I was lying on the floor, naked below the waist with my knees apart, next to a stranger with two fingers full of lube. The stranger was planning to stroke my clitoris for 15 minutes, no more, no less. I was in a room full of other women, similarly splayed open like Thanksgiving turkeys next to their lubed-up, fully dressed partners at One Taste's How to OM class in Los Angeles.
Sometimes a lifetime of societal conditioning can fall away in a matter of hours. It happened to me that day at the OM class. Not in a I-drank-the-Kool-Aid way, but in the kind of way where your ideas are flipped but at the same time enhanced, it blows your mind and you emerge better for it.
Oming, or Orgasmic Meditation, is a practice taught at OneTaste, a company founded by Nicole Daedone, author of Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm. OM is a practice in which clarity, mindfulness and general in-touchedness with the universe is reached through focused touch. Specifically, the touch of a partner's hand, slowly and rhythmically stroking a woman's clitoris. Sessions last 15 minutes and the goal is not orgasm, but heightened sexual awareness. As it turns out, having someone lavish attention on this particular body part for 15 minutes is extremelyeffective at heightening sexual awareness.
The class was filled with a balance of men and women, most from late 20 to 40s. The practice was all about experiencing sensation, whatever it turned out to be, explained our delightfully upbeat teachers, Maya and Eli. Instead of the goal-oriented, orgasm-chasing sexual experience we generally go for, we were to focus on the ride, letting things go wherever they were going to go. It was about surrender to the experience.
According to the OneTaste philosophy, making focused contact with the incredibly nerve-rich clitoris can generate all kinds of electric sexual energy that can take both parties to amazing places. Additionally, the woman gets to feel safe, accepted and non-pressured enough to dive into the depths of wherever her desire's gonna take her. The man gets to explore and enjoy the more (traditionally) “feminine” sexuality of goalless sensuality, plus, quite frankly, learn his way around a woman's genitalia.
There are rules. The practice is to be distinct from sex. Practitioners set up a “nest,” with pillows, a soft cushion and towels. The stroking can't go on longer than 15 minutes, even if one or more parties beg for more. There is to be no exchanging of favors. An OM is not something a man does to a woman, but something they do together. Gloves are worn. Lube is a must. Orgasm is not defined as the few seconds of contractions we generally think of as orgasm, but rather the entire experience, starting with the first feelings of desire. The contraction part we generally refer to as an orgasm is called climax and may or may not happen.
By mid-morning we were ready to see a live demonstration. A table was wheeled out and a woman named Rachelle hopped up, lifted her dress and spread her legs. As her partner, Marcus, put his fingers to her pussy (that's what they call it there), my classmates craned their necks to see. I looked at Rachelle's completely hairless nether regions and regretted my morning grooming decision to go with a landing strip.
I didn't mind that there was a half-naked woman groaning evocatively as Marcus (apparently quite masterfully!) stroked her through what seemed to be three climaxes. My problem was with the whole group participation aspect. As a class, we were to participate by calling out our physical sensations as we watched the OM. “I feel a heat in my face,” someone called out. “I feel a heaviness in my arm,” said another. “I feel wetness in my pussy,” several women said. “I feel completely icked out by the rest of you,” I would have said.
At this point, we were sent to lunch, after which we would try the practice ourselves. Because we all knew this and most of us had not come with a partner, there was a strange pickup bar vibe to the day. For me, there was also a tremendous anxiety. What if it was like that seventh-grade dance in Atlanta, Georgia, 1977, where all my friends were asked to dance and I wasn't? Would one of the teachers have to OM with me? Would I just sit in my chair trying to act like it was OK while everyone got down to business?
It was all too much for me. When I got back from lunch, instead of mingling, I studied the commerce tables the OneTasters had set up. There were lots of higher level classes, semi-Scientology-style, that people could sign up for. A week-long intensive with Daedone cost $36,000. There was also a T-shirt that said “Powered by Pussy.” Even among this group, I couldn't imagine that being a big seller.
Finally I went up to Eli, hoping he might let me OM with a teacher. I was wishing it could it be Marcus, because that dude really looked like he knew what he was doing. He looked like a master playing a rare instrument as he strummed Rachelle. To my horror, when Eli nixed my idea about Oming with a teacher, I burst into tears.
“Just go ask that guy,” he said pointing to some guy. So I asked him. The guy agreed, only marginally enthusiastically. Oddly, the idea of doing something so intimate with a complete stranger was way more okay than I thought it would be. When you OM with someone, it doesn't mean you are dating or that you will see them again or that you are even attracted to them. It just exists in this “container” as they call it and is nothing beyond the OM itself. Eli described a woman he had Omed with in Colorado. She was a super-butch, biker-chick lesbian, not someone he was attracted to at all, but the electricity they generated together was, well, electric.
I found this idea incredibly freeing. Thus I found myself pantless and splayed open next to the lubed-up Peter*. I knew his name was Peter because his name tag said so. I found it somewhat amusing that we were wearing name tags, but I didn't say anything.
Peter was to make a C shape with his left hand, lifting the hood of my clitoris with his thumb while stroking the upper-left-hand quadrant with his index finger. His right-hand thumb was to rest on my introitus, the opening to the vagina. (You can watch a how-to video at the OneTaste website.) As we got down to it, Peter wasn't actually that close to where he was supposed to be, but instructors came around the room and guided his hand to the proper spots. I felt happy that, if nothing else, Peter was getting an education in finding a woman's clit.
As he rubbed, I could feel myself begin to throb and contract. It wasn't a orgasmic, climax-reaching kind of thing, but more an aliveness. It felt like maybe Peter's finger wasn't moving over my body, but rather that I was moving his finger. “Behold the glory of the pussy!” I thought to myself, thinking that Peter was—possibly for the first time—seeing the subtlety and beauty of a woman's body when it is alive, open and free. I felt a bit beneficent about it, like I was schooling him on something really Big and Important.
However, I am 49 years old, and about midpoint, I started feeling a shooting pain in my left butt cheek. Sciatica. Crap! I shifted my legs and shifted, but it still hurt. I finished out the session experiencing the sensation of “Ow.”
When it's all over, you're supposed to give each other a “frame,” that is, describe one moment of physical sensation you had experienced. I was expecting Peter to say something about how he had been schooled on pussy power, but he said, “I didn't think anything was happening for you until the end part when you started moving your legs around.” So. Yeah.
However, we both experienced something big, I think. It turned out it wasn't the same thing the other felt, but maybe that doesn't really matter. Peter and I ended up with a connection, of sorts, and I felt kindly toward him afterward. When he was told he had to pay $15 for the lube a OneTaste teacher had handed him, I felt kind of bad I didn't have any cash to pitch in.
In the end, I'm glad I went. It's heartening that there are so many people who want to connect on a deeper level sexually and were willing to explore. And oddly, I feel empowered that I let a stranger stroke me and that it meant nothing. As I drove home through the hideous LA evening traffic, instead of blaring the radio and getting angry, as is my usual way, I sat in silence, feeling chill and enjoying the quiet.
*Not his real name.