Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Tantric Misogyny: or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the yoni

You know you’ve done some damage when you’re the person in the room who all eyes turn to when the speaker says “I’m probably going to get a lot of anger on Facebook for this”. Nah bro, facebook’s far too restrictive a medium for that.

The redoubtable @rabblearouser of Crevice Canyon, Filthy Queer and Filthy Gorgeousness fame alerted me to a seminar called “Expanding Women’s Sexuality”, hosted by the Australian “Tantric sex, relationship and orgasm coach” Andrew Barnes. The four hour (!) class promised such wonders as “Identifying blocks to orgasm”, “Understanding full body orgasm” and “Learning about the suppression of female sexuality”. She was going, and was looking for a wingman. Four hours of being told about my body by some straight cis dude? Challenge accepted.

Now, despite appearances I have on occasion had a high tolerance for esoteric thinking. I’ve been on yogic retreats, meditation courses and even went vegan for a month (well, two weeks). However, I’ve found that I can put up a certain amount of discussion about expanded thinking and higher consciousness only so far, before my “Show me the science!” klaxon starts going and I become That audience member. Yeah, THAT one. And so it proved.

Actual t-shirt that I own.
The seminar was held in a place that had more incense than chairs (for $40 they could have at least given us some seats, but then that’s just me), and had an audience that was exactly who you’d expect at something like this. The first 45 minutes or so were, I grant you, quite interesting. Anatomy’s an interesting subject and learning about the history of the G-Spot, the true size and location of the clitoris and the role of the female prostate was definitely note-worthy (though I found myself sneakily fact-checking a few times)
G spot: doing it wrong

The first signs that the cosmic wavelengths weren’t fully aligned came right before the intermission, when Barnes ascertained that women can’t/won’t have orgasms unless they’re willing to do so. This struck me as problematic in the way that all statements about what women’s bodies can and can’t do that are made by men tend to be. One hesitates to chuck around phrases like “rape apology” in such instances but it’s certainly on the spectrum that includes “legitimate rape” and women being magically able to prevent pregnancy. Possibly through prayer.

After a frankly depressing half-time spread of a couple of squares of chocolate and some pineapple (guys, for $40 a ticket and FOUR HOURS I would like a chair, decent snacks and a hot drink minimum), we got stuck into emotional and energetic stuff. Clearly I am not this type of thing’s target audience as I was frequently lost amongst mentions of higher vibrational frequencies (nothing to do with Hitachi Magic Wands oddly enough) and my cervix harbouring not only my past painful memories but those of my parents and grandparents as well (the actual fuck, people). My SCIENCE, BITCHES radar was getting ever more urgent (“cancer is caused by emotional blockage! I can make women orgasm with my brain!”) when finally the alarms got tripped and it all went to hell.

You ready for this?


What the fuck.

Like, what just happened.

I’d already got the hard looks when I asked for a citation on the idea that living in an adopted family that has a history of a genetic condition will cause that to manifest in the adopted child, but this was The Moment. It not so much ripped through my (not-quite) willing suspension of disbelief as shredded it, set it on fire and flung it over a fucking rainbow.

I was polite. I pointed out that yes, things were better for women now (I appreciate the generalisation here but this was not the audience) but, as a cisgendered male, he was talking from a position of male privilege and was in no way qualified to tell women about their experiences of sexism or describe it to us. I was respectful. I didn’t call him names. His response?

“What’s a cis…….”

Oh my. A sex expert who had to have the term cisgendered explained to him. Who had clearly never butted up against the term “privilege” in his career. However, it was the audience comments that really made me despair for humanity. One woman said that she didn’t know what I was talking about, that she’d never experienced any sexism in her everyday and didn’t see any examples of sexism or misogyny (not that she used that word) in the media. The old man (also a tantric massage dudebro) who suggested some esoteric rubbish that seemed to boil down to sexism being a construct of people too shallow to rise above it and not let it affect them.

Victim blaming just got taken to a whole new plane (literally). I’ve got into some vicious bunfights with misogynists before but this was breathtaking. Then came the suggestion that women in violent relationships, sufferers of rape, domestic violence and the other evils that stalk our world are the result of women not being allowed to wank more as kids and that if we were all vibrating at a higher frequency then these things could be avoided. Quite a few people in the audience seemed uncomfortable with this (no, really?), prompting his little Facebook nod to the women with the enthusiastic hair. That it was all done with that mansplaining, there-thereness of someone who truly seemed to believe that the heavy-lifting towards a more equal society just needed us all to be a little more masturbatory made me want to throw a brick through the window of every bro who asked me to suck his dick in public, at every shop selling me my own body packaged up and distorted to the point of unrecognisability, at the face of every man who said “who me” when a young girl’s trembling finger pointed them out of a line up. I was shaking.
Then it was over, bar a few more plugs for his book about genitals (that compares them to flowers. Unless you are Georgia O’Keefe you’re not allowed to do that. Ever.), a massively off-putting discussion about his tantric sex workshop this weekend (which reminds me, I never did ask if performing “yoni massage” for money made him a sex worker and if so, how did that square with Australian law?) and an attempt to garner email addresses for future seminar alerts.

I listened to Black Sabbath all the way home and narrowly avoided rage-buying cigarettes.

You can dress up your misogyny in as many colourful pashminas and yonis and reverberations as you like. It’s still misogyny, and it’s rotten.


  1. Woohoo! This was a joy to read, though I'm sure it was deeply irritating to experience in person. I hope you left him weeping on the stage or bleeding on the carpet. Did you feel like you won the room? In any case, huge props for fighting the good fight.

    That said, 'cis' as a term still bothers me. When people have dropped it in conversation it always comes off as one of those code-phrases used to separate the enlightened from the unenlightened. It's bad that this guy didn't know it, sure, but I always get twitchy around 'He had an opinion I disagreed with, and he hadn't even heard of Neo-Hegelian paradigmatic fallacism, the fascist.' This is, in large part, I am willing to concede, due to my deeply-instilled distrust of sociologists.
    In discussions of privelige I always prefer to use 'StraightWhiteMan' so that everyone knows immediately what I'm talking about.

    1. Yes, how dare we have a term to indicate "not transgender". What do you suggest instead? "Normal"? Comparing it to "Neo-Hegelian paradigmatic fallacism" or something equally as ridiculous is purely born from the assumption that trans people are rare mythic creatures when several studies have indicated that the worldwide rate is actually something like 1-1.5% and if you account for the number that would not be willing to ever admit it even in an anonymous survey it could be as high as one in fifty. YOU MIGHT EVEN KNOW SOME. YOU MIGHT BE TALKING TO ONE RIGHT NOW. But no, having a word to refer to people who aren't trans, genderqueer, genderfluid or otherwise gender non-normative is divisive and problematic, unlike equivalent words for pretty much every other category ever.

    2. Woah there. As I suggested, I use 'StraightWhiteMan' to indicate that someone is speaking from the privileged position of a hetero white man i.e. 'The StraightWhiteMan position is... but in truth...' . I feel that this makes clear the point about privilege, while also not making the people I am attempting to convince feel stupid or have to ask clarification questions.
      The point I was aiming at is that 'cis' is obscure, and reacting with outrage because someone doesn't recognize it is not going to help advance your argument or change any minds. I'm sorry if that wasn't clear.

    3. Cis may be obscure to the general public, but it's pretty ridiculous that someone who charges for workshops about sex and gender is unfamiliar with the term. Would you take a weekend auto repair class from someone who couldn't name the parts of a car? A cooking class from someone who doesn't know the difference between a sauce pan and a Dutch oven? If you're going to claim to be an expert, at least know the basic terms of the field.

    4. Um Angus, you do understand that the problem is that there are "StraightWhiteMen" *who are trans*, right? You're just slightly erasing their existence because you can't be bothered learning a new word.

    5. Hey nice micro-aggression there sunshine! Love it, makes my point beautifully. I don't see the place where I said I couldn't be bothered learning. I'd said that in attempting to win over people who haven't given this issue any thought, it makes sense not to make them feel stupid from the off. Win the argument conceptually first, terminology after.

    6. Cool story bro, tell me more about how we "win the argument conceptually" if we can't even introduce people to a three-letter prefix which *sums up the whole argument*.

      And I think if you're going to whinge about terminology you should learn what "micro-aggression" means. Pointing out that your privileged use of language erases other people's existence ain't it.

  2. I find you very negative and harsh, throwing around a word as harsh as misogyny in a context such as this is extremely inappropriate. Given all ive said, i hope you find peace in this life and actually breathe deeply and freely