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Extractive “Tantra”: Reading Orientalism and Transphobia at a Women’s “Tantric Sex” Retreat


Abstract for Online Program Book (maximum 1200 characters including spaces)

In this paper, I will seek to unearth the orientalist and transphobic ontologies that inform "tantric sex retreats" and "tantric sex therapy" literatures. By analyzing three "tantric sex retreat" and "sex therapy" articles, I will make three central arguments. First, these literatures reinforce a homogenous conceptualization of "tantra," one that divides "modern Tantra" from "historical and esoteric" tantras. This framework of "tantra" concurrently uplifts a multitude of religions while simultaneously obscuring any specific historical, religious, or geographical contexts of "tantra." Second, these literatures and retreats synonymize "tantra" with "sex," reinforcing an image of "tantra" as an "exotic orient." These literatures further use Indigenous frameworks in ways that replicate extraction and covert imperialism. Third, in their efforts to reclaim "the feminine," these literatures reinforce cis-normativity by tying their conceptualizations of power and "sacredness" so intimately and inseparably from matters of biology and a womans yoni/vagina. Ultimately, these "women-centric" retreats exclude transgender women by theoretically denying them access to "touch" practices.