Its current attitude toward sex parties seems way more in tune with the realities of how actually prevent disease transmission

Aulito says he’ll get about 100 guys in Paddles for the Friday after-hours party, and around 140+ for Saturday’s. Which is to say that sex parties attract such a niche crowd within an already relatively small population that policing the “high risk sexual activity continues to occur regularly at an alarming rate,” per the DOHMH’s 2007 claim, for the sake of combatting AIDS is like fighting obesity by shutting down children’s curbside lemonade stands.

We’re not saying ‘hardcore sex,’ we’re just like

The Department’s policy has evolved. “We’re not designed to be a surveillance machine for venues,” the DOHMH’s Dr. Demetre Daskalakis told me. Instead of witch-hunting, the Health Department’s emphasis is on making sure “New Yorkers are equipped with ways to keep themselves healthy however they want to pursue their own pleasure,” venue notwithstanding.

Daskalakis has a reputation for sex-positivity-a 2013 New York Times piece about a meningitis outbreak in New York opened with Daskalakis (then an attending physician at the New York University School of Medicine) doing vaccinations at Paddles

“Regardless where a New Yorker decides where to meet sex partners, whether it’s on Grindr or Scruff or Tinder or some other sort of private venue, our goal is to make sure they know about ways to keep themselves and their partners healthy, whether that’s taking us up on 37 million condoms or taking us up on our very low-threshold ways to start PrEP or PEP or treatment or getting yourself tested for an STI in a heartbeat,” said Daskalakis.

Paddles, officially an S&M club, now offers testing on its premises multiple times a week in partnership with Mount Sinai Hospital , which was facilitated in part via Daskalakis in 2008. Before he worked at DOHMH, Daskalakis did testing at Paddles and helped Hawke revise the safe-sex policy of GBU when PrEP became an option for his patrons, and the demand for condomless sex became too commonplace to ignore.

Still, the sanitary code remains in place, and Daskalakis said he and his department are still obligated to enforce it. “The reality of being a government agency is that if someone complains then we have to follow up,” he told me. “If a complaint is filed, we will follow up with a Mesa escort letter to the property owner, advising them of the complaint and the fact that state law prohibits venues that allow sex.”

Aware of the shaky legal ground they’re hosting their parties on, some hosts employ coy messaging. “We’re not promoting sex there,” said “Peter,” an owner of a spacious, industrial bar in South Queens that earlier this year started dipping its toe into hosting parties where sex is an option. “We just want people to have fun. feel free to have your own space to do what you want. And be safe. And have a good time. But if the cops come, we can get in trouble.”

Criminal defense lawyer Ron Kuby, who has represented several people on public nudity and/or lewdness charges, but never anyone accused of throwing sex parties-that may be because of the dearth of such defendants-says the cops have better things to do than patrol consensual sex among adults. “At this point, law enforcement in New York City has far more pressing concerns than gay sex parties consisting of consenting adults in privately owned locations,” he explained by phone. “If you were to draw a list of law enforcement concerns with jihadists blowing us up as No. 1, I think this would come down in the second 500.”