We’re away until January 4, but we’re reposting some of our favorite pieces from 2020. Enjoy your holiday!
Like everyone on Twitter, I have been transfixed by the HBO documentary series The Vow, about the self-improvement cult/pyramid scheme/sex trafficking ring known collectively as NXIVM. The organization’s leader, Keith Raniere, was found guilty on seven counts of racketeering and sex trafficking in 2019, and this week, on October 27, he was sentenced to a hundred and twenty years in prison. The most sensational headlines of the case are about the former teen actress Allison Mack’s involvement in a secret sadomasochistic group within NXIVM known as DOS (“dominus obsequious sororum,” a phrase in a language that could at best be described as Latin-esque that supposedly meant “lord over the obedient female companions”) in which she and other “masters” recruited other women as “slaves,” some of whom were made to have sex with Raniere. Grotesque details abound in this story, particularly of slaves being branded with a soldering iron near their crotches with a symbol containing both Mack’s and Raniere’s initials.