It Appears I Have Joined A Special Masturbation Society

Last Wednesday I walked into an event space in SoHo, sweaty, tired, a liiitle bit tipsy (perhaps explaining the sweaty fatigue), halfway expecting to run away screaming with my pants down. Literally.

I was at a TurnON event run by the people at OneTaste, who help people engage with their inner sexy and to be present, honest, and orgasmic in every corner of their life. They also teach people how to masturbate together in a yoga studio (much more on this later).

There were so many stars aligning to bring me into this room. My friend Maya Gilbert invited me. Maya is a close family friend and was my babysitter for a short while when I was about ten. Somewhere around that time, I had just discovered my vagina. I was actually obsessed with it. Looking at it, playing with it, just generally exploring it at pretty much every chance I got. The classmates with whom I tried to share my curiosity about masturbation ended up spreading awful rumors that I was weird and gay. Well, it turns out they weren’t totally wrong, but Maya was the first person to tell me that weird was the new cool, and I was ahead of the curve. And Maya was a popular teenager with boobs and probably the first person in my childhood to make me feel like my sexuality, however I chose to express it, was a-okay. So, I trust this chick.


Maya started advertising her involvement with OneTaste and OM on her Facebook page a few years back, and I was inspired to purchase the book Slow Sex by Nicole Daedone, the inventor of OM (Orgasmic Meditation) and founder of OneTaste. Almost immediately after beginning the book, I put it away forever. I was 21 years old at a liberal arts college that was pretty much a 24/7 orgy. How could I possibly be having bad sex? How could I possibly be having better sex? This stuff is for old folks and people who have never seen a vulva before.

More recently, my relationship hit the fan. I was feeling all pent up and like maybe I wanted to fuck everything that moved, but when it came down to it, I kind of didn’t want to fuck anybody at all. I hated all things, but I wanted all things to love me. I was raging and horny with a better relationship with my vibrator than another human being. I left my partner, got in two enormous fights with my two BFFLs, threatened to move to California, and wound up just making a Tinder account.

Just in time, Maya moved back to NYC from a stint in London and got in touch with me. I mentioned that I wanted to take an OM class, probably hoping she would forget I ever said that. Oh, and somewhere in here I got back together with my ex. This is important information for later.

Back to Wednesday: I was at the back of this classroom (a space borrowed from the organization Friends In Deed, a support community for people with life-threatening illness) and I was the only person taking notes, which was awkward. What’s funny is that I was taking notes about all of the other awkward people there, like the guy who needed me to know he’s actually just finishing his novel, the guy who wanted his “cock sucked long and hard,” or the one sitting directly next to me who wanted to have steamy, anonymous sex. While I’m describing these men in my notebook, I can only imagine what they are thinking, “Is she taking notes at an event about how to be present? Awkwaaarrrrd.” I feel it is important to note that the crowd was extraordinarily diverse. I definitely thought there would be a lot more white, urban, pseudo-hippies, and there were a few but, pretty much every age, ethnicity, and perversion was represented in this room. I can’t speak for the sexual orientation or gender identity of everybody there, but I’ll admit it felt very “usually-hetero-but-totally-down-for-whatever.”

Go figure, I got called up to sit in the “Hot Seat,” where people were allowed to ask me any question that popped into their head and I was supposed to answer without thinking. It may have been the extra glass of wine, but I honestly cannot remember almost anything that I was asked during that session, except for one, asked by Maya herself: “Do you ever get very, very angry?” Woof! Yes. That shit runs in the family. Sometimes, there are things we simply cannot deny about ourselves. While I am remiss to admit my emotional baggage on the web, I’m already about to tell you about the orgasm class I took, so here it is: I have anger issues. I left embarrassed, impressed, red-faced and sweaty-palmed. I mean, I usually have sweaty palms, but I was also completely turned on.

The following Saturday I wake up at 9 am (not a morning person), grab myself an iced dirty chai with almond milk (bad idea) and head back up to Friends In Deed for the real deal. For the low, low price of $195, from 10 am – 4 pm I am going to be learning all about orgasm. Then I am going to learn how to OM. For the first hour of me holding in my pee, OM instructors Yiya and Maya tell us about their first OM experience. Most of the small audience, containing more couples than the first meeting, appears enraptured. After lots of listening and almost nodding off, two OM experts bring out a table. An adorable faerie girl named Linda hikes up her dress, spreads her legs just so, and her OM partner, Hamsa, meticulously applies rubber gloves, a wee bit of special magic lube that they sell in the lobby, and begins stroking the upper left quadrant of Linda’s clitoris. Almost immediately Linda is convulsing, and getting red in the face, and moaning in a way I’ve never heard a lady moan before. Little short bursts of air. She is making spirit fingers in the way I imagine they are meant to be done. Hamsa’s face is contorted into something like the one all bassists make when they’re really groovin’.


Oddly though, the whole thing was very clinical. In our seats, we were like medical students watching a surgical procedure through those enormous glass windows. The audience is encouraged to shout out sensations as the OMers perform the act. I hear a lot of people saying things like “heat in the back of my neck,” and “pressure in my forehead,” “weight in my limbs.” Maybe only one person came straight out and said, “pulsing in my pussy.” Like, come on y’all, this is hot. Who here doesn’t want to go home and jump the bones of the first person whose eyes they catch on the train? I thought I was the journalist in the room, but somehow you all seem very, very calm about this. Wait…am I the perv in this situation!? When the whole 15 minutes is over, Hamsa applies pressure to Linda’s pussy (they insist we refer to vulva as “pussy” and nothing else, so, I’m sorry if that term makes you as uncomfortable as it makes me), removes the gloves, lays a small hand towel over her crotch. Bada-bing, badaboom. They answer some short questions about their experiences, and send us to lunch.

At this point, I’m pretty convinced that this isn’t a cult. Well, I don’t know, it might be. But if it is, it’s a cult full of the happiest, most well adjusted and totally open-minded folks with healthy relationships, who also all have impeccable, kind of off-putting, cultish eye contact. Like, I’m pretty sure none of them were blinking.

They send us to lunch in groups with an OM expert as our group leader. While I’m stuffing my face — as they pretty specifically told us not to do — the two couples in my group are barraging my group leader with questions. I mention that IF I were to have my pussy stroked by a stranger, I would only be comfortable doing it with another woman, and my group leader tells me that this “can be arranged.” My group leader lives in an OM house in Brooklyn where she wakes up every morning, has her pussy stroked, goes to work, comes home and does it all over again. She says she does this at least two to four times a day. I think this sounds exhausting. Also… they have a HOUSE? Okay, maybe this is a cult.

After lunch we come back to our seats and learn step-by-step instructions on how to OM. We also learn all the right terminology and reasons for doing OM in the first place. I learn that the lusty rage I had been experiencing was something OMers call “tumescence,” which sounds a lot more Zen than it really is. Tumescence is a buildup of sexual energy they claim will unleash itself in ways like getting really unnecessarily frustrated by the way your partner chews their food. Or maybe in my case, having a shit-fit when my partner is 10 minutes late to dinner without calling. They give us a mantra: “Tumescence: where the problem is never what it seems, and the solution is always orgasm.” I think I can get down with this. They also give us a new definition for the word “orgasm.” Most of us consider orgasm to be that peak moment where all your muscles contract uncontrollably and then you want to take a nap. For OMers, orgasm is all of the small and large sensations you feel along the ride, ranging from blood rushing to your face, to full body convulsions, and everything in-between. They explain all the rules about how to ask for an OM. There are a lot of rules about consent, what to ask, how to ask it, exactly what NOT to ask. You cannot OM in your bed; you must create a “nest.” Put your right thumb here, left index finger at 1 o’clock, work that thing for 15 minutes, do not have sex directly afterward… and whatever you do, never feed it after midnight.

The whole day has been leading up to this moment: everybody gets to OM. After spending six hours discussing and watching orgasms, I’m tumesced to the max and I need to get the fuck out of dodge. For whatever reason, none of the eye-contact queens can fathom why I wouldn’t want my pussy stroked by a total stranger — male, female or otherwise — in a room full of more strangers. So, I run (literally run) out and call my partner and tell them to get their fine ass to my house A.S.A.P.

They are very confused about the makeshift yoga mat nest thingy I have Macgyver-ed on my bedroom floor, but I hastily explain all the rules and I’m like “get to work, bitch.” And you know what? Even though I’m pretty sure we broke half the rules, that shit was the bomb. I didn’t have nearly the experience it appeared Linda and Hamsa did, but apparently they have the equivalent of black belts in OM, so all things considered I think we did all right.


TL;DR If you and your partner each have $190 to drop, you can join a cult* where you learn to come all day, make eerie eye contact, and you can even do it with a bunch of strangers.

*not a cult

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Hannah Hodson

Hannah Hodson is a 22-year old Brooklyn-bred writer and actor. She graduated Hampshire College with a very valuable BA in Theatre and Black Studies. She currently resides in DUMBO, Brooklyn, where she admires the view while writing poetry about gentrification, climate change, race, class and other heavy stuff, but tries to keep a positive outlook on it all. She recently met Abbi and Ilana from Broad City (IRL), and has photos to prove it. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter, for her thoughts on Beyonce.

Hannah has written 36 articles for us.



    (Except not really)

    (Because yeast infections)

    (please don’t warn my joke about yeast infections, I got it)



      i’m kidding obviously i only wash my vagina with mashed banana

  2. dude, yes. I love talking about orgasms/exploring the different kinds of orgasms a sex partner can have, I would join their orgasm house in a HEARTBEAT.

    The OM way is eerily similar to the way I masturbate, down to the “upper left quadrant,” writhing and hand clenching. I wonder if that’s a common sweet spot? I’m curious now, let’s be friends and talk about our orgasm experiences!

    • It totally is THE sweet spot. The upper left quadrant is where all your clitoral nerve endings spiral into a point. And, according the the folks at OneTaste, after you’ve OM’d a bunch, it “opens up” (I’m imagining sort of like a flower bud), and then you can explore all the other points. I don’t know if this is metaphorical or physiological but it sounds quite nice.

      • wondering if I can put OM Expert on a business card. unless they have a certification process. OM Enthusiast?

      • There are analogous nerves for external bits, I’m going to consult my resident sexologist friend and report back.

  3. I think it is safe to say that you are really taking full advantage of all the cultural experiences New York has to offer.

  4. I honestly don’t know if I could ever do this but again I can always say “CHARGE IT TO EXPERIENCE!”

  5. This was written so well. It was perfectly informative and hilarious.
    I wouldn’t want my pussy stroked in any clinical sense, so good call on the last part, haha.

  6. Loving your stuff, Hannah.

    I get just as excited to read something with your name on it as I do when I see Mey’s name.

    And I love me some Mey.

    • Um. I wish my life had a comments section for only autostraddle readers (because the rest of the internet is mean). You’re so great and pretty and thank you for making this totally worth it.

  7. WHOA I KNOW THESE PEOPLE. They did a thing down the road from my place in London, and it had “female orgasm” in the title so I attended (naturally). Except I am nowhere near comfortable enough with sex/my body to stay around for that long so I really appreciate the insight into uh… om.

  8. I’ve totally been to one of these workshops, about a year ago when they came to Austin (there’s a pretty big following here now). It was EXACTLY the way Hannah described it. To be honest, I was completely freaked out by it. I think I just wasn’t in a place where having a stranger touch me in front of other strangers would be at all healing/restorative/orgasmic for me. Still am not.

    The book, Slow Sex, however, is worth picking up!

  9. 2-4 times/day?! I don’t have time for this OM business. I’ll just handle my own left quadrant on my own time, I guess.

  10. “I’m tumesced to the max” and “pulsing in my pussy” someone please make this into a t shirt. if i attended such a meeting i think i would have some performance anxiety. everybody just sitting there, waiting for me to OM, awkward as hell.

  11. “Tumescence is a buildup of sexual energy they claim will unleash itself in ways like getting really unnecessarily frustrated by the way your partner chews their food.” Great stuff. This made me laugh, it’s literally a description of level 7+ misophonia… It describes my daily life. Nice. Of course the OM people didn’t mean it like that, but still.

  12. Am I crazy or did the headline of this piece change? Did somebody complain about “masturbation cult”?

    • Nope, you’re not crazy. Actually, Maya herself was concerned about the title. While I tried to explain that the title was both hyperbole and a joke, the folks at OneTaste have been accused of being a cult in a not so funny way before. I was remiss to change the title because the rest of the straddleverse and I have a very particular sense of humor and I don’t think anybody here actually believed they are running a real live cult. However, as I mentioned, Maya did a lot of favors for me when i was a confused tween, so I thought I’d put her mind at rest the way she did for me. It’s not as funny, but it’s also not as mean, and I don’t want to be a bully. <3

  13. Yo this is amazing and I will say that I went and did a bunch of research and “research” on it, but I can’t tell how queer-friendly it is? I mean a lot of what I found is (presumably cis-)dudes OMing (presumably cis-)ladies, and that seems like it’s sorta part of their world view. Did it feel like that to you?

    • It’s definitely not designed for queers, but it’s not an unfriendly environment either. The people at OneTaste are really interested in expanding their influence and, while most attendees are probably straight (at least at the meeting I attended in NY, it could be a whole different bag of jellybeans in the SF groups), they are 100% willing and enthusiastic about making everybody comfortable. Before the “OM” circles, you go online and choose a partner to OM with prior to showing up at the event, so if you’re queer you could totes find a same-sex friend to OM with. Like I said, I told my group leader that I would only be comfortable OMing with another woman, and she was adamant about making sure i knew they could arrange that for me. I think the only prerequisite for being a stroker is having an index finger, and the only prerequisite for being stroked is that you have a clitoris. So, I’d say it’s probably not a comfortable environment for many trans folks, bc the language is so bogged down in references to the “pussy” and its anatomy.

  14. I love the OM concept and I’d looked forward to reading the book for ages, then I tried to read it. I couldn’t get past the first page without being frustrated by the cis-/hetro-centric nature of it. I know not everyone lives in our world and there is a fair chance that the target audience is people who for those categories, but people who write about vulvas need to be better at being inclusive.

    I’ve tried reading other sections and hopefully one day I’ll get through the whole text.

  15. OM Stands for Orgasmic Meditation. It’s a paired practice the purpose of which is fostering connection. It’s paired to allow the person being stroked to surrender, even go out of control, which it is not possible to accomplish alone.

    It has been criticized for being hetro-normative but, because the person being stroked needs to have a clitoris, this criticism is perhaps a bit unfair. Strokers are usually male but many are female.

  16. I am very bothered by the fact that the person who is being stroked has to have a clitoris. I dislike the underlying principle that clit havers are somehow bound up and in need of someone else unbinding them. I also feel like there is a wonky one directionless of it that I do not like. If I am going to do any kind of sexual sharing meditation I demand equality with my partner, and my spouse happens to have a penis.

  17. I read “24/7 orgy” and immediately thought “Sounds like Hampshire College.” I couldn’t stop laughing when I read that you actually did go to Hampshire. Amazing.

  18. 1. Nicole Daedone did NOT invent Orgasmic Meditation. It was brought to the US from Southeast Asia (I forget where) through the a group called Layfayette Morehouse sometime in the 1970s. In her TED Talk, Nicole Daedone explains meeting someone at a party who introduced her to it.

    2. Yes, it’s a very unusual, often very awkward practice. However, I’ve witnessed that sustained practicing has had amazing affects on people. People learn to turn inwards, self examine, and learn to ask for what they really want. People (especially hetero guys) learn to slow down and listen. It’s kind of a short cut to some of the stuff that tantra teaches.

    But, no, Nicole Daedone didn’t invent it. I hope everyone tries it!

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