The goal of tantric sex isn’t about achieving a mind-blowing orgasm (though it can definitely happen), but rather about enjoying each and every touch, kiss, and sensation brought about during intimate moments. It doesn’t have to include penetrative sex — just a simple moment of caressing each other, looking into each other’s eyes, parallel masturbation, or even kink play and BDSM can be considered tantric sex. 

“Equating tantra with sex positions is like equating democracy with voting machines.”

According to Rosara Torrisi, PhD, a licensed clinical social worker and AASECT-certified sex therapist at the Long Island Institute of Sex Therapy in Syosset, New York, the main pillar of tantric sex is to be aware of yourself, your connection to your sexual partner and the Earth, and “building an exchange of energy through sex with another person.” 

What’s a tantric sex position, and what’s TikTok got to do with it?

Wellness TikTokers currently have a fascination with tantric sex, but the mainstream media’s intrigue (and appropriation) of it has been around long before cell phones and the Internet, let alone social media. Remember the grocery store magazines of the early aughts plastered with “101 Sex Positions to Wow Your Man” on the front page and filled with dozens of cheeky sex position graphics?

In India’s Madhya Pradesh state, the famous Khajuraho temples boast a range of stunning art, including erotic stone-carved sculptures.Getty Images

According to Gray, those positions are technically tantric sex positions derived from the Kama Sutra, which came out around 300 CE, a couple hundred years before tantra was established. Gray notes that the Kama Sutra was “a big influence on the tantric sexual traditions that developed a few centuries later,” and argues that the sex position graphics littered across wellness publications can be helpful to tantric sex newbies.

With that being said, Yarian says to take them with a grain of salt, because these guides only represent “maybe five percent” of the Kama Sutra’s focus. “Sex positions have nothing really to do with tantra, which is more about attitude, openness, embracing the erotic energies within, however they might be expressed,” says Yarian. “Equating tantra with sex positions would be like equating democracy with voting machines. Useful, perhaps in expressing the meaning of the concept, but not equal to the concept.”

What does TikTok get wrong about tantra? 

Many of the “tantra” videos your algorithm throws at you are actually part of a watered down derivative of traditional tantra: neotantra, also known as modern or Western tantra. According to Cyndi Darnell, a New York City-based certified clinical sexologist, sex and relationships counselor, and author of Sex When You Don’t Feel Like It: The Truth About Mismatched Libido & Rediscovering Desire, neotantra is more of a narrowed-down, cherry-picked derivative of traditional tantra that focuses on sexuality. “[It’s] basically mindfulness with your pants off,” she says.

“[Europeans] came across the writings [in India], which were scandalized—then, regurgitated to focus on the sexual practices.”

In India’s Madhya Pradesh state, the famous Khajuraho temples boast a range of stunning art, including erotic stone-carved sculptures.Getty Images

This form of tantra is usually what you’ll come across on social media or if you decide to go to a tantric sex workshop, two options that usually graze the surface of chakras, breathing techniques, sexual yoga positions, and an introduction to approaching spiritual sexuality. “But what it is absolutely not is a relative of its descendant, which is the original form of tantra,” she says. “We need to understand that what we are learning in a neotantra workshop is not necessarily a direct descendant of these ancient Eastern practices.”



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