‘I went to or­gasm school’

Would you un­dress in front of a room full of strangers to find the se­cret to true en­light­en­ment?

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - @Alex_Carl­ton ALEXAN­DRA CARL­TON re­ports

‘I FEEL HOT SPARKS IN MY NIP­PLES!’ yells a woman with grey hair be­hind me. ‘My heart is rac­ing!’ cries a younger woman in black jeans. ‘There’s this taste in my mouth!’ an­nounces a woman in her 50s. In front of us, only me­tres away, a woman is stim­u­lat­ing another woman’s cli­toris. The stro­ker is a called Rosa, in her 20s and fully clothed, ex­cept for shoes. ‘Keep breath­ing!’ she says. The owner of the cli­toris, Smitta*, is a volup­tuous woman in her 30s, wear­ing noth­ing from the waist down. Her legs are spread-ea­gled and an­gled to­wards a dou­ble row of black di­rec­tor’s chairs where the au­di­ence is seated. We can see ev­ery de­tail of her labia. Rosa strokes. Smitta moans. And the ex­cited on­look­ers gasp ver­bal re­ports of their own cor­re­spond­ing arousal.

The au­di­ence is made up of 15 men and women – aged mostly in their 30s and 40s – and, of course, one rather star­tled jour­nal­ist: me. The women are a bit patchouli-and-sen­si­ble-shoes, the men are mostly in non­de­script short-sleeved shirts and shorts. They’ve each paid AUS$149 (about R1 400) to be in this Mel­bourne yoga stu­dio for a class in or­gas­mic med­i­ta­tion, known to its fol­low­ers as ‘OM’.

OMing is, well… it’s what I just saw per­formed by Rosa and her lovely as­sis­tant Smitta. It’s sex­ual, ob­vi­ously, but it’s about more than that. Fans de­scribe its sec­ondary ef­fects in the same lan­guage as any­one who dab­bles in any kind of spir­i­tu­al­ity or self-help: it’s about mind­ful­ness, self-ac­tu­al­i­sa­tion, well-be­ing. Rosa be­longs to a group called OneTaste, which is based in the US. It was founded in 2004 by

can be a source of power. Rather than hid­ing it, we should al­low it to lead us. Feel­ing good [through the act of or­gas­mic med­i­ta­tion] could be our fun­da­men­tal ori­en­ta­tion in the world.’ Rosa left Mel­bourne for San Fran­cisco in 2010 to ex­pe­ri­ence a real or­gas­mic med­i­ta­tion for her­self. ‘I was re­ally ner­vous,’ she re­mem­bers of the first time she peeled off her un­der­wear and per­mit­ted a man she hardly knew to stroke her cli­toris, ‘but it was a re­ally beau­ti­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. The per­son I OMed with brought an ex­quis­ite level of at­ten­tion to what he was do­ing. I felt like I was be­ing seen at a deeper level than is typ­i­cal in or­di­nary sex­ual en­coun­ters or re­la­tion­ships. Af­ter­wards, I walked around and colours looked brighter, wind felt in­cred­i­ble on my skin. I thought, I want to live here.’

By ‘here’, she means within the feel­ing she was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing. As it turned out, though, she also wound up liv­ing in San Fran­cisco for a few years in the OneTaste com­mu­nity. In July 2014, she took OM to Aus­tralia. ‘One day, I want to hear the words “med­i­ta­tion”, “yoga” and “or­gasm” in the same sen­tence, with­out the third one be­ing whis­pered,’ she says.

So what ex­actly is an OM? I’ve had sex, I rea­soned be­fore at­tend­ing Rosa’s class. I’ve had men bring an ‘ex­quis­ite level of at­ten­tion’ to the process – some, it goes with­out say­ing, more exquisitely attentive than oth­ers. Surely, I’d pretty much OMed al­ready, ex­cept for the ‘whip­ping off the pants in front of a room full of strangers’ part. Ap­par­ently not. An OM, as taught by OneTaste, is an ex­act process with rigid steps and bound­aries. De­vi­a­tions are dis­cour­aged – both to pre­vent mis­un­der­stand­ing and to en­sure that ded­i­cated OMers any­where in the world can find one another and OM straight­away. You can speak the in­ter­na­tional lan­guage of or­gasm.

First, the ‘stro­ker’ sets up mats and cush­ions in a pre­cise pat­tern, called a ‘nest’. The ‘stro­kee’ re­moves only the lower half of her cloth­ing and lies back. There’s no kiss­ing or breast fondling. The stro­ker hooks one leg across the stro­kee’s body and be­gins by mas­sag­ing the stro­kee’s in­ner thigh be­fore plac­ing his or her lubri­cated in­dex fin­ger on the hood of the cli­toris – us­ing la­tex gloves, if pre­ferred. The stro­ker’s other hand is an­chored un­der­neath the stro­kee’s but­tocks. The thumb’s tip is in­serted into the vagi­nal open­ing, ‘for ground­ing’. Ni­cole Dae­done, a former Bud­dhist nun-in-train­ing, TedX speaker and au­thor, who wants to bring the art of or­gas­mic med­i­ta­tion to the world. Since then, more than 11 000 peo­ple have taken its classes and more than 450 peo­ple have paid the $10 000 (about R124 000) to train as OneTaste coaches, which in­cludes a stay at a door­less com­mune where oc­cu­pants spend much time busy­ing them­selves be­tween one another’s legs. (OneTaste is yet to reach South Africa.)

The or­gan­i­sa­tion’s web­site is bright, well-de­signed and en­cour­ages peo­ple to live their lives ‘pow­ered by or­gasm!’ A bit left field, yet noth­ing about OneTaste feels grubby, ex­actly. It looks, to all in­tents, as whole­some as a Pi­lates class.

Our in­struc­tor, Rosa – she of the magic fin­gers – be­came in­ter­ested in OMing af­ter her first se­ri­ous re­la­tion­ship. ‘When my re­la­tion­ship ended, I be­gan to won­der why there was such a lack of con­nect­ed­ness be­tween men and women,’ she tells me. ‘I’d al­ways been in­ter­ested in per­sonal de­vel­op­ment, so I be­gan ex­plor­ing ev­ery­thing out there around sex­u­al­ity. I read books with ti­tles like How To

Please Your Man but I felt most of this in­for­ma­tion was sti­fling and not true to the gen­der dy­nam­ics of to­day. We live in a world where women and men com­pete in the same spa­ces.’

Rosa stum­bled upon Ni­cole’s work in a pod­cast. ‘It felt game-chang­ing. It was all about how a woman’s sex­u­al­ity

‘FOR COU­PLES TO REACH A NEW LEVEL, A MAN HAS TO GIVE A WOMAN

PLEA­SURE’

The stro­ker then strokes the stro­kee’s cli­toris for 15 min­utes – no more, no less. They might go faster or slower ac­cord­ing to the stro­kee’s in­struc­tions. An ex­pe­ri­enced stro­ker, like Rosa, should be able to bring the woman through a se­ries of peaks and troughs. Af­ter­wards, the cou­ple ‘share a frame’ – which is One-Taste-speak for ‘de­scribe a sen­sa­tion’ from the ex­pe­ri­ence. That’s what those at the Mel­bourne work­shop were do­ing as they shouted re­ports of their own elec­tri­fied gen­i­talia. Then they go back to their jobs or fam­i­lies, or meet mates at the pub. The idea is that the prac­tice is con­tained – no one is sup­posed to be look­ing for full sex af­ter­wards, or to go out for a din­ner date. It’s just what it says on the tin: a 15-minute cli­toral stim­u­la­tion. A kind of mod­ern day ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’, but with women as ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

Not ev­ery­one gets the memo about bound­aries. When I ar­rive at the work­shop, I sit my­self in a quiet cor­ner and bury my­self in my iPhone. A small man in his late 30s sits next to me. ‘Are you mar­ried?’ he stut­ters. I nod with a tight smile. There are seven men in the class, and I can’t help think­ing that at least some of their mo­tives for be­ing here are less about ‘mind­ful­ness’ and ‘ex­quis­ite lev­els of at­ten­tion’ and more about get­ting a good look at one girl get­ting another girl off. One bloke in heav­ily branded cloth­ing tells the class he wants to ‘learn tech­niques to blow chicks’ minds’. The guy who probed my mar­i­tal sta­tus con­fesses – with an air of some­one who’s had un­suc­cess­ful in­ter­net dates – is here to ‘learn about chem­istry’. Later, when the ac­tual live OM starts, Logo Man moves his chair so he can get his eye­balls ex­actly level with Smitta’s hooha.

Of course, that’s the prob­lem when ven­tur­ing into any sex-re­lated sub­cul­ture – it brings out the odd­balls. I ask Rosa about this. Didn’t she feel some were there for the wrong rea­sons? ‘I think what has men come in the door isn’t what has them stay,’ she says. ‘If they just wanted to learn how to get chicks, there are eas­ier and faster ways to do it than a mind­ful­ness prac­tice. My ex­pe­ri­ence has been that all that bravado drops off once they ac­tu­ally ac­cess the con­nec­tion they’re gen­uinely look­ing for. Those who don’t make that tran­si­tion tend to drop off quickly so the com­mu­nity is full of very open and car­ing guys who don’t give you the creeps.’

One of those less creepy guys – or so he seemed on the phone – is Si­mon. This 39-year-old IT con­sul­tant has been OMing up to three times per week since July, with ap­prox­i­mately 35 dif­fer­ent women. That’s a big com­mit­ment to get­ting a woman off, with­out any­thing in re­turn. What does he get from OM? ‘First, it’s about be­ing in the pres­ence of some­thing that’s very beau­ti­ful,’ he says of his ses­sions. ‘And then, it just feels good to be giv­ing that sort of ex­pe­ri­ence to some­one else with a min­i­mal out­lay. I’ve learned that I don’t need to have the “end­ing” of ac­tual sex to feel good. At the end, I get that same af­ter­glow.’

I also speak to 34-year-old sin­gle mother and ex­ec­u­tive Lily*. She OMs with only one man on a weekly ba­sis. She doesn’t want sex or a re­la­tion­ship. She wants sex­ual con­nec­tion with no strings at­tached. If she ever en­tered a full-time re­la­tion­ship again, she’d be de­lighted to OM with him alone. ‘I think it’s great for cou­ples,’ she says. ‘So many are so dam­aged, they’re al­most dead. For cou­ples to reach a new level, a man has to give a woman plea­sure. Once you do that, you re­alise you never even knew your own pussy!’

Oth­ers re­fute the idea that the prac­tice can al­ways be con­tained. Nina* stum­bled across OneTaste on­line and picked up the tech­nique from videos. She asked her flat­mate, a good friend, to OM with her. They dis­cussed bound­aries. Nina trusted him and felt he un­der­stood they weren’t trad­ing sex­ual cur­rency. Un­for­tu­nately, she says, he didn’t play by the rules. Nina did not re­cip­ro­cate the at­trac­tion, and the friend­ship dis­solved. She’s now look­ing for some­one more de­tached to OM with, say­ing, ‘I’m not look­ing to lose any more good friends’. Like polyamory or open re­la­tion­ships, it’s all fun and games un­til some­one wants a bit of nor­mal.

Back in the bright lights of the OM work­shop, Rosa has fin­ished her min­is­tra­tions. Smitta is sit­ting up, look­ing flushed and dis­ori­ented, as though she’s sur­prised to dis­cover she’s just or­gasmed in front of 15 strangers. The class is mum­bling their ap­pre­ci­a­tion, ea­ger to ex­pe­ri­ence the prac­tice for them­selves in the guided ‘lab’ af­ter the class. Each par­tic­i­pant has the op­por­tu­nity to part­ner with another if both agree. Peo­ple be­gin to pair and pre­pare their ‘nests’. As I’m here for purely ob­ser­va­tional pur­poses, I head to­wards the exit – pass­ing Rosa apol­o­gis­ing to a for­lorn group of men who have missed out on part­ners.

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