I wonder if this situation sounds familiar to you. You’re with a partner and things are getting, well… naked. It’s getting more and more heated when suddenly they lean in and whisper that killer question; “What do you want?”. Your mind goes blank. Maybe you’re too embarrassed to say. Maybe you’re fixating on giving the ‘right’ answer (e.g. what they want). Or maybe you have no earthly clue how to answer that question.
Now, imagine a world where expressing and satisfying your sexual needs was considered as healthy and important as getting regular exercise or eating your five a day.
Welcome to the new wellness trend – your orgasm.
Helping us understand what makes our bodies sing – and how to communicate this effectively – lies at the heart of ‘Orgasmic Meditation’ (‘OM’), the practice brought over from the States by wellness company OneTaste through their UK branch, TurnOn Britain. They are on a mission to create a world where women and men are so in tune with how to connect sexually that it has a positive impact on all areas of their life.
Sounds great, you say – until I tell you that the core practice involves women being stroked on the clitoris for 15 minutes by glove-wearing ‘stroker’. At which point you may run in the opposite direction. Fast.
Yet there’s a good chance someone you know practices OM. Since its inception, OneTaste has taught 350,000 people to ‘redefine their orgasm’. With Lena Dunham featuring the practice in a documentary last year and a slick TEDx talk by OneTaste founder and former Buddhist nun-in-training Nicole Daedone, it feels like there might be more to this than sensational headlines.
Eager to learn more, I found myself one sunny Saturday in an anonymous office block in East London, watching a woman gamely demonstrate ‘the state of orgasm’ in front of a rapt audience of 30 people. No, there was no audience participation and, yes my underwear remained on at all times.
My mission was simple – to understand why any sane person would even consider this.
“We have this archaic idea of orgasm”, explains Maya Block, Director of Partnerships at OneTaste and OMer of nine years. “This then feeds into all these other ideas – like that our bodies are broken because they don’t work the way men’s bodies do, for example, or like women’s bodies do in porn.”
“We need to re-conceptualise our approach to sexuality and our approach to connection. The idea of practice is to learn and develop your skill in this area that nobody ever really talks about.”
As bizarre as it sounds, there is logic to it. The ‘practice’ has clearly defined codified steps, the only goal being to feel sensations. Your ‘stroker’, faces away from you and follows a specific technique, wearing gloves and using a special oil-based lube. Removing any element of sexual performance allows both parties to simply concentrate on sensation. This tunes you into your body – in the same way yoga or mindfulness meditation does – and helps you understand how you work, what you want, and how to articulate this.
Contrary to lurid headlines, there is no necessity to hook up with strangers, or practice your OMing exhibitionist-style in an orgy setting. You can learn and practice with a partner at home. You can meet people through classes and try together if you wish. The company holds events and socials and runs a closed Facebook group where would-be OMers can meet one another.
So why not just have a wank? Come on – we were all thinking it. The magic – it seems – is in connection. In a world of messaging and dating apps, actual real-life human interaction is, perhaps, something we need to relearn. We crave connection – but we’re not prepared to be vulnerable, for fear of being hurt. In Maya’s experience this is not just a female issue, either. “Men are trying desperately to connect, but the things that they’ve been taught to do to are just backwards”.
Indeed, OneTaste is hoping to prove scientifically that this connection is good for us.
“Our sexual health is a huge part of our overall health – and no one is studying it”, explains Maya.
“We all know a good orgasm reduces stress – but a landmark study has just been completed to measure what’s happening in our brains during OM when we’re connecting with another person. We’re measuring the positive impact on stress and an improvement in cognitive function through connection”.
“I really see sexuality being the next frontier – going from the fast food version into a more conscious version of sexuality. It happened with the food industry with the move to organic food. It happened with exercise where we went from jazzercise to yoga”.
“We all know the experience inside of ourselves when we’re really turned on, in a moment where we’re having really great sex, or when we’re really in love, and this force is moving through us – everything in our lives just feels better. It is possible to have that be the way you always feel”.
Back at TurnOn Britain HQ, my day was a fairground Waltzer of emotion, ranging from “I feel so enlightened” to “I’m way too British to be here”. But in between panics that I’d accidentally joined a sex cult, I learned that human connection really is a beautiful thing. The conversations I was able to have here about experience, desire and fears were searingly honest, inspiring and – dare I say – transformative. I walked out with a renewed confidence in myself, without even having to remove my pants.
Walking back to the tube I bumped into a lovely 20-something man who bravely came to the course alone. He looks a little shell-shocked. “It’s so important to be vulnerable… it felt really good” he says. We hug.
Yes it’s a bit out there. Yes there’s something icky about the gloves. It’s certainly not for everyone – but frankly if this is the response it provokes in people, the world could do with a little more OM.