“Oh my God, this is so f---ed up"
January 3, 2018 7:31 AM   Subscribe

"Inside Silicon Valley's Secretive, Orgiastic Dark Side. Some of the most powerful men in Silicon Valley are regulars at exclusive, drug-fueled, sex-laced parties—gatherings they describe not as scandalous, or even secret, but as a bold, unconventional lifestyle choice. Yet, while the guys get laid, the women get screwed. In an adaptation from her new book, Brotopia, Emily Chang exposes the tired and toxic dynamic at play." (SLVanityFair)
posted by crazy with stars (75 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite


 
I'm having a hard time imagining news that could come as less of a surprise to me.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:38 AM on January 3 [56 favorites]


A candid photograph of a hot tub party in Silicon Valley, circa 1996.

Call me crazy but I don't bring my laptop into the hot tub
posted by thelonius at 7:41 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]


I dunno...I sort of call BS on this. I think that the day to day treatment of women in tech actually is the real "tired and toxic dynamic". I think the "scene" she describes really, really exaggerated. Plus, even if it exists, the real scandal is not women getting sexually propositioned at a party we willingly attend, it is the way we are treated at work, at pitches, at conferences etc. etc.
posted by Blogwardo at 7:43 AM on January 3 [26 favorites]


Plus, even if it exists, the real scandal is not women getting sexually propositioned at a party we willingly attend, it is the way we are treated at work, at pitches, at conferences etc. etc.

It's all tied together. I'd imagine that a woman who gets invited and doesn't follow the script will very quickly find doors closed in her face. If this sounds familiar, well...It's the Weinstein playbook, just brought North.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:50 AM on January 3 [40 favorites]


The headline is perfect clickbait: who can resist "Silicon Valley" and "orgiastic dark side" in the same sentence? (Yes, of course I clicked it.)

But it's the same old story: a certain percentage of rich, powerful men, given license to indulge themselves without consequences, will indulge themselves, regardless of who else suffers or gets hurt.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 7:55 AM on January 3 [10 favorites]


On the contrary, they speak proudly about how they’re overturning traditions and paradigms in their private lives [...]
Ah, yes, if only folks had known about drug-fueled sex parties in the olden days.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:01 AM on January 3 [63 favorites]


Ah, yes, if only folks had known about drug-fueled sex parties in the olden days.

Well, a bit of forewarning might have saved Fatty Arbuckle's career there.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:03 AM on January 3 [14 favorites]


I'm having a hard time imagining news that could come as less of a surprise to me.

I was coming in here to post exactly this in almost the exact same words, only to find that it is already here as the first comment.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:04 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Niot new indeed: there were some heavy goings-on in the UK tech scene in the 80s, because there were a lot of unconventional young people with money they'd made doing their own thing, and the sudden ability to network very widely with their peers. But this was also connected with a burgeoning BDSM scene, which had already evolved some very strict rules about consent, safety and acceptable behaviour. I don't doubt there was exploitation and darkness, but in the circles I was aware of it wasn't tolerated and people who didn't get it didn't last long.

But if you're rich and powerful enough, you set the rules and build your own cult. That's hardly news either - vide rock and roll for just one, relatively recent, example of unholy consumption of people in the interests of appetite.
posted by Devonian at 8:05 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


The article reminds me of this one from 2003. At least these people have sex instead of getting tweaked and watching porn.
posted by thelonius at 8:07 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


as someone who orbits tech and burner circles, this basically reads like a breathless description of parties that I attended in my 20s, except with 1000% more technorati demimonde hate signals.

Cuddle parties with easy access to drugs? Check. Exclusive word of mouth invitations just so that the pretty and popular would attend? Check. Lots of people being full of themselves for living their truth and being transgressive and looking down on 'the muggles'? Check. Lots of broken stair humans who are present because they happen to have a great party house / money / social capital? oh, fucking Check. Lots of poor decisionmaking because of drugs and alcohol, and replete with opportunities for exploitation? Yup, check.

This isn't a Silicon Valley problem. This is a young people discovering psychedelics and being irresponsible problem. It just gets written up in Vanity Fair because it involves Silicon Valley money, but it absolutely happens in a different scale in many communities around the world.
posted by bl1nk at 8:08 AM on January 3 [62 favorites]


.... I think the "scene" she describes really, really exaggerated....

Nah, going by what I've seen here in NYC, it's pretty accurate. Same bros, they all travel in the same circuit, SF, NYC, Thailand for windsurfing, Burning man, etc. and the dynamic and attitude at the parties she describes is pretty spot on.
Women are around as ego inflators, amusement devices, and entertainment only. Sadly, there seems to be an unending supply of women eager just to be in the same room as these guys to put up with it.

But it's the same old story: a certain percentage of rich, powerful men, given license to indulge themselves without consequences, will indulge themselves, regardless of who else suffers or gets hurt.

Yup.
posted by newpotato at 8:14 AM on January 3 [11 favorites]


A friend of mine had this to say: "it’s baffling to see the power dynamics that my mom hated about the hippie scene in the fuckin’ 60s trotted out as being a venture capital thing".

Lots of communities have an orgy party scene. And when they do it's pretty much always creepy and has power dynamic problems, particularly when drugs are involved. (See for example Dominique Strauss-Kahn). It's bad that it's happening in the tech industry too, but it seems to be a broader human problem than just that.

The tech specific part that caught my attention was "Women are participating in this culture to improve their lives. They are an underclass in Silicon Valley." Sexism in tech is absolutely a problem and it's bad the bacchanal subculture reifies that. I wish the article spent more time on the women who choose to participate in the scene out of some combination of wanting to and gambling it might help their careers. I suspect their stories are a lot more interesting than the creepy rich bros.
posted by Nelson at 8:16 AM on January 3 [42 favorites]


Yeah, no, it’s really like this.
posted by zerolives at 8:32 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


"If code is free, why not me?: Some open-source geeks are as open-minded about sex as they are about hacking." by Annalee Newitz, May 26, 2000, in Salon.com. The parties Newitz described sound way less like places investors went to exercise power... then again, the individual contributor engineers of 2000 are in some cases the investors and executives of 2018.
posted by brainwane at 8:37 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]


even if it exists,

It does.

the real scandal is not women getting sexually propositioned at a party we willingly attend, it is the way we are treated at work, at pitches, at conferences etc. etc.

Did you miss the parts of the article that talked about how business is conducted at these events? Doesn't that make them de facto work events, and as such, isn't a discussion of the treatment of women at these parties actually a discussion of the way women are treated at work?
posted by palomar at 8:40 AM on January 3 [28 favorites]


Whenever I see a piece of mass media referring to a "sex party" I think of a particular observation in Ali Davis's "True Porn Clerk Stories":
he asked if the DVD of "L.A. Sex Party" was in. (A lot of our movies have "sex party" in the title. It was only a few months ago that I realized that this is because a lot of porn renters don't know what "orgy" means.)
posted by brainwane at 8:41 AM on January 3 [13 favorites]


so Henry Nicholas was a prototype?
posted by Dr. Twist at 8:47 AM on January 3


I think the "scene" she describes really, really exaggerated.

This is part of the problem, this accusation that we're making it all up. As if women are so unreliable that Vanity Fair doesn't even fact-check stories women write. Silly girls and their silly stories. It's only, what, half a dozen women in the article telling the same damn story about something that isn't even a secret. But it's really exaggerated until a man goes on the record, right?

It is a serious problem that men believe (and urgently need to perpetuate at all costs the myth) that sex is owed by another person to every boner they get, and that they structure their entire lives including professional to that cause, which conveniently shuts out women by design so that we can't get investors and we can't get taken seriously and people blow us off as unreliable and is EXACTLY THE SAME STORY as getting harassed and overlooked in the office. Same story, it's a continuum, it starts at the top and is marketed to men all the way down so they will keep us shut out at every level.

It's true that not all tech scenes are quite as openly show-offy bad as the Bay Area, though. In Seattle, you just use your work email to buy sex with trafficked women.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:49 AM on January 3 [64 favorites]


Of course techbros think they invented chemsex. There's not even a mention of G or tina.
posted by ao4047 at 8:50 AM on January 3 [6 favorites]


Having stayed in the wrong hotel over the weekend on a bay-area consulting gig, I think I can confirm that the description of the "scene" is anything but exaggerated.

I certainly couldn't tell whether anyone was there because of pressure from their workplace, but it was disgustingly obvious that one half of the attendees were almost entirely delighted to be there, and a large proportion (certainly not all) of the other half... wasn't. I'm sure I don't have to tell you what factor divided the two halves.
posted by CHoldredge at 8:54 AM on January 3 [5 favorites]


Are there stilts? Once people are at parties on stilts it’s time to cash out and move to rural Mexico
posted by The Whelk at 9:04 AM on January 3 [11 favorites]


At least they haven't started printing up shirts advertising their exclusive parties and the article didn't mention any racist, sexist, or questionably historic themes, so they truly are 2.0ing the frat party.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:12 AM on January 3


these parties sound so tame, like something your wine aunt might post about on facebook
posted by poffin boffin at 9:15 AM on January 3 [9 favorites]


For what it's worth, I've been invited to parties like this and they definitely are real. I could tell the dimensions of it from the description and decided I had enough reasons to dislike the investor set I was involved with at the time and declined, which was practically scandalous in its own right to them.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:18 AM on January 3 [4 favorites]


the article didn't mention any racist, sexist, or questionably historic themes, so they truly are 2.0ing the frat party.

Nah, they've got the racist/questionably historic part down:
In June 2017, one young woman—let’s call her Jane Doe—received a Paperless Post invite for “a party on the edge of the earth” at the home of a wealthy venture capitalist. The invite requested “glamazon adventurer, safari chic and jungle tribal attire.”
(emphasis added).
posted by jedicus at 9:22 AM on January 3 [9 favorites]


FWIW I understand there's a gay male party scene in Bay Area tech like this too.

Back when I worked at Google there was a group of folks, including the founders, who'd go to Burning Man every year. It didn't seem particularly problematic and clearly separate from work. OTOH it also seemed baffling to me. The idea of mixing Burning Man hedonism with my work colleagues... Just... no...
posted by Nelson at 9:23 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]


> Did you miss the parts of the article that talked about how business is conducted at these events? Doesn't that make them de facto work events, and as such, isn't a discussion of the treatment of women at these parties actually a discussion of the way women are treated at work?

Yes. I think in some previous articles, male VCs object that this means they can never go out of "work mode" in lots of Bay Area venues where their friends hang out. But that's just the cost of being prominent in that business. The mayor of Palo Alto and the chair of the Stanford philosophy department are also limited in where they can cut loose, as is every elementary school teacher in America.

And telling people of any gender they can't come to the parties and not participate sexually (because it's "voyeurism") is so obviously awful, if you're also shaming them and cutting them off from business relationships if they stop attending. I'm not an expert, but I thought most responsibly planned events where people can do sexual things even provide explicitly nonerotic spaces for people who don't feel like participating or change their minds once they get started?
posted by smelendez at 9:27 AM on January 3 [5 favorites]


The parties Newitz described sound way less like places investors went to exercise power

In the old days, they used to call it “nerverts”, and it was seen as kinda cute and hope-affirming, all that open-mindedness and kink-positivity and promise for egalitarian utopias of free joy. Now, of course, we are in the darkest timeline, and everything is founded on horribly abusive power relations, equal parts Ayn Rand and Gor.

Was it always like this, only that we deluded ourselves into thinking that the people involved were nice and well-meaning, or did some sexual analogue of the alt-right/MAGA/Pizzagate infect the “nervert” culture?
posted by acb at 9:29 AM on January 3 [7 favorites]


Was it always like this, only that we deluded ourselves into thinking that the people involved were nice and well-meaning,

Yes.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:38 AM on January 3 [21 favorites]


FWIW I understand there's a gay male party scene in Bay Area tech like this too.

Several months ago I was talking to a twentysomething cis white man, a programmer who had -- either after finishing a bachelor's or dropping out of college -- moved to the Bay Area and was now working as an early-stage employee at a startup in San Francisco. He's a conventionally attractive guy, and I can't recall whether he identifies as bi or gay. He specifically mentioned that he'd gotten his current job through the "gay mafia" within the Bay Area tech scene, and mentioned how much job referral and career networking happens at gay men's parties. I pointed out how this would have a systematic effect of shutting out women. He did not seem very bothered about this.
posted by brainwane at 9:43 AM on January 3 [19 favorites]


we are in the darkest timeline, and everything is founded on horribly abusive power relations, equal parts Ayn Rand and Gor

we were always there, white people with disposable incomes have just finally come around to realizing that hegemonic patriarchy / white supremacy / heterocentrism / etc are real issues that have persistently forced people to live in a different, subaltern reality than their own
posted by runt at 9:43 AM on January 3 [9 favorites]


He specifically mentioned that he'd gotten his current job through the "gay mafia" within the Bay Area tech scene, and mentioned how much job referral and career networking happens at gay men's parties. I pointed out how this would have a systematic effect of shutting out women. He did not seem very bothered about this.

One thing that gay men and straight men tend to agree on, sadly.

Straight men think of women exclusively for sexual purposes.

Gay men are the same, except for the sexual part.

(YMMV, NAXALT, etc)
posted by theorique at 9:53 AM on January 3 [7 favorites]


Another eyewitness account for real, and not new. I haven't been to these particular kinds of parties but even at lower income levels they're a thing.

A lot of this hedonism has roots that go way back to the 70s and the dawn of the personal computer. Steven Levy talks about this in his book Hackers, where early personal computer and software notables started hosting bacchanals and hot tub parties as soon as the God-tier money started rolling in. Psychedelics were definitely a thing, and considering the era I'm sure coke was extremely popular.

This hedonism was scientifically codified and hardwired as wetware in the tech industry in the late 80s through the mid 90s with Ecstasy/MDMA and house/rave culture. You basically can't talk about post 1989 house music culture on the West Coast without also talking about the tech industry and tech culture.

Example: A whole lot of the best raves and parties in LA involved a really strange hybrid between tech-heavy schools like Caltech, Harvey Mudd and the 5C colleges and inner city gangs and party/sound crews.

And from very early on the scene was fueled with high tech communications via email lists started and hosted (often in secret or without permission) by IT/unix admins at college campuses, or via mail services and early sites like hyperreal.org, which was definitely founded on the surplus of tech profits and fortunes. Hacked/stolen voicemail numbers and other phone services were also commonly used.

This evolved into Burning Man, which is a favorite of Silicon Valley's hedonists, with the related year-round party culture for local events, fundraising parties and other private parties. And most of these are themed, heavily costumed and as hedonistic as it gets. Burning Man party crews today tend to be able to self-select a lot more than, say, an open admission underground rave. Getting the costumes and shibboleths right is usually pretty expensive and pricey, as are the event tickets. And participation in Burning Man itself.

Was or is it always like this?

Pretty much, yes. In hindsight I lucked out with a really good circle of very ethical friends, where this kind of thing didn't happen and if it did it was called out both by men and women.

But the older I get the more I'm seeing a lot of stuff in hindsight that was less pro-equality and a lot more dudes nodding "Yeah, yeah, sure, feminism. Let's have meaningless sex, then. I'm totally listening." or even "I support your liberation as long as it means more sexual access and more sex. After that you're on your own."
posted by loquacious at 9:55 AM on January 3 [24 favorites]


Was it always like this, only that we deluded ourselves into thinking that the people involved were nice and well-meaning

I don't doubt that there was a brief moment where everyone who was in the room meant well and was having a good time. But some white guy* invariably got wind of it and showed up to predate. And probably someone else showed up to make money or steal from the distracted about five minutes behind that guy, if it wasn't just that guy doing it all.

*Not all blah blah. Marion Zimmer Bradley is an excellent example of a woman taking advantage of a permissive scene (THE permissive Bay Area scifi scene, at the time pretty much indistinguishable from the tech scene such as it was) in pretty much the same way.

But men especially. I've seen so many of them talk the talk and appear to buy in to the scene/vibe/ethos and then you start to realize the shitty truth: he's just playing along to get his stick dipped, and may very well assume it's good faith because he believes everyone is just playing along, or will at least assert that this is the case and refuse any contradiction. The powerholders know they can control the narrative with these assertions, whether it's the guy splaining ethical nonmonogamy to get in your pants or these guys telling each other that the women at these events are really really there for the A++ dick (so criminally unwanted in high school, where the good sex is) and not money or proximity to power - they're not "fucking golddiggers". They really want them, for real!

So yeah, it was always like this. I have my suspicions that the entire system is quite different if the scene is all men or all women, but in heterospaces yeah, it has always been like this. Women have been sighing and putting their metaphorical keys in a bowl since it was half a coconut and a rock, I'm sure.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:08 AM on January 3 [10 favorites]


The tech specific part that caught my attention was "Women are participating in this culture to improve their lives. They are an underclass in Silicon Valley." Sexism in tech is absolutely a problem and it's bad the bacchanal subculture reifies that. I wish the article spent more time on the women who choose to participate in the scene out of some combination of wanting to and gambling it might help their careers.

On top of which, the standard social double-standard still applies, so the women who are observed participating will be judged as kind of pathetic/slutty and the men will be judged as liberated studs. So your options as a woman are: 1. don't attend and miss out on business and career opportunities or 2. participate and be judged

(I say this based on my experience of how regular, non-sex-party hookups are perceived/discussed in SV).
posted by mrmurbles at 10:08 AM on January 3 [6 favorites]


Also, I imagine that rising inequality and precarity has something to do with making the dynamics more toxic. Especially in an environment in which young women are at the mercy of older men for their livelihood.

Other symptoms: the explosion of “sugar daddy” “dating” services (i.e., like Airbnb, but for long-term prostitution). Society may be reverting to the pre-20th-century norm, in which attractive/fertile young women paired with wealthy/powerful older men. One consequence of this was a surplus of unpaired young men; these were typically expended in the frequent wars that would happen, though if there was a prolonged period of peace, they could build up and cause trouble. (Today's equivalent may be the post-Fight Club alt-right.)
posted by acb at 10:14 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]


Eyes Wide Shut
this was lame, and tame even then.
posted by evilDoug at 10:14 AM on January 3


So the article is basically saying that San Francisco's long history of sex parties and venues has been gentrified.
posted by sirshannon at 10:14 AM on January 3 [19 favorites]


Society may be reverting to the pre-20th-century norm, in which attractive/fertile young women paired with wealthy/powerful older men. One consequence of this was a surplus of unpaired young men; these were typically expended in the frequent wars that would happen, though if there was a prolonged period of peace, they could build up and cause trouble. (Today's equivalent may be the post-Fight Club alt-right.)

I don't know if you're intending to imply this, but it comes off to me an awful lot like the conclusion you've set up is that if younger women would just sleep with younger men more, we'd avert an awful lot of conflict and war. It also comes off as describing young women as a limited resource to be fought over as opposed to, you know, people with agency.

I am hoping that I have read you wrong, because the alternative is gross.
posted by sciatrix at 10:17 AM on January 3 [27 favorites]


Younger women sleep with younger men all the time, and yet the alt-right still exists. So it can’t be the lack of sex that’s causing it.
posted by Autumnheart at 10:26 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]


It's all tied together. I'd imagine that a woman who gets invited and doesn't follow the script will very quickly find doors closed in her face. If this sounds familiar, well...It's the Weinstein playbook, just brought North.

It's the old business on the golf course thing, but with added horrific sexual assault.
posted by MattWPBS at 10:39 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Society may be reverting to the pre-20th-century norm, in which attractive/fertile young women paired with wealthy/powerful older men.

uh this is factually untrue - people are dating more freely, hookup culture is prevalent at colleges, universities, and immediately after graduation, young women outnumber young men in undergraduate settings and much more at graduate levels, people are getting married and having kids at later and later points in their lives, and so on and so forth. there is also not an 'explosion of sugar daddy dating services', especially not when contextualized with the absolute explosive adoption of online dating platforms in generations younger than 30

I also have no idea why you would blame young men not having wars to fight in or women to date before you'd blame poverty, income inequality, lack of secure jobs, repeals of social welfare systems, the clampdown on university access and funding, the economic segregation and rapid defunding of schools, pre-existing systems of oppression that have always existed that reinforce and normalize racism/misogyny/ableism/homophobia/etc, and myriads of other issues that more directly affect young adult men in a much more salient way than them not having a monogamous, cisheterosexual relationship
posted by runt at 10:39 AM on January 3 [20 favorites]


Society may be reverting to the pre-20th-century norm, in which attractive/fertile young women paired with wealthy/powerful older men

Citation pls

I mean I don't doubt that, historically, powerful old men slept with a lot of young women, but there's zero evidence that all the other young women and all the other young men were, like, celibate as a consequence. Or even that the young women who were sleeping with the rich old dudes were doing so to the exclusion of sleeping with anyone else.
posted by mrmurbles at 10:40 AM on January 3 [8 favorites]


Is this up there with "if you slept with men more, they wouldn't mass murder bitches for not sleeping with them?"
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:53 AM on January 3 [4 favorites]


If you’re reading this and shaking your head saying, “This isn’t the Silicon Valley that I know,” you may not be a rich and edgy male founder or investor, or a female in tech in her 20s.

I'm literally a female in tech in my 20s and I've never gotten an invite

But I'm in NYC and not SV (which I deliberately chose so I could meet more people outside of the industry)
posted by airmail at 10:54 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]


I would say most of my strong reaction to the idea that young men not getting some is the reason why so many of them act like complete shitheads is because that 1) it is just wrong (see above; also the Centers for Disease Control calculates 27.2% of men and 28.6% of women are sexless in the 15-24 age bracket) and 2) sounds suspiciously like a line from that horribly misogynistic, pro-rape 'involuntary celibacy' group that only the shittiest dregs of the postmodern West subscribe to
posted by runt at 11:01 AM on January 3 [17 favorites]


Not to mention that it’s a subset of the general idea of, “I’m entitled to the service and labor of others.” If the motivation for achieving success is that you’ll get your dick sucked whenever you want by virtue of being rich and/or powerful enough to force people into sucking your dick, then maybe you’re a horrible person and a sociopath, not a high achiever or captain of industry.
posted by Autumnheart at 11:29 AM on January 3 [7 favorites]


The whole "lack of sex" thing is the toxic myth that drives this entire thing. It's a convenient excuse to perpetuate this idea that a man deprived of orifice space in a woman's body becomes some kind of uncontrollable monster, that they must have it, that they're supposed to be getting it constantly from the age of I guess 14 or whenever high school starts, that they are ooooooooooowed it and without it they are as damaged as someone who's never had Vitamin A.

Deprived of the space, one has no choice but to turn to the systematic destruction of everyone who isn't exactly like us. Sorry, but those are the rules that we made up. Masturbation? That's a trick, because there's no special space. Gay men? Can't explain why they haven't killed the rest of us, it's confusing but we're going to keep them around until last so we don't have to give their jobs to women. Lesbians? Lucky as hell, but standing between us and the space, get rid of 'em. People of different races and religions? Constantly complaining that the rules we made up suck, so they have to be genocided. If we are not given the space, we have to be nazis, that's just how it works.

It's an entirely self-perpetuated mythology. Yeah, a lot of people like getting the funny tingles in their downtheres, and we do have some drive to replicate ourselves, but there's a huge false economy created around sexual access that is based on nothing but the assertion of its value and the winners are determined by people declaring they win. It's like me declaring that leaves are money now, except everyone believes me for some reason. (*cough*bitcoin*cough) And even if you subscribe to the idea that sexual access is valuable, it is possible to choose to just participate in the market, flawed as it may be, instead of crying that the market isn't coming to your pants and fucking you without any effort whatsoever on your part.

(And you know these guys all tell each other knowingly that women don't have orgasms. Or that the most powerful and valuable and important women orgasms look exactly like a yawn and an eyeroll. Bro, I made her yawn fourteen times. You can see the same rhetoric among the unwealthy reddit plebes telling each other you deffo don't want a girl who comes too much or likes sex really at all, but will let you use the space whenever you tell her to.)

It's such a cruel game, and it's sick that many of the men playing it know it's a game, it's just another thing to win. I don't even know if it's fixable, but the only way I see to even start is to call it out. I guess that's what's been happening in a whole new way the last few months, but we can't just say "that individual man is playing *vague wave* a bad game." We're going to have to start saying, constantly I guess, "your boner is not important" all day every day every time someone does something that perpetuates this shit.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:30 AM on January 3 [23 favorites]


I don't really doubt much of the core substance of this because

a.) as a couple other people have said it's basically a version of shit I am more directly aware of, but add more youngish men with too much money (who don't tend to improve things)

b.) my s.o. at one point worked for some people on the shadier side of "tech" and so I certainly know about the expectation that women are there for decoration/entertainment/the taking

But something about the way this article is written bugged me a bit too. Like it could be written about the underlying dynamic of (b) (it does have some of this to be fair), it could be about what happens when money meets an existing Bay Area party culture (as sirshannon mentioned), or it could be about the problems of these kinds of scenes in general (see bl1nk's comment or this previous article). But it can't resist this hook of "powerful people in secretive orgies!" - I dunno.
posted by atoxyl at 11:40 AM on January 3 [5 favorites]


Even if men getting laid more fixed anything, which it wouldn’t, that still doesn’t obligate women, as individuals or as a whole, to end world hunger by fucking some guy. I could just as easily illustrate the point with some gross stereotypes by saying, “Great, I’m a single 44-year-old woman and I choose you, college-aged hottie, to fuck ME for life in exchange for world peace, now go in that room and strip down—and you better not be fat, you should be thankful that I think you’re attractive,” and watch boners wilt by the hundreds with that mental image.

Just because there are tons of idiots who believe that their dick is the answer to all the world’s problems doesn’t mean that’s actually true.
posted by Autumnheart at 11:54 AM on January 3 [4 favorites]


The "founder" quotes are so full of shit, entitlement and smarm that I'm picturing every single one of the sources as Martin Shkreli.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:02 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


I bet Martin Shkreli would have no problems attending an orgy with no one there but (literal) other Martin Shkrelis.
posted by praemunire at 12:27 PM on January 3 [7 favorites]


I am sure this is an accurate description - but I don't think it does anyone any good to have these sorts of articles published when they are only half-complete. Someone above mentioned fact-checking - but there is not enough verifiable information in it to even begin. You can't fact check Jane Doe or Ava or Founder X or male investor or female investor or Married V.C. - you are not even allowed to know who they are. The only named people who would have knowledge are Evan Williams and Esther Crawford, and neither one of them says word one about these parties (the subject of the article).

Emily Chang is a respected name in journalism and I believe what she says. However, I wish she would have waited to find verifiable sources. Otherwise it is just to easy to minimize this stuff and lump it in with rainbow parties and Satanic preschools.
posted by rtimmel at 12:29 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


This is a completely predictable and virtually natural outgrowth of 1.) hedonism and the belief that all that matters is pleasure, 2.) capitalism (which is essentially a magnet for sociopaths), and 3.) pre-existing bigotry. What is surprising is that it is surprising.
posted by koavf at 12:41 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Fact-checkers work with the author to confirm veracity while preserving anonymity in the published piece. You are not the fact-checker. These articles probably aren't fact-checked to the degree that accusations of crimes are, like in the various Weinstein articles, but again there are people in this actual thread confirming this is not made up and that this is not a secret.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:05 PM on January 3 [26 favorites]


What about it even sounds made up? As I said there's an aspect of the presentation that comes off as sensationalism - so they took this... Molly, you say? And cuddled in a puddle? - which I think is what's not sitting right with some people. But the actual stories under that are straightforward enough.
posted by atoxyl at 1:20 PM on January 3


I bet Martin Shkreli would have no problems attending an orgy with no one there but (literal) other Martin Shkrelis.

If you have sex with your clone, is it gay or masturbation?
posted by theorique at 1:20 PM on January 3


If you have sex with your clone, is it gay or masturbation?

Yes
posted by tippiedog at 1:32 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


I should clarify, btw, that the play parties that I had visited when I was younger were at a couple of orders magnitude less excess than what was described in the article. No Pacific Heights mansions or Atherton estates, and no VC people. These were in lofts squats in the invisible parts of town not unilke Ghost Ship or an exurb house from that first set of friends who chose to move out of the city because they were planning on raising kids some day.

You don't need a lot of cash to pull off a party like this, which is why it's unsurprising to me that these events have their own equivalent in the technorati -- esp, given the explosion in full service camps at Burning Man and how that's just become this portal for folks to buy their way into the playa experience. Everything that these subcultures have done, the money will adopt, gentrify, and pervert to whatever suits their tastes.

On the other end of the spectrum, my last boss was a big boardgaming nerd, and once encouraged me to go up to visit an ex-colleague's weekend party that was essentially going to be a Cards Against Humanity / Betrayal On The House on The Hill / Ticket To Ride weekend bender so that we could recruit devops people from his last job.

Everything eventually becomes the new golf.
posted by bl1nk at 3:46 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


I took acb's post as descriptive, not normative. I hope it's incorrect but I agree there's a lot of historical precedent. (Lots of poor people didn't get to marry at all, is how the math evened out.)
posted by clew at 4:02 PM on January 3


Yeah it's not that other groups or demographics in time and space have/had similar kinds of parties, it's that there are contexts where these social practices become exploitative, due to power dynamics, unequal social capital, etc. And how do you get accountability for that, etc.
posted by polymodus at 4:11 PM on January 3


I took acb's post as descriptive, not normative. I hope it's incorrect but I agree there's a lot of historical precedent. (Lots of poor people didn't get to marry at all, is how the math evened out.)

But it's not descriptive. There is zero chance that poor people, even if unmarried, were not fucking. And there is no way that 5% of the men were sleeping with 25% of the women, and that those 25% of women were sleeping with nobody else but that 5% of men.
posted by mrmurbles at 5:23 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


A whole lot of the best raves and parties in LA involved a really strange hybrid between tech-heavy schools like Caltech, Harvey Mudd and the 5C colleges and inner city gangs and party/sound crews.

I'm still proud of being personally responsible for turning one of the HMC dorms from quiet and boring into the one known for raves.
posted by flaterik at 5:24 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


I'm still proud of being personally responsible for turning one of the HMC dorms from quiet and boring into the one known for raves.

If you helped do that one on campus with way too many lasers and bass that I think was maybe even a NYE party or other holiday, you should be.

Err, wait, hey, look, it's technically two white tech-ish dudes talking about hedonism and parties. Is there a variation of the Bechdel test for this?

A lot of this is actually sincerely making me rethink a lot of this club/house culture I've been part of. A lot of my experiences definitely were pro feminism, pro equality, pro LGBTQ and I definitely feel I got lucky. But there definitely weren't enough female DJs and live electronic artists, and still aren't.

But it's also making me wonder what it was like in, say, the mid 1990s into the 2000s in the Bay Area with all that new easy tech money flowing basically since the 70s, instead of the mostly DIY and small time club/rave stuff I went to in SoCal. I would have likely been blinded by it, really, I don't know. I think if I took a time machine back right now I don't think I'd like it.

And I don't think that the idea that the current increasing inequality is driving, well, sex work or participation/abuse under duress or fear is at all off the mark - which never has been.

What's new is finding it at unexpected social, educational and economic classes and strata, enabled and even normalized with technology. I know a number of very talented, accomplished and schooled people that have turned to different things whether arrangements, dating and cam work, even if while employed (and underpaid).

Even when not counting active and enthusiastically willing sex workers I've known aside (say, erotic writers, pro dommes, etc) it bothers the fuck out of me that this seems to be about most of the women (and even some men) I personally know that have had to do something along these lines.

And this isn't even counting the fact that basically every woman I've known and developed any kind of friendship with definitely has had more than one story about being harassed at work, or not being paid as much, or getting the bullshit end of the stick on a regular basis.

Perhaps in addition to #metoo, it seems more like #allofus.
posted by loquacious at 6:53 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


As I said there's an aspect of the presentation that comes off as sensationalism

Yeah. The only bit that struck me as overboard read literally was the line that airmail highlights: If you’re reading this and shaking your head saying, “This isn’t the Silicon Valley that I know,” you may not be a rich and edgy male founder or investor, or a female in tech in her 20s. I don't plan to go around asking young women in tech if they know about drug fueled sex orgies first hand since that would be really creepy, but I'm sure I'd get an awful lot of "no" answers. It's like claiming everyone in LA is or wants to be an actor.

The rest of the article is mostly describing stories of a relatively small circle of people who seem like they fit in a single large house once a month? No trouble believing that, plus many more that didn't get covered.
posted by mark k at 8:51 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


I would absolutely go to more play parties if I wasn't afraid of fucking (or, hell, getting flirted at, by) a tech bro. D-bags are basically a bigger turn-off than, like, emetophilia or literal ratfucking.
posted by tapir-whorf at 11:25 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


Hm, as a woman in tech in her 20's, I guess I've been lucky(?) enough to evade the bros and just meet the tech people with complementary interests who care as much about my enjoyment as their own. But I don't and will never live in SF.

(?) there are other adjectives I could put in here depending on my self esteem any given day but I will stick with 'lucky'.
posted by batter_my_heart at 1:47 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Are there stilts? Once people are at parties on stilts it’s time to cash out and move to rural Mexico

I've been to parties like this, only at one slight economic step lower, and yes, there were stilts. It's time to get the hell out.

I'm still trying to work out exactly what all this means, but this article has helped me to get closer to identifying and naming the nagging discomfort I've been feeling as I've watched this stuff, both at parties and at Burning Man. I think I may well be done with the playa. And as far as play parties go, the good people at Kinky Salon are fighting the good fight, keeping sex both sexy, consensual, and weird.
posted by pleasant_confusion at 10:49 AM on January 4


" (*cough*bitcoin*cough) And even if you subscribe to the idea that sexual access is valuable, it is possible to choose to just participate in the market, flawed as it may be, instead of crying that the market isn't coming to your pants and fucking you without any effort whatsoever on your part."

oh man my new orgy cryptocurrency is gonna disrupt the shit out of that market

is fuckcoin too on the nose?

hmu vcs
posted by klangklangston at 5:47 PM on January 6




That article Jpfed linked is quite juicy and escalates the grossness of everything. He's talking about one of these parties. An official VC firm's party, run by the firm at a general partner's house. Also names some attendees (Elon Musk and Jason Calacanis). The reporter left early and didn't witness any actual sex.
posted by Nelson at 9:33 AM on January 11


Silicon Valley "sex party" was at Steve Jurvetson's home. Axios is quoting from Chang's book, which they "obtained text from". Back in November Jurvetson quit Draper Fisher Jurvetson in disgrace surrounding sexual harassment claims against him.
posted by Nelson at 1:42 PM on January 11


Mason Hartman on Twitter:
I want to share some longer remarks on the so-called Silicon Valley elite “sex party” that’s making the rounds. (Be warned: the truth is boring.)
Not sure what to make of all this, but it wouldn't be the first time a journalist ran with a salacious story for the clicks.
posted by pharm at 2:19 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


The Register is also unimpressed.
posted by pharm at 2:05 AM on January 15


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