If you search the New York Times “fashion and style” section, you are sure to find interesting information about women that has absolutely nothing to do with fashion or style. One such article, published yesterday, stood out to me as especially intriguing. In San Francisco, Nicole Daedone has founded the One Taste Urban Retreat Center. This live-in co-ed commune focuses explicitly of female sexual pleasure, separate from love and romance. The center also offers classes for men and women focusing on relationships, communication, and spirituality.
“In our culture,” says Daedone, “women have been conditioned to have closed sexuality and open feelings, and men to have open sexuality and closed feelings. There’s this whole area of resistance and shame.”
In total, 38 men and women live full-time at the center. They eat, meditate, and practice yoga together. The core members also lead workshops for outside groups as large as 60 people. The “morning practice” ritual is at the heart of the group’s activity, and is closed to all but the 38 core members. In this ritual, the women lie half-clothed in a room, and clothed men kneel over them and stroke the women to orgasm. The couples may or may not be romantically involved, and call each other “research partners.” The residents call the ritual “orgasmic meditation.” There is no eye contact during the meditation.
The goal of the commune is to help women to be more empowered and public with their sexuality. Daedone focuses on both spirituality and sexuality, and the center also offers lectures by rabbis and Tibetan monks.
Detractors from One Taste call Daedone a cult-like leader and a master manipulator. One of the commune’s ex-members warns: “You stop trusting yourself and start trusting Nicole.” But others view Nicole Daedone as a sort of sexuality guru and an empowering force in their spiritual and sexual lives. Daedone insists that she realizes the potential for the commune to become a cult, and is making every effort to keep her status humble. She recently moved out of the living quarters because “Whenever I was in the space, everybody treated me like a guru,” she said. “I’d wake up and people would come sit on my bed.”
In my opinion, reclaiming female sexuality is great. Teaching classes on female pleasure is a brave and admirable pursuit. The premise of One Taste empowers women sexually. I of course cannot speak to the validity of the claims that Daedone is manipulative or controlling, since I have no expertise on the organization.
Although I do not know much about the center’s practices besides what was in the Times article, I do worry that “orgasmic meditation” might be hetero-centric. The “morning practice” focuses on female pleasure, but the Times article suggests that men are the ones pleasuring the women. It seems like the center does in fact offer classes on masturbation and self-pleasuring, but what about lesbian pleasure? I wonder how/if lesbians are incorporated into the community.
Here is an awesome link to the One Taste site, where you can learn more about what the New York and San Francisco centers have to offer.
What are your opinions on One Taste and the reclaiming of female pleasure? Is a commune focused on female pleasure a good idea, or is the separatist nature of the live-in commune missing the point? Should we instead focus more on incorporating more emphasis on female pleasure into our relationships on an everyday personal level? Is One Taste focusing on female pleasure to the exclusion of male pleasure? Or are the classes that One Taste offers informative and beneficial to all people regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or relationship status?