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My First Sex Party!

What I learned about men, consent, and respect, in a building full of people fucking.

#TransparentTuesdays

Last week in Los Angeles, I went to my first-ever sex party!


BDSM Gear

Technically it was a hybrid BDSM/kink and “lifestyle” (aka sex/swinger) party, but tomato-tomahto.


To be honest, I can’t believe it took me this long to actually experience something like this. I’m a total sex-and-kink-positive nerd, and I’ve been unpacking and exploring non-traditional aspects of sex, pleasure, and relationships for years. I even got my certification in clinical sexology because these topics are so exciting, important, and relevant to my work as a body image coach!


In the interest of full transparency, I should tell you that while I adore the way people in the kink and BDSM world (as well as the polyamory world) approach sex and connection, and I regularly work with clients around kink, sex, and pleasure, I myself don’t resonate with any specific kink, label, or power dynamic, the way a lot of folks into BDSM do.


For example, I’m not into being particularly submissive, but neither am I into being particularly dominant. I can get into a little bit of either, but a lot of people who connect with BDSM experience their draw toward one or the other role as a bit of an “orientation,” as it were, meaning they’ve always had fantasies and desires that bend that direction, and stepping into that role feels like expressing their authentic self.


Some people do identify as “switches,” meaning they’re drawn to and enjoy both of these roles, but I don’t personally consider myself a switch, because I’m just not especially drawn to either.


Also, while I’ve read and learned a lot about the kink and BDSM world, and explored plenty of my own unique desires, fantasies, and kinks, I don’t have a whole lot of experience with some of the most common BDSM basics, like bondage, role play, or impact play (like spanking, flogging, caning, etc).


I share all that to help you understand that while I’ve always wanted to attend events like this, and I’m a huge fan and proponent of the kink/BDSM community, I didn’t go to this party in the hopes of finally enacting some specific long-cherished fantasy of my own. I just wanted to be surrounded by open minded and sex-positive people, see what these kinds of events were like, and have an interesting new experience!


Plus, even though my partner and I are in an open relationship and I had his full support to “play” with people at the party, I wasn’t even sure if I would end up wanting to, or if I would just spend the evening watching and taking it all in.


Now, I know you’re immediately dying to hear if I did end up playing with anyone, because that’s always the first question people ask when you tell them you attended a sex party! So I’ll tell you that yes I did, in small doses, and it was lovely!


But that’s not actually what I wanted to talk about today.


The reason I wanted to write about this event is because the most profound and surprising insight of the night for me was how safe, respected, and free I felt around men at this party.


For as long as I can remember, men have been sexualizing and objectifying me in ways that put me on the defensive. From the moment I experienced sexual abuse at seven years old, I understood that men wanted something from me and my body, and that they were willing to do anything it took, from convincing to coercing to forcing, to get it.


This pattern has been reinforced over and over at every turn, too. Catcalls on the street. Sleazy men hitting on me at bars. Inappropriate DMs and dick pics. Pushy dates. Selfish sex. Guy friends trying to convince me that I owed them something. And men doing everything from trying to persuade me, guilt me, nag me, beg me, and “win me over” to get what they wanted.


Needless to say, when it comes to men, I’ve learned that I always have to have my guard up, and always have to be on the lookout for signs that I need to set a boundary, shut someone down, make an excuse, call in a friend, or do the little dance that way too many of us have learned: to smile and flirt just enough to protect their ego, so they don’t get mad and hurt us, while simultaneously planning my escape.


And while this approach to men can be both practical and effective, it also robs me of the ability to ever feel fully present, safe, or vulnerable when meeting men. It prevents me from being able to relax and connect with men as fellow humans, because some part of me is always preparing to see them as the enemy, and a part of me is always on alert for signs of danger, disrespect, boundary-crossing, or the loss of my autonomy.


For what it’s worth, my most popular YouTube video is one I made on sexual coercion a long time ago, in which I unpack how not all men who are using these tactics to get what they want are “bad guys.” Some are, for sure. But also, traditional gender roles under patriarchy, and the influence of purity culture, have taught us all that it’s actually a man’s job to pursue, woo, and convince women to put out, and that it’s a woman’s job to defend, resist, and prevent him from succeeding.


Put another way, this men-being-sexually-aggressive dynamic robs everyone (including men, by the way) of the opportunity to truly connect, trust each other, and have great sex and relationships… but for most of society, it’s still considered normal, appropriate, and even desirable! Ugh.


Ok, back to the sex party!


Someone participating in a sex party

The event had very clear and specific guidelines set up front, which managed to address (and even erase!) this frustrating and uncomfortable dynamic with men for me.


Basically, by agreeing to the rules of the event, you were agreeing to a policy of enthusiastic consent, which they defined as “yes means yes, and maybe means no.” The attendees were encouraged to invite people to play in a way that was direct, respectful, and specific, so that the other person knew exactly what they were being invited to do, and could say yes or no. Then, if you wanted to do or try something other than what was explicitly invited already, you needed to communicate those desires with a new invitation, so that the other person could again say yes or no.


While I appreciated these guidelines being set up front, I have to say I was a bit surprised by how every single person there followed them. Once, a guy asked if I wanted to make out, and I said yes. A minute or so later, he paused to ask if it would be ok to put his arms around my waist and hips, and waited for my answer.


I cannot tell you how cool this felt, to know that even something as normal as “wandering hands” while kissing wasn’t on the table in this space. It meant I didn’t have to be on guard against someone trying someone we didn’t agree to, or saying yes to one thing and then getting another. In other words, I was actually safe to relax, be present, and fully enjoy the moment, instead of preparing to defend myself against the next one.


The guidelines also gave specific instructions about how to respectfully reject someone’s invitation (for example, by saying “your kink is not my kink,” or a simple “no, thank you”), as well as specific instructions for how to handle being rejected. If someone responded to your invitation with anything other than an enthusiastic yes for example, you were expected to immediately and completely drop it, and deal with any feelings of disappointment or rejection on your own.


No convincing or persuading.

No continuing to pursue.

No telling them you’ll “check in later in case they change their mind.”

Nothing.


And holy shit, the impact of these guidelines was incredible.


I chatted with people in various states of undress all night (many of them men!), while wearing a tight skirt and with my breasts exposed under a mesh shirt, and never once did I feel like I needed to defend myself against unwanted attention.


Not a single person made me uncomfortable.

Not a single person pressured me.

And never once did I feel like someone was being inauthentic or playing games to get something from me.


To my surprise and delight, I felt safer and freer connecting with men at a sex party than I’ve ever felt at a bar, club, or even most of my friendships with men. And I cannot overstate how powerful that experience was.


Just knowing that it’s possible for hundreds of people to interact this way is mind-blowing and delicious to me. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that being sexually aggressive, deceitful, and coercive to get what they want is just “how men are,” but clearly there is another way.


And what I can’t stop thinking about is what life would be like if the whole world adopted the policies and guidelines of the sex-positive and kink/BDSM communities!

  • Can you even fathom how much less stressful life would be, if you knew other people were always going to make clear and specific invitations about what they want, and then completely drop it if you’re not super excited to say yes?

  • Can you imagine how much more authentic and joyful connecting with people would feel, if you knew nobody was ever going to try to convince you to do something you were on the fence about?

  • Can you imagine the impact on your nervous system, mental health, and joy levels, if you knew that nobody would ever assume a yes to one thing automatically meant a yes to something else– and that every single aspect of physical intimacy was going to be checked in about (and consented to) before it happened?

  • Can you imagine how much more fun sex and dating would be if you knew you never needed to worry about someone’s hurt ego putting you in a bad situation when you reject them?

As far as I’m concerned, this sounds like a magical fantasyland, and I have every intention of going to more sex-positive and kink/BDSM events to spend more time in it.


How about you? Ever experienced something like that? Ever been to a kink, BDSM, sex, or play party? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments if so!


Big hug,

Jessi

PS: If anyone is interested in attending an event like this in LA, the one I went to was hosted by LovelyFate!

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