- It seems that the once taboo subject of group sex is finally entering the mainstream.
- One of the reasons for this is the prevalence of organized sex party networks like Kinky Salon, Le Boudoir and Killing Kittens.
- Like everyone else, these communities had to adapt during the pandemic.
- This article contains adult themes of sex and nudity
It seems that the once taboo subject of group sex is finally entering the mainstream. One reason is the prevalence of organized sex party networks like Kinky Salon, Klub Verboten, Crossbreed, Le Boudoir and Killing Kittens.
These networks were formed to provide a space for like-minded people to meet in a safe environment to engage in sex and a whole range of erotic practices like BDSM, kink or fetishism. These festivals have led to the development of “sex positive” communities where group sex is not seen as deviant but as a form of self-expression.
But, like everyone else, these communities had to adapt during the pandemic. After all, social distancing doesn’t really work in sex parties, and strict lockdown rules mean casual relationships are now illegal in many countries.
So what are the people who are normally part of these communities doing amid the restrictions? Many dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, Match.com, Inner Circle, and Feeld are now looking for “safer” ways to connect people with face-to-face video chats. For example, Feeld introduced new virtual locations to allow its community to “explore their desires without putting themselves in danger or endangering others”. Sex party networks have done something similar, creating virtual spaces for people to connect.
Online sex parties
I interviewed members of the sex party community (I changed their names to protect their identity here) as part of an ongoing research project on sex, relationships, and psychosexual therapy. I hope to find out what attracts people to sex parties, what they get out of it and what their attitudes towards sex are.
I also spoke to Emma Sayle, the founder of the London-based global sex party network Killing Kittens, who has been resourceful in reaching out to her community from the privacy of their home. Sayle told me, “From the start of the lockdown, we knew we had to keep this community together, because isolation isn’t good for anyone’s mental well-being.”
Lisa, 32, a member of Killing Kittens, told me, “Having no partners has been really difficult, so the online parties have really kept me going during the pandemic. It helped me engage sexually, but safely.
Killing Kittens hosts and organizes paid sex evenings which can “attend” between 40 and 80 people by videoconference. Guests are requested to wear masks to conceal their identity. An animator presents ice-breaking exercises and warm-up performances by erotic artists. At one point, the hosts leave the party to allow the guests to get to know each other.
I also spoke to a 45 year old single woman called Katy who joined another party online. She said she did it “to have a little fun and to cheer up, to dress, to feel sexy about herself and to interact with other people.”
Couples also attended. For some, these evenings have reignited a dialogue about sex. Some couples “are actually communicating for the first time in years about what drives their sexual fantasies,” Sayle said.
So it seems that for some people, the pandemic has been an opportunity to familiarize themselves with their erotic tastes, triggers, prompts, dislikes, fantasies and flaws. This may involve activating being watched or watching others have full sex onscreen. Or, like Maggie, a 40-year-old single woman who frequents the sex party scene, told me, “It’s just nice to share a night with open-minded people, where I have the opportunity to mingle. ‘express sexually’.
What is “normal” anyway?
How we choose to express or identify ourselves and to whom we are romantically or sexually attracted is part of our sexual wiring. Yet sometimes what we feel on the inside does not seem to match society’s expectations.
The social construction of sex is influenced by culture, beliefs, values, religion, societal norms and, what we might call in academia, sex scripts. These are the messages people receive as they grow up that shape their perception of things like sex, gender and sexuality. Our scripts decide what is “normal” and what is “weird”.
The concept of “normal” is encompassed in Masters and Johnson’s famous human sexual response cycle model (dramatized on the Masters of Sex TV show), which assumes that sex has universal characteristics encompassing four physiological phases (arousal, plateau, orgasmic and resolution). Research has proven to be revolutionary in our understanding of how sex works.
But he was also criticized for his linear, one-dimensional interpretation of what constituted sex. In other words, the belief that all “normal” sexual activity leads to penetration of the penis into the vagina, followed by mutual orgasm. It did not reflect the true nature of people’s diverse sex lives back then and it does not today.
But ‘sexually positive’ education has taught us that sex comes in many forms, that orgasms can be achieved in other ways, and that they are not always the ultimate solution. Intimacy can be about pleasure, not just penetrative sex.
Respect and safety
Just as sex is not the ultimate goal of sex parties, virtual sex parties have accentuated other mechanisms of sexual intimacy. Despite their association with risky behavior, strict protocols, consent and control processes are established to ensure compliance.
Informed consent is essential for people to feel safe, both in real-life sex parties and online. Clear boundaries are put in place to ensure that no one ever feels pressured to do anything. Killing Kittens also operates a women-first policy, where women take the first step. There are measures in place online, like moderators, so anyone who behaves in an unacceptable way is urged to leave. But, Sayle told me that rarely happens. Additional measures have also been put in place on chat apps and social media to make sure people can’t capture or record anything.
Sex parties may not be suitable for everyone. But people hang out with them for different reasons: whether it’s to explore their sexuality or just to meet like-minded people. While online parties can’t replace real human touch, they might just be (for now at least) the perfect antidote for beginners to test the waters, to help rekindle relationships, to combat loneliness. or just to connect with open-minded people.