It’s no secret that women looking to get ahead in the tech industry often grapple with sacrifices and risks that their male counterparts don’t, but an upcoming book offers a glimpse at a lesser known element at play: exclusive, drug-fueled sex parties where claims of carnal liberation mask a problematic power dynamic.
Bloomberg veteran Emily Chang’s upcoming book, Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley, denounces these freewheeling gatherings. An adaptation appeared in Vanity Fair on Tuesday.
Chang spoke to nearly two dozen people familiar with these parties, in which men ― typically first-round investors, prominent entrepreneurs and high-ranking executives ― mingle with young, attractive women working in tech or other tech-aligned industries.
Anonymous sources described gatherings that are kept under wraps and often involve drugs, Chang wrote:
This is how the night goes down, according to those who have attended. Guests arrive before dinner and are checked in by private security guards, who will turn you away if you’re not on the list. … Alcohol lubricates the conversation until, after the final course, the drugs roll out. Some form of MDMA, a.k.a. Ecstasy or Molly, known for transforming relative strangers into extremely affectionate friends, is de rigueur, including Molly tablets that have been molded into the logos of some of the hottest tech companies. Some refer to these parties as “E-parties.”
The sources said attendees are encouraged to become intimate with other guests. Oftentimes, the hosts enforce a higher ratio of women to men and lean “heavily toward male-heterosexual fantasies,” Chang observed. “Women are often expected to be involved in threesomes that include other women; male gay and bisexual behavior is conspicuously absent.”
While many of the men Chang spoke to view these gatherings as another way they’re disrupting the world, women face a dilemma: Skipping the party means missing out on the business deals and networking that take place there, but attending may have its own set of consequences.
“If you do participate in these sex parties, don’t ever think about starting a company or having someone invest in you,” one female entrepreneur told Chang. “Those doors get shut. But if you don’t participate, you’re shut out. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
Other women who spoke to Chang said their male colleagues aggressively pursued and sexually harassed them after they found out they had attended some of the gatherings.
That predicament isn’t surprising, given Silicon Valley’s history of gender discrimination: Women in tech are paid less, kept out of high-ranking roles and face rampant sexual harassment. The biggest tech sexual misconduct scandal to unfold last year was at Uber, which fired 20 employees after harassment allegations blew up.
Chang’s book is due to be published next month. You can read the full adaptation here.