A mum who was raped at 14 says her confidence was restored by the healing powers of tantric sex which she now teaches and swears by for its power to restore self-esteem to victims of sexual assault.
When Jennifer Surch, 50, discovered tantric sex 20 years ago she says it finally helped her to reclaim the “sexual power” she lost when she was assaulted by a man in his 20s, who forcibly took her virginity when she was just 14.
Now married to fellow tantra follower, Tony Surch, 49, a construction worker, and living in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, with him and their children Danielle, 13, and Bradley, nine, she recalled the attack, saying: “That man held me down. I was just 14.”
She added: “He was in his late 20s. That was my first sexual experience.
“He heard my pain and my cries, heard me saying ‘no’ and he carried on. I felt so very alone.
“The philosophy of tantra is that your body is your temple.”
She added: “My temple had been broken into so many times. But through tantra, finally, I learned to value it.”
Tantric sex, which is a slow, meditative form of intercourse designed to help people enjoy the sensations of the body, is born from the tantra – which embodies the esoteric traditions of Indian Buddhism and Hinduism.
It has helped Jennifer – who did not report her rape, which she prefers not to go into detail about – to grow in confidence both personally and sexually.
When she was 30, having already trained in counselling, she was introduced to the practice by a friend.
And, not only did she go on to qualify as a teacher, but she now runs the Professional Academy of Modern Tantra in Milton Keynes established in 2007.
She said: “I walked around with a t-shirt of pain on. I had low self-esteem, was rubbish in relationships, had no self-confidence. Things for so long had gone from bad to worse.”
She added: “Suddenly, when I was introduced to tantra, I had someone showing me a whole new way to reframe things. That was my saving grace.”
Throwing herself into learning all she could about the ancient tradition, which developed in India and involves yoga, mantra, meditation and rituals, as well as its unconventional approach to sex, Jennifer attended workshops and met as many people interested in the practice as she could.
Reclaiming her confidence in life as well as in the bedroom, she started her academy, teaching, running retreats, giving tantra practitioner training and individual and couples’ classes, priced from £1,200 for a four-hour individual session in Milton Keynes up to £1,800 for a four-hour couple’s session in London.
In these, Jennifer works through concepts such as eye gazing, controlled breathing, dance, yoni – the tantric work for vagina – healing and yoni massage.
She does not use physical contact with clients in a sexual way, instead talking them through using breath, touch, feathers and affirmations during sex.
People taking classes are given a student volunteer to practice alongside, with Jennifer saying many “are looking for ways to be a better partner when they find someone.”
Jennifer has even been an unwitting matchmaker – discovering that her group chat for her clients has brought together several couples, who have bonded over their shared interest in tantra.
She said: “It’s just wonderful to have brought people together, it’s heart-warming to be a part of love flourishing.
“It’s a nice feeling for likeminded individuals to share something like this.”
She added: “It’s so fundamentally important to find someone who shares this spiritual journey with you.
“And to find someone who respects your spiritual path and your core values.”
While she will help and support anyone interested in the practice, Jennifer says she finds particular joy in using tantra to help those who have been victims of sexual violence.
She said: “I love helping people to express love for themselves. Tantra helps you view your body as sacred, go into your yoni, your sacred womb space. That comes with such empowerment.”
While she estimates that she has helped thousands of people through her academy to develop more fulfilling and connected sexual relationships, she is keen to stress that tantra philosophies can be used for personal development that does not include sex.
One teenage girl has been seeing a tantra specialist for young women for the past year, to help her navigate the changes brought by puberty with confidence.
The monthly classes, which she takes away from the academy, focus on various topics such as period power, meditation and body awareness.
Jennifer said: “She works with a teacher who specialises in Tantra for girls entering womanhood.
“It’s all about being equipped to enter a new stage of your life, having self-respect and honouring your body as the temple it is.”
She added: “Her teacher focuses on cultivating a relationship with your inner world and awakening confidence.
“I’m so proud that she will grow up with so much more knowledge of the power of herself and her womanhood.”
It is a far cry from Jennifer’s own experience of growing up.
She said: “I grew up yearning to be loved and accepted. As far back as I can remember I was unhappy.
“When you grow up that way you can find yourself in difficult situations. That’s what happened to me.”
Now feeling fully empowered sexually and in every other area of her life, Jennifer swears it is thanks to tantra that she now feels so fabulous at 50.
She said: “Tantra helped me reframe what happened to me in my past.
“It’s given me the tools to forgive, to let go, and the ability to focus on creating the future that I want.
“The now is so important, and the future that I create for myself so I can live my fullest life.”
She added: “I’m no longer anchored to the past, I feel liberated and relief. I used to be locked in trauma.
“At 50, I feel so powerful and I feel so empowered.”