“I want to know what became of the changes
We waited for love to bring.
Were they only the fitful dreams
Of some greater awakening?
–Jackson Browne, The Pretender
The cultivation of sexual mindfulness
One rainy Friday afternoon in mid-summer, I traveled uptown to speak with Nicole Daedone, a former professor of semantics who now devotes herself full-time to teaching what must be one of the world’s most curious mindfulness techniques.
At Daedone’s OneTaste Urban Retreat Center in San Francisco, and at workshops she conducts around the world, practitioners gather together to do “Orgasmic Meditation” (“OM for short”) — a simple technique, really, but an odd one.
OM is done in pairs. In OM, a woman undresses from the waist down, lies on her back and receives direct clitoral stimulation from her (male or female) partner for fifteen minutes. Not to achieve sexual climax necessarily, though that might occasionally happen. Rather, just to practice sexual mindfulness for its own sake.
That’s it. That’s OM.
So why is this strange practice suddenly so popular? And why is Daedone’s book, Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm currently getting 4 and 1/2 stars on Amazon?
Sex in the 21st Century
Daedone’s work arrives at a curious point in modern sexual history.
With erotica flooding the internet, sex has become pretty much just another consumer commodity. Most Americans today are either overworked (not particularly conducive to good sex, which requires leisure) — or else unemployed (DEFINITELY not conducive to good sex). Many young people’s experience of sex seems to involve drunken hook-ups more than serious erotic exploration with a partner.
In short, it’s not a particularly sexy time to be alive. Many people’s most erotic experiences these days involve their electronic devices.
In these strange times, the field of human sexuality has become more professionalized and less idealistic. At the time of its founding in the 60’s and 70’s, sex therapy was closely linked to a more humanistic psychology. Now, after AIDS, DSM-III, the Reagan era, and the so-called “medicalization of sex therapy,” it’s a narrower and less daring enterprise.
Bringing back the body
Yet change is afoot. Various movements in sex therapy today are seeking again to more directly involve the body and the senses. One prominent research group has been exploring the application of mindfulness meditation techniques to sexual problems. Other practitioners are discussing healing techniques involving movement and dance.
Daedone’s recommendation that a woman spend 15 minutes paying attention to the touch of a finger on her clitoris seems in line with this general trend away from just talking about sexuality, and back towards living it. Though more radical than most of the work I see presented at national meetings, her work has the same emphasis on rediscovering sensuality and physicality — in a field that obviously can’t go very far without the body.
This year I managed to speak with Daedone when she passed through New York to lead a few workshops here. (Daedone’s OneTaste organization has groups in cities around the world — including in New York City. And no, OneTaste doesn’t mean what you think it does.)
Here below are my four original articles from 2012 containing my interview and discussion of Daedone and her work —
1. Nicole Daedone, Slow Sex, and the art of eating a tomato
“I bit in and I understood . . . that there were tomatoes on this planet that were worth your time. Tomatoes that begged to be really tasted — that asked you to plug into them with all your attention and all of your senses. Tomatoes that offered the richness of the earth and sky in return.”
2. On going to the place of pure feeling ”
At first, nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. I was where I always am, or was, when I was in any kind of sexuality act – I was in my head. I was thinking about whether or not I looked good. Whether I was doing this thing right. . . . And then, all of a sudden, the traffic jam that was my mind broke open. It was like I was on the open road.”
3. On being deeply nourished
“Once you become able to receive and respond to that degree of pure pleasure, at first you’re in a state of “filling up.” For awhile, yes, you don’t want to do anything constructive. But then at some point the meter on the gas tank says “full.” Then you go out and build a life based on what genuinely feels good.”
4. On Eros, spirituality, and crying during sex
It’s not hard to imagine eros and spirituality sharing some special part of the human self. In her book Slow Sex, Daedone writes about her clients coming in saying that they’re hungry for something, but not sure what it is. Feed someone who’s that hungry, and you might get some tears.
So is Slow Sex the future of sex therapy?
As Tracy Clark-Flory pointed out in her piece on Daedone for Salon, OM in its current form involves a level of public immodesty that’s going to make it a tough sell in the American heartland. So don’t count on Hope Springs’ Arnold and Kay from Omaha signing up for OneTaste retreats anytime soon.
But do count on sexual radicals like Daedone leading the way for the field of sex therapy — and for the rest of us more timid souls — as we attempt again to listen more carefully to the language of the body.
Copyright © Stephen Snyder, MD 2012
www.sexualityresource.com New York City