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‘Orgasmic meditation’ group manipulated members with forced labor, sex abuse, feds say

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The founder and a former executive of OneTaste, a San Francisco-based “sexuality-focused wellness education” company that grabbed national media attention, were indicted on charges of conspiring to force employees to work for them by inflicting sexual, psychological and economic abuse, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Nicole Daedone, 56, the founder and spiritual leader of OneTaste, and Rachel Cherwitz, 43, who served as head of sales, used “a series of abusive and manipulative tactics” to get volunteers and employees to perform work for them from 2004 to 2018, prosecutors said.

They were charged in federal court in Brooklyn, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York. Cherwitz was arrested Tuesday in San Francisco, while Daedone remains at large, a law enforcement source said.

OneTaste rose to prominence for its focus on women’s pleasure, offering courses in “orgasmic meditation,” during which gloved men would bring women to climax with their fingers, according to reports on the group.

But according to federal investigators, the sexual liberation and healing OneTaste offered were a smokescreen behind which Daedone and Cherwitz manipulated and controlled members, driving them into debt with expensive courses while surveilling them and keeping dossiers of their personal information.

In addition to San Francisco, the company operated in New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Las Vegas and other U.S. cities.

“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 for the Eastern District of New York. “This prosecution should serve as a reminder to both employer and employee that no matter the marketing mantra, this conduct is never acceptable.”

OneTaste and its philosophy propelled Daedone to semi-celebrity status. In a 2011 TEDx talk in San Francisco, she preached the gospel of the female orgasm.

“Female orgasm is vital for every single woman on the planet,” she said. “It roots our fundamental capacity for connection.”

Daedone said she founded OneTaste after a man taught her about orgasmic meditation and brought her to tears by shining a flashlight on her genitals and describing their appearance.

However, Daedone was less focused on the pleasure of OneTaste’s members, prosecutors said.

“Cherwitz and Daedone promoted a philosophy and ethos based at the worship of ‘Orgasm’ in which Daedone played a central role,” prosecutors wrote in court documents. “Cherwitz, Daedone, and other leaders in the OneTaste community demanded absolute commitment to Daedone, including by exalting Daedone’s teachings and ideology.”

OneTaste targeted people who had suffered sexual abuse or trauma, saying the group could help with healing, prosecutors said. With Daedone as chief executive from 2004 to 2017, the company separated members from their relationships with outsiders and moved them to new locations, according to federal prosecutors.

Once in the group, OneTaste employees and members were required by Daedone to perform “uncomfortable or repulsive” sexual acts, according to the indictment. Daedone and Cherwitz are also accused of grooming employees to have sex with potential investors and clients of OneTaste, according to the indictment.

All the while, Daedone and Cherwitz used employees’ services while often failing to pay them what they were owed, prosecutors said.

OneTaste’s rise spawned positive as well as negative attention. A 2009 profile in the New York Times brought the company recognition but was followed by nightmare stories from former members who described it as cult-like.

The BBC in 2020 released a 10-episode podcast on OneTaste; Daedone and Cherwitz joined a lawsuit over the podcast in a failed libel action. Netflix released a documentary about the company, “Orgasm Inc: The Story of OneTaste.”

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