Can teaching guys how to give women orgasms prevent the much-heralded "end of men"? As far-fetched as it sounds, one rapidly growing organization claims that equipping men to make women come is the solution to the much-vaunted masculinity crisis.
"Learn Orgasmic Meditation and everything that goes with it," urges the website for One Taste, a San Francisco-based organization that promises to help women move beyond the pursuit of a quick climax and into the realm of the 15-minute orgasm. From its humble beginnings as a San Francisco commune, One Taste has blossomed into a successful national movement teaching Orgasmic Meditation (OM) classes across the country, from San Diego to New York. That isn't the only kind of growth One Taste has been experiencing. Though a 2009 New York Times article noted the group's "near-exclusive focus on female pleasure," founder Nicole Daedone and her team of instructors are increasingly emphasizing what OM has to offer men.
The basic technique of OM hasn't changed in recent years: a "stroker" caresses what Daedone claims is a woman's most sensitive spot, the upper-left quadrant of the clitoris. The "stroker" (almost always a man) is fully clothed; the woman being stroked is only naked from the waist down. The traditional practice lasts 15 minutes; rather than producing a single sharp climax, an OM is an extended orgasm that may or may not have a distinct peak. When Salon's sex writer Tracy Clark-Flory observed a public OM session, she found it "arousing and deeply bizarre."
Men stroke; women are stroked. (While women can stroke women –- Daedone herself often demonstrates OM technique –- there are relatively few lesbian couples active in One Taste.) As Daedone explains it, this lack of reciprocity is rooted in a basic difference between male and female sexuality. "The great modern invention that helps women orgasm is the vibrator," Daedone says in an interview; "the great invention that helps men is porn." (She acknowledges that some men use vibrators and some women like looking at porn.) Women experience the most intense pleasure from direct clitoral stimulation, she argues, while "men are most aroused by watching images of other human beings orgasming." OM is more equally balanced than first appears, Daedone says. She claims that an experienced male stroker can receive every bit as much ecstasy from OM as the woman whose clitoris he's caressing.
But the real payoff of OM for a man goes beyond his delight in watching a woman orgasm beneath his fingertip. What OM offers, Daedone claims, is an opportunity for guys to break the familiar, depressing cycle of oscillating "between bravado and helplessness." OM gives men a sense of mastery, not just of women's bodies, but of themselves. If it's true that there's nothing straight men want to know more than to how to please a woman, then it follows that if they figure out how to do that well and consistently, they'll receive a boost of confidence that will bleed over into every other aspect of their lives.
Ken Blackman, a 48 year-old former Apple software engineer who is now One Taste's "senior stroker," told me that One Taste had transformed his life. He came to the OM practice as a self-described "short nerd" who was desperate to learn tips for becoming great in bed. What he found instead was a whole new way of relating to women and to himself. According to Blackman, becoming a great stroker (Daedone praises him as among the very best she's taught) has little to do with technique and more to do with cultivating "a talent for play." "Women want men who have a demonstrated capacity for handling the truth," he says; "OM teaches guys how not to be intimidated by the full intensity of women's hunger."
Pick-up artists often promise male clients the same thing: insight into "what women really want" as well as an injection of much-needed confidence. When I ask Blackman about the comparison between OM and the purveyors of "game," he acknowledges the similarity but suggests One Taste offers a more collaborative view of heterosexual relations. "Pick-up artists turn women into a formula: ‘say this line and she'll go to bed with you.' OM gives guys a compass for how to interact with women as equals."
In January, Daedone set the tone for One Taste's new focus on guys by publishing an 1800-word "apology to men" on her website. The lengthy letter reflects Daedone's equally staunch essentialism (she believes men and women are naturally very, very different) and feminism (she comes from a gender studies background.) At the heart of this mea culpa, however, is the idea that the greatest wrong that women have done to men is to assume, like Jack Nicholson's character in A Few Good Men, that guys can't handle the truth. "I apologize…for believing you too weak and fragile to withstand my power and wrath. For walking on eggshells with you, careful never to bruise your ego, lest you leave me for ‘an easier woman.' I will tell you that at the root of quiet kindness is a rage of everything I believe I cannot tell you."
As Daedone explains, OM doesn't just get women off –- it gives them the tools to ask for what they want in every area of life in every area of life. Women who've been raised to believe that men will run from women's rage discover that in OM, guys develop the skill, the resilience, and the maturity to show up and stay present. "It's made me much more attractive to women," says Blackman. He's not just talking about the digital skills that have made him senior stroker; he's talking about the emotional competence he's developed.
So far in 2012, we've learned that women are now outscoring men on IQ tests. Scientists warn of "the demise of guys" whose boy-brains are addled by porn and video games. And on September 11 (really), Hanna Rosin's The End of Men: And the Rise of Women will hit the shelves.
A hefty percentage of the "masculinity crisis" is media-manufactured alarmism with an anti-feminist agenda. As women have moved into traditionally male spaces, the argument goes, men have begun to feel unneeded, redundant, disposable. Rather than adapt, many guys are disappearing into the online worlds of porn and gaming where they can, at least for a while, feel powerful once more. If we want men to "show up" again, the ladies need to go back to feigning helplessness –- or so the conservative argument goes.
One Taste rejects the notion that women have to shrink (again) to make men feel big. Men can learn not to fear women's sexuality, not by asserting control over it but, as Blackman says, by "learning to dance with it." In the words of one of the year's biggest country hits, the solution to the man malaise may lie in giving guys what they really want: "Something to Do with My Hands." OM is far from the only solution to the current crisis, and for a lot of us, it may be one of the oddest. But for its growing number of devotees, it's surely the most pleasurable.