When you think of Silicon Valley and its tech startup culture, you probably picture dorky computer whizzes in zip-up hoodies hammering away at their keyboards all day before switching over to video games sometime after midnight.
But according to a revealing new book by Emily Chang, the West Coast tech community also has a well-established culture of sex parties. And as you may be able to guess from the rampant sexism in Silicon Valley, these sex parties are fun for the big-name men who attend, but often end up putting women in difficult positions.
In her upcoming book Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley, which was adapted in Vanity Fair on Tuesday, Chang shares that she spoke to a few dozen anonymous insiders living in the startup mecca, who each described drug-fueled sex parties that allegedly take place around the world on a whim. Here are some of the surprising, salacious, and downright disturbing things she discovered.
1. LET’S START WITH THE BASICS: SILICON VALLEY IS APPARENTLY FILLED WITH SEX PARTIES.
“These sex parties happen so often among the premier V.C. and founder crowd that this isn’t a scandal or even really a secret, I’ve been told; it’s a lifestyle choice. This isn’t Prohibition or the McCarthy era, people remind me; it’s Silicon Valley in the 21st century. No one has been forced to attend, and they’re not hiding anything, not even if they’re married or in a committed relationship. They’re just being discreet in the real world. Many guests are invited as couples—husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends—because open relationships are the new normal.”
2. YOU’VE PROBABLY HEARD OF SOME OF THE PEOPLE WHO ATTEND.
“Guests and hosts include powerful first-round investors, well-known entrepreneurs, and top executives,” Chang writes. “Some of them are the titans of the Valley, household names.”
While the guys may be famous, the women who attend don’t have to be—but they all have one thing in common. “The female guests have different qualifications. If you are attractive, willing, and (usually) young, you needn’t worry about your résumé or bank account,” she writes.
3. THE INVITATIONS ARE SENT IN THE NERDIEST WAY POSSIBLE.
According to Chang, guests are invited by word of mouth, Facebook, Snapchat, or “even basic Paperless Post.” Yes, Paperless Post.
4. DRUGS ARE EVERYWHERE.
The sex parties usually kick off with “some form of MDMA, a.k.a. Ecstasy or Molly, known for transforming relative strangers into extremely affectionate friends, is de rigueur,” Chang writes. This includes Molly tablets that have been molded into “the logos of some of the hottest tech companies.” Jesus, give up the #branding for one night, guys.
5. THE PARTIES MAY BE FUN FOR MEN, BUT THEY CAN HAVE SERIOUS RAMIFICATIONS FOR WOMEN IN TECH.
One male investor told Chang that women go to the parties “to improve their lives. They are an underclass in Silicon Valley.” He said he sees “a lot of men leading people on, sleeping with a dozen women at the same time. But if each of the dozen women doesn’t care, is there any crime committed? You could say it’s disgusting, but not illegal—it just perpetuates a culture that keeps women down.” (Women are currently fighting back against the sexism that runs rampant in Silicon Valley.)
Elisabeth Sheff, a Chattanooga-based writer and professor, told Chang the sex parties are straight-up “exploitation. That’s old-school, fucked-up masculine arrogance and borderline prostitution.”
Women seem damned if they attend and damned if they don’t. One woman working in tech told Chang, “It’s very hard to create a personal connection with a male investor, and if you succeed, they become attracted to you. They think you’re part of their inner circle, [and] in San Francisco that means you’re invited to some kind of orgy.” People apparently find it weird if you don’t go to the parties—and you can end up being left out of important business conversations that happen there.
But a company’s success shouldn’t depend on dealings that go down at sex parties, Chang points out. What’s more, women’s willingness to attend the parties shouldn’t determine how far they can get ahead.
“Great companies don’t spring magically to life when a nerd gets laid three times in a row,” she writes. “Great companies are built in the office, with hard work put in by a team. The problem is that weekend views of women as sex pawns and founder hounders can’t help but affect weekday views of women as colleagues, entrepreneurs, and peers.”