Sex Club Etiquette

What do you do when you go to a sex club or swingers club for the first time? What behaviors are expected? How do you interact with someone that invited you, or with others that you meet there? We don’t grow up learning scripts for sex clubs (generally speaking!) so it’s up to our adult selves to learn how to navigate these new social/sexual situations. Hopefully this piece sheds some light on some generally accepted modes of behaving.

Many sex clubs have sets of rules that will help guide members’ behaviors. Club Sesso in Portland offers the following list:

  • No Cell Phone Use (including texting or swapping phone nunbers)
  • Ask Before You Touch- Ask Once and Only Once
  • No Means No
  • Do Not Stalk People
  • Treat Everyone with Dignity and Respect
  • Do Not Open Closed Doors or Curtains
  • Do Not Interrupt Others
  • Do Not Be Creepy
  • Do Not Masturbate Outside Play Areas
  • Clean Up Your Own Mess
  • Use Common Sense!

The list seems pretty intuitive, right? It’s surprising how many people I’ve seen break the rules, intentionally and unintentionally. On the whole, though, I’ve witnessed respectful behavior and good communication at Sesso.

But what about the more subtle and complex interactions for which rules aren’t made explicit or posted?

Or what about when you meet your long-time sexy friends at the sex club and you or they end up hooking up with new people before you have a chance to check in?

What happens when you meet a new friends with benefits at the club and they end up hooking up with someone else?

We once brought a woman as a guest, who I had met on a dating site and had a date with. I didn’t expect us to have sex and I knew she was interested in socializing and checking out the space. And yet, when she ended up going into a room with a couple she met there, leaving us to wait for her for an hour until she was done so we could drive her home, I ended up feeling a little resentful. Not because I felt like I had a right to have sex with her, but because the communication between the two of us was sorely lacking.

Communication is key. Proactive communication is the best. Have conversations with your partners, new friends, potential new hook-ups, etc before anything happens: flush out who, what, where, how, when, why. Make agreements before entering a social/sexual space so that you have a foundation from which to explore. This does get tricky when you are going with a new date or meeting them there, as perhaps those more explicit conversations wouldn’t naturally take place yet, so it’s even more important to buck up and talk about your expectations, desires, and comfort levels. Part of navigating a social/sexual space like a swingers club is social intelligence, too: what would it tell you if someone you brought left your side to go hook-up with someone else without an explanation? That kind of exclusive behavior can signal a lack of interest unless there has been some explicit verbal communication to provide more robust information.

Options:

“Hey, you’re really cute! I’d love to play tonight if we get the opportunity, so let me know if you’re up for it!”

“Hi friends! We’d love to play tonight, but we’re also open to playing with the new people we met here tonight. So if we don’t play tonight is that okay with you?”

“I know we’ve only had one date, and there is definitely no pressure for us to do anything, but I would love to hang out more and have some time to talk with you more while we’re here together.”

How do you navigate sex/swingers clubs? How does it feel different operating as a couple versus a single person? Have you encountered especially tricky situations, or can you imagine what some might be? How did you resolve them, or how would you want to?

 

Using Craigslist Safely

In light of this awful piece of news, I wanted to offer some advice on using Craigslist safely when looking for sexy encounters.

Basic technology and online dating safety considerations also apply to using Craigslist. Here are the guidelines J and I use. Abiding by any set of rules are honestly probably not going to keep you safe from sociopaths, but they will help you feel at ease when meeting strangers. Meeting strangers off of Tinder or Craigslist or Grindr or any other online platforms is risky, but most people are not sociopaths (and, honestly, every time you leave the house poses some sort of risk!). Even so, minimizing risk to your health and well being is a good idea.

1. Use an email address that is not connected to your legal identity. Set up your profile name as different than your legal one, and don’t use your last name. Craigslist at least now assigns a craigslist email to every user; you have to intentionally swap real email addresses with those you are corresponding with.

2. If you are sending racy photos, I recommend sending naked photos that don’t include your face. If you want to send photos with your face, you can blur out your face or use a black bar to cover your eyes. When J and I send photos, we have one album of racy photos with no faces, and one album of just our faces so that the two aren’t immediately connected.

3. Be cautious when sending videos. We have primarily shared videos with friends we already know pretty well. Once, we were chatting with someone who answered an ad of ours and “she” really wanted to see a video I had made. We ended up sending it to her through Google Drive, and then deleting it about six hours later. It’s possible the person downloaded it in that amount of time; I don’t think I would share a video again with someone I hadn’t yet met in person.

4. Think about using Google Voice as a second phone number. You can receive this number at your regular cell phone, but as long as it doesn’t become your phone number through your carrier, I don’t think it can be tracked in the same way. You can choose whatever area code you want.

5. When planning to meet potential dates off of Craigslist, meet somewhere public and preferably in an area that you are familiar with. Tell at least one person where you are going and when you think you will be home. Have your buddy text or call you at a prearranged time to check in with you. Have a safety plan in place that your buddy can enact if they can’t get in touch with you (calling the police would probably be a good move).

6. You know what they say about first impressions? I think it’s true: J and I usually know within a a millisecond whether we trust or basically like someone, or whether we don’t. Trust your gut and your instincts. Know that there are plenty of potential dates out there and don’t ignore your instincts in favor of a potentially sexy time. (This also applies to the nice person-jerk spectrum, and not just to those you think could potentially physically hurt you)

7. If you decide to go with somewhere after meeting in public, I recommend another more public place if you can, like a swingers club or hotel. Having more people increases your safety. If you decide to bring someone back to your place or if you decide to go to theirs, have separate modes of transportation and let your buddy know what’s going on. If you’re going to their place, send your buddy the address.

8. If the energy changes, your skin crawls, or your hair stands up when you get back to the place of residence, once again trust yourself. Don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings; your physical safety is far more important.

Stay safe, have fun!

Any other pieces of advice that you want to share?

Attachment & Sex

How do you limit attachment to other people that you form intimate sexual relationships with?

I think this question comes with an assumption: that one wants to limit attachment to other sexual partners. I don’t necessarily operate that way in my relationship with other people. If I want to explore other connections with a sexual partner, whether that be emotional or social or spiritual, I would consider it, depending on how such a connection fits in with my current relationship(s) and other life stuff.

But, if you are operating from a foundation that says you should or want to limit those attachments and connections, these are my (philosophical, perhaps not super helpful) thoughts:

-Investigate your feelings toward what sex, love, and lust all mean to you. If you know that you are highly unlikely to enjoy casual sex, or that having sex at all with someone leads to deep feelings for someone else, and you’re trying to stay away from such feelings, perhaps casual sex isn’t your best route for connection with others. Perhaps, though, making  boundaries for yourself around what those different things mean will make a difference in your ability to stay clear about how your experiences impact you.

-Similarly, being able to parse out your emotions clearly will help in compartmentalizing your sexual experiences from your romantic-sexual ones. If you can identify your feelings of lust and know that those are different than the feelings of love for a long term romantic partner, that may help in giving yourself a reality check on what your emotions are telling you.

-If you are already in new relationship energy (NRE) bliss, then it might also be a good time for a reality check: think the relationship and connection through. It’s hard to do when you are over the moon about someone and their energy, but as best you can, try to keep a level head and put the connection in perspective to the rest of your life.

-Define what “intimate” sex versus “casual” sex is for you. Perhaps try reframing some of your sexual experiences one way or another to see how it makes a difference in the attachments you feel.

-Define your boundaries. Boundaries are the things YOU get to set for yourself. Who gets access to your space, mind, heart, and body? When? Why? How? If you don’t want to let someone into your emotional world, you don’t have to. You can still be kind, but you don’t have to grant anyone and everyone access to your heart, including sexual partners.

-Think about why forming attachments to sexual partners is an undesirable consequence of the relationship. Forming an attachment doesn’t necessarily mean you owe that partner a commitment of some kind (except for those you have discussed and negotiated). Sure, it can hurt to have someone we are attached to leave or hurt us, but that is a risk we take through forming relationships, being vulnerable, and becoming attached to others.

-Conversely (or perhaps not), consider the Buddhist teaching that attachment leads to suffering. How can you love deeply, connect authentically, and yet also free yourself from expectations that a relationship look, act, or be a certain way? (I find the work of Byron Katie to be extremely helpful here)

Does anyone else have any other suggestions, insights, etc.?

Goodbye to DatingAdvice

I will no longer be contributing to DatingAdvice.com, as they wanted a full face photo (which is effectively using my real name). It’s been a good time and a good run!

Access my profile and all of my DA posts here. They will be leaving them up, so they’re not going anywhere.

Thanks to DA for including me for so long!

Have any questions for me about sexual health or nonmonogamy or relationship health? Send me a message through the contact tab above. 🙂

Velvet Rope vs. Club Sesso

I realize that I have written a formal post on New Horizons in Seattle, but that I have not done the same for the clubs in Portland- Velvet Rope and Club Sesso (I did write a description of Sesso for DatingAdvice, but did not explicitly name Sesso in the article. You can read that description here).

So if you are looking to explore a swingers club in Portland, and are trying to decide which club to try out, my bottom line advice is:

Go to both.

They are categorically different clubs and offer different experiences. I have only been to Velvet Rope twice, and Sesso countless times, and so I recognize that I am not the most qualified person to compare and contrast the two (and, I obviously prefer Sesso).

But like I said, the two offer different experiences, so it’s important to try both out, especially if you are new to the swinger scene and don’t know what to expect.

I like to describe Sesso as a sexy night club and VR as your neighborhood bar with a sexy twist. While Sesso has been built to emulate a night club and has a dance floor that you can watch from the upstairs balcony, VR feels like a converted office building and the space has random rooms and spaces. Sesso is loud, especially on the weekends, and VR is quiet. While the crowd and music at Sesso makes it feel like a crowded and social space (because it is), it means that you can’t often have good conversation with people you don’t know, because you have to talk loudly or yell to be heard. VR has an advantage here, because you can actually talk with people. Other compare and contrast characteristics: VR has hot tubs; Sesso doesn’t. VR has a smoking patio; Sesso doesn’t (smokers have to stand outside the front of the building). VR offers a more inclusive feel (they often have drag queens and male strippers perform); Sesso has a more heteronormative feel. VR is cheaper; Sesso is more expensive (and just raised its prices, which I am hating, and is actually a reason we have not been going as much). Both offer food, but Sesso has a full buffet (dinner at first, changed out to breakfast later on), while VR’s offering is much smaller and less appealing. Sesso’s aesthetic is more consistent and new than that in VR, making it feel cleaner to me. In both you are responsible for cleaning up your play areas, but at Sesso volunteers spray down each play surface before new folks use it, while at VR just the sheets are traded out. The crowd at both venues is pretty body-positive- there is a wide range of body shapes and sizes and ages present. At Sesso, though, more people get dressed up (as there is actually a dress code loosely enforced), while at VR it’s much more low-key, clothes-wise. Both play porn, both have non-private orgy spaces, both have rooms with doors that close. Both have condoms everywhere.

I know there is a community that frequents VR that absolutely loves it, and prefers it hands-down to Sesso. I think the fact that it is a more mellow, quiet space and is a smaller core community makes it feel homey for people. I think it is awesome that it offers a more inclusive space for sex-positive people of many identities.

I prefer Sesso overall, though, because I like socializing with people, and there are just more people at Sesso to socialize with. I also really like getting dressed up when I go out, and being around others who get dressed up- it makes the experience feel more sexy and glamorous to me.

Want a handy chart of how I view the two? Here it is:

Screen shot 2014-05-30 at 9.58.12 AM

Have you been to both clubs? What is your preference? Do you disagree or agree with anything I wrote? Comment! Especially so that others exploring their options can see different perspectives on the two clubs 🙂

The Misunderstood Life of a Queer Woman

My most recent DA post is live today: The Misunderstood Life of a Queer Woman

I loved writing this one- it follows from a post long ago that I wrote, and is something that I think about often.

megaphone169-408x264Here’s my intro:

“I identify as queer and really enjoy being with women. I have been with women sexually and dated a few of them, but I’ve always had a hard time with this idea that I “read” as straight.

Several of my close women friends have expressed similar sentiments to me.
Other pieces to this issue include biphobia (or the discrimination against bisexuals) and what I would label as polyphobia (or the fear of poly/open relationships).

I’ve had a difficult time dating women

There are several issues that make dating women complicated, including things like I don’t look “gay enough,” am also attracted to men and already have an existing partner.
It is difficult separating out all of these issues, but I want to focus on this idea of looking the part to attract women.

Most sage advice recommends you don’t change yourself to fit some idea of what you should look like in order to attract partners. For me, I know I don’t want to cut my long hair in order to look the part of a queer woman.”

It was helpful to me to write this piece and to remind myself of the idea I close with:

“Embody the values you want to live by and the characteristics that arouse and charm you. Be your own best friend and let the rest fall into place.”

Go read the rest! 🙂

Intro to BDSM

My newest DA post is live today: This Intro to BDSM Is So Good It Hurts

Hahaha. Cheesy!

My intro is below; make sure to go read the rest!

“Consider this a very brief introduction to BDSM, often called kink.

BDSM stands for:

  • Bondage/Discipline
  • Domination/Submission
  • Sadism/Masochism

BDSM relationships, or kinky relationships, may or may not coincide with open/ethically nonmonogamous relationships.

You will find because BDSM relationships require a great deal of explicit communication and negotiation, partners in those relationships have consented to some kind of open relationship as well (the explicit communication style tends to bleed over.)

However, there also are plenty of sexually monogamous kinky couples.”

What is your experience with BDSM like? Is it icing on your cake, the whole cake, or perhaps a sprinkle in your erotic life? Or do you just like it vanilla all the time?