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The Power of Queer-Only Play Spaces

By Clio. Cy

Art by Marlene Juliane.

I will never forget the day I discovered kink and BDSM. After many online quizzes, lots of internet articles, and thinking of past sexual experiences, I realized that I had been deprived of so many of my desires. The desire to be around kinky people, see kinky people in action, and do all the kinky things began to grow. Eventually, I went to my first play party.

For those who may not know, a play party is generally a private space where people can come together to consensually engage in a variety of sexual behaviors. These activities can be kinky, vanilla, or a space to satisfy some voyeuristic or exhibitionist needs. You can come with a partner or meet new people there. Most importantly, this space is a wonderful time to explore whatever you want — even if that means not engaging in sex at all and just experiencing the vibrant sexual energy around you.

Art by @marlenejuliane

I had some wonderful experiences at my first play party. An older white man asked me to use a stainless steel whipping rod on him, I got flogged while on a Saint Andrew’s Cross, and was able to satisfy many of my exhibitionist and voyeuristic pleasures. Although thankful for the opportunities to participate in various ways, my overall experience was complicated to say the least.

For one, I felt both invisible and hyper visible. Upon entering the space, many people did not interact with me or even look my way, which made the initial integration one that was not particularly intimate. It was honestly a bit terrifying. After spending some time getting adjusted to the space and eventually participating, I noticed how in some of my scenes I became the center of attention, which invited a lot of male gaze. And not to mention, the space lacked diversity and my queerness overall felt invisibilized, unless a couple was looking for me to be their unicorn.

I left that play party with a few experiences under my belt, but ultimately was craving more. What would it be like to be in a space that was more vibrant, more intimate, more accepting, more loving? Does that even exist? Years went by and I convinced myself that it did not, until I found myself at a queer play party for women, gender non-conforming, and trans folk.

What would it be like to be in a space that was more vibrant, more intimate, more accepting, more loving?

This queer play party was immediately different. People were socializing, laughing, and introducing themselves to each other. There was a sense of vibrancy and intimacy that I had not experienced in the first space. There were volunteers walking around the play area checking in on people and handing out gloves, condoms, and lube. Before anyone could enter, we had to listen to a speech on consent. This environment immediately felt more welcoming, especially as someone who was still new to exploring these spaces.

Art by @marlenejuliane

Upon first entering, I sat near some lovely queer people of color — it was amazing that people were interested in each other in multiple capacities beyond sexual desire. This was the first time I had the opportunity to indulge in my voyeuristic interests alongside new friends, and to share the pleasure I got from seeing those around me in pure ecstasy. It was nice to be able to say, “wow that person looks so happy,” or “that’s an amazing move! I want to try that!” At one point I was accidentally squirted on by someone playing a few feet away from me and that provided another huge dose of laughter and joy.

Eventually the group I was with decided to make our way to a more spacious area to play. Before we all engaged in play, we talked about our boundaries and pronouns beforehand, as well as things that really turned us on. Just being able to talk about desire and hear other people’s desires was a huge turn on. I won’t divulge all the juicy details, but I will say that this was hands down the most beautiful, sensual group experience I have ever experienced. There were many orgasms, lots of laughter, and after-care. It honestly felt like a scene from a dream.

This queer-only play space provided opportunities to engage with group play in ways I had never done before. This space helped me reimagine pleasure, find language for desire, and gave me confidence in communicating my desires. Play, even with strangers, can and should be fun, exciting, vibrant, safe, and consensual. It’s a shame all kink and play spaces are not always like that.

This space helped me reimagine pleasure, find language for desire, and gave me confidence in communicating my desires.

What made this experience unique and different from a normal play party was just the openness for people to fully be themselves, whatever that may look like. We all were operating in a space where some sense of queerness was assumed instead of having heteronormativity be the default. I no longer had to worry about my queerness being useful only in the context of providing pleasure for a couple as a unicorn. I no longer had to worry about if I was seen as queer by those I wanted to engage with. I no longer had to be concerned or worry about the male gaze.

I think also with many play parties there’s a tendency for the space to feel hierarchical or intimidating, and often it is suggested to not go alone — especially if you are a woman or femme. The more I reflect on this idea, the more it feels concerning! The idea that some spaces for exploration can knowingly be unsafe speaks to a larger issue of just how much work we must do in talking about consent and power in all these spaces. And although I know it’s not all spaces, I’m curious about the ways we can make all play parties and spaces for exploration feel as comfortable and safe as this queer party I attended.

I attended this queer party alone. I felt validated, I felt seen, I felt safe, I felt loved. This experience that felt like a scene from a dream will be with me for a lifetime. Even if I never attend another play party, I am thankful for the ways that I felt liberated. Thankful to have my “no” be respected. Thankful to have my desires be respected. Thankful for new friends. And thankful to now have this new sexual world to continue to explore however I wish.

Clio Cy is a queer non-binary (they/them) writer and artist whose work primarily focuses on identity, technology, sex, relationships, and intersections therein. They spend way too much time crying and plotting an eventual move to NYC. Their creative work can be viewed at www.clio-cy.com or on IG @clio.cy

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