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Inside Snctm: L.A.’s Exclusive Erotic Theater

The easy association is Eyes Wide Shut: A masqued black-tie dinner that evolves over the course of the night from amuse bouche to what founder, Damon Lawner, calls “erotic theater,” where female performers (all volunteers) set the tone for what unfolds (HBO filmed a NSFW special, which you can preview here). Some guests engage, some engage only with each other (while women can buy a ticket, men cannot attend unless they’re members ($10,000-$50,000), part of a couple, or reserve dinner), and others choose not to touch at all.

Lawner is adamant that the monthly event at a Holmby Hills mansion is not a sex or swingers party (he’s never attended either), but instead is about exploring the boundaries of what sex means, and how it inherently makes us all feel. Most guests stay within the confines of their coupledom, but find that the voyeur component adds a level of fantasy that they don’t find in their own bedroom. And some guests find that it isn’t for them at all. What does seem refreshing, though, is that women set the tone: Besides being dominant in numbers, they are the ones who are allowed to touch and initiate (anyone who doesn’t follow the golden rule of consensuality is banned). Below, Lawner explains more.

A Q&A with Damon Lawner

Q

What was the impetus for starting Snctum?

A

I had a powerful sexual energy from early in my life, in direct opposition to an equally strong desire to be a committed, monogamous mate. I was tormented remaining true to partners I cared deeply about and often failing, while also desiring to fully actualize my authentic self. I am someone who deeply craves a partnership and thrives in one, but traditional relationships and religious doctrine drifted far away from true unconditional love in my view. It’s not as if this idea of open acceptance of a partner is easy for me, it isn’t! But I needed to have the conversation about it, and I wondered if others of like mind were out there searching for similar answers. I began to draw the Snctm icon one evening thinking about a secretive society that might explore these questions. I called the symbol oculus dei, the eye of God. It began watching over me and our fledgling society from its inception until now, going into our fourth year. This entire experience evolved from my desire to open up my truth to others, and have a meaningful conversation about sex, relationship, erotica, fetish, love, pain, and ultimately pleasure of the highest vibration that we might reach together. That is what I’m going for, and Snctm is leading us there.

Q

How do people become members or attend a party?

A

Everyone who attends a Snctm soirée, be it a masquerade, pool party, class, or dinner must first apply on our website. The application asks questions ranging from name and occupation, to what your fantasy come-to-life looks like. It also requires you upload pictures. I look at aesthetics of course, and the answers to our questions are important determining factors. If I believe the applicant would be a good fit for our society, and enhance the experience of our current members, I approve the application and it moves forward to the next phase.

Q

What are you looking for in applicants? How do you find your performers?

A

Beauty, intelligence, wit, success, sexiness, wisdom, openness, non-judgement, desire to explore, fearlessness.

Performers find us and apply on our website in a section called Perform.

Q

What typically happens? What are most people looking to find or experience?

A

At the masquerade you step into a world of intrigue and sensuality. Gentlemen are in classic tuxedo with black bow tie, while ladies are elegantly dressed in evening wear or lingerie. Everyone enters through security wearing a mask. Members and guests come to enjoy our erotic theater and socialize. Our events primarily take place at the Snctm mansion in Holmby Hills, California, a secure and private residence on an acre of land. As you explore this environment you will discover guests enjoying each others’ company. We have rooms open for everyone, and a Dominus chamber for our highest echelon members. We welcome voyeurs and participants alike, there is no pressure to participate. It is up to each individual how they wish to explore. There are important rules which dictate how our society functions. Our security strictly enforces our no photography rule and upholds our golden rule. Snctm operates on consensuality, we always ask before we touch. Any violation is grounds for immediate removal without refund. At Snctm we have opportunity to experience evenings of openness and sensuality that most only dream of.

Q

How do you make everyone—specifically the women—feel protected and safe?

A

Our omnipresent security’s foremost directive is to be sure every lady may be as free and open as she desires, without any fear. We always ask before we touch is our golden rule. If not followed, the person who made the mistake is banned from Snctm. It is an expensive commitment and no one wants to leave prematurely. Furthermore, I have information on everyone in the mansion. This is a group that has too much to lose personally and professionally to not play by the rules.

Q

Your performers—and female guests in particular—lead the experience of the night. Did that just come about naturally, or do you specifically foster an environment to ensure that the theme isn’t about subjugation?

A

Our Devotees are like family, we watch over and protect each other, and push each other to explore deeper. My creative team and I block out performances, and create costumes and stories, but the performers choose their own roles within the theater on any given evening. It’s up to them what they desire to experience, and they often switch up roles, wanting to try new things. There is no question we give ladies the power and protection they deserve, and in turn as gentlemen we have the privilege of not only watching these ladies indulge their fantasies freely, but also have opportunity to indulge in our fantasies along with them.

Q

In what way do members evolve or change as they attend parties? Is everyone who attends inherently an exhibitionist, or do people become more inclined to put their sexuality out there over time?

A

I have evolved on this journey and continue to, and have observed our members doing the same. Most come to watch at first, dip their toe in the water, and explore the idea of Snctm, to have this conversation with their partner, and others. Sometimes that is enough to spark something amazing when they return home that evening, and they await their return to Snctm to see what door might be opened up next. This experience has never been about sex, there are sex parties out there and I’ve honestly never been to one, nor desire to. Snctm is a place to get turned on, to explore, to hold hands, to realize that sex doesn’t have to be hidden away. It can be open and celebrated, and that’s all right. It’s beautiful and possible to keep sex between two monogamous partners for life. In the end that might be the best decision a couple that comes to Snctm discovers. For others, it’s about indulging every fantasy for one night to the fullest. Neither path is wrong or right here, it will always be up to you to decide.

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