Sex parties. Once the place where visibility was limited to jokes about swingers meeting up in living rooms to put car keys in a bowl. But now, they are here for all to see, access and take delight in, and they are thriving!
Perhaps, more accurately we should say play parties, adult socials or kink events. For they’re not all about sex but very much involve desire, body and mind. They can take place at clubs, bars, private establishments and even online. Over the years their prominence and visibility has grown as the internet and a change in general attitudes towards sex has made them more accessible and more well known. As a result of the more heteronormative offerings, there has been the exponential growth of their queer equivalents – visible LGBTQ+ inclusive sex and kink events.
It both may or may not come as a surprise that the LGBTQ+ community still has a lot of shame about sex, kink and fetish.
We absorb huge amounts of the societal norms we are raised under – the unhealthy narratives and expectations about sex and love, the toxic masculinity and slut shaming, and of course the dangerous fantasies that porn influences.
We aren’t taught about love and lust, kink and fetish, and that for the large part – we are not told as queer people that it’s all okay. That what is consenting between adults is okay. We have to spend years – perhaps a lifetime – working out who we are, how we fit in, and how to explore our love, sex and desires.
Increasingly this has become easier. For too many, healthy information and support is out of reach but more and more, the information is there. Articles, podcasts, ethical porn studios, sex Twitter (one of the few social media outlets that allows porn and sex work), Netflix originals – there’s a whole wealth of visibility of queer love, sex and desire coming from all angles. It is however for me, the physical spaces, where the real excitement can be!
Fundamentally a queer sex or kink event is one where inclusivity is the key and enjoyment is the currency. Anyone LGBTQ+ can come along feel safe, feel they have a space to reclaim away from the world beyond and to be blunt: their queer body and mind is welcome to explore and be explored. Over the last few years there’s been a growth of such events.
These are often grassroots – produced and curated by queer people for queer people.
They may feature sex, BDSM, kink, fetish, or lean more heavily into specific areas, like shibari or pup play.
The variety really represents that these are more than places to be naked, near-naked or just having sex at. They have a real social function and place for community. Many queer events have spaces set aside to socialise, to relax, and they are key to the health of such events. A kink space may have play rooms, may have safe rooms, they may have whatever areas suit their purpose – but more often than not, there’s a strong sense of the social aspect. This is not only what people desire but on a practical level it reduces the intimidation that someone can have stepping into a space by having an area where conversation and bonds can be made.
Traditional sex or kink events have always had the usual risks of heteronormativity – toxic masculinity and predatory behaviour – and the risk or fear that your queer body or desire does not belong there. Will I be judged, stigmatised, fetishised, or be vulnerable to abuse and even bigoted violence? Many non-queer events have had many queer attendees and many have welcomed them. But they are not specialised or catered towards our lived experiences. As events like the famous Torture Garden mature, the more these fears are valid as newer people enter who perhaps are not as versed in what consent and respect mean in these spaces. Hence the rise of queer spaces with the added social aspects, support and conscious efforts to be inclusive.
Not only are permanents queer events popping up more and more but even during the COVID pandemic, in the heart of many a lockdown, queer cruising and kink events such as Zoom parties took place. Apps grew like Feeld, a Tinder-like dating app for more LGBTQ+ and polyamorous leaning people. Whereas in the past, people were more readily labelled as gay or straight, sub or dom, into BDSM or vanilla. Whereas now we really do accept that there’s a wealth of beauty in-between such binaries. People are exploring the fluidity of their desires, sexualities and genders, more and more. These spaces are reflecting this and taking ownership of them.
These events are not without obstacles and hazards. As with anything growing from the ground up, there is learning along the way. Contextualising what porn and the Fifty Shades of Grey effect has embedded in many is important – rough sex, spanking, choking and beyond. They are not mere titillation, but take a learning and journey to understand. The mindset of those organising and coming to events is vital for safety, to leave toxic expectations at the door. The success of London’s Crossbreed events even led them to acknowledge they’re not a safe space inherently unless the community of people attending play their part. Though many queer people see spaces such as Crossbreed, Rabbit Hole, Voodoo, Pxssy Palace and beyond as safe spaces, there’s a part we must all play.
We must realise sex and desire can be as private and personal or as open as we and others consent it. We can tackle the toxic behaviours that being queer in a cis-heteronormative world drills into us. We can have more exciting and overdue open conversations about consent in our lives, taking them well beyond the doors of kink events.
Above all the most vulnerable and unrepresented can step foot into physical spaces and communities that fulfil curiosities and attractions.
The new frontier of accessible and shame-free, and heavily catered, LGBTQ+ sex, kink and fetish events is a rather exciting one for the amount of freedom they bring.
They represent a maturity and healthy attitude towards who we are and as always, may be the beacons from which we can shine bright the basics of consent, respect and connection.
It is clear that sex parties, safe spaces to play and queer venues accommodating them are thriving. The more we talk about them, the more we can bring people together to see that that sex, play and platonic intimacy are not shameful but can be thrilling, fulfilling and above all, safe. Stepping foot inside such a space can feel intimidating for many a queer person. But as on any journey, that first step is often the hardest. Once made, that first step may open doors to exploring our minds and bodies in ways we never knew existed. There’s no greater excitement and reward than doing it together with others in spaces made for and by queer people where consent, sex and kink are both lived and celebrated words.