Sexual Improv and Sexual Healing

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Note: This column by Maria Padhila, which originally published April 21, 2012, felt like a good fit for this weekend, when the Venus-Neptune conjunction in Pisces is heightening both artistic play and creation, as well as sexual play, loving connection and the manifestation of our visions. Maria will be back with a fresh column next weekend. — Amanda

By Maria Padhila

Theater started out as magic ritual. In the right hands, with the right practitioners, it still is (Hi, Amanda and Fe!).

Poly Paradise at Burning Man. Photo by Eric.

Poly Paradise at Burning Man. Photo by Eric.

The San Diego Tantra Theater Troupe is all about the magic. It’s right there in its mission: “combines ritual and performance to transmute sexual guilt, shame and fear into art, healing and liberation. We celebrate that every aspect of life’s drama is sacred.”

With shows like “Sacred Slut” and “Shaman Story,” they may sound just too woo-woo. But believe me, they are also all about the fun. Check out some of the videos on their website — smart, funny, and not above poking fun at themselves. If you can’t deal with laughing at spiritual struggles (or at sex), this probably won’t work for you; but if you can see both the beauty and the humor in the human condition, you’ll get it. As well as doing performance in San Diego, the group also travels to conferences and festivals and leads workshops.

I got to participate in a workshop led by the theater founder Kamala Devi at the Poly Living conference put on by Loving More earlier this year. The technique of doing improv based on relationship stories from participants resulted in many memorable moments, some very touching (in both senses). One of my favorites was seeing Devi’s acting partner working through the story of a man in a relationship with two women, standing with his arms outstretched and singing “I’m the V, I’m the V,” like an outtake from a very special episode of “Schoolhouse Rock.”

I’m in line for an interview with Kamala Devi in two months, after she gets through with a project. In the meantime, I got to reading her blog on the theater website, and asked if I could quote from one entry: “Theater Improv has the same rules as Sacred Sex!” Here are a few pieces that struck me. Points are her words; pieces in brackets are mine:

• The more someone ‘acts’ in bed, the less sacred the sex is.

• You cannot learn it from books. It is a whole-body experience that must be practiced with devotion.

• The first and most important rule that must not be broken is agreement (also known as “yes… and”). Agreement forwards the action. If there is no agreement in the scene it falls apart. The improvisation dies. It becomes rape! [That’s her word — I don’t always go that far in using that word. I tend to use it only for the actual crime, never as a metaphor — I feel the same about the word ‘slave’ and its derivitives. Nevertheless, the principle holds true for me.]

• A true practitioner must give up all control without any attachment to how they think the scene should go.

• If you adore and admire your playmates, their expression becomes brilliant and by making them look good, you will look better and have more fun! [Totally agree. Several studies I’ve seen quoted around and about over the past few years say arousal is located most strongly in seeing someone else’s excitement. That’s why all the ‘women don’t like porn’ truisms aren’t true to me. What this woman doesn’t like about porn is faking and less-than-attractive men. That’s why gay male porn is the best!]

• Get out of your ego and let a larger story be told.

• No matter how much laughter and play is involved, you must have deep reverence for the craft and the scene must be taken seriously. [This is a hard one for many to get. It can be difficult to hold both mirth and reverence in your heart, body and mind. My airy mind will keep trying to come up with funny lines long past the place where it’s useful, and humor becomes a defense rather than an enhancement. No one wants to feel like they’re being laughed at, especially during sex. If you have a lover who can switch between the two, or do both at once, you have a really evolved person, in my opinion.]

• Unlearn your stock responses. Let go of whatever you were planning to say. … Don’t try to create an effect in your audience, but be true to the deepest impulse that arises in you. [Both porn and romantic portrayals have set up a lot of stock scripts in our heads and stock moves in our bodies. One of young women’s big complaints is that men have watched so much porn that they expect certain responses to certain moves. Women are nervous about everything from the looks on their faces to whether they’ve got the latest style of wax. It’s a challenge to shuck these stock roles off.]

• Listen deeply to what your partner is saying, not only in their words but in their body language. Take notice and be responsive. Try to recall what they are saying or doing and reflect it back to them later in the scene when it will illuminate new meaning.

• Don’t be afraid of the silence. Pausing at the right place can be dramatic.

• All rules are just suggestions. There is an exception to every rule.

It seems counterintuitive that we could get to a deeper level of sincere expression through the study of theater, but again, that’s what art is actually intended to do — bring us home to ourselves. Real acting isn’t pretending. If you’re a performer, I’d love to hear about what you think some of the connections are among performing, relationships and sex. And I hope you’re looking forward to hearing more from Kamala as much as I am.

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12 Responses to Sexual Improv and Sexual Healing

  1. mariapadhila says:

    Amanda I’m so glad you posted that. I actually was going to write and ask if you would share it but I got caught in a work nightmare for a couple days.
    Eric, yep, this isnt about that, but I like role play (job interview type thing), and it’s the cheezy/fake factor of it that’s actually the most interesting. Is that too meta? 😉
    And I love it when the comments take on a life of their own on this site.

  2. Hugging Scorpio says:

    Carrie, That he is a Scorp makes sense. wow. He should def work on setting up some kind of community or sharing/counseling for men. It’s time.
    Thank you.

  3. Carrie says:


    I am glad it means a lot to you. Incidentally, Dave is a Scorpio. He also has Cappy rising and Cancer moon. He is a wonderful man; he is sensitive, intuitive, funny, cuddly, extremely understanding and patient, and so much more. We will celebrate our 25th anniversary this September.

    He has been telling me that he feels like he should also be counseling (or listening as he says) to men who feel they have a lot of feelings but nowhere safe to let them out. He would make a safe space for them to be sensitive and caring and emotional. He would also let them know that their experiences (so often never spoken out loud) are normal.

  4. Hugging Scorpio says:

    Carrie, thank you for sharing Dave’s early experience. That means a lot to me personally.

  5. Amanda Painter Amanda Painter says:

    part of an email i sent to maria when i edited her piece:

    Yes, by all means, I think theater — done well –definitely takes us deeper & gets us ‘real’. And when it’s faked, it’s just as distancing (from ourselves and from others) as any kind of faking in ‘real life’. Same with sex — and I have had more than enough past experience in that kind of faking and distancing and disconnect in both acting and sex. In fact, realizing that they were the same thing many years ago, I instinctively knew the sexual healing had to come before I’d be able to get through the block in my acting.

    That said, I often have a hard time with “role playing” exercises when they’re not being run by actors in an authentic theatrical context — as in, in a workplace or something. They tend to feel a little ‘put on’ to me — hard for me to get into them, unless everyone involved is an actor, too.

    “Unlearn your stock responses. Let go of whatever you were planning to say. … Don’t try to create an effect in your audience, but be true to the deepest impulse that arises in you.”

    and that is super-important in both realms, for sure.

  6. Carrie says:

    I hate it when I have so many typos but I am typing fast because I have so much going on right now.

  7. Carrie says:

    “it’s often laughter that lightens up the atmosphere and makes lighthearted sex possible.”

    That’s something I had to learn when I was younger. For me, sex was always about a deep feeling of sharing; I was giving in submission to the desire and I zoned into each partner almost like a trance during. I didn’t tell my partners that; I just did it. Dave taught me how to laugh during sex and how to have fun with it. That was at first upsetting to me because I felt so serious (I was way too serious about life back then; Moon in Cap in the fourth/fifth house cusp). Now I am free to laugh and have fun and/or zone into it with the seriosuness at times.

    For Dave, I held space for him to release himself because in the beginning, he could not let go and orgasm. Once he realized that I held his desire and fruition with the love and accpetance (that was serious because laughing or making fun would have harmed him) he needed, he could let go and it was magic for both of us.

    That kind of honesty and learning between us is what makes it a growing experience for both of us.

  8. Eric Francis Eric Francis says:

    Laughed at…not…yet sex can be funny, it’s an essential door to leave open, and it’s often laughter that lightens up the atmosphere and makes lighthearted sex possible.

    When I first read the headline to this piece, I thought it was more about creating scenes directly involving sexplay, which is done as well. Job interview, doctor nurse, etc., being among the less creative — you can go a long way from there — and expressing your erotic phantasies and finding willing participants to help you act them out can be a lot of fun and deeply moving.

    I think what you’re describing, Maria, would also be fun and healing, and help us wake up from the trance of relationship roles.

  9. Carrie says:

    “No one wants to feel like they’re being laughed at, especially during sex. If you have a lover who can switch between the two, or do both at once, you have a really evolved person, in my opinion.”

    My husband and I do that for one another and it is wonderous.

  10. Sarah Taylor Sarah Taylor says:

    “arousal is located most strongly in seeing someone else’s excitement.”

    Yes, singularly the most important thing for me, Maria and MandyM. I have been fortunate enough to experience that in a way that was transformative.

    Thank you for your beautiful writing, Maria.

  11. firegirl says:

    Lol. Gay male porn IS the best.

  12. MandyM MandyM says:

    Oh Maria, that’s hilarious!! I’ve bookmarked the link. Thanks so much for the laugh of the day!
    “arousal is located most strongly in seeing someone else’s excitement.” Indeed.
    I suddenly realized how much I’m missing sex. My last partner started out as the best sex I’ve (and he) ever had in my life then eventually crumbled into the same old routine (he was Virgo). His baggage from being abused by a doctor as a boy resulted in a lowering of the flag anytime I tried to take the lead (being the aggressor in any way no matter how subtle). It slowly dawned on me that I wasn’t really getting any. Shame. The potential was amazing. I’m really starting to dislike that word ‘potential’ these days.
    Hopefully, soon, I can reach past potential to actualization in this area of life. Sigh.

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