Photo: Four Chambers
I wouldn’t exactly consider myself an exhibitionist and I don’t necessarily get off on having people watch me have sex.
But I’ve always had a fervent curiosity about group sex.
I think it’s because sex has been made to be this very private, unspoken thing, one that you do quietly behind closed doors. Sex (and sexuality as a whole) has always been so hidden for me, so the idea of being out in the open with my body and my sexuality in a space where others are being out in the open with their bodies and sexuality is intriguing to me. I’ve always wanted to know how it is done.
My earliest memory of knowing that group sex was a thing was when I watched this movie where they reenacted the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, that biblical city of sin. I remember this one scene in particular where the actor playing Lot walks into Sodom and his eyes are instantly accosted by a sea of scantily clad, colorfully painted bodies lounging and writhing together in multiple rhythms. There were a lot of moans, a lot of up and down glances pregnant with erotic suggestion.
Naturally, Lot was horrified and disturbed at what he was witnessing, and after trying (to no avail) to get some of these sexual heathens to leave this city and repent their sinful ways, he ended up walking away from the city as mournful music swelled in the background and the city burned to ash behind him.
That scene didn’t completely make sense to my young mind, but it did help connect the dots to a few understandings about sex that had only been implied to me: that while it was true that sex of any kind that wasn’t between a husband and a wife was sinful, group sex—unhidden, semi-public, out in the open, multiple-people-at-one-time kind of sex—was the ultimate evil; evil enough that God’s fiery rage could destroy an entire city because of it.
With this new information, I unconsciously decided that never, ever would I stray toward that direction. Yet as I grew older and more sexually aware, I somehow found myself seeking out (or being turned onto) other films which featured orgy scenes, like Caligula, Emmanuelle, and Henry and June. From there, a full blown interest in party-style pornos—where big, rowdy, co-ed parties turn into full-blown orgies—blossomed. For the longest time, that was the only kind of porn that could get me off.
I didn’t see the connection at the time, but it’s undeniable that the “sexual depravity” referenced in Sodom and Gomorrah planted a seed in my mind that often gets planted in the sexually curious: That what is billed as sinful, innappropriate, and forbidden is often really, really hot.
And you know what they say: What you resist persists.
So when my phone chimed last month with a text notification that said, “if I was interested”, I was invited to an all femme play party, my response was similar to the reaction I think I would have if someone told me that I could snuggle a baby elephant—I nearly screamed.
This wasn’t the first time I was invited to some kind of sex party. There was this one time where, after an event I went to for the release of the book, I’ll Show You Mine, one of the women attending, who had previously been in the audience extolling the joy and delectability of cunnilingus, announced loudly to the few of us lingering that there was going to be an all women’s kink and BDSM party happening in a dungeon a few blocks away that we were welcome to join.
Because of my fervent curiosity about group sex and public sexual exploits—which was, at the time, just peaking as I had recently stepped into my sexual liberation journey—I decided that I was going to go. By myself. Because why not? I was already out and it was only a few blocks away. I resolved that if I walked in and wasn’t into it, I would just walk back out and go home.
I got into my car and was just about to take it out of park when it dawned on me: the woman had never mentioned the address for this party, nor had she indicated which direction it was in—whether it was along the busy street of Foster Rd. or if it was nestled somewhere in the quiet, nearby residential neighborhood.
I felt myself starting to panic but calmed myself enough to remind myself that since it was so close (she had said that it was “just up the street”), I could just drive a few blocks in either direction to see if I could find the party on my own.
I figured there had to be telltale signs which indicated a kinky sex party was taking place. Perhaps a large crowd of people wearing leather and latex standing outside a dark doorway of a building with covered windows and a red porchlight—or so I imagined in my head.
So, as the evening approached midnight, I began circling blocks within a half mile radius of where I was, driving up and down Foster Rd. for close to 30 minutes and keeping my eyes peeled for any suggestion of some kind of sexual activity. And I saw nothing. The streets were dark and totally empty.
I continued driving and at one point, when I really started to panic, I called my husband laughing nervously, saying, “I can’t find this play party! The lady never gave me an address! I have no idea where it is! What should I do?!” It took about ten more minutes before I finally aborted the mission altogether and went home.
This memory, along with the disappointment and frustration I felt that night, flooded my mind in an instant as I reread the text I received from AJ, reminding of the many times where I almost went to a sex party but ended up getting tragically cock-blocked by the universe. In that moment, I found myself trying to temper my excitement with hesitancy, bracing myself for yet another letdown.
But I couldn’t even contain my eagerness as I typed back to AJ, almost immediately:
“I would love to!!!”
She wrote back a few seconds later, telling me she would send me an official invite via Facebook soon with more details and as we ended our text conversation, I set my phone on the coffee table, walked into the kitchen where Jonathan was and announced:
“So, guess who’s going to a play party?”
Saying it aloud to someone made it real—more real, even, than my enthusiastic RSVP to AJ. And Jonathan, upon hearing the news, who is completely supportive of my desire to be sexually adventurous and experimental, was excited for me and encouraging. With a light in his eyes, he asked me for all the details—”Who’s going to be there? Where will the party be? How far do you think you’ll go?”
But as I told him everything I knew, I started to feel anxiety creep into my stomach.
I wasn’t so much worried about the integrity of the group (the host is a sex educator who completely understands and promotes safety and consent, and only associates with folks who do the same). I was more worried about me, about how I would be in a situation where the entire objective for the evening wasn’t to just hang out but do sexy stuff to and with each other.
I was worried that, as I sat in the middle of witnessing and being a part of my biggest sexual dream coming true, I would become so overwhelmed that I would freeze up and end up leaving early. And who leaves a sex party early?
(Apparently a lot of people do, which I soon found out.)
But one of the biggest things that worried me was whether I could actually get out of my head enough to fully enjoy the experience. Because as much as I want to be a slut and dabble in the earthly pleasures of sexual freedom, I often question whether that is even possible for me.
Everything I grew up believing about love and sex and relationships was through a lens of strict monogamy and the very old fashioned notion that you must save yourself and your sexual fidelity for your One True Love; that sex, in essence, equals love, will always equal love, and that it’s next to impossible to separate the two.
Through that, my mind formed itself around a very black-and-white understanding of relationships: that there are romantic relationships, relationships which you enter with the intention of eventually being in a long-term, committed, fidelitous partnership, and there are platonic relationships, relationships whose only purpose is for friendship and nothing more.
It is only in relationships of a romantic context that sexual and emotional intimacy is explored. If in a friendship context things start to drift naturally toward sexual territory, it then ceases to be a “just friends” thing and becomes romantic. Automatically.
There was no middle ground, no grey area, just these two very distinct and separate expressions of relationship with no room to explore a third option.
Intellectually, I understand how limiting this is and I’ve been trying to unlearn these restrictive narratives about relationships and sexual intimacy, especially as I continue to explore non-monogamy. But there is still a very large part of me that feels married to this concept and it continues to influence the way I think about and experience sex and love and relationships.
And maybe that’s why, a few days after receiving the invitation, my excitement for going to this play party began to wane. Setting aside all of my other insecurities about going (like not having anything to wear and being a terrible flirt), I started to wonder if it made sense for me to attend a sex party when it’s hard for me to conceptualize being sexual with people without some kind of romantic and emotional commitment.
I was setting myself up to be hurt, to potentially make a fool out of myself as I opened myself up in ways that couldn’t be reciprocated in the way I was used to.
Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this after all. Maybe there was a real reason why the universe kept cock-blocking me in the past. Maybe the sexual curiosity I had was better left as that: as a curiosity, as a fantasy.
I picked up my phone and started a text to AJ saying that I wasn’t going to be able to make it.