Sex

I got a professional vagina massage in hopes of a better sex life

Warning: This gets awkward.

By: Sarah Ratchford
I got a professional vagina massage in hopes of a better sex life

I'm naked, reclined all the way back on a massage table in a strange woman's house on the outskirts of town. My legs are bent at the knee, splaying outward, the soles of my feet drawn together in butterfly pose. The woman, who sports pigtails and a Superman babydoll tee, is pushing on the front wall of my vagina with her fingers.

"What do you see?" she asks me. "Are there any sounds?"

Wearing thin powder blue latex gloves, she's poured grape-seed oil all over my naked body and massaged it, and now she's trying to heal my negative vibes. At this point, I'm loathe to disappoint her.

"...A bear?" I venture.

I'm here for a yoni massage ("yoni" is Sanskrit for "vagina"). The goal is not orgasm, but a stronger connection with one's self, which, in theory, will translate to a better sex life. The masseuse claims the treatment will "activate the chi energy within the body to allow intuitive healing and release to happen." Yoni massage and other tantric practices, she explains, can enhance people's sex lives by teaching them self-respect and intuition. The idea is that if you can learn what feels good to you, you can communicate that to your partner — something women often have more trouble with than men.

Yoni massage is adapted from Taoist massage and tantra. The Western style of yoni massage that I'm getting most likely traces back to Joseph Kramer's and Annie Sprinkle's experimentations with sensual massage in the early '90s. Now, it's part of a growing movement of sexual healing for women.

The most famous example of the rise in spiritual sex therapy is the orgasmic meditation group OneTaste, which, according to journalist Sarah Barmak, has gone from having about 50 members to tens of thousands in just a few years. Barmak also cites Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts in New York, which teaches women how to master their "power, pleasure and spirit," and Instagram phenom Kim Anami, who lifts vaginal weights while traveling the world and promises to make her students into "well-fucked women."

But despite rapid popular growth, the world of sexual healing is still largely unregulated, and while tantric massage certifications can be obtained, you don't need one to market yourself as a yoni masseuse.

I decided to go for the yoni in the name of journalism. But in the days leading up to my appointment, my nerves tip me off that it's about more than that. While I don't have issues with orgasm, I do have pretty severe depressive episodes sometimes, which can make me feel sluggish and less than sexy. Going for a yoni massage, I thought, might help ease some of that energy and make me feel more open.

In truth, though, I'm scared of what this woman will find.

On my way to the masseuse's house, I sit on the subway vibrating with anxiety. I have no idea what to expect. No, that's a lie, actually: Google "vagina massage" and you'll be rewarded with a litany of very explicit squirting videos. So my expectations are high: I expect she'll either teach me how to squirt, pronounce my spirit clean, or identify all my deepest fears and banish them forever.

At the end of the line, I file off the subway and board the bus for the final leg of my trip to the suburbs. I remember an email she sent me before the appointment that suggested I both bring snacks and "[b]e present with an open mind, body and heart to connect with your spirit." I attempt to meditate on the janky, clattering tin can that is public transit. It doesn't help.

I do my best to arrive calmly. Instead, I enter her house running my characteristic 10 minutes late, rambling about how sorry I am. She takes one look at me and says, "We need to get you grounded."

We walk through her steel-applianced kitchen and into a back room with plain white walls that are adorned with hopeful suggestions of sexual healing: feather boas, candles, mantras about finding one's inner goddess. In the corner is a computer monitor on a small white table, and beside it, a Wonder Woman mug. In the mug, instead of your usual office supplies, is a handful of feathers for sensual tickling.

The masseuse's name is Viktoria Kalenteris. She identifies as a "passionate provocateur, catalyst and avant garde Sex Educator, Coach, Chi Kung Massage Practitioner, Mentor and Confidante for the knowledge seeking, open minded adult."

She asks me how my body is feeling, whether I have any pain. I tell her my left foot hurts sometimes. She asks if that's all that hurts on my left-hand side. After thinking for a minute, I tell her sometimes my lower left abdomen hurts too. She immediately tells me it sounds like the pain I experience is emotional. I tell her that's not out of the question — in the past few years I've experienced a rape, an extreme heartbreak, and a string of deaths in my family.

"The yoni houses energetic and emotional tension," she tells me. All chakras, she says, are connected to the yoni. She says she's not worried about my logical side but that my emotional side needs some work.

"You're capable of reprogramming," she promises.

It begins like any massage. She tells me to undress and lay face down on the table. She leaves the room. I lay down with my face in the hole. She comes back in, slathers her hands in grape-seed oil, and begins to pull my hair, hard, in clumps, all over my head. Then she taps the base of my spine, which sends shivers down it, and proceeds to give me noogies all over my head. She cups each side of my spine with her hands, running them up and down to push out the bad energy and realign the good energy.

When she finishes massaging the back of my body, she starts working on my front, continually asking me what I see, what I hear. I honestly don't see much of anything, and I tell her so. I can't help but feel she must be disappointed or bored by my answers as she rubs circles around my breasts, then my nipples.

She moves down my body to my thighs, then begins to tickle my labia majora (the outer folds of the vulva) by moving her gloved hands in an itsy bitsy spider motion, first one side, then the other. This proceeds for a while, and then she places two fingers around my clit and taps and flicks it with her other fingers. This feels fantastic, but also not quite sexual. I puzzle about why. Is it because orgasm isn't supposed to be the goal? Am I actually super hetero? Will I orgasm?

After what feels like an eternity of this, she asks to be invited into my vagina. Well, shit, I think, that's what I'm here for. No turning back now. I grant her access.

She inserts her fingers a couple of inches inside of me and begins pressing with two fingers, treating my vagina as though it's square-shaped. At each "side" she asks what images or colours I see and whether there are accompanying sounds. I see the colour red, the colour blue. A baby, a bear, and a forest. Mostly, I see nothing. I feel some physical arousal, but not as much as I expected. I wonder what the fuck I am doing here.

Eventually she starts using the two-finger come-hither motion against my G-spot. Just as my body starts to open, she stops. I don't orgasm.

I realise at that moment that I'm not comfortable with this kind of healing.

"From my sense of things, I could tell that you're holding back," she says after the massage. "You weren't completely letting go, which means that you were protecting yourself. If you're protecting yourself, that means that something has happened to you in the past." She says I'm emotionally "blocked."

(I ask Kalenteris whether my inability to relax could have anything to do with the fact that I don't know her. She suggests that I might come back for another treatment, enabling me to trust her more).

Past memories, she says, can hold us prisoner. "It's not a matter of fixing something, or that you're broken. It's a matter of something blocking you from connecting to yourself and knowing completely who you are."

Her diagnosis leaves me utterly flummoxed. I do yoga! I meditate! I've long known I'm prone to sickness in my manipura chakra! I try really hard to be nice to other people and not call them out when they're being utter assholes because everyone has a story.

I tell her I actually do a lot of work to be open.

"You're saying you used to be less* open?" she asks.

I look at her like -__-. I know myself well, and despite past trauma, I don't feel like I'm closed off to sexual experiences.

After the massage though, I feel as blocked as she had said I was. I don't feel like having sex for about a week afterward.

Just because the massage wasn't what I needed doesn't mean it doesn't suit other women. But in her upcoming book, Closer: Notes From the Frontier of the Female Orgasm*, Barmak says there are countless, less drastic ways to ease into the kind of emotional and sexual exploration that can help close the orgasm gap between men and women.

For those who may want to begin this journey with something less advanced than yoni massage, Barmak says it's a good idea to start with a mirror at home and get familiar with how your genitals look. A continuous light stroke on the clitoris is a good first step too. Even if you're worried you won't reach orgasm, it can relax you enough to just enjoy the sensations. When you're relaxed, you're more likely to have an orgasm, or even just feel pleasure. It can help to take a deep breath and relax your muscles as you let it out, she says. Many women tighten up and almost stop breathing during sex, but if the body is already relaxed, your release will be even stronger.

My vagina massage didn't cause an automatic release of all my alleged negative energy. But I did learn how severe my trust issues can be, and that I need to work on them. And while I'm not sure that I have an "emotional blockage," I want to carry with me Kalenteris's promise that I'm not broken and reprogramming is possible. After the week of very little sex, I slowly came back to myself, but I am still reflecting on what she said months later.

But as much as I like being naked, I think I'll leave my clothes on the next time I'm in therapy.

  • Author: Sarah Ratchford