When allegations emerged a couple of months back about R&B singer R. Kelly (the "Ignition Remix" guy), we had a crap ton of questions. For one, whaaaat? And secondly, exactly how does one get sucked into a sex cult anyway?
Surprisingly, it's more common than you think. And as much as we'd like to chuckle over the image of R. Kelly, the subject of so many hilarious Dave Chapelle sketches, strutting around like a cartoonish pimp, the reality is actually horrifying. Below, get to know six other cults that are even worse.
Family International (Formerly Children Of God)
Established in 1968 by some dude who called himself "Moses," this cult preached the usual hippie-dippy love that was typical of that era, splashed with some Old Testament ideas about women and their "place." The women were forced to participate in "Flirty Fishing," which was basically prostitution in the hopes of gaining converts through sex. However, the creepiest thing about them was that it promoted sex between adults and children.
A 1974 report went into detail about the alleged abuse: "A 14-year-old runaway who spent nine days at a COG commune testified that she was raped and because of her refusal to cooperate with the elders, was held in solitary confinement on no less than three separate occasions."
The cult was so massive, it even had celebrities as members. Actress Rose McGowan grew up in it (although she and her parents escaped once adult/child sex was introduced), as well as River Phoenix and Joaquin Phoenix.
As far as why anyone would listen to some bearded dude just because he said so? According to a former member, the religious group preyed on runaways and people who didn't feel like they "belonged" and then isolated them to the point where they no longer knew what was right or wrong. Surprisingly, the cult is still around today.
This cult, which started in New York sometime in the '60s, was a combination of Egyptian history, Islamic teachings, Christianity, and oh yeah, UFOs. The founder, Dwight York, a struggling musician who recorded under the name Dr. York, had started many quasi-religious and cults before he founded Nuwaubian Nation, which must have had a certain je ne sais quois about it since that was the only one that resonated with followers. Maybe it was the UFOs. Anyway, in 2004, Dwight was convicted of child molestation when victims spoke out about being forced to have sex with the leader to prepare for sex with their future husbands. Dr. York is currently still serving time in prison.
Little Pebble Dohsyuku-kai
This tiny cult situated in Japan involves followers having sex on top of an altar covered in yogurt. The reason? Who knows, but judging by this shocking Vice exposé, they're waiting for messages from the Virgin Mary…or something.
Founded in 1848, this cult never grew to be as large as some of the others on this list, but once archives of the old religious sect were uncovered in 1993, people were shocked with what was found inside. The cult practiced "complex marriage," which meant any consenting adult could have sex with whoever they wanted. You're probably thinking, "That doesn't sound so bad," but slow down.
Followers weren't allowed to have normal sex. Because the leader, John Humphrey Noyes, wanted to keep pregnancy rates down, he forced all his male followers to practice Coitus reservatus — or, in layman's terms, not ejaculating ever. In the end, it sort of worked? In the 20 or so years the cult was established, only 15 unplanned pregnancies were reported. But still — ew.
Great Shaman Shri Dzhnan Avatar Muni
In 2013, a Siberian dude named Konstantin Rudnev convinced 20,000 people that he was an "extraterrestrial from Sirius." He lured members in by promising yoga lessons that turned into sex orgies. Konstantin would sit on a throne while wearing sunglasses while his female followers danced around him topless. He was convicted and sent to prison when members from his loyal flock told police their dear leader was trafficking drugs and raping women. Yikes.
Anonymous San Francisco Sex Cult
In 2015, Bob Gower came forward to tell his experience with joining a sex cult. He never revealed the name of the cult, but it took place in San Francisco. Unlike the other cults on this list that were run by old perverts, this cult was run by a woman whose sole purpose was advancing the female sexual experience. Bob said the journey was amazing at first, but after two years, he realized the leader's methods were cruel. Couples were matched by the leader and often swapped for no reason. If couples ever got feelings for each other, the leader would force one couple to have sex in front of the other.
"Living in a sex cult was one of the most unsettling things I’ve ever gone through," he wrote. Sure, you didn't need us to tell you that.