Letters for the week of May 19-25, 2004 

Praise for our recent look at Bay Area practitioners of tantra and "sacred sexuality." Quarrels with our Nexus item.

"The Wonk of Wank" and "A Touch of Tantra," Feature, 4/21

Abolish the lowerarchy
As someone who has been practicing sex work with a healing intention for more than ten years, I am thrilled to know that Kramer has convinced the state that the whole body, including the genitals, deserves well-trained therapeutic touch. The Bay Area is ground zero of the Sacred Sexuality movement, and the consumers of adult services here are the luckiest in the world. Even a casual look on Eros Guide or Lovings.com shows that there are many sex workers who believe that their services have the potential to be deeply meaningful, or even healing.

It frustrates me that our arcane laws and cultural shame force us to separate ourselves. Whether we call ourselves sexological bodyworkers or sensual masseuses, Sacred Intimates or prostitutes, there are many of us who work with a clearly stated healing intention. We evolve that intention in trainings with Kramer, at the Body Electric School, tantra workshops, and doctoral studies in psychology. Jung said you can't take your clients where you haven't been yourself. I am continually impressed at the rigorous continuing education that my colleagues will do on behalf of the embodiment, erotic healing, and sexual expansion of their clients. Pretty impressive considering the legal (not to mention personal and emotional) risks they take.

While I certainly understand why someone teaching a newly certified curriculum in a legal gray area would want to distance themselves from prostitution in the media, it concerns me that I see the suggestion of a "lowerarchy" of shame based on the level of sexual contact a practitioner offers. Sex can be profoundly liberating and healing, or create a prison of attachment and addiction. In this regard, the personal commitment and professional intention of the provider is easily as important as the healing modality he or she practices.
Sophie Venitia, Oakland

Our bodies have to do
Thanks for Malcolm Gay's article. It was quite balanced from an outsider's perspective. Male practitioners of Taoist cultivation of sexual energy, or Joseph Kramer's work, might be broadening the palette of male sexual response. Although Mr. Gay seems to complain when he states that Mr. Kramer is attempting to "transform sex into an act that is physically demanding and interpersonally safe." One might wonder: Isn't interpersonal safety the beginning and ending of most satisfying encounters, or its lack the basis of most complaints and legal restraints regarding men?

Once one has made Taoist practices part of one's repertoire, it becomes quite disheartening to see how male sexuality is portrayed, personified, and discussed in the culture and accepted as the "norm." Unfortunately, we don't have an organized "masculinist" movement creating a body of work to articulate significant moments of cultural movements that redefine us. For now, the work of our bodies will have to do.
John-Michael Washington, Oakland

Keep studying, Malcolm
Thanks for a great feature on J. Kramer. It was enlightening, even to those of us who are CBE grads. I would HIGHLY recommend you go back and complete CBE. I do understand that some who go through have a bit of personal discomfort, but I really think you would find the things you can learn worth the temporary discomfort.
Tom Gray, Little Rock, Arkansas

Keep studying, Katy
I thoroughly enjoyed the well-balanced, nonsensationalistic articles on tantra and Body Electric. I have done sensual/therapeutic massage for men for the past seven years. I graduated from the Desert Institute of the Healing Arts, one of the finest "therapeutic" massage schools, and have always done quality work with a great deal of integrity. However, for our choices, erotic bodyworkers take a lot of crap from other bodyworkers regardless of how much we help heal our clients. I usually laugh their criticisms off while being moderately annoyed at being judged before they know a thing about my work. It often feels as though they use the "morality" of the Western world to assault bodyworkers who have every bit as much integrity as they have. However, rarely do we see such a fair representation in the press. When I picked up the copy this morning I felt so good and proud of our work. I am glad that you will be back to your practitioner. Thanks so much for giving us a voice.
John Muir O'Brien, Berkeley

"New Meaning for the Term 'Art Cars,'" City of Warts, 4/28

Incorrect Correction
In the article, Mr. Thompson states that the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society (BEBHS) is interested in purchasing the Nexus Institute. This is incorrect. BEBHS, not Nexus, owns the property where Nexus resides. In fact, BEBHS has leased the space to Nexus at below-market rates for nearly 25 years. The implication that BEBHS seeks to drive the arts out of West Berkeley is also incorrect. Had Thompson taken the time to responsibly investigate his story, he would have learned that BEBHS is interested in finding an arrangement that incorporates the arts and the animals in a way that benefits the Berkeley community as a whole. In the most recent Express, you printed a correction to the April 28 article that was also untrue. You state "In fact, the Berkeley Animal Shelter was considering buying the property from the Berkeley Humane Society." There has never been any discussion about the shelter buying any part of our property. Nor was there any effort on your part, or your reporter's, to contact me to get the facts before printing your "correction." Such careless reporting misinforms readers, and serves to unnecessarily polarize the arts and animal-welfare communities.
Mim Carlson, interim executive director, BEBHS, Berkeley

Stop the mobility profiteers
I was very glad to hear some voices for the largely voiceless artists who are being hurt by gentrification and business-first arts subsidies in Berkeley. But I'm surprised at the lack of insight into the parking garage that literally is driving artists and cultural diversity out of Berkeley. Chris Thompson should know better than to parrot the misconception that "admittedly, the city could use more downtown parking" without any voice from the many people struggling against the powerful parking lobby. While Berkeley has lost so many unique and wonderful people, projects, and places to the dot-com shock wave, there are still many who care about the intricate art of city planning with an emphasis on people, community, and the environment, rather than the bigger-is-better, rule-by-machines juggernaut which is destroying our planet, lining the coffers of the mobility profiteers while filling the coffins with those we hold dear.

The city of Berkeley needs less parking, better transit, and more car-free housing if it is to truly become a great place to live, work, and play. The existing garages almost never fill up -- and even if they did, it is not an argument for more parking. The city's own Transportation Demand Management study found that by better management of parking and setting up programs to support alternative transportation, no new parking would be needed in Berkeley.

What will bring people (rather than cars) to Berkeley is by making it a destination, not a subsidized car warehouse. There isn't space for both.
Jason Meggs, World Carfree Network, Berkeley

In our March 31 cover story about parental move-aways ("Should She Stay Or Should She Go?"), we mistakenly reported that custody evaluator Dr. Philip Stahl wrote a book on parental alienation. While Stahl has written an article examining parental alienation and its impact on children, he has not written a whole book devoted to the subject. His most recent book is Parenting After Divorce.

In our May 5 "Best Of the East Bay" issue, our item about the restaurant with the "Most Innovative Menu" contained several errors. Here is the corrected version:

Most Innovative Menu
A celebrity chef's culinary lab
Le Théâtre
1919 Addison St., #102, Berkeley, 510-644-1707

In these dark days, when the economy has scared all the cooks away from taking culinary risks, it's hard to find a novel twist among the 748 apple-walnut-goat cheese salads and New York strips with blue cheese and potato gratin. But Le Théâtre's Christine Mullen keeps pushing her boundaries. Mullen, who made her bones at Lark Creek Inn and Rubicon, spent some time in the splashier, trend-conscious New York restaurant scene before moving back to the Bay Area. Now she brings the strengths of both coasts to her cooking at Le Théâtre. Mullen takes classic French fare and creolizes it with American and North African twists, ending up with dishes such as pan-seared snapper on horseradish pomme purée with beet and hazelnut salad, or tuna tartare with pomegranate, mint, and sweet potato chips. We hope she keeps taking us places we've never been to before.


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