I came to OM when I was stuck in an emotional rut. I had done talk therapy, journaling, retreats, and lots of introspection. I knew why I was stuck, and I knew how I had gotten stuck, and I could tell you that story. But cognition isn’t action. I could tell you everything about the rut except how to get out of it.
One huge aspect of the rut that went back to my adolescence was this conflict between wanting to be a good male feminist and my desire in connecting with women. From my family and the culture and classes I took in school, I’d accepted the narrative that this desire of mine was dangerous, destructive, and wrong. It was the root of patriarchy. And yet it was so clearly a part of me that I couldn’t get rid of. I ended up feeling trapped between the impulse to act on my desires and my sense that these desires were dangerous and bad.
For years, I was haunted by something that happened the summer after my freshman year of college. I was 19. I was doing a volunteer project that summer, and one of the other students on the project was a college senior, a couple of years older than me. I was very attracted to her, and I knew she could feel that. She flirted with me a little, and one day at lunch, she put her leg over mine under the table. No one else could see; it just rested there, its heat seeping into my skin. I froze: my mind was full of fantasies about what I wanted to do, but my brain shut them down. I just ignored her until she seemed to get confused, and gently pulled away.
I beat myself up about that incident for years. Not just because something could have happened if I’d had more courage, but because of how I confused her and disappointed myself. The problem was that the heat of her leg had to compete with my grandparents’ conservative Christianity and my parents’ earnest progressive feminist politics. My grandparents and parents didn’t agree on much when it came to sex, except that they both regarded male desire as dangerous to women. In different ways, they made it so clear that I should always take “no” for an answer, but they gave me no way to respond when I heard a “yes.”
I spent most of my 20s feeling powerless. My parents divorced and told me cheerfully that 70% of marriages would end in divorce. This got mixed up with the feminism in my head, and it left me feeling very fearful of taking any action. Don’t get into a relationship because it will probably fail; don’t have sex because you’ll hurt a woman. Divorce is inevitable; there’s an ongoing war between the genders, and it’s never going to get better. It took me a long, long time to unlearn all that negative programming.
I really wanted to unlearn all that toxic messaging. One day, an acquaintance of mine sent me a TED Talk about OM. I was intrigued. This friend suggested I check out an OM event in San Diego, and that it would be good for me. She couldn’t have been more right.
I remember after one of my early OMs, I was listening to my partner’s description of what she had felt. As she recounted what she’d experienced, she started describing my own exact feelings and observations to me. I had noticed that at one point, I’d felt an icy tingle in my stroking finger. At that same instant, her clitoris had expanded and flattened out into a smooth oval, expanding to the size of a quarter. It had been cool to the touch, lightly pulsing. That had lasted for perhaps a minute, and then it went back to normal size and temperature. She used the words “icy cool” which were the words in my mind, and she described her clitoris becoming oval-shaped and the size of a quarter – which is exactly how I saw it. What I eventually accepted was that she and I had been so connected in the OM that my perceptions and her perceptions had fused; she had seen me seeing her, had felt me touching her just as her orgasm had echoed in me. That doesn’t happen often, but it was the most extraordinary and memorable thing. I’d never thought I could be so close to a woman, especially one with whom I wasn’t in a romantic or sexual relationship.
OM gave me the emotional vocabulary to initiate connection with women, and to stop reliving what had happened that summer when I was 19. I had been so shy for so long, either unable to make the first move or apologizing profusely as soon as I did so. OM taught me I have a right to want things; I have a right to ask for those things. It doesn’t mean I have a right to get what I want. It just means I never have to apologize for wanting or asking. As I got more practice in asking women if they wanted to OM, I got more intuitive about whom and how to ask. That’s not because I’m trying to figure out how to avoid rejection – it’s just that I’ve become better at feeling what women are feeling because I’m more in touch with and accepting of my own desires.
I'm in a really powerful, loving relationship now. We live together, and we OM together. We’re committed to each other. We’ve given each other trust and freedom. I can be myself with her, and she can be herself with me – I have the capacity to hear whatever she has to tell me, and I trust her enough to ask for whatever it is I want, knowing I’ll be okay regardless of the answer. It’s everything I wanted when I was younger but never thought could happen.