You may have heard of the “Purple People,” a Lafayette, CA, group that lives in purple houses and travels in purple limousines. If you live in the area, you may have even seen them. But who are the Purple People anyway? They’re actually a highly controversial group called Lafayette Morehouse that has been labeled a sex cult.
Is Lafayette Morehouse a cult? Its connection to sexuality is inescapable; its members teach sexual practices and techniques, and even used to offer college degrees on the subject. As for the cult designation, that depends on who you believe. Some claim that residents are free to come and go as they please, and that Lafayette Morehouse is simply a community that encourages pleasurable living. Others say the group uses coercion and mind control to keep people closed up behind purple doors.
They Staged A Public Demonstration Of A Woman Climaxing
The most well-known story about Lafayette Morehouse concerns the public display of a woman experiencing climax for three hours. While the event was open to the public, it took place on the fairly remote Northern California Morehouse property.
During the 1976 demonstration, a woman named Diana laid on a gynecological table in view of the audience while Lafayette Morehouse founder Dr. Victor Baranco stimulated her genitals.
Although there were rests, including cigarette breaks, Diana claimed she was able to sustain the feeling for three hours through the special techniques she’d learned in the commune. These techniques encompassed appreciating each moment during the act for what it was, without expecting it to look or feel a certain way.
According to Diana, when the demonstration ended, audience members immediately started having relations of their own. Diana is still a member of Lafayette Morehouse, and she teaches courses such as Fundamentals of Sensuality and Expansion of Sexual Potential.
They're Not Purple, But Their Houses And Their Cars Are
The “Purple People” are not actually purple, nor do they ascribe to the nickname. In fact, the group’s website mentions the Italian protesters who do identify as “The Purple People.” However, much of what the Lafayette Morehouse members own, including their homes and their cars, is purple. The bold color is intended to help people who come to the 16-acre grounds understand that they are entering a unique space.
One member explained that purple was chosen specifically because it was the favorite color of Suzanne, Dr. Baranco’s first wife.
They Engage In Polyamory And Group Relations
Most residents of Lafayette Morehouse are engaged in coursework about sexuality, but the research reported on in these classes often draws on the activities performed within the group. While some residents are celibate or monogamous, some engage in casual relations, polyamorous relationships, and multiple partners at the same time.
The co-op website boasts that “sexual preference is a personal choice.” For example, Dr. Baranco and his first wife, Suzanne, have been reported to engage in numerous experimental sexual relations. In at least one case, the activities were performed with a student who was attempting to learn to experience pleasure more deeply through hands-on experience.
They Believe In 'Responsible Hedonism'
Lafayette Morehouse values hedonism, or the pursuit of pleasure and self-indulgence. Many of the teachings center around experiencing as much pleasure as possible. However, they also emphasize doing it responsibly. Courses highlight not only seeking pleasure for oneself but also ensuring that other people are experiencing pleasure, too. Founder Dr. Baranco puts it another way:
It’s like a boat. […] The woman is the steerer and the man is the motor. And once you can relax, men, and settle down into slavery in the motor room, what a gas. They take care of you sexually, feed you, and clothe you. They take care of all your creature comforts and all you gotta do is shovel coal.
They See Themselves As Social Researchers
The members of Lafayette Morehouse describe themselves as social researchers. The experimentationbegan in the early 1960s with Dr. Baranco and his then-wife Suzanne. They began attempting to methodically improve their relationship in the bedroom and reported the conclusions they reached to the group.
Since then, they’ve expanded their research to include a variety of topics, including communication, sensuality, jealousy, and more. However, their exact processes are not publicly discussed, and the scientific method is not mentioned.
They Believe In Human Perfection
One of the core beliefs of Lafayette Morehouse is that humans and their world are inherently perfect. To them, a perfect person is not one who has only “good” traits, and a perfect life is not one that includes only “good” experiences.
In a Rolling Stones article about Morehouse, former teacher Ray Vetterlein explains how this concept is applied to the group mentality:
In the world out there […] you are taught that everything is wrong. We’re all doomed by ecology and wars and stuff. Well, Victor has taught us that it’s really all right. Out there you don’t feel like you can do what you want. But living here, where everybody thinks the same way as you, that they’re perfect just like they are, it works out.
They Use A One-No Vote System
One unique aspect of Lafayette Morehouse’s communal living is the system they use to make decisions. Under the “one-no vote,” residents weigh-in on any proposed action that impacts the whole group. Each resident has a decisive “no” vote, which means they can veto any proposed changes and have that veto honored. They do this because it prevents “the weakest” members from having their viewpoints ignored.
In a 2018 Maxim interview, one member explains how a single “no” means that the proposed action won’t occur. Additionally, once a “no” has been voiced, the issue is never reconsidered. The member further emphasizes how only approximately two negative votes have been cast in the history of Morehouse.
They Travel Via Limousines And Golf Carts
While members of Lafayette Morehouse do use typical methods of transportation, they also do a lot of their traveling via purple vehicles. They use the golf carts because it’s an eco-friendly way to traverse their extensive and hilly grounds. The limousines have a slightly more complicated explanation.
First, members like to travel in large groups, which is difficult in a standard car. In a limo, it’s easy to have one person serve as the designated driver while other passengers “talk and carry on” without disturbing them.
Second, using a “classic” limousine lines up with their principles. The founder believed that fixing up an old car communicated to the world that Lafayette Morehouse does not discard things that are old, or relationships that have become difficult.
They Used To Operate Their Own University
From 1977 to 1997, Lafayette Morehouse operated More University, a post-secondary school that offered BAs and MAs in Humanities as well as PhDs in Sensuality and Lifestyles. While the school was authorized by the state of California to give out these degrees, that changed in 1989 when the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education staged a crackdown on non-accredited schools.
This quickly led More University to cease giving out degrees. Lafayette Morehouse’s official website explains the university shut down because they would have been forced to change their curriculum in ways that did not suit their goals if they continued to offer degrees.
They've Been Accused Of Forcing Students To Take LSD
Members of Lafayette Morehouse have been accused of several serious crimes, including drug possession and prostitution. According to a 2009 article in the New York Times, Baranco allegedly employed “coercive techniques of mind control.”
A former student named Alan Steele claimed the Barancos coerced their students into using LSD and other illegal drugs. Steele also formally maintained that the founders encouraged members to engage in prostitution.
In 1994, Hawaiian authorities charged Dr. Baranco and his wife second wife, Dr. Cynthia Baranco, with possession of LSD, which they found hidden inside of a Bible.
They Sued The San Francisco Chronicle For Libel
In 1992, the San Francisco Chronicle began reporting on various issues surrounding Lafayette Morehouse, including the accusations of immoral crimes, drug use, and unhygienic and dangerous premises. Complaints from neighbors regarding the state of the property – which reportedly housed numerous homeless individuals – prompted the journalistic investigation.
The commune then sued the Chronicle for libel but was not successful in the suit due to the inability to present evidence of falsity. Lafayette Morehouse, Inc. filed motions against the outcome several times, but the California court rejected the appeals.
They Have Their Own Security
Because of the commune’s reputation, locals reportedly target Lafayette Morehouse and its members. This harassment has been exhibited in the form of vandalizing the property. Claiming the need for protection, Morehouse employs its own security guards.
On the co-op’s website, it emphasizes that the guards serve to block members from tourists who unknowingly explore the property, thinking it is a public space.
They Inspired A Sexual Meditation Group
Lafayette Morehouse is often cited as an indirect inspiration behind OneTaste. The organization started in 2001 and is dedicated to researching orgasmic meditation and slow lovemaking. Ray Vetterlein reportedly inspired Nicole Daedone, a co-founder of OneTaste. Vetterlein had formerly worked with Baranco at Morehouse and later developed his own techniques and practices.
The One Taste Urban Retreat Center originally started in San Francisco and has since expanded to included international locations. Like Lafayette Morehouse, OneTaste has been lauded for its progressive views yet has also been accused of cult-like behavior and coercion.