What Is Tantric Masturbation?

by Jo Murphy

Take your time with tantric masturbation

Why would you masturbate if you weren’t guaranteed an orgasm? Tantra offers something a little different for masturbation month. It promises to take you on a journey of self-discovery that doesn’t have to end in climax. In fact, orgasm is merely the cherry on top of the long and delicious indulgence that is tantric masturbation.  

What is Tantra?

Founded in the esoteric traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism, Tantra is an umbrella term used to describe all kinds of sexual and spiritual practices from yoga to sex. The phrase “Tantra” is formed from two Sanskrit words: “tan”, which loosely translates as expansion, and “tra,” meaning tool. Tantra is therefore a tool of expansion—exactly what you’re expanding depends on the type of practice you choose. It could be your consciousness; your orgasmic capacity; or your ability to achieve maximum self-pleasure.  

What is tantric sex?

This ancient practice is rooted in an equally outdated binary approach towards sexual ecstasy. “Historically, the traditional path towards Tantra happened between a man and a woman,” says Carolyn Cowan, a psychosexual and relationship therapist. “This was believed to create a circular flow of energy between the male and the female, allowing them to achieve a perfect state of union.”

Carolyn is also a teacher of Kundalini yoga, another years-old philosophy that tells us we each contain both masculine and feminine energies. We can therefore create this circular flow of energy—or union—within ourselves. So tantric sex can be practiced between two people (regardless of gender) or even alone.  

What is tantric masturbation?  

“It’s a very slow form of self-pleasure that removes the goal of orgasm, and climax becomes a gift at the end instead,” says Carolyn. “It’s also an act of radical self-love, especially for women since 30 per cent are unable to orgasm. It’s a way of saying, ‘I deserve to light candles and burn incense and have an intense sexual experience with myself’.”

Given its esoteric origin, Carolyn recommends treating it as a sacred ritual. “Porn tells us we can rub one out in 30 seconds, which we often try to do because we’re anxious and want to feel something other than anxiety. We just want to get the orgasm out of the way so we can change our energy.”

In contrast, the tantric approach slams on the brakes. “It’s an opportunity to explore your body and discover exactly what it is that you find arousing. So be gentle and enjoy creating a sense of connection with yourself.”  

How do you do it?

Begin with the face and travel down the body. “The aim is to create an energy flow downwards. We’re stuck in our heads so much of the time because of the news and social media that we end up in a state of angst about things we have no control over. It’s no surprise we have an intense imperative to abandon ourselves to orgasm at every opportunity.”  

Tantric masturbation therefore brings you back to yourself—or gives you back to yourself, if you like. “You move out of your head, moving down to research your whole body and achieve an exquisite state of arousal. Take it very slowly, exploring your skin inch by inch. Stroking your breasts, inner thighs, and perineum can feel sensational. Use oils or lube and wet your fingers with saliva as you massage your labia or balls.”

How long does it take?

It takes as long as it takes if you don’t jump straight to your genitals. Get to know every part of your body on the way down and make it ceremonial. “The left nipple is linked to the clitoris,” adds Carolyn, so just imagine what other surprises might be waiting for you. “If you think of intimacy as ‘into me I see’, this becomes a voyage of self-discovery.”

“Many people find slowing down hard since it shows you where the cracks are. Can you enjoy your body without orgasm? How do you really feel about touching yourself? What’s it like to share your body with yourself? It’s interesting to see if you find it difficult. Observe whether you think you’re deserving of such pleasure and get used to how gentleness feels. The sensation is extraordinary.”

Can I do it with my partner?

Yes, you can. “The need to orgasm can be such a curse for some couples, but tantric masturbation takes away the external pressure to achieve arousal, as well as the urge to penetrate or climax instantly. It allows the energy to descend gradually and brings the experience back to intimacy.”

It may also level the playing field if one of you takes longer to become aroused. “A man needs, on average, three minutes to achieve orgasm. A woman needs anything between twenty and ninety minutes, but often there’s just no time given to her arousal.” Which is why giving more time to your own pleasure becomes mutually beneficial. If you both know exactly what you like, it becomes easier and more enjoyable to share your discoveries with each other.

You may even take sex off the table for a short while. “No penetration, no oral, nothing. Simply stroke each other gently, touch each other’s faces and talk in whispers. Dare to show yourselves to one another, which is challenging.” Equally, do you dare to show yourself to yourself in the process? “Imagine you’re so exquisite that you’re not just making love to yourself but your own image of the divine—believe you are that lovely.” Amen to that.