Spend a few years living in San Francisco and the city’s many public celebrations of sexual transgression will no longer shock you. But Sunday’s New York Times profiles a community located on Folsom Street, home of the world’s largest BDSM and leather fair, that registers as subversive to even longtime residents like myself: a commune dedicated to the female orgasm. One Taste Urban Retreat Center aims to start a female-focused “slow-sex movement”; it’s much like the “slow food movement,” only it is lady parts that are being savored.
Bright and early each and every morning at One Taste, roughly a dozen fully clothed male residents caress the nether lips of half-naked women. It might sound like the stuff of most straight women’s fantasies — save for the fact that eye contact is banned, the men are known as “research partners” rather than lovers, and it all takes place in the same room. It’s an orgy of orgasmic meditation, also known as “OMing.” Devotees explain it as “hydration” of the self and a strengthening of human connection. That search for intimacy, however, does not include reciprocation: At this stop, only ladies are allowed aboard the Orgasm Express.
Over at XX Factor, Jessica Grose rhetorically asks: “This is not to say that a woman’s orgasm isn’t an important thing, but isn’t it horrifically self-absorbed to join a commune dedicated to the pursuit?” Initially, I, too, had a negative response. Imbalanced eroticism doesn’t sound very sexy to me, and I also had a frightening flash of anti-feminists declaring the commune proof of the real feminist agenda: making men sexually subservient. But, and here I risk revealing myself as a California caricature, I generally like to take a “whatever tickles your pickle” approach to other people’s sexuality.
Besides, if anything, the residents seem sexually absorbed, not self-absorbed. These are women wanting to exclusively explore their own orgasmic potential and men interested in focusing on female satisfaction (and deriving their own pleasure from it); it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Within a mainstream sexual culture defined almost exclusively by dudely desires, I’m not so sure that it’s narcissistic to join a commune dedicated to female rapture; for some, it just might be a healthy, and maybe temporary, antidote.
Oh, but maybe I’ve just been in San Francisco for too long. So, readers, have at it.