Sex Educator Profiles: Barbara Carrellas
What led you to become a sex educator?
The AIDS Crisis. In the 1980’s I was working in the Broadway theatre and I was losing up to four friends a week to AIDS. I joined a support group for people with AIDS and their allies called the New York Healing Circle. The vast majority of people attending the Healing Circle were gay men. I wondered if there was a way for these sexual adventurers to have protected sex that was as hot, ecstatic, intense and extended as the unprotected, drug-enhanced sex they had been having in discos, bathhouses and parks.
At the Hew York Healing Circle I met Annie Sprinkle and Joseph Kramer (founder of the Body Electric School) who were asking the same question. Together we set off to explore eastern, less genitally-focused, sexual/spiritual practices such as Tantra and Tao, practices which taught the completely radical idea that sex was an energy you allowed, not an action you performed. We studied with anyone we could find who knew more than we did. We explored, we experimented, we practiced on ourselves and on each other. Some techniques we just made up as we went along. If one day we learned something new about energy sex that might help someone else, we went home and practiced it. If it worked, the next day we were teaching it to someone else.
It was odd to be diving so totally into sex as everyone else was fleeing the pool, but it transformed my life.
What kinds of sex education do you offer?
I write books (Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century and Luxurious Loving: Tantric Inspirations for Passion & Pleasure).
I teach workshops-everything from evening discussions to week-long intensives to professional trainings-all on the inexhaustible subject of sex and spirituality. In my Totalities of Possibilities of Orgasm workshops people learn to have orgasms just from breathing. I also have erotic massage workshops where we combine conscious breathwork with conscious erotic touch to reach prolonged ecstatic states. I have other workshops which combine the heart-filled, spiritually energizing techniques of Tantra with the intense stimulation and heightened awareness of BDSM. I offer sex magic workshops for couples and singles and other combinations. There’s really something for everyone.
I also do Sex Life Coaching by telephone. I love helping people from all over the world fulfill their erotic goals.
How did you start giving sex advice?
I started giving sex advice to my friends when I was fifteen, right after I began a four-year affair with a 38-year old married man. He was a really excellent, sensitive lover and I learned a lot. That gave me a wealth of experience in both sex and open relationships that most of my friends did not have. That’s when I realized I loved talking about sex.
Where did you get your education in sexuality?
Everywhere and anywhere-I have always been someone who learns best by doing. I love learning new things about sex, spirituality, and altered states of consciousness, so I study constantly. I also learn a tremendous amount from the people I teach.
What do you love about giving sex advice?
I get the most delicious contact high off the euphoric freedom people feel when they understand that they are not abnormal, and that they have infinite sexual and spiritual possibilities. I absolutely love watching people’s eyes light up when I give them permission to explore and enjoy all those possibilities.
What are your most common questions?
1) “Is _____ normal?”
2) “I know there is more out there sexually and spiritually. How can I learn to let go and find it?”
What is the most difficult or hard-to-answer question you’ve ever received?
It was over twenty years ago and it still sticks in my mind like it was yesterday: “I caught AIDS from my boyfriend. Now he’s dead and I’m dying. What do I do now?”
More recently it was: “I’m 62 years old. I feel an overwhelming urge to explore my sexuality before it’s too late. I have been married for 40 years and I love my wife. She has no interest in sex yet doesn’t want me to be with anyone else. What do I do?”
What is your favorite sex toy or product and why?
The Hitachi Magic Wand and the magic of conscious breath. With those two I can go anywhere and everywhere! But if I had to only pick one, it would be conscious, rhythmic breath. Breath is so powerful. It is the single most effective way to move sexual energy through your body.
How do you think your book/film/website is different from others out there?
I am so glad you asked 😉 . Urban Tantra® is a book, a website, and a brand that encompasses all my work, including my workshops.
Urban Tantra is the first truly queer-friendly Tantra book. It welcomes and encourages all forms of gender presentation, sexual expression and sexual preferences. It does not assume that there are only two genders, nor does it assume that every man has a penis and every woman a vagina.
Urban Tantra® embraces conscious BDSM practices as a form of sacred sex and integrates these practices seamlessly into the practice of Tantra.
Urban Tantra® acknowledges that Tantra is about more than sex. It encourages the reader to use their sexual energy to develop a spiritual connection with all of life.
Urban Tantra® is always expressed with humor, in down-to-earth language.
In Urban Tantra® solo, partner and group activities are all equally encouraged. Partner sex is not “better” than than solo sex or group sex.
Urban Tantra® explodes the usual myths about Tantra- such as that Tantra takes too long, there is no real hard fucking, it’s too new age, it’s a cult, it’s only for middle aged white people. This is Tantra for everyone, especially for those who think they’d hate Tantra.
Where do you teach? If you travel, what is it like? Where was your favorite place to teach? Most unusual panel or experience?
I teach all over the world. My favorite country on the planet is Australia, and as I am fond of saying, it’s much easier to teach sex in a country founded by convicts than it is in a country founded by puritans.
Australia is also where the oddest experience happened to me. It’s a very long story, but to cut to the essence of the experience, as I was preparing to demonstrate an erotic massage, unbeknownst to me, a madmen opened fire on a crowd of tourists in Tasmania, a couple of hundred miles south of where we were holding our workshop. Everyone at my workshop was in a highly emotionally and spiritually open state. When we started raising erotic energy we became a safe house for some three dozen souls who had been blasted out of their bodies by gunfire in Tasmania. Four of us-my co- facilitator and our two assistants-started channeling unexplainable sounds of fear and pain. It was loud and it was weird and it was frightening! It looked like something out of the exorcist. We had no idea what was going on-and didn’t figure it out for over twenty four hours. Since that time I have been able to comfort and counsel other who have had similar experiences in erotically and energetically open states-such as when Flight 800 went down off the coast of Long Island.
How has what you’ve done or found at Good Vibrations helped you?
Good Vibrations has set the gold standard for sex education and sex positive businesses. I simply can’t imagine a world without Good Vibrations and I shudder to think how much more sexually retarded our culture would be had Good Vibes not raised the bar for all sex shops so many years ago. When I go into any of the clean, new, sex-education focused sex shops in the world today I think how they are all the children and grandchildren of Good Vibrations.
What would be your number one piece of advice for someone interested in a career of sex education?
We all teach best what we most need to learn. So teach what you are passionate about learning. Sexuality is a vast field and you’ll never know everything about everything. The excitement is in the exploration.
What’s the best thing you’ve learned or best advice you’ve received?
The best advice I ever received was from Louise L. Hay. When I first started teaching workshops, Louise, the metaphysical teacher and the author of You Can Heal Your Life, told me, “Never play to the one person in the room who isn’t getting it or doesn’t want to be there. Play to all the people who are getting it and do want to be there.” It may seem like a simple piece of advice but it has made a huge difference in all my work. By refusing to be distracted by my inclination to pour all my resources into fixing people who do not really want my help, I am able to help all the people who do. And it’s remarkable how many people have been able to change by not having their resistance and unhappiness reinforced by my attention.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about sex?
That sex is inherently dangerous and that there must be rules, laws and codes of conduct to “protect” us all.
Which is your favorite project that you’ve worked on?
Anything I’ve done with Annie Sprinkle! Annie and I worked together for many years on many projects. Some of the highlights were her infamous one-woman performance piece, Post-Porn Modernist, the videos Sluts & Goddesses and Amazing World of Orgasm and MetaMorphosex, a wild week-long workshop we co-created which culminated in ritual performances. People are still trying to figure out if it was a performance piece, a pagan ritual or an orgy. (The answer is “yes”.)
What is your best piece of sex advice for women?
Practice self-loving. Practice a lot. It’s the best way to find out how our body works and what turns you on. Betty Dodson is the great pioneer in this area. Check our her books, videos and web site.
What projects are you working on now?
I am writing a new book about how to transform sexual fears, inhibitions and limitations into infinite sexual and spiritual possibilities. It is a book of permission and possibilities. Everyone will be able to find their place on the huge spectrum of “normal” rather than feeling like freak or a pervert.
I’ve also founded the Urban Tantra® Professional Training Program. The next training will be in San Francisco in May 2010.
And I’m preparing a gift edition of Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century.
Where can people find out more about you?
You can find me by name on Facebook.