A guest post by Henry Lee
(This article is based on a talk I gave on March 16, 2014 at Shameless Grounds.)
So what is a play party? Some people might say it’s just a nice term for an orgy, but it can actually mean a lot of different things.
A play party is any event at which a group of people gathered to mutually explore their sexuality. This could this could include Jack and Jill parties (which involve mutual masturbation), parties involving sexual contact, sadomasochistic parties, or events featuring all of the above. I should mention that I have little experience with S&M themed parties or with pay events, so I’ll be limiting this article to discussing the parties I have held myself or attended as a guest. All of the parties I throw are for my friends and their partners only, and are free events.
There are a lot of avenues by which a person can make contact with a group of sex positive people who are interested in holding group events. Several sex positive organizations (like Sex Positive St. Louis) may advertise such events online. Many parties requiring admission fees can be located online, although they often have strenuous screening procedures. Some parties are also advertised on websites like Adult Friend Finder or Craigslist, but one should be cautious about making contact with people through those sites. I think the best way to find play parties to attend is to become a member of a sex positive community. You may find that as you gain friends who are open to sexual exploration, there very well may be play parties going on that you will be invited to.
If you do find yourself invited to a play party or hosting one yourself, you should expect to see naked people of all ages and body shapes. You may also see sexual activities going on that you might not engage in yourself. Part of going to a sex party is learning to become more comfortable with your own sexuality and learn about the sexuality of others. You may also find that you don’t react the way you think you will when exposed to some form of group sexuality. Some people find that they have far fewer inhibitions than they thought they would, while other people may feel very uncomfortable with the situation. And some people may decide that while all of this is fine, it’s just not for them. You need to give yourself room emotionally to have any of these reactions.
At any party that features open sexuality, etiquette is very important. Probably the most important rule should be an obvious one, that all activities should be consensual. Along with that, you should always ask for permission before touching anyone at a play party. This includes things as seemingly innocent as hugging someone or touching a person’s shoulders.
At many parties, it may be acceptable for you to approach another person and suggest that the two of you engage in some sort of play. (Different parties may have different rules regarding this. If you’re unsure, you should consult with your hosts before asking anyone.) If you do ask somebody to play and they say no, you have to be able to accept that level of rejection. Anyone is likely to feel a little bit awkward in that moment, but you should be able to brush it off and still have a good time at the party.
It’s in general not a good idea to ask to join a sex scene that has already started. That is if a couple or more people are already playing, you probably shouldn’t ask to join in midway. Speaking of awkward situations, you’ll find that you have better luck getting invited to parties and will usually have a better time at them if you attend with a partner. Flying solo at parties like this can be a little awkward. If you do find yourself in such a situation, make sure you socialize as much as you can and try to get to know the people in attendance.
If you decide you’d like to throw your own play party, pay close attention to the guest list. You obviously want to invite people with whom you feel comfortable with and are sexually open. When you’re preparing for the party make sure you have adequate space for all the people you’ve invited, and lots of places to lie and sit down. (Inflatable mattresses might be a good idea.)
If your party is going to include penetrative sexual acts, make sure you have condoms and lubricant on hand. Having marked out places for people to change and out of their clothes, smoke, socialize, and play is a good idea. I always like to provide at least one room marked off as a private space, so if a couple or more decide they want to play in private they have a place to do that. I usually provide food and drink (although I don’t allow any hard liquor), music, and porn, although setting the tone at your party is a very individual decision.
If you do have any issues at your party, I would urge you to deal with them quickly. People need to feel safe at a play party if they’re going to express themselves openly. So if a person is behaving inappropriately, you should let them know immediately how their behavior was unacceptable.
Play parties can be a lot of fun, and you can learn much about your own sexuality and sexuality of others at them. If you’re interested, I encourage you to get out there and see what you can find. Or better yet, make one happen yourself!