and back at home . . .
Last Sunday's NY Times Style section has a piece about a commune in San Francisco (where else?) which is devoted to female orgasm. The participants gather for breakfast each day following which there is an hour of "meditation" in which the group sits in a large circle paired off by gender, the men fully clothed and the women clothed above the waste. The men are instructed to bring the women to orgasm, presumably with their hands [the article does not specify], following which the entire group sits for another hour and, you guessed it, talks about the experience. The men are not touched, at least not in the morning, although they participate actively in the discussion and other communal activities. The article includes interviews with several participants, a number of whom appear [you guessed it again] to have had difficulties in their previous relationships, although most of whom praised the experience; one said the exercise had helped him or her [I honestly don't remember which] to concentrate better in their regular job.
I'm not sure what to make of the article, or whether the procedure it describes is even that unusual. (As one friend put it, when I described an hour spent bringing a partner to orgasm with no reciprocal pleasure, "Sounds like my house very weekend.") People from the early Israeli kibbutzim to modern weekend retreats have experimented with group sexual activity, and the idea of focusing on female orgasm--hardly an intuitive one to most men--has a place in Indian religious practice going back hundreds of years.
The article does make one thing inescapably clear: there are a lot of lonely people out there, and many of them are having trouble finding "intimacy," however defined, in conventional ways. Perhaps this explains why so many people at upper income levels, who would appear to have the most to lose, support liberal movements with a markedly collectivist bent. They are not looking for economic advantage, and perhaps not even for social justice in any definable sense. They are looking for a sense of connection, and the society that we have created in recent decades is not providing it for them. At least, not east of Oakland.