50 Shades of Grey

‘I’d experienced sexual nirvana and I couldn’t go back’

From Craigslist encounters to anonymous phone sex and tantra, one writer recalls her journey of sexual discovery...

Words by Monique Roffey

I was in a stable relationship throughout my thirties with a man I loved passionately. It was a rich, adventurous partnership, but there was a secret that neither of us could admit to. Sexually we weren’t at all matched. It felt like a curse, this lack of physical connection. I loved him, so why not sexually too?

After four years, I brought up the subject of sex, or lack of it, and it was the beginning of the end. Six months later he turned to another woman for sexual loving. A year later she wrote to tell me of their affair and I left him immediately. How could I expect a man to live in a celibate relationship and still be faithful? And, more importantly, how could I have allowed myself to love a man I didn’t actually want to have sex with?

In the aftermath of our split, I went in search of answers. I wanted to know more about myself sexually. Was there something wrong with me?

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After unsuccessful internet dating (finding love online felt unlikely and unromantic), a male friend mentioned Craigslist, a website with a ‘Casual Encounters’ section, where people could meet for sex. I took a look at it and was horrified by what I found: mainly men looking for the kind of porn-fuelled sex well beyond my experience and imagination. But, for some reason, I didn’t log off.

One Friday night in November 2006, I scrutinised the site and found among the perverts and sex freaks, some rather nice-looking, ordinary-sounding men. I found myself writing a rather raunchy advert describing myself as a mature, vivacious, bookish ex-stripper and posting it. An hour or so later, my ad had received 80 replies. A Craigslist beginner was born.

I met up with an American man in his thirties called Professor Jack, an academic and a sexual player. We met in a bar, clicked instantly and swiftly moved to his hotel room. He undressed me at the open window, whispering sex soaked words into my neck, then we were on the bed kissing and having sex – and God it was great.

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Jack was a lover of women, an enthusiast. He knew how to be open and sexually generous, yet boundaried with his emotions. I liked how he behaved: I wanted to be like him.

After Jack, I met other men. Mostly I met them on my terms. I made sure I always let a friend know where I was going and with whom. I was able to pick and choose, spot and sort the normal guys from the perverts. What I found fascinating was how many nice, ordinary, attractive men were out there also looking for a lover.

Of the 24 men I dated, I slept with only six. A man I called Mr Wolf became a lover for about six months. I had phone sex with another man for about 18 months though we never met. I jumped into taxis sent for me, kissed men in secluded leafy squares, had sex alfresco in nooks and crannies all over London. I guess you could say I was making up for lost time.

Only one encounter was difficult. He was demanding: it was rough and loveless and I didn’t stop him soon enough. I saw the danger element to this life and knew this era had to end. I had no regrets. Using the site was wild and exhilarating, but I missed my ex. I was haunted by an epic love. Eventually my interest in Craigslist dried up.

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It was around this time in March 2008, that a friend introduced me to tantra. Initially, I didn’t like the idea. I didn’t want to get naked with a group of people in a big hall. It didn’t sound sexy.

But I was wrong about it all. Tantra as I eventually discovered, is all about connecting sexuality with intimacy and love of the self, although it took me a long time to comprehend this. I was more interested in finding a partner than loving myself.

Tantra workshops are usually gender balanced and often involve nudity. Simple games and structures place you in situations that take you to your edge – and often they have nothing to do with sex or penetration. I connected intimately with women, for example, learned to explain and set my boundaries with men and worked through issues surrounding trust.

During this time, I was intrigued to meet tantric masseurs. A tantric massage, for women, is like any other full body massage – except it includes the yoni, a Sanskrit word for vagina meaning ‘sacred place’. It involves massaging the entire body including the vulva, labia and clitoris, and the G-spot. As you can imagine, it’s an extremely pleasurable experience.

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I had my first tantric massage with a man called Karsten at a festival in Spain. Yes, I was nervous, so instead of having the full tantric massage I opted for a regular massage first, just to see if I liked and trusted Karsten.

A few days later, I went back for the real thing – and experienced hours of bliss and intimacy. After that I was a different woman. I’d experienced sexual nirvana – there was no going back to non-tantric men. This man had explored me intimately, like no man ever had. No man, until then, had ever even looked for, let alone found, my G-spot. Back in London I made enquiries in the tantric community and met another masseur, Nisarg, who became my lover, too.

My journey didn’t end with tantra. It took me into other sexual communities and practices such as Quodoushka (neo-Native American shamanic teaching on sex), swinging and light BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism, Masochism).

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Today my craigslist days that started in November 2006 seem long ago. It’s taken five years to make this journey, and transformation has been hard won. But I’ve doggedly pursued this enquiry into love and sexual intimacy.

It hasn’t been a phase, a period of experimentation that ended. It has engrossed me. It has prepared me for another Great Love. My journey is on-going – I continue to learn the art of love, sex and otherwise. I’ve discovered that being good at love is actually quite difficult: it is a daily practice that starts with the love of self, and this is the best advice I’ve received or could give another. It is practical, obvious and wise. I am finally the lover I’ve been searching for.

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