So, it’s finally time – you’re at the point where you’re ready to check out that swingers party, or BDSM club, or sexy event that you’ve been dreaming about. Are you nervous? I hope you are, at least a little bit, because that means that you want it to go well – you want to make sure that you enjoy yourself and are welcomed back to another party (and maybe even more fun)!
The great thing is that these “alternative” get-togethers aren’t actually that hard to navigate. Yes, it’s a bunch of people that you might not know yet, and they’re doing things that you may not have done before – and while that might feel intimidating, remember that every one of them went to their first party at some point, so you aren’t the only one that’s been in that position. They also want you to feel included and empowered, too!
Before deciding to go to any particular party, read up on the party itself. Most parties put up a list (or will tell you, if you contact the hosts directly) of what their rules are for attendees. These can be very simple – the party may have just a few rules, perhaps regarding the kind of activity that is permitted – or they may be lengthy, with guidelines on how to interact with other attendees and other behavior expectations. Reading the rules can help you decide if the party is one that will be fun for you, and can also help you avoid parties that aren’t quite what you’re looking for. Additionally, you’ll have a guideline for what other guests might be doing, so you won’t be surprised by anything you didn’t expect.
Once you’ve decided to go to the party (and RSVP’d and gotten confirmation, of course), plan out what you’d like to wear. Depending on the location, you can dress from mild to wild – and you can always check the rules or ask the hosts for some ideas. In general, it’s a good idea to arrive dressed in street clothes – many events & parties are in locations where the hosts don’t want to attract negative attention – then change into your party attire once you’re there. If you’re unsure of what to wear, go with whatever you’d generally wear for a date night, perhaps with a touch of leather, fetish wear, or something that makes you feel sexy, and you’ll fit in just fine! (PS: being clean and avoiding lots of fragrance – which can turn some folks off – will help people want to be close to you!)
Once you’re there, introduce yourself to the host(s) or monitors, and let them know it’s your first time. Not only do they know what the general flow of the evening will be, but they’re usually quite sympathetic to novices and can introduce you to other people to help you feel more comfortable. And don’t feel like you have to play a role while you’re there – you don’t have to be the most dominant person in the room, or the flirtiest, to get attention! The guests at the party want to get to know you, not a role you play (though that’s often the second thing to mention, if you DO want to play). Some parties will have name tags or other ways for you to signal what you’re looking for; if that’s available, take advantage of it, as it can help start conversations throughout the evening.
There is one important (but often unspoken) point of etiquette to talk about – and that’s the question of consent. Most of the alternative sexuality communities reinforce the fact that enthusiastic, ongoing consent is a requirement for healthy & happy sexual exploration. That includes the interactions before and after sex, as well! It’s considered very bad form to touch someone without that person actively consenting to it; not everyone at the party is interested in playing, and many people may have agreements with their partners about who they’re comfortable engaging with. Simply asking “Is it okay if I touch you?” not only gives them the ability to fully consent, but also sets the tone for a consensual, fun interaction. If you hear a “no”, don’t take it personally, but don’t continue to press the issue. A great party happens because everyone feels free to be themselves, and in order for that to happen, every person needs to feel like their boundaries are respected. Likewise, should you be approached by another guest, be clear about what you want and what you don’t; your decision in either case should be respected, and if you feel that it’s not, let one of the hosts know (as they usually will handle that behavior quietly but firmly in order to ensure that everyone at the party has fun and feels safe).
Finally, remember that you’re there to see if it’s a good fit for your own desires and needs. Not every party is going to be a match; some are focused on heavy S/m play, others are very couples-focused swing parties, and still others are more “free-for-alls” in terms of sexual activity. Chances are that you’ll find there are some things you enjoy, others you don’t, and some that you will become curious about – and that’s all great! If what’s happening isn’t right for you, feel free to move into a part of the party that is focused on social space, or leave early – whatever you need to do to feel comfortable. Of course, if you’re enjoying it, then keep going, and plan to go back again – because the point of this is to have fun, right? Right!