UPDATE: OneTaste cofounder Nicole Daedone turned herself into federal authorities in New York on June 13 and entered a not guilty plea, according to court documents. She was released on $1 million bail—secured by a property in Mendocino County—and will hand over her passport as part of the agreement, among other requirements.
The founder and an executive of a cult-like San Francisco company that taught orgasmic meditation were charged Tuesday for allegedly running an enterprise that encouraged members to cut ties with outsiders, incur debts, exult the company’s founders and perform forced sexual acts with potential investors and others.
OneTaste co-founder Nicole Daedone and the former head of sales, Rachel Cherwitz, were indicted on forced labor conspiracy charges in the Eastern District of New York. The pair led a scheme that purported to offer wellness and empowerment but in reality controlled the lives of their employees and members, according to the indictment.
“The defendants advertised their company as being able to help individuals recover from past trauma," said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael Driscoll. "In reality, they allegedly targeted their victims in order to manipulate them not only into debt but to limit their independence and create a reliance on OneTaste for basic needs."
Neither Daedone, 56, nor Cherwitz, 43, could be reached for comment. Authorities were searching for Daedone, who remains at large, while Cherwitz was arrested Tuesday.
OneTaste was founded in San Francisco in 2005. The company ran co-housing locations in SoMa and New York and had members practice what is called orgasmic meditations or OMing, which entails someone often manually stimulating a woman up to the edge of climax.
The company offers in-person OM retreats and training ($525 for three sessions) and also sells products such as OneStroke lube.
Many of the group’s members lived in communal homes—one at 1080 Folsom St.—where they participated in courses and practiced experimental sexual acts.
Federal authorities described the group’s teaching as an “ideology” that Daedone and Cherwitz used to instruct members in sexual acts—including ones they found “uncomfortable or repulsive”—meant to obtain “freedom and enlightenment.” Adherence to these teachings was considered a way for members to show their commitment to OneTaste.
The indictment is not the first time OneTaste has made news. Following media attention in 2018, the company gave itself a kind of facelift, and several years later, OneTaste launched a number of spinoffs under different names, including a nonprofit institute.
Anjuli Ayer, CEO of OneTaste, said in a statement that Tuesday’s indictment was based on “unfounded allegations of forced labor. Given OneTaste’s culture of individual empowerment, choice and consent, this is completely unjustified.”
Ayer claimed that the five-year FBI investigation into the company was based on an “error-riddled” Bloomberg Businessweek article and culminated in the indictment.
“We are appalled by this long-term, misogynistic, media-driven campaign to tear down a feminine empowerment project and the women who devoted their lives to it,” Ayer said.
If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org