‘I went to orgasm school’
Would you undress in front of a room full of strangers to find the secret to true enlightenment?
‘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
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.