|Founder||Robert Kandell and Nicole Daedone|
San Francisco, CA,
Number of locations
|Revenue||$6.5 M (2014)|
Number of employees
OneTaste is a business dedicated to researching and teaching the practices of orgasmic meditation and slow sex. Though it embraces certain tenets based in Eastern philosophy, OneTaste's central focus is female orgasm and sexuality, especially in a practice called Orgasmic Meditation.
OneTaste was cofounded in San Francisco by Robert Kandell and Nicole Daedone in 2001. OneTaste originally operated two communal-style "urban retreat" centers, one in San Francisco's Soma District and the other on Manhattan's Lower East Side. OneTaste produces media, workshops, weekend retreats, and a coach training program.
A "Buddhist Monk" supposedly introduced orgasmic meditation to Daedone before she started OneTaste. The New York Times portrays Daedone as leading a self-described "slow sex movement, one that places a near-exclusive emphasis on women’s pleasure — in which love, romance and even flirtation are not required." Daedone draws parallels between slow sex and the Slow Food movement associated with chef Alice Waters. With sex as with food, she says, people can overindulge without getting nourishment, or go from one extreme of consuming mindlessly to the other extreme of self-denial.
The organization's stated goal is "to create a clean, well-lit place where sexuality, relationship, and intimacy could be discussed openly and honestly." OneTaste produces media, workshops, weekend retreats, and a coach training program.
Orgasmic meditation (OM) is a mindfulness practice in which the object of meditation is finger to genital contact. OM is practiced in pairs, with one practitioner stroking the genitals of the other, and both focusing their attention on the sensation with the stated goal of developing connective resonance between them. Although the practitioners can be of either sex, the focus of orgasmic meditation seems to be on the female orgasm through subtle and deliberate stimulation of the clitoris. Both partners, however, are said to share in the sensation and fulfillment via a kind of "pleasure by proxy." Proponents state that orgasmic meditation encompasses more than just orgasm and that it encourages greater emotional awareness, connected relationships, and sense of fulfillment. Others describe the sensation as "a heady buzz, mixed with equal parts wooziness and intensity of focus."
Orgasmic Meditation borrows from other traditions including yoga, and other forms of meditation, and is a central element of the "Slow Sex Movement". Practitioners of orgasmic meditation claim the practice nourishes the limbic system, that bit of the mammalian brain for emotion, empathy, and motivation. After, both partners share their experiences, verbally.
OneTaste has drawn international media attention and controversy; several journalists have compared OneTaste to a cult and pyramid scheme, while others have noted a push of orgasmic meditation into the mainstream.
In March 2009, The New York Times featured OneTaste on the front page of its "Style" section. The article describes the organization as "the latest stop on this sexual underground, weaving together strands of radical individual freedom, Eastern spirituality and feminism." An Indiana University sociology professor who has studied San Francisco's sexual subcultures, Elizabeth A. Armstrong, is quoted as saying “The notion of a San Francisco sex commune focused on female orgasm is part of a long and rich history of women being public and empowered about their sexuality.”
The article also notes, "as with many a commune before it, the leader of One Taste, Ms. Daedone, is a polarizing personality, whom admirers venerate as a sex diva, although some former members say she has cult like powers over her followers... Much of the community’s tone revolves around Ms. Daedone, a woman of considerable charm, although detractors regard her as a master manipulator." In the New York Times interview, Ms. Daedone insists she does not aspire to guru status, while acknowledging that "there’s a high potential for this to be a cult."
The New York Times article led to several blog and opinion columns. Salon.com ran an essay that referenced the Times piece and discussed the merits of women joining a community dedicated to female orgasm, concluding that "within a mainstream sexual culture defined almost exclusively by dudely desires" that it might be healthy.
A number of press accounts have since offered different perspectives on the organization including a 2013 Gawker article, also referencing online cult accusations, which documented the reporter's experience at a weekend conference hosted by OneTaste. An article in GoodTimes Weekly, 'The Big OM', refers to "cult allegations" by posters on Yelp.com, as did one on Vice and on Salon. A 2016 episode of the podcast Love + Radio is dedicated to the experience of a woman who had increasingly fraught relations with OneTaste. An article in The Cut stated that "some cult experts have linked Daedone with Victor Baranco," the cult leader who ran Lafayette Morehouse, and also suggests that it may be a pyramid scheme. Similarly, an article in The Frisky described OneTaste as "Landmark Forum for the clitoris." A Refinery 29 article cited the organization's "potentially aggressive sales tactics."
Playboy Magazine compared OneTaste to Scientology and Landmark Forum, saying it had a "pyramidal pricing structure"; a week-long training with Nicole Daedone had been advertised at $36,000. It said: "All I can think about is how easy it is to start a cult. .... the way the volunteers serve the leaders, jumping at their every demand to "get me water” and “move that stool”... the full-court sales pitch from the minute you walk in... I leave early and I'm furious". The author implies she was gaslighted when she disagreed with the leaders. She writes that she was re-traumatized "for weeks" as memories of her past sexual trauma were triggered by a business promising female empowerment but "people probably just want your money."
The book Sensation by Isabel Losada ends with a "Warning" about "'hard sell' techniques... 'One Taste' (like many businesses) offer a wide range of courses which are outside the price range of most bank accounts. I'll say it again. Please don't spend money that you don't have."
In June 2018, Bloomberg Businessweek published an article chronicling recent training changes and that was critical of how the company treated its employees and consultants, often pressuring them to take expensive courses, programs, and retreats that drove them into debt. Former members of the organization testifying about their experience at OneTaste said it "resembled a kind of prostitution ring", where managers frequently ordered staffers to engage in sexual relations with customers. In 2015, a former employee received a 6-figure settlement for sexual assault and harassment. Around universities, students are drawn to free OneTaste events with ad boards such as "Tired of Swiping Left? Let’s Talk Real Intimacy!" or "You Do Yoga. You Meditate. Now try #OrgasmicMeditation". A year-long, $60,000 premium membership is sold by the company since 2014. OneTaste teaches their members that money is just an emotional obstacle, which led some of them down to thousands of dollars in credit card debts.
The FBI has been making inquiries into OneTaste according to three people familiar with the matter. U.S. investigators have asked people connected to OneTaste a range of questions, including whether the company pressured workers into sexual encounters to help close a sale, two of the people said. The company said it never required any employee to engage in a sexual act and that it never used sex for sales.
In July 2018, the company’s chief executive officer stepped down and was replaced by co-owner Anjuli Ayer. Last month, OneTaste closed its U.S. offices—in San Francisco, New York City and Los Angeles—and stopped offering in-person courses and retreats globally. The company said it’s now focusing on putting its teachings online to reach a wider audience.
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Inc. 5000 #537 2015
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