The first time I attended a sex party was in 2002. I was 25 years old, wet behind the ears and scared out of my wits. At that time, I laid claim to being New York City’s most unlikely sex columnist and was covering One Leg Up—a regular soiree now in its 20th year—for an assignment. The party was such a mind-scrambling gumbo of sensations and self-doubt that it took over a decade for me to attend another. When I did, it was again to write about. I only began to enjoy being a sex party participant in 2016. It was then that I got to know the residents of the Hacienda Villa: a sex-positive intentional community, headquartered in a sumptuous, gut-renovated townhouse in Brooklyn.
The Villa is an actual home for 15 sex-positive community members and a figurative one for anyone wanting to learn more about sex and sexuality. Here, people can attend workshops, talks, readings, and social events. It’s a place where you can attend a “PlayLab”, see advanced sex techniques being demonstrated by sex coach Kenneth Play and his assistant, then receive thoughtful and encouraging coaching when you give them a whirl with your partner or a game friend. Moreover, the Villa has also been the setting for some legendary sex parties during which its four floors, two outdoor spaces, hot tub, and cabana are bursting with naked people enjoying themselves and each other. It was at 220-people parties like these that I started to forget about needing an excuse to show up and actually lost myself in the experience.
At a certain point however, the community pivoted from devising, staging, and policing the roughly quarterly multi-level parties and focused instead on offering a range of “Sex Party in a Box” packages. Simply put, Hacienda provides the space and the infrastructure you’d need to throw your own, somewhat smaller sex party—the only thing they don’t provide are the guests. Last year, I took advantage of this product and threw a 30-person sex party for a dear friend to celebrate her 30th birthday. As advertised, all I had to do was bring the people as the Villa provided everything else we’d possibly need including sex supplies that came neatly arranged on a number of hostess carts. It was a smashing success. I got a “friends and family” rate but the same package would have ordinarily cost around $900. If you can entice thirty guests and split the cost that works out to $30 per head, which is comparable to what I paid to see Solo in 3D/IMAX. Needless to say, all the attendees had way more fun at my friend’s 30th than literally anyone did watching Solo.
Recently however, I thought I’d have a go at throwing a party at a different space—for a change of scenery as much as anything else.
The 4,000-square foot penthouse event space is managed by a friend who offered its use gratis. The space already had a lot going for it—a serious sound system, panoramic views of the city, a kitchen and bar, and even some mattresses—but it lacked some stuff I knew we’d need. It also lacked some stuff I didn’t know we’d need. Below are some of the less obvious things you may want to consider when striking out on your own and throwing a sex party.
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As I’m sure you can imagine, people are getting their faces into all sorts of places during a play party and, being a courteous bunch, play party attendees make a good faith effort to stay fresh for whomever they get up close and personal with next. Brushing or flossing immediately before or during a party however is not advised. “HIV, in particular, targets the immune system and the immune system is easier to attack when it's on the surface of a mucus membrane because of a cut, abrasion, or infection,” says clinical sexologist and sex educator Lindsey Doe, who explains that brushing or flossing can cause such abrasions. According to the CDC, the risk of transmitting HIV via oral sex or kissing is very small, but they do call out bleeding gums as a factor in that risk becoming greater. “I tell people that if they are regular flossers then it shouldn't be a problem but if they're doing it infrequently then the gums can have disease and or bleed leading to a higher risk of transmission.” Consider travel sized bottles of mouthwash instead (24 are around $26).
Sex can—some say should—be a messy business. Hitting the shower between partners puts a dent in play time and in the case of the venue I was using, showers weren’t available anyway. The workaround was wet wipes. I picked up a two-pack of unscented wipes—that'd be 140 total—for $12.99.
Whether you’re at sex party goer or not, it’s a truth self-evident that everyone looks and feels better in diffused, soft light that’s not coming from directly overhead. This sort of light will make you both feel more confident in your appearance and at ease and boost attendees’ chances of a leaving your party feeling sexually satisfied, implies a study from 2010. Researchers found that female participants’ sexual satisfaction was “predicted by high body esteem and low frequency of appearance-based distracting thoughts during sexual activity.” Though the study only looked at women, I can tell you anecdotally that worrying about how I look while naked certainly doesn’t add to the experience for me as a man either.
A great way to create a more sultry mood is to install smart bulbs in your play space. Using a smartphone app or voice control device like an Amazon Echo, you can have the option of an array of colors then, with the swipe of a finger, turn on the bright lights to clean up detritus once everybody has gone home. Smart bulbs can be had for less than $20.
There seems to be a lot of crossover between people who‘ve taken a deep dive into female ejaculation and the play party scene. That can mean a prodigious amount of fluid being loosed over the course of an evening. To manage the happy deluge and keep play spaces usable throughout an event, I took a cue from Hacienda parties which are always well provisioned with puppy pads. “If you’re about to squirt or if on your period and worried about making a mess, it’s hard to be in the moment,” says Hacienda founder Andrew Sparksfire. “With a puppy pad under your butt, you know you can really let go.” I picked up a box of 100 regular sized pads for $18. That purchase turned out to be well worth it when party goers predictably made it rain.
Sugar-free cough drops
“The last thing you want in your vagina is a sugar-coated hand or mouth,” says sex educator Effy Blue, a sentiment echoed by Doe. What spurred this was a conversation in which I mentioned that Skittles were a good snack to have around at these events. During her Play Party Etiquette workshop, Blue recommends sucking on sugar free cough drops that she says better facilitate oral sex—“they work like lube for the throat”—while reducing the risk of giving someone a yeast infection to remember the evening by. A two-pound bag of Lemon Mint Ricola contains 210 doses and costs about $20.
Remember that awesome sound system I mentioned? Well, minutes before people were due to arrive, it went berserk and started playing some of the worst music of the noughties at ear-splitting volume. I’m talking Hoobastank, Papa Roach level bad. Inexplicably, these songs were loaded onto the digital decks. Playing a Spotify playlist from someone’s phone would have been relatively easy proposition except that everyone in the room had an iPhone 7 or higher, so, no headphone jack.
As luck would have it, one of the earliest arrivals happened to have Lightning-to-aux adapter and single-handedly saved the party from crashing during take off. The lesson: Have at least one contingency plan should your music system decide to start kicking out auditory birth control. A lightning to 3.5 mm aux cable, lightning to 35 mm aux adapter, and a couple of 3.5 mm to 3.5 mm cables ought to do it. Each can be had for under $10 on Amazon. Oh, and pro tip: Make sure that the phone you’re using is on Do Not Disturb mode. The only thing more likely than to kill the sexy vibe than Nickelback is a phone call from your mom blasting through the speakers.
Condoms at a sex party are, of course, a no- brainer. It’s a good idea to get more than you need in a variety of sizes due to penises and toys coming in a variety of sizes as well as a variety of materials, due to the surprising prevalence of latex allergies. “An allergic reaction to latex can increase the likelihood of infection being transmitted,” Doe tells me. Also get some internal condoms. Blue says that these used to be called “Female Condoms” but at play parties they come in handy for anybody with an opinion. “They are often used for anal—remove the rings—so you can go from ass to vagina or for group play to avoid cross-contamination,” she explains. “I'd add to that list dental dams and saran wrap. Both can be used as barrier for oral, and saran wrap is good for sharing toys like the Sybian or spanking benches.”
For Hacienda founding member Lila Donnolo, nitrile gloves are like having a fresh pair of hands when you need them. “Changing them between partners is not only good hygiene—it's good etiquette,” she says. “When your fingers are penetrating someone, you can give them peace of mind, since they can be certain that your hands are sterile.” Donnolo says there's an added bonus here if you like kinky doctor play, or have a rubber (and rubber-like substances) fetish. “Also, for those who get exhilarated by a little consensual fear-excitement, snapping the gloves at the wrist tends to make an excellent sound,” she says. Most gloves come in small, medium, large, and extra-large, and will run you around $10 per 100 count.
The key to not spend hours gingerly picking up all this sex shrapnel—wet puppy pads, used examination gloves, condoms, saran wrap, wet wipes—for hours after everyone has left is having two or three places in which all of this stuff can go. Get yourself a couple gallon swing-top plastic trash cans and kindly remind your guests to use them. On Amazon they start around $17.
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