Aug. 12, 2009— -- The 7 a.m. session at the OneTaste Urban Retreat in San Francisco is not your average yoga class. At OneTaste, 15 minutes of yoga is just the warm up. Then there's 15 minutes of quiet meditation -- also a warm up, heightening all the senses for a most unusual finale.
When the final bell sounds, the class members pair off. Gloves go on the men, and pants come off the women. And, soon, the studio erupts in female ecstasy for another 15 minutes.
At OneTaste, they call this "the 3-fold practice": yoga, meditation and orgasmic meditation -- OM'ing for short. At OneTaste, they do this at least once every single day.
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"It's focused on this stroke, this stroke, this stroke. In the same way, if you're doing sitting meditation, you focus on this breath, this breath, this breath," said OneTaste founder Nicole Daedone.
"There's a reason why we discovered that 15 minutes of OMing is good," Daedone said. "And that 15 minutes of OMing with yoga and meditation on either side is better. So it took a long time to discover that."
For an outsider, it is uncomfortable to watch. But the participants seem to enjoy sharing and afterward, they sit in a circle and talk about it.
"There was a feeling of a burst of citrus orange, bright, like all of the sunlight was in it," said one man.
"Oh, it's the best way to start a Monday," said another woman. "I'll be so much kinder and more present with my co-workers."
The growing popularity of OneTaste is just one of many examples of how women seem to be reaching new sexual heights, with products and services aimed primarily at them. Perhaps it's the cultural influence of Carrie Bradshaw and her posse. Perhaps the success of HBO's "Sex and the City" spoke to a deeper cultural change for women. But sex sells, and increasingly sex sells to women.
Sexually speaking, women seem to have come into their own. The sexual revolution may have started 40 years ago with women burning their bras, but feminism has hit a whole new level: one out of three consumers of online porn is a woman, according to the Internet Filter Review, a Web site that tracks porn consumption.
Old School Porn with a Softer Side
Triple-X movies are no longer dominated by the Y chromosome. Porn is now often made with a woman's touch.
"Women generally want to know why two people are having sex," said Nica Noelle, a top porn director. "They want to know what the relationship is between those two people. ... They want to feel that it's a relationship that matters to both of the characters. And that the sex is passionate and intimate. And none of those things were really being portrayed in the porn that was out there."
Old school porn tends to cut straight to the chase. In the stereotypical scenario, the "pizza guy" arrives on the scene, and the plot falls to the wayside. Former porn star Candida Royalle wasn't inclined to watch the kind of movies she starred in 25 years ago.
"There's no foreplay to speak of and there's just no buildup. There's no real communication, tenderness," she said. "It's just very direct. We're here for sex, and we're going to have sex, and it's really hardcore gymnastics, and mechanical."
Royalle not only wanted to create something different, but she was among the first to sense how videotape, and the Internet would change the porn industry. Seedy peep shows would become a thing of the past. Now it's safe, and sanitary, for women to watch at home.
To Royalle, that meant a profitable new market. "When I went to some of the top companies in Los Angeles, they were all kind of very patronizing," Royalle recalled. "'Nice idea, Candida but women just aren't into this type of thing.' And I knew they were wrong."
History has proved her right. In the classic porno flick, "The Devil in Mr. Holmes," it takes exactly 26 seconds for the first sex scene to take place. The sex is over in less than a minute -- in 42 seconds flat.
But in Noelle's erotic film for women, "The Stepmother -- Sinful Seductions," the plot spans seven minutes and 32 seconds even before the first glimpse of nudity. When the sex finally happens, it lasts for 32 minutes.
"It takes time for them to get together," said Noelle. "There's usually some conflict, something from preventing them on just acting on their feelings immediately. And then once they do have sex, there's a lot of foreplay, there's a lot of kissing, there's a lot of looking into each other's eyes."
The actors are often partners in real life. There are fewer breast implants, more realistic body types, and softer camera angles. And the scenes don't always end with the so-called money shot.
"Sex does not end with the man's climax, that's not what it is about," said Royalle. "There's always after play. And you don't just see the guy falling asleep. You don't just cut to black, there's always, 'I love you's' and giggling, laughing."
Porn Shops Run By Women, for Women
Women aren't just transforming the style of porn flicks, but they're also changing the way it's sold.
In Old Town section of Alexandria, Va., a place known for quaint, cobblestoned streets and as a former getaway for George and Martha Washington, one of the town's most successful new shops is "Le Tache," opened earlier this year.
"We sell lingerie, lotions lubricants, personal lubricants. We sell erotic toys and we sell DVDs. And we have a few goodies," said Bo Kenney, owner of Le Tache. "I have said it before. I thought George Washington probably would have shopped here. You know he did fight for liberty."
Kenney says 60 percent of the customers are women and most of the locals seem take the store in stride.
Sex shops like Le Tache may turn some heads in Alexandria, but in other places across the country in San Francisco they're yesterday's news.
"Good Vibrations" has sold a variety of ergonomic sex toys for 30 years. It's a store run by women, for women and over the last five years, they say business has grown at a steady rate of 20 percent year after year. Even during the recession, sales are up 11 percent.
"San Francisco might well be the capital city for this kind of sexual exploration, and certainly being open about it as we are and non-judgmental. Not every place does," said staff sexologist Carol Queen.
No surprise, then, that San Francisco should be the home for OneTaste and its unusual yoga classes. Through the regular practice of orgasmic meditation, the folks at OneTaste strive to separate the pleasure of sex from the baggage of relationships and morality.
Most of the participants have day jobs, but many of them live at the center for months at a time, immersing themselves in sensuality. The residents call themselves as "urban monks." Some practice the three-fold meditation as couples, but many have a variety of different partners.
Sex as a Spinning Class?
When they started OneTaste two years ago, only men turned up. Since then, founder Nicole Daedone says she shifted the emphasis to female orgasm and the crowd started to balance out.
"During this time while the economy is crashing more and more people are flooding in than ever before," said Daedone. "I think a lot of people are discovering that a lot of the rules that they believed in aren't working."
Daedone insists she's just an enlightened woman, who has overcome her hangups about sex. "I as a woman was frozen ... but I didn't realize [men and women] were equally frozen. That it was an equally frozen dance we were in together," she said.
"This is just a way of saying, you know what, every single day just ... for 15 minutes of my life, I'm going to take time out for myself and my partner and we are going to take that time and make that the foundation of our lives, this connection," said Daedone. "And you get to feel the world around you in this unadulterated way, just raw sensations of life, I think that's pretty good in and of itself."
The participants at OneTaste -- men and women alike -- say the practice has made them more sensitive in their daily minds and that it frees their minds from the constant background chatter of sex. Though Daedone calls it "incredibly healthy," she knows the very idea of OneTaste is bound to be controversial.
We asked her: Are they turning sex into a spinning class? "No," she said. "It's not a replacement for love or romance or sexuality within a relationship. It's a way to begin to feel each other at this really essential level."
"It is such an incredibly compelling place to be," she said. "It's not a replacement for love or romance or sexuality within a relationship. It's a way to begin to feel each other at this really essential level."
If you're tempted to say, "Only in San Francisco," think again: OneTaste recently opened a second outpost in New York.