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Since you seem to know everything, just what is "tantric sex," anyway? --Tina S., Montreal

Cecil has been studying deeply on this question, as is only fitting. His reference sources include many learned texts on Eastern religions plus, naturally, Cosmopolitan magazine, always your best bet for the quick 'n' dirty lowdown (complete with instructions) on any topic related to sex. The new-age element has the idea that tantric sex is some ancient secret of the Orient that will give you the ultimate orgasm. But in fact all it is is prolonged intercourse (or other forms of sexual stimulation) without ejaculation.

There are many ways to accomplish this, of course. I can do it thinking about the Chicago Cubs. But your classic adherent of tantric yoga, or nowadays your reader of supermarket magazines, may do it by practicing the "Set of Nines." Supposedly the man enters his partner with nine shallow thrusts, then after a pause eight shallow and one deep thrust, then seven shallow and two deep, and so on until nirvana or total boredom is achieved. Some advise dragging this out for 30 minutes or 1,000 strokes, whichever comes first . . . goodness, one has to watch one's language when writing these columns, doesn't one? At any rate, while counting strokes during sex is absurd, it is also true that the typical American male has the sexual sophistication of a German shepherd and any technique that will get the big lunk to slow down is probably worth trying. Just spare me the Kama Sutra breathing exercises and any discussion involving the word "transcend."

KEEP ON MERKIN

The topic of merkins [May 21] came up a while ago on the IBM internal network, and a participant told of going to a bar that offered prizes to amateur nude dancers. There were a lot of rules; some made sense (no touching the customers), some didn't (pubic hair required). A woman in the party considered going up, but she shaved herself; however, the management provided merkins. She said they looked like little mustaches. The whole scene was a little too weird for her, so she decided not to dance.

--Philip Cohen, White Plains, New York

Thank you for sharing that with us, Philip. I will have you know that Cecil recently conspired to give his good buddy Charlie the architect a merkin for his birthday, something for which, Charlie's friend Anne assured me, Charlie had developed a desperate craving ever since having read about merkins in this column some months ago. Since the local sex-toy shop was fresh out (and yes, we thought of the Merkin-tile Exchange joke, too), we decided to improvise by presenting him with a large industrial mop dyed a tasteful bevy of Day-Glo colors. The classiest part of the whole production, however, was the instructions. Anne provided the safety tips and owner-registration card ("It is imperative that we know how to reach you promptly if we should discover a safety problem that could affect you"); I added hints on operation. Sample:

"Confirm that merkin is the proper size before wearing. Use of an improperly sized merkin may result in paralysis or death.

"On first use your merkin may be stiff and difficult to attach properly. Do not be embarrassed to ask for assistance. For best results we recommend that four persons be recruited for this purpose--one to grasp either leg, one to apply the merkin, and one to act as lookout.

"Once the merkin is in place, it should be appropriately lubricated using light sewing-machine oil, petroleum jelly, number two fuel oil, or I Can't Believe It's Not Butter when on sale at Safeway. Do not use so much lubricant that it dribbles in the street. Merkin should not 'squish' when in use.

"Your merkin is highly flammable. Do not use if temperature rises above 73 degrees. If merkin ignites while in use, seek assistance by running into the nearest street and shouting, 'I'M ON FIRE GODDAMIT.' Do not panic. The number of people who die as a result of burns from a flaming merkin is surprisingly small."

We had it delivered to the office. Unfortunately the firecracker didn't go off. But it was a birthday Charlie won't soon forget.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Slug Signorino.

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