Sex and Sensuality

Touchy-feely “researchers” want to build community through the practice of orgasmic meditation — one stroke at a time

She seems completely into the guy, whom she's been researching with since January. But they have an open research partnership. "We're not exclusive," Crittenden said. "He supports me in having my orgasm fully open, whatever that looks like."

Crittenden, 31, believes the center is helping her find her freedom, and thinks that orgasmic meditation is a "brilliant" way to serve both strokee and stroker. The sweet, soft-spoken Crittenden says that each of the three to five OM sessions she has in a day make her feel like she has "come back alive." She's done blues and swing dancing, and compares pairing up to have an OM with someone to dancing — where you pick a different partner each night. "A person's strokes will be different," she said. "So you're not stuck relying on one person to deliver pleasure."

But is it awkward to approach someone to ask them if they want to pair up for one of the 15-minute sessions? Crittenden says she'll usually just ask, "Would you OM with me?"

Bob Gower.
Gabriela Hasbun
Bob Gower.
Marissa Bollong.
Gabriela Hasbun
Marissa Bollong.

Bob Gower is another resident at One Taste. The 41-year-old graphic designer says there's no place else he'd rather be living. He's done the marriage thing — three times, actually — but after his third divorce decided it was time to try something different. He was miserable following the breakup of his last marriage, heard about a sensuality-focused center named One Taste, and went to an event there with a friend. He fell in love with the place, started going to IN Groups every week, enrolled in classes, and quickly decided to move in.

Gower has worked at alternative weeklies and dot-coms, and completed a sustainable MBA program. But he now works full time as a marketing director for One Taste, and thinks the community's commitment to "stay connected no matter what" is the key to sustainable living.

"I have just the closest friendships that I've ever had, the deepest love for people that I've ever had," Gower said.

In some ways, Crittenden and Gower are the quintessential One Taste community members. Residents range in age from early 20s to 50 years old, but many of them are in their late 20s and early 30s without any children. Many are college-educated and professionals from a variety of fields, including health care workers, marketing types, entrepreneurs, yoga instructors, and, yes, a former journalist. The majority of community members are white and many are straight or bisexual, but two of the core members are African-American, lesbian-identified women. One of the residents had been homeless in the past, but most are like Crittenden — they gave up an apartment, and maybe even a cat or two — to move in and research sensuality full time. Now she just works at One Taste, serving as director of ConnectEd as well as teaching there and hosting the guest speaker interviews for the community's podcast, "A Taste of Sex."

As a woman, Crittenden is in the majority at One Taste. You might think with so many hot young women ready to get naked, men would be breaking down the doors to get in. Maybe it's the clit-focused nature of OMing that keeps them from overrunning the place. Whatever it is, Daedone and others aren't stressed out about the imbalance. They believe that if the women show up, men will follow. So they have no intention of instituting regular daily OM sessions only focused on stroking men.

Still, it's not as though men in the community can't get stroked. They can. It's just that One Taste types don't consider OMing to be a sex act — it's a practice about connecting to energy — so men are tapping into orgasm, too.

There are other perks for the guys. "I live in a community with a group of women who are turned-on women taking responsibility for their sex lives," Gower explains.

He adds that making out is nice, too.

Life in a sensuality community can get complicated. Like when a resident in one of the large communal bedrooms ends up sharing a room with a former research partner and hearing that person with a new partner, um, researching together. Yes, even in a "transformational" community, jealousy still happens.

One perfectly warm and sunny morning last month, Gower was leaving the center to head over to Brain Wash Cafe and Laundromat to talk with SF Weekly. He stopped near the One Taste kitchen to kiss Shara Ogin, who was his research partner until about two weeks before, then walked another 15 feet or so before locking lips again, this time with his new research partner Beth, or "Babs."

It seemed he was living out many males' fantasies until he mentioned a previous conversation from earlier that morning, when he told somebody, "There are three women angry at me today and it's only like 7 a.m.!"

Gower has had three research partners, and says he remains close to all of them, although, well, sometimes there's jealous tension among exes.

Ogin (who says two of her former research partners have "physically left the premises") said that she always gets attached to partners even though she tries to tell herself they're just friends. "My nervous system has been so entangled with them, and then when they're gone I feel like something's gone in my life," Ogin said. "And then I keep getting a reminder that there are so many other people in the community who are here for you."

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