Inside The Purple People House, The Freaky, Stand-Offish Sex Cult In Northern California

In Lafayette, CA, the "Purple People" is a group that lives in purple houses and travels in purple limousines. The highly controversial community, officially called Lafayette Morehouse, formed in 1968 and has since been labeled a sex cult. The members of this cooperative community engage in experimental sexual research and believe in a life of pleasure. Lafayette Morehouse members teach sex practices and techniques, and the group even used to offer college degrees on the subject. 

Some claim residents of the hedonistic co-op 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 intimidation tactics to keep members closed up behind purple doors. The “free love” commune faced public criticism in 1994 when authorities arrested founder Dr. Victor Baranco and his wife for possession of LSD. The arrest led credence to former allegations that the Morehouse founder coerced students into taking illegal drugs.

Lafayette Morehouse - which employs its own security guards to protect the property - reportedly has ties to the alleged pyramid scheme and cult OneTaste, a San Francisco business that offers “orgasmic meditation” for women. Since 2001, OneTaste has set up locations across the world, including London and Melbourne. 

  • 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 experimentation began 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.