August 14, 2012
Ladies and Gents, I’m back, and I’m happy to report that I recently had the chance to sit down for a long chat with S.K.: a relatively new acquaintance of mine I knew I had to pin down for an interview after I attended the sex party, he and his long time girlfriend hosted a few months ago. (If you missed my post on all I learned at that party you can check it out here.) Over the course of our evening together we discussed everything from non-monogamy, jealousy, communication, and the joys of throwing well attended sex parties. Needless to say it was a very interesting discussion: one I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did.
In a previous discussion you mentioned that you’ve been practicing non-monogamy for about 15 years now and that you’ve been in a committed open relationship with your current partner for about nine years now. After all that time I assume you’ve decided being non-monogamous is right for you. So I have to ask what is it about monogamy that doesn’t work for you?
SK: To me monogamy feels like being owned. Like someone has a veto over my activities or can tell me that I’m not allowed to do something, and that really rankles me. I don’t want to have to second guess myself based on somebody else’s fears or jealousy. I don’t want to go back to a place where I have to worry about hurting someone’s feelings if I express interest in someone else.
It really has nothing to do with my partner when I express interest in someone else. For me it’s a separate thing. I enjoy the freedom of being able to look at someone and say, “Oh, maybe I’ll hook up with them.” And that’s pretty much all there is to it. Being able to do that is really liberating and addictive. I really can’t imagine living any other way.
What was the impetus for you deciding to start attending, and then eventually holding sex parties in your home?
SK: Once when I was at a fetish party with my current partner we ended up including a third person in our play and when another man there noticed how comfortable we were playing with others he handed us an invitation to his sex party. We were already at the point where we were attending fetish events and wishing we could have sex there, so when we got that invite we decided to check it out.
As far as us throwing them, later that same year, that same guy asked us if he could host a sex party at our apartment; back then we had a place with a huge roof top space that was perfect for summer parties. He offered to do all the organizing, prep work and the before and after clean up, so we were game. The experience of having a sex party at our place was so much fun that eventually we decided to start throwing our own.
I was quite nervous when I attended your party, my first sex party, a few months ago. How did you feel the first time you went to one?
SK: We were also nervous the first time we attended a sex party, because we weren’t sure what would happen. We didn’t know if it was going to be a bacchanal, a huge pile of bodies in the centre of the room, or just swingers coupling off and retreating into dark corners. Even though we were non-monogamous, we generally played separately, so we went into that party very gently. Our agreement was that we’d only play with each other, watch other people and not include anyone else in our play. That was what we worked out beforehand so we both felt emotionally safe.
We ended up having a great time at that party, so for the next one we agreed to have sex with each other first, but then go off and play with others, and check in on each other as necessary. So we kinda eased into it emotionally, with lots of checks. Now, we go to town at parties. But we still make a point to connect with each other, usually at the beginning and sometimes at the end.
What advice would you give to a sex party virgin who is interested in attending such an event?
SK: It’s definitely a good idea to check in with your partner (assuming you go with one) when you first decide to go to a sex party. It can feel threatening and very scary when you see your partner having sex with someone else. But if you can check in afterwards and they can reassure you it makes it much less scary.
Figure out what your boundaries are as partners so you’re both on the same page and then stick to them, despite any temptations to stretch or push them. Make them as loose as you both feel comfortable with, because it’s more fun that way. But bear in mind that you don’t have to rush to get in on the action and do everything the first time, because you can always go to another party.
Remember that communication is key. In order to practice non-monogamy of any kind you need to be able to communicate well with your partner. The hardest thing about all of this is being able to listen to someone else’s insecurities without getting defensive or judgmental. Often when you feel jealousy and don’t speak about it, it just multiplies. But if you can tell your partner, “I felt jealous when you kissed that person because it seemed like you were really into it”, and your partner is able to listen non-judgmentally and say something like, “Oh I’m really sorry you felt that way, I wasn’t trying to ignore you. I’m hot for them too, but I love you” you can work through it.
On the other hand, if they get defensive and say, “No, I wasn’t that into it” then it’s a whole different and very unproductive conversation. The sad thing is that we’ve all been socialized to be defensive when confronted with someone else’s insecurities, and it’s really hard to unlearn – but so very important to if you plan to be in a healthy open relationship.
Attending a sex party without a partner is both easier and more difficult. Easier because you don’t need to worry about a partner’s emotional needs, and more difficult because you’re not guaranteed to hook up at a party if you go alone. To improve your odds, arrive as early as possible, so that you can chat and connect with people before the party gets going. Make sure to speak up during the check-in, so people notice you and have a chance to figure out if they fit your interests.
Finally, don’t worry about not having the right body type or any similar hang ups when it comes to sex. People of all body types and looks come out to these things, and no one gets judgmental. So attending a sex party can be really validating and empowering.
You just mentioned the validating and empowering experience a sex party can be. What do you think it is about being watched while having sex that tends to make people feel that way?
SK: I think that happens because we’re brought up with a lot of shame around sexuality. I was raised in a British home where we didn’t talk about sex at all, and in North American culture sex is still taboo, so you’re supposed to keep it secret. So I think the combination of that and the body issues many people have makes seeing real people, who seem to not have a care in the world, having real sex is really positive. You end up thinking “Maybe I can do that!” and when you do it feels great.
What, if anything, has changed in your relationship – for better or worse – since you and your partner stated participating in sex parties?
SK: We started participating in sex parties about a year or so after we started dating, and I think for us it just makes sex better. By being sexual with lots of people there’s always something new, something different going on that can inspire me and improve the sex in my primary relationship. Going to sex parties makes us hotter for each other. We have also both had the opportunity to meet likeminded non-monogamous people, many of whom have become our friends and/or lovers.
Any tips for anyone thinking about throwing a sex party of their own?
SK: Make it invitation only and invite good people! People who you’ve met at similar events and friends who you know are sex positive and able to handle the potential emotional minefield of a sex party. You also want to allow the people you invite to bring one or two people, but never let someone bring more than that. If someone brings 10 strangers who don’t end up being on the same page as the other guests, it may really throw off the vibe.
And start small. My first one was with 20 people, maybe 25, and now we’re up to 50ish consistently. I’ve been to parties with eight people and ones with 100 people, and they’re completely different vibes; mainly because in any large group, there are bound to be a few assholes who don’t get it. Small good parties are better than big not so good ones.
Speaking of assholes, have you ever been to a party where someone has really acted out or been really aggressive in their pursuit of sex with someone else?
SK: No, I’ve never seen anything really serious in terms of aggression, an attack or any attempts to force a hook up at these parties. Most people who fall into that category just say inappropriate things or act out a bit because they’re feeling judgmental.
I would imagine that not all sex parties are created equally. What makes a sex party great for you?
SK: The crowd. You want a good mix of experienced versus newer people. The inertia for getting started can be really strong and sometimes nothing can happen for a long while if you have a lot of newbies. So you need a group of experienced partygoers who are very open to expressing their sexuality right away to get the party started very quickly.
A good space is a must. I like big open spaces where people can really see each other. I find in small, closed spaces people get secluded and it’s not as interesting. Part of the fun for me is watching and connecting with other people, and if the space gets segregated you end up having a party with some people in the sex space and others in the food space, and transitioning between the spaces can be difficult. If the spaces are not very closely connected, new and/or timid people can get stuck around the food table. But if it is all integrated, in one or two big spaces, transitioning is much easier.
Also, the energy of a party is really important. I find at parties with multiple small spaces the energy can go into a lull in one area really easily. If you have anywhere from eight to 20 people in a room, at some point there will be no one having sex and it can be really hard to get things going again. People relax and get into cuddle mode. But in a room with 50 people, somebody is always having sex, so people feed off each other and keeping things going.
Any final thoughts for our readers?
If you think you might like a sex party, go to one. If you’ve been to sex parties and you like going there, try throwing one. It’s amazing to see people having sex, having so much fun and know that you helped to make it happen. The first sex parties we attended totally expanded our universe, and knowing that we can make that happen for other people makes us feel really good.