AN INTERVIEW WITH BARBARA CARRELLAS Part One
Sex Educator, Sex Positivist and Pleasure Activist Barbara Carrellas talks with Celia Hutton of Wicked Women Magazine about celebrating the erotic body and sex as a healing tool. In Part One of the interview Barbara and Celia discuss Tantra, gender, breath and energy orgasms and S/M!
Celia: I am hearing so much lately about Tantra and Tantric Sex. What do these terms actually mean?
Barbara: The word "Tantric" means "the web", the reality that we are all connected and expanding and growing. Tantra is the opposite of being separate. Tantric sex focuses on the energy of sex, not on the genitals. I don't mean that the genitals are ignored, but the focus is on the energy and the connection between people. Ancient Tantric rituals were a spiritual practice. Tantra still is a spiritual practice, but it is not a religion. It's more like a lifestyle. Tantra was founded essentially in response to the deprivational acetic practices of the Hindu priesthood centuries ago. With religious fundamentalism rampant all over the world right now, it is not surprising that Tantra is experiencing a resurgence.
Tantra is counterbalancing. It's about connecting the Divine with the Earth, drawing down the God and Goddess into man and woman. I believe everyone has a male and female within and it doesn't make a bit of difference who does Tantra with whom. Tantric techniques can be used to create intimacy on a personal level, but that was not it's original purpose. Tantra is becoming a catch phrase for the spiritual, energetic aspects of sex. What I teach is neo-Tantra, that is, Tantra for the age in which we live, not Tantra in a form lifted directly from the age in which it originated. In fact, I don't use the word Tantra to describe my work anymore. I prefer the term Conscious Sexuality. I draw not only on Tantric traditions, but also those from the Taoists, Native American and many other sources.
I have worked a lot with gender issues. Gender as we usually think of it is a very narrow concept largely created by society. Gender is actually very fluid and much broader than thCat. In terms of conscious sexuality, it makes no difference whether someone is male, female, transgender, dual-gender, homosexual, heterosexual or multi-sexual. The more combinations and permutations there are the more interesting life is. I do so much work with the energy of sex that which genitals someone has now, what they had before, and what part of their personality was societally conditioned as male or female is all irrelevant to me. On the level I am working, everyone is both male and female anyway, so whichever way their body is expressing or whichever kind of body they choose to live in is not who they are to me. The more work I do the less important these differences are.
The possibilities of Conscious Sexuality are unlimited. So much of it is about transcending. Transcending your fears, your limits, your need to control. Sex is just a vehicle. It's like your emoptions: if you go into them completely, totally, you transcend them. You move on to a new level. You grow. It's not like you give up your emotions or give up sex, but you can eventually move to a place where you can reach bliss without either one.
Celia: What does Conscious Sex teach us?
Barbara: Essentially, three things: timelessness, loss of ego/personality, and becoming a part of all that is. These three things can all happen in orgasm. Orgasms are not just genital spasms. You might share the experience with a partner or maybe not. Conscious Sex for me is about rising higher in myself. I think that's where all conscious sexuality starts.
Celia: Is it a meditative practice?
Barbara: I use it for that. It's a lifestyle and a practice which says "I don't avoid the emotion or the situation or the incident. Rather, I go right into the heart of it, experience it fully and walk out the other side." And that's true for both anger and ecstasy. What we repress simply expresses louder and longer further down the path of life.
Celia: Do you think people get involved in S/M for that connection?
Barbara: I attended an S/M (sado masochistic) play piercing event one night where I witnessed a very Tantric experience. Two women sat across from one another. A circle of needles was inserted around the breasts of one woman, then elastic thread was woven in a mandala pattern around the needles. The same was done to the second woman. Then another piece of elastic thread was used to tie the center of the two mandalas on the two women together. They looked into each other's eyes, then began to gently rock and breathe. The combination of the rocking and the breathing and the endorphins produced by the piercings produced an intense physicalized heart chakra connection. They were having breath and energy orgasms. They were doing an S/M ritual with needles and elastic thread and, energetically, it was not very different from what I do with breath, eye gazing and energy work. It was essentially the same experience.
Celia: So we are all looking for the same experience, the cosmic orgasm?
Barbara: Yes. And there are lots of ways to get to it. I frequently attract women in my work who were sexually abused when they were younger and feel the need to give or receive pain to have pleasure. Now, pain and pleasure are only one atomic particle apart. In my breathing rituals I teach people how to turn pain into pleasure--that skill can come in really handy at the dentist! I've used it myself when I've gotten tattoos and piercings. A number of women who come to my workshops are getting tired of the limits of S/M and want to learn how to receive or give pleasure another way. They are ready to transcend S/M and move into another space. Of course, these women needed to transcend into S/M in order to transcend out of it; it's a continual process.
Celia: So there's life after S/M?
Barbara: Absolutely. And there is life before it and on either side of it. Everyone is in their own personal sexual evolution. I just keep in mind a motto I learned from Annie Sprinkle: "Make no judgments, make no comparisons and delete your need to understand." This is especially true when dealing with the energy realms of sex because they are not something the mind can figure out. It's a body/spirit experience. Before women in my workshops try their first breath orgasm, I demonstrate the technique because the mind needs to know it's possible. If I don't demonstrate first, fewer women have one; if I demonstrate it, a lot of women have one. If the mind can't conceive that a breath orgasm is possible it says to the body, "It's not possible so you can't have one."
Celia: So Conscious Sex in itself is not really to do with the mind?
Barbara: No. Learning how to let go is what most of my workshops teach.
Celia: You describe yourself as a sex positivist. What does that mean?
Barbara: I am a sex positivist and pleasure activist in a sex negative world, a pleasure negative world. Let me give you an example. Most people who have regular jobs get paid for sick days. If you were to call into the office and say, "I can't possibly come to work. I am having the greatest, most awe-inspiring, blissful day of my life and this isn't a day I am supposed to be working," how much support would you get for that? We don't get bliss days or well days, we get sick days. We don't know how to handle bliss and pleasure. The AIDS epidemic gave anyone who wanted to be sex negative just the tool they needed to create the affirmation "sex kills'. Sex does not kill; viruses sometimes do. I am trying to sit on the other side of the scales and balance them. That's being a sex positivist and pleasure activist. My personal motto is 'sex heals'.
In part two of the interview, Barbara Carrellas and Celia Hutton explore the possibilities of sexual healing for women who are differently-abled, suffer from a serious physical injury or have been subjected to female genital mutilation.