How to Attend a Sex Party Without Being an Asshole

Swinging has practically gone mainstream in recent years, as polyamorous relationships have become more visible than ever, millennials continue to put off marriage, and hook-up culture persists.

Entrepreneur Daniel Saynt saw an opportunity in the burgeoning sex-positive culture and created a members-only club for "legal adventures in sex, drugs, and mischief" called NSFW in 2015. Based in New York City, NSFW has 500 members and a five-story clubhouse in Williamsburg where it hosts a number of events and workshops, including a weekly sex party.

While Saynt said most sex parties still cater to "older crowds" of rich men, NSFW is kind of the Soho House of sex clubs, counting young, hot "influencers and creators" among its members. They pay $69 a month (naturally) to mingle in a sexy atmosphere and "play" with like-minded people.

"It's designed to be a place where there is no judgment and you have the freedom to express yourself sexually," Saynt said. "More and more millennials are thinking this way, and the idea of exchanging love more freely is becoming a bigger conversation."

Jacqui Rabkin, marketing director at Brooklyn-based club and event venue House of Yes, also said she's seen an increased interest in sex parties from the mainstream. The venue hosts a monthly, regularly sold-out "sensual theatre" party, which encourages "physically and emotionally intimate acts" among guests. While actual sex acts aren't allowed, guests are free to mingle with one another and "play."

"The party at House of Yes is a good introductory party for people interested in the scene," she said. "Things get sexy, but nothing is full on. So you can get a taste of the vibe and feel of a sex party in a low pressure situation."

With more sex parties like these popping up in major metropolitan areas, and websites like FetLife and other dating platforms making it easier for people anywhere in the world to organize their own meetups, more and more people are getting into the scene. And as newbies jump on the free-love bandwagon, Rabkin notes it's important they get the rules right on the way in. Here are some ways to have the most pleasurable sex party experience, whether it's your first or 50th.

Ask Before Touching

The most important rule for anybody attending a play-focused event is to ask for consent before touching anyone. Sex parties aren't like hitting the club, where strangers can just walk up and dance on one another without permission (in fact, you shouldn't be doing that either). To even join NSFW, members have to attend a class on enthusiastic consent called "How to Ask for Sex," which Saynt says focuses on switching the mentality from "no means no," to "yes means yes."

"There is a preeminent culture of how people act at clubs around the world where they think they can just come up to a girl and touch her," Saynt said. "When it comes to play parties, the stakes are so much more heightened. We have to educate people that they need to verbalize everything."

These questions don't have to be clinical, or unnatural, he stressed—a robotic "Are you OK with my hand on your leg?" isn't sexy or necessary. Instead, he encourages attendees to be flirty and clear, turning their negotiations of consent into foreplay.

"Ask, 'Do you like it when I ___?' when you want to introduce something new," their guide reads. "Throw in some dirty words, and it's hard to imagine that your partner's 'Yes!' won't be full throated and absolutely enthusiastic."

The vast majority of House of Yes parties aren't sexual: It hosts a regular funk night, daytime "deep house yoga" events, and circus-themed soirees—but sex positivity and creating a safe space for queer and non-white patrons is at the center of all of its work. The bottom of every event page and ticket confirmation carries a list of rules for creating a welcoming environment. "We are obsessed with CONSENT," it reads. "Always ASK before touching anyone in our House."

At both NSFW and House of Yes parties, monitors patrol the room to keep an eye out for grabby hands and to make sure everyone is feeling safe. Rabkin said another important component of enthusiastic consent is that it is an ongoing process and can be revoked at any time—just because your newfound partner is OK with being tied up doesn't mean she's ready for a whipping. And even if she says she is, she's free to decide at any moment she is not anymore. When your partners feel safe, the environment will be more fun—and sexier—for everyone.

Don't Be a Creeper

If you're attending a play party you should, well, actually play. "Other guests aren't there to put a show on for you, so don't just prey around active participants or interrupt their flow if they're in the motion of their ocean," Saynt said.

Rabkin said a costume requirement at House of Yes plays a big role in keeping out would-be voyeurs. "In general, people are better behaved at a party where everyone is wearing costumes," she said. "It just puts everyone on the same page and helps with the event atmosphere. If you've put in the effort to participate, you're less likely to show up as a spectator."

If you're too nervous to jump into sexy activities right away, most parties will have a common area to chat with other party goers. Whatever you do, don't stand around and stare like a weirdo while others get it on.

Bring a Friend

Avoiding the awkwardness of a first party is easier with a pal (or a sex partner) by your side. It's also safer. Many sexy parties require the buddy system, encouraging participants to sign up in groups of two or more. This ensures that you have a contact if you feel uncomfortable and someone to keep an eye on you and make sure you're safe.

Keep Up Basic Hygiene

The same rules that apply to a first date apply to a sex party: Take a shower, brush your teeth, floss, put on some deodorant. Basically, do everything else you would normally before going out to potentially snuggle up with a stranger (or a few).

Put Your Phone Away

This should be obvious, but most people don't want photos of themselves engaged in sex acts plastered all over the internet without their consent. Many parties have a strict no-phone policy, but even if they do not, your phone should stay in your pocket throughout the night. Photos should only be taken if the subjects, and everyone in the foreground and background, consent.

Be Positive and Keep an Open Mind

One of the more important aspects of affirmative consent is being OK with when somebody says no. "Accept that being at a play party doesn't mean everyone wants to play with you," Saynt said. "Acting like an ass nugget every time someone declines you will definitely get around and will most likely get you uninvited from future events."

Because of this, it's important to put yourself out there at these parties. The more frequently you ask, the more frequently your advances will be rejected (and accepted!), and it will become less painful to hear "no."

"People should be doing this anyway," Rabkin said. "It's good to practice in your regular life, and makes the whole process of getting consent in a sexy situation easier."

That's not the only lesson people can take from sex parties and apply to life, Rabkin said. The open-mindedness and respect she's found in the community has made it hard for her to return to "normal" clubs.

"It's amazing there are communities that are creating safe spaces for people to express themselves to the fullest extent," she said. "Whether that means expressing a certain sexual orientation or identity, or having sex with a lot of people, I think that's amazing. It's healthy and awesome and how the world should be."