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Free Loving Hippies in the 19th Century
September 9, 2007 11:35 AM   Subscribe

The Oneida Community was a Christian commune. Their practices included free love - "complex marriage", eugenics - "stirpiculture", an interesting form of birth control only effective due to their unique social structures - "male continence", and "mutual criticism." They did all this for over 30 years in the middle of the 19th century. The site is now run as a museum / apartments / bed and breakfast, and was visited by a descendant writing for the NY Times. The silverware company Oneida Limited was formed to maintain their productive enterprises after the end of the communal experiment. A former member wrote "A Record of an Attempt to Carry Out the Principles of Christian Unselfishness and Scientific Race-Improvement."
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim (64 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Way cooler than the Mormons.

Choice quote from the book, considering that the community lasted decades after 1852:

"Mr Noyes predicted the turning under process for his Community when in 1852 he said in substance that 'Communism like Christianity could adapt itself to any forms and that while people were looking at the Oneida Community and wondering at the almost miraculous achievement of harmony among so many people they would yet see the still greater miracle of the Oneida Community breaking up in a way equally harmonious without to any soul.' "

Even with the breakup of the communal living in the late 19th century, by the company history Oneida Ltd was heavily linked with former members and descendants well into the 20th century.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:43 AM on September 9, 2007


The Oneidans were part of a long and forgotten American experiment in idealism.
posted by Brian B. at 11:46 AM on September 9, 2007


I'd comment but I'm in the midst of an interview.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:47 AM on September 9, 2007


Fun bit of trivia: Charles Guiteau, the man who assassinated James Garfield, was an Oneidan.
posted by EarBucket at 11:52 AM on September 9, 2007


Surprisingly progressive and utterly fascinating utopian society:
Males and females had equality and equal voice in the governance of the community. A community nursery provided care for infants and children so that both parents could work. Females adopted a style of dress, believed to have been copied from the Iroquois, consisting of a short skirt over trousers (bloomers). This allowed them much greater freedom of movement than contemporary women's styles.

[...]

In theory, every male was married to every female. In practice, this meant that most adults had continuous sexual access to a partner.

[...]

Post-menopausal women were encouraged to introduce teenage males to sex, providing both with legitimate partners that rarely resulted in pregnancies. Furthermore, these women became religious role models for the young men.


Excellent post. Truly best of the web. Thank you, TheOnlyCoolTim.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:54 AM on September 9, 2007


Sarah Vowell goes into the O.C. (as it was sometimes called) in some detail in Assassination Vacation, including this tidbit: "Mutual Criticism required a member of the group to stand up in front of everybody and listen to the enumeration of his or her faults. The bright side of being that night's subject for criticism was the rare treat at Oneida of being the center of attention. The downside was that everyone you knew and loved was allowed, even encouraged, to look into your eyes and ask, 'You know what your problem is?'"
posted by Reggie Digest at 12:29 PM on September 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


What isn't mentioned is that Noyes would take it upon himself to deflower the virgins, some as young as 10. Quote:

...Noyes exercise the rights of "first husband" for many years, he did so only with girl who had reached menarche (first menstruation). The catch was the some of the girls reached menarche at a very early age--as low as ten in some instances, with a range of ten to eighteen, and an average age of thirteen. (Ely Van de Warker, "A Gynecological Study of the Oneida Community," American Journal of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children, 17 (August 1884):795, quoted in Kephart, William M, Extraordinary Groups, Second Edition, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1982:138.

I laugh every time I see Oneida stuff in the store, because the vast majority of the people buying it have no idea it was originally produced by a cult.
posted by Xoc at 12:35 PM on September 9, 2007


Scientific race improvement? nice.
posted by caddis at 12:39 PM on September 9, 2007


Utopian community turns into giant multinational!
posted by storybored at 12:42 PM on September 9, 2007


At first I was all like: "Now I know where I'm going if I ever find myself transported to the mid-19th Century!" And then I was like: "10 year old girls and eugenics?! Ugh! That's horrible!" So now I have to find somewhere else to go if somehow I get stuck in the 1850's.

What?! Doesn't everybody keep a mental list of where to go if sucked into a time vortex? It can happen!
posted by Kattullus at 12:47 PM on September 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Brian's right, but it's not just Cochranites. There were Icarians, Owenites, Fourierists, Rappites and Shakers. That's just for starters.
Now they're a fun day out for all the family.
posted by little apollo at 12:50 PM on September 9, 2007


er, none of my links came out in that last post. Is that because I'm a newbie?
posted by little apollo at 12:52 PM on September 9, 2007


Funny how the most common aspect in both cults and communes (and Oneida apparently qualified as both) is how the alpha male always manages to get as much tail as possible...
posted by Skeptic at 1:01 PM on September 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


er, none of my links came out in that last post. Is that because I'm a newbie?

Highlight a piece of text, then click "link" below. Paste the URL in the box that appears.
posted by Brian B. at 1:05 PM on September 9, 2007


There's a whoooooooole big thing about this in Assassination Vacation.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:30 PM on September 9, 2007


Thanks Brian, turns out I'm just a wee bit dim (and using Safari). Once again, with links...

The Oneidans were part of a long and forgotten American experiment in idealism.


Brian's right, but it's not just Cochranites. There were Icarians, Owenites, Fourierists, Rappites and Shakers. That's just for starters.

Now they're a fun day out for all the family.
posted by little apollo at 1:52 PM on September 9, 2007


why do comments keep saying this is a cult? Isn't any religion and its ideas cultish? or is it any religious grouping after a certain year (stretch this to include protestants) cults? because they come later? and the mormons? cult? Or is it any group that I belong to is ok and other ones are cults? some help, on this, please.
posted by Postroad at 2:13 PM on September 9, 2007


why do comments keep saying this is a cult? Isn't any religion and its ideas cultish? or is it any religious grouping after a certain year (stretch this to include protestants) cults? because they come later? and the mormons? cult? Or is it any group that I belong to is ok and other ones are cults? some help, on this, please.

Here is a common description of "cult" in the context of thought reform.
posted by Brian B. at 2:26 PM on September 9, 2007


Postroad, here's a definition from the website of the Cult Information Centre:
Every cult can be defined as a group having all of the following five characteristics:

1. It uses psychological coercion to recruit, indoctrinate and retain its members

2. It forms an elitist totalitarian society.

3. Its founder leader is self-appointed, dogmatic, messianic, not accountable and has charisma.

4. It believes 'the end justifies the means' in order to solicit funds and recruit people.

5. Its wealth does not benefit its members or society.
By this standard Oneida did not qualify as a cult. Though, personally, once a "leader" is sleeping with 10-year olds and the community has a eugenics program, it doesn't really matter what you're called, you're well outside of what I consider to be the bounds of acceptable social behavior.
posted by Kattullus at 2:29 PM on September 9, 2007


Hm, I've always thought that the difference between a cult and a religion was that a religion had an army and a navy.

What I find repulsive about these 'communities' is that children are a property of the whole or the leader and generally treated as 'products' or commodities to be used up. It's one thing to lure a presumed adult into this situation, but the kids born there are warped permanently.
posted by lysdexic at 2:37 PM on September 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


the alpha male always manages to get as much tail as possible...

isn't this the raison d'etre of the "alpha male"?

at least it was all out in the open...
posted by geos at 2:55 PM on September 9, 2007


How crazy, I was just reading about Oneida a few minutes ago while trying to research a refutation of the concept of "traditional" marriage as monogamous male-female pairing, but then I realized I was reading a comment on Free Republic and I wasn't going to win that debate.

Now I know why the little sisters were there in Bioshock.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:55 PM on September 9, 2007


Without Sin is a fascinating (and interestingly glowing) book about the community.
posted by gnomeloaf at 3:13 PM on September 9, 2007


Not to mention:
"John Humphrey Noyes believed that sex had social and spiritual purposes, not only biological. To Communitarians, it was yet another path to perfection. Generally, it was believed that older people were spiritually superior to younger people, and men were spiritually superior to women. Noyes and his inner circle were at the top of this hierarchy in the Community. In order to improve oneself, one was only supposed to have sexual relations with those spiritually superior. This was called "ascending fellowship." Once a Community member had reached a certain level (usually determined by Noyes and his inner circle), they were then to turn around and practice "descending fellowship" with those Communitarians trying to work their way up."

Not only does he get to sleep with 10 year olds, just having sex with him and his buddies was the highest spiritual experience. I wonder how modern men could get women to believe that about them.
posted by Sangermaine at 3:23 PM on September 9, 2007


Ricardo Montalban — and his pecs — is the last true Oneidan.
posted by rob511 at 3:28 PM on September 9, 2007


A wise lady I knew, who used to be in a cult, said it simply: a cult is a religion without political power.
posted by Malor at 3:50 PM on September 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Kattullus, that is just one person's definition of cult. That this guy deemed he should deflower the virgins is cult enough for me. Jeez.
posted by caddis at 3:53 PM on September 9, 2007


Funny how the most common aspect in both cults and communes (and Oneida apparently qualified as both) is how the alpha male always manages to get as much tail as possible...

As far as I can figure (from the amount of research necessary to make a Metafilter post linking to some websites, not the amount necessary to write a book or even a newspaper article), everyone above puberty was getting as much tail as possible.

And their eugenics program wasn't expressed as "kill all the Jews," it was more like "let's breed better people like we've been breeding better cattle for thousands of years." The author of the book I linked gives as harsh example the Spartans breeding strong warriors by leaving weak babies to die, talks about how the human race would be greatly improved by the intermarriage of Jews and Anglos, and denounces the notion of "pure blood." There's definitely a lot of misguided stuff in there - for example they seemed to believe in the heredity of spiritual traits, but I haven't seen any evidence of real evil in their eugenics.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:10 PM on September 9, 2007


"a couple would engage in sexual congress without the man ever ejaculating, either during intercourse or after withdrawal."

My god.

Ouch.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:18 PM on September 9, 2007


I'd comment but I'm in the midst of an interview.

Damn, I wrote the FPP and it took me two reads to catch that.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:18 PM on September 9, 2007


Though, personally, once a "leader" is sleeping with 10-year olds and the community has a eugenics program, it doesn't really matter what you're called, you're well outside of what I consider to be the bounds of acceptable social behavior.

The eugenics thing doesn't really bother me, as almost a century later most of America would agree with them. They were of their time on that issue, or maybe a little ahead of it.
posted by stammer at 4:23 PM on September 9, 2007


tanks for nice definition. As for a cult being a religion without political power, the Universal Church (monies) has power via its many enterprises, ie, The Washington Times, Insight, payouts to many political figures
posted by Postroad at 5:55 PM on September 9, 2007


The eugenics thing doesn't really bother me, as almost a century later most of America would agree with them. They were of their time on that issue, or maybe a little ahead of it.

Now that is truly fucked up. Thanks Adolf.
posted by caddis at 6:28 PM on September 9, 2007


Post-menopausal women were encouraged to introduce teenage males to sex

That must have been what caused their demise. I think that would pretty much turn me off to sex for the rest of my life. Ew.
posted by strangeguitars at 6:32 PM on September 9, 2007


Thanks Adolf.

I wasn't saying they were right, I'm saying that eugenics was a fashionable and mainstream theory for a long time, and it's a little presentist to write them off as crazies for giving it a go.
posted by stammer at 6:47 PM on September 9, 2007


I don't think it is accurate to suggest that Noyes had sex with 10 year-olds by simply assuming his post-puberty policy, both by reason and fact.

In the countries of the West the age of first menstruation has declined from an estimated fifteen years during the 1800's to our current average of about twelve and a half, and diet is thought to have much to do with that.
posted by Brian B. at 6:48 PM on September 9, 2007


Yeah, that makes it better for the girls who had to go through it, Brian B.

Yeesh.

Also: any -ism that establishes rules like those Sangermain quoted out? Flawed. Irredeemably flawed.
posted by batmonkey at 6:55 PM on September 9, 2007


And when you are done with your Oneida flatware, you can wash it in an Amana dishwasher.
posted by TedW at 7:01 PM on September 9, 2007


Not only does he get to sleep with 10 year olds...

Uh. Interesting word choice.
posted by birdie birdington at 7:08 PM on September 9, 2007


I wasn't saying they were right, I'm saying that eugenics was a fashionable and mainstream theory for a long time, and it's a little presentist to write them off as crazies for giving it a go.

Eugenics is a loaded term most often used by right-to-lifers who support the feudal doctrine of breeding cheap labor and cannon fodder. They like to Godwinize abortion with it, because the first principle of their disagreement is quality versus quantity. Anyone advocating quality of offspring or civic life runs the risk of being labeled a eugenicist by a conservative.
posted by Brian B. at 7:33 PM on September 9, 2007


Anyone advocating quality of offspring or civic life runs the risk of being labeled a eugenicist by a conservative.

Or anyone who believes that eugenics is a pseudoscience only a step above Phrenology, and that eugenics is often a cover for racism.
posted by Snyder at 7:48 PM on September 9, 2007


I don't think it is accurate to suggest that Noyes had sex with 10 year-olds by simply assuming his post-puberty policy, both by reason and fact.

The study quoted was from 1884.
posted by Snyder at 7:49 PM on September 9, 2007


Or anyone who believes that eugenics is a pseudoscience only a step above Phrenology, and that eugenics is often a cover for racism.

I'll not deny the second part, but how is humanity so biologically different from every other species of plant and animal in the world - including animals relatively close to us - that the selective breeding of humanity would not increase the occurence of the desired traits?

You know who else practices eugenics?

The Jews.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:11 PM on September 9, 2007


Holy Christ, TheOnlyCoolTim! What the hell? Yes, Dor Yeshorim, an organization of Jewish people, screens for certain recessive genetic diseases common among Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews... but that's not the same goddamn thing as eugenics, for crying out loud. When two people with dwarfism have a child the foetus is screened for double dominant dwarfism.

A teacher I had when I was 20, his wife and I were carriers for a recessive gene that meant that their children were born fated to die in their third year. The had two kids before they found out. Would you think it wrong if that was screened for?
posted by Kattullus at 8:33 PM on September 9, 2007


I think it's quite proper that the Jews and the little people screen their genes, and I also think it's basically eugenics - selection of breeding partners to improve the qualities of the offspring. There's a technical argument to be made that you're not making an effort to cause a change in allele frequency, but I think that's a little pedantic and that these efforts would probably have some slight effect on the allele frequency even if that's not the goal.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:45 PM on September 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'll not deny the second part, but how is humanity so biologically different from every other species of plant and animal in the world - including animals relatively close to us - that the selective breeding of humanity would not increase the occurence of the desired traits?


Humanity is not unique for that, but eugenicists often have (and had) mistake traits that are more social or environmental, or even prenatal for genetic, and, in general, often don't have a great deal of basis in genetic fact.

Also, I agree with Kattullus, that Dor Yeshorim is not a eugenic organization, and what they do has nothing to do with eugenics.

And what do you mean by "little people"?
posted by Snyder at 9:06 PM on September 9, 2007


Kattullus referenced dwarfs, and "little people" is, to the best of my knowledge, a rather well accepted, maybe even preferred term by that group.

How is Dor Yeshorim not eugenics? They're attempting to improve the human race, in that not having Tay-Sachs is a great improvement over having Tay-Sachs. Is the allele frequency (that is, enacting a permanent change rather than simply selecting one generation at a time) thing important to you? If so, I can make a statistical argument that this sort of thing probably is still a weak form of eugenics.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:20 PM on September 9, 2007


I mean, Tay-Sachs is a horrible, horrible disease. Most often it means that the child wastes away for a few years before dying at around 5 years of age. Avoiding that horror seems to me a laudable endeavor. The reason I don't consider it eugenics is that there's no positive hereditary aspects to it. Dor Yeshorim isn't trying to create "SuperJews," they're trying to help couples not go through the hideous calamity of giving birth to a child that has nothing in its future but death by its fifth year of life. Here's a description of how Dor Yeshorim works:

"Rabbi Joseph Eckstein pioneered an entirely new approach to Tay-Sachs disease in 1985, in light of the fact that he found all the available options either unappealing or irreconcilable with halachic (Jewish) law. His solution: to eliminate the gene from the Jewish population entirely. Eckstein is the founder of an international genetic testing program called Dor Yeshorim, the "generation of the righteous." In the program, Orthodox Jewish high school students are given blood tests to determine if they have the Tay-Sachs gene. Instead of receiving direct results as to their carrier status, each person is given a six-digit identification number. Couples can call a hotline, if both are carriers, they will be deemed "incompatible." Individuals are not told they are carriers directly to avoid any possibility of stigmatization or discrimination. If the information were released, carriers could potentially become unmarriageable within the community. During 1993, 8000 couples were tested, and eighty-seven couples who were previously considering marriage decided against it as they were at risk for having a child with the disease. The program then, aims to eradicate the disease through the venue of choice of mate."
posted by Kattullus at 9:52 PM on September 9, 2007


Couples can call a hotline, if both are carriers, they will be deemed "incompatible." Individuals are not told they are carriers directly to avoid any possibility of stigmatization or discrimination.

Which is to say that only unlucky couples are told directly, which could have been prevented on the first date.
posted by Brian B. at 10:03 PM on September 9, 2007


Danny Elfman's mother wrote a novel about them: The Strawberry Fields of Heaven... I have no idea whether or not she's a Scientologist.
posted by brujita at 10:08 PM on September 9, 2007


Oh wait! Hang on! I've gotten completely trolled here. What outraged me about TheOnlyCoolTim's comment wasn't specifically his reference to Dor Yeshorim. They don't need me to defend them. What outraged me was that he blithely quipped that all Jews were pro-eugenics by linking to a small Jewish organization that caters to a minuscule percentage of the world's Jewish population. That would be like me saying that all Americans support wife-beating because some American husbands beat their wifes.

No, that's not a good enough example. It's like saying Americans support having children starve in the streets because there are Americans who are libertarians (the analogy being that libertarians aren't pro-children-starving-in-the-streets).
posted by Kattullus at 10:29 PM on September 9, 2007


Kattullus referenced dwarfs, and "little people" is, to the best of my knowledge, a rather well accepted, maybe even preferred term by that group.

Ok, I misunderstood you entierly, I thought it might be dig, but I had no idea at who or what, and I ws totally incorrect anyway. Didn't mean to come of as hostile, if I did.

Is the allele frequency (that is, enacting a permanent change rather than simply selecting one generation at a time) thing important to you? If so, I can make a statistical argument that this sort of thing probably is still a weak form of eugenics.

Yes, it is. I mean, if they were trying ti eliminate the allele, I think you might have a point, but I disagree that it is de facto eugenics.
posted by Snyder at 10:34 PM on September 9, 2007


Kattullus is also right, it's not just the incorrect accusation of eugenics, but the confusingly broad brush you used, too.
posted by Snyder at 10:36 PM on September 9, 2007


Wow, you've got it into your head that I'm attacking Dor Yeshorim or Jews? Are you reading the same thing I wrote? (TIPS & HINTS: "Do you know who else xxxxxx?" is a Metafilter joke that's stereotypically answered with the opposite of "The Jews.")
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:36 PM on September 9, 2007


Yes, it is. I mean, if they were trying ti eliminate the allele, I think you might have a point, but I disagree that it is de facto eugenics.

Here's my statistical argument for it being weak eugenics: let's propose reasonable scenarios where Dor Yeshorim leads to a carrier of Tay-Sachs not reproducing. I'll admit there's probably a cultural/religious bias in Judaism, especially depending on the level of orthodoxy, against a lot of these being common, but being common is not required. So some scenarios I can come up with are: Jewish guy, in his life, meets x number of nice Jewish girls he wants to marry, but fails the test on all of them and remains unmarried. Jewish couple fail the test, but they're rich, and can afford to have their gametes screened. While they're at it, they pick the gametes that aren't even carriers. Jewish couple fail the test, but marry anyway and adopt. Jewish person fails the test once, knows they're a carrier, and decides not to have biological children in order to not pass on that gene.

I think these are not implausible scenarios, and if they can happen, they will happen sometimes over the set of all Jews, thus Dor Yeshorim will indirectly have an effect on the allele frequency. Maybe too weak to really matter, but theoretically over time it's there. Actually, that page Kattullus quoted shows someone (can't tell if it's the article author or the Rabbi) thinking that Dor Yeshorim's direct goal is to eliminate the bad genes, even if that's wrong.

Overall, though, to me it doesn't make much difference as to whether it's eugenics or not if you're eugenicizing one generation at a time via avoiding expressed recessive traits, or eugenicizing posterity by trying to avoid passing on the carrier gene as well. They feel like more or less the same thing, not that either is inherently evil to me.

I'm going to bed.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:51 PM on September 9, 2007


I'm not saying you're a raving anti-semite, TheOnlyCoolTim. However, as funny as the Holocaust is*, it requires a deft hand when making jokes about it. Your quip was incredibly offensive. I mean... really, really so.


*this statement should not be taken at face value. Also, I suppose that one could somehow make the claim that linking eugenics, Jews and Hitler had nothing to do with the Holocaust, but if one would make that claim, one would also be likely to be prone to drinking stale bongwater.
posted by Kattullus at 10:53 PM on September 9, 2007


What kind of pre-teen boy would want to schtupp a 53 year old lady?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:55 PM on September 9, 2007


site:metafilter.com "do you know who else"
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:12 PM on September 9, 2007


If we can hold off the tabloid frenzy on the sex stuff for a second, then the founder and leader of the Oneida Community, John Humphrey Noyes makes interesting reading on the subject
(link to PDF)

What astroblanco pointed out was absolutely the case - the men of the community were trained never to ejaculate during intercourse in order to prevent pregnancy. The reason men were introduced to sex by post-menopausal women was to give them practice at this - they weren't allowed to continue to have sex with younger women until the older women had indicated that they were successfully "continent".*

You therefore had a community in the mid to late nineteenth century who focused on a woman's pleasure in sex and preventing unwanted childbirth... and where, if I remember correctly, the whole community had a role in assigning sexual liasions. That's not to deny some of the less savoury aspects, but it was far more complex than the alpha male syndrome expressed above. If there are any alpha males looking for time vortices in the C19th, then some of the Owenite free-love communities earlier in the century were a lot closer to that.

In one of my university seminars, we all had to read and discuss "Mututal Continence". We were about halfway through when one of my fellow male students reached the critical part and shouted out "the heartless bastard!" to much female smirkery.
posted by unless I'm very much mistaken at 3:17 AM on September 10, 2007


For those who don't have time to read the PDF, here's Noyes on the subject:

"The situation may be compared to a stream in the three conditions of a fall, a course of rapids above the fall, and still water above the rapids. The skillful boatman may choose whether he will remain in the still water, or venture more or less down the rapids, or run his boat over the fall. But there is a point on the verge of the fall where he has no control over his course; and just above that there is a point where he will have to struggle with the current in a way which will give his nerves a severe trial, even though he may escape the fall. If he is willing to learn, experience will teach him the wisdom of confining his excursions to the region of easy rowing, unless he has an object in view that is worth the cost of going over the falls."


I'd second the recommendation for the the Spencer Klaw book linked earlier.
posted by unless I'm very much mistaken at 3:22 AM on September 10, 2007


Kattalus, I think you are overloading the term eugenics with the whole history of German, Swedish and American eugenics movements, whereas TheOnlyCoolTim seems to be looking more at a narrow functional definition (improvement of the species / avoidance of genetic defect). While his phrasing may have given offense, I doubt that was his intent.

While we should perhaps sideline the word eugenics for a few generations to let it assume a more neutral meaning, I'm not sure the phrase "genetic counseling' is a drop in substitute for efforts to eradicate Tay-Sachs, Down's, and other genetic issues.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:07 AM on September 10, 2007


The reason men were introduced to sex by post-menopausal women was to give them practice at this - they weren't allowed to continue to have sex with younger women until the older women had indicated that they were successfully "continent".*

Frankly, I must still say that this may have been the alleged reason, but that in practice the result of all these curious practices was a community where the male elders got free and exclusive access to both recreational and procreational sex with young, nubile females, while getting rid of the "first wives club" by pimping them to the young males, with the purpose of teaching them how not to be reproductive competitors. Bravo! That's like a modern tycoon dumping the first wife for a much younger trophy wife plus a few mistresses on the side, but without the alimony!

To top it all, through their purported communal living, they even ensured that the whole community had to provide for the children that only they were "stirpiculturally" allowed to father. The sound you hear is that of thousand evolutionary psychologists applauding, and of Richard Dawkins' jaw hitting the floor as the selfish gene and the God dellusion suddenly collude into a single package of religious nuttiness.

Frankly, before anybody gets to dewy-eyed about all these supposedly equalitarian Utopian movements, I recommend a heavy dose of cynicism, some consideration for human group dynamics, and a few reads of "Animal Farm". I for one, would never like to live in a community where the Oneidans' "mutual criticism" was encouraged. It reminds me furiously of Maoist "self-criticism".
posted by Skeptic at 12:19 PM on September 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


Skeptic, I think "criticism", "auditing" and other personality negation exercises are sort of the main way that cults deprogram their members so that they can be subsequently indoctrinated into the group think after the shock.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:47 PM on September 10, 2007


I'm very fond of my Oneida flatware and cocktail shaker. It gives me a little laugh to think of the bizarre practices of the Oneida colony.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:26 AM on September 11, 2007


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