Sex positivity is having a moment. Or, perhaps it’s fairer to say that a genuine social shift is happening, and people are becoming more accepting of the kaleidoscopic experience that is human sexuality. There are lots of theories about why this is happening right now. It could be down to the pandemic ending, it could be because of greater visibility in mainstream TV. Some are even going so far as to call the times we’re living in right now a second sexual revolution.
So if you’re currently keen to explore your sexuality, you’re not alone. According to a survey conducted by sex toy brand Lovehoney in association with the Kinsey Institute, 51% of people found themselves becoming more experimental with sex during the pandemic, and this interest seems to be lasting, with more people reporting that they would consider attending a sex party compared to before the pandemic.
But if you’ve never been to a sex party before, it can seem a little daunting if you don’t know what to expect. So, we spoke to sex party aficionados to give you the full low down.
Read About the Party Beforehand
Sex parties are all different. Some are only for certain gender identities or sexualities, others are for specific kinks and fetishes. Others are more general, and some are actually about sex less than you might think, with dancefloors and bar areas for chatting.
The event page (this might be Facebook, Instagram or a website) will give you a flavor of the event, and it’s important to read this and make sure that the event is for you. There will often be an FAQ page, or extra information about the venue and a dress code on your ticket.
“Not all sex parties are created equal,” says Zachary Zane, author of Boyslut: A Memoir and Manifesto and sex expert for Momentum Intimacy. “Some are kinkier, queerer, more sexual, more social, etc. For your first sex party, I wouldn’t go to an intense kink play party. I would go to one that is more social and has a lot of space where you can chill or just watch.”
Dress to Impress
Don’t rock up to a sex party in jeans or straight from work. Dressing up for a sex party is part of the fun. Some venues will have a strictly enforced dress code (leather and PVC, for example), and you could be turned away if you don’t look the part. This shouldn’t be taken as snobbishness or pretension on the part of the venue — it’s important at a sex party that everyone feels comfortable and safe, and dressing the part is a way of signaling that you get it. It’s a way for the people running the event to know that you’re going to vibe with the community.
It’s also about feeling sexy and confident in yourself. “Wear something that makes you feel sexy: lingerie, leather, or lace,” Zane says. “Look the part! People aren’t going to talk to you if you look like you just came off the street.” Parties will often post pics on their social media or have something like a Pinterest board to inspire attendees.
Take Someone With You
“There’s a lot of downtime at sex parties, and it can be awkward being alone,” Zane says. So taking somebody with you is a good idea. This doesn’t have to be a sexual partner, but Zane recommends that if you bring a friend, make expectations and boundaries clear beforehand.
For first timers, it’s a good idea to talk about boundaries even if you’re attending with a partner. Get specific. Are you okay with your partner potentially having sex with someone? If so, can they do this without you or will you stick together? What about kissing? What about swapping numbers with somebody? The more you think things through beforehand, the more relaxed you’ll feel in the moment.
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Remember, People at Sex Parties Are Friendly
Sure, approaching new people can be scary. But as a rule, people who attend sex parties are pretty open minded and chill. And you’re probably not going to be the only newbie at the party, either. “It’s okay to state that you’re new to this up front,” says Leanne Yau, founder of polyamory education resource Polyphilia. “Just say, ‘hey, I’m new here, what have your experiences been like at these parties?’ That can be a good way to strike up a conversation.”
“It’s not difficult to mingle at a sex party,” Zane says. “I typically go up to someone and comment on a piece of their outfit or their hair or makeup. Don’t make it a sexual comment. Don’t compliment someone on their ass, dick or tits. But say something like, ‘I love your heels!’ After that, I simply ask how they ended up there. Have they been there before? What’ve their experiences been like? You can then share that you’re new to sex parties. The conversation will flow pretty naturally.”
One of the best things about a sex party is that you can be yourself and let go. It’s a judgment-free space. Most people there will be looking to meet new people and make new connections, so don’t be afraid to approach people and be chatty. And remember that striking up a conversation doesn’t necessarily mean you’re propositioning somebody for sex, so don’t overthink it.
Consent Is Everything
Probably the most important thing to understand about a sex party is that being there does not automatically mean you are giving consent to be touched — or that you have that consent from anyone else. Touching somebody without their clear, enthusiastic consent will quickly get you in trouble. And likewise, if someone touches you non-consensually or does anything else to make you uncomfortable, you can report this to the event staff. Most events have staff walking around in clearly branded clothing for everyone’s safety.
“In my opinion, what makes a really good sex party is when the organizers have put a lot of intention into creating a safe environment,” Yau says. “They’ll have monitors and well-trained staff, maybe even mandatory consent workshops. Or they might ask attendees to repeat the rules before they go in.”
Consent also applies when watching other people. Some people enjoy being watched, others don’t. Obviously, you’ll probably see people having sex at a sex party — we’re not suggesting you have to walk around with your eyes closed. But actively watching is a different matter. If you want to watch, ask first. Best case you’ll get an enthusiastic yes, worst case a polite no thank you.
There are some exceptions to this, where terms like “blanket consent” or “reactive consent” may apply, but this is almost never the case at more mainstream events — and it will always be made glaringly obvious by the event organizers. Again, this is why it’s important to read up on an event before you rock up.
Bring Your Own Essentials
Most venues will have a cloakroom — don’t worry, nobody expects you to walk from the subway with your sex party outfit on full display — so it’s okay to arrive in a big coat or with something more vanilla on over your outfit. Just in case there isn’t a cloakroom, it’s a good idea to bring something like a tote bag to keep all your possessions in one place so they’re easy to find at the end of the night. Sex parties tend to be dark, so it can be awkward to scramble around looking for your jacket or pants while your Uber’s waiting outside.
Almost all sex parties will provide condoms free of charge. And there will almost definitely be a bar. Some venues have smoking areas and some are cannabis friendly. Again, check the event info. Other than that, feel free to bring your own toys and lube, and any other accessories (whips, floggers, etc). Many venues will have these kinds of things available, but you might feel more comfortable bringing your own. Depending on the vibe and dress code of the party, you might want to bring a robe or even slippers in case you end up getting naked and don’t want to walk to the bar in your birthday suit.
Going to a sex party without putting pressure on yourself can be one of the best ways to ensure you have a good time. You don’t have to have sex. Just attending, taking in the atmosphere and chatting to a few new people can make for a great first experience. Just have fun.