STROKE IT

03.05.16 5:05 AM ET

Is Orgasmic Meditation a Cult?

Fans say it helps women experience better, more frequent orgasms. Critics say it’s overblown marketing.

Searching for inner peace? For a growing number of people, 15 minutes of disciplined, deep, intense clitoral stimulation seems to do the trick.

Branded “Orgasmic Meditation” (or OM), the ritual proffered by entrepreneur Nicole Daedone and her organization OneTaste has been spreading from their San Francisco headquarters around the world with workshops, conferences, lectures, and Daedone’s book, Slow Sex.

You can find online tips for free, with their blogs, videos, and webinars, plus Daedone’s TEDx talk, “Orgasm: The Cure For Hunger In The Western Woman,” which has been viewed nearly a million times on YouTube.

But if you have $195 and eight hours to spare, you can level up with a daylong tutorial, held regularly throughout the U.S.

The basics: The woman, naked from the waist down, butterflies her legs open. The “stroker,” fully clothed, begins with a visual narration.

Sample: “Your outer lips are coral, and the inner ones pink. I’m noticing a swelling as I tell you this.” Without any other kind of kissing or foreplay, the stroker massages her upper thighs.

Then, fingers generously lubed, the stroker gently rubs her clitoris at the “1 o’clock” position for 15 minutes (sounds a bit painful); ideally, with the hood pulled way back (sounds extra painful).

Surely, without foreplay, this could be a bit… chafing? “The stroke is feather light,” explains Justine Dawson, a Canadian heading the OneTaste’s London HQ. She went to spread OM in the U.K. after British visitors to the San Francisco center proclaimed English “stiff upper lips” could use it to help them loosen up, as one might put it.

So is OM a type of “sex,” an elaborate meditation practice, a partnered form of masturbation—or something else entirely?

“It’s a practice,” says Dawson. “It’s a way of nourishing your capacity for orgasm, but also for connecting with other people. It’s a practice just like yoga and meditation. We stress that it’s not hedonistic. It requires discipline.”

It’s also important, says Dawson, to distinguish between “orgasm” and “climax.”

What most people think of as “orgasm,” OMers refer to as “climax.” And what OMers think of as “orgasm,” most of us think of as “pleasure.” Orgasm for OMers isn’t the burst at the end—it’s the whole spectrum of sensation that leads up to it.

Climax, however, can occur. “I actually did come after 15 minutes—which was a surprise. It seems that it was almost easier to climax because I hadn’t set it up as an expectation,” says Toronto writer Sarah Barmak, whose book about contemporary women's sexual exploration, Closer: Notes from the Orgasmic Frontier of Female Sexuality will be out later this year.

With regular and focused “practice,” OM apparently can help women to experience more powerful and frequent climaxes in their quotidian sex lives. Plus, OMers say both stroker and strokee enhance their ability to connect with other people on a multitude of levels.

There’s no OM equivalent for the penis. Does gently rubbing a clitoris without any physical reciprocation seem a raw deal? OMers stress that men benefit too—just in different ways.

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“Generally women have a higher capacity for sympathetic feelings, so by switching things around with OM away from the direct stimulation of the penis that men are accustomed to thinking of as ‘sex,’ we help men to enhance their sympathetic capacities,” says Dawson. “On a simple level, think of it like stroking a cat. It can feel really good to pet a cat.”

To broadcast the benefits of OM, fans sport T-shirts with “POWERED BY ORGASM” emblazoned across their chests (a macho look for sure). Those unafraid of causing social distress can also buy “THE PUSSY KNOWS” OneTaste branded T-shirts online for $20.

Shirts are just one form of merch helping OneTaste pay the bills. OneTaste lube ($15); OneTaste Signature Nest, complete with yoga mat, pillows, and lube ($139); and the canvas OneTaste Nest Bag for OMers on the go ($80), all add to the books, workshops, and conferences that are turning a one-millimeter stroke into an international brand.

Which, naturally, raises eyebrows.

Critics do not contend that the technique doesn’t work—that it does is widely accepted. Daedone doesn’t even claim to have invented the 1 o’clock trick herself; the tactic crops up in many cultures.

But the manner in which OneTaste has commercialized the clitoris massage rubs some people the wrong way. It’s not the product—it’s the marketing.

Throw in the motivational speeches, expensive retreats, and the focus on the charismatic personality of Daedone, and accusations of “cult” inevitably appear.

OneTaste is said to be less than happy with a 2013 Gawker expose titled “My Life With the Thrill-Clit Cult,” which not only critiques the $7,500 “mastery” classes and the disproportionate fees charged to men, it graphically depicts Dawson being massaged by an apron-clad Daedone as having a “Dr. Frankenstein vibe.” Not the kindest choice of words.

How do they feel about the cult label? “Whenever people come together in a way that some people find confronting, especially centered around women, the ‘cult’ accusation will come up. If you add orgasm and sexuality into the mix, that lights the whole thing on fire,” says Dawson.

To be fair, she points out, you don’t need to spend a dime to learn the practice—they provide oceans of info free online. “We have to charge for workshops so we can pay for our costs of operating that allow us to provide everything else we do for free,” she says. And what’s wrong with spending $195 to explore a sexuality practice when you might spend the same on a pair of shoes or a gym membership, she asks?

In a culture where young men learn about sex through porn, harder and faster equating to better, and the “money shot” dominates the entire act, perhaps OneTaste isn’t off the mark in preaching the virtues of slowing things down.

Just don’t expect to see “I stroked a clitoris for 15 minutes and all I got was this lousy T-shirt” cotton tees for sale any time soon.