You know shit is getting real when the old lady next to you cries out, “I just want to get naked and lie down and have sex on that table!”
This is the “what are you ready for now?” check-in at the end of our “intro course on the art of orgasmic meditation.” My husband and I, along with about 40 strangers, have been stuck in stiff black folding chairs in a sweaty Soho loft since 10 a.m., our nerves and sex drives frayed after the AC fails to come on after lunch.
And then that awesome old lady blurts out what many in the room have been thinking ever since one of the staff members in a tight, short black dress climbed up on the massage table to have her vagina stroked for 15 minutes while the rest of us sat there watching.
My husband and I are here — ostensibly — to take part in the Silicon Valley craze that became a media phenomenon when OneTaste, the commercial face of orgasmic meditation (or “OM” for short) was written about by the New York Times in 2009. Since then, there have been dozens of other articles, including a Gawker exposé and, in perhaps the most rollicking rendition, a British tabloid just this year: “Steamy new sex trend sees women pay £147 for strangers to rub their VAGINAS.”
I took the class once before in 2014, and now I’m back because my husband is interested in the exhibitionist aspect of OM. I was interested to try it as a married woman. I didn’t come buckets when I tried it before, but now I was with the love of my life.
I also entered into OneTaste a lot more warily this time. Tipped off by the now-mandatory liability waiver, this go-around I actually read the negative Yelp reviews, the cult-education network questioning the sales tactics, the connection between OneTaste founder Nicole Daedone and Victor Baranco, and the denouncement last year by former community member and OneTaste insider Bob Gower, who wrote a fascinating account of being in a “sex cult,” which he entered “depressed and poor, and left broke and suicidal.”
I make note this time not to hand over any money and instead take the press comp (the price for “Intro to OM” runs $195) and resist my desire to purchase the $139 Signature Nest (three pillows, one zafu, one blanket) to facilitate comfortable OM-ing, the $15 branded lube for optimal stroking, and so on.
The first half of the day involves discussing our goals, hearing the LinkedIn–like details of our instructors’ lives before they spent upwards of $14,000 to become masters of the clit, playing get-to-know-you games, learning the states necessary for an orgasm (safety first!), and, finally, the live demonstration.
During this live sex show, we also get to enjoy the lusty brigade of female OM practitioners announcing how their bodies are reacting. “I feel hot in my pussy!” “I feel bubbling in my labia!” “I feel tingling in my throat!” Everyone is encouraged to participate, and my husband, eager to be a sport, calls out: “I have an itch.”
At one point during a bathroom break, a sexy OneTaste leader with a radiant Red Lady vibe approaches my husband and me. She tells us how it helps her marriage. Sometimes, she says, she wouldn’t even be talking to her husband — but they would still OM. He had 10,000 hours of orgasmic meditation.
“Jesus,” my husband tells me, “that guy’s stroked more pussy than a Bond villain.”
Before the second part of the day, there is an hour and a half lunch. It is there that my husband finally speaks up. “I mean,” he considers, “I like to stroke a pussy as much as the next guy, but there’s more to life; I’ve got shit to do.”
Spoken like a guy who is definitely not going to join a clit cult.
We return to learn the steps of OM, do more check-ins, receive access to the newly developed OM course manual (which allows you to see a giant vagina on your phone you practice stroking), and enjoy a Q&A session (“Do you have to shave your pussy?” No. “Can you do it in a bed?” No. “What about butt stuff?” What? No! That last question was courtesy of my husband).
I try to take notes throughout the day (“dime-size amount of lube,” “pull the [vaginal] hood back with your thumb,” “say something about the genitals using value-neutral language”), but then my husband asks if he can borrow my pen. He writes the following:
“Me Want Go Om.”
I believe this is a cry for help, like a hostage situation. He makes these puns throughout the day, to the severe disapproval of the Red Lady: “There’s No Place Like Om.” “Om Is Where the Art Is.” “ET Phone OM.” “Go Big or Go OM.” And his personal masterpiece, “A Prairie OM Companion.”
When we leave the intro course, I just keep thinking about the Red Lady’s advice: They kept OM-ing even when they were fighting, I thought, as if that were a solution to my fights with my husband, and not, you know, curing my terrible temper.
The day after the course, we seethe around our tiny apartment after a fight (blame Trump) until I finally insist it is time to OM.
“Let’s just do it on the bed, though,” I say.
“No, if we’re going to do it, let’s do it exactly how they said.”
So I march to Duane Reade to purchase latex gloves (if Duane Reade is part of Big Orgasm then fuck me, I give up) while he arranges our makeshift “Nest” — pushing aside our portable AC unit on our green shag carpet and scooting aside an office chair so that I can comfortably lie down as he positions himself above and to the right, his hand ready to stroke the one o’clock upper-right quadrant position on my clitoris.
He scoots a towel underneath my butt, we set the timer, and so it begins.
I realize that something cool happens when there is what OneTaste calls a “container” to a sexual practice. In this case, the container is the location (not on the bed and with the pillows set up), the protocol (gloves and lube), the time limit (15 minutes), and the language (ask yes-or-no questions: “Would you like me to move to the left?” “Would you like a longer stroke?”), and, most important, the fact that it is “goal-less.”
The cool thing is I have an orgasm.
Just don’t forget to spread your legs — and close your wallet.