Sex on Friday

There’s a Secret Door to a Sex Club in My NYC Apartment Building

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I’ve walked by it a thousand times -- a nondescript "door" in the middle of my apartment building's lobby with no knob and no real reason to be there. And I know what you're thinking -- it probably goes to the super’s office or a maintenance room. Because that's what I thought. Instead though, it leads into a darkly lit, decades-old swingers club.

Secret Sex Clubs
Renata Selitti

I’ve lived in my building for six years, and the secret door has been there for the nearly-35 years that the sex club has been in existence. At least that’s what my super told me, in a hushed conversation under the fluorescent lights of the maintenance office. “Don’t use my name,” he said. “They’ll know it’s me anyway by what I tell you, but you don’t want to upset the people who own this club, if you know what I mean.”

Got it. Great, not only are there sweaty people banging mere feet from where I get my mail, but now I have to worry that La Cosa Nostra is going to come after me for digging into their business. Awesome.

But I kept prying. I just couldn't get past the fact that in this high-end Madison Avenue building -- complete with a Svengali-like management company and co-op board to match -- no one was rustling any feathers over the fact that we had a secret door (“fire egress”, whatever) to a sex club IN THE MIDDLE OF OUR LOBBY. “Oh yes, the building is fantastic, and so are the amenities: full-service doormen, roof deck, sex club, we’ve got it all…”

Yes, it’s a couples-only sex club, he told me. Yes, you walk around naked -- or at least, in a towel. And yes, people are doing it en masse, while others basically stand around and watch. Or, you know, rub one out.

Author’s Note: There’s nothing quite as awkward as having a conversation about cuddle puddles and wife-swapping with a 50-something father of two, even if that man has snaked your toilet.

Secret Sex Clubs
Renata Selitti

“But is everything that goes on in there legal?” I asked. “There’s an armed guard on the other side of that door, what do you think?” he said. Good point. In a city where bartenders let you smoke after hours (suck it, Bloomberg) and bodegas are used as drug-selling fronts, that was a stupid question.

He told me the club was once in danger of being closed down by the mayor’s task force, but because it has friends in high places, it remained open. But, it was forced to eliminate its on-site whirlpool for health concerns. IS THERE NO JUSTICE ANYMORE?

The doormen in my building seemed to know less about the history of the club, but more about the everyday goings on of the place. They’d seen someone actually emerge through the door, more than once, but said it’s always the owners, not patrons. They've seen patrons too, just not in person: a favorite pastime of the overnight weekend doormen is to watch people come and go from the club on our security cameras, one of which is pointed squarely at its front entrance.

Secret Sex Club
Renata Selitti

Wondering if my building was the only one paying attention on the block, I went next door to gather intel at the cafe on the other side of the sex club and asked to speak to the owner. When a good-looking, roughly-my-age-and-definitely-straight guy emerged, I wished our conversation wasn’t going to start with, “Hi, my apartment building is also adjacent to the sex club next door, and we have a secret entrance in our lobby, do you guys have one? What can you tell me about that place?” FML.

The dude was surprisingly cool about it though, and told me that he was equally curious about them, but no, his establishment had no such access. He admitted that he’s been trying to figure out a way to get in there and check it out too (other than paying the steep cover and, like, humping strangers), but the one time he mistakenly received their mail and went next door to return it, the front door guy wouldn’t let him in. Apparently, the door security there is stiffer than the Electric Room at the Dream Downtown.

On the plus side, he did let me take pictures from their fire escape of just how far back the sprawling building goes. On the minus side, I’m pretty sure I need to find a new place to get my coffee now.

Still, I wanted to find someone who’d been inside the club as a patron. And even though I wasn't expecting anyone in my social circle to have partaken, one of my friends offered up a detailed account of a very not-sober night with his stripper date on the other side of those walls.

He said that his stripper friend suggested the field trip after a marathon day-drinking session. He’s not a swinger, nor did he have any desire to partake in the festivities (cough *bull* cough), but he was curious about the place, so he went. This is what went down (damn it, again with the puns):

They had to convince the bouncer they were, in fact, a couple, and after being grilled like Gerard Depardieu in that movie about a green card for several minutes, they were led to a locker room where they undressed. The place is huge with multiple levels, “old-school” decor, and a creepily named “mattress room”, where condoms and sheet coverings are laid out on a sea of mattresses side-by-side on the floor.

Both of them were approached by multiple couples to have sex, since patrons there have no interest in casual conversation. It’s all, "Hi, you wanna screw my wife while I watch?” directness, and apparently he didn’t, but his date did. The swinger crowd on hand wasn’t full of mutants, they just weren’t young and shredded, and made some of the people on YouPorn look like Gisele and Tom Brady fornicating. No “orca fat people”, he said, just no one that made him want to bone in public.

While waiting for his date to finish up, he was struck by the DGAF attitude -- from the people who carried on a conversation 2ft from strangers giving fellatio, to the people who worked there massaging randoms.

Whatever the draw is of this club, everyone agreed on one thing: it’s kind of a big deal. Couples have been coming in from the surrounding suburbs for a night out, or from cities all over the world for years, because this place is an f-ing institution. Literally.

And its legendary status just makes it all the more bizarre to live in such close proximity, since all of this has been going on while I’m watching DVR’d episodes of The Walking Dead 100ft away. But in a city where we’re obsessed with exclusive private memberships, hidden password entry, and water tower speakeasies, I can’t help but wonder if maybe we’re going about it all wrong? Sometimes gaining access is easier than you think.

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Renata Sellitti doles out advice for dudes on her blog MissWingman.com. She dreams of one day living in a world where car selfies and using "YOLO" as your Tinder headline are banned. Follow her on Twitter.