clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Silicon Valley’s sex parties are more important than you think, ‘Brotopia’ author Emily Chang says

They’re not just gossip fodder.

If you buy something from a Vox link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

“Cuddle Puddle” sign Education Images / UIG via Getty Images

When Vanity Fair published an excerpt from Emily Chang’s new book “Brotopia” last month, the internet lit up: Focusing on the culture of drugged-out sex parties among the tech elite, the salacious details were wild — and after venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson was identified as the host of one of the parties, DFJ apologized.

But on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, Chang said she doesn’t want readers to lose sight of the bigger point: The quasi-corporate sex parties of the Bay Area are reinforcing “a completely lopsided power dynamic that keeps women down.”

“In Silicon Valley, work lives bleed into personal lives more than perhaps any other industry,” Chang said. “It is a gray area, and unfortunately it’s making a lot of women feel uncomfortable and disempowered.”

“Silicon Valley, the Bay Area, has this long tradition of sexual positivity and sexual exploitation, and that’s wonderful,” she added. “Unfortunately, women can’t participate in this scene without being victims of a double standard. There’s this whole whisper network around ‘Who was there?’ [For] men, it’s sort of like the modern-day golf course: They can pal around with buddies and they don’t get penalized or discredited because they’re there, but women do.”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

On the new podcast, Chang said the culture around sex in tech is more about power than it is about sex. No matter what they do, women risk being penalized for their reactions.

“A couple women from other countries, they were entrepreneurs and showed up at these parties,” she said. “They were completely shocked: ‘Oh, this is Silicon Valley? I guess I have to be cool with this.’”

The problem also extends to the workplace, where some men wouldn’t think twice about ducking out in the middle of the day to visit a strip club.

“I think when you’ve got a lot of young people together, they don’t necessarily know what the boundaries are,” Chang said.

“I went to the Gold Club, which is a strip club in SoMa,” she added. “At 11:45 am on a Friday, the line is out the door for lunch. It’s a $5 lunch, so it’s pretty cheap by San Francisco standards, and most of the people there are tech guys. They’re going with colleagues, they’re going with their boss, they’re doing deals. I talked to the women who worked in the club and they’re like, ‘Uh, yeah, this happens all the time.’”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara.

This article originally appeared on