An alleged San Francisco sex cult has attempted to groom new members, multiple sources told KQED, even as one of their most well-known former “students” now faces federal charges for practices many past members say she learned while living with the group.
On June 6, Nicole Daedone was indicted on forced labor charges that include allegations of sexual and emotional abuse at her company, OneTaste, which she founded in San Francisco. The commune and sexual wellness company sold courses and coaching promoting sexual empowerment and so-called “orgasmic meditation,” a ritual where a group of women would lie naked from the waist down while men wearing clothes would stroke the women’s genitals.
Former employees said OneTaste took advantage of people with sexual trauma, subjecting members and employees to surveillance, plus emotional, physical and psychological abuse.
But before her “orgasmic meditation” startup took off in Hollywood circles — and recently came crashing down — Daedone learned the basis for her business model and orgasmic meditation techniques, former affiliates told KQED, while living for two years with the San Francisco-based The Welcomed Consensus, a much older organization that sold thousand-dollar-courses promising sexual pleasure, social empowerment and freedom.
Rather than enlightenment, however, nearly a dozen ex-members, students and other affiliates have come forward to tell KQED about a consistent pattern of psychological and sexual abuse at the hands of the Welcomed Consensus, and its leader Robert “RJ” Testerman, over the past three decades.
“The Nicole news, I mean, it made me feel like RJ has done all of this times a hundred, and he’s still doing it,” said Sasha Nelson, who lived with the Welcomed Consensus for about four months at their house in the Glen Park neighborhood in 2018, after a member recruited her via Tinder.
KQED made multiple attempts to reach Testerman at the Welcomed Consensus’ properties in San Francisco and Siskiyou County, but phone calls and emails were not returned. An unnamed person who picked up the phone at a Siskiyou County ranch owned by the Welcomed Consensus declined to comment.
Similar to OneTaste, the Welcomed Consensus sold courses on sex and held gatherings where men would stroke undressed women. At its classes and recruiting events, the Welcomed Consensus taught “DOing,” essentially stroking a person’s genitals — most often it would be a man touching a woman. “DO” stood for “deliberate orgasm,” a term still actively trademarked by the Welcomed Consensus, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Former affiliates of Daedone’s say the model was the foundation for her company’s orgasmic meditation or “OMing” practice.
While keeping a lower profile these days, the Welcomed Consensus has continued recruiting for a different era, now through social media, online dating apps and volunteer programs.
‘The Wild West’
Christine Talbott Acosta was a member and former recruiter for the Welcomed Consensus. Born and raised in Redwood City, she was initially connected to Testerman while babysitting for a woman who was a family friend of his, while he was working in San Francisco as a hairdresser.
“He was 32 and I was 12, and the first time we had sex, it was three months after my 13th birthday,” said Talbott Acosta, who is now 57 and continues to live in San Francisco. “At 16, my life kind of crumbled.”
In the early ’80s, Talbott Acosta was kicked out of her high school and left home.
“There was free drug use where I babysat, and I smoked and drank with RJ. They gave me acid when I was 15,” Talbott Acosta said. “They treated me like an adult and encouraged it. He taught me to lie, and I couldn’t tell anybody.”
She briefly lived in the Tenderloin near Post and Polk Streets. Testerman helped Talbott Acosta acquire birth control, then began prostituting her when she turned 17, she claims. At 18, she also began working as a hairdresser for Testerman.
“Their belief was that you’re born fully responsible [to have sex],” Talbott Acosta said.
During this time, Talbott Acosta grew estranged from her family, something common among Welcomed Consensus members she has encountered over the years. The distance strengthened the pull Testerman had over her.
“He was my world. I worked for him and he was my lover and my dad and my family, really, my family,” Talbott Acosta said. “RJ referred to that time as the Wild West. We didn’t have any structure, it was just a sex commune with lots of drinking and drugs and violence and drama.”
Talbott Acosta then moved into a house near Oak and Fell streets that was affiliated with an East Bay sex commune called Lafayette Morehouse, which taught and sold sex classes through its so-called More University that began in 1977.
Everyone at her new house was taking classes from More University, with topics ranging from “Advanced Sensuality” to “Expansion of Sexual Potential.” Elite members of Morehouse lived at the commune’s larger property in Lafayette.
At around age 20, Talbott Acosta began living with Testerman at a house on Joost Avenue in San Francisco’s Glen Park neighborhood with about seven others while working for him at the hair salon. It was there in the early ’90s that Testerman formed the Welcomed Consensus, using the teachings and financial models he learned with More University.
“It was word for word,” Talbott Acosta said of how the Welcomed Consensus model is based on More University. She added, however, that she never experienced the rigid rules over sex, food, clothing or pressure to leave family with More University as she did with Welcomed Consensus.
Years later, Daedone would also become affiliated with both Morehouse and the Welcomed Consensus before launching her own version.
Members of the Welcomed Consensus’ inner circle had to pass what was referred to as “validation,” which required performing a three-hour long orgasm in private with Welcomed Consensus members as well as a one-hour orgasm demonstration as part of a public course offering, Talbott Acosta said. Women in the house would take turns performing DOing at workshops, she said.
Members of the inner circle typically lived at the Glen Park house. The group later bought a ranch in far Northern California near the community of Klamath River in rural Siskiyou County, called A Madrone Ranch and Gardens.
Former members described typical Welcomed Consensus lessons as a scene where a group of men and women would gather in a room, and men would practice stroking the clitoris of an assigned female partner.
“He would get the guys to come in and then all the women in the house would be who they practice on,” Talbott Acosta recalled.
‘That was the big hook. These guys who had been coming and ogling at you could do this. If you lived in the house, you were a shill they used as bait to bring guys in.’
For years, Talbott Acosta floated in and out of the Welcomed Consensus community, recruiting new members and participating in classes even as she moved out with a spouse and focused on having her own children.
She remembers one particular meeting with Testerman that influenced her split from the group, but it still took years to leave behind that life, even after moving out of the Glen Park house.
“RJ just hit me so hard… that I couldn’t imagine doing it again,” Talbott Acosta said of one particular DOing session where he repeatedly slapped her genitals. “The idea of taking my clothes off all of a sudden in public just had me really scared.”
There was also a “touch and look” course, where Welcomed Consensus students who reached a certain level in the courses could stroke and touch women who lived at the house, like Talbott Acosta, on the floor.
“That was the big hook,” Talbott Acosta said. “These guys who had been coming and ogling at you could do this. If you lived in the house, you were a shill they used as bait to bring guys in.”
She tried to take on other roles at the house, like cooking, but even then she was required to wear a French maid’s outfit. Any time she objected, she said, “I was told this is my resistance to pleasure.”
Years after leaving the group, Talbott Acosta reported the abuses she faced there to local police in Redwood City and San Francisco. Her reports fell beyond California’s statute of limitations, so she says police told her she would need evidence of Testerman admitting to the abuse, which she did not have. The cases went nowhere.
She later tried reaching out to five different law firms to see if she had a civil case she could try, but hit wall after wall with the justice system.
The Welcomed Consensus and OneTaste
Sasha Nelson grew up in Berlin and traveled all over the world before landing a corporate job in Sonoma County. She didn’t like her static lifestyle, and heard about OneTaste from friends taking workshops. She wanted the freedom and sexual empowerment it advertised.
She attended an OMing workshop with OneTaste and said their sorority-rush-like efforts to recruit her were “intoxicating” at first. She described the group as “a typical cult vibe, everyone was euphoric and excited and giddy and making friends.”
When she arrived at her first gathering, “you do this horrifying exercise and all these women are taking off their pants in a warehouse of 200 people, getting stroked in front of everybody,” Nelson said. “My first experience was with a man I had an aversion to the entire weekend, but after I felt really close to him and felt like ‘wow, there’s something really to this.’”
But as time went on, she became less charmed by the large group events and felt disconnected from the strangers she was having sexual encounters with at the workshops.
Then in the fall of 2017, she matched with a man named Bill Burns on Tinder. Text messages shared with KQED show he told her that he was in a sensuality community, and she was curious about it.
“I had liked the concept that was taught in Nicole [Daedone’s] workshop, but I didn’t like the scene,” Nelson said of the OneTaste event. “I thought, ‘Oh, here’s maybe another way to explore that. Like a little smaller group.’”
The Welcomed Consensus pushed much harder to recruit Nelson, she said.
“It was hard for me to believe these women would mislead me,” she told KQED. “It was a higher level of recruiting and grooming” than she experienced at the OneTaste workshops.
She began traveling to San Francisco for weekly “BenchMarks,” essentially cocktail-party-like recruitment gatherings led by Testerman and women who lived at Welcomed Consensus’ house on Joost in Glen Park.
BenchMarks were the first step in recruitment. Before each meeting, members would discuss who would be in attendance that night, remind each other to be happy and bubbly and not share any negatives about the group, and ultimately, bring in new members with money to spend, multiple former affiliates told KQED.
“A primary viewpoint of the group is that fun, turned-on women always enthusiastically say ‘Yes’ to offers,” Nelson told KQED. “By saying, ‘No, thank you,’ you are seen as out of agreement, resistant, or just plain unfun… Nobody wants to be deemed unattractive or unfun.”
Nelson was persuaded to move into the Welcomed Consensus’ San Francisco house in 2018, but left after four months.
She was often physically exhausted and hungry while living there — something other former members said was common in the early days of living among the Welcomed Consensus. Like sex, food was strictly controlled in the house, and women’s bodies were heavily scrutinized around weight, Nelson remembers.
“RJ likes skinny girls, that was one of the unspoken rules,” Nelson said. “You would really be pressured to eat the food being made, yet you were also not allowed to be fat.”
Another former student named Allyson told KQED she witnessed Testerman, wearing cowboy boots, repeatedly kick a household member who was on the floor. KQED is only using Allyson’s first name due to personal safety concerns.
By the time Nelson was being groomed by the Welcomed Consensus, OneTaste was booming. It was still edgy, but good marketing helped it inch its way toward mainstream acceptance with profiles in publications like The New York Times — and it made lots of money along the way.
But Daedone herself was a student with the Welcomed Consensus in the late 1990s and early 2000s, multiple sources told KQED, including a former housemate of hers and a colleague at OneTaste. Talbott Acosta described her mission with OneTaste as attempting to make the courses scalable, startup-style.
“Nicole took the Welcomed Consensus information and put her own twist on it. She used a lot of the same stuff, the basic business plan, but did change some of it,” Talbott Acosta said. “Her goal was to bring it to the masses.”
‘So much social punishment’
After graduating with a degree in ecology during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nat Jennings, then 23, was eager to get out into a world beyond screens to put it to use. In September 2022, she headed to California from Texas to volunteer with A Madrone Ranch and Gardens, which she found through a website that connects volunteers with organic farms to work in exchange for boarding, called Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF).
Jennings signed up to work at the farm — a remote property in rural Siskiyou County owned by the Welcomed Consensus — not knowing anything about the group. These days, she describes the experience as, “accidentally signing up to go live in a sex cult.”
“It’s really hard to realize what is happening, and to leave,” Jennings told KQED. “If I didn’t have friends on the outside, if I didn’t have a car there, I could have been trapped and I could have, like, not believed myself because I was struggling with sleep deprivation, overworking, like all these factors that were just kind of convincing me I was the crazy one.”
A few red flags stood out to her during her stay. First was early into her stay when women at the house began insisting that she wear a dress to dinner. When she replied she had come to work and didn’t bring a dress, they gave her one to put on. Jennings said she complied out of pressure, but said the dress felt “horribly inappropriate” and the experience made her feel “very uncomfortable.”
Another day, she went berry picking with one of the house mates, an older man, and he flashed his gun before asking her to go swimming with him and taking off his shirt.
“There was a lot of love bombing and then taking it away, that type of thing,” Jennings said. Love bombing refers to lavishing someone with affection, and usually revoking that kindness later to manipulate them. “There was so much social punishment if you do anything out of line.”
Something felt off. So she and another volunteer in the work-away program dug around online and came across Talbott Acosta’s blog, TruthAboutRJ.com, where they saw the faces of several people they were staying with and read stories that started similar to their own — but ended badly.
“We read all that and had this mutual panic attack like, ‘We have to leave tomorrow. This is ridiculous,’” Jennings said. “So on day 12, we woke up at 4:45 a.m., packed our bags and ran out to our cars.”
It’s unclear exactly how many members are still active with the Welcomed Consensus community. Jennings said at least five people were living at the house while she was there and Talbott Acosta believes two new members were validated in recent years.
Talbot Acosta said she reported the group and its ranch to WWOOF, but no action was taken. As of publication, the ranch listing was still active on the volunteer farming program’s website.
WWOOF did not respond to KQED’s requests for comment.
As young women like Jennings have come forward more recently, Talbott Acosta and Nelson fear a new generation of Welcomed Consensus leaders are being elevated.
Testerman’s daughter, Ginger Mueller-Testerman, completed a master’s thesis in 2021 titled “Clitoral Analysis: Analysis of Pleasure in Contemporary Sex Instruction Materials” at San Francisco State in Human Sexuality Studies, where she also taught a course. In Spring 2023, Mueller-Testerman taught a critical studies course including topics on gender and sexual identity at the California College of the Arts.
Upon hearing the news about Daedone and discovering Mueller-Testerman was teaching a course related to sex, Talbott Acosta contacted SF State and CCA to report personal experiences of abuse and recruiting for the Welcomed Consensus alongside Mueller-Testerman.
SF State and CCA also declined to comment on Talbott Acosta’s reports, but both schools confirmed she taught courses there last spring and said she was not signed up to teach this fall. Mueller-Testerman declined to comment when reached by phone.
California, cults and the Welcomed Consensus
It took decades before Talbott Acosta and her husband Dennis, who she met at the Welcomed Consensus, to fully cut ties with the group. She said it wasn’t until beginning intensive therapy, and having a total emotional breakdown, that she began to see more clearly the abuse that she encountered.
“For me, it was learning about trauma and learning about PTSD and getting the mental health care that I needed to start seeing what was really happening.”
Poulomi Saha, a UC Berkeley professor who teaches a course called Cults in Popular Culture, said that type of groupthink and pressure that keeps many members inside groups like the Welcomed Consensus is not uncommon in cults or other intentional communities.
“The first thing you have to ask is ‘Why do people join?’ without diagnosing some kind of brainwashing, mis-recognition or stupidity,” Saha told KQED. “If we begin by believing that followers are already in the wrong, we can’t understand what gets someone somewhere.”
“These groups draw followers by offering big-ticket items. Bliss. Salvation. Wild financial success. But also things that are big-ticket items that we make mundane like true belonging,” she said. “You also have a structure of authority, and huge financial outlays. People have bought in on every level of their social being. And there’s a leader whose power you actually somewhere really begin to adhere to.”
California is often the backdrop to popular culture’s obsession with cults, from the Manson Family to the People’s Temple and more. But there’s been a noticeable shift toward financial exploitation of group members, Saha said, which her research shows took off in the 1980s.
Groups like the Welcomed Consensus sold their offerings for thousands of dollars. One former member, Erwan Davon, even tried to sue Testerman, court records show, for putting him out of at least $136,000.
Allyson, who worked as a computer programmer before the Welcomed Consensus recruited her, estimated she spent at least $30,000 on courses with the Welcomed Consensus, plus buying a van for their food program. To get OneTaste up and moving, Daedone later convinced her to hand over the $5,000 she had saved in her 401K plan.
Meanwhile, the Welcomed Consensus ran a nonprofit out of the house called Free the Need, through which it claimed to help distribute surplus groceries to hungry families. But multiple former affiliates that spoke to KQED said most of the donated food was kept to feed members of the Welcomed Consensus.
Two male sources who were associated with the group told KQED that it was common for leaders to probe recruits about their finances and convince students to pay up. In return, they promised to revolutionize their sex life and relationship to women.
If you couldn’t pay, they would find work for you to do to pay off your debts.
“I refinished the hardwood floors. We wanted to build a subterranean brewery in the backyard, so we literally dug like 15 feet down,” said Dennis Acosta. “Then we realized we were totally insane and covered it all up.”
Testerman sold freedom from mainstream power dynamics and markets, but, Saha argues, groups like his often recreate them.
“You are not outside of the market logic at all. In fact, it’s a place where the market logic is perfected,” said Saha. “How do you draw someone in? Go out and bring four friends.”
These days, Talbott Acosta is spreading a different message.
“It makes people very uncomfortable. But it is important to talk about,” she said. “It’s the only way to let people know that it exists and that it can happen to anyone.”