Could you undress in a room full of people and allow a stranger to get you off?
We are in this brightly lit studio for a class on Orgasmic Meditation, known to its followers as OM: ‘I feel hot sparks in my nipples!’ yells a woman with blonde hair behind me. ‘My heart is racing!’ cries a younger girl in black jeans. In front of us, only metres away, a woman is stimulating another woman’s clitoris. The instructor – or ‘stroker’ – Rosa, is in her twenties and fully clothed, except for shoes. ‘Keep breathing!’ she exclaims. The owner of the clitoris, Smitta*, is a voluptuous woman in her thirties, wearing nothing from the waist down. Her legs are spread and, from a double row of chairs where the audience is seated, we can see every detail of her labia.
Rosa strokes. Smitta moans. And onlookers gasps report of their own corresponding arousal. There are 15 men and women, aged mostly in their thirties, with a rough 50/50 split between the sexes. The women are dressed in yoga leggings and skinny jeans; the men wear nondescript T-shirts and shorts.
The ‘demo’ by Rosa and Smitta will be followed by the opportunity for audience members to experience the practice for themselves in a guided ‘lab’ after-class. Each participant will be able to partner another if both agree. It is sexual, obviously, but it’s about far more than that. Fans describe its secondary effects as spiritual: it’s about mindfulness, self-actualisation and wellbeing.
Justine Dawson, former president of the US-based OM founders OneTaste (tagline: powered by orgasm) and credited with bringing the practice to the UK in 2012 as director of the London affliate, TurnON Britain sees OM as a way for women to shed any feelings of shame or embarrassment about their bodies and their sexual pleasure. It is about more than learning to let go during sex, claims Dawson. It’s motivational, helping women to spring out of bed each morning and achieve their goals.
‘If you’ve ever used sex or masturbation to de-stress, then you should be able to sense the potential power of orgasms to relax and reinvigorate you,’ she explains. ‘But our society doesn’t teach us how to maximise that potential. By practising Orgasmic Meditation, you can cultivate that orgasmic energy and channel it to fuel your daily life and give you the positivity to get things done.’
So how does it work? First, the ‘stroker’ – who can be male or female, always fully clothed – sets up mats and cushions in a precise pattern, called a ‘nest’. The stroker is said to benefit from the ‘shared energy’ and an insight to the peaks and troughs of the female orgasm. The ‘strokee’ – who is always a woman – removes only the lower half of her clothing and lies back. There’s no kissing or breast fondling. The stroker kneels to her right at hip level and begins by massaging the strokee’s inner thighs before placing his or her lubricated index finger on the hood of the clitoris – using latex gloves, if preferred. The stroker’s right hand is anchored underneath the strokee’s buttocks. The thumb’s tip is inserted into the vaginal opening, ‘for grounding’.
The clitoris is stroked for 15 minutes – no more, no less – because this is considered the ideal time to allow a full yet manageably brief experience; any longer could be ‘overwhelming, require too much concentration, or simply be difficult to fit into one’s hectic schedule’, says Dawson. The focus is then on deep breathing, tuning into the physical sensations you’re experiencing, and switching off the busy mind.
Originally devised in Silicon Valley by former Buddhist nun-in-training, TEDx speaker and author Nicole Daedone, more than 11,000 people worldwide have now taken Orgasmic Meditation classes. In addition, 450 people, including Rosa – she of the magic fingers who runs workshops in Melbourne – and Dawson, who teaches Orgasmic Meditation in London, have paid about £6,500 to train as a coach under Daedone’s watch in San Francisco. Like Daedone, Dawson studied Buddhist meditation, but found the focus on solitude and inward refection left her seeking a new method to help relate to others and the outside world. OM, with its emphasis on sharing intimate physical and emotional experiences with others, proved a revelation. ‘It struck me how it brings people together and generates a kind of electricity among them,’ Dawson reflects. ‘Before I started OM, I had to work to turn my thoughts into actions, or to make decisions. Now, I feel nourished and full of zip.’
Rosa made a similar switch to teaching Orgasmic Meditation after her first serious relationship ended. ‘I wondered why there was such a lack of connectedness between men and women,’ she says. ‘I read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and things with titles like “how to please your man”, but I felt most of the information was stifling and not true to the gender dynamics of today.’
When Rosa stumbled across Daedone’s work in a podcast, it was revelatory: ‘It was about how a woman’s sexuality can be a source of power. Rather than hiding it, we should allow it to lead us. I was really nervous the first time I OMed, but it was a really beautiful experience. The person I was paired with brought an exquisite level of attention to what he was doing. I felt like I was being seen at a deeper level than is typical in ordinary sexual encounters. Afterwards, I walked around and colours looked brighter, and the wind felt incredible on my skin.’
The instructors are now on a mission to take Orgasmic Meditation global, with group classes available in most capital cities. The ultimate goal? As Rosa says: ‘One day, I want to hear the words “meditation”, “yoga” and “orgasm” in the same sentence, without the third one being whispered.’
Back in the bright lights of the OM workshop, it looks and feels as wholesome as a Pilates class. And for Lily*, a 34-year-old single mother, it is just as rejuvenating. OMing with one man on a weekly basis, Lily doesn’t want sex or a relationship. She wants sexual connection with no strings, not no strings sex. But if she ever entered a long-term relationship again, she’d be delighted to OM in private – one-to-one workshops and online YouTube tutorials are also available.
‘I think it’s great for couples,’ she notes. ‘To reach a new level, a man has to give a woman pleasure. Once you do that, you realise you never even knew your own pussy!’
Of course, the problem when venturing into any sex-related subculture is that it brings out the oddballs. Not everyone gets the memo about boundaries. There are seven men at the workshop, and there’s a feeling that some of their motives are less about “mindfulness” and more about getting a good look at someone getting a girl off. One short man in his late thirties sits next to me.
‘Are you married?’ he stutters. I nod with a tight smile. I ask Rosa about this. ‘I think what gets men in the door isn’t what has them stay,’ she says. ‘If they just wanted to get chicks, there are easier ways to do it than a mindfulness practice. My experience has been that all that bravado drops off once they actually access the connection they’re genuinely looking for. Those who don’t make that transition tend to drop off quickly, so the community is full of open, caring guys who don’t actually give you the creeps.’
One of those caring guys is Simon, a 39-year-old IT consultant who has been OMing three times a week since July, with approximately 35 different women. ‘First, it’s about being in the presence of something that’s really beautiful,’ he says. ‘And then, it just feels good to be giving that sort of experience to someone else with a minimal outlay. I’ve learned that I don’t need to have the “ending” of actual sex to feel good. At the end, I get that same after-glow.’
A central tenet of Orgasmic Meditation is that it is goalless; the objective is simply to allow yourself to feel whatever you feel. ‘We have a very masculine model of orgasm in our culture, based on building up to a peak, then achieving a release or ejaculation,’ Dawson explains. ‘Many women’s bodies don’t work like that. Instead, sexual stimulation causes women to travel through different waves of sensation, the intensity going up and down… OM teaches people to ride this wave, becoming aware of the energy created, rather than focusing on a climax.’
Afterwards, everyone goes back to their jobs or families. But not before each person shares with the class what they’ve gained from the experience. It’s this idea of acceptance and community that Dawson claims is the overriding benefit of Orgasmic Meditation: ‘We do offer one-on-one lessons, but at group sessions, everyone benefits from the sense of togetherness. The collective energy is massive.’
As Dawson puts it, ‘OMing in a group is like the difference between singing alone and singing in a choir.’ For some people, though, going solo in the shower will always be preferable.
Originally published in Marie Claire UK