Good Bi Love: Reflections On My First Members-Only Play Party

11/27/2017

More often than not, when I see a piece that discusses bisexuality written by a queer person, it doesn’t actually discuss sex. There’s a reason for this. The identities of sexual minorities are often reduced to the physical act of sex by straight people. So as a queer writer, you want to make it clear that there’s more to a person’s sexual identity than the physical act of sex.

Take, for example, when a son comes out as gay to his bigoted father, and the first thing that pops into his father’s mind is an image of his son getting pounded by some leather daddy. While that may be what the future holds for his newly out gay son, that shouldn’t be what first comes to a dad’s mind when his son comes out as gay.

This is all to say that the the physical act of sex is just one component to an individual’s sexual identity. I believe the queer community has made progress in making this known to straight folks.

Nevertheless, there’s a reason why we call it sexuality. Sex still is a large component. And today, I’d like to discuss sex — and the role it plays in my sexual identity and overall well-being — more explicitly.

I was invited to a play party put on by the members-only club, NSFW: New Society For Wellness. The New Society For Wellness (NSFW) describes itself as a Brooklyn-based private club and digital agency connecting like-minded millennials with vice-category brands in sexual wellness, cannabis, and adventure.

While I’ve been to a number of sex parties before, I’ve never been to one hosted by an “official” club. One that you could only attend with a members-only invite. Honestly, the whole premise of these clubs sounded exclusionary and elitist, so I never had any interest in attending a play party put on by a members-only club.

The parties I’ve been to have been predominantly gay and male, and the focus of those parties is really sex and only sex. No chit chat. No cheese platter. For that matter, no (or very dimmed) lights.

NSFW, on the other hand, curated an experience. One that was safe, pleasurable, and amiable. The environment  wasn’t just about sex — that’s why they call it a play party and not a sex party.  Daniel Saynt, the founder of NSFW told me:

“The reason we don’t call it a ‘sex party’ is because calling it that automatically brings expectations. We don’t want anyone to feel pressured to have sex at NSFW. While sex does happen and we provide an environment where exploration is encouraged, there’s never any expectation to have sex and participation is never required. By using the term “play party” we are able to help people get into the mindset of someone expecting things to get playful. Our Clubhouse is literally one giant adult playground. There are tons of toys available for members to experience and the playful nature of our events ensures our guests always feel comfortable and safe.”

The whole day after the play party, I had this huge grin on my face.

No, not for the reason you expect. I didn’t have sex with anyone, including my date, who I’ve been dating casually for a little over a month. In fact, I barely kissed anyone.

I was smiling because there was something incredibly empowering existing in that space, especially as someone attracted to all genders. God knows I wasn’t expecting to feel empowered after the party.

Before going further, I think it’s important to note that NSFW isn’t a group that’s specific to queer individuals. Nevertheless the group is open to and embraces all folks of various genders and sexual orientations. Otherwise, I would never in a million years have attended. Additionally, the founder of the group, Daniel Saynt, is bi, as is his boyfriend.

With that out of the way, let me continue on here.

What I realized is that I, for the most part, don’t always feel safe expressing my “full” sexuality and attractions. In gay bars, yes, I feel comfortable expressing my sexuality with men, but only men. My (now) ex-girlfriend and I used to go to gay bars together, but after a few months, she refused to go with me. She hated the way people looked at us for appearing like that “straight” couple in the gay bar, when the truth is, she was bi, and while she presented traditionally feminine (and preferred female gender pronouns), she identified as as transman.

Another example is when she and I attended a pride party a few years back in Boston. There, she overheard a drunk and catty gay man say, “How can she not know her boyfriend is gay? She must be in denial.” So even in the spaces where she and I should feel the most welcomed, we felt excluded.

Then, of course, at straight bars I hardly ever feel comfortable being intimate with another man.

But at this play party, I felt comfortable kissing my (female) date on the lips while caressing the thigh of another man. I felt 100% comfortable discussing my bisexuality with folks. Still, it wasn’t a big topic of discussion because no one asked. No one cared. Ironically, how you sexually identified wasn’t important at the party where people were having sex. What mattered was being sex-positive, respectful, and open-minded.

I also felt like I could be unabashedly myself with my mannerisms. I didn’t feel a need to act more masculine, which I sometimes do unconsciously when around straight men. I didn’t feel uncomfortable flirting with women, which happens more often than not. I’ve previously discussed this before, when in another Bi.org piece I wrote, “At this point in my life, since I primarily exist in queer spaces, I grow uncomfortable and nervous around straight women…The issue is: I don’t want to be another white, cisgender, (seemingly) straight man who approaches a woman, attempting to ‘pick her up.’”

At the event, I wasn’t uncomfortable talking to women or to men. I felt like myself. Unabashedly myself. I felt embraced by everyone there regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

That’s why I had this smile I couldn’t wipe off my face. I felt as if I found a community. And as any bi guy can tell you, an accepting community is not always easy to come by.

Zachary Zane

Zachary Zane a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, speaker, YouTuber, and activist whose work focuses on (bi)sexuality, gender, identity politics, relationships, and culture. He’s a contributing editor at The Advocate Magazine, a columnist at Bi.org, and currently writes for The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Out Magazine, and PRIDE.