On the nightstand next to her bed, life and sex coach Kim Anami has a rose-quartz dildo adorned with Swarovski crystals and marabou feathers on display. It’s perched on a 24-karat-gold stand, and it’s a $2,500 reminder that sexuality should never be hidden in the back room of some seedy sex shop.
“It’s a beautiful piece of art,” said Anami in a soft voice.
Sitting in a coffee shop on Granville Island, Anami spoke about tantric sex and her fearless approach to all of it. She has been a student of tantra for over 20 years and has spent the last six years teaching individuals and couples to become conscious of who they are sexually.
“If you think of your life as a pie chart, divided into sections like work, recreation, and family, your sex life ought to be a huge part of that,” Anami said.
Tantra is a philosophy that has roots in many Asian countries, including India, Cambodia, and China, and has become synonymous with the notion of a liberated approach to sex. Sex is celebrated beyond the physical; the mental and emotional components are not only embraced but recognized as integral parts of orgasmic bliss.
Tantra’s blend of mind and body has long been familiar to Anami, who has practised martial arts for most of her life.
“I’m fascinated with the awareness, cultivation, and exchange of energy,” she said, “and my martial-arts studies have helped develop that in me.”
Anami prides herself on the clean, healthy life she leads, which includes organic foods, daily meditation, preventive and alternative medicine, and, of course, a good dose of amazing sex.
For Anami, fantastic sex comes down to the ability to surrender to one’s hedonistic and sensual side, and do so without judgment or shame.
“I think sex should be one of the main places where we can be ourselves completely, nakedly, and vulnerably,” she said. “It’s where we allow the parts of ourselves that don’t come out in day-to-day life to finally emerge.”
Her raw and unapologetic approach comes from her fascination with the psychology and philosophy of sex. In particular, Anami is an enthusiast of Jungian psychology.
A pioneer in depth psychology—the psychoanalytical study of the unconscious—Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist whose work included the study of human personality and behaviour in terms of archetypes. Jung outlined five distinct archetypes, one of which he called the “shadow” and described as the areas of the unconscious that are socially unacceptable and often repressed.
“Jung explained that the more these areas and thoughts were suppressed, the larger the shadow would grow,” Anami said. She cited the example of a woman who craves being dominated in the bedroom. Her fantasy could be considered a shadow desire. Surrendering to and experiencing that submissive part of herself gives her the opportunity to occupy a more dominant, take-charge space in her day-to-day life.
This blunt and assertive approach to sexuality is seeing a resurgence, according to John Ince, co-owner of the Art of Loving store, a sex toy store in Vancouver that prides itself on being sex-positive and educational.
“In the 21st century women became really interested in wanting to have a full range of experiences when it came to sex and basically becoming more sexually sophisticated,” the leader of the B.C. Sex Party (a political party that promotes libertarian attitudes towards sex) told the Straight in a phone interview. “The same is true for men.”
Ince compares the sexual movement of today to what happened with wine in the ’50s and ’60s. “The average person couldn’t tell you the difference between a Merlot and a Chardonnay back then,” he said. “Now there are sommelier courses and an entire lifestyle dedicated to the pleasures one can derive from wine.”
Ince points to what he calls the “sexual sophistication” of the culture as an emerging movement in Canada. “This is a visible outcome of a large demographic trend becoming more sex-positive and less and less frightened about sexuality,” he said.
A few days later, in an apartment in Vancouver’s Coal Harbour, candles and vanilla incense filled the room, throw pillows and lush rugs were strewn about, and seven women drank wine, ate sushi, and discussed why they should be “fucking with a purpose”.
“So much of the things I talk about, from fantasy play to anal sex and deep-throating, is amazing and wonderful, normal and acceptable,” Anami told the women, “but it’s not random acts of unconscious fucking. Sex can be an amazing portal to self-actualization.”
Anami will be running an ongoing sexual salon series, called Sexual Savant Salons, starting on August 6 at Tart Boutique on Granville Island and continuing on August 25 at Raw Canvas in Yaletown. The series includes “The Art of Pleasuring a Man”, “The Art of Pleasuring a Woman”, and “The Multi-Orgasmic Couple”. But she hopes that people are ready to explore even more tantalizing topics, as they do in her classes on sensual domination and the use of jade eggs to strengthen vaginal muscles.
“The classes are multimedia presentations in a beautiful and sensual space, with erotic art, information, and readings that will allow people to gain insight into and improve their sex lives,” she explained.
According to Anami, when sexuality is repressed, it will ultimately come out in other, inappropriate ways, and the consequences can be terrifying.
Education and debate about sexuality have come a long way in North American culture in the past century, according to Becki Ross, associate professor of sociology at UBC, but she said there is still “a long road to travel”.
“There is abiding and unresolved contradiction between the two duelling poles in our sexual culture, causing us to go a couple of steps forward and turn around and take a couple of steps back,” she told the Straight in a phone interview.
The poles—sexual danger and repression on the one hand and sexual freedom on the other—are in a constant struggle with one another. And although Ross believes that “frank and unapologetic” discussions about sexual desire and fantasy are crucial, they are often stifled by fear and miscommunication.
One specific area that she thinks requires more attention and discussion is masturbation, which she said is a healthy and necessary aspect of sexuality.
“If people aren’t capable or interested in or skilled enough to pleasure themselves, then I can’t really imagine how they would be in a great position to pleasure someone else,” she said.
On the topic of sex advice, Ross is a great advocate of going straight to the professionals. Although she understands that it may not be a popular notion, she insists that no one could have a better perspective on and understanding of sex than sex-industry workers like prostitutes and strippers.
“I look to them as the sex professionals, and yet they are the ones who are spurned and judged, criminalized and stigmatized,” she said. “So, in fact, how far are we along the trail to a collective sexual nirvana?”
Going to an accountant for tax advice or a car mechanic for a tune-up just seems like a natural choice, but Ross explained why society has apprehensions about looking at sex workers as the authorities on the subject.
“The business is shrouded in so much moral and legal regulation that it’s prohibitive for people seeking out those experts.”
Despite the cultural challenges to facilitating a new kind of sexual revolution, Ross sees classes and workshops like Anami’s as a great means to open up the conversation and break the barriers between what is and isn’t appropriate behaviour.
She likened the face-to-face, unfettered conversations happening in these workshops to the efforts that were made by feminists in the ’60s, during the last wave of sexual uprising. Ross urged women to continue to improve their sexualprowess and said she refuses to believe that anyone should put up with a subpar sex life.
“There is no justification or rationalization to fake an orgasm,” she argued. “Why should we put up with bad sex when we could be having amazing sex, unencumbered by guilt or shame?”
Back on Granville Island at Tart Boutique, Anami picked up a beautifully crafted glass dildo that looked more like a trinket your mother would have on display in the china cabinet. She is comfortable in the space; she looks to her sexual partners as her allies, and allows herself to go on a sexual journey that few ever take.
“My aim with the salons is to create a special place for people who have an interest in exploring, learning, and exchanging ideas in a sensual and hedonistic environment. I want people to value the role of sex in their lives. And have a lot more of it!”