Do the words “sex party” turn you on? Perhaps these racy soirées have come up when you’ve traded sexual fantasies in bed with your partner; maybe you saw Eyes Wide Shut and wondered what it would be like to make like Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
Whether you’re merely curious or are eager to get down and dirty with other adventurous couples, before you plan your next date night to your local sex party, there are some things you should know. Larisa Fuchs, founder of House of Scorpio, which hosts both kissing and play (sex) parties in New York, says the first thing you should do is talk about what each of you feels comfortable with having happen at such a party.
Fuchs, who also goes by Miss Scorpio, says: “If a couple's relationship doesn't already have explicitly stated boundaries for flirting and physically connecting to other people, it's an absolute must to have those conversations before going to a sex party.” You may think you’re an anything-goes free spirit who doesn’t possess a jealous bone in your body—until you see some hottie cozying up to the person you love. For that reason, Fuchs recommends having code phrases you can say to each other to signal how you’re feeling, or “simply having a sign for when it's time to go home.” This way, you both can be quickly clued in to the other’s feelings.
She suggests rather than diving headfirst into sex parties, newbies might want to attend a kissing party, such as House of Scorpio’s Lip Service, where guests play games like Spin the Bottle and Twister as they get to know one another. “It can be overwhelming to go from, ‘Here I am at a party having a cocktail’ to ‘I am engaged in a super hot threesome.’ While a ‘sex party’ can seem threatening, a 'makeout party’ is pretty innocuous,” says Fuchs. “No sex means lower stakes, which is good for lowering anxiety about leaving your comfort zone. People can get to know each other, learn our rules, and, most importantly, figure out how to negotiate consent and their personal boundaries.” This will all serve you well if you do decide to take the plunge at a more risqué shindig. Another low-key event that can also help you get used to cozying up to someone new is a Cuddle Party, where attendees have to explicitly verbalize saying “no” as part of the negotiations.
If you’ve decided to for it, you should have a discussion in advance about what your expectations are and what you’re each comfortable with. If you have questions, ask. You don’t want one of you going in expecting to hook up with as many people as they can while the other isn’t entirely sure if they could handle even one.
You should also review the rules of the party you’re planning to attend. Yes, there’s such a thing as sex party etiquette, and you risk being thrown out if you don’t follow it. Much of it boils down to common sense and courtesy; just as you wouldn’t barge up to a stranger at a regular party, invade their personal space, and make them uncomfortable, don’t be creepy at a sex party. There’s a difference between casually observing and leering. Fuchs advises that if you’re going to look, “Make sure you do it respectfully and with explicit consent from those you're watching, if you're at close quarters. It's never polite to stare. At our parties, it's actually against the rules to simply hover over people playing. You wouldn't want someone doing it to you, right?”
In fact, House of Scorpio parties even have a code of conduct. On the “do” list: get explicit consent, state your boundaries, clean up after yourself. On the “don’t” list: cruise aggressively, get too intoxicated, take photos, or gossip.
As for what you can expect from a sex party, Fuchs says that your vision of the event may not be accurate if it’s culled entirely from pop culture. “Sex parties don't work like a porn movie or a swinger fantasy,” she reveals. “You don't walk into the place, and all of a sudden, everybody's throwing their partners at each other and putting their keys in a bowl. Everybody involved is still an individual, so you have to connect to them like one; once you have a connection, taking it further will seem much more natural.”
For House of Scorpio’s play parties, called Countdown, there’s a schedule: cocktail party from 10pm to 11pm, followed by an hour of a makeout party atmosphere, then at midnight, anything goes. This gives guests time to mingle, the way they would at any other type of party. Fuchs says this helps put people, from first-timers to old hands, on a level playing field. “Having everyone arrive at about the same time ensures that nobody walks in, fully clothed and feeling awkward, while a sex party is in full swing,” she says. “Knowing the timeline in advance also gives nervous couples a safe ‘out,’ but I frequently see people who think they will leave end up staying until late and having a wonderful time.” Rest assured, if you find yourself not quite ready to get busy, there are also social areas where you can chat without worrying about disturbing those about to bang. While many events, including House of Scorpio, provide safer sex supplies such as condoms and gloves, it’s always a good idea to bring your own, as well as items like lube or sex toys, if desired.
You should never feel pressure about what to do at a sex party. If you want to observe, do so—respectfully. If you want to hook up with someone else, on your own or with your partner, go for it. At the very least, you’ll return home with plenty to discuss when you’re in bed together.