It started off as a joke between me and my boyfriend. We had heard rumblings about an underground (and questionably legal) sex party that was held now and then at discreet lofts and warehouses in and around New York City. The scene, as described to us: DJs, burlesque dancers, erotic massage, and hundreds of beautifully young and hip partygoers ready to dance, flirt, and get it on.
But, first you need to be invited. Our email invitation, which came through a friend of a friend, boasted a 'feminine-focused energy' (whatever that meant). The entry policy was also fairly selective: We would need to submit to an interview and, of course, send in photographs. Up until this point, when I had thought about sex parties, I would imagine bored Connecticut housewives swapping husbands at Upper West Side clubs after several rounds of Chardonnay. The soul-crushing party scene from Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm came to mind. Sex parties, from my admittedly naïve perspective, were something you did when you needed to escape a bad relationship, not something to enhance a seemingly healthy one. But, this was apparently different: somewhere in between a strictly doored vice party (get noticed) and Burning Man (get weird) — but with a naked puppy pile as a bonus.
At first, my boyfriend responded with, “Cute, a swinger party for hipsters," and I poked fun at the "sex-positive feminism” ideology. The flirty jokes continued as we — a fairly new couple still on the upward arc of relationship trajectory — would obviously never do something so completely absurd, right? Still, I was curious about how I would react in such a situation. I also wanted to know if these people were for real. Was this really a party of hot hipsters drinking and dancing, with last-call pickup lines substituted by the indulging of hedonistic urges? It seemed too good to be true. But, I kind of wanted to know.
I also really wanted to screw a girl.
I generally identify as "straight" (whatever the hell that means), but fooling around with girls is something I experimented with as a teenager and something my boyfriend and I had been fantasising about recently. So, we dug up our poutiest selfies, answered several questions like “What role does sexuality play in your life?" and submitted it all along with our $30 couple's application fee. The hope was to get into the next gathering, which would be held (of course) in an unmarked warehouse in South Williamsburg.
First things first: I’m not a freak. I’ve enjoyed mostly traditional, monogamous relationships my entire adult life. I don’t consider myself some bombshell, but I’m not unattractive. I modelled some as a teen, and a Russian sculptor even once crafted a mannequin in my bodily form. My boyfriend has more than his fair share of admirers and certainly has me smitten, too. Bottom line: We have enjoyed uncomplicated, yet healthy, sex lives.
For us, a sex party wasn’t an act of desperation or a convenient opportunity to trade a hefty cover charge (£100 per approved couple, £8 per single woman, no single men allowed) for cheap sex. The possibility of hooking up with a girl and having a lot of options to choose from appealed to me — as opposed to trying to take home the last coked-up foreigner standing at some Bushwick dance party, which had been our plan when we first thought of doing a threesome.
So, a couple of weeks later, after we were deemed hot and sane enough to join the fun (or maybe they just let everyone in who’s brave enough to apply) we found ourselves in the unlikely position of debating what to wear to our first sex party. We decided on my favourite sexy underwear with a minimal slip dress thrown over it, for me; for him, skinny jeans and a soft, loose-fit tee. (All-black everything, of course.) Over the course of the evening, we quickly learned a few more basic dos and don’ts.
1. Set boundaries ahead of time: This may sound boring, but it really can be half the fun. Start with sharing your deepest fantasies, and then rein it in by discussing what you would and wouldn’t be cool with. Respect your partner’s limits, and stick to them. Nothing is quite as sexy as respect. Agree on a "safe word" — not because you’ll ever need to use it, but because it’s a hilarious cliché and you’ll giggle forever whispering it to each other beforehand as a way to relieve your nerves. Trust me. Our rules were fairly basic: no penetration, focus on girls, ask if things get weird. We left everything else fuzzy and dependent on whatever trouble we ended up finding.
2. Dress to undress: Wear something you feel great in. If you normally dress over-the-top, fine — there will be other girls wearing nothing but a pair of wings. If you tend towards basics, just wear something sexy and comfortable; you won't be wearing it for long anyway. Fewer items means fewer things to collect at the end of the night, and it’s easy to lose more than your inhibitions that way.
3. Be prepared for sensory overload: The reality of a room full of dozens of people having sex at the same time in a cornucopia of interlocking combinations — no matter how sexy — is this: an overpowering and gamey musk that's equal parts erotic and revolting.
And, there’s a lot of visuals coming at you. At our party, the main playroom was filled with about eight mattresses in the centre, and another 10 or so around the perimeter. This made for a something of a "voyeur track" you could circle at your own pace, stopping along the way to take in the action — or join in, if you were moved to do so. It’s what I imagined a classic orgy would look like: mostly women, in various combinations of two-on-one, three-on-two, faces in crotches, guys thrusting behind girls, who were on top of other girls, connected in surprisingly creative ways to yet other girls, etc.
The perimeter was more mellow: the odd couple or two, half-dressed and making out, some spectating. There was a lot of moaning, too. Overall, I was surprised by how non-aggressive everything was; I thought people would be propositioning us, or worse, just grabbing at us. But, it was pleasantly chill — polite, even. There was no pressure and no one seemed to be judging.
4. Don’t be afraid to be direct, and ask for what you want: When looking for "playmates," it’s important to be clear about what you and your partner are looking for. Although being aggressive or desperate is not going to win you any “dates,” being overly coy can turn you into a disappointed wallflower.
We steeled ourselves with several rounds of whiskey-gingers and then took in a show as a 20-something (wearing nothing but a thong that split her immaculate, apple-shaped ass) got rubbed down for an hour by what must have been a pixie from a planet with perfect genes. While we watched, we tried to chat up a girl visiting from Australia. We made a few, subtle passes, but in the end — since I'm pretty much pathologically shy and she wasn’t really our type — it all crashed and burned in a mess of uncomfortable pleasantries. After a few more awkward non-starts and botched propositions, though, we walked directly up to the tallest, hottest girl in the room.
My boyfriend asked, “Would you be able to help me with my girlfriend?” "Who’s your girlfriend?” she asked. “Her,” he said, pointing to me as I laid back and started undressing on one of the corner beds. “Well, that depends,” she said, smiling. “Can you help me with my dress?” And, that was it. Within seconds, she was naked and writhing on top of me, my boyfriend was tripping over his socks to join us and make an awkward-but-satisfying sandwich — hands and lips were everywhere we could get them, for possibly the most memorable 30 minutes of my life. I was pressed under a tangle of faceless limbs and lips. I don’t know if "animalistic" is the right word, but it was certainly primordial. And, although I didn’t completely climax during the interlude (probably because of all the distraction), I think making two people come at the same time counts as "multiple orgasms" — so it's all good, in my book.
5. Bask in the afterglow: Sharing an experience like this with a partner is really a gift that keeps giving. For my boyfriend and I, the party and the hookup itself all went by in a whirlwind of nerves and arousal and giggles. Before I realised what we were doing, it was more or less done. It wasn’t until we got home and in our own bed (or shower, actually) that we were able to slow things down and begin to process the whole erotic tableau we’d just experienced. Then, it was on — leading to the best sex of the night.