Sex commune and the city
Ah, San Francisco, you gotta love this town. And loving it must include acknowledging that from time to time certain of its, um, cultural stimulations can seem a bit absurd. This was on display yesterday in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times, which reported on the One Taste Urban Retreat Center, a 38-member live-play arrangement housed in “a shabby-chic loft building” in the city’s South of Market district. Its men and women (their average age the late 20s, the Times says) make meals together, practice yoga and meditation, and run communication workshops for groups of visitors. Oh, and also:
At 7 a.m. each day, as the rest of America is eating Cheerios or trying to face gridlock without hyperventilating, about a dozen women, naked from the waist down, lie with eyes closed in a velvet-curtained room, while clothed men huddle over them, stroking them in a ritual known as orgasmic meditation — “OMing,” for short. The couples, who may or may not be romantically involved, call one another “research partners.”
Apparently there are benefits to this of all sorts. One recently divorced man, “a baby-faced 50-year-old Silicon Valley engineer,” told the Times that “the practice of manually fixing his attention on a tiny spot of a woman’s body improves his concentration at work.”
Past practices at the center, which has been operating for over four years, include naked yoga. Anyone who has ever participated in a public yoga class knows this would be a remarkably ill-advised idea, no matter the direction in which it might be stretched. One Taste reportedly discontinued it after word got around and “many voyeuristic non-yogis showed up.” (Ya don’t say.)
San Francisco and surrounds has a well-known heritage, of course, of communal sexual experimentation and spiritual seeking. As far as I know per the history books, combining the two has never led to any particularly enlightening results.
What I find intriguing about this story isn’t a matter of morals or taste — it’s that the language and marketing themes are age-old, and not newly convincing. One Taste’s web site says that “Orgasmic meditation is a technique that develops mindfulness, concentration, connectedness and insight in a paired practice that focuses on sensation generated through manual stimulation of the genitals.” The practice can “facilitate greater physical and mental health, deeper connection to relationship” and can even be “a method for spiritual aims.”
In the Times report, a once timid patron turned instructor speaks of “the lingering velocity of my desire and my hesitation to give into it.” The proprietor and leader, Nicole Daedone, admits “a high potential for this to be a cult.” And while the article notes toward the end that Daedone’s current boyfriend, a wealthy software entrepreneur, “makes financial resources available” in support of the business, curiously, one stone remains unturned: cash flow. One Taste’s own program listings are also conspicuously absent information about what its participants are required to pay.