So you’re thinking of joining a virtual sex event?
Here's what you need to know.
As the weeks of lockdown continue to drag on, our chaotic horniness shows no sign of slowing down. Last month, Tinder was reporting swipes in the billions (the highest ever recorded). Pornhub are absolutely winning too, reporting huge peaks in traffic worldwide. And sex toy companies have been cashing in, with sales tripling in some regions.
But there’s one area of the sex industry that isn’t doing so well. Many sex workers have been forced to abandon their livelihoods entirely, as social distancing makes what they do near impossible. In the UK, there is no safeguarding in place to protect those in the sex industry made especially vulnerable by the ongoing situation. In the US, the situation is worse, with sex workers actively excluded from governmental financial aid. Eligibility criteria states that businesses will not be able to apply for aid if they “present live performances of a prurient sexual nature or derive directly or indirectly more than de minimis gross revenue through the sale of products or services, or the presentation of any depictions or displays, of a prurient sexual nature.” However, the sex industry is finding ways to adapt and, for many performers and venues, COVID-19 has offered an opportunity for growth online.
New York private members sex club NSFW immediately got creative. Its founder Daniel Saynt jumped at the opportunity to take NSFW’s events online. They now host virtual events weekly, with live performances and private play rooms, that simulate the experience of being at their Manhattan clubhouse. Their membership has rapidly grown as a result. Soon they will be running events tailored to different time zones, to cater to their growing international membership. They also host a regular online event for new members, Send Noobs, which is an opportunity to find out about NSFW, learn about kink and consent, introduce yourself and meet other members.
Lockdown, it seems, offers a great opportunity to explore your sexuality. For people dipping their toes into sex parties for the first time, doing so from the comfort of your own bedroom can be a great first step. In fact, according to Daniel, a large number of people at NSFW’s virtual events had never attended a sex party before. “It’s incredible actually,” he says. “There are a lot of people who perhaps were scared to come to a party, or for geographical reasons couldn’t make it to an event.” It’s unsurprising, really, that we’ve become used to exploring our sexuality through a screen. “It’s pornography,” he adds. “Psychologically I think that’s one aspect of it. And it can feel very different to going to a place and having to be around other people and the anxieties that come with that. A lot of times too people want to hold onto their fantasies, rather than experience them. And that fear and shyness can stop them stepping through into an in-person event.” But, there’s still etiquette, and there is most definitely still a dress code. “I will personally kick out the next person who turns up in their pyjamas,” says Daniel.
Melissa A Vitale, NSFW’s Communications Director, describes her first virtual event during lockdown. “My girlfriends and I called each other; we were all saying ‘What are you wearing?’ It really felt like we were going to an event at the clubhouse. It was the first time in ages we all felt something close to normal.” For those nervous about their first event, Melissa believes it’s all about making it feel special. “I always take a shower, shave, do a full body scrub, just really get into my sensual self. And think about your space. Think about the background. And feel sexy. Set the mood for yourself. I’ll set up a tray nearby, with some toys, lube, some joints or a drink.”
Event descriptions on NSFW’s website all state: “Participation is never required” and just like in-person events, their aim is to curate a welcoming and safe environment for people to explore their sexuality. Since lockdown began, they have also added some handy tips for attending virtual events to their website, including how to set up your computer and arrange your bedroom lighting to maximum effect.
Another person I’ve spoken to who has shifted their work online since lockdown is Rev. Rucifer, a sex educator, event producer and founder of Reiki Bondage. She agrees that online events are great for people new to sex parties and the kink scene. “We've found that virtual workshops and sex parties can create a unique space for those who may have not had the courage or opportunity to attend these kinds of parties in real life.” For the past couple of months, she’s been hosting a variety of parties and workshops, including classes on Kinky Tantra, Sensual Reiki and Erotic Self Care. “The post-workshop play parties provide an opportunity for those in the workshop to try out their new skills, or simply watch others. Last week, we also hosted our first kinky play party, Depraved, where guests and attendees could perform BDSM scenes via live stream.”
The rules at an online event, Rev. Rucifer explains, are very similar to those of an in person event. “In regards to virtual sex etiquette, consent is still required,” and communication is key. “As always, if at any point you do feel uncomfortable, reach out to the organiser to share any concerns or feedback. We're all figuring out this new reality, and feedback helps to ensure safer virtual experiences for all.”
With lockdown stretching out months ahead of us, these events aren’t just about expressing your sexuality -- they’re also a way to help people to feel less isolated. A sex event might seem intimidating if you’ve never experienced one before, but Rev. Rucifer makes it clear: organisers are always there to give advice and offer support. “Knowing this is an entirely new experience for people, we wanted to provide resources and experiences to support couples who may be spending more time together than ever before, or those that are solo to find new ways to connect with themselves or others.”