tantra. From the consciousness of oneness, or God, there comes the twoness, or duality. The two are lovingly named Shiva, the principle of pure consciousness and direction, and Shakti, the principle of energy, power and manifestation.
David Deida describes this duality as the banks of a river -“Shiva”, and the water flowing within -“Shakti”. The banks hold the flow, but the flow also carves the banks.
In spiritual sexuality and sexual Tantra, we reach unity when Shiva and Shakti become one, uniting through intentional practices, rituals and lovemaking. This takes our human consciousness from duality, how we normally experience reality as you and me, black and white, hot and cold, to nonduality, the consciousness of oneness.
I first learned all this six years ago in a Tantra fundamentals workshop taught to a group of heterosexual attendees by a couple of heterosexual instructors. As a bi-sexual woman, I got the message that I was included in the sexual practices of Tantra, when I was with men. Maybe I could give other women yoni massages or support female journeys and transformation, but I couldn’t possibly reach these ultimate levels when I fucked my girlfriend. Could I?
If you’ve attended Tantra workshops, you’ve probably heard the same message. In fact, just today I heard, “when a man admires a yoni” in a Tantric school. What about when I admire a yoni? Or a man admires a lingam?
Isn’t Tantra for us queers, too?
I didn’t find any guides to this in the Tantric path when I first embarked on it, but I did commit to doing my own investigation. Like fucking my girlfriend with consciousness and presence. And what resulted? Massive energetic connection, seeing each other and the world around us with the eyes of God, Kundalini rising and some pretty big shifts in perspective and paradigm. That sounds pretty Tantric.
So is Tantra for us queers?
While no one had told me this explicitly, I got the feeling from my own experimentation that the answer was yes. And I can tell you six years later as a Tantra and conscious sexuality teacher and avid practitioner that it’s a big fat, yes. So, if you’ve been waiting for a personal invitation to the party, wait no longer. You and your partner(s) are most welcome. If there was still any doubt for me after my years of personal research, investigation, body-numbing, soul-quenching orgasms, curious and grateful lovers, then the introduction to the delightful book Urban Tantra sums it up well:
“Fellow traveler, as you now begin your journey, know that you are welcome here, whether you and/or your partner are inexperienced or experienced, young or old, differently abled or differently bodied, pierced or tattooed, interested in kink or not, you belong here.”
I recently woke up to some shame I had been carrying around being bi-sexual and realized it was mentally and physically limiting my Tantric potential. Not cool. But upon closer inspection, some of the most profound lovemaking experiences I’ve had have been with women. I can’t tell you why that is , except that perhaps my female partners have all been extremely mature, wise, experienced and gifted lovers. What I will tell you is that anyone can learn to adopt these Tantric attitudes, perspectives and techniques with a little perseverance and an open-minded partner. And everyone can create more consciousness, playfulness and love just by trying!
The truth about polarity
Let’s debunk the myth of gender polarity once and for all: we all have masculine and feminine qualities in us. All of us. No matter where we are on the gender spectrum – and this is just our individual gender makeup, not sexual orientation or preference.
No one is 100% male or female.
In Yoga and Tantra, most of the practices are about balancing and uniting the masculine and feminine essence within our own selves, which means that we would potentially have 50% masculine and 50% feminine energy if we choose and do the right practices. This can lead to the state of the androgyn, as you can see when you look at pictures of Paramahamsa Yogananda, Ananda Mayi Ma and even Jesus Christ. The famous Ardhaneshvara in the Indian tradition is an image that is half Shiva, half Shakti or half male, half female. That’s not what we’re going for in Tantric sexuality, but more about that in a bit.
Another important aspect of polarity is that we’re all in a constant state of energetic fluctuation that is influenced by our environment, hormones, emotions, thought patterns, job, relationships, what we put in our bodies, etc. For example, when I get out of a bath, I am in a very feminine, receptive state. But when I am weaving through traffic, speeding to get to an appointment on time, I am in a very masculine, direction-oriented state.
“Everyone has some male/masculine/yang qualities and everyone has some female/feminine/yin qualities. The proportions can change on a daily basis. Bringing them together and balancing them before making love is not an exercise about gender, but rather an act of inner balancing and centering that helps us open ourselves to deeper intimacy.” – Barbara Carrellas, Urban Tantra
Masculine and feminine don’t need to define, limit or stereotype us. In the Eastern traditions, the Yin “feminine” and Yang “masculine” and are only complete together, as in the famous yin/yang symbol. There is no hierarchy and it doesn’t matter if they match the gendered bodies of the holder. A penis-bearer can be as feminine as he/she chooses, as can a vagina-bearer.
Barbara Carellas breaks it down clearly in the second of her Ten Myths about Tantra in the very beginning of Urban Tantra: “Myth #2: Tantra has to be done by a man and a woman. Oh, this is
“Myth #2: Tantra has to be done by a man and a woman. Oh, this is biggie. This one has kept more queer people out of Tantra than any other myth.”
She explains that the myth might have started because the aim of Tantra is to unite the masculine and feminine energies, or in other words to unite opposites. And so the assumption was that Tantric practices require opposite genders. This is reinforced even today by the heteronormativity and queer-phobia that still enslaves most of the world.
I have spent much of the last 10 years in Asia and can tell you that in most places, the closet door is still shut tightly with no sign of opening. I became aware of this heteronormative pressure in my own life when I realized the shame I felt and how little I actually talked about being bisexual and polyamorous until I came out on the internet earlier this year.
The Dance of Shiva and Shakti
Polarity means you and your partner mirror each other on the masculine/feminine spectrum. When you are playing the role of Shiva, your lover plays Shakti. If we go with David Deida’s river analogy, Shiva guides, leads and directs a space in which Shakti is able to flow freely. Shakti can deeply and fully express power, creativity and whatever authentic expression comes in the moment.
This symbiosis can happen spontaneously during lovemaking. It’s possible to cultivate a moment-by-moment awareness of both you and your partner’s physical movements, breath, energy, emotions, in short, everything. At first this might feel clunky and like it’s taking away from the joy and spontaneity of lovemaking. But eventually the awareness becomes more natural and you can relax into the flow, especially when you know your partner’s unique expressions and can turn off the mind.
Keep in mind that every relationship is different. For some couples, this fluidity comes organically, as each person can comfortably play both the masculine and feminine role, while in loverships with either a primarily masculine or feminine partner (either can be penis- or vagina-bearing), one partner might play one role more often. The importance lies in being truthful with your being and open to what the moment brings, not in who does what.
Lovemaking is one of the most potent forms of energetic connection, a powerful springboard to unite the Yin and Yang energies. With some trust and surrender, both essential components of Tantra, we can start to merge in love with our partner, uniting the energies of Shiva and Shakti in states of blissful meditation and spontaneous heart awakening.
“Whether homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual, in any given moment, one partner must be more like the water and one partner more like the riverbank or else the flow of sexual energy will become shallow and dry up. It is important that every person understand and be willing to embrace the fullness of both masculine “directive” and feminine “flowing” forces without denigrating or shying away from either.” – David Deida, Finding God through Sex
I’ve personally always found this very fluid with my female partners. Sometimes she wears the pants and I follow her lead. Sometimes I bring the rope and she willingly submits. It can change spontaneously during a lovemaking session, so the longer the better.
Try new things to experiment with polarity.
Start simply by exploring these questions: At what moments can you be more aware during lovemaking? Where are you and your partner stuck in a rut? Do you have a “1, 2, 3 and then bed” routine? Where can you play around and create more flexibility and fluidity where things are stagnant?
Be present, not perfect
Let go of the need to do the right thing. In Tantra, we emphasize that pleasure, desire and adoration can come from any stroke of the skin, any brush of the lips, any energetic exchange. Often, lovers looking for a quick fix with sex or feeling insecure in pleasing their partner go for the glory and the finish line right away. I’ve heard numerous confessions about wanting to get her off as quickly as possible so as to not feel guilty about having our own orgasms.
For same-sex couples, we know from our own bodies the buttons that exude pleasure. That isn’t to say that same-sex lovers already know each other perfectly or don’t have performance anxiety. I’ve had more male partners than female in my 20 years of being sexually active, so naturally I feel more comfortable pleasing a man – because I know I can. I still need a little reassurance from my female partners that I’m helping them attain bliss and ecstasy with me.
But really, it’s pretty obvious when she’s shaking, writhing in pleasure, screaming the names of God and falling into a puddle of tears and deep meditation. I’m pretty sure none of those things have gender limitations.
If we are living inside a more masculine or feminine identity, we will have more natural leanings towards some things and more challenges with others. Follow your intuition, listen to your body and heart and be communicative with your lover. And most of all, let go of whatever (s)expectations you have and be open to what the moment brings. True attention and presence will create the space to follow what feels natural for you and also to be the mirror for your partner.