What Happens During a Beginner’s Night at an Exclusive Sex Club?
One writer ponders the relationship between sex and luxury branding
As the adage goes, sex sells. And it sells everything, from cigarettes to hamburgers to shampoo. But when you need to sell sex, what do you do?
If you’re Daniel Saynt, self-described “Chief Conspirator” of private, members-only sex club New Society for Wellness, or NSFW, you cloak it in mystery and exclusivity. You offer progressive open-mindedness, luxury and sensuality, with just enough sense of humor to come across as mischievous. You espouse enlightenment, adventure, community and play. And if you do it well enough, you end up with some 6,000 members and counting, online and in person, with locations expanding from New York to Miami, Washington, D.C. and more.
The first time I meet Saynt is at NSFW’s “Send Noobs” event, a monthly introductory session to the NSFW community that’s held privately in the restaurant of a chic Tribeca hotel. He is a tall, imposing figure dressed in black — the requested color for participants in all NSFW events in an attempt to put everyone on an equal playing field. He wears a leather kilt and harness and his nails are painted red — save for the middle fingers, painted gold.
Saynt wasn’t satisfied with his previous life as the Chief Marketing Officer of luxury fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff. “I felt like I was using my skills [there] for something that wasn’t long-term beneficial,” he says. “It was a desire internally to do something better with my time than convincing girls they needed makeup and expensive handbags to feel good about themselves.” He departed by necessity after starting NSFW while still working for the label. “I decided I wanted to prioritize my sex life, and it’s been pretty good so far,” he laughs. Indeed, he has made prioritizing his sex life into a business. All he wants to do is sell people weed and orgasms, he says with a smile.
Unlimited 30-Day Access to the club for one person is, rather cheekily, $269, and there are over 20 events per month. Single events are $39. No matter how you attend, you have to be vetted and approved first, “based on 14 points of attraction which include appearance, social circle, relationship experience and contributions to the community,” according to NSFW’s website. “We only accept a select few each month to ensure we’re curating the best possible guestlist for our endeavors.”
The number of people accepted largely depends on the capacity of a Clubhouse at each time, but beyond that, potential members are considered for their attractiveness, their social feeds and related commentary, their beliefs, their careers (Saynt mentions the club currently hosts everyone from astronauts to artists), their openness to the world as it presents in experiences like travel and friend groups. Their financial stability is considered as well. “It’s not one of the key elements of it, but if someone’s financially well off or feels financially okay, that’s gonna make them attractive, especially if they’re male,” Saynt says. “Men without jobs are not as attractive as men with jobs. It’s just one point of 14. It’s an element. If you get everything else and you’re getting by, you can still come in,” he laughs. You should have 10 out of 14 points at minimum, though.
NSFW wants to know how its applicants sexually identify, what they’re looking for, what their relationship to sex is, what their fantasies are and what they want from their sex lives. They want people who spend time on their applications, Saynt says, who are careful and considerate of entering a community like that at NSFW, and don’t think of it as a joke.
NSFW is also quick to get rid of people who violate its safer spaces and code of conduct. The club’s dedication to these principles is colored by Saynt’s own experiences with sex parties early on, including an incident in which he remembers getting a drink only to wake up hours later unsure of what had happened. He also didn’t want NSFW to be just some party you heard about on Craigslist where everyone was naked in a buffet line to get baked ziti — another experience he remembers. He wanted this space to feel safe for everyone, and to create a club that is actively, consistently dedicated to creating safer spaces for members.
“Send Noobs” invites people new to NSFW to learn about how the community works, how to approach potential new partners for sex in the Clubhouse — which is also a cannabis-friendly space — how to understand their own desires, and more. Prior to the presentation, a long table of new and new-ish participants mix and mingle and play get-to-know-you table games. One couple leaves together and returns after some time, smiling with cheeks flushed. After the presentation, as if mother hen, Pied Piper, or both, Saynt leads the “noobs” to the Clubhouse not far away.
The front portion of the Clubhouse, bathed in red light beneath a lightbulbed X X X, has cubbies for belongings, and a friendly “nymph” — an event guardian dressed in white — presides over the black welcome desk. A sign reminds visitors of the space’s key tenets: respect, hydration and not being “a creeper.” Behind the nymph, there’s a host of NSFW merchandise for sale, from masks to fanny packs to t-shirts, all of it sleekly designed with either a naughty wink (a “New Society for Wellness, Est. 2069” tote bag) or a more overt one (a shirt bearing a cartoon of Batman going down on Catwoman designed specifically for the club). What is a business these days without merch, after all?
Moving further into the Clubhouse, plush couches and a bar begin to appear. For the most part, the “noobs” seem to favor this area, at least upon their arrival, with many breaking the ice via “Truth or Dare Jenga.” Behind a curtain there are even more plush surfaces, which a series of likely more established NSFW couples are putting to good use. A disco ball spins overhead and a DJ plays chill house music in a corner, never quite drowning out an all too familiar thwacking noise that suggests, as Saynt says with a chuckle that evening, someone is getting pounded out. A nearby table is dotted with condoms and open boxes of lube. In another corner, a sex swing cordoned off by paper and wood screens. People engage in shibari play by a massive, fluffy bed next to it, a wall of flogs and paddles not too far away.
It’s clear to both see and hear that people are enjoying themselves. So I wonder why the premise of sex needs to be cloaked in the language of luxury wellness (“enlightenment,” “exploration,” etc.) in order to be marketable. But Saynt knows the value of luxury branding. “There’s a certain safety that comes with luxury; it’s a certain value that you feel. When you present consumers with luxury-style imagery and brands, they’re gonna have that natural affinity and belief that it is better than something else, and that’s gonna attract them to it,” Saynt says. It’s possible that Americans, even famously liberal New Yorkers, are still too puritanical and oppressed to just say they want sex outright. But if a simple twist of branding is all they need to come out of their shells, to feel safe experimenting sexually, then maybe all the gilding is worth it.
Locked in our collective homes for the better part of the last year and a half, a spirit of sex-starved adventure spurred a new sexual revolution of sorts. Sex toy sales exploded, no pun intended, by last spring, and just this past September the Kinsey Institute found that 46 percent of participants in a post-pandemic sex survey reported their engagement in “sexual experimentation” is higher than before.
NSFW seems to fit perfectly into this renewed era of sexual adventure, poised for further growth. “People have had time to think, have had to prioritize, [have had] opportunity to think about other things that make them happy,” Saynt says. “When you have that many people who’ve experienced a shared trauma, that many people who are experiencing end-of-life scenarios around them, there’s a stronger consideration for how they want to live their lives and what they actually find happiness in.” At NSFW, paying members are welcome to look for happiness in each other, as literally or metaphorically as consent and code of conduct allow.
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