Heads of 'orgasmic meditation' group, OneTaste, charged with forced labor and sex abuse of followers
By Lukas I. Alpert
The group's founder, Nicole Daedone, promised enlightenment through orgasms, but prosecutors say she ran a cult-like operation.
The heads of the once-popular wellness group, OneTaste, which promised enlightenment through orgasms, have been charged with running it like a cult in which followers were groomed to engage in unwanted sex acts and forced to work for free.
Nicole Daedone, who founded OneTaste in 2004 and drew wide attention through her promotion of "orgasmic meditation," in which trauma would be washed away through partnered masturbation, is accused of draining her mostly women followers' bank accounts and not paying them for their labor.
Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn say Daedone, 56, and OneTaste's former-head of sales, Rachel Cherwitz, 43, ran a years-long scheme to obtain free labor from followers by subjecting them to economic, sexual and psychological abuse using surveillance, indoctrination, and intimidation.
Prosecutors say the pair drew recruits through chapters all over the country and then worked to isolate them from their friends and family, coercing them into taking out debt to pay for wellness courses.
"Under the guise of empowerment and wellness, the defendants are alleged to have sought complete control over their employees' lives, including by driving them into debt and directing them to perform sexual acts while also withholding wages," said Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, New York. "No matter the marketing mantra, this conduct is never acceptable."
Cherwitz was arrested Tuesday morning in California and charged with forced labor conspiracy. Prosecutors say Daedone remains at large and is believed to be living overseas. Neither woman could immediately be reached for comment and it was not immediately clear if they had retained attorneys.
The company, which came under scrutiny following a 2018 expose by Bloomberg, has always denied engaging in any wrongdoing.
The program gained in popularity after being featured in a 2009 article that ran on the front of the New York Times' style section. Two years later, Daedone wrote a successful book called "Slow Sex: the Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm," that further drove OneTaste's popularity.
"I do think we have a pleasure deficit disorder in this country... I do think that there is a cure and the cure is orgasm," Daedone said in a TED Talks speech that year.
Behind the scenes, prosecutors say Daedone and Cherwitz were driving followers into communal living arrangements where they were constantly monitored and their private traumas were used to manipulate them.
Prosecutors say followers were encouraged to perform sex acts they found repulsive or uncomfortable purportedly as part of the therapy. Many followers were promised money in exchange for working for the group, but were often never paid, according to the criminal complaint.
Anyone who questioned Daedone was often subjected to retribution and emotional abuse, prosecutors said. Some followers were even groomed into engaging in sex acts with Oneaste's investors and clients, prosecutors said.
OneTaste's dark underbelly began to surface publicly after the 2018 Bloomberg expose, which shined a light on the group's practices and triggered an FBI probe. After that, OneTaste began dialing back its operations and attempting to rebrand as the Institute of OM.
In 2021, the group was the subject of a critical Netflix documentary titled "Orgasm Inc."
-Lukas I. Alpert
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June 10, 2023 15:37 ET (19:37 GMT)
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