What It’s Really Like Inside SNCTM, New York’s Most Exclusive Sex Party
Inside a luxury sex party hosted by the world's most exclusive sex club
“I literally cannot even express to you how not a big deal any of this was,” is a text I sent to my now-ex-boyfriend a little after 2 a.m. one night (or, rather, very early morning) in late April.
Wearing a black floor-length gown over an emerald satin corset that I’d somehow managed to spill some purple cocktail directly down the front of, I was in an Uber on my way home from a Soho penthouse where I’d just attended a black-tie sex party hosted by SNCTM, generally hailed as the world’s most exclusive members-only sex club.
It was a text I sent with some relief, mostly because I almost meant it. Like most boyfriends (or so I would imagine) mine was not terribly enthused by the prospect of his girlfriend attending a sex party without him. What a relief, then (if also kind of a flex) to be able to stroll calmly out the nicest apartment you’ve ever seen (let alone been in) where you just witnessed some of the most attractive people you’ve ever laid eyes on do things to each other that people in some parts of this country would consider unspeakable, and text your probably sleeping boyfriend out on Long Island that he definitely didn’t miss anything. That he was practically better off at home watching Pixar movies with his 8-year-old. And to almost mean it.
It’s important to note that sex clubs have probably never really been my thing — at least not as a participant. While I have occasionally entertained (and only rarely acted on) the idea that an exhibitionist streak is something I could probably foster in myself if I wanted to, I’ve yet to develop any strong urge to commit to that bit, so to speak. It’s also worth noting that on that particular night at SNCTM, I wasn’t at liberty to engage in any play if I had wanted to, due to my monogamy agreement at the time. In short, I can’t say I got anywhere close to sampling the full range of everything a night at SNCTM has to offer, so the following review is obviously colored, perhaps unfairly, by that experience (or lack thereof).
Still, I’ve been to my share of sex clubs. This, I believe, is more or less an inevitability of being a sex writer in New York, even though it sounds like something fake from Sex and the City. You probably won’t end up with a rent-controlled apartment on the Upper East Side and a closet full of designer shoes, (or if you do, it probably won’t have anything to do with your writing) but if you write about sex long enough, you’ll almost definitely end up at a sex club sooner or later.
But while I may have already sampled a few of New York’s diverse sex club offerings, an invite to SNCTM felt like the golden ticket. For the uninitiated, SNCTM (pronounced “sanctum”) is a private, members-only sex club that bills itself (and, to the best of my knowledge, is generally thought of) as the world’s most exclusive. Founded in 2013 in Beverly Hills, the club hosts luxury erotic soirées and workshops in cities around the world, including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Moscow and Kiev.
Naturally, all that exclusive, erotic luxury comes at a pretty steep price. SNCTM membership is by application only. In addition to an evaluation based on “professional, reputational and aesthetic criteria,” an initial application form also asks SNCTM hopefuls about their ultimate fantasies, turn-ons and what they would contribute to the community of erotically indulgent elites. An entry-tier, “Aurum-level” membership will currently cost a successful applicant $12,700 per year, and is required, at minimum, for any single man to attend a SNCTM event. (The club’s website notes that SNCTM “is always supportive of intelligent and intriguing women,” who may be permitted to attend events without purchase if they are accepted onto the club’s “lady’s guest list.”)
Couples and other successful, non-single-male applicants who decline to pay for a membership may be admitted as “approved non-members” and are eligible to purchase tickets to select events, which can run anywhere from $500 to $9,000. For the big spenders, the $50,000-per-year “Dominus” membership offers complimentary VIP tables, access to “undisclosed private Dominus Experiences,” and the ability to reserve the services of a SNCTM Courtier, “a Devotee charged solely with attending to the needs and comfort of our most distinguished guest.” Meanwhile, a very elite and very selective few hold the title of “Violet Key Benefactor.” Considered neither guest nor member, according to SNCTM, this distinction goes for one million per year. In exchange, three — and only three — lucky Benefactors will enjoy “privileges without equal.”
In short, it’s more than expensive. It’s more than elite. It’s more than luxury. Finding out that this is a real thing that exists and that there are presumably real people who pay for it reminded me of showing up to a private college in Connecticut with $100,000 in student loans and realizing that the kids I’d thought were the rich kids growing up — the ones who lived in mini McMansions in new subdivisions where every house had a gaudy chandelier hanging in an upstairs window — weren’t actually rich kids at all. Because the real rich kids lived in Fairfield County and summered on Nantucket where their dads only visited on weekends and had never heard of Sallie Mae. Except even under that level of wealth, as it turns out, there are several more levels of wealth. What “spending one million dollars per year on ‘privileges without equal’”-level wealth actually looks like in practice is something I cannot fathom, and that ignorance means society is functioning as it was intended to.
The SNCTM event I attended in April was one of the club’s famed masquerades. The dress code is black tie, which for women means lingerie worn under elegant evening wear, and for men means “a proper tuxedo with bowtie.” (What a male individual chooses to wear under that tuxedo, evidently, is up to one’s discretion.) Masks — as in masquerade masks, not the other kind of mask that has dominated most levels of social consciousness in recent years — are required upon entry, though a rather disappointing majority of guests dispensed with them pretty early into the evening.
A few hours before the event, my guest for the night (fellow InsideHook staffer Logan Mahan) and I stopped in to a surprisingly large and unsurprisingly sketchy costume store in the West Village to pick up our own masks. A Google search had assured us that, despite appearances, this was the place for all your masquerade-mask needs, and it didn’t disappoint.
“It’s masquerade-themed, right?” we overheard a college frat-bro-type ask another college frat-bro-type as we perused the store’s extensive supply of masks.
Were they also en route to SNCTM tonight? Was this shoddy Halloween store secretly where all New York’s kinkiest elites stopped to pick up their masks for the hush-hush rich people sex party? After all, how many masquerade-themed events could possibly be happening in New York on one night? (The answer, apparently, is at least two. Further eavesdropping suggested the bros were actually on their way to a sorority party.)
We arrived at the event (which started at 10 p.m.) a fashionable if unintentional 30 to 45 minutes late. “Ladies! Over here!” a firm but not aggressive voice greeted us from across the street when we popped out of the Uber at the discreet address that had been texted to me by a SNCTM membership director.
“The masks gave you away,” he said as we made our way to the entrance of an otherwise nondescript Soho apartment building.
Inside, we surrendered our phones at the door (SNCTM prohibits photography of any kind) and were otherwise free to make ourselves merry. We found our way to the bar in the penthouse kitchen, picked up two of the purple cocktails I managed to immediately dump down my dress and prepared to survey our surroundings.
At this point, it looked more or less like a typical cocktail party with darker lighting, except everyone was dressed to the nines and exceptionally attractive — the women, anyway — which Logan was quick to point out.
“Yeah, but like, they’re not that much prettier than we are, right?” I asked, suddenly insecure.
“No. They’re like, really pretty.”
She was right. As others have noted, it can be difficult to tell who has been hired to be at a SNCTM party and who is a guest, in part because almost everyone (or at least every woman) in attendance could easily be a model. There are performers who are obviously performing — because they are literally putting on erotic performances, which began shortly after our arrival — but it eventually occurred to us that a lot of other performing was also going on, and it was hard to tell who was being paid to perform and who was paying to put on a show of their own.
As for the performances — the real performances (to whatever extent that’s not an oxymoron) — they were impressive. Hands down, no qualifiers. Seated in an intimate living room area while guests milled about (a SNCTM show is not a show in the traditional buy tickets, find your seat, sit down, shut up and enjoy sense; it’s usually more of a background attraction) we watched as lingerie-clad women with bare breasts performed oral sex on men in elaborate erotic costumes of their own on a circular seating area in the middle of the room. Later, those men would return the favor.
Upstairs (where Logan and I went to check our makeup in a bathroom that smelled like actual shit, because even if you can afford to spend upwards of $10,000 on a luxury club, you can’t out-earn the sometimes unattractive realities of the human body) a pro-domme expertly, loudly, wielded a whip on the backsides of two women at a time who knelt before her on a sex bench. It was unclear whether the women on the receiving end were hired performers themselves, or guests who volunteered to participate.
“You could do that, too, if you wanted to,” said a woman seated next to us on a sofa near the display. Once again, it was hard to tell whether she was a fellow guest who wanted to see us get spanked or a paid employee whose job it was to encourage guests to get in on the action.
Downstairs there were beds, and multiple people doing everything you could possibly hope they might have been doing on those beds. But still — and maybe it was just the perfection of their bodies, the rhythmic perfection of their fucking, the kind of perfection that I suppose SNCTM believes it can identify based on financial and aesthetic suitability — it was impossible to tell who was a performer and who they were performing for.
And maybe it doesn’t matter. Blah blah life’s one big performance and we’re all wearing masks, etc. That trite bullshit isn’t what I’m getting at — or it’s not what I’m trying to get at, anyway.
What I am trying to get at is the fact that at one point in the evening, Logan and I watched an approximately 40-something man who had been flanked by a horde of catastrophically gorgeous young women on both sides all night (Hugh Hefner-style) receive a blow job from not one, but two of the most beautiful women we’d ever seen in our lives — simultaneously — and look bored out of his goddamn skull the entire time.
In other words, it felt like everyone was there to show off, rather than get off.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In my own life, even if no one was watching or paying me, I’ve certainly felt performative in bed at times. And nailing that kind of performance can be rewarding, in its own way. It isn’t always. Sometimes it’s depressing or empty or just kind of nothing, really. But sometimes that’s just what you want: to feel and be perceived of as sexy or beautiful or powerful or whatever it is you’re seeking from sex in any given encounter. I don’t think that’s an inherently worse reason to put your genitals inside of someone, or to let someone’s genitals inside of you, than any other.
But if there’s one thing that I (again, as someone who is not a regular participant in the sex party scene) have enjoyed about my exposure to sex clubs outside of SNCTM, it’s a sense of inclusivity that tends to permeate sex-positive, kink-friendly spaces. A sense of open-mindedness and freedom of expression and unapologetic freakiness that subverts the norms that otherwise rule our society, one that actively rejects the concept of status earned by way of professional success or conventional attractiveness or income level.
Of course, that’s not SNCTM’s game, and while inclusivity (or the pretense of inclusivity) is trendy to a marketable extent right now, there will always be a market (and a very lucrative one, at that) for exclusivity. SNCTM is smart, or certainly not stupid, for capitalizing on it.
The problem is, I don’t know if exclusivity and sexual liberation can ever truly coexist. I tend to believe, or maybe just want to believe, that there’s an extent to which sexuality in its purest form — and as it is usually celebrated in sex-positive, kink-friendly spaces — must necessarily transcend the boundaries of money and social status. I believe this as someone for whom the boundaries of money, sex and status have often intersected, and as someone who believes there is nothing wrong — morally, socially or otherwise — with that intersection.
I say this as someone who has actively craved and relished what few scraps of exclusivity and elitism I’ve managed to lay my hands on. I love a red-bottomed heel. I love an expensive hotel room that someone else is paying for. I loved the idea of the (really only marginally) elite institution I went into six figures of student debt to graduate from. I loved the idea (and to a large extent, the reality) of being a woman with a boyfriend who bought her designer shoes and jewelry and bags, who only flew first class and made sure I did as well. I probably even liked the idea that I got to go to an exclusive sex club without him more than I let on. And perhaps, of course, the fact that I walked away from all that erotic extravagance feeling bored and maybe even a little bit superior about the whole thing means that I’m actually the jaded one.
Still, I can’t help but think there’s a lot that gets lost when you lean too hard into exclusivity as a supposedly sex-positive or sexually liberated brand/community/ideology/what have you. I tend and want to believe that human sexuality, human desire in its most real and unadulterated form — that get-inside-my-guts horniness, the social-norm-thwarting freakiness that kink communities embrace — is fundamentally antithetical to the very idea of exclusivity. I could be wrong, of course.
All I’m really saying is go to SNCTM if you want a show. And to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with a show. SNCTM puts on a very good one. If you’re seeking an authentic erotic experience, however, perhaps consider looking elsewhere.
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