For most people, a massage ending in touch that is in any way sensual or sexual would either result in a law suit or a large tip, but for Denisa Palečkova, a professional sexological bodyworker, it just another day in the office.
“Many who are unfamiliar with my line of work associate it with dirty sexuality, they think it’s something strange and erotic,” said Palečkova, a 37-year-old wife, mother, and founder as well as co-director of Tantra world and Tantra Spa, both thriving businesses since 2002. “It’s not just about sexuality, but life in general, relationships in general. It’s like touching a new quality of life and calling people to be present in their bodies.”
Although the Czech Republic has a history with communism which supposedly insures equality for all citizens and despite getting out from under the thumb of communism nearly twenty-five years ago, many in Czech society do not believe that it is possible for a woman to merge the worlds of a career, family, and sexuality, an opinion that women such as Denisa Palečkova are trying to change.
According to the latest survey conducted by Eurostat for Q3 2009, employment for Czech men aged 15-64 is nearly 20% higher than for women. After age fifty-five women’s employment drops down an additional 21.7% to 34.8%, while male employment only drops to 58.9%. And while many women take pride in running a strong household, most find themselves torn between desires for a flourishing career or meeting society’s standards of being a good wife and mother. Out of this frustration a new wave of “sexual liberation” has been born, but both men and women question whether this is actual power or simply a new version of objectification.
“I see the power woman as a thing of the past. Now there are rich women who can have it all, but sexuality does not belong to the professional world, unless one is a sex worker,” said Pavla Jossonova, a feminism and pop culture expert and professor for the Council on International Educational Exchange. Even in regards to the pop culture world through fashion advertisements and music videos, Jossnova said that she finds using women’s sexuality as a way to attract consumers as complete objectification.
In late August 2013, Miley Cyrus set webpages and newsrooms aflame with her now infamous performance at the MTV Music Video Awards in which she twerked in nude spandex upon several of her backup dancers as well as her co-performer Robin Thicke.
“No one is talking about the man behind the ass. It was a lot of ‘Miley twerks on Robin Thicke,’ but never, ‘Robin Thicke grinds up on Miley.’ They’re only talking about the one that bent over. So obviously there’s a double standard,” the twenty-one year old singer later stated in an interview to Rolling Stone.
While many women do acknowledge a double standard in sexuality in play between men and women, they do not find power in flaunting their sexuality.
“Beyonce and Miley Cyrus might sincerely believe they are doing something liberating. It is a dead end street, though,” Jossonova said concerning Cyrus’ VMA performance and Beyonce Knowles’ self-directed and produced music videos off her title album which released in December 2013 and sold 828,773 copies world wide within three days, making it the fastest selling album in iTunes Store history.
Taking center stage in leather, lace, and little left to the imagination, Knowles does nothing to tone down the sexual vibrancy in her work, but many argue her direct ownership over her sexuality is exactly what make her videos and songs a victory for feminists everywhere. In one of the album’s most popular tracks, Flawless, Knowles includes sound bits from a TED talk speech given by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, an acclaimed Nigerian writer. “Why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are,” Adichie states over a background of bass and harmonizing keyboards.
Being ashamed of sexuality is what Palečkova says she believes is holding women back in the world, both in a professional and personal sense. After getting a degree in sociology from Charles University, Palečkova became intrigued in the world of sexuality, a field of study that at the time the university did not support furthering. Her interest in sex and its power over people and their psychology led her to the world of tantra massage, a world that she says completed her life and has shown her more new dimensions to it than she had thought possible.
On the most basic level tantra massage combines sexual energy with traditional massage techniques. On more complex levels, tantra dives into vaginal mapping, conscious love making for couples, and even offers classes and workshops in which people become certified in tantra massage themselves.
Palečkova says that the art of Tantra massage focuses on realigning the spirit with the body and that characters from all walks of life have come to her door looking for healing, or at least the hope that life can hold something deeper for them than it has in the past.
“This woman once came who told me she had never enjoyed sex, she was in her forties, was married, and had two children, and yet she never had experienced joy or pleasure in sex,” Palečkova recalls looking over to a shelf of decorative Buddha’s lining her wall, “After she and her husband attended our couples’ month long workshop though, she finally was able to orgasm for the first time, it’s not the first time we’ve had couple’s tell or write to us saying afterwards that the workshop saved their marriage.”
Past relationship therapy, tantra massage also has healing powers for those on their own. Palečkova says that the business, which has reached around 5,000 people physically, over 10,000 people online since being founded and has the cliental breakup of 65% women 35% men, has helped individuals overcome dysmorphia, trauma from sexual abuse, and the disassociation of mind with sex one often finds with professional sex workers.
“I often find that women in professional try to harden themselves, try to maculate themselves in order to prove that they are the same as men, but we are not the same as men,” Palečkova said, “Women need to listen to their femininity, emotions, and bodies, not suppress them. We should have to try and become men in order to receive the same rights or respects that they do.”
While many Czech women who prize their ability to simultaneously have strength and femininity share this opinion, almost none of them identify as feminists. Pavla Jossonova said that she believes the lack of support behind the word spawns from the misconception that feminists are the enemies of men.
Jana Ciglerova, a journalist and women’s right activist in the Czech Republic agreed. “Men find the word threatening, so I think it is men who have labeled it in this way and unlike in the United States, no one here fights back. It’s frustrating,” Cigleova said.
Palečkova says that this way of thinking is set up by the mental game of society, a game that Czech women can begin to beat by refusing to stay in just the home or just the office and demanding that they can have it all.
“Our culture is oriented to our head and as women we should be in touch with ourselves, love our bodies, be at home and accept our feelings and emotions as something valuable, not as something that stands in our way,” Palečkova explained, “ By finding a balance of gender, being both goal-oriented and emotional we will accept ourselves as humans and bring others to as well.”