I have been disturbed lately over facing an onrush of misogyny and sexism. I have, for example, bumped up repeatedly against the motif of women in adoring service to the "great man," as can be seen in such "critically acclaimed works" as the musical Hamilton, and the 2017 film Phantom Thread, which was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.* The unspoken assumption in these works is that a woman has no higher calling than to adore a dominant male.
In 2013, Raniere decided that he wanted to open up the SOP [male only] curriculum to female members of NXIVM, dubbing the new course SOP Complete. Although Vicente [who turned on the cult] testified that he initially had “concerns” about opening up the group to women, he later relented when female members of NXIVM’s inner circle spoke with him and said they wanted to take the class.Those concerns turned out to have been justified, however, when Raniere introduced SOP Complete to group members by telling them the primary tenets of the group: i.e., that women “lack discipline,” were “entitled,” and were “misusing their sexuality to gain an advantage in the world,” Vicente testified. The goal of the curriculum, which was authored by Raniere, was to give women “the experience of being a little boy in a man’s world,” or to essentially tease and bully them until they were forced to grow up and assume responsibility for their actions. “‘We’re gonna help them find themselves and push them the same way you were pushed,'” Vicente recalled Raniere saying.SOP Complete, Vicente testified, was “run more like a boot camp” than an academic curriculum. In addition to using hazing and other military-inspired tactics, such as forcing group members to do “penance” for misdeeds in the form of planks or wall-sits, SOP Complete instructors also used props, such as fairy wings, to humiliate female members into submission.At one point, Clare Bronfman, the billionaire Seagram’s heiress who had at this point assumed a central role in NXIVM, was given a “jock strap” for being “too bossy,” according to Vicente. Raniere also suggested that male group members take photographs of the women if they were dressing provocatively and then make a video slideshow to humiliate them.Although Vicente said that he had reservations about SOP Complete, testifying that even his wife had approached him with her concerns about the group, he nevertheless kept participating in the group. “I believed with some reservation that the women wanted to feel stronger and this would help in some ways,” he said, before eventually coming to the realization that the aim of the group was to “make women submit to men and be obedient, no matter what.”