2020 sucks. Setting aside the nonstop depressing news, the social plans we once looked to for stress relief have vanished quicker than our willpower to put on anything other than our grodiest sweatpants.
Sex parties, in particular, seem like relics of of another era. Social distancing guidelines have made a lot of the fun parts around getting down and dirty with a large group of strangers more than a little technically difficult.
And yet horny people will find a way. Sex parties are flourishing in digital spaces, and the online-only kind come with their own perks. Just for starters: You can leave a party whenever you want, be back in the comfort of your own bed seconds later, and avoid the eau de sweaty balls that often accompany raucous orgies. Still, new spaces bring new rules, and new safety (and etiquette!) factors to consider. Here's how to have great group sex online.
How to find an online sex party
Previously location-specific clubs have since gone international. The Manhattan-based club New Society for Wellness, which founder Daniel Saynt calls “The Soho House of sex clubs,” has temporarily suspended its regular membership program and is instead offering a less expensive online version starting at $10 per party, or $50 per month. New members have to fill out a questionnaire to see if their values mesh with the club's, but, once they're accepted, can attend parties tailored to specific tastes and sexualities.
England’s Purple Mamba Club has moved its parties online, as it has its regular workshops—like “Arousal Awareness” and “Intimacy for Couples”—and other, more casual social events. “[Hosting parties online has] made it easier for members to meet others that they might not otherwise have met in person at the club, as there's only so many given nights they [could have] attended,” said co-owner Amanda Carroll.
For those who might find the prospect of joining a club daunting even from a distance, the popular group sex app Feeld has added new features for long-distance socializing, including group chats that can accommodate up to 40 people (though product lead Ana Kirova told VICE the company is looking to “expand that number”).
How to start your own online sex party
You may already belong to a community of adventurous sex friends, and all you need to do is coordinate your Google calendars, in which case, God bless. The trickiest challenge in this scenario is finding a platform to host your party. Zoom, a popular choice for lowkey group sex has allegedly started cracking down on nudity using artificial intelligence, though the jury's still out on how effective this has been. Other platforms are following suit.
Daniel Saynt said that NSFW is currently looking to develop their own video platform specifically for sex clubs, since it constantly faces pushback when trying to host its parties.
Skype has a no-nudity policy (they also don’t allow cursing—who knew), but these rules are less enforced. FaceTime uses end-to-end encryption, which means it’s more secure, but users must have a Macbook or iPhone to join. Google Hangouts is popular, as long as you remember that your account is connected to your Gmail and any other website you’ve signed into with your Google account.
Basically: Use discretion. The more you advertise your party, the more susceptible you’ll be to getting shut down. If you end up using a platform that you use for other purposes, consider making separate accounts, lest you accidentally tune into Monday morning’s work meeting as SexyyyKitten69 or get a Skype call from mom once the party has started.
Get ready, get dressed, and get out your sex toys
Congrats! You finally have an excuse to gussy yourself up in quarantine. Stacy, who asked that her last name be omitted for privacy, has regularly attended virtual parties from her Maui home while social distancing. She's specifically used this opportunity to bring out her special-occasion lingerie. “My outfits have looked a little brighter, because I know that those show up on camera,” she said.
Parties can be fun to attend with a partner, but unless you had the foresight to quarantine with your most adventurous sex buddy or an open-minded partner, you’re likely limited to some good old-fashioned solo play (even if you invite them to join in from wherever they are). It’s time to bust out your dildo collection. If you find yourself in lockdown with nary a sex toy in sight, now is the best time to correct that. A lot of sex stores have special deals or free local delivery happening. Do this for yourself. Trust me.
Respect people’s privacy—and look out for your own
Be mindful of people with whom you share a living space who didn’t consent to joining a sex party by proximity. Lock your doors and give your housemates a heads up that you need privacy for a set amount of time so they don’t burst into your room asking if you want to go halfsies on a pizza.
Regular sex party rules about pictures still apply. Don’t take screenshots of people. Don’t record people without their consent. Every club I spoke to had a zero tolerance policy about recording, and generally people who show up to these with the express purpose of getting off won’t want to jeopardize their own memberships. Still, there is no way to 100 percent guarantee protection from hackers who might crash the party or creeps who have figured out a way to record, and only you can decide the level of risk you’re comfortable with.
If you want to play it safer, straight-up cover your face. Put on a chic mask and, bam, you’ve created a mysterious new persona while protecting your identity, like a slutty Batman. If you’re more of a voyeur than an exhibitionist anyway, see if you can turn your camera off altogether. This is a fairly common practice at events hosted by NSFW, at which Saynt said only about 30 percent of the attendees show their faces. Be sure to check in with the host beforehand what the rules are. Some parties might want you to leave your cameras on for the safety of the other guests.
Almost every sex event has that moment where guests are hanging out, chatting, and waiting for the first person to take their clothes off. If you’re hosting, it’s a nice idea to make sure everyone shows up by a certain time to go over the rules. This can also serve as an ideal icebreaker moment. NSFW hires pole dancers or other performers to kick off events with a show, whereas the parties Stacy attends often have an optional pre-party where guests can get comfortable with one another. Games like truth or dare (or dare and dare) are fun. Sometimes all it takes is one brave individual or couple to make a move in order to give other people permission to get going. Why not you?
Use your medium to your advantage. Stacy joined a party with some partners she was hunkering down with. They all set up their computers and phones from different angles (including attaching one from the ceiling fan) to give their audience the best possible views. “That’s something I never would have thought about at a regular party,” she said. “I gotta say, we got lots of great feedback.”
Treat online orgies like you would in-person sex parties: BB your regular, charming self, don’t send nudes directly to another person without their consent, and respect the “ask once” rule, wherein you leave them alone if they say they’re not interested. You also have every right to block anyone making you uncomfortable (and utilize the fact that they’ve created a paper trail for when you report them to the club).
Respect your limits
Sometimes, it can be easy forget that virtual sex is still sex, or that, even if you have nowhere else to be, you might still be too mentally exhausted to have fun. Give yourself a break. While putting on sexy clothes or simply showing up might be enough to get in the mood, it’s OK to just not be feeling it. This is, after all, about feeling good—whatever that looks like to you.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.