Ready or not, here comes a huge dose of TMI!
I’ve mentioned it before, but for the purposes of the following story, I feel the need to reiterate that I have a tendency to jump on everynew age wuwu bandwagon that comes along: plant medicine ceremonies, remote energy healings, recently someone told me about Goat Yoga- are you kidding? I’m in! ….what can I say – I’m a ‘seeker’?!
And in the spirit of ‘seeking’,I, like many of us living through the impact of this #metoo moment, have been revisiting my personal history and taking inventory of the ways in which I’ve either empowered or disempowered myself sexually over the years. As I unpack the following experience, I realize it falls somewhere in between. I was shooting for empowerment…but what I walked away with was something more akin to compassion. Here goes:
A few years back, I asked a friend where she’d met her husband. When she replied that it was at an OM retreat, I was over the moon! Because…by Om retreat, I thought she meant a situation where you sit around and chant ‘om’ all day, maybe practice a few sun salutations… AND meet a man to boot? This is definitely my jam… As it turns out, OM is short for Orgasmic Meditation. Very. Very. Different.
What is Orgasmic Meditation? Glad you asked. If you haven’t already googled it, let me give a quick roundup:
It’s meant to be a practice of connection – usually between a man and a woman, though it can also be between two women. (since it involves stroking of the clitoris, a woman is always the recipient).
In the practice there is a ’stroker’ and a ‘strokee’ (my terms, not theirs). For the purposes of this explanation, let’s assume that the stroker is the man and the strokee is the woman.
The stroker is responsible for providing a ‘nest’. This consists of: three pillows- one for the woman’s back and two for her legs- a glove, a timer and lube. The strokee undresses from the waist down and lays in the nest. The stroker will apply grounding pressure to her legs, then he’ll provide a ‘non-value’ noticing statement about her vagina. Something like…’Your labia looks very pink and plump today’. Yes, seriously.
He then puts on the glove, applies some lube to his fingers, sets the timer and proceeds to stroke the upper left hand quadrant of the woman’s clitoris for exactly 13 minutes. Exactly. The strokee is encouraged to give adjustments: less pressure, more to the left, etc, without feeling apologetic, and the stroker is encouraged to respond with a simple ‘thank you’. It’s all very regimented and scientific, considering there’s an exposed vag involved…anyway…
…for obvious reasons, I was skeptical. Much more skeptical than I was of stranger things like burning neurotoxins derived from frog venom into my skin for ‘cleansing’ purposes. Go figure. So, like a good little seeker, I did my research.
I watched a TED talk with the woman who founded the movement – Nicole Daedone. She was a researcher and had put in her 10k+ hours on this subject, and she made some incredibly salient points about how women’s pleasure should be prioritized more, how the OM practice is rooted in our fundamental capacity for connection, and most importantly, how orgasm is vital for women’s health. Who’s gonna argue with that?
As an aside, let me also cop to the fact that, at this point in my life, I was riding on another wuwu bandwagon. I was getting my masters degree in Spiritual Psychology, and many of my peers were connecting to their Divine Feminine. Talk of communing with one’s ‘Inner Goddess’ was all the rage that year, but, as I dropped in to chat with my own Inner Goddess, I’d sadly discovered that she’d left the building long ago— likely sometime during my angry feminist phase in college– and I hadn’t caught a whiff of her since. It was definitely time for the two of us to get reacquainted.
So, I signed up for a Saturday OM intro session. I showed up super nervous, but also determined. I made an internal promise to commit 100% to whatever the day entailed. When I got there, I looked around and noticed a few good-looking, age appropriate men. And everyone present had a bit of that new-agey, open, slightly hip but not -too-out-there vibe. So I thought, ok, maybe this isn’t as weird as it seems.
I tried to maneuver my way into a seat next to one of these viable gentlemen, but because I’m always late, there was only one seat available – next to a nice man named Joe.
Oh, Joe…sweet, lovely Joe… Joe was a 68 year-old, overweight, balding, retired Los Angeles County Sherriff.
I think you can imagine where this story is headed…
Anyway, the two workshop leaders took the stage. They were a sexy, charming couple who’d met doing this practice. Another positive endorsement for Om-ing.
The leaders did a great job of explaining the practice, then proceeded with a demonstration. This is where it started to go off the rails for me: In something reminiscent of an ancient virgin sacrifice – a woman in a white robe came up onstage and laid on a table, exposing her vagina out towards the audience. The workshop leader began stroking her, and off she went. And off and, off and OFF! I’m no expert in female orgasms, but I firmly believe this woman really got off. Watching it, I felt equal parts inspired, intimidated and embarrassed.
Finally, it was our turn to try the practice. The workshop leaders had made big deal of empowering each woman in the room to feel comfortable saying ‘no’ to any stroker who asked. But when Joe, the 68-year-old retired LA County Sheriff asked me if I wanted to ‘om’, for some god forsaken reason I said ‘yes’.
Truth be told, I felt sorry for him. He’d been so kind and had been paying attention to me in a very careful and respectful way, and I could tell that he’d been working up the nerve to ask me to OM all day. I could pretend that I said ‘yes’ out of compassion, but really, I think it was out of guilt. I knew that if I didn’t say ‘yes’ to Joe, no one else would. And I simply couldn’t stomach the idea of poor Joe, having dropped the cash to be there, driving home utterly defeated.
So that’s when I began justifying the experience to myself: I thought, the true purpose of this practice is connection. And I really believed that to be the case for Joe. I mean…he was retired. Living in Pomona. Alone. Who was I to deny him this experience…?
So, alongside some other women in the room who’d stayed to practice, I went over to the nest that Joe had carefully and lovingly laid out for me, and I dropped trout. Vag out. Fully committed. And then…
I caught a glimpse of poor Joe’s face. He looked terrified! When it came time for him to do the ‘non value noticing’ of my vagina, all he could muster was ‘it’s really nice’.
Then he began stroking. I closed my eyes, trying to connect with my Inner Goddess… when… I felt something wet, dripping onto my leg. I opened my eyes to the horrible realization that poor Joe was sweating so profusely, that he was dripping sweat onto my leg. And onto the pillows. And onto my vagina. There was sweat dripping EVERYWHERE.
That was my internal breaking point. I was finally forced to ask myself: What in the actual fuck was I thinking? How did I get here? Why didn’t I just say ‘no’? And dear God, has it been 13 minutes yet?
Then I started retracing my steps. What had I actually expected from this experience? Pleasure? Transcendence? Empowerment? Because, in theory, I’m a total proponent of everything this practice stands for. But in practice, all I’d really been doing all day was emotionally taking care of Joe.
Then I looked around the room and realized that, in that moment, the whole room/practice/situation felt like a weird intersection of spiritual, clinical and culty-weird to me.
Also- and this might not come as a big shocker- but not only was it the longest 13 minutes of my life, but unlike the virgin sacrifice from earlier, I did not get off.
But then…Something shifted.
Because, once the 13 minutes finally ended, I’d come to a HUGE realization: The experience had been empowering. For JOE. When I looked up at him, there was an unbridled look of triumph and accomplishment on his face. The man was literally glowing. The kind of glow that can only come from a new lease on life.
Do I think it was my magical vagina that caused this glow? Possibly. What woman wouldn’t want to think so? But the truth is that Joe had conquered a fear. And I had somehow contributed to his triumph. And it kinda felt good.
So, looking back on this experience, I have mixed feelings. Should I have been more empowered and said ‘no’? Probably. Should I have prioritized my own comfort and pleasure over Joe’s? Definitely.
…And yet… given the opportunity to do it all over again, would I have done anything differently? The honest answer is: probably not. Because, truth be told, it did feel good to do something for Joe that day.
As we were leaving, Joe’s confidence had shot through the roof. He handed me his card and said, ‘If you’re ever writing a script and need some consultation on law enforcement, call me”. And he left a new man. And though I could’ve felt weird, violated or disempowered, I actually felt proud… of Joe.
The corollary to this story is this: When the OM workshop leaders offered us a one-time-only ‘special’ on future sessions, I bit. And though I put it off for another 2 years, I went back a second time. And I did the whole thing again, seeking the same pleasure/empowerment/transcendence, I suppose…(but that’s another story for another blog/day).
Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that this practice was not for me. But I don’t regret the experience. And if there is one take-away here, it would be: when I can show compassion for myself AND for another person simultaneously, that is— excuse the pun—the sweet spot!
photo by: Max Rovensky – unsplash.com