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Thursday, May 26, 2011

OM NOM NOM: Orgasmic Meditation Provides Food for Thought

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You've probably heard of the "slow food" movement, which encourages people to consume locally grown, sustainable meals—the opposite of "fast food." Since "slow food" began in the mid-'80s, many other "slow" movements (most recently "slow house") have followed on its heels, all embracing a general philosophy of living in the present moment, savoring experiences and resisting our society's tendency to equate "faster" with "better." It was only a matter of time before someone applied this concept to our sex lives, as author Nicole Daedone has done with Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm, published this week.

Daedone is the founder of OneTaste, a bicoastal educational center dedicated to teaching about slow sex. I first heard of OneTaste from a former Tool Shed customer who had moved to San Francisco and become involved with the practice of "Orgasmic Meditation," or OM, another term for slow sex. Then I heard of it from a student at the school where I currently work. Once I hear about something from two people in totally different areas of my life, it's officially a trend that I have to check out. I acquired a review copy of Slow Sex and read it with interest.

In essence, OM is a practice for couples where a man (this is a very heterosexually focused book) strokes his female partner's clitoris for 15-minute periods, three times a week, while both partners focus their attention on their sensations, with no other goal in mind than simply feeling and sharing.

There are some things that I really like about the concepts presented in this book. I agree with Daedone that, in general, we are too goal-oriented in our sexual practices—too concerned about going for the orgasm and disappointed if it doesn't happen; too concerned about performance and looking a certain way during sex. I also agree that we don't have much practice in truly communicating with our partners about what we like or asking for what we desire. The idea of spending a set amount of time each day or week connecting to a partner sexually with no pre-set goal sounds great.

However, in my opinion, there are ways that the practice of OM is framed in the book that reinforce negative beliefs about sex rather than freeing us from them. I invited Daedone to tell me a bit more about how OM evolved and respond to my primary concern.

Laura: You mention a few times in the book that you were part of a community of OM practitioners for many years before founding OneTaste and writing this book. Who were your mentors? Where did the practice of OM originate?

Daedone
: The technique of stroking women's genitals has been around for many years. In fact, it was an accepted medical practice for a long time. My first encounter with the stroking technique that ultimately became OM came when I met a cute guy at a party. He gave me what I thought was the best pick-up line I'd ever heard. He said he wanted to put his attention on my orgasm for 15 minutes, and I didn't have to do anything in return. I still can't quite believe I said yes, but I did, and that's how I first practiced it. I became very interested in the experience, not just physically, but mentally. I had been planning to move into the San Francisco Zen Center at the time, and I found it quieted my mind in much the same way meditation did. So I found out where he'd learned it, and went and lived with a community that was teaching it. Later I studied with a teacher named Ray Vetterlein, who became my mentor. He'd learned it in the '60s and taught it right up until he passed away last month.

At a certain point, I realized I could marry the practice with everything I'd learned along my path of personal development, from Kabbalah to Zen. So with Ray's encouragement, I took the practice and made it into Orgasmic Meditation. I changed the technique in certain ways and began to lay down a philosophy that went with it. That philosophy is what ultimately came to be Slow Sex. It's what makes OM different from other stroking practices out there.

Laura
: Slow Sex, a book about female orgasm, ultimately places the realization of that orgasm in male hands, making the man in OM practice the one who "gives" a woman orgasmic experience. This is one of several elements of the book that, to me, seem to reinforce traditional gender roles and stereotypes. Can you share your thoughts about this.

Daedone
: Absolutely. First, it is for the sake of simplicity that I talk about OM happening between a man and a woman. But the realization of the female orgasm is not necessarily in male hands—many women become strokers, too.

The practice does require a partner, however, and it's a touchy subject to say that a woman cannot experience this variety of orgasm alone. But it is the truth, for the simple reason that you cannot take yourself out of control. Just like you can't tickle yourself, you cannot take yourself out of your own volition. Being out of control is the thing we crave most. It is the experience of orgasm. That's why we enjoy climax so much: For one split second, we are taken out of the driver's seat. We lose ourselves, quite literally, in sensation.

But with climax, that experience of being out of control lasts only for a split second. The kind of orgasm that can be experienced through OM—an orgasm that is emerging as more natural to women—can last a full 15 minutes or longer. But it only works when there's another person behind the wheel. The person being stroked can ask for adjustments, but on the whole she is surrendered to the person who is stroking her and her only "goal" is to lose herself in sensation.

The position of being surrendered may sound like a traditional female role, but in fact when it comes to sex most women will tell you they're far more familiar with—and comfortable in—the service position than in the position of surrendering into pleasure. Most of us spend a lot of time in our heads during sex, wondering if we're doing it right, if he's getting off, if we're making the right sounds and movements—rather than really sinking down into the experience of feeling. Because of this, few of us are actually letting ourselves go out of control.

What OM does is to begin very slowly to introduce a different possibility—a possibility of sex beyond our current definitions. Where he might even keep his clothes on (a total reversal—is it really possible for both men and women to have a mutually enjoyable, nourishing, satisfying genital-based experience without a penis involved?). Where climax is neither hoped for nor expected. Where connection, sensation and communication are the primary ingredients. Where both partners are coming together to experience orgasm in a new way. This is the world of female orgasm, and it's a world that is shared by both partners, regardless of gender.


If you are in a heterosexual relationship and Daedone's description of the role that women often play during sex resonates with you, Slow Sex could be an interesting read for you and your mate. If you are single, queer or don't feel like you fit in a traditional gender "box," you may find many aspects of the book frustrating. I feel like there are some good basic concepts within OM that get drowned out in the book by a lot of gender essentialism that isn't really that essential.

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to
laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master's degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the
Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee's East Side.