Sex Cults and Silverware

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In the 1840’s, John Noyes was a young abolitionist preacher in Vermont with a bit of a problem. His poor wife, a sickly woman, had suffered four miscarriages and doctors warned that another failed pregnancy would likely kill her. Understandably not wanting to kill his wife, but still liking the whole idea of sex in general, Noyes began to explore alternatives, the majority of which involved just fucking other women. Now being a preacher and all, this left John with a bit of a theological conundrum. After all, pretty much all religious figures of the day agreed that sexing it up with random women was rather frowned upon by god. John dealt with this dilemma by declaring that god was totally okay with it as long as you didn’t ejaculate. Why this might seem like a rather strange solution to some, John was apparently one of those people who thought life was more about the journey. Not surprisingly, a lot of men in the area were totally down with this new idea of what was okay with god. Amazingly enough, a lot of women were okay with it too, probably because it gave them an opportunity to actually enjoy sex without the complicating factor of having a baby.

In 1844, John formed his first Christian commune in Piedmont, Vermont. The Piedmont commune was like many utopian communes of the day, in that the community collectively owned property, women were thought of generally as equals to men, and slavery was heavily frowned upon. What made the Piedmont commune different was that everybody lived in a big house together and was free to have sex with whomever they chose, as long as nobody ejaculated. To make sure that the ejaculation rule was obeyed, members who failed to hold back were reported by their partners to John, who then led a public shaming wherein the guilty party would be stood before the community and criticized for their lack of control. Things went on this way for about four years until John was caught fucking the wife of a man who was not a part of the commune and who was most definitely not down with some random guy doing his wife, even if said random guy wasn’t ejaculating. John was arrested on charges of adultery. Released on bail, he and his followers soon after fled Vermont for New York, where they founded a new commune known as the Oneida Community.

In New York, John decided to double down on his whole belief system. Declaring that possessiveness and exclusive relationships were the way of the devil, marriage was abolished and members of the commune were encouraged to have sex with everybody and anybody. While men were still expected to avoid ejaculation, women were expected to enjoy sex as much as possible, though in John’s view this included only having limited rights to refuse a man asking for sex. Women were also given equal status in the commune. They were allowed to cut their hair short and wear pants. As well, the raising of children was seen as a community responsibility, giving women within the commune the opportunity to try their hand at every available job.

It should come as no surprise that the Oneida commune was quite successful. Membership rose to several hundred people and money came in via the manufacturing and sale of various goods; such as leather bags, silverware, palm hats, animal traps, and garden furniture. With everything going so well, things of course had to get weird. John became obsessed with the sex lives of his followers. Under his orders, those who had sex had to report it to a special committee which kept meticulous records to make sure nobody was developing any undue attachments to a single person. Over time this committee grew in power until rather than just reporting sexual exploits, people instead had to first ask its permission before engaging in the dirty deed, and eventually it just told people who to have sex with. Older women, who had less of a chance of getting pregnant, were ordered to have sex with younger men, starting at the age of 14, in order to help educate them on how to avoid ejaculation. The younger women were saved for the older men, who were seen to have the most ejaculatory control. Pretty much all of the virgins were deflowered at the age of 14 by John himself. Eventually, this all culminated in John ordering certain people to have children together in order to create what he hoped would be perfect people. The perfect children were kept separate from their parents and taught to avoid all attachments except to the community.

Things began to fall apart in 1879. Forewarned that the state of New York planned to arrest him for oh so just so much statutory rape, Noyes fled to Canada, never to return. He died there in 1886. With the loss of John’s leadership, and most of the original members of the commune growing old, the younger people in the group broke away to live more traditional lifestyles. The commune broke up in 1881, with its property and manufacturing businesses converted to a joint stock company called Oneida Limited. This company eventually came under the leadership of Pierrepont Noyes, one of the perfect children, who focused the company solely on the manufacture of silverware. Oneida became the largest producer of silverware, dinnerware, glassware, and kitchen tools in the world for most of the twentieth century. Not bad for a company that started as a weird sex cult.