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Everything You Need to Know About NXIVM, the Insane New York Sex Cult

The Secret World of Smallville Actress Allison Mack

By Kady Ruth Ashcraft ·
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Henry S. Dziekan III / Getty

Did you binge watch Wild Wild Country and immediately want another insane sex cult story to dive into? Well, you’re in luck. There’s no multi-part Netflix series out about this one yet, because it is still unfolding. But the cult is called NXIVM (pronounced Nex-ee-um), it's based out of Albany and it masquerades as a self help organization for alpha types looking to be more...alpha? Within NXIVM is a subset called DOS, where the leader of the cult brands women he calls his sex slaves. So until the doc comes out, here’s what you need to know.

So what exactly is NXIVM?
NXIVM is sold as an “executive success program” and is based in Albany. Some of the specific programs they market are called innocuously new age-y names like “Origins” and “Ethos.” “The Origins program is the path to understanding your own operating system,” reads the description on their website. People are either “pro-survival” or they’re designated as “destructive.” NXIVM boasts a membership of around 16,000 people but the majority of them take a course, get the self-esteem boost they need from it and move on. Members of NXIVM are called Nxians. Where things become shady (like, illegal shady, not just self-help shady) is the subsect of NXIVM called DOS, which is lead by founder Keith Raniere.

Ok but who is Keith Raniere?
The founder of NXIVM is a man named Keith Raniere, who has his members call him Vanguard. The first red flag is no one should be able to determine their own nickname. The second red flag is that Raniere, a man who looks like he’d be in your Park Slope yoga class, ran a women’s only subsect of NXIVM called DOS, which is an acronym for a Latin phrase roughly meaning “Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions.” In order to join DOS, women had to provide “collateral,” aka nude photos of themselves and personal information that could hurt their reputation should it be released. This collateral was held over them to scare them from reporting what was going on in DOS.

What was going on in DOS?
The women members of DOS were referred to as slaves (Raniere was their “master”) and they were expected to recruit more slaves to the program. The slaves were branded on their pelvic region with a logo that contained Raniere’s initials. Former slaves were interviewed about this and called it incredibly traumatizing and torturous. They also claimed that if they weren't able to recruit other slaves quickly enough, they'd be beaten with paddles. Slaves had to adhere to strict 500-800 calorie/day diets in order to maintain an appearance that Raniere found sexually appealing. 

How is Smallville's Allison Mack involved in all of this?
Glad you asked! Mack was a member of DOS and a high ranking slave underneath Raniere (I refuse to call him Vanguard.) She was actively recruiting other women in Hollywood to join and grooming them to be suitable for Raniere to have sex with. Sixth Sense actress Samia Shoaib recently relayed her experiences with Mack, who tried to recruit her in 2013. Shoaib said that Mack seemed unwell and very strung out, constantly trying to pitch this women's only retreat over email to her. Earlier this month Mack was arrested and indicted on terms of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy. She faces 15 years to life in prison. Rainere was also arrested in Mexico recently and jailed for similar charges.

What's going to happen to NXIVM?
Wait, why are you asking? You're not trying to join are you? Well, their website is currently stanning for Raniere's innocence, which feels like not the best move legally. But I'm not a lawyer, so what do I know? (Heads up to our Brooklyn: the sex cult reverse commuted down to the city and is now headquartered here.) With both Mack and Raniere in jail, longtime member Clare Bronfman, heiress to the Seagram's liquor fortune, is now the de facto head of NXIVM. She and other Nxians have moved there to be closer to the jail where Raniere's being held. So if some waif-like ladies approach you at the farmers' market over the weekend gushing about a women's retreat upstate, back away slowly.

Kady Ruth Ashcraft is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and Amtrak Princess. Follow her on twitter @kadyrabbit and tweet her pictures of your pets.

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