Sex Party Etiquette

Cecily Brown Untitled 2013
Cecily Brown, UNTITLED, 2003

HER: Summer is the season for backyard barbecues and pool parties. So, if your friend group includes people who like to get naked together, it also means it’s the season for swinger parties. Thanks to the suggestion of our podcasting friends, Bed Hoppers UK, we’re going to outline some of the rules of etiquette for house parties based on our experience as both party hosts and guests.

HIM: House parties are cool mainly because they are so efficient. It’s like dating at warp speed because you can connect with a number of different couples in a single evening. But to get the most out of it, everyone has to play by the rules.

Avoid Cliques

HER: You don’t have to have sex with everyone, but you should make some kind of social connection with people outside of those you already know. This is, of course, easier said than done, because we naturally gravitate toward the familiar, but you never know when you’ll meet your new best friends. Consider splitting up and trying to have a conversation with as many other people as possible. This is even more important — and more welcome — at sex parties than regular get-togethers. Everyone is there to make new connections, so don’t be shy! If you’re hosting, orchestrate an ice breaker activity like speed dating to ensure that people interact with those they may not know. They’ll thank you for it later.

HIM: We’ve definitely seen the opposite happen. At one of our parties last year, for example, a couple we knew asked if they could bring four friends we hadn’t met. We typically like to vet everyone first, but we trusted these people and agreed. And what do you know: those six people stuck tightly together like a party-within-a-party. Staying in their little bubble was noticed by everyone, and did not leave a good impression.

Put that Phone Down

HER: At vanilla parties, it’s common to snap pics with friends to post on social media. We live our lives online, after all, and want to share our adventures. But the rules are a little different at a lifestyle event. People may not want their friends and family to see where they are, and you don’t want to be the one who blows their cover. So, even if everyone’s clothes are still on, you probably shouldn’t be taking selfies unless everyone in the shot is on board.

Don’t Presume the Sale

HIM: Never come to a party with assumptions about what will happen. You may feel especially close to a couple, you may have dreamt about having sex with them, and you may even have played with them before. Awesome. They, however, might have other plans for the evening. Be the opposite of presumptuous. It’s a good idea, after talking to someone for a bit, to say, ‘Hey, don’t let me monopolize your time.’ They’ll let you know if they want to keep things going. Don’t overstay your welcome.

HER: This happened to me last year when we ran into a couple we knew at a swingers’ winery tour. We had played with them once but weren’t interested in a repeat performance. At the evening soiree, the man was all over me. While I was trying to have a conversation with some new people, he stood behind me with his arms around my waist, kissing my neck and occasionally feeling my boobs like a high school Don Juan. I wasn’t interested in sleeping with him again, and I gave him zero acknowledgment, but he just didn’t take the hint. His insistence turned a pleasant event into an irritating experience that we bailed on early.

It’s Okay not to Play

HIM: Speaking of presumption, don’t expect that you will even have sex. At our parties, only about half the couples actually play. And that’s a much higher proportion than we’ve seen at other parties. It’s okay to only come for the socializing and sexy atmosphere, to just play with your partner, or even just to watch. The only caveat is that, if you’re going to observe, keep a comfortable distance and don’t set up camp by the bed. That’s distracting and creepy. If you’re new and nervous, parties should be safe spaces to watch from the fringes. Participation is non-compulsory.

HER: One of the coolest examples of this comes from a party we were at this past weekend. I met a woman who was a vanilla friend of the hostess. She was just back from seven years of living overseas and she didn’t have a social group here at home yet. Her friend brought her to the party as an open-minded observer who was just looking to make friends. She said she was quite nervous at first, but everyone was very warm and welcoming. She didn’t get naked, but she did stand near the hot tub while we were playing there with two other couples. I gave her a big smile and wave while a friend’s cock was in my mouth (try that sometime!) to let her know it was okay to watch. I don’t know if she’ll ever get into the lifestyle, but she got a front row seat to both the people in the community and the sexual possibilities.

Don’t get Wasted

HER: You’d think this would be common sense, but it needs to be said. The worst behaviour we’ve seen at parties has been alcohol or drug fueled. Of course, many people like to have a few drinks to loosen up, and that’s fine, but be adults and stay within a reasonable limit. For men, you need your cocks to work and, more importantly, you need to be in tune with your playmates to be sure you have consent. For women, you need to be sober enough to be able to say no if you’re not feeling comfortable. In my experience, the more I drink, the more I’m likely to do whatever is asked of me. That’s only fun when you’re in a completely safe space. A party should be safe, but when you get a bunch of horny drunk people together, you may do something you regret. And if there’s a possibility you’ll both be drinking, book a hotel nearby that you can taxi to. Don’t assume that, just because there are mattresses everywhere, you’re allowed to stay the night.

HIM: We saw a real cautionary tale earlier this year at a friend’s party. A man who is typically very sweet got way too drunk. He tried to have sex with you without a condom. When you said no, he moved to the woman next to you on the bed and just put it in her. We assumed they had some kind of arrangement, but when we asked her later if she was okay with having unprotected sex with him, she said no. Unfortunately, she had been drinking too and didn’t know how to handle the situation. Later, the same man told a large group that another guest had such a small cock that he didn’t want to take his pants off. This was frankly horrible, whether the other man had a large cock and the gibe was intended teasingly, or if he was indeed smaller than average. It was uncomfortable for the other guests and just plain mean.

Stick to Designated Play Areas

HER: Just because people have opened their homes to you does not mean you have free access to every room. Hosts may tell you explicitly which areas are available, or they might put up signs, or they might leave doors open with candles lit (we do all three). Those are okay places to play. But don’t go into any dark room and start getting it on. We leave our kids’ rooms closed with the lights off to indicate they’re off-limits. If you’re unsure, just ask.

Consent, Consent, Consent

HER: This applies to every lifestyle situation, but you need to be sure that everything you do is welcome, because, you can be sure that, if you misbehave in a small group, it will get back to the hosts and you will not be invited back. Getting consent is so important that we’ve broken it down into several sub-categories.

1. Baby Steps

HIM: If a woman playfully asks you to spank her, start lightly. Ask her if she wants it harder, and if she does, only increase the intensity in small increments. On two separate occasions men have spanked you hard — harder than you’ve ever been spanked in your life — and left marks. Presumably, that was their starting point. Not cool, both because it hurt you and because it made me want to hurt them. This approach applies equally to fingering, nipple tweaking and even kissing.

2. Ask before you join in

HER: If you see two people having sex, don’t assume that every twosome wishes it was a threesome. If you think it would be welcome, start with a gentle caress in a non-erogenous zone (a shoulder, a leg) to let them know you’re interested, or, better yet, just ask, “Can I join you?” If they want you, they will pull you in. But if you are ignored or not explicitly invited, that is a definite no. Move along. Quickly.

3. No Means No

HIM: If you ask a woman for something, and she hesitates or says no, DO NOT try to convince her to change her mind, or worse yet, beg. It’s unattractive, and it’s coercive. You want enthusiastic consent. A nice guy we know was getting a blow job from a nice woman we know when he realized he was getting close to coming. He asked if he could come in her mouth and she said no. He then engaged in a whiny ‘oh, come on, please, I need it’ kind of rap, like he was 16 years old again. His job was to immediately pull out and, once his orgasm had subsided, generally heap praise and gratitude at the woman’s feet. Instead, she gave in and felt so gross she had to go shower.

4. All Penetration is a big deal

HER: Never put a finger, much less anything else, inside a woman, unless you’ve been explicitly acknowledged and invited. I think many people assume putting a finger in is just a normal part of foreplay. It’s not. Penetration with anything — whether it’s a finger, a toy, or a cock — is invasive. I have had men put fingers in my pussy or ass without even making eye contact with me on at least three different occasions (once in a foam party in Cap D’Agde, once in the hot tub at Hedo, and once on the big bed at a sex club). Each time was shocking and entirely unwelcome. To be honest, I don’t love it even with you, baby. It’s just not my thing, but on top of that most men are way too rough for my taste. So don’t do it unless asked. Or preferrably, begged.

Play Safe

HER: The default once you’re invited to play is to always wear a condom. We provide them at our parties, but most people bring their own. Same with lube, but if you prefer a particular kind, bring your own.

Yes, Hosts can Play

HIM: For our first couple of parties, most of the guests didn’t know each other, but they all knew us. So I was worried that everyone would want to play with us,  and that choosing just one or two couples to play with would offend the others. That was partly our own doing, since some of the couples we invited were people we had met but didn’t feel much chemistry with. Inviting them to our party was a way of saying ‘we like you’ without the pressure of a two-on-two get-together. And, sure enough, avoiding awkward come-ons that evening required some deft manoeuvring.

HER: It’s not fair if the hosts have to sacrifice their enjoyment so everyone else can have fun. I think things have worked best for us when, after we’ve completed all the preparations and got everything started, we behaved just like any other guests. So if you’re attending a party, assume that everyone there has a special connection to the hosts, and that you’re not unique in that regard. Give the hosts enough space to create their own good time.

Say Thanks

HIM: This is such a simple thing. Make sure you speak with the hosts at some point in the evening. It’s surprising how often people come to a party and leave without ever having said a word to the people who made the evening possible. They’ve gone to a lot of effort and expense to host this party for you, and they usually don’t ask for much in return. Even if you say thanks on the way out, send them a follow-up message the next day.  Seeing it in writing makes a big impression, and is the best way to get invited back.