A former employee of a wellness company that has been dubbed an ‘orgasm cult’ has revealed how she was encouraged to form a relationship with a wealthy man who could pay for her ‘orgasmic meditation’ classes costing thousands of dollars.
The woman, identified only as Michal, spoke to journalist Nastaran Tavakoli-Far for BBC podcast The Orgasm Cult, which is exploring the dark side of wellness company OneTaste, which is under investigation by the FBI over allegations including sex trafficking, prostitution and violations of labor laws.
The company, founded by ‘messianic’ leader Nicole Daedone, focused on the practice of ‘orgasmic meditation’, which involves a woman, naked from the waist down, having her clitoris ‘stroked’ for 15 minutes by a man, either her own partner or another paying customer.
Thousands of customers signed up to learn orgasmic meditation, or OM, with OneTaste, attracted by Daedone’s promises it could improve their sex life, help them to ‘reclaim their sexuality’ and even aide in recovery from sexual trauma. She also insisted that the practice would one day be widely used like yoga or meditation and made the broad claim that it would ‘change the world’.
Among them was Michal, who was working as an assistant teacher in New York when she first tried a OneTaste introductory class some five years ago. Then 28-years-old, Michal was drawn in by the promise that she would have an orgasm, something she had never experienced despite years of seeking help from doctors and psychiatrists.
A former employee, identified only as Michal, spoke to journalist Nastaran Tavakoli-Far of BBC podcast The Orgasm Cult, which is exploring the dark side of wellness company OneTaste, which is under investigation by the FBI over allegations including sex trafficking, prostitution and violations of labor laws. Pictured, OneTaste founder Nicole Daedone
Orgasmic meditation involves a woman, naked from the waist down, having her clitoris ‘stroked’ for 15 minutes by a man, either her own partner or another paying customer. Pictured, a couple practice orgasmic meditation under the guidance of a British instructor in 2018
‘Nobody that I talked to before OneTaste could promise me that I would have an orgasm,’ she explained. ‘And at OneTaste people promised me that I was able to, not only have an orgasm, but have the most amazing orgasm, right away. So it was like at OneTaste I felt saturated with hope.’
‘I was nervous and excited about what I would find,’ she said of her first OneTaste event. ‘As soon as I walked into the room I remember everybody looked very bright and energised and the women seemed very confident and friendly…
‘They knew had to make it feel like a party and make it feel upbeat. Usually when women or people get together to talk about women’s sexuality it is usually done in whispers or it’s a bit uncomfortable… But here it was like a celebration. For me that was powerful because for so many years I had felt like I had to whisper and nudge about it.’
Soon Michal was introduced to the practice of orgasmic meditation, also known as OM.
Michal continued: ‘It was a very strange experience… I was completely sober, taking my pants and underwear off in front of a guy – I didn’t even know his name at the time – in a room full of 80 other people, or more, as if that was normal…
What is orgasmic meditation or ‘OM’?
Orgasmic meditation is a 15 minute partner practice that involves a woman removing her underwear and lying down on a ‘nest’ of pillows or another comfortable position.
The stroker, often a man, sits next to her on his own pillows and lightly and deliberately strokes her clitoris.
The stroker focuses solely on the upper-left-hand quadrant of the clitoris, the so-called ‘one o’clock’ position.
This continues for 15 minutes, until a timer goes off.
The aim is not necessarily to orgasm but simply to ‘feel’ the sensation as intensely as possible.
It affects the same parts of the human brain as conventional meditation.
‘I didn’t feel much that first time. It wasn’t sexually pleasing but what was exhilarating was this kind of freedom and agency that I was doing something to help myself and that I wasn’t afraid of my body.’
Before she left the class that day, a OneTaste employee had convinced Michal to sign up to the ‘next level’ of classes – a coaching programme – despite her protestations that she couldn’t afford the $12,000 price tag.
Michal claims the employee encouraged her to sign up for a credit card in order to cover costs, even finding the application form on her laptop.
‘When I stepped out of there I thought “oh my god, I’m in so much s***”, I’m in such big trouble What am I going to do with this debt?”,’ Michal recalls.
Within a month and a half Michal had quit her job and moved out of her rented apartment in order to move into one of the ‘OM houses’, a communal property where OneTaste members and employees lived together, while practicing OM several times a day.
While Michal initially enjoyed the benefits of orgasmic meditation and the new sensations it brought, over time she began to feel pressured to take part in group OM sessions, even when she didn’t want to.
She continued: ‘I was expected to practice four times a day, every day. Whether I had my period, whether I was sick… The choice of “do you want to have somebody touch you sexually?” was not something that was available to me.’
Michal said that if she did express hesitations, the teachers would turn the problem on her.
‘OneTaste teachers and higher ups would tell you “what’s the real problem?” or “what are you scared of?” or “what are you hiding?” or “you’re not serious enough about your practice”,’ she said. ‘Towards the end of my time there, I really didn’t want to wake up in the morning and practice. I started having a real averse emotional reaction to practicing, I would start having crying fits.
‘I became less and less prone to speaking out about those things because every time I did, it appeared that the problem was not outside of me, it was inside of me. It was my fault I was having doubt.’
Founder: OneTaste was founded in 2004 by Nicole Daedone (above) and promotes wellness through orgasmic meditation. OneTaste is currently not allowed to offer classes while the FBI makes inquiries about its activities, including allegations of ‘sex trafficking, prostitution and violations of labor laws’, a podcast has claimed
Michal, who worked at a juice bar near the OM house, joined the team responsible for selling the courses to new members. She was paid ‘a few hundred dollars’ commission for the few that she did sell, and was given a ‘couple’ of one-off payments by more senior staff to ‘pay rent and get by’.
However it was not nearly enough to cover the cost of continued OneTaste classes and retreats, which she was told would help her. She also wanted to be ‘closer’ to Nicole, something that has been echoed by a number of former members and employees.
‘It is like being a fan of a musician or an actor and wanting to be on the front row and see them play,’ she said, explaining the situation. ‘I wanted to be closer to Nicole, I wanted to be like Nicole, I wanted to be liked by Nicole.’
Michal spent close to a year with OneTaste and over that time her debt got ‘bigger and bigger’. She continued: ‘I started using my credit card for everything… That [money] was not something you could really talk about. They would say something along the lines of “in orgasm world you get what you deserve”.’
Who is OneTaste founder Nicole Daedone?
Nicole Daedone hails from California and described Silicone Valley as her ‘home’ in a 2013 lecture.
Before focusing her attentions on orgasmic meditation, the author and entrepreneur, The San Francisco State University graduate founded the 111 Minna Gallery in the SoMa district.
She went on to study with teachers of yoga, Kabbalah, and Buddhist meditation.
It is thought Daedone was introduced to orgasmic meditation in the early 2000s by a Buddhist monk, who demonstrated the practice in a private session.
She founded OneTaste in 2004, packaging orgasmic meditation in a palatable format and by 2009 was on the cover of The New York Times’ Style section.
Daedone wrote a guide to orgasmic meditation, Slow Sex: the art and craft of the female orgasm, in 2012.
In 2017, the company made $12 million in revenue.
Vanity Fair named Daedone in its list of ‘Twelve Women Who Changed the Way We Look at Sex’ and around 900,000 people have viewed her Ted talk, entitled Orgasm, the Cure for Hunger in Western Woman.
OneTaste suggested she could cover the cost of the classes – which rose to $60,000 for an annual membership – by getting someone to pay for her.
Michal explained: ‘There were many very well-paid men who were part of OneTaste. They usually had tech jobs or other high paying jobs. Some were older but others were in their 20s, 30s and 40s. The ratio between men who had money and women who didn’t was pretty extreme.
‘So men who came into OneTaste looking for more sexual experiences with women were in this perfect position where they could pay for women’s classes, take those classes with them, and in that way become their partners or boyfriends.’
OneTaste leadership team introduced Michal to a wealthy man based in San Francisco who was willing to pay for her classes.
‘He wasn’t my type, I wasn’t sexually attracted to him and yet he had this great power because he was willing to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on me to take those classes that I was told would have a great healing effect and teach me everything I need to know,’ she said. ‘So it’s not exactly prostitution but it’s also not completely different.’
The group also taught that the most powerful sexual encounters emerged from pairings of two people who were not physically attracted to each other.
Michal said: ‘One of the laws of orgasm is “aversion”. I remember being told that orgasm happens outside of your preferences so if you’re feeling an aversion, like an actual physical aversion to someone, it actually means if you were to get with him, you would have really hot sex.’
Michal started getting ill and had a number of questionable sexual encounters over the months she was there, including with male teachers at the company.
She continued: ‘I was consenting to sex I didn’t want to have with people who were more advanced in OneTaste.
‘I thought that they were supposedly so attuned to a woman’s body and such experts in OneTaste that they knew what they were doing so well that if I would have told them to stop, or that if something didn’t feel good or that I didn’t like what they were doing that I would in some way seem not so sexually evolved.
‘I remember several times that I had sex and I felt like my voice was stuck in my throat. I remember thinking “this is hurting me” but being unable to say so.’
By the end of her time with OneTaste, Michal had started showing symptoms of dissociation, which can manifest in a number of ways ranging from detachment to a psychotic episode.
Former chief technology officer Chris Hubbard claimed he was lured into working for the company by women who had been ‘told’ by founder Nicole Daedone (pictured) to ‘turn him on’ and have sex with him so he would ‘come back’
Michal said she is still dealing with the psychological effects of her experience years later.
She added: ‘When you are disassociated you don’t experience the immediate harm that is taking place but it accumulates so that when you leave and your mind and body heal over time you suddenly have to process all the trauma that took place. I would say that I’m still going through…
There are many sexual encounters that I remember but that are kind of fuzzy memories and there are memories that I have not yet fully processed, and I don’t know if I ever will.’
A OneTaste representative told MailOnline in response to a previous story about the company: ‘Any allegations of abusive practices are completely false. OneTaste was an organization that helped individuals to increase health, happiness and connection through methods combining mindfulness and sexuality.
‘More than 300,000 people practice Orgasmic Meditation worldwide. Many have experienced profound healing and transformation.’
The podcast, which will be 10 episodes in total, will also explore the wider wellness industry and the way it interacts with its largely female customer base.
The Orgasm Cult is available to download on BBC Sounds and via the programme page.