The Art of Sexual Magic by Margot Anand
The Art of Sexual Magic comes as the only anonymous recommendation of this project. Not anonymous to me, but anonymous to you. And no, it does not come from Molly. Nor does it come as a joke (though maybe a little) or prank. Neither is it a suggestion of any sort, so certainly don’t presume that. However, tantric sex, a theme of this book, is not something I am able to approach with any sort of knowledge or experience. It was not even suggested by someone I know extremely well, but from a good friend whom I admire and adore and who made the recommendation to me because he/she “was reasonably sure [I] hadn’t read it and also because it seemed pretty far from the kinds of books [I] normally read.”
The Art of Sexual Magic by Margot Anand is definitely something pretty far from what I normally read. Tantric sex is serious stuff, and this book serves as a workbook far more complicated than the diet book I’m currently letting dictate my every bite. Of course, at first, like the diet book, I thought I’d just do what the book says and report back. So I read the book all the way through from cover to cover and the next night started explaining it to Molly and some friends in great detail exercise by exercise.But by the time I got to Stage 6 of Chapter 2, which covers putting on your Sexual Magicians robe as you enter the magic circle, I saw the muscles on Molly’s face clench even tighter, and when I looked at her with a hopeful smile, she responded with, “Hell No!”
The book quickly moves beyond Magic circles, symbols, and robes into G-Spots, suspension of male ejaculation, eventually reaching the summit of sexual magic. Maximizing orgasmic pleasure actually appears about half-way through book – demonstrating how much more there is to Tantric sex than a great orgasm. Ecstatic sex is the subject of Anand’s first book (yes, I bought and read that too), but Sexual Magic is more about the personal expression of self. While Anand clearly states that much of her program can be done with one’s self or with a solely sexual and willing partner, parts of it seem geared toward long-term sexual partners. One step in the program involves sitting in the magical circle naked and talking about just what one is ashamed about sexually and what angers them about their partner sexually. Another chapter is called “Awakening Your Wild Self,” which tries to teach us to access our most primitive sexual desires. This sort of flushing of inhibition, shame, and frustration is key to Tantra and is one of many ways in which it seems Sexual Magic can inform and improve one’s life overall.
The overall feeling of the book and the program is fascinating. First, there is far more nudity than sex in the program itself. Second, the instructions are highly detailed in order to direct the reader and student to really awaken their ‘magic self.’ Third, it has few pictures and really promotes a deep contemplative understanding through meditation on sex without any sensational or purely sensational components. Lastly, The Art of Sexual Magic expects great intimacy between the couples practicing the tantric meditations and techniques. This last part seems obvious – but not really, if you put yourself in the position of thinking of actually partaking in the path towards sexual magic.
From my point of view sex, in our culture and our education, is not intimate. It can be voyeuristic, sacred, in the shadows, or even taught progressively – but it is seldom understood as something intimate (perhaps this is the pre-30’s understanding only). Voyeuristic sex is what we see in movies and celebrity films, pornography, and most commonly in advertising. It is expressive and fleshy, seldom ashamed of itself, and never restrained. Sex, as defined by the increasingly indistinguishable film, porno and advertising industries, is a lure used by a person or profit-maximizing entity to gain something for themselves. Often, as with all lures, the lure itself, the person whose flesh – matted and perfumed on a magazine cover – draws us to an otherwise inane object, and gains nothing from the trap – unless, of course, it’s Sarah Palin or Paris Hilton, who hike up their skirts for their own glory and personal gain. But usually this cinema-porno-advertising sex is normally used to benefit a corporation or conglomerate. I will confess that I actually instructed my periodicals seller to line our magazine window displays with the recent sexed up Tina Fey Vanity Fair cover. This form of sex is often exploitative and used by many, including myself, for the praise I’ll receive for increasing newsstand sales. Tina Fay used her body to promote 30 Rock, Vanity Fair used it to sell their magazine, Borders used it to get people into the store (lots of lonely nerds in this town really responded to that cover), and I used it for personal glory – though I really want 30 Rock to succeed, so I did it for Tina Fay too.
Sacred or institutional sex, as taught by Catholicism and other institutions, while maybe presented as intimate, can be perverted by shame. The supposedly mature adult sexual life promoted by these institutions is expected to follow a long, confusing adolescence of poor and normative education and consequent secrecy and shame about one’s sexually, about one’s body, one’s involuntary urges and the involuntary functioning of sexual organs. (Tough to argue with me on this, I lived in the dorms with lots of 18-year-old Catholics boys and girls in close quarters)
Often sex education is euphemized or mythologized and hidden away in the shadows of our educations, even among less religiously zealous but still temperate parts of society. This keep it in the shadows crowd normally teaches children to confine sex “between a man and a woman who love each other” though not necessarily shaming the young boy or girl into following this. It permits discussions on sex, but teachers, assaulted with questions incited by popular movies or advertisements, often grow squeamish because of their own awkwardness, reprimanding the inevitably male sixth-grade boy for his inappropriate question: sending the unambiguous message to all the kids in the class that sex itself is not to be spoken of directly, and that instead of the teacher who clearly just doesn’t know anything about sex, this male sixth grader with really great questions must be the school’s sexual expert. Teachers fail when they fail to see sitcom innuendo-inspired questions as providing perfect opportunities to open the conversation and move sex-ed out from the shadows into plain, basic, 10am pre-recess discussion. Sometimes this society in which sex is still repressed seems much more open to sex between a man and a man or between a women and a women than to sacred/institution based forms of sex or to voyeuristic sex (voyeuristic sex may be the most hetero-normative tool there is with sit-coms and most celebrity gossip). But while the keep it in the shadows crowd might be open to sex between the same gender they still, of course, keep it in the shadows and do not want to see or hear about same sex relationships or acts.
Progressive sex education believes in early education, full and complete access to contraception, complete sexual freedom and information and personal freedom. The worst aspects of sex education is the “they’re gonna do it anyway so why not teach them to be safe” attitude from the shadows people. This is nice in theory and leads to our first step in sex education, but it can overemphasize the inevitability and danger of sex. At its best, progressive sex education and practice leads to an open discussion and understanding of sexuality at its personal and societal levels. It teaches the possibilities and pleasures of sex, its reproductive aspects – both prevention and child bearing – and safe sexual practice without instilling fear or inverting inhibitions. Still though, it doesn’t teach the extreme intimacy of Tantrism. Of course, perhaps it shouldn’t
I don’t really know, but I do think that extreme sexual intimacy is far from being at the center of our understanding or experience of sex as a whole. First off, personally, it should be noted that I felt far more comfortable arguing with Christianity than even talking about sex – proof enough to me that I am far from where I’d like to be subconciously in my approach to sex. Second, from the bookseller’s test: books about sex are all over the place, but not widely read (in my bookstore we carry just as many books on chess as sex: 54 (meaning we sell about 27 of each a year (in comparison we sold 62 President Obama books to 62 different people in 30 minutes on Tuesday). And most of those books don’t come close to the extreme self-awareness and intimacy demanded by this book (Yes, I thoroughly researched this). And so, thirty years beyond our sexual revolution, the American sexual tone remains decidedly mixed. But shouldn’t intimate sex be a major component of our life? Shouldn’t it be achieved either with our selves, or our same sex, or with another sex, doesn’t matter, but shouldn’t this be a goal in life, in relationships, to rise above the shame of our intuition and institutions and free ourselves to have that heightened understanding of self? We meditate, we pray, we deliberate, we go through deep trauma and sadness – all these things that access the deep core of our self, but seldom do we teach or even normalize the state of heightened sexual awareness and intimacy Anand demands of her students.
Then again, maybe if 100 people read this book only the anonymous recommender and I would desire the results with our partners that Anand promises. The Art of Sexual Magic certainly changed my own thinking and understanding – even if Molly won’t allow me set up magic circles and put primitive phalluses on our shelves. (I”m still looking for cool capes online) For me, it is the overall mood and the expectations of sex with extreme intimacy that affected me. It seems like a supremely wonderful thing for long term partners to attempt in order to better themselves and their whole relationship. If it is a short term one or even ones self, than it seems even more magical that one could practice these intimate approaches with such affection and gratitude.
I highly recommend this book to everyone.