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A late April Saturday night at 9 p.m, and about 250 people, ranging from their mid-twenties to mid-forties, gather in a former textiles wa

rehouse turned event venue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The walls are exposed brick, and the ceilings are tall. In the spirit of the theme, people are dressed up as sexy doctors and nurses — the centerpiece is none other than a gurney. To start off the night, jazz by the Ashkenazy Collective soothes the guests, prompting them to shrug off their stresses from the outside world.

A sheer curtain divides the huge space, and behind it is a dancefloor where the New York DJ, Tektite, takes over with low house music. When the clock strikes 11 p.m., a sensual burlesque show featuring the 34-inch inseam long-legged Legs Malone and self-proclaimed “brown sugar” Miss Poison Ivory begins, calling for all things spicy. And the spice will continue until 3 a.m.

It may seem like any other New York underground nightclub — there’s coat check, a bartender and DJ’s — but it’s far from it. Alcohol is not provided, cameras are not allowed, people patrol for gawkers and the very inebriated And, in the two lofts upstairs from the dancefloor are silky tents decorated with soft cushions and chaises where people are entangled in all types of public sex.

Welcome to Chemistry NYC’s monthly party, with the theme this evening “You Give Me Fever.” The members-only sex club charges an entry fee of $200 for newbie couples and $180 for returning guests.

Even the media has become smitten with such sensual evenings. “Thrillist” described Chemistry NYC as a “borough-roving, house-party style sexcapade run by the surprisingly pleasant SheilaMonster and her chillaxed paramour KennyBlunt.” “Huffington Post’s Love + Sex” podcast called it one of New York City’s most exclusive sex parties. In a sex party guide for “L Magazine,” Lacy Warner writes, “This is what makes Chemistry so wonderful: while sex is the main agenda, how you get to sex is through conversation.” Her takeaway? “Chemistry is totally the type of place I would take a boyfriend.”

“Intense eroticism meets sophistication” was the description from first-time attendee and blogger Krystle Kotara, who heard about the parties from a friend, compares it to an alternate reality, “And then all of a sudden, it’s time to leave and you’re thrust back onto the streets of New York City. It’s almost like waking up from a dream, disoriented.”

Inspired by the weeklong desert event Burning Man, Chemistry NYC opened in 2005 by former actors Kenny Blunt and his partner — who goes by the stage name SheilaMonster. It is a New York only event..

Steaminess fuels our pop culture, from the small screen where HBO and Starz regularly feature explicit sex in prime time to the flogging and whipping in of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” in print and on the silver screen. The print version of that kinky series sold over 100 million copies, according to the New York Times. As far as sex parties go, millennial-driven media outlets from “Thrillist” to “The Daily Beast” run first-person experience pieces around attending sex parties.

Public and group sex isn’t new. Orgies have been around since antiquity, and certain religious groups such as Wiccans continue to host them. For the general public, however, sex parties were made popular in the free love era of the 1960s. In essence, the social activity satisfies multiple sexual fantasies and fetishes — voyeurism or watching people have sex, to having multiple partners, and exhibitionism or to be watched having sex. It’s remained underground due to stigma for the most part, with many ashamed of their bedroom desires. But the growing population at sex parties like Chemistry proves that interest in kinky sexuality has grown substantially — and come out of the bedroom — over the past decade, thanks to the Internet and media — take “Fifty Shades of Grey” for instance. It’s never been easier for those who are simply curious to find a place to explore their sexuality.

Pepper Mint is the pseudonym of an author of FreskSexual, a decade-old running blog on polyamory, or the practice of multiple romantic partners. He believes that “Sex parties are on a growth pattern until the foreseeable future, as the culture overall gets more sex positive.” Sex parties, he explains, range from the kinky, with whips and handcuffs, to the more sedate. There’s a whole variety of parties to satisfy just about anyone.

At least that’s why the Chemistry NYC founder Sheila began her own sex party company: to suit her own sexual needs. Just out of Brandeis University with an MFA in drama, Sheila moved to New York in 1997 for an acting career. Also pursing theatric passion was fellow actor Kenny Blunt; they met at a show in the “off off-Broadway scene.” The very first sex party she attended was a classic swinger’s event located in the dark backroom of an Irish pub in New York’s financial district during Easter weekend.

This redhead with long curly hair and a purple dress recently recalled that first sex party recently, as she sipped on an iced tea in Theresa’s Restaurant in Brooklyn. Her voice lowered when she talks about sex. “I guess the venue was surprising to me, I was like well this isn’t a very sexy environment,” SheilaMonster says. But there was a titillating energy from being at one of these events with her partner that made her want to learn more. When the couple didn’t find the sexy atmosphere they were looking for, they began to host their own. Although no longer married, she and Ken were together for 15 years, with the legacy of Chemistry as a result.

Becoming a member to Chemistry requires completing an online questionnaire with queries such as, “If you are single, tell us how you feel about that,” or “What is your philosophy on sex?” Answers that only focus around sex will probably be rejected. Instead, Chemistry looks for people who seem interested in learning more about their own sexuality, with or without a steady partner. The membership skews towards women, accepting just a few single men. A typical Chemistry party is attended by about 55% women and 44% men, according to Sheila.

Chemistry has grown over the past decade, now being able to go “above and beyond paying for itself,” according to SheilaMonster. The demographic has also changed over time — from somewhat being eccentrically costumed clientele to now the young professional crowd. Sheila attributes this change to young urbanites, realizing that their romantic lives don’t have to be either commitment to one person or constantly dating new people. Now, people can explore their sexuality, without total commitment.

“I think the younger generation is much more open to a very diverse range of sexual and gender identities and possibilities,” says Emily Prior, the executive director of the Center for Positive Sexuality located in Los Angeles, California. This nonprofit organization seeks to educate people about healthy sex, including BDSM and polyamory. “There seems to be fewer people wondering why people do things or if it’s pathological and more people wanting information about how to do things safely.” Overall, she thinks that millennials are more educated and less judgmental, although that is regionally specific. “. I believe people have recognized that most everyone is into something, and as long as you are being safe and with a consenting partner, then who cares?”

Our sexuality is influenced by almost everything we see, and the idea of polyamory, is gaining influence. For sex and relationship therapist Rachel Klechevsky, “Sexuality today is a combination of information that we gathered as kids and information that we gather from the Internet.” If it weren’t for the Internet, many people wouldn’t even come across the existence of sexual practices like BDSM, polyamory and more, she adds.

A quick Google search brings up events, calendars and clubs for anyone even the slightest bit curious. Pre-Internet, people needed to be sponsored or brought into a private house party, but now a ticket to a sex party can be purchased online and from the comfort of your own home. Sheila recounts how different it was a decade ago to find sex parties, once having to buy a pamphlet of ‘sexy events’ at bodegas. But now, she receives applications electronically.

But the Internet doesn’t stop there. It provides multiple platforms for those curious in exploring their kinkier side to connect with each other. Fetlife is like Facebook but for kinky people. The social media site connects people in the “BDSM & fetish community,” according to its website. Currently, it has over three million members.

 

“Designed by the community, for the community. We are not a faceless corporation. We are kinksters just like you.” It provides a remote sense of belonging, especially for those who don’t live in areas as progressive as New York. Even Craigslist has a forum called “kink.”

David Ortmann, a sex therapist of 11 years specializing in BDSM and a practioner himself since college says, “The point of the community is not only to provide a place where people don’t feel like outsiders all the time, and AA is a great example of this to give you kind of a parallel,” Ortmann says. Not that BDSM is a disease like alcoholism, he adds. “You don’t just pick up a whip and throw it at your girlfriend,” he adds with a laugh, despite how easy it may seem, vis-à-vis “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

And that’s a good thing for play parties that have big aspirations. San Francisco’s Kinky Salon is one of the pioneers in sex positive parties, but has now expanded globally, from Portland to Copenhagen. Started in 2003 by Polly Whittaker, also known as Polly Superstar. She writes in an email, “I don’t consider Kinky Salon to be part of the “kink industry.” It’s not a business; it’s an art/sex community.” To Polly, success is allowing people to meet others, find community and understand themselves better. Her 2014 memoir, “Polly: Sex Culture Revolutionary” was originally a guide on teaching people how to throw their own kinky party, but it changed course as it became more personal. Polly has made her business and mission a success, and regards herself as “a spokesperson for sex culture,” according to her website.

But others, like SheilaMonster, don’t always seek out or believe that the media coverage on their business has always been beneficial. “We don’t need your publicity if you’re not willing to approach this objectively,” Sheila says of her experience with the media, regarding the fact that her party is a delicate and taboo subject to many. “We don’t agree that all publicity is good publicity.” For Sheila, her defining moments are when her clients come up to her saying how much Chemistry changed their sex lives, especially in dying marriages or meeting new people. Community is what matters, not publicity.

The same goes for Larisa Fuchs, also known as Miss Scorpio. With her partner, Gemini, she runs Scorpio and Gemini, a New York event-hosting company. A former graphic designer, she limits how much press she allows at or can share her events. Fuchs hosts a variety of events ranging all over the spectrum of sexy. Her after-dark House of Scorpio hosts the sexier events: the monthly make-out party is in the sexy downtown Manhattan bar Madame X and a themed sex party is in her Gowanus, Brooklyn loft and occurs a few times a year.

From the outside, Gemini and Scorpio’s loft is hidden in rows of nameless and dusty warehouses. The street is barren of any commercial or human activity. But up the metal stairs and behind a heavy door is a big empty space just waiting to be decked out. A stage is covered in plushy cushions and fake flowers hang like Christmas lights from the ceiling. Low seating is arranged like Tetris blocks, with seductive velvet pillows. This is in preparation of May’s “Spring Bacchanalia,” which will cost members $30 to $50. Costumes are encouraged (but sort of necessary). New members sign up online. “I want people to be proactive enough to find it and get on it,” Fuchs says in her slight Ukrainian accent. For such a theatrical loft, Fuchs is dressed casually, wearing glasses and her hair in a ponytail. Costumes are highly encouraged. Jeans are not allowed.

“Ultimately, were put off by the ‘fabulousness’ of their invitations and pre-party communications,” says blogger and former attendee N.Likes on his experience with House of Scorpio events. “I like to go places looking good, and I do look good. But they made it clear they wanted their guests looking fabulous.”

Her parties are smaller than Chemistry’s, with about 50 to 60 guests in attendance. But like Chemistry, half of the guests are newbies and the ages range from the mid-twenties to mid-forties. “The list has grown organically. ” She prides herself on not using advertising. “In this day and age sexual behavior is coming out of the shadows. It seems like there’s really a group of people out there who are willing to experiment. Like the fact that I can talk about being polyamorous now and can actually talk about it and people don’t get frightened.”

Her make-out parties are designed for testing newcomers’ comfort with public sexuality before moving on to sex parties. “We’re more the intersection of poly and kinky and absolute newbies,” she says. On the industry, she says, “I know pretty much all of them there are so few of us who do it that we all know each other. It’s not direct competition.” As with Chemistry NYC, her parties started because of what she personally wanted sexually and then evolved into a commercial event.

The industry is relatively small for now, and expanding to other cities — Miami, Sheila muses, or New Orleans for Fuchs — takes lots of work, money and time. For now, the majority stays mainly in New York and San Francisco. Kenny Blunt’s fulltime job is running Chemistry NYC, and according to Sheila he “squeaks by.”

Despite the media attention, there’s a slight head-down quality to running a sex party, even a commercialized one that has made it into “Maxim Magazine”. Take SheilaMonster for example, refrains from revealing both her real name and fulltime job. Others, like Polly and Fuchs, have stage names to lend a theatrical air but avoid giving out their real identity. People can attend a party for years and never know the true name of the host.

Regardless, the success of longstanding Kinky Salon, the growing popularity of Chemistry NYC and the newbie on the block House of Scorpio confirm that sex parties are becoming more accepted as a casual social event. In just a few years, maybe they’ll sit on people’s schedules the way happy hour does. As Sheila put of her and Kenny Blunt’s success of Chemistry, “If you build it, they will come.”