Why and how to attend a sex party, Part 2
Photo by Daniele Riggi on Unsplash
This article is the second instalment in a two-part series on Sex and Psychedelics. Read Part I "Consent and sex parties" here.
The word “orgy” feels a bit dusty. These days, you’re more likely to hear the term sex party (or play party in BDSM communities) used to describe the free-flowing nature of sexually-liberated gatherings, all of which can take on many themes and sizes. From 10-person parties where guests are sent loose scripts and character profiles ahead of time to begin acting out once they arrive, to 100-person group sex scenarios involving a synchronized MDMA drop—if you want it, it’s out there, but only if you know where to find it.
“When we attend vanilla events (like music festivals), I am shocked at the level of inebriation on display,” says Andrew* who hosts play parties for ‘friends and friends of friends’ with his partner Lauren* under the name Pervery Corporation North. “My personal theory is that because sex is so open and readily accessible, and everyone knows they're going to get laid ‘a’ they want to be present for it and enjoy it, and ‘b’ there is less anxiety about striking out or having a night that goes nowhere, so there is no reason to drink simply to get fucked up. I also believe that if you're in the scene and make it past the filters to attend the parties, you've demonstrated a level of self-awareness, control, and maturity, which is higher than the average person.”
Can sex parties make us more conscious beings? How can you go about preparing for a party, especially as a newcomer (no pun intended), and can psychedelics or other intoxicants enhance the experience or should substances be avoided altogether?
Monogamy remains culturally accepted and primarily enforced. Hearing of parties where sex is out in the open might seem primitive, or at the very least, risky for transgressing conventional structure and social procedures. That’s part of the appeal for those in attendance.
Much like sex is scrutinized, drugs are also condemned. Famed ethnobotanist, psychonaut, and author, Terence McKenna offered this explanation for why drugs and sex get suppressed: “Sexuality is the glory of the living experience. Ecstacy is the contemplation of wholeness. That’s why when you experience ecstasy—when you contemplate wholeness—you come down remade in terms of the political and social arena because you have seen the larger picture.”
Annie Sprinkle, a sex worker, activist, and author summarizes her experiences in How Psychedelics Informed My Sex Life and Sex Work: “Throughout the ages, human beings have continually searched for more ecstasy, more sexual satisfaction, for solutions to their sexual problems, and for aphrodisiacs. Psychoactive substances have been used in most cultures because they can be keys to unlock the mysteries of life. Of course, as each mystery is unraveled, a bunch of new ones appear. Both sex and psychedelics are ultimately about consciousness, about self-discovery, and going beyond everyday reality to that magical place—somewhere over the rainbow, where we feel Divine and we experience some truth. Granted, both sex and psychedelic drugs are generally used unconsciously by most people. We need to work on that.”
"Come for the orgy, stay for the friendship,” Andrew and Lauren tell me. One of their most requested events is a “synchronized drop” where everyone takes the same drug, at the same time, and then (if they choose) engage in group sex until the sun rises.
“First, it gives the party structure and ensures people arrive within the allotted time. It creates a ritual to officially start the fun. It gives the newbies a chance to get over the "we just arrived and don't know anyone" mindset and transition to the "we're all in this together" phase of the party. We do it like a toast. If I had a gong, I would ring it. Alas, that's still on my wishlist.
Second, it ensures the attendees are "synched" over the course of the night. With many chemicals, the effects come in waves and your affinity to snuggle and makeout versus have a no-"holes"-barred orgy ebbs and flows with those waves. If people drop at different times you'll end up with clashing moods. A couple might be into another sexually but they could be in different moods and things won't go as swimmingly as they could otherwise. It also helps everyone coming down around the same time. Around 2 to 3 a.m., you have people gathered around the snack table, chilling, enjoying the come-down. The real veterans will do a half dose at that point and are usually playing until 8 or 9 a.m. the next day."
As party hosts, Andrew and Lauren’s concerns revolve around consent and safety, and with a theme that encourages the use of a stimulant, those considerations are naturally amplified.
They prepare guests through clear and comprehensive communication, including periodic emails with their rules, expectations, set arrival time within a one hour window, and an outline of the general flow of the night. They also make an effort to connect with new attendees separately to ensure that they've read the rules and are OK with it, and they tend to keep the number of new attendees versus veterans lower for the synchronized drop party (about 15 per cent) and check on them throughout the night.
They tell me that on the party’s RSVP form, they ask if you intend to take anything and what your experience level is with that chemical.
“Consuming an enhancement is not mandatory and some choose to be completely sober. The answers give us a good understanding of what to expect,” says Andrew. “If this is your first party with us and you say you're doing acid for the first time, we'll probably have a chat and discourage you. We make it very clear that it is an "enhancement" and not an end unto itself. If you want to have a conversation with aliens, this isn't the right party. If you want to have a mind-shattering orgasm while entwined in an orgy of naked bodies, then we're your friends. It is all about a communal experience.”
In 1969, writing in The Psychedelic Review about his observations of sexual behavior while on drugs, Richard Alpert said psychedelics offer the possibility of enriching the sexual life of the average individual. “However, a tremendous amount of obvious research clearly must be done.”
For now, it’s self-governance, communication and accountability within play party groups, and thoughtful experimentation. To find a dose that works for you, Andrew and Lauren refer people to Erowid.org. They encourage them to only bring chemicals that are trusted and tested, and consider their expectations for the night.
“Do you want a more visual experience? Do you want a more tactile experience? Do you want to meld into bodies? Are you already comfortable in orgies and with fucking in front of people or at a minimum watching people have sex?” he says. “If you're taking chemicals as a way of alleviating anxiety or to "relax" then it is not a good idea to do it at a sex party. One thing at a time. First, get comfortable with that environment sober, then add a chemical to the mix. It may not work out the way you want. Chemicals could amplify your discomfort. Finally, find your tribe. Make friends during the social hour. Say ‘hello’ to someone who catches your eye. Drugs are more fun with people you like.”
And if there is someone going who you don’t like? Use it as an opportunity to be your own best caretaker. “Self-care” is not all bubble baths and face masks, it’s the continuous monitoring of your mental state, especially in challenging situations. If you and your ex, for instance, play in the same circles, try to resolve your issues outside of the party. Be mature and realistic about what it means to run into one another, and if necessary, decide who sits out which party. Take your healing process seriously.
If you’re in a failing relationship, don’t use a sex party to try to mend it. Couples need to be solid before introducing such an intense variable. The level of communication and trust required to navigate an open sexual dynamic depends on whether love is truly expressed as freedom and both partners feel safe to explore themselves and others without losing one another. For many, transparency is security. If there are unresolved issues that flare up in moments of insecurity or jealousy, a group sex scenario will feel threatening and deeply uncomfortable, rather than exhilarating and bonding. The best feeling is arriving “on the same team” and basking in compersion—the joy of seeing someone you love experience joy. You might even fall deeper in love.
Whether you’ve been to a hundred parties or are attending your first, the important thing is to tune into your desires as much as your boundaries. If you have a “no penetration” rule, vocalize that. If you would like to engage in group sex with an “anything goes” mindset, vocalize that. If you want to explore only women or only men, vocalize that too. And if, at any point, that changes, don’t hesitate to tell someone you no longer feel comfortable and would like to withdraw consent, or would prefer to just watch, or you’d like to take a breather or change locations. And on the receiving end of someone vocalizing their boundaries, accept it willingly. Even thank them for doing the work to make what they need abundantly clear. An “aware” person is a safe person. Ideally, everyone at the party has done the work of self-reflection ahead of time, and then continues to check-in and vocalize consent throughout the night, which ultimately creates the desired atmosphere of respect and safety, which is how eroticism flourishes. Choosing to take psychedelics or other intoxicants should not alter this foundation.
“I think the steps to ensure safety [are] the same regardless of what participants choose to or are allowed to consume,” says Eyal Shaphyr, host of immersive intimacy events, Liquid Love—sober, non-sexual events focused on sensuality. Separate to these, he also hosts sex parties around the world, where people are allowed to intoxicate, within reason.
“The general approach is that we are all adults, and people can do as they wish so long as they do it in a responsible adult way,” he says. “What this means in practice is that you can have a good time. But if you having a good time begins to negatively impact the party or other guests, you will be put on an Uber back home and asked to not attend future events.”
With the added stipulation of potentially losing access to one’s community, people who attend sex parties are on their best behavior. We tend to move through the world with our guard up, and rightfully so. At sex parties, friendships are built on the privilege of creating a safe space where that guard can come down, so the energy generally allocated to filtering people or figuring out how much of yourself you can reveal in any given social interaction, can be funneled into self-reflection and sexual expression, which contribute to a new way of existing together.
Shaphyr says that the different approaches to consent, heteronormativity, gender, and sexual identities, sexual preferences and practices, music, atmosphere, and etiquette, mean that there are multitudes of elements that go into constructing a play space. It is therefore up to individuals to decide on the kind of play space they would like to nurture.
“Just as each sexual experience can potentially teach us something about sex, each drug experience can potentially teach us something about sex,” writes Sprinkle. “And for that matter, sexual experiences can potentially teach us something about how to take drug trips more effectively. As I became more sexually experienced, I became much better at handling my psychedelic journeys. I learned how to not have expectations, and how to surrender.”
Psychedelics can help us experience the complete potential of loving ourselves and others. Mixing sex and psychedelics is a potent combination of pleasure, as it is potentially combustible. Imbibing mindfully is non-negotiable if you’d like access to this world. The next and most courageous thing you can do is be yourself. The rest will fall into place.
*names have been changed to protect identity