A young redhead lies on the table before us, legs butterflied open, breathing heavily. “I use a lot of lube,” says Nicole Daedone, the founder of OneTaste, digging into a jar of company-brand ointment. Tan, toned, and magnetic, Daedone is a poster girl for Silicon Valley sexy. Having kicked off her strappy power pumps, the CEO sports a tight black dress and neon pedicure as she spreads her volunteer’s labia. “Look at how swollen her clit is already!” she commands the crowded conference room. Seventy people crane their necks. We are about to witness a live demonstration of Orgasmic Meditation, a.k.a. OM: the “sexuality practice” OneTaste is all about.
OM is “a way that any man can bring out the orgasm in any woman, in just fifteen minutes,” Daedone writes in her book Slow Sex — revealing both her implacable optimism and heterosexual focus. She distinguishes between climax (“the traditional definition of male orgasm”) and orgasm, which she defines as simply “the body’s ability to receive and respond to pleasure.” Daedone has a background in Zen Buddhism and mystical Judaism, but pulling aside its layers of spirituality, OM is a clitoral hand job — except, in theory, both people get off. According to Daedone’s definition, anyway.
Here’s how it works: The “strokee” drops trou and splays her legs. The “stroker,” remaining clothed, lightly touches the upper-left-hand quadrant of the strokee’s clitoris (around one o’clock, if you were facing a clit clock). That sweet spot, containing the highest concentration of nerves in the human body, is the third eye of OM. OneTaste claims to have mapped out the emotional reflexology of the entire clitoris, but their findings are classified.
Daedone’s practice developed from an epiphanous initiation by an OM evangelist she met at a party. Moved to share her newfound wisdom, she launched OneTaste in 2004, and the company now offers classes, a coaching program, private instruction, and online media products.
OneTaste charges $195 for the eight-hour How to OM Class, a crash course in Daedone’s brand of sexual self-improvement. Mostly, the workshop is attended by spiritually minded straight people seeking more pleasure and connection; even a taste of the divine. “Entering the mystery with another person,” Daedone says in today’s workshop, “is intimacy.”
She then touches the tip of her forefinger to the volunteer’s clitoris and becomes entranced, nodding her head in pace with the moans she elicits. “Speak your sensations!” Daedone implores her spellbound audience. This is called sharing frames and it’s all the rage in OM; the idea is to focus on feeling rather than “feelings” (“butterflies in the stomach” as opposed to “anxiety”) in order to free physical sensation from mental analysis.
“Burning in my chest.”
“Buzzing in my head.”
“Tingling in my pussy!”
“Heat!” someone yells in back, reading my mind. We’re crammed into OneTaste’s Soho office on a sweltering Saturday afternoon and the AC is unresponsive. At least it’s almost lunch. Then we’ll regroup for a more technical discussion, led by OneTaste staff, in preparation for the highly anticipated lab at the end … the hands-on lab.
I glance around. There are fewer couples than I expected. Most of the gender-balanced group is in their late-twenties to late-thirties, but ages range from an NYU student to an old man who naps intermittently. Somehow, all of us staring at this lady getting gently jerked off by an ecstatic entrepreneur isn’t creepy, at least for me. Perhaps that’s because professional curiosity as a sex writer had led me to try the same daylong workshop a year ago in San Francisco. After stroking a superlatively small, evasive clitoris then, I wasn’t eager to repeat my performance or be stroked by a rando, and besides, OneTaste's vendetta against vibrators is a major turn off. Nonetheless: I've resolved to confront the lingering curiosity that drew me back to OM.
Daedone advises us to eat lightly at lunch, since we're in a “highly sensitized state.” Over Aroma salads, one male classmate earnestly states his intention to connect more deeply with women. A douchey Seth Rogen doppelganger, on the other hand, is more concerned with landing an attractive partner for the lab. I roll my eyes but have to admit I’m also nervous. Soon, our folding chairs would be cleared to make room for “nests” of bedding. If I intended to lay in one — with an unknown partner — I’d better start assessing my options.
When class resumes, we practice stroking No. 2 pencil erasers. Then I pair up with the terrified Über-nerd next to me for the pre-lab communication exercise — back massages — but his touch is so bizarrely heinous that I shudder to imagine entering the mystery with him. When the massage is finally over, my resolve to be stroked has melted away. Class is dismissed. I’m about to bolt for the door (and Yelp “emergency corrective massage therapy”) when a middle-aged lesbian approaches me. Because of their relentlessly heteronormative framing, she’s decided to walk out on OneTaste — even though she’s already paid for every class they offer. Around us, sweaty men hunt for lab partners with decreasing cool, like a game of musical chairs.
“I stroked a girl in my first lab,” I reassure her. “And you can too.”
Back in the room, men are building nests. The staff is handing out gloves and lube. Panties are dropping. I’d worn a skirt so I wouldn’t have to shimmy out of jeans. As my partner and I get into position, I remember the redhead from the demo and get butterflies in my stomach. I close my eyes and prepare to glimpse God. Or get off. Or something.
And … crickets.
I’d love to report epic orgasmic enlightenment. But it just felt like someone stroking my clitoris for fifteen minutes. Someone who, unlike my hapless masseur, had the tender touch of a vaginal veteran; the experience certainly wasn’t unpleasant, if somewhat strange and clinical.
Perhaps divinity is an acquired taste. Daedone warns that “thawing” genital sensitivity takes time. OM is a practice. My first Vinyasa class sucked; years later, I’m addicted to yoga. That’s why I would try OM again with a committed romantic partner. In the meantime, I don’t plan to ditch my Hitachi Magic Wand — the old-fashioned fifteen-minute orgasm.