“Having positive sexual energy in your life is really good for you and everyone around you,” says Rachel. She’s the woman my friends keep calling their “sexual doula,” and I’m here at her West Village apartment slash work space to find out exactly what that means.
Rachel, a West Coast transplant with a degree in psychology, is a tantric masseuse. Her job, in her own words, “is to help people reach their full capacity for pleasure.” It’s sex work, but with a healing twist. Her clients come to her with a range of goals, from exploring their sensuality to overcoming the trauma of sexual assault.
Beautiful and dynamic, Rachel seems both grounded in reality and not quite of this world. It’s not difficult to see how men and women would trust her to massage their naked bodies and genitals upon first meeting. But because I’m not quite there yet, I have her explain the basics of what a session with her is like.
“I start the sessions with energy work” — she’s also a reiki master, of course — “which brings clients’ emotions to the surface.” After that, she’ll begin the “sacred spot” massage of the G-spot or prostate.
While the client is naked, Rachel is typically dressed in sheer lingerie. She also wears gloves, as certain outcomes are inevitable. “Every man comes. Women have more shame and conditioning in our sexuality. We’re puzzles. Some women have blocks to feeling, they’re numb, or they think they’re not doing it right. But the whole session is goalless. It’s not about coming, it’s more about feeling.” Orgasm or no, clients are willing to pay $375 an hour for the experience.
Tantric massage focuses on stimulating the nerves located in one’s sex organs to create new pathways of sensation to the brain. “In a tantric session, many things can happen,” says Rachel. “Usually it’s about removing any blocks in the person’s body to open the way for more sexual energy to flow through. It frees people up to be more self-expressive in the world, more in the zone of genius, more alive and turned on, and happier.”
“Sometimes darkness comes up, tears or rage,” she goes on, “but the beauty of tantra is that you can allow the body to access the pain of trauma in a safe way, allowing it to surface in a safe container, and then be transformed through the magic of the orgasm.”
Rachel says she’s always been deeply curious about her own sexuality and the sexual dynamics between people, so she felt called to the practice. “My first tantric session, the client cried after they came, and I held them in their vulnerability. I realized that this is what I’ve been needing to do my whole life.”
Her clients, who find her exclusively through word of mouth, run the gamut of nine-to-fivers, housewives, doctors, and creative types. Sara, a lawyer in her 50s, started seeing Rachel after her divorce. “My husband put me down a lot, keeping me in place by knocking my sexuality. So I had in my head, ‘I suck in bed, I suck at sex.’ I had no idea what to expect after scheduling a session, but Rachel was kind, generous, and open. She explained to me that I wasn’t blocked in my sexuality, that I was blocked in my voice. Since then, I’ve gotten over a hump. Her work has definitely contributed to my lightness and feeling of freedom. I’m more giggly.”
While none of her clients could say the sessions completely cured their ailments, they all insisted they were critical to whatever journey they were on. The most profound testimonials I heard were from female clients who’ve suffered sexual abuse. “These women are very grateful for a safe space to tell someone about their experience, and to release shame, guilt, and, pain related to their trauma. I’ve witnessed a lot of emotional catharsis and breakthroughs,” Rachel says.
Tess, a woman in her 40s who works in health care, began seeing Rachel to continue to work through the sexual abuse that she experienced as a child. “I thought I’d dealt with it already in therapy. But I still wasn’t getting the pure joy out of sex and everything related to it.”
She’s been seeing Rachel every three or four weeks, and Tess says she’s much more comfortable with her body and more receptive to touch. “It’s the most effective energy work I’ve done, and it’s an important part of my mental and spiritual therapy mix.”
Rachel has been hesitant to share what she does outside of her inner circle — she’s wary of her family’s response and the legal ramifications if she takes her work public. Despite her noble intentions, exchanging money for sexual contact is illegal in New York. “There’s a lot of darkness associated with this work, and the patriarchy doesn’t really have good feelings towards people’s sexuality. There’s a lot of judgment,” she says.
Rachel was officially certified as a tantric masseuse in July by a tantra school based in California, and hopes to write about her experiences and teach classes with her boyfriend in the future. Despite knowing she’ll have to manage her family’s reactions and continue to remain discreet, she sees this as the career she was meant to have. The fulfillment for both her and her clients is worth it.
“Not everyone understands or even believes in this work, but I would say everyone who has a session is so happy they’ve come.”