It was 3 a.m., and the house party in LA was about to be shut down.
This is way too early, Cassie said to her friend.
She began weaving through the crowd to see if someone else was hosting a party. That’s when the A-list heartthrob approached her.
You wanna come to my place? he asked.
Of course I’m going to go to his place, she thought.
Cassie and her friend got in his car, and he drove them a few miles to his house. It was huge and modern on the outside, and on the inside, it looked like an upscale bachelor pad: furnished with black leather couches and adorned with superhero posters and various art.
He and his friends began smoking weed, and he did some lines of coke with Cassie’s friend.
“He seemed really into her, all over her, talking with her, flirting with her,” she told me in a phone interview in April. Cassie said she was really drunk by this time, but she had turned down the cocaine.
Later that night, Cassie’s friend said, “I just really want to go home.” She called an Uber, and Cassie planned on going with her. “I’m not going to ruin the night for you. Just stay,” her friend told her.
So Cassie stayed. And the handsome, tanned actor’s attention turned to her.
Do you want to go upstairs? he asked her.
She said yes.
They smoked more weed, and then he offered her coke again. Although she didn’t like cocaine, as the movie star’s strikingly blue eyes gazed at her expectantly, she found herself agreeing.
I’ll just do a few lines, she said.
You seem really nice, and I really like you, she remembered him saying next.
Well, you were kind of all over my friend before, so I didn’t think you liked me, she said she replied.
No, I really like you. Do you wanna make out?
OK, she said.
I'm gonna have to have you sign this piece of paper first, he said, handing her a nondisclosure agreement on formal letterhead.
Cassie said she remembered asking, What the hell is this?
It’s just standard. Everybody asks for them. It’s just to make sure you don’t talk about anything that happened tonight and talk about it to the press, he said.
The two-page NDA also stipulated that she couldn’t talk about the agreement itself.
“I thought it was weird he asked for it after we’d been doing drugs and getting wasted, like, 'This is the moment you ask for an NDA?'” she told me.
“I tried to read it, even though I was super wasted, just to try to make sure what it was talking about,” she said. “Then I said, ‘What’s the worst that could happen? I’ll just sign it.’”
Cassie’s experience isn’t unique. It seems to be more and more common to be asked to sign NDAs before one-night stands or romantic relationships with celebrities and other prominent people, according to four entertainment lawyers I spoke to — including Gloria Allred and Dinah Perez — as well as publicists Jeremy Lemur and Michael Whiteacre, and women who’ve been asked to sign them. And it’s not just men who are doing the asking.
Some women celebrities have also been asking for signed NDAs before sex. On an episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta that aired in January, star Kandi Burruss claimed she requires NDAs before threesomes. In a Bravo video, Real Housewives of Potomac star Gizelle Bryant said, “I think it’s an excellent idea, and it made me think, like, ‘Kandi, I might want to throw myself into your threesome because I know no one’s going to find out.’”
It’s hard to determine just how pervasive the use of NDAs is because some of them, like the one Cassie signed, require people to completely deny their existence. The few places people freely talk about them are on anonymous gossip sites or social media pages, like Instagram’s deuxmoi, where I first found out about them, and sex worker message boards.
Because many NDAs are secret, rumors about them abound. While reporting for this article, I was told of an A-list pop star who brought his PR person to hand out NDAs at clubs to men he wanted to sleep with, an actor who used these agreements in his pursuit of teenage boys, and an NFL player who requires all his girlfriends, even celebs, to sign them. Confirming an NDA’s existence, however, is extremely difficult.
NDAs are only revealed when someone leaks them to the media, as a person allegedly did with Charlie Sheen’s presex NDA in 2015. (When asked for comment, Sheen’s representative told BuzzFeed News that “Charlie doesn’t require NDAs.”) Or they are revealed during lawsuits, such as one of the 22 against Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, in which masseuses alleged that he sexually assaulted them. In court documents, one masseuse said he refused to pay her until she signed one.
Perhaps the most famous sex-related NDA controversy happened a decade after the alleged sexual encounter between Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump. Trump, using the pseudonym David Dennison, paid Daniels $130,000 two weeks before the election in 2016 “in exchange for her silence on information designated as confidential,” according to Jeffrey Steven Gordon in an article that appeared in the Alabama Law Review last year. The 17-page NDA said the confidential information included “any of his alleged sexual partners, alleged sexual actions or alleged sexual conduct.” If she violated the agreement, she could be fined $1 million for each breach.
Presex NDAs are meant to protect the celebrity, not the person signing them.
Daniels explained why she signed the NDA in her book Full Disclosure. "This was about putting all this behind me confidentially and never having to worry about Trump coming after me or my family," she wrote. “I signed something that gave me a paltry amount when I could have made millions of dollars … I used the money to buy a new horse trailer.” In 2018, Daniels sued to invalidate the agreement, but Trump’s lawyer later wrote a letter to the court saying he wouldn’t enforce it, and the case was never litigated. (Trump has never said he was involved in an NDA with Daniels.)
It seems people who have signed these NDAs, like Cassie, haven’t necessarily read them closely and didn’t have a lawyer look at them, and that’s largely by design. Presex NDAs are meant to protect the celebrity, not the person signing them.
I spoke to lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents people who are alleged victims of celebrities, about why there has been an increase in these types of NDAs, and she attributed them in part to social media. Before iPhones, Twitter, and Instagram, celebrities could keep their trysts with groupies and fans fairly secret. Now, with one click, a fan can tell their story to the world. Another lawyer I spoke to, Dinah Perez, who drafts NDAs for celebrities, blames both social media and “the advent of media outlets like TMZ where people can call and just tattle on somebody, you know? And if it's so easy to get an NDA, then why not do it?”
Did Cassie violate her NDA by speaking to me? Probably not. Allred told me presex NDAs probably can’t be enforceable because a contract has to provide value for the person signing it, which in legal terms is called “consideration.” And according to Allred, sex can’t be the “consideration” in a contract. Frequently the consideration in a more typical business NDA is money in exchange for silence — often to protect trade secrets. She suggested consulting with a lawyer because, “Maybe it's enforceable. Maybe it's not. Maybe it's enforceable in part, but not other parts.”
As “Enty,” an entertainment lawyer who runs the gossip blog Crazy Days and Nights, told me, “You go work for some big company, and they say, ‘Here's a nondisclosure agreement.’ Generally, they'll give you some cash … And that's your consideration for not disclosing.” But in a presex NDA the consideration isn’t money. “The [celebrity] may say: ‘This is consideration. I wouldn't have had sex with you if you hadn't signed it.’ That's not sufficient,” Allred said.
Enty told me, “It’s against the law to pay for sex, so is it [valuable because] you're getting to have sex with a celebrity? I can't see a court saying that's valuable. It would be valuable if you could tell somebody about it. But you sign something that says you can't.” He added that he has written the kinds of NDAs that are routinely passed out at celeb parties, usually before someone walks in the door. According to him, these are probably not enforceable either.
When we spoke, he used an example of going to a pop star’s house who allegedly used to hand out NDAs “like candy.” “They hand you the NDA. They make you sign. And on the first or second line is ‘in return for valuable consideration.’ What is the consideration? He’s not giving you money. The consideration is that he's a celebrity and you should be lucky to spend time with him. That is a very strange thing to count as consideration,” Enty said.
Although preparty NDAs might be invalid because of the lack of consideration, they can still strike fear and can also potentially cause harm to the signee. If a celeb you slept with has a significant other, and they didn’t disclose that to you in the NDA, you could see your reputation besmirched.
“Say the tabloids find out you slept with [a celebrity]. You didn't know that he had a girlfriend or a wife. And then the tabloids come after you and say you were cheating with him. Now you want to defend yourself. Can you? No, you can’t say anything. It's very one-sided,” Enty said.
He used the example of the 2019 Jordyn Woods–Tristan Thompson cheating scandal, where Woods was allegedly hooking up with Khloé Kardashian’s boyfriend Tristan Thompson. If Woods, as it has been reported, signed an NDA, Enty said she wouldn’t be allowed to defend herself against allegations in the press. Woods broke her silence on Red Table Talk that March, admitting that she kissed Thompson, but officially denying the rumors that she had sex with him. (BuzzFeed News reached out to Kardashian’s, Woods’, and Thompson’s reps for comment and has not received responses.)
But not all the entertainment attorneys I spoke to agree with Allred and Enty’s assessment that presex NDAs aren’t enforceable. Dinah Perez believes a court might uphold a confidentiality clause “in light of the fact that maybe the consideration is, ‘I'm letting you in my life.’ And that's a consideration for you agreeing to this.”
Regardless of their legality, NDAs still exert a certain amount of power, particularly in sexual harassment and assault cases. Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and Bill O’Reilly allegedly used NDAs in part to silence the people who brought forth allegations against them. “Among the punitive terms in several of the NDAs between former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and a number of women, for example, were that they give up any diaries, photos and emails describing his alleged harassment, and agree to disclaim ‘as counterfeit or forgeries’ any of the materials if they were made public,” the Los Angeles Times reported in 2018. As Gordon wrote in the Alabama Law Review, “At least one of the NDAs wielded by Harvey Weinstein required the victim to ‘use all reasonable endeavours not to disclose’ Weinstein's name ‘during the course of receiving treatment’ from her therapist.” (O’Reilly, Weinstein, and Cosby denied the allegations.)
In 2018, in an attempt to give more power to sexual assault victims in the wake of #MeToo, California passed SB 820, California’s Stand Together Against Nondisclosure (STAND) Act, prohibiting “nondisclosure provisions in settlements involving claims of sexual assault, harassment or discrimination based on sex.” Allred believes, however, that this law was misguided, and in a 2019 editorial in the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Many victims want the opportunity to enter a confidential settlement because they are unwilling to have what happened to them made known to their family members, their co-workers, their future employers or the general public.”
Allred told me her clients have hired her after signing NDAs and realizing they misunderstood what they were signing. “We've had situations where they're afraid to even talk to me, they feel like, 'I want to tell you I want to be able to say what happened, but I'm afraid to talk to you. I signed an NDA,'” Allred said. “[An NDA] can never apply to a lawyer. A person always has the right to speak to a lawyer.”
“[An NDA] can never apply to a lawyer. A person always has the right to speak to a lawyer.”
Enty said he is willing to draft these types of NDAs for his clients, but only after he fully informs his clients about them. “I tell them upfront: These are not enforceable, so don't tell people that they are. If it makes you feel better about yourself to ask people to sign them, then go ahead,” he told me.
There are other reasons few NDAs are enforced. Suing a violator of an NDA essentially defeats the purpose of the agreement, because then the document becomes public as does the activity the celebrity wants to hide. That’s why Perez sometimes put arbitration agreements in NDAs so “there’s no court record,” she said. “If I have a client whose information is really sensitive, I will put in an arbitration clause because my clients are willing to pay the arbitration fees in order to keep everything secret.”
Cassie told me she doesn’t know if there was an arbitration agreement in the contract she signed because she never got a copy of it, which, according to Allred, is typical of these types of NDAs. After signing it, Cassie said she had sex with the star multiple times throughout the night in his modern, airy bedroom. “He was great, and I knew he would be, but it was impressive,” she told me.
She spent the night, and the next day he asked her if she wanted breakfast and offered to drive her home. But she called an Uber instead. “His use of drugs, it was a little bit weird, and the NDA was a bit weird, but apart from that he was like the nicest person,” she said. Later that night, she called her friends and told them who she’d just had sex with.
Cassie doesn’t fear repercussions for violating an NDA, but signing one comes with risks. Usually, a person who signs an NDA won’t be taken to court — although, according to Allred, that shouldn’t make you less wary of signing them — but they could be isolated from their support network if a relationship turns abusive.
If a person signs an NDA for “a romantic relationship with a celebrity and then he raped them or he beat them, they can't talk about it to their friends or their relatives or even their parents,” said Allred, who has had many clients who have regretted signing these agreements. But while NDAs do not actually prevent people from going to the police and reporting the crime, not everyone who signs them knows that.
“Young people are so starstruck and so excited to be with a celebrity. And I understand that. It doesn't feel [like] almost anything to [sign] it. But then they regret it,” Allred said. “It's like having a hangover. The next day, you have to ask yourself, 'Was it worth it?' If he does something bad to you, or a member of his entourage does, then you can't talk about it publicly.”
One woman I spoke to told me that she regretted signing an NDA. She told me she was 18 and visiting London from Norway when she met a famous soccer player who wanted to hook up with her. Before they fooled around, he ushered over a man “who was pretty physically imposing and wearing a suit,” and he set an NDA in front of her.
“They never explicitly [said] that I had to sign it. But he bought [this other] guy round, so it just felt to me like it was something I had no choice [but] to do,” she said. “I was definitely pressured into it.”
Although she believes “they definitely took advantage of my poor English” and the fact that she was alone, she is “at peace with it now,” she told me. “I guess the scary thing is that he’s a very attractive guy. He’s got a lot of money. So he has probably been with a lot of girls and probably put them in a similar situation.”
Still, not all celebrities use NDAs. One woman told me that she didn’t have to sign an NDA when she was 18 and had a tryst with a Kardashian ex, but she “probably would have signed if he asked though, tbh bc I was so young.” An adult industry publicist who wanted to remain anonymous told me a former British punk rocker had laughed at the idea of an NDA. “He said he thought it would be great if a woman came forward — that it would be on-brand, if you will.”
And then, of course, there are some people who are unwilling to sign NDAs at all.
Madison was swiping through Tinder when she saw a profile of a cute musician she liked. “He told me the band was ‘on the verge of making it big,’” she said. They arranged to meet up. But the day of their first date, she stepped in a pile of fire ants while walking her dog and her feet swelled up. She called him to cancel, but he said he’d take care of her. “Instead of a regular first date where we met for drinks or dinner, we ended up hanging out while the ant bites swelled down,” Madison said.
The first hangout is what sealed it for her because he seemed like a really nice guy. They began seeing each other regularly, about three to five times a month, but not exclusively. Then in March 2017, she said his band played at SXSW, and that’s where he popped the question: Do you want to keep seeing me when I’m on tour?
“I thought the conversation was headed toward ‘we'll be exclusive,’” she said.
“It's like having a hangover. The next day, you have to ask yourself, ‘Was it worth it?’”
Instead, he told her she’d need to sign an NDA. When she asked him why it was necessary, he told her that it was for her protection.
Later that day, he emailed her a copy of the NDA, and it was clear that her “protection” was not the reason for its existence. The document forbade her “from mentioning him or his band to my friends and family,” yet also required her “to fly out to a show at least once a month, regardless of the day, for the sole purpose of sex,” and also “participate in sex parties that the band hosted.” All the while, she was supposed to dress in 1950s-style rockabilly clothing in his presence. He would pay for the flights and all the expenses, and she was expected to keep mum about everything.
She said that after a day went by and she hadn’t signed, he acted apologetic that he’d asked her to. Then a few days later, when she still hadn’t signed, she said he began to get mean.
Instead of signing the NDA, she broke up with him.
“I didn't sign it because of the many red flags it raised,” she said. “I was going through a rough time financially, and I felt he was offering to pay for stuff for the sole purpose that I would become his groupie.”
She told me the band “has yet to make it big.”
While there seem to be few upsides for a nonceleb to sign an NDA before a one-night stand or romantic relationship, one woman I spoke to named Mistress Kye said she welcomes NDAs from her clients. She’s a professional dominant in Philadelphia who counts celebrities among her clients and advertises herself as NDA-friendly.
“I think they’re wonderful because the whole goal of what I do is to help people tap their vulnerabilities,” she said. She added that NDAs are tools that allow her to “get to a place of trust,” which is one of the main components of kink and BDSM along with communication and consent. “If it's an NDA to make that person feel safe and feel secure so they can access those parts of themselves, I’m a proponent of it.” She told me she’s seen an uptick in customers requesting NDAs in the past 20 years, “with the advent of the internet and social media, and information being exploited.”
Most of the clients who request them are high-profile people and celebrities. She told me she usually signs them, but not always. “It's not usually because of the documents. It's because of the person that I picked up a vibe, or I saw a red flag,” she said. She also won’t sign if it’s “a regular Joe” who says he wants an NDA so his wife doesn’t find out. “That I'm going to scoff at because that's not cool. You got to have at least enough trust in me,” she said.
Before she signs an NDA, she reads it very carefully, and she said she would go to an attorney for clarification if there was anything she didn’t understand. Still, according to one of the attorneys I spoke to, the NDAs Mistress Kye signs may not actually be enforceable because she’s a sex worker, and sex work is illegal in the US aside from four counties in Nevada.
While NDAs may help a celebrity client become more comfortable during a BDSM session, they also serve a practical goal: protecting the celeb’s financial interests. Perez said NDAs are necessary “even for a one-night stand if a woman is really kinky, and maybe she doesn't want that to get out because she's got a career and brand that requires her to be wholesome.”
A Canadian sex worker I spoke to said she is also willing to sign NDAs, particularly if they protect her as well. She said some of her clients think that sex workers have nothing to lose by having their identities revealed. “We have everything to lose,” she told me.
But in the legal brothels in Nevada, NDAs for high-profile clients are unusual, according to Jeremy Lemur, who worked in marketing for brothels from 2012 to 2019. “I personally find the idea of a nondisclosure agreement for a sex worker kind of abhorrent because by the nature of even asking that, you're saying, ‘I don't trust you,’” he said. “A sex worker doesn't reveal her clients because she is a professional. And she acts professionally, just as all professionals, just like your doctor, your clergy, your attorney, your therapist doesn't reveal information, because it is part of the code of ethics of that particular field. I would definitely trust any sex worker I know before I would trust a Catholic priest with my innermost secrets.”
It’s not just ethics that may compel sex workers to keep their clients’ identities and proclivities a secret — there are also practical considerations. If a sex worker or a brothel revealed this information, “their reputation would be tarnished for eternity,” Lemur said. Yet their code of secrecy doesn’t stop people from inquiring. “People's wives have called brothels, asking for their husbands. And we do not reveal that information,” he said.
While some people thought sex workers outed Lamar Odom for patronizing Dennis Hof’s Love Ranch in 2015, Lemur said that wasn’t the case. Sex workers actually appear to have saved his life. Two sex workers at the ranch found him face down on the bed in his VIP suite. Someone at the brothel called 911 and told the dispatcher that Odom was frothing at the mouth and unconscious. He was driven to a hospital where he was induced into a coma and found to have cocaine in his system. (Odom claimed he was drugged.) The AP reported that Odom “had asked about a dozen women working there on Sunday to sign confidentiality agreements barring them from speaking about his visit.” Hof claimed that sex workers sign an agreement with the brothel to not speak publicly about clients.
Comedian Carrot Top has been open about his visits to Hof’s ranch, and in 2005, its website used his quote, “The Bunnies Love Carrot Sticks.” Many celebs, however, prefer their sex lives to be kept private. And even though NDAs may not hold up in court, they do seem to provide a false sense of security for celebs. However, some of the ordinary people signing them feel differently.
Cassie, for instance, said she still feels uncomfortable about it. “I thought [the NDA] was really creepy,” Cassie told me. “If he's asking for that, like, how much more weird could it get? … I'm a normal person, and I thought he was hot, but I also thought, 'How weird would it be to date somebody like that?'”
NDAs might make sense for a celebrity visiting a pro dom, but the bottom line for the rest of us: You probably shouldn’t sign one. Allred offers this simple advice: “Do not go into a party where they take your phone and they make you sign an NDA. It’s dangerous. You may think it's exciting: Generally, it's not a risk worth taking.” ●
Correction: Mistress Kye was misidentified in a previous version of this post.