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|Founder||Robert Kandell and Nicole Daedone|
San Francisco, CA,
Number of locations
|Revenue||$6.5 M (2014)|
Number of employees
OneTaste is a business dedicated to researching and teaching the practices of orgasmic meditation and slow sex. Though it embraces certain tenets based in Eastern philosophy, OneTaste's central focus is female orgasm and sexuality, especially in a practice called Orgasmic Meditation.
OneTaste was cofounded in San Francisco by Robert Kandell and Nicole Daedone in 2001. OneTaste originally operated two communal-style "urban retreat" centers, one in San Francisco's Soma District and the other on Manhattan's Lower East Side, but has expanded to include Los Angeles, London, Melbourne, and six other U.S. cities. The organization's stated goal is "to create a clean, well-lit place where sexuality, relationship, and intimacy could be discussed openly and honestly." OneTaste produces media, workshops, weekend retreats, and a coach training program.
OneTaste has drawn international media attention and controversy; several journalists have compared OneTaste to a cult and pyramid scheme, while others have noted a push of orgasmic meditation into the mainstream. Reflecting this push into the mainstream, some journalists have called Orgasmic Meditation a new craze, while online estimates say OneTaste teaches 500 people each month in its "How to" classes. In 2014 OneTaste received Inc. 5000 Honors for Top Health companies.
Orgasmic meditation or OMing is a term coined by Nicole Daedone and Robert Kandell to signify a mindfulness practice in which the object of meditation is finger to genital contact. OMing is practiced in pairs, with one practitioner stroking the genitals of the other, and both focusing their attention on the sensation with the stated goal of developing connective resonance between them. Although the practitioners can be of either sex, the focus of orgasmic meditation seems to be on the female orgasm through subtle and deliberate stimulation of the clitoris. Both partners, however, are said to share in the sensation and fulfillment via a kind of "pleasure by proxy." Proponents state that orgasmic meditation encompasses more than just orgasm and that it encourages greater emotional awareness, connected relationships, and sense of fulfillment. Others describe the sensation as "a heady buzz, mixed with equal parts wooziness and intensity of focus."
In press accounts, orgasmic meditation has been compared to tantric practices. "The idea, similar to Buddhist Tantric sex, is to extend the sensory peak." Daedone has stated in interviews that OMing also borrows from other traditions including yoga, and other forms of meditation, and she describes it as a central element of what she terms the "Slow Sex Movement". In fact, when asked where she first was exposed to this practice, she states that a "Buddhist Monk" introduced her to the practice. She states that OMing brings consciousness to sexuality in the same way that sitting meditation brings consciousness to stillness and yoga brings consciousness to movement. Proponents maintain that the practice leads to more intense and profound orgasms, expands one's capacity to feel pleasure and other sensations, and promotes greater personal awareness and interpersonal connectivity. Others describe more limited effects, such as simply "getting in touch with one's body." Some who have participated in or witnessed the practice report feeling a sense of discomfort or inappropriateness. "I tried with great futility to make the connection between an austere Zen monastery filled with silent monks meditating on emptiness, and what I had just seen."
The practice of orgasmic meditation is done with a partner. A woman lies down, unclothed from the waist down, while her fully clothed partner sits alongside. The one sitting uses his or her index finger to slowly, deliberately stroke the clitoris of the other. Typically this safe sex practice involves the wearing of gloves. The session is timed and lasts for exactly 15 minutes. Both partners are directed to focus their attention on the point of contact, or "stroke." Practitioners of orgasmic meditation claim that the practice nourishes the limbic system, the part of the brain shared with other mammals and associated with emotion, empathy, and motivation. When the OMing session is over, both partners share their experiences verbally.
Daedone states that the so-called "resonance" between two partners is essential to the experience of shared sensation. OM is usually practiced separately from sex and often in a location other than the bedroom; as distinct from foreplay, Daedone describes it as a practice "designed to keep a woman on a plateau of sensation." A visiting UK columnist surmised that "OM is a form of recalibration that prepares the body for better, more intense sex."
The New York Times portrays Daedone as leading a self-described "slow sex movement, one that places a near-exclusive emphasis on women’s pleasure — in which love, romance and even flirtation are not required." Daedone draws parallels between slow sex and the Slow Food movement associated with chef Alice Waters. With sex as with food, she says, people can overindulge without getting nourishment, or go from one extreme of consuming mindlessly to the other extreme of self-denial.
In an interview with San Francisco's 7x7 magazine, Daedone states that slow sex encompasses orgasmic meditation and mindful sexuality generally. She says that slow sex is not defined by speed or the amount of time spent, but rather these three ingredients: 1) developing attention to what's actually present rather than fixating on a goal, 2) simplicity, a stripping away of extraneous elements down to the level of pure sensation 3) cultivating desire by learning to acknowledge and articulate it.
In 2011, Daedone published Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm, described as elevating "the female orgasm to a level of religious and spiritual practice." A review in Salon.com explores whether these ideas and practices will appeal only to "alternative circles" or to a larger mainstream audience. Salon notes the demand for "female Viagra," with an estimated market of $2 billion US, and numerous studies that document women's dissatisfaction with sex and low frequency of orgasm. The review concludes "Daedone's philosophy is a refreshing counterpoint to the porny mainstream, but it's certainly hard to picture Middle America embracing orgasmic meditation."
In The Four Hour Body, a New York Times Best Seller described as "a lab report on more than a decade of diet, exercise, and sexual trials that Tim Ferriss carried out on himself," two chapters are devoted to "The 15 Minute Female Orgasm" in which Ferriss describes his quest to learn to facilitate the experience of orgasm in any woman.
Press and controversy
In March 2009, The New York Times featured OneTaste on the front page of its "Style" section. The article describes the organization as "the latest stop on this sexual underground, weaving together strands of radical individual freedom, Eastern spirituality and feminism." An Indiana University sociology professor who has studied San Francisco's sexual subcultures, Elizabeth A. Armstrong, is quoted as saying “The notion of a San Francisco sex commune focused on female orgasm is part of a long and rich history of women being public and empowered about their sexuality.”
The article also notes, "as with many a commune before it, the leader of One Taste, Ms. Daedone, is a polarizing personality, whom admirers venerate as a sex diva, although some former members say she has cult like powers over her followers... Much of the community’s tone revolves around Ms. Daedone, a woman of considerable charm, although detractors regard her as a master manipulator." In the New York Times interview, Ms. Daedone insists she does not aspire to guru status, while acknowledging that "there’s a high potential for this to be a cult."
The New York Times article led to several blog and opinion columns. Salon.com ran an essay that referenced the Times piece and discussed the merits of women joining a community dedicated to female orgasm, concluding that "within a mainstream sexual culture defined almost exclusively by dudely desires" that it might be healthy.
A number of press accounts have since offered different perspectives on the organization including a 2013 Gawker article, also referencing online cult accusations, which documented the reporter's experience at a weekend conference hosted by OneTaste. An article in GoodTimes Weekly, 'The Big OM', refers to "cult allegations" by posters on Yelp.com, as did one on Vice and on Salon. A 2016 episode of the podcast Love + Radio is dedicated to the experience of a woman who had increasingly fraught relations with OneTaste. An article in The Cut stated that "some cult experts have linked Daedone with Victor Baranco," the cult leader who ran Lafayette Morehouse, and also suggests that it may be a pyramid scheme. Similarly, an article in The Frisky described OneTaste as "Landmark Forum for the clitoris." A Refinery 29 article cited the organization's "potentially aggressive sales tactics."
Playboy Magazine compared OneTaste to Scientology and Landmark Forum, saying it had a "pyramidal pricing structure"; a week-long training with Nicole Daedone had been advertised at $36,000. It said: "All I can think about is how easy it is to start a cult. .... the way the volunteers serve the leaders, jumping at their every demand to "get me water” and “move that stool”... the full-court sales pitch from the minute you walk in... I leave early and I'm furious". The author implies she was gaslighted when she disagreed with the leaders. She writes that she was re-traumatized "for weeks" as memories of her past sexual trauma were triggered by a business promising female empowerment but "people probably just want your money."
The book Sensation by Isabel Losada ends with a "Warning" about "'hard sell' techniques... 'One Taste' (like many businesses) offer a wide range of courses which are outside the price range of most bank accounts. I'll say it again. Please don't spend money that you don't have."
In June 2018, Bloomberg Businessweek published an article chronicling recent training changes and that was critical of how the company treated its employees and consultants, often pressuring them to take expensive courses, programs, and retreats that drove them into debt.
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