That was hardly the Worst. Night. Ever.
Admittedly I was a little freaked out about going to Club Sesso—it wasn't the idea of a sex club per se that made me uncomfortable, so much as the prospect of spending an evening with what I incorrectly assumed would be a sex club's creepy, paunchy demographic. The reality was far more comfortable than I'd expected, and quite a bit better-looking, too.
A summary of my night is after the jump. It’s as detailed as three whiskeys and the inability to take decent notes could make it.
Ron Jeremy's sex club is on 1st Avenue downtown, between Yamhill and Taylor. There's no sign for the club, but the doorman-patrolled smoking area out front announces its presence all the same. Just inside the door, a crush of couples are filling out application forms, everyone straining to look blasé as helpful staffers make sure the paperwork gets the initials it needs. Club Sesso is a private club; membership is required for entrance, and there's an entirely reasonable, on-the-spot application process. I think I initialed 9 times, or maybe 7—each visitor to Club Sesso agrees to accept that no means no, to keep cell phones under wraps, and to have no prior sex offender convictions. With some regret about the inability to tweet the experience, I breezed through the other requirements (allowed within 500 yards of a school? Why yes I am!), and paid a $50 membership fee for a three-month pass, plus $10 for a 7-day pass for my friend Miranda. (The website put the price at $20 for a three-month pass for a single woman; it ended up being more than that, but on the upside they very kindly allowed Miranda to buy the visitor’s pass usually reserved for out-of-towners, since she's moving soon.)
According to the website, club tours are offered from 8:30-9:30 pm. The website lies, as we’d already learned when it came to membership fees, and in this case it worked to our advantage. We got there at around 11, and the doorman—seemingly delighted to hear that we were newcomers—quickly arranged for us to tour the building. Our tour guide was a warm, motherly lady who made us feel completely welcome as she led us on a quick tour of the premises, making sure to introduce us to every security guard we passed (all pink shirted, for easy identification). She showed us the the buffet; couples-only lounge; the shower room, with its heated floors, multi-head showers, and abundant towels; the private rooms, rubber mattresses covered in fresh linen. The private rooms have windows and curtains so couplers can decide if they want to be watched, or listened to, or neither; all of the doors and windows were closed, but there was some humping going on in the couples lounge. Upstairs, a playroom with an "orgy bar," a platform-bed where people can go at it while others sit at the bar and watch, as well as a couch where a bunch of people in various states of undress talked and casually fingered each other. "If you're going to masturbate, put down a towel," our tour guide instructs us. It is at this point that I realize she reminds me of my grade school Camp Fire troupe leader.
Parting ways with our lovely tour guide, we retreated to the bar (our "safe space"). The front room, with its dancefloor and bar, is innocent enough, save for the porn playing on a flat screen and the rather explicit, BJ-themed frieze hanging over the bar. “They don’t usually look like that in real life,” a woman sitting at the bar offers. “It’s too bad there isn’t something like cleavage on men, so we know what we’re getting.” She goes on to tell us that her partner is the only man she’s ever met with an endowment that compares to those in the sex club’s frieze. She tells us that maybe he’ll show us later, if we’re interested. And then she shows us the tattoo on her breasts, and tells us she feels protective of us, and that if anyone at the club makes us uncomfortable we should make sure to let a doorman know. At midnight a doorman comes by with a plate of fresh-baked cookies. “From a tube,” Miranda announces, though I can’t really tell.
Just after midnight, the wet T-shirt contest begins. There’s a cooler full of wifebeaters, soaking in water and ice cubes, and about 12 women (and one man) vying for the $100 cash prize, all of whom appear to be in their late 20s or early 30s. It’s a goodlooking bunch. Each girl has two minutes or so to take the small podium and work the crowd; the winner will be determined by crowd reaction. One girl looks just like Millie from Freaks and Geeks, and she shimmies adorably in her grandma skirt and see-through tank top. Another shakes her big chest with the earnest conviction of a saleswoman who knows she’s got something people want. Later she tells me she’s mad that it didn’t occur to her to rip her wifebeater off (the contest’s only male contestant is the first to pull that particular move, thought not the last). As is usually the case in life, the contest’s winner is a blonde with perfect tits; she walks with a $100 cash prize, everyone else gets a free Club Sesso pass for participating.
The entire concept of having a wet T-shirt contest in a swingers club is strange. I can only assume there’s some irony at work here, a kitschy, knowing embrace of the customs of a less-evolved sexual culture. The crowd was duly enthusiastic but unfailingly respectful, evincing more polite support than lasciviousness. The word "wholesome" would not be inappropriate here.
After the contest we step outside for cigarettes. “Are you a librarian?” a man asks me. “You’d make a very sexy librarian.” Soon he’s asking to buy me a drink, and then to take me to brunch. He’s very pleasant and I tell him my first name, and where I work. The stupidity of this doesn't strike me until later. Even so, I’m not too worried about it: These people all signed the same waivers that I did; their information is on record, just like mine.
I duck inside by myself; I’m tired of smoking and I’m tired of flirting with strangers. The buffet is serving breakfast now; I avoid the too-fraught sausage and eggs and go for hashbrowns instead. The hot sauce selection is extensive, the hashbrowns are fresh, and—except for a girl who compliments my shirt as she passes my table on her way to the upstairs play room—I’m left alone. Soon I’m joined by Miranda, and a man we’d met earlier. I don’t remember his name but he tells us that he comes to this club because his wife, who died a year ago, had friends in the swinger community, and that sometimes he comes here to visit with them. He’s funny and very nice and we enjoy our late-night breakfast and he tells us that his band is playing a show at the Whiskey Bar soon, and we tell him that we are not really swingers, and he laughs and says he’ll look for the article.
At this point Miranda and I are as drunk as we need to be at a swinger’s club on a Friday night. We decide to do one more lap, see if there’s anything to see. But the orgy bar is empty; no one is at the stripper pole, and the door to the swing room is still closed (we never do see it in use). The door guy hails us a cab, and that’s that.
So here’s the thing about Club Sesso. It’s a lifestyle club, but it’s a lifestyle so predicated on safety and respecting boundaries that it proved impossible to have a bad time. I would have had to voluntarily put myself in a position that made me feel uncomfortable or unsafe in order to generate the sort of content people who voted “Wet T-Shirt Contest at Club Sesso!!!11!!” were hoping to read. The Club itself, and the people there, did not at all lend themselves to that type of experience. There were fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, forchrissakes! And I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you guys for not sending me to the Alice in Wonderland rave, because that sounded fucking terrible.
Next up for WNE: Ned Lannamann! Say tuned.
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