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.”
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.’”
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.