One Taste, profiled by Patricia Leigh Brown and Carol Pogash in the New York Times, is a San Francisco residential center where 38 men and women learn to create "the orgasm that exists between them." They do this through what they call "morning practice," a 7 a.m. ritual in which couples gather in a room, the women strip to the waist, and the men "stroke" them until they orgasm. The couples don't have to be dating — they call each other "research partners." Participants call the practice "orgasmic meditation," and say it's more about "the 'hydration' of the self" than about sex. The bulk of the article, though, actually discusses whether or not founder Nicole Daedone has a Svengali-like hold on her students.
Killing Kittens, covered by Charlotte Hunt-Grubbe in the Times of London, sounds a little racier. This London sex club is also female-focused — a man can't get in without a woman. But the women in attendance have to be "conventionally good-looking" and one in three applicants is turned away. Once they're admitted, they can attend the club's high-class parties, frequently held at members' homes, where they can drink champagne, have sex with their partners or with new men or women, or just watch activities like an amateur porn director "buffing his bits" against porn stars in the shower. Drugs and cameras are strictly forbidden, but Hunt-Grubbe and a friend found both on their respective visits. And although condoms are provided, the screening process checks for hotness but not for STDs. Founder Emma Sayle says Killing Kittens is "about women - not alpha females who storm up to men - but feminine and sensual ones who can go and dance around in their underwear and drink with no pressure and no expectations, just free to feel sexy and have fun."
There's something strange about each of the sex club articles, and we're not just talking about waistcoat-wearing wannabe porn kings. Since the One Taste article is in a family newspaper, we get precious little information about the actual sex — or at least, sexual activity — that goes on there. We have to assume that the men are stroking their "research partners'" clits, but from the article it might as well be their hair. Brown and Pogash describe one man's fingering activities as "his task," and the most graphic they get is this description of a Buddhist's "contemplative sexuality" practice: "He invited her to lie down unclothed, set a timer and, while stroking her, proceeded to narrate in tender detail the beauty he saw, the colors that went from coral, to deep rose, to pearlescent pink." Sounds pretty, but the whole article left us feeling a little teased.
Hunt-Grubbe's Killing Kittens piece is strange for a different reason. She describes the clientele as "public-school [for Americans, this is like private school] products" and "high-flying" not once but twice, and makes sure to mention one member's Ferrari. Killing Kittens describes itself as catering to "the world's sexual elite," and while Hunt-Grubbe may not count herself in that number, she does let us know that she was roommates with "daughter of a diplomat" Emma Sayle at one of those oft-mentioned public schools.
Somebody once told me that everything is about sex, and sex is about everything else, and this seems especially true in these particular stories. For Hunt-Grubbe, sex — or at least one particular sex club — is actually about class. And for Leigh and Cogash, an article on a sex commune is about everything but sex. Maybe it proves that Americans and Brits are as prudish as people say — or maybe it just goes to show that the mainstream media is a difficult place to talk about the erotic.