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I Did It For Science: Orgasmic Meditation
The partner choosing process was like the world’s worst high school dance.
by arielle pardes
Orgasmic meditation — abbreviated as OM— claims to give both partners a stronger, more nuanced experience of orgasmic sensation. The practice is steeped in both neuroscience and spirituality, with sworn testimonies that it bridges a connection between the clitoris and the mind that transcends mere physical pleasure. With regular practice, practitioners say that OM can increase libido, decrease stress, heighten sexual enjoyment, and spike intimacy between partners.
It’s like yoga for your orgasm.
When I first learned about OM, I was intrigued. The science component was convincing, but I wasn’t convinced that it would change my sexual life. Would I feel the increased sensation, heightened energy, and orgasmic empowerment that OM promised? Would OM leave me in a constant state of arousal? Could OM awaken a new sensation in my clitoris? I was ready to find out.
1 hand towel
1 OM partner
On an otherwise unremarkable Saturday in New York City, I turned up to an all-day workshop called “How to OM.” The class offers the basics of orgasmic meditation: beginning with the philosophy of the practice and the techniques involved, and culminating in a (literally) hands-on attempt.
At 9:15am, I arrived at the bright, spacious SoHo studio that would serve as our “classroom” for the day. The other participants were a combination of Brooklyn hipsters, yuppie housewives, women who call themselves Sisters Goddesses, and one French man who spoke of forging the “OM sexual revolution.” I mingled for a bit before we were ushered into the “classroom” to meet our instructors, Rob and Kim.
Rob is a bearded Jewish man who describes himself as a “total motherfucker”; Kim, plump and pretty, is the messiah of orgasm. They asked us each to introduce ourselves and explain why we came, while Rob prodded and occasionally berated my fellow classmates. People spoke of wanting to unlock their sexual selves or learn to control their “wily clitorises,” to piece together broken marriages or learn how to touch a woman. The woman beside me burst into tears when it was her turn, choking out something unintelligible. Rob nodded stoically and explained that this was “orgasm through the eyes.”
When my turn came, I decided that I was, “here to see what OMing could offer me,” and Rob accused me of having a “polite problem.” He promptly diagnosed me as a “good girl who needs to be turned bad,” adding that OM could be the remedy. I nodded politely.
For the next few hours, Rob and Kim explained the philosophy of the practice, which is at once paradoxical (“it’s not sex, it’s orgasm!”) and poetic (“you must stroke at the speed of sensation!”). OM doesn’t aim for a big-bang climax. The idea, rather, is to ride the wave of orgasmic sensation for the duration of the fifteen-minute meditation, feeling the sensations peak and dip. The key is in stimulating the “1 o’clock spot,” or the upper-right quadrant of the clitoris. OMers claim that the clitoris can be divided into ten discrete sections, each of which elicit different sensations. Stroking comes in various speeds and pressures, but only in one combination: up down, up down. Rob sketched the Masters and Johnson stages of arousal on a flip chart, labeling each of the stages — desire, arousal, plateau, orgasm, and resolution — before circling the fleeting moment in the cycle when orgasm occurs. Then, he sketched the OM model, all loops and squiggles, like a child’s artwork. Unlike the previous model, there is no distinct climax on the graph.
“The whole thing is orgasm!” Rob explained excitedly.
Just before lunchtime, Rob gave us a live demonstration of OM. I felt more than slightly voyeuristic as I watched the demo girl hoist her skirt, slip off her panties, and situate herself on a massage table while we stared into her vagina. Rob lifted his left index finger and began stroking, with nothing more than the simple beckoning motion, while the demo girl moaned and cooed, transfixed in her own steady stream of pleasure. When it was over, a woman in the back of the room started to weep loudly.
“I want that,” she cries.
Within a few hours, we were invited to try it for ourselves.
The partner choosing process was like the world’s worst high school dance. Everyone stood up and mingled, pretending not to be eyeing (or avoiding) potential partners, ducking when the less-appealing choices came around. I’m all for orgasmic enlightenment, but I wanted a say in who would be touching my clitoris. After a few minutes, a relatively cute guy approached me and asked, “Hey, would you like to OM?” The request was as blasé as getting asked to have tea. Nonchalantly, I accepted.
My partner and I gathered our materials and began to construct our “nest.” The OM nest consists of three pillows (one for my head, one for my left leg, and one for my partner to sit upon) spread atop a yoga mat or blanket. As our fellow classmates constructed their nests, so close that they were nearly piled on top of ours, the room began to remind me of a Bible school lock-in — until I remembered that we were about to all touch each other.
“If you can get into the OM position, you’re successful,” Rob offered, encouragingly. I settled into my nest, arranging the pillows just-so, before looking up at my partner with wide eyes. I was a little wary of letting a stranger manhandle my clitoris for fifteen minutes, but since I was already “nested,” I decided that I would go through with it.
Next, the women in the room are asked to undress from the waist down. I gingerly slipped my panties off from underneath my skirt and lowered myself onto the pillows, inviting my partner to wrap his leg around me. Strangely, I felt less inhibited by my stark nakedness than my fear of what I would (or wouldn’t) feel from the OM.
The first step of an OM is “noticing,” which involves looking intently at the vulva and describing it with objective terms. With my flesh in full view, my partner stared at me for what felt like an exceedingly long amount of time — for when you gaze long enough into the clitoris, “the clitoris also gazes into you.” When I am sufficiently “noticed,” he began massaging my thighs. This process is called “safeporting,” another hallmark of OM, which ensured that I am aware of each move. “I’m going to touch your thighs now. Is that okay?” he asked. I nodded. We made small talk, and I tried to relax. Rob announced that our fifteen minute session would soon begin.
But before he could touch me, my partner was instructed to put on gloves. OM encourages this step for sexual safety, but it felt incredibly clinical for such an intimate practice. I heard the latex snap against his hands before he added a little lube to his left index finger and announced “I’m going to touch you now, is that okay?” It was like being in the porno-adaptation of my latest gynecologist appointment. Rob put fifteen minutes on the clock and asked us to begin. My partner slid his hand under my butt to “ground” me (was I about to start flying?) and then began stroking — up down, up down, up down — with the short, subtle strokes that OM requires. The sensation was mellow, and it felt more monotonous than arousing. Just as I began relaxing into the feeling, the woman beside me moaned so loudly that I burst into laughter. Back to stroke one. At this point, it occurred to me that I was half-naked, legs splayed, in the middle of a room with 50 other people, where a man wearing latex gloves is rubbing me with the same motion that is used to say “inchworm” in American Sign Language. I almost laugh again at how absurd the situation is, but remind myself to focus on the sensations in my body, the way yoga teachers remind you to “look within” during a Vinyasa flow.
Rob called “two minutes” to signal that the OM session should begin winding down and my partner lengthened his strokes until time was finally called. My partner then placed his hand over my vulva, cupping it in a way that is intended to release the blood flow in the genitals but felt instead like he was trying to expel all of the air in my body through my vagina.
When it was over, we were asked to each “share a frame,” which is the OM term for describing a single moment that felt notable during the meditation. I heard women around me saying things like: “There was a moment where I completely floated out of my body,” or “I felt a surge of electricity in my toenails,” but the best I could come up with was: “There was a moment when I felt my cheeks start to get warm, but then I totally lost it.”
Then, because it felt like the right thing to do, we high-fived: we had officially OMed.
Just like you can’t expect to reach Nirvana in the first meditation, orgasmic bliss doesn’t always come from the first OM. It definitely didn’t for me. After my partner cleaned the lube from me with a hand towel, I looked up at him with the same quizzical expression, and I felt more or less the same as I did before.
Several things about OM turned me off. The entire experience was disturbingly precise, and I found it difficult to enjoy myself when the “two minute warning” reminded me of a high school debate tournament. It was also weirdly clinical (especially the latex gloves) for a practice that always refers to the vagina as “pussy.” For most of the session, I would’ve loved to tell my partner something qualitative — even if only to say, “This feels like nothing, you idiot!” — but OM-speak is non-judgmental and quantitative, so I had to settle for, “Could you move slightly to the left, please?”
OM is, of course, a practice: the more you do it, the better it becomes. Even on the first try, though, OM taught me several valuable things. The attention to “noticing” made me want to become more attuned to my partner during sex, and the emphasis on asking for what you want so explicitly is a valuable lesson in all sexual experiences. I also felt a strange buzz inside of me for the next few days, but it’s hard to say whether it stemmed from some kind of awakened sexual energy or if I just felt like more of a badass from OMing in the first place.
At the culmination of our OMing experiences, Rob reminded us that he recommends an OM a day. The idea is to become, in a way, permanently “turned on”; constantly falling in love with everything around you.
The idea sounded appetizing. But when my partner asked for my number, I gave it to him on the condition that he and I never ended up in a “nest” again.