The song is unabashedly about gay sex (“The boys in the back room / Laughin’ it up / Shootin’ off menergy” goes the jingle-like hook, sung by a group of gleeful women)
Tavares, meanwhile, has been throwing Harder for almost two years now, and he’s showing signs of fatigue. “If I want to make more money, I need to get out of the sex party business,” he said to me by phone last month. Earlier this month, he moved Harder to a new downtown location, in a venue not associated with sex parties. The party’s toned-down, dance-focused angle seemed to do the trick-Tavares said 700 people attended (versus the 150 or so the raunchier incarnation of the party regularly attracted).
Limited as their clientele may be, sex parties nonetheless thrive. In June the New York Times ran what was purported, per its headline, a survey of the current state of queer nightlife: “ Defiant on the Dance Floor: L.G.B.T.Q. Night Life in New York, 2017 .” Sex went unmentioned, and that was an oversight. Sex parties in New York appeal to a niche crowd, sure, (the number of bodies Luke has ever packed into his party topped out at 270-blockbuster numbers for the relatively small venue and nature of his gathering), but it’s a crowd that is, in a major way, philosophically aligned with one of the fundamentals of the gay liberation movement that stretches back decades: the belief that we should be able to attain consensual pleasure as we see fit without reproach.
As I do on occasion, I took a turn DJing American Whorer Party in May for about 90 minutes, and I found the experience more comfortable than most sex parties I’ve attended. Perhaps that’s because sex parties, like many aspects of gay life, take time to warm up to. But it was pretty great to, while chatting for the first time with a dude, have the freedom to play with his dick as part of the conversation. There are so many ways to communicate, and if we’re doing it to end up naked anyway, why not get a taste then and there?
About an hour into my set I played Patrick Cowley’s 1981 hi-NRG classic “ Menergy .” After the spacey intro gave way to the song’s four-on-the-floor throb, it was like the air in the room Greeley CO escort girls changed. I watched the mood shift as guys throughout the room responded bodily to Cowley’s arpeggiated bass line and mechanized white-boy funk. The song reached the height of its popularity in the years just before anyone knew what AIDS was, when gay social lives were full of what I imagine was the same sort of investment in casual sex that I could feel in the room that night. This beautiful track beamed from the past to the present and possessed the bodies of men who have sex with men just as it did 36 years ago. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that room, a tangible example of queer men’s ability to rebound, rebuild, and shamelessly pursue the pleasure that they deserve.
Correction: An earlier version of this piece suggested Simon was arrested for hosting a sex party; in fact, he was arrested for selling liquor without a license at the party.
As one might suspect would be the case with any sex party-gay, straight, or otherwise-the scene operates with some level of natural secrecy. Although most of the promoters or organizers I interviewed for this story were more than happy to tell me all about their New York-based parties, it was sometimes on the condition of anonymity, or that their party not be named. A few chose not to talk to me at all. One host, rather hilariously, compared Jezebel to a pro-Ku Klux Klan site (we are not that), and the other seemed to think that my offer of anonymity implied that he was doing something wrong. But the parties in this story are being profiled with the express permission of their hosts.
“For many people who have historically linked disease with their sex lives, they have now unlinked disease from their sex lives,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the acting deputy commissioner of disease control at New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Health, by phone. “It’s not even a question of public health. I think it’s human nature that if you have a pleasurable activity that was associated with a bad outcome, and you’re making that bad outcome nearly impossible, then all of the sudden that activity looks better.”
Over omelettes this past spring, Simon explained that he got into the sex business because his photography wasn’t paying the bills and he’s “always been a sexual person.” When I mentioned that despite what research for this article required, I’m generally not comfortable at sex parties , Simon, a kindly man in his early 50s whose deliberate speech and outwardly patient affect reminds me of a kindergarten teacher, interrogated me on my sexual taste in an attempt to figure out how he could get sex parties to work for me.
Sex parties are nothing if not practical, top to bottom. He atop the night’s social hierarchy isn’t necessarily the most popular or well-connected person outside of the room; he’s the one who’s having the most fun, and the one who’s having the most fun is inevitably going after it. Sure, hot guys are in demand, but at least as crucial as hotness is charisma. A hard dick at a sex party will likely be in someone’s something in not very much time at all, regardless of who it’s attached to.
Vreeland provided me with an astonishing document: a 122-page case file of the 2007 shutdown of a Chelsea location referred to as “the Studio” where Vreeland hosted a gathering called Maletta’s Grab Ass party (“a good place for guys to meet and hang out and get lost in a maze of attractive men,” said its online ad). For example:
“If they don’t have it in a space like mine that’s safe, clean, and run well, they’re going to have it in an alley somewhere where anything can happen,” said Aulito.
Aulito, who doesn’t serve alcohol at Paddles, says he “always” fears legal retribution for offering a reliable public-sex spot, but nonetheless perseveres. “I think there’s a need for a place like what I have,” he explained. “Guys are gonna have sex anyway. We patrol what goes on. We hand out a condom to every guy that walks in.”
The file is full of dry descriptions of sex at the Studio
Luke has been throwing his since December, and in his words, “It hasn’t lost its luster-I feel much closer to this community than I ever have.”