I went to intimacy classes and this is what happened
There exists a certain scepticism in society towards “spiritual” people. One thinks of kaftans, tambourines and Muesli - individuals characterised by one-sided conversations about plant medicines and conspiracy theories.
However, I prefer to remain open-minded. “I’m happy-go-lucky”, I would tell my friends.
“No you’re not - you’re cold and cynical.” And yes, in part, they’re right - because I arrived at House of Togetherness with a smirk on my face.
Founded by the aptly-named Adam Wilder, House of Togetherness was originally a festival which can now be found in central London. “HoT is a unique, revolutionary pop-up home of intimacy and connection in Covent Garden,” the literature explains. “Togetherness aims to explore questions of intimacy and human contact, allowing people to connect with each other in some rather…. unusual…. ways!”
Think of everything you’re not supposed to do with strangers. Prolonged eye contact, touching, over-sharing, talking about your emotions... At House of Togetherness, if you so choose, you can do all these things with people you’ve barely met.
Adam is charismatic yet calming and spoke about the benefits of a sensual, “feel it” approach to sex rather than an objective-focussed “do it” approach. However, the movement is by no means just about sex. Furthermore, rather than promoting openness, participation and unconditional agreeability, House of Togetherness is about being sovereign over your body and your experiences.
Adam explains that he spent his formative years always thinking about those around him and making decisions that would best suit others. Having completely turned this around, autonomy is now at the centre of his ethos. At House of Togetherness, you therefore don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. Having seen their interestingly-captioned video, this was a relief.
The first experience of this special set of taster sessions was a mass spooning circle. As non-sexual full-body contact, the exercise typifies their approach to closeness. In fact, Adam is hoping to orchestrate the world’s largest ever spooning circle at Wilderness Festival this August. (More than 1,108 people will be needed to break the world record set in 2017 in Austin, Texas.)
I was initially concerned about unwanted consequences of arse-to-crotch shenanigans. However, like my mind and soul, my body was now on a higher plane. In any case, now was the time for my body-positive naked photo shoot.
I had hoped the photographer would be a middle-aged man called Barry who had seen so many cocks he’d become distant. Instead, she was an enthusiastic twenty-something with a powerful camera and an array of vegetables.
I was adamant both that I would be completely naked and that only photos of my face (it’s doing a lot better than the rest of me) would be used for a collage they were compiling. Holding a single lettuce leaf over my minimal manhood and shooting a steamy look down the lens, I felt truly liberated. However, in spite of the overwhelmingly accepting vibe of the evening, placing it in a plastic bag with the other “used” lettuce leaves felt weirdly shameful.
With my clothes back on, I headed to “Rage Club”. On this occasion, it was devoid of any actual smashing or breaking as Self Love (not masturbation) was happening next door. However, it provided interesting insights such that anger, and the expression of it, can be a good thing.
The few of us present in our session shared extremely personal experiences about what causes us anger and again, the idea of sovereignty was key - that you are able to let people in and be closer to them when you know where your boundaries lie.
One of the talks, entitled How Not To F**k Up Your Kids, discussed children’s purported intuition and the need to therefore be honest with them. This was in addition to the idea that your relationship with your child is forged, long before their birth, by your relationship with your own parents.
An activity followed whereby one person would talk about the positives and negatives of their childhood, while the other just listens (resisting the urge to nod, it transpires, is incredibly difficult). There are certain parallels between this and their incredibly popular “Shhh Dating” nights.
Another activity involved touching fingertips with a partner, closing your eyes and slowly dancing around the room. Contrary to traditional ideas around dancing, no one person leads. A carefully crafted equilibrium, it became a rather worrying thought that you might accidentally back into someone and burst your beautiful bubble.
When I arrived at House of Togetherness, I was a mixture of scared and cynical. Why not join these whacky fifth-dimensional explorers, I’d thought to myself, and report back on how odd they are? However, the people I’d spoken to genuinely knew what they were talking about and, among other life lessons, I’d learned that hearing others’ problems puts yours in perspective and empowering yourself to be honest with strangers helps you realise your self-worth. Whatever I’ve learnt, I will definitely be back.
House of Togetherness is a pop-up currently located on Betterton Street in London. Sessions usually cost £20 ($26) or £30 ($39) for two people