Over by the door, a chubby, dark-haired man was talking with the bouncer, who was explaining that the best deals on women are in the Dominican Republic. “One hundred dollars,” he said. “All night, you’re the fucking king.”
“Some of the guys from my work?” the hobbyist said. “They’ll rent a van, take weekends down there. I’ve never gone, but it looks great.”
“I think,” the bouncer said, his voice turning philosophical, “that it’s a cultural thing. American women, they’re raised selfish—take, take, take, take, take, take, take. D.R. women, they’re more family … oriented. You act like you love ’em just a little bit, they’ll do anything you want.”
Vadhaman—who in real life is a tall, silver-haired man—roved among the guests. At one point, he walked up to a group of loners standing off to the side and tried to persuade them to join the party. “Come on, guys!” he said, clapping his hands in encouragement, like a football coach giving a pep talk. “This isn’t how you do it! Wallflowers never win!”
Later, I asked him why he organizes events like this one. The host seldom, if ever, makes money and bears some legal risk. (Vadhaman insists he’s not committing any felonies. “I’m putting consenting adults together in the same room,” he told me. “Whatever agreement they come to, that’s their business.”)
He thought for a moment.
“I guess I like the camaraderie,” he said. “I’m just a communitas kind of guy.”
And it’s true. Hobbyists are unusually friendly; the reigning attitude at the mixer was one of mutual support, not competition. There was no showing off, no alpha-male bravado. There seemed to be an understanding that the women would be shared without rancor and that everyone could get laid.
Plus, mixers are a place where johns can be surrounded by dozens of men who also visit prostitutes and talk openly about it. It makes buying sex feel normal. “We’re not perverts,” one john told me. “We’re just normal, red-blooded men with an interest in healthy, normal sex.”
Mixers have their own code of etiquette, one that’s surprisingly prim, and men are encouraged to keep the tone respectful. (Most hobbyist message boards hold to similar rules, forbidding the use of words like bitch and whore.) Even vulgar language is considered unseemly. “Most times, sex doesn’t even come up. It doesn’t need to—we all know why we’re here,” one provider explained.
“Flirting is about as far as it goes,” a man in a cream-colored three-piece suit said. “No one tells a provider, ‘I’d like to fuck you tonight.’ We like to consider ourselves gentlemen.”
But toward the end of the night, some of these rules seemed to fall away. A few girls from an agency, all in their twenties, grabbed a round of tequila shots.
“To love, sex, and paychecks!” yelled the chubby man.
“To tits and ass!” yelled an agency girl.
I watched a hobbyist, his shirt opened wide enough to reveal a gold chain, slink over to one of the agency girls, an impish-looking brunette.
“You,” he said, “have a great body.”
“I know,” she said, curtsying.
“But you also”—he waved his hands in front of her face—“have this going on.”
“Oh, you charmer.”
Later he was standing alone, looking vaguely put out. “Honestly, there’s pretty much no one here I’d pay for,” he told me. “Most of them are too old. If I’m paying, I’m paying to fuck the snot out of a girl in her twenties. I can fuck 40-year-olds on my own time.”
I asked if he was married.
He held up his left hand and winced. “A wife,” he said. “And a mistress.” He shook his head with a practiced weariness.
As the night wound down, some of the men had paired off with women and were carrying on long, intense conversations. Against one wall, a short, gray-haired man was furiously making out with a black woman in a sequin dress. The woman was a good foot taller than him; he looked ecstatic. Such public displays are frowned upon, and Vadhaman walked over and asked them to cut it out.
“You can put your arm on her,” he explained to me. “You can maybe put your hand on her ass. But grabbing her tits? Sucking face? Right idea, wrong time. Get a room.”
Some of the women, in fact, had rented hotel rooms nearby, and some of the men went with them. Others left alone, their wallets filled with business cards.
When I got to the subway, I found the chubby hobbyist from the party. He greeted me warmly, slapping me on the back. We chatted for a while. But when I began to ask him about the mixer, his face fell and he clammed up and I quickly changed the subject. For the rest of the ride, we talked about the election.