“Women’s empowerment,” however vaguely marketed, is always a broadly enticing proposition—and one on which many a grifter has managed to capitalize. The leader of OneTaste, Nicole Daedone, found perhaps the easiest way into a faux feminist scam: via the little-discussed, little-understood female orgasm.
Daedone created a health, wellness, and sexuality empire around what she called “orgasmic meditation” (or OM for short), scamming billions of dollars out of followers whose lives she permanently damaged. The Netflix documentary Orgasm Inc: The Story of OneTaste tells a story of how people’s intense yearning for love, connection, and belonging enabled the cultish scheme.
Daedone—who is described by those interviewed as “compelling,” a “skilled craftsman,” and a “performer,” among other things—founded OneTaste in 2004 in the Bay Area, where it stayed a relatively fringe practice until about 2009, after it was featured in the New York Times Lifestyle section. Journalist Ellen Huet first exposed its disturbing secrets in 2018 for Bloomberg, which led to OneTaste’s steady decline. But for years, the company thrived in its insular communes (where many of its members lived together), touting a free love-esque ethos of sexual openess and boundless acceptance. Only those on the inside knew the extent of the emotional, financial, and sexual abuse that was happening beneath the surface.
OneTaste’s key tenet, OMing, is a practice in which a woman’s clitoris is stroked by another person (usually a man) with a lubricated finger, causing her to orgasm for 15 minutes straight. It’s at once an exhilarating and somewhat embarrassing proposal for those who aren’t really in tune with themselves—even I blushed when it was first being described—and appealed to both women who’d never orgasmed before and men who didn’t really know how to connect with women.
“The stroking practice was phenomenal,” Chris Kosley, a former OneTaste member, said. Kosley admitted to wanting to get laid, even though women were always a “mystery” to him. “And from that one point [in the clitoris] it opens up all these channels as a man that I just never knew were accessible to me.” As OneTaste got off the ground, they charged anywhere from $500 to $60,000 for classes and long-term membership, depending on how intense someone’s desire—and maybe desperation—was to learn OMing.
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OMing soon became a way to work through any conflict or negative feeling. According to Daedone, the more one OMed (sometimes four to five times a day), the more they were able to “discharge” their trauma. But it was only a matter of time—or what I think was the plan all along—that OMing would be used to solve any and all of people’s problems, at the expense of women being touched by a stranger. “Nicole’s very brilliant at seeing wounding,” former member Elana Auerbach said. “So that’s what she hooks into, and then [she] becomes the salve of that wounding,” she explained.
Female orgasm—and the empowerment Daedone had marketed along with it—was no longer the focus or the goal of OMing, but the empty vessel through which the one doing the stroking was meant to be fulfilled or work through their own insecurities. At times, the gender imbalances at workshops were so wide that female staffers would have to volunteer themselves for demonstrations, regardless of whether or not they really wanted to. Some even admitted to volunteering for OMing sessions not out of their own desire, but because of the respect and attention that it would earn them.
In addition to these reluctant OMing sessions, Daedone began to preach horrifically damaging rhetoric around sexual violence that encouraged “no value judgement” towards “rape” and “predatorial men.” Perhaps as a way to brag about her own enlightenment, Daedone even shared with classes that she didn’t think that her father, who was charged with 52 counts of child molestation, was a bad person. Those urges, Daedone explained, were simply men’s inner beasts.
One former member, Ayris Blanck, was once sexually assaulted by multiple men and was told to ignore her body’s responses to the assault. “I was reprimanded afterward for showing fear in the face of his beast,” she wrote in an email to her sister Atymn, who appeared in the documentary. “A true turned-on woman would have taken his beast’s cry for help for grace and love.”
“It went from like utopia to a hellhole,” former member Ruwan Meepagal, said of the organization. Throughout the documentary, there are many scenes that show members hugging one another, pleasuring each other, and being in what appears to be genuine community. But, of course, when being welcomed into a group is hinged on you surrendering your own inner compass and being infantilized to the point of questioning your own boundaries, any appearance of “utopia” is likely just a mirage.
Daedone’s scheme clearly capitalized on the West’s fixation with both alternative wellness practices and girlboss feminism. “People wanted to see a woman like her at the top of a company like this,” Huet pointed out in the documentary. “This was really women-led, and I think that was really important based on what OneTaste was teaching.”
But Daedone was simply using the veil of feminism and the feminist female orgasm to impose exactly the the opposite: extreme control and debasement. “I want to start a religion, but the thing is, you can’t sell God,” she once told an anonymous former member. “Because you can get God on Amazon. What I’m selling is sex. Because you still can’t get that.”
While Netflix was unable to get members of OneTaste leadership to participate in the documentary, the company did refute many of the claims made by former members, especially around endorsing abuse and coercing members to participate in activities against their will. The FBI is currently looking into OneTaste’s business and labor practices, but no charges have been brought to date. As for Daedone—after selling her stake in OneTaste in 2017 and a brief stint in Bali and Italy a year later, she’s now working with a ghost writer on a book about—of all things—cancel culture.
I’d give up all possibility of a 15-minute orgasm to make sure this woman never has another platform again.