Sex & Relationships

Sex Party: What Happened at My First Orgy

Like many forms of sex deemed "deviant," group sex seems to be becoming more mainstream.

“Are you blocking my way on purpose?”

“Yes.” 

It was the shortest sexual exchange I’d ever had, and all it took for these two strangers, both blond, tattooed, and with foreign accents that sounded faintly Russian, to push me backward onto a bed in a room comprised of nothing but beds and people fucking each others' brains out. While the Russian couple proceeded to have their way with me, I caught glimpses of other nearby fornicators, in pairs, in groups, and one lone male Adonis who simply sat on the edge of a bed while a line of women took turns sucking him off. 

Going to a sex party was never something I imagined I’d do. Like windsurfing or re-watching all six seasons of Alias, it fell very low on my list of life goals. Then the woman I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with dumped me in order to date men, and I found myself saying yes to a lot of things I never would have otherwise. I also happen to abide by the Writer’s Manifesto: A good story is better than a good time. 

My two companions for the evening -- I’ll call them Steve and Jessica -- and I walked into the unassuming San Francisco Mission District flat on a Saturday evening in early August. We were all virgins to the sex party scene and more than a little nervous. But we did have a few tricks up our sleeves. We were young, we were jaded, and we were more than a little bit tipsy already.

We climbed the creaky stairs to the second floor, where we were screened to make sure we had come dressed appropriately. "Kinky Salon," a monthly sex party and cabaret in San Francisco, has a strict dress code. No jeans, khakis or sportswear. “If you wear something creative you will make more friends,” says the Web site.

I did not find myself inspired to befriend the graying gentleman in nothing but a neon thong, who was the first person I saw upon entering. Much to my relief, almost everyone else was clothed. The costumes ran the gamut, per the typical Burning Man mentality that has crept into so many San Francisco events. There were woodland creatures, goth fairies, sexy librarians, boy scouts, court jesters and other Renaissance Faire characters, dommes and subs being led around on chains, steam punks, and so on. Elaborate costuming didn’t make very much sense to me at a sex party. Why would you bother with the frilly things and the many layers and the tights if you were just going to take them off anyway? But despite my uninspiring attire, I was still able to “make friends” at the BYOB bar, which is where we went immediately.  

As soon as we poured our first drinks, a Kinky Salon volunteer rounded up all the men and took them into a separate room to talk about etiquette, and how to not be douches, or so Steve reported back to me when the lecture was over. The first guy I met was also a volunteer, and he was dressed kind of like Aladdin. Since I was nervous, I immediately made a sex joke, which I assumed would be well received at a sex party, but which instead made him laugh anxiously and then start rubbing my thigh. This was oddly my first, “Oh, I’m at a sex party!” moment. Before then it was just an ornate house party.  

As a woman, you expect to be hit on at bars, but I was wholly unprepared for two minutes of awkward small talk leading so quickly to first base. It made me really uncomfortable, so I made an excuse, grabbed Jessica, and together we took a tour of the house. In addition to the Room of Beds, and the bar/lounge, there was also a dance floor, an enclosed patio for smokers, and a play room, which didn’t really have much equipment, save for a spanking bench. “The place was intoxicating, the people were,” Jessica noted, somewhat wistfully.  “And the vibe really was friendly and kind and generous, but it was also emotionally overwhelming.” 

I’d always read that sex party etiquette dictated you ask a lot of questions of your play partners and that you were supposed to get explicit consent for every act. This wasn’t the case for me and the Russians, but then, they didn’t break any of my personal boundaries, so no confrontations or lectures were required. There was also something really hot about being caught off guard, about someone knowing what you want without having to ask for it. After it was over, the girl and I made polite small talk as if she hadn’t just been riding my face a few minutes earlier.

“So, you come here often?” she asked, and I smiled to myself at the backwardness of such a cheesy, post-sex pickup line.

“No,” I said. “It’s my first time.”

“You’re doing very well,” the boy replied. And I had to agree. I was doing just fine.

Long after our wild night together, a night that cemented our friendship in unexpected ways, I asked Jessica why she agreed to go to the party, what motivated her. “I'd always thought about it, but the conditions were right. I had you guys, so I felt safe, like I could take a risk. I was also newly single and going nuts at the time fucking everything in sight. So you could say I was feeling more adventurous than normal.”  

Steve put it this way: “I'm an experience junkie, and a sex party had been on my list for a while. Also, I had the opportunity to walk in with two hot, game girls. Fate was calling me out.” 

Turns out, Jessica, Steve and I were far from alone in our desire for adventure. There were around 100 people at Kinky Salon that night, which has hosted thousands of singles, couples and groups looking to get it on in a relatively safe and respectful environment. They’ve been spreading the lovesince 2003 and have expanded to other cities not just in the U.S. but in London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and, according to their Web site, soon in Berlin and Krakow. Despite Kinky Salon’s explicit name, and that it is indisputably a party where hookups are expected, sex, they claim, is hardly the point. An SF Weekly articlelinked on Kinky Salon’s About Us page, confirms, “The fact is, as sexy as it is, Kinky Salon is not about sex, it’s about community-building.” 

This is an interesting testament, especially when one considers that swingers often refer to themselves as “family,” and reiterate that swinging is not merely sex, it’s a "lifestyle." How much of these descriptors are ways to combat prejudices and misunderstandings of a sexuality that will always be in the minority? There’s no such thing as a swingers rights movement, after all, and there probably never will be. Seeking community through sexual gratification may seem odd at first, but it’s part of a growing trend of America’s shifting cultural mindset. The way we think about "deviant" sex has changed considerably, and not just in big, coastal, pervy cities like San Francisco, where the rainbow flag is larger than the U.S. one, but all over the country, and involving people from all walks of life.  

Orgies, play parties, gang bangs, circle jerks, bukkake, Tuesdays With Morrie – group sex goes by many names (okay fine, the last one is just what I call it) and has come a long way from its Greek bacchanalian days. The first media mention of group sex, and largely believed to be the birth of the modern-day swingers movement, involved wife-swapping among military officers in Southern California in the 1950s. The '60s gave rise to “free love” and non-military swing clubs throughout California, first at people’s homes, then more publicly at bars. 

Plenty of religious and political naysayers are still clutching their pearls over group sex, as well as every other kind of sex that’s not procreative, and involving heterosexual married couples, but today’s attitudes about sexual "deviance" have become far more mainstream than they were even a decade ago. Sodomy laws have been overturned at the federal level, and even Texas, which is not a state known for its progressive sex laws, finally stopped criminalizing the sale of dildos. Middle-aged housewives in small towns host Passion Parties, aka Tupperware parties with sex toys. Dominatrixes hold seminars on flogging and needle play in hotel conference centers. People aren’t just watching porn, they’re making it themselves and posting it online for millions of others to watch on sites like Xtube and YouPorn. Even the Nintendo Wii has an orgy videogame, if this weird ad scenario is to be carried out. Swingers, once stereotyped as cheesy, Polo-wearing, white yuppies, are younger, hipper, and emboldened by the Internet culture mentality of documenting everything publicly, including sex. 

Speaking of, the Internet has obviously played a large role in mainstreaming orgies. As Tomcat, director/producer at Fucking Machines (fuckingmachines.com) and TS Seduction (tsseduction.com) (both of which are obviously NSFW), told me recently, “The anonymity of the Internet provides a far greater opportunity to ask, in forums, posting etc., and to search and find sexual fantasies that lurk deep inside people. I mean, ‘Two Girls, One Cup’ that kind of sums it up, right?” 

Today’s group sex aficionados have many tools at their disposal thanks to the Internet. Whereas in the past, word of mouth and answering ads in magazines like Kindred Spirits, Ecstasy or Swingers’ Life were pretty much the only way to get some action, now all it takes is a Craigslist ad, an Adult Friend Finder profile, or a few quick clicks on one of the hundreds of sites that cater to your NSA sexual desires. Swinging, far from the shameful, underground club it once was, is now a multi-million dollar industry with conventions, travel agencies, resorts, hotels, events, and club franchise opportunities, and it’s growing every year. According to the North American Swinger’s Club Association (NASCA), 15 percent of couples in the U.S. have tried swinging, though most studies not related to NASCA put the number around 2 percent, which is still double the number of swinger estimates from the 1970s, wrote Dan Savage in Skipping Towards Gomorrah. One swinger directory lists over 600 clubs in the U.S. alone, and estimates that there are 3,000 clubs worldwide,1,000 with Web sites.

Group sex has made appearances on several popular TV shows, including Seinfeld, That 70s Show, The Office, Pushing Daisies, CSI, Six Feet Under, and Big Love, whose entire premise revolves around polygamy. Andrea, a Chicago woman currently living with her two polyamorous lovers, thinks the media has definitely influenced the mainstreaming of group sex. She said, “The media is promoting a lot of things that were taboo before. We love to bust in on those forbidden topics, and they're becoming harder to find as we mainstream more and more of them. We're running out of options, so on with the orgies!” 

Have we always been perverts though, and now it’s just more out in the open? And how much of the group sex boom is due to the deliciousness of breaking taboos? “Condemnation may be the biggest favor any religious or political moralist could do for sex,” writes Brian Alexander in America Unzipped. “Especially now that sex is available anywhere and therefore no longer controllable.” It’s the oldest psychology trick in the book, the more we are forbidden from doing something, the more thrilling it becomes. Tomcat agrees, “I think the contradiction between what society face-to-face expects from people and what a community online fosters, is just another element of turn-on.”  

Despite the culture wars, the taboos, the political ideologies, religious indoctrination, and government interference, sexual decisions remain stubbornly personal, and often fly in the face of social convention. Some people, like I did, no doubt look to group sex and other forms of sexual exploration for catharsis, a quick thrill, or maybe even out of boredom. Others may devote their lives to the pursuit of sexual pleasure. In the end though, I think we are all seeking connection, regardless of how temporary it may be, or if it involves escapism, or pushing boundaries, or pain, or one night of unlikely solace provided by a Russian couple whose names you’ll never know.