One of my closest friends shared this podcast about a sex cult called OneTaste. She knew that I’d be interested, not only because she used to live and work there, but also because I used to teach workshops there.
In the years since I taught at the San Francisco chapter of OneTaste, I became aware of the fact that OneTaste had become a harmful cult. Partly this awareness arose from my friend sharing the many ways living and working at OneTaste had harmed her. But she was not the only one. Other former members of OneTaste also contributed to my awareness of the many ways in which OneTaste was damaging people.
So I already knew that things had gotten pretty dark there. But it wasn’t until I listened to this podcast, that I began to comprehend the true depth of dysfunction and damage that was inflicted on many people by OneTaste’s founder, Nicole Daedone.
It pains me to say that.
For one thing, when Nicole’s book, Slow Sex, came out in 2012, she was a guest on my podcast. Our conversation was warm and congenial. Although I had witnessed Nicole talking to others in ways that I found concerning, Nicole never did anything harmful or disturbing to me. And that’s unfortunately one reason I chose to ignore my gut feelings about her treatment of others. She was nice to me.
At the time that I was teaching workshops at OneTaste, people like John Gray spoke there too. A few years later, both Namoi Wolf and Gwyneth Paltrow publicly endorsed Nicole’s work. It’s no wonder I felt like I was being afforded a prestigious platform.
I also loved the way I was welcomed and embraced and even love bombed by the OneTaste community. And I do think orgasms are a good thing and Nicole was all about orgasmic meditation. That felt like it was aligned with my message.
But I ignored the things that were not aligned and thought it was okay for me to continue to teach there anyway.
It wasn’t. And I am sorry that I am only coming to see that now.
I wish I had been more aware of the control she had over the residents. I didn’t know they were being abused. But I sensed a dark energy in Nicole, and I regret that I wasn’t more conscious of the potential for abuse.
As someone who I taught workshops at One Taste’s San Francisco location for most of 2007 and also hosted Nicole Daedone on my podcast in 2012, I feel compelled now to make this public statement.
I want to say, as clearly as I can, how sorry I am for the pain, suffering and trauma that so many members and clients of OneTaste experienced. I am concerned that my regular appearance there during 2007 might have somehow led others to trust OneTaste and the dogma it promoted. And I am sorry that I associated myself and my workshops with OneTaste.
I feel it’s important that I share this podcast with you.
If you decide to listen to the podcast, please be forewarned: some of the stories are disturbing, and could be triggering, as they contain discussions about sexual coercion and psychological manipulation.
And for anyone who has survived a high demand cult, I want you to know there are resources where you can find help and healing. Many supports are listed here.
Although I don’t for a moment condone Nicole’s abuse of power, I feel compassion for her. I don’t know her well, but I do understand that her father went to prison for sexually abusing minors. Although she denies that her dad ever abused her, I grew up with a father who raped my younger sister. So I know you don’t have to be assaulted yourself to suffer from the parenting of a molester.
And I take the trauma that cults can create very seriously. I was raised in a Christian cult that left its mark on me. I have been committed to bringing the abuses of cults to light.
But I see now that I have harbored pockets of denial. Listening to this podcast has helped me to get past my remaining denial, and to see how truly damaging OneTaste has been. Hearing about the suffering of former members has been painful for me, but it has also been an empowering growth experience.
Part of my growth has entailed realizing where my responsibilities lie. Because I didn’t join the OneTaste cult, and I didn’t teach any of Nicole’s courses, I saw myself as simply accessing a venue for my workshops.
But accountability asks us to examine our impact rather than defend our innocence. Sometimes we may turn a blind eye to abuses of power because we are not personally impacted or we don’t want to lose certain benefits or opportunities.
Today I know it is my responsibility to notice how others are being treated even and especially when those abuses don’t impact me personally. And I choose to ensure that my choices reduce harm whenever possible.
I am also extending compassion to myself as someone who was raised in a religious cult because in 2007, I didn’t have the ability to discern the fact that OneTaste was a cult. However even though being a cult survivor made me more susceptible, the fact is that a lot of us are susceptible to organizations that promise belonging but bring abuse of power.
It’s important to know how to recognize the signs of predatory cults. It’s also crucial that we create a culture that invites honest discussion. Sharing our stories is key because cults depend upon the “loyalty” of those who keep the cult secrets. Information sharing empowers us to protect ourselves and others from the abuses that flourish in secrecy.
But not all cults rely upon secrets. Some are operating in plain view with the approval of celebrities or government officials. In those cases, especially, it can be tempting to accept abuse of power as a “normal” or acceptable function of any organization.
I am glad we, as a culture, are becoming more aware of the ways power can be abused. And I am grateful to be expanding my own awareness and accountability.