- Two leaders of OneTaste, an “orgasm meditation” group, have been charged with conspiring to use forced labour.
- Former OneTaste members claimed they were told to have sex with potential customers and members.
- An attorney sees an opportunity for these employees to appeal a human trafficking law.
Former members of a group dubbed an “orgasm cult” have accused the organization’s leaders of pressuring them into sex with potential members, which could potentially allow the ex-employees to pursue legal action by pointing to a novel application of federal human trafficking laws, an attorney said.
Two leaders of the organization called OneTaste, which started a hype called “orgasm meditation” in the early 2010s, were charged in April with conspiracy to engage in forced labor.
The indictment alleges OneTaste’s founder, Nicole Daedone, and the group’s sales director, Rachel Cherwitz, of a “year-old scheme to obtain the workforce and services of a group of OneTaste members … through subjection to economic, sexual and emotional conditions” and psychological abuse, surveillance, indoctrination and intimidation.”
According to the indictment, one element of OneTaste’s “forced labor program” was to “recruit and educate OneTaste members to engage in sexual activity with current and potential investors, customers, employees and beneficiaries of OneTaste for the financial benefit of OneTaste.”
Daedone and Cherwitz have pleaded not guilty to the charges of conspiracy to commit forced labor.
Former employees and members of OneTaste repeated these allegations in a Netflix documentary titled “Orgasm Inc.” released in November. The documentary chronicled OneTaste’s rise; how it attracted interest in part through live demonstrations of clitoral stimulation; and how it grew into a cult-like group as it expanded.
Former member Elana Auerbach told the documentary that the courses, which involved stimulating a woman’s clitoris, were often heavily attended by men. In order for every male to have a partner, OneTaste relied on current female members attending the courses.
“There were, you know, ten men and two other women who signed up,” Auerbach said in the documentary, adding that women could often take the course for free or at a significant discount, while men had to pay for the course in full .
“You paid for it. So if there are only two women, we need eight more women to team up with these other men. Where are they supposed to come from? So that’s us,” she said.
Despite the allegations, former OneTaste members have not taken legal action against the organization or its executives.
A lawyer whose practice focuses on allegations of sexual abuse against religious groups, cults, or “spiritual communities,” told Insider that a federal law called the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) grants the former members some form of civil redress ), which states that anyone who coerces or induces a person to engage in a “commercial sexual act” “by fraud or coercion” is breaking the law.
Carol Merchasin, an attorney at McAllister Olivarius who heads the firm for sexual misconduct in spiritual community practice, said holding religious groups or cults to account is often difficult.
She argues in her article on the application of (TVPA) to cults that these groups could invoke “First Amendment religious expressions” to operate as they please, and that US law currently provides little in the way of filing a lawsuit to submit “claiming compulsory control”.
But perhaps “the biggest legal obstacle,” she writes in the paper, is the statute of limitations, which gives victims deadlines for filing a lawsuit. Some states, including New York and California, have enacted laws that give sexual assault survivors a short period of time to pursue cases, even after the statute of limitations has expired.
“We don’t have enough resources and we don’t have enough tools in the legal system to take action against these cults and spiritual communities,” Merchasin said.
Merchasin says the solution may lie in beginning application of federal human trafficking statutes, and she cites a case brought against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein as a high-profile tip.
In 2018, a Manhattan judge allowed a lawsuit to be heard in court accusing the disgraced film executive of violating federal sex trafficking statutes. The plaintiffs argued that Weinstein had promised some form of career advancement prior to her sexual assault.
The human trafficking charges were dropped after prosecutors agreed to a $17 million settlement. However, the ability to get the case to court at all offered victims like the former OneTaste employees the option of a civil suit, even if women weren’t transported across state lines as is often the case, Merchasin said.
The attorney argued, “If you lure, recruit, harbor or recruit into these cult communities … to engage in what the law designates as a ‘commercial sex act,’ then OneTaste could be subject to scrutiny under the federal human trafficking statute.”
In this case, “commercial sex act” doesn’t have to be about money but something of value, Merchasin said in the interview, meaning the law doesn’t have to be limited to prostitution.
At OneTaste, former members accused executives of encouraging them to have sex with colleagues or members to resolve labor disputes or heal trauma.
Merchasin added that the “forced labor” element set forth in the federal indictment is an important part of the sex trafficking allegation.
In the indictment, prosecutors alleged that Daedone and Cherwitz encouraged staffers to “incur debt” and that members often depended on the organization to provide them with housing and other basic necessities.
When these victims don’t have money, “that’s one of the ways they take control of people … it makes it easier to be manipulated,” Merchasin said.
A spokesman for OneTaste and attorneys for Daedone and Cherwitz did not respond to a request for comment.