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Foreplay 101

Classes in better sex



Genitals don't come with an operating manual. Almost everybody's born with them and, somewhere along the line, gets the urge to do something with them.

Unless they were raised by Masters and Johnson, people end up having sex with scant instruction save a high school biology course and some vague ideas from one or two really bold friends.

Magazines may offer a little adult education, especially the checkout line women's variety, splashed with headlines like "Sex and Size: Is He Too Big? Are You?" and "The 'Angel' and Eight Other Sizzling Positions So Hot You'll Burn a Hole Through the Bed."

If sex is worth having, it's probably worth learning about. Although curriculum around the area is scant, courses are held on a regular basis in Old Colorado City and Boulder.

Setting the stage

Mary Zalmanek conducts a monthly "Couples Romance Weekend." Zalmanek is neither physician nor psychotherapist, and although she doesn't claim to teach sex classes, "romance" is just a romantic euphemism for what our technological society calls "foreplay."

"Especially in Colorado Springs, I don't tell them to go out and have sex," says Zalmanek, founder of Adventures of the Heart. "But I'm sure that 99 percent of them do."

The Couples Romance weekends are held at a loft in Old Colorado City.

Couples (usually at least half of them married) and a smattering of singles convene on Saturday for instruction in Zalmanek's "13 Essential Elements of Romance and Fun."

They are instructed prior to the weekend to book Saturday night at one of the nearby bed-and-breakfasts. Sunday, everyone compares notes and receives further resources in the romantic arts.

Saturday night is the seminar's climax, and each couple splits the planning assignments. One partner volunteers to plan the "public" or "outing" portion of the evening (dinner, art gallery, picnic) while the other tackles the arrangements in the bedroom.

The core of Zalmanek's class is her first essential element: romance is in the heart of the beloved.

"Romantic ideas need to be individualized and special," she says. "The whole point is to make your beloved feel absolutely cherished and adored."

She uses a pyramid divided in three sections to describe her "Romance Ratio." The bottom, or foundation, comprises daily loving gestures. These can range from hugs or kisses to naughty winks or a loving gaze.

Built on that level are "dates," which Zalmanek figures should occur once or twice a month. Dates should contain unexpected elements and even the outrageous. One husband sent out a limousine to pick up his wife for an evening at an undisclosed location. A woman laid a trail of heart-shaped roses from the front door to her bubble-filled bath.

The final level on Zalmanek's pyramid is the "adventure." These should occur at least once a year, loaded with surprises and significant gestures. They will cost money and will most likely require the aid of friends and family, even outside consultants.

"These adventures are going to keep a smile on somebody's face for months," Zalmanek says. "Maybe years."

She recalls acting as a consultant for a husband who wanted to pull off a surprise anniversary weekend for his wife and himself at the same time. He completed numerous questionnaires on their favorite foods, interests and hobbies, gave the names and numbers of close friends and family, and specified spending limits.

Zalmanek arranged to fly them to Atlanta where they engaged in seven different events, all directed by pre-prepared notes in envelopes throughout the mystery hotel.

Romance takes time and money, an investment Zalmanek thinks busy people in relationships need to make.

"People have gotten so busy and it's reflected in the quality of their relationships," she says. "The longer they're together, the lower each other comes on the list. You just have to decide what your priorities are and make time."

The next Adventures of the Heart Couples Romance Weekend will be held March 11-12. For more information, call Zalmanek at 481-0270.

Now for the fun stuff

If you've passed the romance exams and are ready for a greater degree of sexual intimacy, there are more classes out there. You'll just have to drive to Boulder.

Charles and Caroline Muir teach "tantra," what they call the "art of conscious loving." The classes are more sexually explicit than Zalmanek's romance fare, but also originate from an emotional (or spiritual) basis for foreplay.

The Muirs say "sexual intimacy" tends to mean different things to different genders -- a difference that often undermines long-lasting relationships.

For women, "intimacy" usually means a closeness and deep level of communication that goes beyond material partnership. For men, the word generally connotes having sex. Thus, women seek to stimulate the soul, men the glands, the Muirs say.

Tantra is a Hindu system of yoga that is supposed to reconcile this age-old discrepancy. Drawn from various sections of the Kama Sutra and other Sanskrit texts, the system reads like both an operating manual for genitals as well as a path to higher consciousness.

The penis is dubbed "lingam" ("wand of light") and the vagina "yoni" ("sacred space"). The Muirs demonstrate various techniques and positions (fully clothed) while the class takes notes -- and eventually gives it a try in a circle around the room.

Couples are sent off the first night to try sacred spot massage techniques and ejaculation control. In fact, the first night's assignment is for the man to "honor the goddess." The next night the woman calls the shots.

Everyone discusses their progress in class.

Single people are paired up at various points in the workshop, not for sex but several exercises in tantric intimacy. Zalmanek recalls taking a Muir class in Colorado Springs in the early 1990s and having a total stranger try out an arm massage technique.

"Tantra is really about connecting on a heart level with your beloved," Zalmanek says. "It's not just about rubbing a certain spot. The love you feel while lovemaking is what makes it special."

The Muirs, who live in Hawaii, no longer instruct in the Springs. This year, their $695-a-couple weekends are scheduled for San Diego and Santa Cruz, Calif., Atlanta and London, and Boulder, May 26-28. For more information, contact Joan Boswell in Boulder at 303/544-2335. p

Tantra: The Art of Conscious Loving by Charles and Caroline Muir

The Great Sex Weekend: A 48-Hour Guide to Rekindling Sparks by Pepper Schwartz and Janet Lever

InterCourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook by Martha Hopkins

101 Nights of GRREAT Sex by Laura Corn

50 Ways to Please Your Lover by Lonnie Barbach

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