Guest View: Gender Did Influence NXIVM Results, the Real Issue was Hero-Worship

An important commenter on the Frank Report, Erasend, had something to say on the topic of NXIVM and gender.  Since Erasend is anonymous, I do not know his or her gender. However, it seems that whenever we come to an end of an era, there are those who seem to know it, while others are unclear about change that is occurring.


Guest View by Erasend

Not really sure of the point of the article It Was Women Who Ran NXIVM — Don’t Blame Patriarchy or ‘Grooming’ for What Cult Did

I guess the author, Aristotle’s Sausage, takes offense to the attempt to make the NXIVM story gender politics when the reality is it’s simply human nature and the negative effects of hero-worshipping.

One writer opined, “The primary difference between a cult and, say, religion is: you can leave a religion without penalty. You cannot leave a cult (without penalty).”

In theory, this is true.

NXIVM (using the Scientology model) collected dirt on the followers, making it clear that dirt could be used against them if they left or spoke out of turn. That is a penalty. But the counterargument is religions make it clear your immortal soul (or variations of) is doomed if you leave.

If you do not follow some religion’s rules, you will be informed you will go to an uncomfortably warm place for eternity.


Rare photograph of a new arrival in hell. [Photo credit Frank Parlato]
Which penalty is worse depends on your level of belief. Both have the penalty of estrangement from friends and family still within the cult/religion but a cult usually makes it a requirement, a religion does not.

A religion also has people hero-worship a dead… let’s call “non-corporeal being”… while a cult encourages worshiping a central, alive, usually male person that is among them.

Interestingly, Scientology rides the middle in a lot of ways because, after all, most followers don’t have the finances to even reach the point to find out they are worshipping a being called Xenu. A very real argument could be made that cults and religions are more alike than different and the only difference is one of degrees and how some policies are implemented.

Xenu was a decisive leader who solved an overpopulation problem on his planet by bringing billions of disembodied aliens to earth 75 million years ago. Unhappily it worked out poorly since the spirits of these transported souls often haunt present-day earthlings.


Keith Raniere was worshipped by some of his followers.

In any case, central to both is hero worship. Hero worship can lead to great things but the reality is it usually just leads to damaging and stupid things. A good example, that happened Friday, is two people got arrested for engaging in a plan to commit terrorism for their hero Donald Trump.

MK10ART’s painting of Donald J. Trump, a hero to millions, and not incidentally, to himself.

They had no interaction with Trump; they were not groomed by him. He sure didn’t tell them to attempt this plan. He probably still doesn’t know they exist despite the headlines. Yet, because of their hero worship, they were willing to kill for him. This is a critical part of how a religion/cult can function. In most cases, that hero-worshipping is used for monetary purposes (super churches should own their own private planes after all) but it’s also used to accumulate power (see all of history), or sex (see Keith).

It doesn’t require actual active participation of those that benefit most to work. However, in a religion invoking the being is usually enough.

Jesus Christ is worshipped by an untold number of people, possibly numbering more than two billion worldwide. He is often portrayed as of the ethnicity of the artist, with long flowing hair, a beard, and a halo.


Many Hindus invoke the goddess Kali for help. Kali is portrayed with four arms, dark blue, red eyes, and lolling tongue, wearing a skirt of human arms and a garland of human heads, and holding a severed head in her hand. She is accompanied by serpents and a jackal while standing on a whitish-colored man.

In a cult though, it requires finding trusted lieutenants, the right believers, to do most of the dirty work on their behalf such as

  1. Allison Mack
  2. Nancy Salzman
  3. Lauren Salzman
  4. Clare Bronfman
  5. Sara Bronfman


Clare and Sara Bronfman were happy to help Keith Raniere succeed at executive success. Clare resides in prison and Sara lives in luxury in Portugal.

Keith somehow sought them out as only predators know how to do.

A key aspect of hero worship is asking the question “How do they benefit?”

If you really look at it, they don’t.

That is a key way to know their actions are hero-worship-based and not based on something as simple as greed. They get the “satisfaction” of doing what they think is “the lord’s work” (or hero’s work) and knowing that is reward enough.

This person said “Women can be blindly ambitious just like men.”

Well no shit.

Except no clue what ambition the writer is referring to. The money aspect is nonsense too.

Its an excuse to desperately try to fill in the gaps of understanding, otherwise we might have to analyze what would they do if their religious leaders called on them to take some questionable actions (if I recall, many religions, including Christian religions, made use of branding among other things at one time or another).

None of the women of NXIVM gained any financial windfall that anyone has discovered. Two of them were very rich and whatever income NXIVM added to their wealth was a pittance compared to the fortune they already controlled.

Clare and Sara Bronfman were not in NXIVM for the money.

The NXIVM inner-circle had “power” within their little community and I am sure they enjoyed that thrill but if that is blind ambition, it sure was wasted.

Helping Keith groom a child didn’t help themselves, going on extreme diets didn’t help themselves, so on and so forth. No matter how I look at it, the inner-circle of NXIVM did not benefit in a tangible way except for knowing they were doing the good work of their hero and for them, that was reward enough (aka “the lord’s work”).

The “Inner Circle” of Keith Raniere for a time focused on the man in the middle Keith Alan Raniere.

It’s possible to be both the victim and perpetrator at the same time, despite your India Oxenbergs of the NXIVM cult trying to pretend otherwise. The inner circle and those they ordered around are both.

Keith isn’t both.

The only “pure” victims of the cult were the low-level followers that never rose high enough to get Keith or the inner circle’s attention, and simply paid out for useless courses and did little else for the cult, for which I am sure they hate being tricked but glad to have avoided all the other drama.

The inner-circle members are both for worshipping Keith’s pathetic ass to the point they ceased to see any moral lines they were crossing for they were for him and thus must be good. Those that followed the inner circle are also both, but to a lesser degree, but they still played their parts. There were plenty of times they knew what they were doing was not right and ignored that inner voice until it got too close to home.

Anthony ‘Nippy’ Ames was angered to discover his wife had another man’s initials on her pelvis.

Never forget it was male outrage at the branding that started the ball rolling, not the branding event itself that caused Keith’s end.

So to the post’s primary conclusion: “Women were the brains, the financier, and the entrepreneurs of Nxivm/DOS. Raniere was the sponge” is not wrong, but it also just encourages the gender politics of it all.

The sex of those involved really has nothing to do with it other than for Keith; he knew he was more successful at manipulating women. It’s really just simple human nature and the negative impact of what happens when people place someone on a pedestal and decide they are “more” than others, eventually concluding that if they do/want a thing, by default, it must be good.

We see it every day in politics, in social media, in sports, celebrity BS, and so on. The way people make excuses for bad behavior or wave it away as ok because their hero did it when otherwise they would be angry if anyone else did anything like it. We don’t call it a cult or religion, but it’s there nonetheless.

If NXIVM is a lesson in anything, it’s the danger in hero-worshipping.

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  • EraSend-

    I have to say I like this article on so many levels.

    Most of all, I like this article because it has lead to meaningful dialogue and debate.

    Frank, thank you for allowing free speech, and meaningful debate without any censorship. It’s a rare thing these days.

  • I always liked Keith, still do. From long ago before all this nex whatever.

    Any one of you who meets Keith in passing and having a conversation with him would like him.

    If I could go right now to AZ, I would sign up for visiting just to have a conversation with him.

    He was the best person to go and talk to.

    • Albany-

      I don’t doubt for a second that Keith Raniere was at one time charming and a great conversationalist. He he never would have reached such heights if he wasn’t generally affable.

  • Clarification, since it was my comment about leaving cults:

    1. Religion ( say Catholic) does not say you will be damned if you leave. This is a flawed argument by Erasend.

    Catholicism, like other Christian religions, does say to have faith and believe in Jesus for everlasting life, because He died for your sins.

    Remember: ” There’s no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole.” You can leave, but don’t stop having faith.

    2. Apostasy is a crime in the Muslim faith. How that is enforced depends on how devout a particular sect is. Girls in America have been murdered for being ” too Western “.

    3. Nxivm inner circle? You can make the same argument prophets were Jesus’ inner circle.

    I prefer to compare the nxivm inner circle to Manson girls rather than prophets, because the mission and cause were different.

    4. Heroes come and go.

    Christianity spread not because Jesus was considered a hero, but because there were documented miracles by Him, some of which continue today when we see canonization.

    5. Show me a miracle by Vanguard. Jesus parted the Red Sea. Vanguard says rain does fall on him, or something like that.

    • Uhmmm….

      Jesus parted the Red Sea.

      Jesus didn’t part the Red Sea, Moses did.

      Religion ( say Catholic) does not say you will be damned if you leave. This is a flawed argument by Erasend.

      Catholicism, like other Christian religions, does say to have faith and believe in Jesus for everlasting life, because He died for your sins.

      So do you think that modern day “cults” invented threatening peoples’ afterlives, and capturing and torturing and killing those who left or strayed? I think you need to study western religious history more.

      By the way, have you ever heard of your anticultist Lord and Savior Torquemada?

      May I offer you a pamphlet to read on Him?


      • Brain fog on the Red Sea. I’m right on the rest. I said, you can leave a Christian religion. The basis is believing in Jesus.I agree Erasend was wrong,that’s what I said. Jesus has documented miracles. Vanguard does not.

        This part is irrelevant to my argument:

        “So do you think that modern day “cults” invented threatening peoples’ afterlives, and capturing and torturing and killing those who left or strayed? I think you need to study western religious history more.”

        Pamphlet? No thanks. Good things generally don’t come from door to door pamphlets.

      • Nobody gives a shit about torquemada. And stop capitalizing pronouns for him. Why are you so fuckin’ weird dude?

        • Ice-nine-

          How do you feel about Schopenhauer?

          “We must recognise the fact that mankind cannot get on without a certain amount of absurdity.” (Schopenhauer)


          Sadly, Alanzo’s hubris does not allow him to see clearly, Torquemada was a cultist of the Catholic Church and persecuted all non-Catholics. He took dogma to the extreme. His wrath was more extreme than ISIS….

          • I don’t know Schopenhauer, NiceDude. I looked him up and read his quotes. It’s ok, but I really don’t care much for it. Thanks for mentioning him though, now I’m just a little tiny bit smarter.

      • Is it cult belief to accept without evidence that Moses parted the Red Sea or any less or more ridiculous than the Xenu story?

        • I’ve seen video of the Red Sea parting and other Christian miracles in documentaries shown in theaters as a kid.

        • Frank-

          I’m Catholic. I was an alter boy.

          —Is it cult belief to accept without evidence
          Not at all.

          Torquemada was an extremist for his time. He would make Opus Day seem like heretics. Today, there are Catholics and then there is Opus Day. There are Jews then there is Orthodox Israeli Zionists and there are moderate Muslims then a boat load of zealots.

          I don’t believe in anything anymore. I’m not an atheist, atheists are people who claim to be anti-religion than when you get to know them, they believe in Aliens, aura energy reincarnation, or some other BS thing.

          If people are religious good for them! I truly wish I believed in something. It would help getting through life.

          I’ve gone down the rabbit hole.

          Have a nice night!

          I wish we could play Christian 20 questions.

          What’s the Rapture? 😉

          How many beads on a Rosary?

          Not the Webster’s definition, but the Christian one, which is the basis of Websters.

          I’m not apologizing because insulting anyone was not what I meant.

          PS Frank just because you know the Lords Prayer, Hail Mary, the Ten Commandments, the Holy Trinity, how to make the sign before accepting the body of Christ does not mean you are a good Catholic.

          If I had to guess you are a Christer! My Priest Father Divine taught me that one. Someone who goes to Church on Christmas, Easter, and Ash Wednesday. At one time I had 22 Palms on my wall……

          Yes his name was father Divine. My proudest moment in Church was being an alter boy at my sisters Christening.

          • “Opus day”. Is that something like “Juneteenth”? We ought to be told.

        • Or Noah’s Ark.

          Perhaps the witnessing of miracles is the difference between a cult and a religion?

          Or the crucifixion to save our sorry asses?

          If Vanguard really could repel rain or block radar, would we be thinking differently about him? He said stuff, but was it ever witnessed by outsiders?

          • Jim Del Negro claimed he saw the eternal blue flame after going down on his wife…

            Now that’s a mouthful……

    • Catholicism until fairly recently did in fact say you’re going to Hell if you left the faith

      This was phrased as “you’re not going to heaven”. But since there were only two options, if you weren’t Saved, you were headed for the hot place..,

      There was a great deal about Hellfire and Damnation in Catholicism as recently as the 1960s. And before that, for most of the Church’s history, apostasy and heresy (i.e., Protestantism) were punished right here on Earth by some very unpleasant methods of execution.

      Hellfire and Brimstone is very much still alive in the preaching of various Christian sects. Mainstream religions.

      So what’s the difference between a religion and a cult? A cult is a religion you don’t believe in 😈

  • From an NPR review of “Love Fraud,” a Showtime doc about a middle-aged man who meets women online and quickly seduces them and steals their money — many women.

    “It’s interesting to watch this series while HBO is running The Vow, about the NXIVM “self-improvement” group whose leader was convicted in 2019 of sex trafficking, racketeering and other charges. Both series take pains to try to understand what it is that makes people susceptible to pitches that, in the cold light of day, may seem obviously fishy. With NXIVM, it was maybe the expectation that you call the leader “Vanguard,” while with Smith, it was his sudden declaration of love and a desire to share a checking account after only a short courtship.

    But the filmmakers in both cases want to shed light on the fact that everyone has vulnerabilities, whether they have abundant resources or not. Sometimes you don’t have to meet a genius to feel taken advantage of; just a person who knows how to recognize what you want and haven’t ever had, whether it’s someone who says they love you or someone who tells you that your life can have abundant and profound meaning.”

  • “One writer opined, “The primary difference between a cult and, say, religion is: you can leave a religion without penalty.”

    This is not true. If you are a Muslim, you cannot leave that religion if you are living in say, Iran or Pakistan: it has the death penalty for that “offense”.
    In the western world, you can leave a religion, but there may be serious social repercussions. You may be ostracized from your group or family as is the case with Jehova’s Witnesses I believe.

    • Apostasy in Islam is enforced even today, in the more radical sects. Muslim girls have been killed by their fathers here for being too western. It depends the level of radical interpretation, not geographic area.

      There is an argument the less radical fled to the west.

  • Observe what Raniere was up to with sabotaging the sexual lives and experiences of so many of his acolytes, for this is key to how he misused the goodwill and the trust of others, and it was arranged to suit his own habitual, and intensely strained, off-the-wall pervertedness. Zero love.

  • Of course idolization plays a part in “believers” excusing the alleged “bad” behavior of celebrated individuals. I mean this is obvious with examples replete throughout human history. However, this fact doesn’t deny the fact that women were the primary minions and supporters of this particular cult leader, and that something in the nature of women — maybe their propensity to be more compassionate, more forgiving, more trusting, less skeptical, etc., than men — makes them more drawn towards joining cults in general.

  • “Never forget it was male outrage at the branding that started the ball rolling, not the branding event itself that caused Keith’s end.”

    Not true. It was Bonnie Piesse telling Catherine Oxenberg about DOS that started the ball rolling. After Catherine went BERSERK and began canvassing the mainstream media for a spotlight. THEN and only then, Mark Vicente confronted Sarah Edmondson about DOS and Nippy finally (?!) found out about Sarah’s brand. Ultimately Catherine ended up outing DOS to the Frank Report when the MSM wouldn’t write about it and the rest is history. Watch Seduced on Starz and The Vow. It’s all in there.

    Two women started the ball rolling. An abused wife and a protective mother.

    • Wow. Someone finally had the balls to write this. What so many of us who knew Bonnie and Mark in NXIVM have been thinking.


    • Bonnie is proof that women aren’t like Raniere supposes them to be. She had the intellectual discernment to see through the facade of female empowerment that DOS actually was not, and the emotional strength and willpower to stand up for herself and against a mini kingdom of sorts with an overcompensating little dictator, taking on the adult manipulative peer pressure of others and even her husband at the same time. That is the exemplification of “do not oppress and do not be oppressed”.

  • Great point, Erasend:

    Any degree of human loyalty contains some degree of blindness. And so yes, any hero-worship is entirely sufficient to explain the behavior we usually associate with being “brainwashed”. From – some – Trump supporters, to Partisan Pelosists, to Raniere Loyalists, to followers of L Ron Hubbard.

    No need for brainwashing – human loyalty & hero-worship, along with a threat to your hero and a big helping of siege mentality, these are all the ingredients you need to create unhinged fanaticism in human beings.

    But your loyalty is under your own control.

    You are totally in the driver’s seat on who you remain loyal to.

    And by the way, no one in Scientology worships Xenu. On OT 3 you learn that he was an evil galactic overlord who, 75 million years ago, banished all the criminals, geniuses, murderous psychopaths, and general anti-social non-conformists to Earth as a prison planet, whose souls stick to our bodies and dominate our minds and inner self-talk with their depravities and insane ravings to this day.

    You know, like Australia.


    • Again, I mention the inner circle of women that actually ran Jonestown (under hero worship). They did prepare and administer the poison that killed all those people.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

IMDb — Frank Parlato

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083


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