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“Organized Intimacy” events in the Bay Area (vice.com)
61 points by turtlegrids 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 85 comments

It's worth remembering that up until 20 years ago, the unusual sexual activities in San Francisco was the main thing that San Francisco was known for. It was, for a long time, the epicenter of LGBQ activism, and especially AIDS activism. During the years from 1956 (when Allen Ginsberg published The Howl) to the start of the Internet boom in the 1990s, San Francisco made national headlines mostly because of the types of sex that was happening there.

San Francisco's national reputation had changed dramatically over the last 20 years, and especially over the last 10 years.

(I'm not implying that any of this is good or bad, I'm just stating a bit of history.)

I think that these patterns will become more common in areas where economic opportunity for all involved parties equalizes. We are seeing social problems arise from this today, but hopefully those movements (incel, for example) begin to falter as the benefits from such a setup are realized.

The idea that there are benefits to this are based on my personal point of view: I am married, I have two children, one adopted. While my marriage works, from my perspective, as a financial and management arrangement. However, it has failed in a variety of other areas that something like this would solve.

Physical intimacy is an important aspect of human life, and finding reasonable access to it during our contemporary societal power shifts is going to be an ongoing problem. I expect to see more articles like this as people try to figure it out.


Physical intimacy is not just sex. I can’t imagine (within reason) a medical condition that would prevent one from grabbing their SO’s ass every once in a while to remind them they are still thought of in that way.

Good for you for sticking it out for the kids. I hope you find happiness eventually, in any way it avails itself.

>While my marriage works, from my perspective, as a financial and management arrangement. However, it has failed in a variety of other areas that something like this would solve.

Sounds like you have a loveless marriage?

The Western notion of marriage is somewhat skewed towards prioritizing feeling "in love" first, then acting accordingly.

Once you realize that love is a choice and an action/behavior, it generally sorts itself out. The funny thing is that the feeling of being in love soon follows.

A good friend who married before I did once told me that, and I thought it sounded a little crazy. Then, I got married and understood.

Here in the West, romantic love has seemingly been canonized. It's something which our culture effectively worships as some kind of oracle of an ultimate underlying truth. This is also why there is so much irrational thinking and bad thinking around love, romance, and relationships here.

Love is indeed a profound experience which will change how you view the world. However, Love is not a god. It's not an oracle unto truth. It's not to be worshiped. It's not a reason to turn off your rational brain. Anyone telling you otherwise, especially about that last one, is either trying to sell you something, or was told that by someone who is. (I suspect you're being downvoted by such zealots.)

The feeling of romantic love is a part of a greater whole. A relationship has other sides to it, like the companionate and practical aspects.

Happens to tons of marriages for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, we are good friends and have a lot in common.

Sounds like me and my ex-wife. We're good friends, but that's it, and I wasn't willing to keep living like that. (We also had some serious points of conflict that made living in the same house unhappy.)

Right. I don't think that either of us intend to ever remarry. Our end goal now is two apartments that are close to each other in the same city that we are living in now, so that our children don't have any issues visiting us.

You know, I really admire this. You have a mature and sophisticated approach to a problem that leads many other couples into some degree of bitter, hurtful conflict. You and your spouse are doing right by your kids, and taking care of yourselves too. With the self-awareness, strength, and honesty this takes, I expect things will work out just fine for you guys.

It wasn't always so. To be honest, current political events have been most maturing, and helped to end some of that pain and bitterness.

Yes, I agree, I think we'll do just fine.

I agree, except the part about not intending to remarry; that seems really sad to me.

But he didn't say he they would never again be in romantic relationships. Just that he didn't expect to enter another marriage agreement. I have older friends just like this. They divorced long ago, and the man's had one single girlfriend/partner ever since. He and GF live separately, but are together almost every day. They will never marry, because it would be pointless, and they carry far too much baggage to move in together; they're too particular about their space, too set in their routines, and have obligations that they don't care to subject each other to.

I guess what I'm saying is that marriage and relationship are two different things. Institutional marriage offers some legal and financial advantages, and in some cases it's important as a way to fortify a couple's commitment. But in many relationships, like my friends', it serves no useful purpose.

Living separately and being together "almost every day" seems to make little financial sense if you think marriage "serves no useful purpose": if you're spending that much time together, why wouldn't you just live together? You'll save a ton on living costs, plus maintaining a household requires a certain amount of time as well. No, you don't actually have to get legally married to live together, but for your example you are talking about people who aren't just unmarried, but also maintain two separate residences. I don't see how it's "pointless"; if you're so particular about your space or set in your routine to live together, then how do you manage to "be together" for so much time? Do these people live next door to each other or something? Just the driving time alone is going to add up.

You make it sound so easy:) My friend and his partner (let's call them Luis and Lynn) are in their sixties. They both have large houses and lots of stuff. They live about 40 minutes away from each other, and both like where they live. Luis loves his house, and prizes the peace and order of living alone with his dog. Lynn lives a block away from family. She is caring for her elderly sister at home, so her schedule largely revolves around that, and her house is a hub of family activity. Money is not a concern for either.

Every day, they meet for lunch at their favorite restaurant, where they sit at the bar with other regulars. It's like Cheers. Friday is date night, when they go out to dinner, watch a movie, whatever. Once a month or so they go on a little vacation, usually a road trip to the mountains, usually only for a day, but sometimes overnight if Lynn can arrange care for her sister. Once a year they try to do a longer vacation.

They've done this exact routine for nearly a decade, and they've been together for over thirty years. Pretty sure they've got this figured out.

I see, this makes some sense now. Basically, these two are good friends, and don't really have much interest in having sex, because obviously they aren't doing that very much if they just eat lunch together and maybe spend the night together once a week. If that works for them, that's great, but personally I can't imagine having a permanent relationship where we're not sleeping together every night.

I recommend to you the works of Esther Perel.

Have you tried marriage counseling?

We have accepted the state of our marriage as it is today. The libido mismatch has some medical background, so it's not as if we are cruel to each other. We do sacrifice, but we do it for the children that we have chosen to have. We both accept that this marriage will end once they are done with HS.

Is there a reason to postpone it until the kids finish high school?

I tend to see a lot of this reasoning but never truly understood especially if both of you are on the same page.

Probably to maximize the time they both have with the kids and to minimize the impact to the kids’ lives during a time that’s already fraught with anxiety and doubt.

Why are there are so many "fake trend" articles? If you find 2-3 groups of people doing something weird is that a "trend"?

I know! There was an article in the NYT once about the supposed Silicon Valley craze for socks as fashion statements. I don't think the authors realized they were being trolled.

Don't believe me? https://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/fashion/in-silicon-valley...

2 is a trend. 3 or more and it's a craze.

For the same exact reason VC's fund 10 companies and expect only 1 to succeed.

Also, clicks.

Because there are economic incentives to write such articles.

I recall a daily science fiction piece in which people were romantically involved according to various algorithms that enforced optimal evaluations such as a limited difference in wages. The plot was that a woman falls in love with man, but she recieves a promotion which makes her relationship inappropriate according to the algorithm of her robot-servant. She is issued two days to get over it and is swiftly paired up with another male, who affirms that he is also recovering from the same emotional burden of losing a loved one in this same way.

I was very curious and wanted to see if I could google-fu this story up. I think I've found it (and I don't blame you for being unable to remember the name): "takotsubo cardiomyopathy by Gage Johnston" https://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/future-socie...

YES! IT WAS THIS ONE. Thank you!

Yes; this short story was distinctly different. The concept is similar but the short story captured more beauty IMO. I can't find the short story now, unfortunately. I am terrible with titles.

I am pretty sure the Black Mirror anthology on Netflix had an episode with the exact situation.

Maybe "Hang the DJ" [0]?

Had a more upbeat twist at the end vs the GP comment above though.

Pretty good episode. One of my favorites.


sounds like the current state of online dating to me.

Could you explain? I don't date online, so I don't understand the relation.

Merely a comment on modern online dating in which, each person optimizes according to their selection criteria vs what they can realistically get and ghost people if they find better matches. There are even terms describing phenomena of this bent like "serial monogamy"

You're going to have to expand on this, as this isn't what I see at all, and I've been dating online for a long time.

People definitely are trying to optimize what they can get, I'll agree, but that's no different from pre-internet dating. People have always tried to optimize what they could get in a dating partner, usually men for appearance, and women for paycheck. As for ghosting, I've certainly seen that, but that's usually something you experience very early on, even before you first meet someone (at which point it's kinda hard to call it "ghosting" if you've never even met them). I frequently have women match up with me, and then never respond. These people I suspect are just seeing how many matches they can acquire, and then choosing from the ones that interest them the most and leaving the rest in the queue in case they're bored one night and want a date. Usually, it's "ghosting" when you've been dating someone a while and then they suddenly disappear. I wouldn't blame that on online dating, that's just bad modern behavior, and can happen regardless of how two people initially meet.

As for "serial monogamy", again, this is just modern behavior, as opposed to 50+ years ago when divorce was uncommon and taboo. If you have different partners in your life, but you're monogamous with them while you're dating them, that, by definition, is "serial monogamy". I don't really see how that's a bad thing, unless you don't think people should ever get divorced (which means you support people staying in abusive or miserable situations), or you're trying to push for polyamory to become normal. It's just unavoidable.

I'm not the OP but I have noticed something while not new to online dating, something that online dating (and perhaps social media) has accelerated.

For most people the list of people that would have sex with you is longer than the list of people who would seriously date/marry you. This is especially true of women but is also true with men. The commitment of dating someone has a number of social implications that don't exist in a semi anonymous one night stand. Previously an individual had to go out to a bar and luck upon someone who was willing to have casual sex (and sometimes that turned into a relationship) now you can effectively visit every bar in town in a few minutes, several times a day. Due to the nature of this and social media perfectionism I believe that individuals are setting the bar for mates higher than is reasonable in contrast to what they have to offer. They equate the attractiveness (this isn't just physical, it also includes personality type and other factors) of one night stands with level of attractiveness they would acquire in a relationship.

Due to this many people have unrealistic standards, after a time they choose to "settle" and have dysfunctional relationships due to the fact they perceive themselves as "settling" as opposed to choosing a mate on a equal footing. Had those one night stands been more difficult to acquire, the bar may of not been moved so high and they may have more functional relationships down the road.

Just a theory of course, but something I'm been noticing.

I'm not following; are you saying that it's easier to have a ONS now? Maybe I'm too old or not skilled at that or something, but in my age group (I'm dating 30-45yo women) I've had tons of 1st dates, but I've only come across maybe 1 or 2 women who I think I could talked my way into bed with for a ONS (and I wasn't interested). All the women who date me definitely seem like they're looking for a new husband. And they frequently seem to have ridiculously high standards there.

> I'm not following; are you saying that it's easier to have a ONS now?

I'm married man, but I grew up when online dating just started, when I was in high school we used AIM to meet girls. I would meet up with girls in different school districts that I would of never met a few years prior. I'm told from young men a bit younger than I that's it's even easier than that now. Highly attractive young men can not leave their house all day and still meet several new women sometimes from hours away. My feeling is that's going to have some sort of effect on the culture as those young people settle down into more stable relationships as often happens.

> I don't really see how that's a bad thing, unless you don't think people should ever get divorced (which means you support people staying in abusive or miserable situations)

You're conflating divorce to remove oneself from an abusive situation with remarriage. I happen to think that remarriage after divorce is fine, but I can easily imagine arguments against it (here's one which leaps to mind, although I don't know if it's true: one's failure to marry well the first time is a strong predictor that one's future marriage will be poor as well).

>You're conflating divorce to remove oneself from an abusive situation with remarriage. I happen to think that remarriage after divorce is fine,

No, I'm not. Christian conservatives are frequently bemoaning how common divorce is, and pine for the "good old days" when people stayed married for life, ignoring the fact that not many of those marriages were very happy, and some were abusive, and this was simply accepted by society because divorce was considered so taboo.

I see; how does this relate to a story about what happens when the selection criteria is decided entirely outside of the control of the dating parties?

It was merely a point intended to express similarities between your scenario and what's happening in the modern world. I could see a scenario like the one you described playing out where if after a string of bad choices in this optimization problem, people leave the "deciding" up to a machine. And if that proves successful over a certain amount of people, society might start putting the power of relationships in the hands of machines and algorithms.

I host such events in my home here in the Bay Area in addition to attending such events hosted by others. Happy to answer any questions.

I'd be interested to learn what sort of demographic you come from (privacy is paramount obviously) and what sort of demographic you find at these events. I don't believe I've ever traveled in a social circle that would openly engage in something like this so I'm curious as to what one would look like.

I have all the privilege. Some events are more diverse than others. It’s rare to meet someone under 30. Events skew towards the demographic of the location in which they’re held.

I wouldn't of expected it to tend towards 30+ year old people especially in the Bay Area. Any overlap with other shall I say "cultural subgerenes" that you've noticed? Say PC Gamers or people really into sports?

I’d say that most of the people at these events are not in tech. As far as geeks vs jocks - I’d say it’s pretty much normal people. Or perhaps what’s normal for me. Perhaps slightly more hippy / burner than the average person.

I thought about it more. My definition of normal is very inclusive. There are socially awkward, social butterflies, more and less conventionally attractive, retired and middle aged, married / unmarried, all sorts of gender identity and sexual preferences at these events. There are events specifically geared towards LGBTQIA+ folks. Many events are hetero-normative and gender normative - I think that’s a function of where people feel safe and find community.

Could you give more details about these events?

What actually goes on?

There’s a wide range of events. Some of the event types: lecture with Q&A, discussion groups, communication practice, non-sexual cudde parties, second-base parties, sex parties.

Events open to the public tend to be non-sexual and very structured. One needs to build trust in a community to be invited to other events.

Nearly all events have a hard start time after which no one is allowed to enter. The beginning of events cover rules and guidelines for the event. Then there’s usually some ice breaker such as introductions. After that it really depends on what kind of event we’re talking about.

Any idea how the STI rates differ or not among these group vs the general population?

Good question. I honestly don’t know. The vast majority of these events are ones in which STI transmission could not occur because there is no skin contact or fluid exchange. At the events where transmission could occur I’d guess that those attendees are more knowledgeable about risks and prevention than the average population. And there’s the safer sex elevator speech before contact: http://reidaboutsex.com/safer-sex-elevator-speech-with-examp...

what's your opinion of this Vice article, is it accurate?

Almost all media coverage about my community seems to say “look, there’s this weird thing going on, isn’t that weird?!” I believe any short-form coverage of a community by someone not in that community and for people not in that community cannot accurately portray that community. Plus, media is a business and it helps to have some spin to get people to share the media.

I feel like such things have been around kind of everywhere but just low-key. I'm from postsoviet space and I used to frequent on forums/social medias where there were also lots of people from role playing subculture (not sexual, just real life RPGs, Tolkien fandom and stuff) and from time to time I read about people organizing gatherings/picnics with the theme of hugging, snuggling etc.

There are also more socially acceptable activities which, basically, come down to the same thing - getting super close with other people physically but without sex: partner dancing, massage, some group games, activities in religious/spiritual groups.

Whatever works for some people.

> various new ways to get cozy with strangers—from lectures on tantra, workshops on “rope play,”

Neither of those typically involve getting "cozy with strangers," at least no more than going to an art gallery or meetup or hike.

I don't know why people pay for cable or Netflix when the best three-ring circus exists in the form of Silicon Valley.

Related to discussion, Japan actually has something in this vein where you can book an appointment with someone and engage in non-sexual intimacy (hugs, etc.) I believe Vice also had an article or video on this.

There have been a few such documentaries. I even saw one that followed a woman who worked at one of those cafes, and she would in turn spend large amounts of the money she made at another intimacy cafe.

They have this in Portland, OR, as well: https://cuddleuptome.com/

This is too weird to go mainstream as is, but perhaps some aspect of it could be Starbucksed for the mainstream.

Any attempt to scale is going to have to come up with serious barriers to hold back the tsunami of lonely and undesirable males. I don't believe it's actually possible.

Girls-choose seems to be a workable solution. Assuming an event is suitable for men and women in a roughly even mix, the women get together in a preliminary event to choose the guys they want from a list of candidates.

I remember one Contra Dance at the Lake Eden Arts Festival in North Carolina which seems to have been written with rapid sequences of eye contact with many different people in mind. During that dance, I found myself stopping my verbal stream of consciousness, and it became entirely about music, dance, and eye contact. I remember coming back to my normal state of consciousness, amazed at what just happened.

This is another article that reeks of unsubstantiated, anti-tech sentiment.

"culture and fun has been sucked out of the city since the second tech boom ... when the artists [left] the sex parties would dry up ... Burning Man morphed [to] a multi-million dollar, helicopter valeted, elite event ... sex and intimacy parties altered by the world of tech and money ... You can smell hubris on the streets ... toxic and sometimes dangerous events that revert back to a very unprogressive and misogynistic dynamic, in which entrepreneurial tech 2.0 entitlement and hubris is leveraged to excuse treating women, usually lower on the career ladder, as little more than sex toys."

It's suffocating.

Yes, the events happen. They are almost always sincere, good-hearted, intimate, and problem-free. People in SF are experimenting to see if this is the vitamin that makes people happier in a culture that is hyper-connected, but scrutinized and isolating.

This writer takes these intimate events, and publishes an article about how they are "kinky" and "sexual." Author Andrew Chamings should write 1,500 words about he's the problem.

I agree that the author is opinionated, but it's not an uncommon opinion. Plenty of Bay Area residents who lived there before tech took over feel pretty "suffocated" by its dominance. I've seen first-hand how SF has changed, and agree with the author on a lot of points.

Maybe there would be less anti-tech sentiment if tech culture stopped taking itself quite so seriously and had a little perspective. A sense of humor would go a long way. It's possible to both enjoy these kinds of events and understand why some people might find them sad or weird.

The self-seriousness of the tech crowd, in my opinion, invites these kinds of hit pieces.

Please don't be gratuitously negative in HN comments. Even when you're right, it degrades discussion. This is in the site guidelines: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.

Your comment would be just fine without the first and last bits! Particularly the paragraph that starts with "Yes, the events happen" is really good and has much better signal/noise than the rest.

I thought the comment was exactly as negative as it ought to be. The author is an idiot and he should be lampooned like one.

Not the issue. It isn't that you owe better to the author; it's that you owe better to this community if you're posting here.

What exactly is wrong with the first and last bits? They're a bit harsh, but not gratuitously so.

What's gratuitous is of course a matter of interpretation. But I'd say the first bit breaks the site guidelines by calling names ("reeks") and being a low-information rant. The last bit breaks the guidelines by being a personal attack.

Try reading just the 4th para ("Yes, the events happen") in isolation. Do you see how much higher the signal/noise ratio is there?

The first bit ain't attacking the author, though; it's saying the article reeks of those things. That's a very common and reasonable way of expressing that opinion, and it falls short of being ad hominem. Also, at the risk of focusing too much on semantics, "reeks" is an adjective, not namecalling; it's a colorful adjective, but - again - one very commonly used even here on HN (at least in my observation; I'm sure you've got better data on that front).

The last bit is indeed directed at the author, but in the context of the comment's overall point ("Vice journalists earn a living by twisting pure things to make them easier to ridicule") it's spot on and doesn't really cross any lines IMO.

In other words: pulling those bits into isolation and judging them on their own is disingenuous to the commenter's point. Same goes for the remainder of the comment being evaluated without those two bits. The whole comment is a single unified whole, and ought to be treated as indivisible; failure to do so leads to these sorts of misinterpretations.

This seems to me like commodification of affection, or an attempt to "disrupt" the deathly loneliness of late-stage capitalism.

Or perhaps it's a response to the (admittedly not unfounded) pervasive cynicism where everything is seen as the "commodification of x or an attempt to disrupt the deathly loneliness of y".

You know, maybe humans just trying to figure out what being human was supposed to be before suits and patagonia vests got in the way. /shrug

an attempt to "disrupt" the deathly loneliness of late-stage capitalism

Much has been written about the potential isolation and alienation under the Soviet system, which to me qualifies as late stage socialism.

My observations are as follows:

1) Vice.com, so it is automatically edgy, scant on actual facts and details, and often just completely wrong.

2) SV has a lot of people who work too damn much.

3) Not everyone in SV has "money" as in "Fuck you money" and for those who do, it should not be hard to purchase intimacy in some form.

4) All these cuddle parties, eye gazing, and what have you events are a poor substitute for actual intimacy (not that I am against holding them) in a loving relationship, which makes me think the substitution must mean something--people there are desperate for any human contact. We are PC-ing ourselves to death.

5) Every generation thinks they invented sex. This current go around is risk averse while attempting to appear edgy and yet at the end of the night, I'm sure there's the same hurt feelings and sense of rejection we all have had. It doesn't matter how inclusive everyone is, the hot chick is not going home with the fat, bald guy (unless he has #3).

By the way, I went to an engineering school, I know quite a bit about problems dating and how that all plays out. Seems like things are just a bit worse these days.

>The average young person moving to San Francisco today may no longer be a hitchhiker escaping a conservative town in search of art, free-thinking, and mind-altering drugs. Instead, they are more likely a recent graduate from a top college who has survived a five day interview process with a large tech firm, moving into a corporate sponsored condo in Mission Bay they’ll see 15 hours a week. The much hyped death of art and culture in the Bay Area may have led to many musicians moving to LA or Portland and artist collectives and shared spaces closing down due to an invasion of start up money and astronomical rents. But all of that hasn’t quenched the city’s thirst for getting off, getting weird or finding new ways to connect. Whether that be through cacao, eye contact, or cuddles, or some other kind of kink, the Valley—for all its known faults—isn't vanilla.

Rapacious capitalists have to do something when bored..

* secularists

When you remove religion of any kind, that void does get filled, and in this case worship of sex is not uncommon, harkening back to thousands of years of deeply sexual pagan practice.

Sounds like sex is a deeply emotional practice for human which intersects with any faith, rather than being a consequence of LACK of religion. (those pagan practices you cite WERE religious, after all). Several (all?) prominent religions are certainly opinionated on when and how one should and should not have sex.

More that those pagan practices were simply personifications to justify the behavior (religions built from the inside desires out), in contrast to religions that prescribe constraints from the outside in. All that's been done now is removing the external personification from the justification.

An interesting opinion...do you have any evidence or citations (in either direction)?

I'd examine the occult obsession in 1800s Britain and Nazi Germany as examples of this occurring with a different focus, for starters.

When you remove religion of any kind, that void does get filled



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