OneTaste CEO Steps Down After Claims That Company Engaged in Predatory Behavior

(Bloomberg) -- OneTaste, the sexuality-focused wellness company that teaches a practice called “orgasmic meditation,” is replacing its chief executive officer. Last month, Bloomberg Businessweek reported on accusations of predatory sales and recruitment tactics. OneTaste denied the allegations and said the CEO change is unrelated.

Joanna Van Vleck wrote in an email to OneTaste customers on Tuesday that she has stepped down as CEO and will be replaced by Anjuli Ayer, one of three owners of the company. OneTaste will also make a new push toward online classes, Van Vleck wrote.

A spokeswoman for OneTaste said Tuesday that the company had been planning for Ayer to take over as CEO since she took part-ownership of the business last year, when Van Vleck was promoted. The spokeswoman said Van Vleck will stay on as director of outreach. Ayer wrote in an emailed statement that her goal as CEO is “to lead the vision of making OM more accessible and available.”

OneTaste, which was founded in San Francisco in 2004, teaches courses and hosts retreats focused on its trademarked practice of orgasmic meditation, or OM. The technique involves one person, usually a man, stroking a woman’s clitoris for 15 minutes with a gloved, lubricated fingertip.

Former staff and past members previously told Bloomberg Businessweek that OneTaste facilitated emotional and sexual manipulation while also pushing them into debt. Ex-OneTaste workers said managers often treated their bodies as marketing tools, telling them to OM with or have sex with other employees or with customers. Former staff said they were also instructed to encourage students to take out loans—sometimes up to five figures—in order to pay for more courses. In 2015, OneTaste paid an out-of-court settlement to a former employee, who claimed she faced sexual harassment, sexual assault and labor violations on the job.

OneTaste said the settlement was confidential but that it has never required any employee to engage in a sexual act. The company disputed the accounts of the former workers and customers who spoke to Bloomberg Businessweek. OneTaste also said it never manipulated students in order to sell courses and that in 2016, it revised its sales policies to make sure customers don’t feel pressure to take on debt. The company said its courses help men and women become more connected to their bodies and to other people.

Before joining OneTaste in 2010, Van Vleck was the head of Trunk Club LLC, an online clothing stylist now owned by Nordstrom Inc. She was named CEO last year after co-founder Nicole Daedone resigned and sold her ownership stake in the business.

OneTaste will soon expand its online education offerings about orgasmic meditation, Van Vleck wrote in the email to customers. “Just like we foresee Orgasm as the next frontier of wellness, we see media that is based in connection as the next digital edge,” Van Vleck wrote.

The incoming CEO also has ties to a newer part of OneTaste’s program. Ayer is the sole owner of The Land, a 162-acre property in Northern California’s Anderson Valley that she bought in 2016 and that OneTaste often rents as a venue for classes and retreats.

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