If we are speaking about erotic massage, one thing comes to mind immediately: Kama Sutra. This thousand-year-old guidebook of love is more popular now than ever before. Nowadays, from London through Miami to Los Angeles, from San Fransisco through Paris to Tokyo, erotic massage is a part or used instead of making love, so the goal is strictly sensual. Nowadays basically anybody can go to a bookstore in New York or in San Diego, and take a book of erotic massage (like those about ESO, Tantric sex etc.) with them – or if they’re shy, they can order it over the Internet, and have it home delivered to their Manhattan penthouse, New Jersey house or Vancouver apartment. They can even have a copy of the very Kama Sutra if they like. What I mean to bring out of this is simple: erotic massage, although it was somehow secretive, and something to be shy about, now is perfectly public, you can even order a(n erotic) massage therapist on the phone if that suits your fancy! There were times, though, when erotic massage was a tad bit more secretive and when it had a strictly medical purpose. Let us dwell on the history of a very exciting activity now.
Erotic massage has its roots in medical massage (the word ’massage’ itself comes from French, but may originate from any old tongue from Greek through Arabic or Hebrew to Sanskrit), which itself has its first records from about 1400 BC in China. The first massage therapists were cleric-physicians: they were combining it with active and passive gymnastics of the human body (something that would later be called tai chi chuan), and acupressural methods. According to some, the method referred to as „thai massage” spawns from here (and from Malaysia, instead of Thailand).
In India, massage had its ritual and healthcare purposes, and this is the place where the first records of erotic massage come from. Yes, I am talking about Kama Sutra, the ’book of love’.
Some confuse this compendium of sensual enjoyment for a manual of tantric sex. In reality, the Hindu Tantra tradition does not consist only sexual advice – rather they consider sensuality as a part of life (as it should be); additionally, Kama Sutra does not write anything about the sexual practices widely associated to be tantric. Also, it is important to point out that the Kama Sutra specifically mentions that virtuous living (Dharma) and material prosperity (Artha) are more important and enjoy privileges over erotic pleasure (Kama), which should be the primary goal in life for the ’public women’ only.
Kama Sutra has seven parts and 36 chapters, and only a third of it (10 chapters) is about sensual stimulation and intercourse decribing a total of 64 sexual acts from caressing and embracing to what we call erotic massage, oral sex or different positions (the translation of this part started to spread like wildfire in the ’90s claiming it to be the complete book). The rest is about getting married, how wife or wives should behave in marriage, how you should get acquainted with other women, the choice of courtesans and how to improve the weakened sexual power in a non-ordinary way. It was started to be collected in the second century, and it reached the shape and form we know today in the tenth.
Should we think erotic massage has a privilege only to the East, we couldn’t be farther from the truth. In the 5th century BC, Hippocrates was the first to ’recognise’ that a specific disease in women only was caused by the uterus wandering about in the body, strangling the victim upon reaching the chest. The disease was called hysteria. This is how the life of a very unfortunate diagnosis started and lasted more than two thousand years.
The first treatment offered for hysteria was erotic massage. Galen, in the 2nd century AD wrote that hysteria is caused in passionate women being deprived of sexual activities as he noted it mainly in virgins, nuns or widows. His prescribed treaty was more frequent intercourse if possible, marriage, if single, or as a last resort in the case of nuns, erotic (pelvic or genital) massage performed by a midwife, who, apart from their assistance in childbearing and –birth, now doubled as erotic massage therapists.
The diagnosis of hysteria constantly grew: at its peak in the Victorian era, a physician wrote that every fourth woman suffered from it, another compiled a 75-page-long list of symptoms and called the list incomplete. The treatment was always the same: apply erotic massage (then referred to a pelvic) until the patient reaches the state of ’hysterical paroxysm’, or how now everybody calls it in Chicago, in Las Vegas or in London: orgasm. It was a comfortable diagnosis for the doctor as the patient was in no risk of death, but needed constant and repeated treatment. Recorded issues with it were that it was considered slow: sometimes hours were needed for the massage therapist until climax, it was tedious, hard-to-master work for the physician, who, on the other hand did not intend to refer the patients to midwives, as it would mean loss of business for him. Sometimes the husband was called in to act as a massage therapist and assist in the matter.
The solution came from the ever-developing world of technology. If we consider the assumed asexual atmosphere of the Victorian era, it seems unlikely that an advertisement of a ’portable vibrator’ could appear in a newspaper. That it did (fun fact: the electric vibrator appeared on the market nine years before the electric vacuum cleaner), and for a simple reason. Although physicians of the age seemed to agree that the underlying cause of female hysteria is lack of sexual satisfaction, they failed to accept that the treatment itself is of sexual nature. With the spreading of these home-service erotic massage devices, the call for hysteria in every case quickly declined, and after the ’40s it virtually disappeared from among the recognised illnesses.
But this was not enough to bring erotic massage to the more or less public place it is now. As we could see above, the European massage methods strictly differ from the Eastern approach. After World War II, and the folowing conflicts in the Far East, more and more people emigrated from there to the West, sparking the beginning of New Age, when medical diagnoses and treatments started to be used together with other, more holistic methods. And on the tailwater of this, the Eastern massage technics and massage therapists appeared in the West as well. By now, erotic massage has many names: ESO, tantric massage etc. Some even confuse Thai or Swedish massage for erotic, which just means that these things need clearing up.
ESO. Extended Sexual Orgasm is a method based in 1988 when the same titled book by Alan P. and Donna J Brauer appeared on the market. It simply constitutes of techniques using which both males and females can extend their climaxes to minutes or in extreme cases, hours. They write about the necessity of complete trust in the partner to achieve significant results. The book is a compilation of methods of years of clinical study and the effect of New Age means, resulting in a meticulously written manual to the improvement of sexual life. This, and similar books and methods (including different orgasm control techniques or the so-called ’Venus Butterfly’) show that there is an increased amount of interest in alternative means of sensuality or erotic massage in order to achieve pleasure. One of the common ancestors of such methods is
Tantra. If you hear the word tantra, you will almost surely think of prolonged, extremely enjoyable sex. Naturally, it is only half the truth… or even less than that. Tantra is basically nothing else than an esoteric branch of Hinduism, one that deals with the worship of Shakti, the creator goddess of the Hindu pantheon. It was born in the first millenium BC, and affected all the great Eastern religious traditions from Hinduism to Sikh or Buddhism. It is not and never has been a coherent system, rather a collection of ideas and practices that use the everyday ordinary life and tools available there to reach into something transcendent. It has relations to the Indian art of Yoga as well. As all things Indian it aims at processing the negative energies affecting us and cleaning, transforming them into something much more positive, and also, it treats sexuality as a natural part of life, and as a means to reach a heightened awareness. Rather than the Western approach, who treat Tantra as a new way for better sex, they consider it as a sacrifice, a ritual to their deities. The rituals are elaborate and prepare, purify body and mind for the religious procedure that is the union. At the climax the participants are supposed to dissolve into a common consciousness which may be experienced on multiple levels, from the extreme enjoyment of reaching a higher level of awareness by their sacrifice being accepted by Shakti to the more mundane, but extremely obvious sexual results.
This transformed utterly into the modern Western approach of Tantra being an erotic massage or sexual act with a certain amount of sacredness, or „spiritual sex”. Most scholars have been severely critical to this new form they call „California Tantra”, ’Los Angeles Tantra’, or ’San Fransisco Tantra’ and that erotic massage parlors and massage therapists refer themselves as knowing specific tantric sexual means to give anybody a longer orgasm.
This profound and total misunderstanding exists now. Erotic massage parlors and massage therapists are available in every city, be it Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Boston, Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia or Dallas. What they offer, though, is in most of the cases plain massage with a ’happy ending’. They unfortunately absolutely miss out the point of it. Massage is and has been alwys about relaxing muscles, releasing energies, liberating oneself from bounds. Erotic massage should do the same, giving you a sexual energy boost that you can use to live a better life. Erotic massage should be used by massage therapists. It is a gross misunderstanding that erotic massage parlors are basically red-light houses, and massage therapists are only prostitutes with a fancy name. It is hard to decide where it went wrong: were the first eastern erotic massage therapists ’public women’ not caring about the point, the highlight of erotic massage, or were the clients not interested in all the mumbo-jumbo, and just wanted the ’happy ending’. As always, the answer shall lie somewhere in the middle.
The question is, how the history of erotic massage will continue? It is little more now than sexual service, but will it ever change and reclaim the role it has played before. Only time can be the judge. Let’s hope that soon erotic massage can lose its ’sinful’, nasty meaning, and can serve to improve our lives.