Welcome back for the last Sex Ed Fridays column of 2017! It has been one hell of a ride with y’all and we’ve learned some sexy, important and life changing things together. Don’t fret because 2018 is going to be even more queer, salacious and informative.
But before I leave you all for your holigay cheer and New Year’s celebrations — I have one last topic to write about. Obviously, I want us to go out with a bang so I’m here to tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know (but been too nervous to ask) about play parties.
What exactly is a play party?
A play party is a social occasion where people are free — and encouraged — to engage in public sex(ual) or kinky behaviors. It’s not a giant orgy, which people often think it is, but it totally can be! It’s a place for kinky babes, exhibitionists, voyeurs, and people who want to explore sexual energy in a new way. You can play with a lover or friend you attend the party with, you can play with new people, you can watch others play or you can just talk with friends and dance. It’s completely and entirely up to you.
Because a sex party is just that — a party. While there may or may not be sexual activity going on around you, the essence of the event is a party atmosphere. You can meet new people, mix and mingle, explore the space and enjoy the energy.
However, because of this added element to this particular type of party — there are often some ground rules for every space. While you definitely want to check with the host or on the play parties website for their particular etiquette (some specify no sex, only BDSM — others have barrier guidelines and rules), I’m going to cover some of the basics that apply to all of these spaces.
1. Identify your boundaries, desires, and intentions — then verbalize them
While this is an important aspect of all sexual relationships, it’s especially key if you’re playing in a party setting where things are a little more heightened than in your bedroom. I suggest having specific boundaries and intentions before you attend a play party. Know what you want out of the experience and be ready to communicate that with people, if need be.
If you want to attend to be a voyuer, amazing! If you are going with your partner or friend and you only want to play with them, be sure they know that beforehand. If you are ready to meet and play with new people, be sure you know what your hard no’s are and if you have a specific BDSM scene in mind. Talk it out beforehand. Many of these parties will have wristbands or other markers that you can use to let people know what type of play you’re into! They might give you a red wristband if you don’t want to play at all, that way you can avoid telling people no all night long and actually enjoy yourself.
2. If you’re a newbie and you’re nervous, say so!
Nerves are normal and totally OK. If this is your first time at a play party, you might be feeling a little nervous about what to expect. I suggest letting people know that it’s your first time at a play party. Most people in the kink scene will welcome you with open arms, tell you the story of their first party and introduce you to other folks. These seasoned regulars have a ~suave~ way about them. When when the party starts to ease into play, it all seems super natural and you might find your nerves start to subside.
3. Find language to talk about your STI status
If you’ve decided that you want to get down with some new people during your play party experience, it’s important to find the language to talk about your STI status. Whether you are positive or negative for any STI, talking about is good. It allows for both you and your sexual partners to feel like you’re taking care of each other’s sexual health.
Certain play parties shame STIs and will post on their site “no one with STIs welcome, sorry!” It shouldn’t be like that and I don’t trust any of those parties because shaming people is not the answer. People who are living with life-long STIs like HSV1 or 1 (also known as herpes), HPV or HIV have treatments available to them to make the STI undetectable and therefore, oftentimes untrabnsmittable (it varies per infection). There are also so many different barrier options out there for all different types of bodies which can be used to reduce the risk of transmitting an STI. And the truth of the matter is, people who know their status (and are positive) are actually far less likely to pass on an STI than someone who isn’t aware of their status or hasn’t gotten tested in 3 months.
If you’re STI negative, the best way to start the conversation is to say “I just wanted to let you know that I got tested ___ weeks/months ago and tested negative for everything. Do you know your status?” Then let the conversation flow from there and definitely don’t shame anyone who is positive.
4. Consent and communication
Last week, I covered 101 info on consent. I can’t stress how important communication and consent is when you’re in a room full of people there for fun and play. Emotions can get high and people get excited, while it can be tempting to spank someone who looks cute or join in on some fun you’re watching — you definitely cannot do that without consent.
You can go up to someone and ask them if they’d like to be flogged or if you can join in their play, but that takes communication about what everyone’s desires are. Maybe they want to flogged but with a particular flogger in a particular way. Maybe the couple wants you to join in for a threesome but they have some hard no’s they need you to know about first. Remember that consent is a negotiation to figure out if your desires are aligned.
5. Use the buddy system
If it’s your first time going to a play party, I highly recommend using the buddy system. You could either go with a partner or a friend. I love going to play parties with friends because there’s no pressure to perform if you don’t want to. You can stick together if you’re both anxious babes. Or you can venture off and have your own separate fun times and then have someone to decompress with on the train ride home together.
Make sure that you have a plan before you get to the event if one of you wants to stay longer or leave earlier. Also make sure you talk about boundaries — are you going to play together? Are you open to that? Or is that completely off limits? These things should all be talked about before you arrive at the event as to avoid any awkwardness or hurt feelings later on.
6. Leave if it’s not your vibe
This goes for any party or any space that you’re getting bad energy from. If you walk in and immediately know that it’s not the right energy for you, or you find yourself hiding in the corner out of debilitating anxiety — just head home, babes. Your mental health is far more important than trying to fit into a space that doesn’t feel right to you.
It’s OK. Maybe you just haven’t found the right play party for your vibe yet. Also, it’s totally OK to Irish goodbye. You don’t owe anyone anything (unless you came with a friend and you promised her you’d let her know before you left, still be a good friend).
More than anything, my best advice for your first play party experience is to have consensual fun — whatever that means for you. Explore new desires. Meet new people. Play with old friends. Until next year, babes.
If you’re in the Brooklyn area, you can check out the queer and trans monthly party Submit. If your looking for parties local to your area, the best way to find them in through the events feature on FetLife.com.
Have more sex questions? Leave a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org and come back for more every Friday!
The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only and should not replace or substitute for any medical, or other professional advice or help. For concerns requiring psychological or medical advice, please consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist This column, its author, the magazine and publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice contained within this column.