Orgasmic Meditation: Practicing Sensory Awareness
"In just fifteen minutes every woman can become orgasmic," the PDF promised. It was part of a press kit for a new book about sex called Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm by Nicole Daedone. That the PDF told me all kinds of other things about the book, its philosophy and practice and its author, didn't matter, all I could do was groan.
I've become weary over the years of advice writers, self-help gurus, and authors who capitalize on sex by perpetuating messages that further hinder the enjoyment of our bodies instead of helping us. You’ve seen me rail against the lie-detector techniques perpetuated by AskMen.com, GQ's sex-for-chores barter system and even this new craze with the 40 beads. I worry because these suggestions focus on sex in a way that makes it about everything but sex.
They make it a goal-oriented exercise. Or they make it a bargaining tool. Or they make it an obligation. None of them address the real issue many of us face: that we are dissatisfied with our sex lives. None of them equip us with tools or even ideas as to how to begin making sex more satisfactory.
The last thing I needed was someone else promising women they could become orgasmic in 15 minutes, so we can feel like we're broken if, after said time, We find no orgasm is forthcoming. But, with the exclusion of the bead thing, I am not one to jump to conclusions without giving anything some serious thought, so I scheduled an interview for the next day, downloaded Daedone's book and sat down to read.
This is slightly unusual in a person, but I really like being wrong. Unlike the press materials I'd skimmed, Slow Sex refused to let me skim. Any sex educator who can stand up to a publisher and get them to approve -- in what is essentially a sex manual -- a first chapter that talks about cooking with grandma is a force to be reckoned with.
When she was a teenager, Daedone's grandmother taught her how to cook. It didn't come easy -- in fact, it all started with Daedone's grandmother flat out rejecting a dish Daedone had cooked for her during home ec. Her reason? That young Daedone had killed the meal with the recipe. Thus her grandmother undertook the task of teaching her granddaughter how to cook, really cook, not by following instructions, but by going with instinct. Cooking as an art. This, Daedone says, is what sex should be about.
"When I went to the publisher," Daedone would recall later when we were speaking on the phone. "One of my tasks was to make sure this was one that'd understand that I didn't want to write a recipe book: I wanted to teach people how to actually cook good sex. There are so many recipe books out there for sex, with all these weird positions and necessary ingredients, and that's fine to enjoy, but no one tells people the basics, and they need to know the basics before they get to the variations. There are all kinds of things you can include in sex, but all these elements are really high-level and we need to handle the fundamental thing first, which is 'do I really know how to feel?'"
What happens, for example, if the recipe calls for toys and sexy movies and lingerie, to be mixed to taste until they result in two orgasms, but only one is had?
What happens, she says, is that sex starts looking like a problem.
"Because we're human and we exist in a paradigm of wrong, we are trigger-happy when it comes to identifying problems," Daedone writes in Slow Sex. "We are always on the lookout for someone or something to blame. We think there is something wrong with us, or with our relationship, or with our partner. The artsy-ness of sex, its frustrating refusal to abide by the laws of mechanics, puts us into the difficult position of wondering why things aren't going the way they’re 'supposed' to be going."
Men often go at like they're fixing something, she says. Women, on the other hand, tend to become concerned with making their sexual encounters look the way they think they're supposed to look, as dictated by Hollywood, or Porn Valley, or vampire fiction novels, or the stories shared by their girlfriends. Much of the time, when we think this way, we get stuck on the destination instead of enjoying the journey.
"There is no solving the problem of sex," Daedone recounts telling a class. "If there's no solving the problem of sex, they must wonder, why on earth are they here? They want solutions. They were promised a technique. They want to know how any woman can be orgasmic in 15 minutes -- did I not read my own marketing materials?"
Her answer to their questioning glances: Sex is not a problem.
Slow Sex does provide exercises and guidelines but it also manages to stay true to its message that it is not a recipe book for perfect sex (or any kind of sex), by focusing its exercises and guidelines on something else completely: sensory awareness, what Daedone calls "orgasmic meditation."
"It started with standard meditation," Daedone told me when we spoke. "I had a siting meditation practice and yoga practice, but I'd never seen these concepts applied in the domain of sexuality. Then I met someone who introduced me to the concept of sex as a meditation practice. I had such a profound experience. That's what orgasmic meditation is, the basic principles of meditation applied to orgasm. I have made some modifications to what I have learned to tailor it to a woman's body, because it's important to have the practice made for a woman's body, rather than have the woman's body try to accommodate the definitions for the practice."
Like meditation, the sensory exercise that Deadone has developed is about simplicity. By learning to focus and reconnect with our sensory data and our bodies, we enable ourselves to find the place where orgasm is possible.
But those who practice orgasmic meditation are not chasing after orgasm. This is an exercise looking to experience the whole spectrum of sensation.
So what is it? In short, orgasmic meditation is a lights-on 15 minute session between a woman and her partner that involves the woman reclining with her legs spread and her partner stimulating her clitoris. After the time is up, both partners share a brief description of a memorable moment of sensation during their session.
It may not seem like much. Or, it may seem terrifying to recline with our legs wide open and the light on, and our partner focused completely on the continued stroking of our clits. But it inculcates three core elements that are fundamental to fulfilling sex.
This, as I've said, isn't about climax. It's about sensation. It's about becoming aware of our bodies. To do this, the most important thing to do is let go of our expectations. There is no goal. No climax, no fireworks, no great transcendental union between you and your partner.
"Most people find it baffling that I want to remove the goal of orgasm, especially when so many women are frustrated because they have a hard time achieving it," Daedone said. "The problem with a goal is that working exclusively towards it takes a woman outside of herself, so instead of the experience being about her sensations, the goal of orgasm becomes more important. Of course she's going to lose touch with what she's feeling!"
By extension -- and because orgasmic meditation requires a single position to be maintained -- there is no need to cater to any image we have about what sex is supposed to look like.
"Our poor little orgasms can’t stand under the weight of all these expectations and things we put on top of it!" Daedone told me laughing. She's so right.
Starting with Sensation
"The main event is sensation," Daedone reiterated during our talk, a message she expresses in the book again and again. This is journey sex, not destination sex. While it may or may not include a climax, it is so closely tied to sensation that it becomes a more pronounced sexual experience than the race many of us have come to know as sex.
Here, when we consider what we feel, we part with emotion. Too often, by using the word "feeling" so loosely, we confuse emotions with sensation. This is not about emotion. This is about the sensory experience. Try a little experiment and see how it goes: the next time you have sex, focus on the experience in your genitals.
"Isn't that what we do when we have sex, we feel our genitals?" Daedone asks in the book. "If you're like most of us, you'll discover the surprising truth that you have been spending most of your sex life thinking about everything but the feeling in your genitals."
This is why orgasmic meditation is central to Daedone's philosophy. In order to get to a place where we are ready to experience incredible sex, we need to be able to experience. And perhaps this is why "orgasmic meditation" might not be the right term for it. It's more about allowing yourself to experience the sensory symphony of your own body under someone else's touch.
Even so, it is very much an exercise in meditation, as it's not enough to pay attention: sensory awareness requires focus on both the part of the person stroking and the person receiving. This focus is something that must be cultivated, and that requires as much discipline and practice as any other form of meditation.
This is the hardest item on the list: you have to talk to your partner about what you really want.
"I don't know if it's some massive conspiracy or what, but somehow over the growing-up process women receive little positive reinforcement for speaking our desires," Daedone writes. "We're cautioned every step of the way not to voice our sexual desires, for fear of looking like a 'bad woman,' appearing too needy, stumbling down the supposedly slippery slope toward promiscuity, or -- this is a big one -- permanently damaging the supposedly fragile male ego. Whatever the reason, the result is that we women fall into patterns of pleasing others, especially during sex. By the time we're adults, and we actually want sexual satisfaction enough to ask for it, we find that a sort of desire paralysis has set in. We've kept our desires so well hidden that we don't even remember where we put them."
Here, too, the exercise of orgasmic meditation with a partner offers a way for those who practice it to reconnect with their desires: following each session, both partners are to reflect and discuss in descriptive terms what they experienced during those fifteen minutes of meditation. But self-exploration extends beyond that -- Daedone suggests keeping a journal and giving yourself eight minutes on a regular basis to concentrate on what your sex wants and writing it down.
"Start off with, 'what my sex wants right now is...' and let your desire do the talking from there," she says. "Try not to censor yourself -- if your sex wants to get fucked, if it wants to be naughty, if it wants to do things your conscious mind would never have thought to do, let it have its say. You're not responsible for anything it says or does; your only job is to give it space to roam -- and to take notes. If your desire takes you to a place that doesn't feel comfortable to you, never fear. You are not agreeing to actually act on this list -- all you're agreeing to do is to write it down."
You can incorporate your partner on this exercise as well, by having him write in his own journal, then reading out loud what you’ve written and asking him to share one sensation he felt while you read. You can then invite him to read his own entry out loud to you while you pay attention to the sensations the words evoke in your body.
Central to orgasmic meditation is the idea that a couple is exploring themselves in a new way, which makes discussion of what one wants easier, and enabling one's partner to view it as separate from their usual sexual experience, though the sessions have a tendency to inform the former, even if at first only in a subconscious way.
Of course, orgasmic meditation is not just about a woman receiving caresses from her partner. Daedone does believe in reciprocity and includes an appendix in the book about how to engage in orgasmic meditation with a man. But she also believes that women are at the end of a lot more negative conditioning about sex and they need the energy of this practice to focus on them first, to do away with their inhibitions, fears, shame and guilt.
Starting with the women first also enables men to explore the female body in a way they may never have explored it, allowing them time to become more in tune with it and their partner's responses. As a result, Daedone often tells a couple to focus orgasmic meditation on the woman for at least six months before switching up the roles between the partners.
Want more? You can watch Nicole Daedone address the audience of TEDx San Francisco about her book and purpose below:
What do you think of orgasmic meditation? Would you try it with your partner?
AV Flox is the editor of Sex and the 405 -- what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.