Sex on Friday

Orgasmic Meditation: In Which a Stranger Touches Your Lady Parts

Jason Hoffman/Thrillist (edited)

The perfect stranger I’d been partnered with helped me to construct a “nest” as instructed from yoga mats, blankets, and pillows. I dutifully crawled into our creation and lay flat on my back with my legs spread under the bright lights as if preparing for a pap smear. My only comfort was to look left and then right to see fellow women in the group assuming the position.

That is, until the moms began moaning.

"Symphonies of sensation"

Bohemian West Coasters have been taken by the orgasmic meditation trend; so I naturally signed up for a workshop on the subject in order to see what all the fuss was about. I imagined the Portland event to be the epitome of its fashionably weird reputation: a pueblo of patchouli-scented Russell Brands and Janis Joplins mutually masturbating on ayahuasca.

Research defines orgasmic meditation (OM) as a consciousness practice much like yoga or Pilates that helps one achieve vitality, pleasure, and meaning in life. Only difference? OM reaches its goals by focusing on the bond between fingertip and clitoris.

The homepage for one OM program welcomed me with a clip of an attractive 30s-something woman on her back, sighing atop a nest of silky pillows. The video cuts to her next to an equally attractive young man. The two are being greeted by a Yogi-type blonde in her mid-40s. After a briefing, she walks them into an earthy, stucco-brick room that looks like a mixture of my therapist’s office and a Buddhist temple. The instructor describes the different forms of stroking the clitoris as unleashing “reverences in her body” and “symphonies of sensation.”

Whoa. I was sold.

At the workshop, I learned I would be paired with a stranger who would then be coached to perform shamanic magic on my clitoris. One hell of a blind date, amirite?

Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Inside the orgasmic temple

However, my orgasmic temple was slightly different than its advertisement. The ambience wasn’t like a Burning Man teepee -- it was like a middle-aged swingers club. There was no Buddha, sage, or lavender candles; rather bleach-white walls, fluorescent lights, and metal fold-up chairs lined up in a classroom setting. There were two chairs in the back occupied by elderly women who served as our assistants.

But my unease had less to do with the decor and lighting, and more with my fellow OM students. The OM workshop drew three kinds of students: middle-aged men seeking to touch a clitoris; middle-aged women seeking to find their clitorises; and a few awkward millennials shell-shocked from the cold confines of their hookup apps. Of the dozen of us, all but four were older than my mother. This included the Crypt Keeper to my left who didn’t look a day under 80, smelled like canned green beans, took intricate notes throughout the workshop, and stared at me as if he planned to deliver me the molestation I’d dodged as a little girl.

What the hell had I gotten myself into?

To my right was a shy, college-aged kid -- my partner -- who confessed he was at the workshop to see whether or not he was sexually attracted to women.

I’ll call our instructors Tad and Velma.

Both were in their late 30s. Tad wore a beard sans mustache and Velma was a cute librarian. Her mother was one of the assistants in the back of the room who would later watch and facilitate the demonstration of Tad stroking her daughter’s clitoris. They weren’t a couple, but openly flirted as they read about OM aloud from their notebooks.

They spent most of the morning breaking down the rudimentary differences between a climax and an orgasm. According to Tad, when I laughed at him, I had an orgasm in my throat.

I understood the allure of OM for my classmates. Most were emerging from 30-year-old, sexless marriages. One woman said she didn’t develop her libido until she was 42. Forty-two! These people were from a generation pressured to marry before discovering their sexuality, leaving their genitals in a matrimonial coma. I began to comprehend that “thirst” students couldn’t quite quench before OM. They just needed to get off.

Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

The quest for clitoral enlightenment

After lunch, we were treated to a live OM demonstration for dessert. Our chairs were wrapped around an elevated rollaway bed, upon which Velma lay with her legs butterflied open to completely expose her vagina. Tad stood over her, snapped on a pair of vinyl gloves, and stuck his finger in cold lubrication. He looked over her “pussy” and, abiding by proper OM procedure, gave it three descriptions: “Your outer labia is a rose pink. Your clitoris is glistening. Your vestibular bulbs are blushing.”  

I felt like a child who had just broken into my parents’ 1980s bush-vag pornos -- except here, watching wasn’t enough. One by one, Tad called our names and we had to immediately recite sensations in our body.

“My vagina is engorged,” one grey-haired mom announced.
“My cock is twitching,” another balding dad chimed in.
“Um. My toe hurts?” I added.

During a Q&A session following the erotic demonstration, I asked Tad what he was getting out of OM. The men stay fully clothed. Their only duty is to lightly stroke a clitoris up and down for 15 minutes. His answer was basically that he gets to touch a lot of vaginas.

I asked Velma the difference between OM and foreplay.

“There’s no expectation for anything more,” she said.

“But isn’t that the point of having your clitoris stroked? To warm you up for more?”
“You just have to experience it to understand,” she told me. “There are no words to describe it.”

Maybe I was being narrow-minded. What if OM was exactly how it was described on the website, in the books, and by the participants who invested thousands of dollars in the community? What if the moment those cold, lubed vinyl gloves brushed my clitoris, tears flowed down my eyes and changed my life forever?

There was only one way to find out.

As I lay in my nest, my poor partner -- who I’m completely certain had never touched a clitoris in his life -- awkwardly poked my lady parts as Tad and Velma stood over his shoulders to give him more detailed instructions. The whole place felt more like a legal brothel for the sexually inexperienced, masked with a zen façade that unfairly drags yoga and meditation through the mud. Its spiritual awakening is the Santa Claus, the Jesus, and the lucky penny for gullible believers.

And for the first time in my life, I didn’t want an orgasm.

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Maggie Young is a Navy veteran, Berkeley graduate, author of Just Another Number, and sex-positive feminist who will never again pay an entry fee to get her clitoris stroked. Keep up with her at The Maggie Young.