chemistry sex party nyc
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Lifestyle

Still Nervous About Attending a Sex Party? Go to Williamsburg's Chemistry.

I arrived to the party a little late -- 1:30am to be exact; a not entirely unreasonable hour to show up to a loft party in Brooklyn. After making my way up the steps and through the metal emergency exit door, I found a crowded loft filled with exposed brick, loud music, a bartender mixing drinks, and an outdoor patio with a string of Christmas lights. It was exactly what you’d expect from a loft party in Brooklyn, except for the fact that almost everyone was naked and more than half of them were having sex. This was Chemistry: the city’s most laid-back sex party.

The New York sex party scene used to be stereotyped as dingy, illicit debauchery replete with mustachioed gentlemen in silk shirts and gold chains. You can thank Plato’s Retreat for that -- an Upper West Side sex club that was popular in the late ‘70s and ‘80s and described by author Steven Gaines in his book, The Sky's the Limit: Passion and Property in Manhattan, as “an assortment of kinky types from the suburbs: dry cleaners and their wives or fat men in toupees with their heavily made-up girlfriends.” But the modern day New York City sex club scene is a far cry from that, and Chemistry, a members-only, secret location-based, monthly sex party in Williamsburg, is the best example of it.

“We strive to create an atmosphere that is fun, visually interesting, has great entertainment, is a treat for all of the senses, and is sexy -- but one that doesn’t hit you over the head with sex. We know that’s why people are there, and don’t think that they need the reminder of hardcore porn projected on the walls,” says Kenny Blunt, co-founder of Chemistry. The environment is completely relaxed and unpretentious; attendees run the spectrum from happily committed couples to ambiguous “friends with benefits” to singles looking for a hookup or to be a court-side observer. It’s as hands on (or off) as you wish to make it. There’s a band, a DJ, a bartender, couples dancing, talking -- it isn’t until much later that sex is put on the table… and the floor… and everywhere else.

NYC has a sex party for everyone

Before attending Chemistry for the first time, my previous sex party experience had been at Behind Closed Doors, another members-only party that’s strictly held in upscale locations (think penthouses and suites). Geared toward a more corporate-type crowd, complete with Champagne flutes, suits, and glittering Rolexes, it was the complete opposite of Chemistry. Of course, to some, that may be a more comfortable, erotic environment in which to strip down. And the fact that a party like that and a party like Chemistry can coexist in the same city speaks to just how varied New Yorkers’ sex preferences can be. No matter your style or preference, whether you’re a Wall Street tycoon or bearded and into small-batch, whether you prefer your public sex swanky or subdued, you’ll find a spot to fit in. For me, that was Chemistry.

On my most recent visit to Chemistry (also my fourth), I arrived to find the loft’s various dark spaces filled with suggestive blue and red lighting, strangers casually wandering around naked, a bartender doling out potent vodka sodas, couples standing around chatting in their underwear, and lofty screams of pleasure echoing from couples strewn across couches in private corners known as “play rooms.” Standard sex party procedure. On the outdoor patio were a series of small tents set up like a bawdy bedouin enclave. Tent doors were left slightly ajar, perfect for catching the occasional flailing leg.

It felt as normal to me as if I had walked into a local dive on a Friday night: a casual nod to another regular, a hug for the party owner, and a quick stop at the bar for a drink. It was a drastic change from my first time, even second or third, when I had an overwhelming feeling of anxiety. It makes sense -- taking our clothes off and having sex is usually reserved for private encounters with someone we care about (or at least someone whose body we care about for that particular evening). But the more I’ve been to sex parties, the more I’ve come to understand about New York’s ever-evolving relationship with sex (and my own).

Chemistry is the perfect place for first-timers

To become a member at Chemistry, you’re required to answer a few questions about your outlook on sex and sexuality via a questionnaire that can be found on the website (these include, “What is your philosophy on sex?”, “What role does sexuality play in your life?”, and “What is your favorite nonsexual hobby, past or present? Why?”).

The monthly events are hosted in a large space in Williamsburg, but every now and then there are smaller, more intimate VIP events, held in a space in Clinton Hill, like a Halloween-themed party for select, regular members. There are fees per party that range based on who you are (i.e., a single woman, a couple, a regular). Chemistry member female tickets range from $20-60, and member couple tickets range from $130-200 (single men are only allowed if they are regulars and the organizers know them).

In addition to its incredibly relaxed venue, Chemistry’s greatest appeal is the fact that it’s completely judgment-free, no matter if you’re squeezed into your most revealing lace or something a little less porous. (The organizers urge attendees to shy away from jeans and sneakers and to embrace the theme du jour, whether it’s Leather & Lace, or a Naughty & Nice Christmas, but you certainly will not be turned away if you don’t.) Members tend to be anywhere from their mid-20s to early 40s, and the vibe is all about casual conversation, laughter, and comfort, all interspersed with mood-setting entertainment like fire dancers, burlesque, or acrobatics.

“I always had these grand visions of going to a swingers club or a ‘sex party,’ but I could never muster the courage or frankly find the right partner,” one male avid Chemistry attendee tells me. “After 30-something years and asking many girls throughout my life if they’d be open to it, I finally got the opportunity to go to one of Chemistry’s parties. I had no idea what to expect. The first time I entered the ‘playroom’ I was amazed. It was like looking at every porn site but live, in person, in one room. People of all shapes, sizes, colors, preferences, and moaning volume.”

“It was like looking at every porn site but live, in person, in one room.”

Another member, a first-timer at the most recent party I went to, told me she was amazed by how instantly at ease she felt. “I quickly came to realize, everybody was in their own world. Nobody was judging, looking at you funny -- it was just a group of open-minded, adventurous, free-spirited, and fun people expressing themselves in the best way possible. As I was bent in front of my date standing up behind me, I glanced over to see a couple sitting 5ft from us just watching. Instead of freezing or retreating, I simply waved hello. In that moment, I knew I had totally let go and felt completely at ease... and excited.”

That at-ease feeling is certainly contagious at Chemistry. The third time I went, I accompanied a curious girlfriend of mine so that she could see it for herself but have me there as a built-in safety net. Like any new social setting, she was hesitant at first, clinging to my side and waiting for someone else to break the ice. By the time I left the party she was mounted atop a Sybian, on a stage in front of dozens of people, getting off while a half-naked, muscled man massaged her shoulders.

The best thing to happen to the New York dating scene

A large portion of the time, New York City singles go out with the hopes of getting laid. We go through the motions -- eye contact (but not too much because you don’t want to seem too eager), conversation (but not too much because you don’t want to seem desperate or self-absorbed), and the exchange of phone numbers (but not too soon, of course). We cling to our dating apps because it’s just so hard to “meet people.” We join clubs, attend Meetups, play dodgeball (or kickball, or cornhole), and even speed date -- all in attempts to meet new people, ideally with the intent on one day having sex with them. Sure, you may also be looking for a relationship, but sex is always part of the equation, even though you’re working tirelessly to prove that it isn’t. At a sex party... well, it’s kind of the whole point, isn’t it?

That said, no one at Chemistry forces you to participate in anything. Hours before the recent party I went to, I’d feasted on Thai food and tequila with an old college roommate and wasn’t feeling my most particularly sexy... or sober. I wasn’t there for sex, and that was understood. (Third base on the dance floor? Completely different story.) Chemistry is a (self-proclaimed) “sensual gala” that is so far removed from the stigmas that sex partygoers are freaks or have bizarre fetishes. It’s a club, like Craft Beer for Dummies, or Introduction to Spanish. Just a little more naked.

If you’re curious about a sex party, that doesn’t make you weird or a fetishist. It makes you inquisitive, it makes you adventurous, and it makes you healthy. So much of the dating scene in New York is about playing games, beating around the bush, and guessing what’s going on. At Chemistry, it’s all laid out for you, both proverbially and literally naked. There’s no guesswork, no games. You all came for the same thing. It’s the perfect place for New Yorkers who want to test boundaries, meet interesting, educated people, and maybe even have sex with them.

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Meagan Drillinger is a contributing writer for Thrillist. All of her dates are tax deductible. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @drillinjourneys.