Featured Image
Allison MackFlickr

BROOKLYN, New York, April 11, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Because Allison Mack, convicted this week of racketeering in a sex trafficking case, is a television actress, the Nxivm sex-cult scandal looks like another Hollywood story.

It’s not a Hollywood story. Bizarrely, it’s a feminism-gone-mad story.

Let’s begin.

Before Mack, 36, was arrested by the FBI in April 2018 on suspicion of sex trafficking, she was best known for playing Chloe Sullivan, Clark Kent’s best friend in the television drama “Smallville.”

“Smallville” aired from 2001 until 2011 and Mack received awards and nominations for her role. Afterward, sensing a downturn in her career, she sought out a self-help guru, Keith Raniere. According to an in-depth New York Times Magazine article by Vanessa Grigoriadis, Mack asked Raniere to make her “a great actress again.”

Mack was not the only high-profile woman to become interested in Raniere’s Nxivm (pronounced Nexium) movement. The New York guru’s personal development organization also attracted Mack’s Canadian same-sex partner, “Battlestar Galactica” actress Nicki Clyne, as well as the actress daughter of “Dynasty” star Catherine Oxenberg and two daughters of the late Canadian-American billionaire Edgar Bronfman Sr.  

Nxivm is strictly hierarchical, and members are encouraged to look up to their superiors in the organization as they strive for their own personal perfection. Having ascended to the heights of Nxivm, Mack founded a subgroup within the organization: a female-empowerment group for  women who wished to become elite — elite in the organization and elite in life: happier, richer, thinner, stronger, and more (I quote) “bad-ass.” The group was called “the Vow,” or DOS, or Dominus Obsequious Sororium, dog-Latin for “The Master of the Obedient Sisterhood.”

The Master, of course, was Raniere.  

Here’s where it gets really weird. Women invited to join the “bad-ass” female inner circle were required to hand over something valuable to prove their loyalty. Because they were wealthy, these valuable objects were things like naked photos of themselves, the deeds to their houses, a signed false confession to a crime, or a disclosure of their deepest, darkest secret. Later, they might be asked to hand over their loved one’s secrets as a pledge of their continued loyalty. Such things these women were happy to do, as they saw DOS as their new, female-empowered family. Ultimately, 150 women joined this inner circle.

DOS was hierarchical, too. Women who recruited other women to the group were called Masters. The recruits were called Slaves. Slaves could become Masters in their turn by recruiting other women. Ostensibly, the Masters were supposed to help the slaves by training them to become better, thinner versions of themselves. The slaves were supposed to run errands, but also accept such challenges as sexually “seducing” the Master of Masters, the guru Keith Raniere.

Before Mack was arrested, she told Grigoriadis that her “techniques of female empowerment” were helpful even to herself.   

“Mack recruited other women and even tweeted at famous women like Emma Watson, inviting them to learn more about her techniques of female empowerment,” Grigoriadis reported.  

She added: “Many women told me they improved from this scheme, and Mack agreed. ‘I found my spine, and I just kept solidifying my spine every time I would do something hard,” Mack said passionately.

Grigoriadis also quoted Mack as saying that “DOS was “about women coming together and pledging to one another a full-time commitment to become our most powerful and embodied selves by pushing on our greatest fears, by exposing our greatest vulnerabilities, by knowing that we would stand with each other no matter what, by holding our word, by overcoming pain.’”

Mack wasn’t kidding about the pain. To join DOS, aspirants had to undergo an initiation that involved being branded near their pubic region with a cauterizing pen by a female osteopath as they were held down by their female Masters. Submitting to this as an ultimate act of sisterhood, the new Slaves did not always know that the sacred symbol contained Raniere’s and Mack’s initials.

Most did not know, either, that Mack shared their naked photos with Raniere. Moreover, she blackmailed at least two of them. Mack stated at her trial that, prompted by Raniere, she threatened to make public “compromising information and images” of two women if they didn’t have sex with him.

She is now facing a maximum of 20 years in prison for each of the two counts of racketeering.

Ultimately, this supposedly “bad-ass,” supposedly “empowered” sisterhood of wealthy women were held in thrall to an avowedly polygamous man. According to the FBI, even Mack had placed herself fully in Raniere’s clutches. As collateral, she had given him a deed to her house, rights over any future children she might have, and a letter to social services claiming she had abused her nephews.  

Raniere, who was arrested in Mexico in March 2018, has always maintained that the sex he had with the women of DOS was consensual. He has not yet been put on trial. Mack, who pleaded guilty on April 8, is now facing a maximum of 20 years in prison for each of the two counts of racketeering.

It is said that sisterhood is powerful. What a horrible irony that in seeking sisterhood and “female empowerment,” 150 women joined a society that was, at heart, a harem for the founder of what may just be a psychotherapeutic pyramid scheme. By seeking power, these women became powerless.

As I said, feminism gone mad.

Featured Image

Dorothy Cummings McLean is a Canadian journalist, essayist, and novelist. She earned an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Toronto and an M.Div./S.T.B. from Toronto’s Regis College. She was a columnist for the Toronto Catholic Register for nine years and has contributed to Catholic World Report. Her first book, Seraphic Singles,  was published by Novalis (2010) in Canada, Liguori in the USA, and Homo Dei in Poland. Her second, Ceremony of Innocence, was published by Ignatius Press (2013). Dorothy lives near Edinburgh, Scotland with her husband.