Karley Sciortino Takes Liara Roux Inside SNCTM, the Infamous VIP Sex Club
LIARA ROUX: Hey.
KARLEY SCIORTINO: Hey, how’s it going?
ROUX: Good, how are you?
SCIORTINO: I’m good. I was thinking to myself, “I don’t feel like we’ve ever had a proper conversation.”
ROUX: Yeah, I feel like we’ve been at a few parties together but never really sat down and talked. So I’m excited to do so. I’m sure we’ll get along…
SCIORTINO: It’s one of those slightly uncanny things where I feel like I’ve followed you, probably on Twitter, for seven or eight years, or even longer.
ROUX: It’s a parasocial relationship. But on both sides.
SCIORTINO: I feel like I’m involved in your life in some capacity.
ROUX: It’s beautiful. What inspired you to first dig into SNCTM? It’s always been on my radar. I’ve never attended, but I was always fascinated by it from the outside.
SCIORTINO: I’m also curious to get your take on some of these things. I was actually approached by iHeartRadio about hosting and writing it, which is interesting and exciting for me because I don’t think I’ve ever been offered a job in my life. I always just generate my own ideas and I was like, “Oh my god, an idea that already exists.” They knew they wanted to do the story of SNCTM, and particularly about the guy who created it, Damon Lawner, but it was pretty free-reign about the ways in which you can approach the story. Part of what was interesting to me is that I had heard of the Sex Party for many years. I had never been, but that world is so fertile for opening up a lot of discussions about sexuality and relationships in general. So the podcast is absolutely about the story of building this club and how it affected the founder’s life and sexuality and family along the way. But it also uses it as a jumping-off point to talk about everything from the intersection of money, sex and power, sex parties in general, non-monogamy, sex work. Also, consent in an environment like that, in 2013, before we talked a lot about boundaries.
ROUX: That must have been really, really interesting, because people will have these gut reactions, either super positive or super negative, just hearing about the concept.
SCIORTINO: That’s really true. It’s a signifier of some sort.
ROUX: Yeah. They’re like, “Oh, sick. That sounds like an amazing world to be a part of,” or, “Oh my god, ew. Hollywood money people, so creepy.” You can just immediately see how people think of sex and non-monogamy, and money and power in relation to sex.
SCIORTINO: And then there’s some people who think sex parties are disgusting. My mom heard the first couple episodes of the podcast, and her initial reaction was, “Oh my god, those people are so normal and they seem nice.” I think she thought that these people who are in a sex party would be, I don’t know, just monsters.
ROUX: What’s interesting about these spaces is that often, not always, they are run by people who are actually trying to be a little more intentional and consensual about it. The comparison to Fyre Festival feels really apt because he just falls into all these hot girls, has all this power, suddenly has money, and that can be really intoxicating.
SCIORTINO: What is that cheesy adage? “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”? It’s not that bad because the guy, Damon, is an absolutely well-intentioned, good-hearted guy. When he conceived of the club, he and his whole family were living in his mother-in-law’s kitchen and he couldn’t get a job. And he was basically like, “I felt unfuckable.” It’s a very emasculated position for a man to be: broke, and your wife doesn’t even want to fuck you. Suddenly being that desirable and that wealthy, he was like, “Yeah, I didn’t like the person I became.” It’s ultimately really relatable at its core.
ROUX: Everyone has had a moment like that in some way, where their morals are tested and they have to make a big choice about something.
SCIORTINO: Yeah, that’s a good way to put it.
ROUX: What’s interesting about these things too is that girls who perceive a man to have some sort of power or fame or money will be manipulative as well. I think a lot of weight is put on men in the position of power, understandably. But especially when a man is new to power, they don’t understand that people will sometimes throw themselves at them and be lying about their intentions as well.
SCIORTINO: And then the crushing nature of things after you realize, maybe they didn’t feel that way, or they’re not attracted to me, but now they regret it and think I’m a fucking creep. All this stuff feels like walking into a field of landmines a little bit.
ROUX: I feel like, because I am a “hot girl,” it’s easy for me to talk about these things. There are situations where I’ll meet this really sweet guy who could totally give me this great opportunity, but I’m not that into him, and he’s clearly into me, pursuing me in a respectful way. And I’m like, “Oh, I could totally use this to my advantage.” And I’m like, “Do I? Do I not?” But I’m at a point now where I do have power and access and could use my hotness as a lever of sorts with people. And choosing not to is a thing in and of itself. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Mary Gaitskill has been writing for a long time about these gray area sexual interactions that aren’t necessarily rape but still feel shitty. And I feel like they should be explored more.
SCIORTINO: Oh my god, for sure. She was one of the people that made me want to be a writer. I read Bad Behavior when I was in my late teens, maybe 20.
ROUX: That explains a lot.
SCIORTINO: I’ve always admired her ability to write about that kind of stuff, all those gray area encounters. Especially in my twenties, as you’re trying to break into an industry, I would have a whole plan of, “Okay, if I’m meeting with a man, I wear this kind of outfit. If I’m meeting with a woman, I wear this kind of outfit.” You know what I mean? It’s like you’re turning up or down your sexuality in a very intentioned way based on who you’re with. And that is, I suppose, a form of manipulation. But if that’s the power that you do have, then you would be an idiot not to use it.
ROUX: It’s power, and it’s a vulnerability too, sometimes. So it sucks to be in this position where you have this incredibly powerful thing that you can use and people will be upset about it one way or another. [But] it’s also this thing of, “Oh, are they taking this meeting just because they think I’m hot? Or do they actually want to make this thing with me?” And these days, because I have more social capital and money now, I feel so much more comfortable walking into these meetings because it feels more like an even playing field. So I can have fun with it and flirt with people, and it doesn’t feel like I’m as objectified, because I’m not reliant on any other person to make or break my career at this point. But earlier on, it felt so horrible.
SCIORTINO: One-hundred percent. Not needing something is very freeing. I’ve been talking recently with multiple friends who are roughly my age, who are having a similar experience. I definitely still want to be attractive, but I used to put on makeup to leave my house most of the time. When I lived in New York, I wouldn’t go to a coffee shop straight up in my pajamas, un-showered, with my hair messy. Maybe I’ve been L.A.-pilled to a degree that I’m not going to be embarrassed by, but most of the time I leave my house looking truly like shit. And then a fraction of my life I get dressed and put on makeup. I don’t feel like I need attention in the same way, and that is really freeing.
ROUX: I think that’s really powerful. When I was younger and was working through trauma, I really just loved being super ugly and invisible to men all the time. But in a way, it did make me hyper-visible to a certain type of man, the type of guys who know, “Oh, if someone’s dressing like that they are probably traumatized, and will be really uncomfortable if I catcall them.” I’ve never been the type of person who can do their makeup every time I leave the house. But I have so much respect for people who do. I genuinely think it’s this performative thing like, “I’m going to be beautiful and make everyone’s day so much better because they saw this beautiful person.” And I love that energy, that sort of high-femme blessing.
SCIORTINO: I think clothes are that way too, making an effort and making the world more colorful to a degree that my sweats do not. Dressing up and making an effort is a gesture. But for me, avoiding going out looking “not my best” was that I felt like I needed to look good, and I also think that I wanted that attention. In New York it’s hard. There’s more of a culture in L.A. of looking a bit shit.
ROUX: And it’s glamorous. Because it’s like, “Oh, I can afford to look bad.” You know what I mean?
SCIORTINO: I know what you mean. It’s maybe a status thing.
ROUX: Yeah. Like, “I am so successful that I can afford to go out in a messy bun and stay in sweatpants.”
SCIORTINO: It makes total sense. When I see someone with a Birkin that’s trashed or a designer bag that’s obviously fucked from excessive use, I’m like, “That person is the real rich person.” They don’t care because they can just get a new one.
ROUX: It’s all the Russian oligarchs’ wives that just look completely insane. And you’re like, “Okay, this person has more money than god,” and it literally doesn’t matter what they look like. No one is ever going to tell them that they look bad because they don’t want to die.
SCIORTINO: When I go back to New York now, I have a little bit of a culture shock where I’m like, “Oh my god, everybody’s so hot here.”
ROUX: Yeah. And in L.A., sometimes people even judge you if you get dressed up. They’re like, “Oh, why is this person trying so hard?”
SCIORTINO: I moved recently, so I had to be confronted with all of my clothes, and there’s a whole component of my wardrobe that I think of as New York clothes where they just truly and deeply do not work in L.A. In New York, aside from wearing a ball gown or something, you can be really dressed up almost anywhere and it doesn’t look weird.
ROUX: You might be on your way to something else.
SCIORTINO: Exactly. I love that energy. I love being really dressed up at the diner. Maybe I can single-handedly change the culture of Los Angeles.
ROUX: I hope you do. I’m praying for you.
SCIORTINO: I’m going to be in New York in a couple weeks, actually.
ROUX: I’m actually in Paris right now. But text me when you’re going to be in New York.
SCIORTINO: Do you live there?
ROUX: I am living here. I’m going to be here through June, which has been really nice.
SCIORTINO: Why did you move there?
ROUX: Honestly, I’ve always wanted to live in Paris and learn to speak French and I just never did. And then I was finally single for the first time in nine years, and COVID was over. I was like, “I need to do this or I’m never going to do it,” so I did it.
SCIORTINO: That’s smart. I didn’t realize you were in relationships for nine years.
ROUX: Yeah. I was in a monogamous thing for two years, but even that was monogamish. I would ask, “Is it cool if I hook up with this person?” And my boyfriend at the time would basically be like, “Yeah, that’s fine.” What happens is, often at first people are like, “Oh, can we be monogamous?” And I’m like, “Okay, but I have a really high sex drive.” And if they’re a guy, they’re usually like, “Okay, great. I’ll fuck you as much as you want.” And I’m like, “Okay, we’ll see how long this lasts.” And then six months in, they’re like, “Okay, yeah. I don’t care if you have sex with other people. I need a break. My dick is raw and red and needs a break.”
SCIORTINO: That’s a good tactic to get a pass to start sleeping with other people, just to fuck them essentially to the brink of death, to the point where they’re like, “Oh my god, just get away from me.”
ROUX: Honestly, that is usually how I end relationships. If I’m feeling over something, I love to give it the hug of death, so that way the other person feels like they ended things. They’re the ones who rejected me. When I was working, I would do that with clients too. I would just be super annoying to clients and they would just stop seeing me.
SCIORTINO: That is such a funny idea. Even just messaging someone, Can we go on a trip? Can we go on a trip? Can we go on a trip?
ROUX: Just being annoying about it or asking them for lots of favors or calling them really emotional. Whatever you can think of that’s most annoying, it’ll end it.
SCIORTINO: Yeah. I did a lot of that. Well, almost the worse version when I was younger, where you become such a shit girlfriend that the person breaks up with you because you can’t be an adult and say, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I don’t know if I’ve ever broken up with someone in a traditional way. It’s hard to do that.
ROUX: If I really care about them, I will do it in the traditional way. But if I feel like they like me more than I like them, I’ll do it in the clingy way, because then they feel better about themselves, too. Maybe I shouldn’t be admitting this publicly. If anyone’s reading this, it’s definitely not about you, just so you know.
SCIORTINO: Yeah. I’m single now and I’m in this really specific space where I haven’t ever been single and I’m not really interested in dating. And that’s its own different version of what we’ve been talking about, where it is a power in and of itself. And, of course, you’re more attractive when you don’t want a boyfriend, or whatever. It is just a really good place to be dating from because the stakes are so low. Now, I probably want to have kids. I froze my eggs, congratulations to me. If I don’t have confidence that someone could be a good long-term partner-slash-parent, that’s a factor to me now.
ROUX: That seems really nice, honestly. It gives you a lot of mental clarity. The type of person who would be a good dad is probably going to be a partner who’s very stable and grounding.
SCIORTINO: One-hundred percent. And I feel like I’m increasingly looking for that energy in myself as well. I’m like, “Okay, hop to it,” you know what I mean? “You’re 37.”
ROUX: Yeah, L.A. is the place to do that, I think. In New York, it’s so easy to never grow up. How have you been nurturing your mom energy in L.A.?
SCIORTINO: I’ve really taken a turn. Almost every single morning I get up and go on a hike with my dog. Can you believe that?
ROUX: I do the same.
SCIORTINO: Oh wait, do you have a dog?
ROUX: I have a dog in Paris with me. I like to go for long walks with her every day. Honestly, it’s so grounding. It’s really good for writing, too.
SCIORTINO: Oh my god, it’s so good. The amount that it affects my mental health, it’s so crazy. I do that, I cook a lot, I love making lentil stews. I was with my friend last night, who’s a slut from hell. She’s doing a period of celibacy. And I was like, “Oh my god, can you imagine telling ourselves five years ago you’ll be going on long walks with your dog in L.A., you won’t be caring about dating and you’ll love making lentil stews?” I almost think I would’ve blown my brains out at the thought that I would end up being that person, because I was a party maniac sex addict for sure. And I can tap into that when I want, but it’s been helpful to have a period of feeling a little bit more grounded. I’m like, “Wait, do I sound boring as fuck?” Like, “Hey guys, I love lentils.”
ROUX: Lentils are important.
SCIORTINO: I think so.
ROUX: Honestly, I’m really happy for you. That kind of energy is just as fun. I do the same thing, also. I’ll invite my friends over to my apartment sometimes, and I think they expect me to be a completely deranged party girl because of my energy on Instagram. And then I’m like, “Do you want some tea? I made this soup. Do you want some?” Or, “I made this bread. Do you want it?” And they’re like, “Oh.” But it’s an important energy to put out in the world. And I don’t think it’s boring at all.
SCIORTINO: That’s so funny. They’re like, “I’m going to take a molly. What’s happening?” But it’s true. I’ve realized you go through phases, obviously. Shock, horror, having casual sex is really fun, but it’s not fun on repeat for your whole life. You know what I mean? Everything gets boring. Maybe not for some people, but when you’ve had an experience 10,000 times…
ROUX: Oh my god, yeah.
SCIORTINO: I thought this conversation was so fun.
ROUX: I really loved it. I’m excited to hang out again.
SCIORTINO: Me too. Thank you so much for wanting to do it. When I was told you were interviewing me, I was like, “Oh, that’s so exciting.” Because I feel like I think we’re friends, but we actually aren’t.
ROUX: Well, now we can say we are.
SCIORTINO: Now we are. Now we are.
ROUX: Cute. Love that.