How to Have a Good Time at a Sex Party, According to People Who Go to a Lot of Them

Maybe you’ve already attended a sex party. Or perhaps you’ve just seen them in the movies (of either the Hollywood or incognito-mode variety). Either way, it’s not hard to get the appeal. Hot people. Fun costumes. Mystery. And, of course, sex. But as always, there’s a lot that both kinds of movies skip. For instance, how does one even hear about a sex party?

Whether you find one through the kinky social media site FetLife or word of mouth by entering your local poly, kink, or sex-positive scene, getting the invite is just the beginning. Play parties, as they’re often called, do indeed likely mean that you’ll see some hot people getting it on, but you’ll need some schooling before you get in on the action. Many go so far as to hold orientations. These tend to be focused on consent, but cover all kinds of topics, like how to handle safe sex and STIs, why these events usually require a costume, why some events charge cishet guys more money (and why other events think this is BS).

It’s a lot to cover. For more we talked about all things play parties with the scene’s most knowledgeable members, from sex scientists to the party organizers themselves.

How does a play party differ from a “regular” party?

“In the broadest sense possible, a play party is a group of people that can range anywhere from, I don’t know, five, six, seven—whatever you want to put the lower limit on what makes a party a party and not just a threesome or a foursome—coming together at the same time and place with the specific expressed intention to potentially find other people to have some kind of sexual interaction with on the on-premise,” Dr. Zhana Vrangalova, a professor at NYU who studies human sexuality.

It’s that premeditated intention that’s the distinguishing factor, ays Dr. Dulcinea Alex Pitagora, NYC-based psychotherapist and sex therapist. “Play parties are similar to ‘regular’ parties in that there can be snacks, beverages, and socializing. To make play parties safer, organizers or hosts will often vet attendees prior to adding them to the list of attendees; this might involve providing references known to the party organizers, or a social media account or some other way to confirm that the person attending will be a safe participant,” she says. “Play parties often have guidelines, expectations, and rules around consent that are communicated in writing ahead of time from the hosts.”

What’s so hot about going to one?

“I’ve been to over 200 sex parties and have hosted small and large sex parties (my largest had 175 people), says Zachary Zane, author of Boyslut: A Memoir and Manifesto and sex expert for the sex toy brand Fun Factory. I like the freedom of expression, the community surrounding it, and honestly, the sex. I get to have wild sex with a bunch of different folks.”

“I love meeting and connecting with people who have the same interests as me without worrying that I’m being judged,” says Carly S, a sex educator who writes the blog Dildo or Dildon’t. “We all know why we’re there and what we’re looking for.”

How do you get invited to a sex party?

“There are many different ways that organizers control who’s welcome at a party and who’s not welcome. So some of these places will be literally just open to the public; other places will have an application,” Dr. Vrangalova says.

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