Sex has never been as straight forward as people would like it to be. The sexual revolution of the 60s was meant to free us all, but unfortunately the likelihood of every encounter possibly ending in pregnancy, child birth, and massive social stigma for any unmarried mother, was not the only thing that was holding people back from sex lives of wild abandon.
There is the difficulty for women of navigating a culture where they are simultaneously expected to be sexually appealing, while also being censored for enjoying sex. Young men who are discouraged from expressing their own emotions. Deeply ingrained cultural body shame, prescriptive sexualities and gender expression, as well as past traumas and the fears of future ones. It’s quite amazing that we manage to enjoy sex at all, and sadly for many women, for time and immorium it has been something to be tollerated rather than actively explored and enjoyed.
Nicole Daedone of OM, orgasmic meditation for those who don’t know, found a potent market for her own brand of sexual revolution. A revolution which was going to free women from all the cultural baggage and personal trauma, and allow them to find their own power rooted deep within their sexualities and great orgasims. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Except it wasn’t. Nastaran Tavakoli-Far of BBC Radio 4 takes us on a ten episode journey exploring what started out as a wellness brand and ended up being a violent and highly disturbing cult which financially crippled members, and gave others a license to rape and abuse bringing many to the brink of suicide. In the end OM delivered exactly the kind of vicious misogyny that members had been seeking to free themselves from.
Nazarene and her team guide us through the facts with an expert level of storytelling. They start off slowly explaining the attraction of wellness culture, the societal dynamics that mean more women than men are drawn to it, and a few rather awkward listening moments. Hearing real organisms rather than fake pornish/holywood ones turns out to be…well, really weird and a bit uncomfortable. Then through interviews with former members, and their families, Nazareen builds a picture that slowly takes away any concept you may have of sex cults being amusingly kinky fodder for nudge, nudge, wink, wink jokes.
The podcast comes to a climax with a story of brutality so stark it makes one wonder if the genre should be called true horror rather than true crime. The organism cult is not an easy listen, and the warning before each episode of difficult content are not mearly a snowflake response, but very needed. However, when it comes to understanding how cults operate it is essential listening.
We all have the ability to be hoodwinked by false promises of community, belonging and good health, as they are basic human needs. Add to that the vulnerability of those who have struggled unseen under patriarchical expectations and it is clear that a lot more people, maybe even ourselves, or a loved one, could fall prey to this kind of insidious manipulation.
The work that Nazreen and her team have done goes way beyond true crime for entertainments sake, and is much more of a public service.