Down with monogamy, up with orgies – why the sex party industry is thriving
It was a big day for Alicia. Heading to her new boyfriend’s flat for a party, she was going to meet some of his friends – and his other girlfriend.
Alicia – who’s going by a pseudonym – wasn’t sure what to wear to this evening soiree, hoping to look effortlessly chic in a long-sleeved top and jeans. She was nervous as other guests started to arrive. One brought flowers. Another baked a cake. For such a liberal, open-minded set up, the event was jarringly wholesome.
And then, people started taking their clothes off.
Alicia, knew she was there for a sex party – but she was still surprised at just how… naked everyone got.
‘My mind was completely blown,’ recalls the 32-year-old. ‘It was eye-opening. There were people having sex in corners, threesomes in the middle of the living room.
‘I had my first lesbian experience there. I was clear that I didn’t fancy women but it was fun to dabble in an environment that was judgement-free.
‘It also changed my appreciation for open relationships. The guy I was with clearly loved his partner – even when she was having sex with other people in front of him.
‘The whole event was like nothing I’d seen before.’
Alicia’s experience is becoming increasingly common amongst millennials and Gen Z, who are eschewing the traditional dating scene in favour of a rapidly growing alternative way to meet people – sex parties.
As a concept, these shindigs aren’t anything new. The advent of the pill heralded the sexual revolution of the 1960s, which in turn saw the proliferation of alternative relationship structures. Swinging, where people in committed relationships exchange partners, became increasingly popular, with ‘the lifestyle’ being embraced by an estimated 1.5 million Brits.
However, sex parties have far evolved beyond throwing keys into a bowl and decorating your garden with pampas grass. The scene is now embraced by the sexually adventurous younger generation on a mission to make sex soirees mainstream.
Research has found that millennials and Gen Z are more accepting of alternative relationship dynamics – a 2020 YouGov study found 43% of millennials are likely to say their ideal relationship is non-monogamous, while the annual LELO sex census has found 38% of people aged 18 to 24 are open to polyamory.
These more liberally minded attitudes have seen apps which promote alternative relationship structures flourishing in more recent years, with Feeld (essentially, a kinky Tinder for people looking to try ethical non-monogamy) being hailed as ‘single handedly firing up London’s sex party scene.’
‘Millennials represent our largest demographic,’ Feeld’s CEO, Ana Kirova, explains to Metro.co.uk. ‘They stand at the intersection of heteronormative dynamics and a newly discovered desire to explore beyond the traditional norms.’
‘In the meantime, we are seeing more Gen Z users join. While this younger demographic represents a smaller portion of our overall user base, they are certainly more fluid with their sexuality – they are our smallest straight-identifying audience.’
With Feeld having grown steadily since its inception in 2014, its peak came when it experienced ‘triple digit growth’ between 2020 and 2022, and now makes around 700,000 connections each month.
‘Millennials and Gen Z have the mindset that Feeld users share – they are known as more open-minded than generations prior, and are exploring the boundaries of societal expectation and reality,’ Ana adds.
Polly, who is in her early 30s, has certainly observed a change in attendees at sex parties over the years. Having been a regular at established events such as Killing Kittens and Torture Garden, and attending around five to six parties a year, she had seen a marked shift in the volume of younger guests.
‘When I first started going, I was definitely among the younger people in attendance,’ she tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Now the parties I tend to go to are mostly people in their mid to late 20s. There’s still people who are older but they are by no means the prominent demographic.
‘It’s always such a mix of people: all shapes, sizes, personalities, and there’s been a greater prevalence of people going to just try it out. It’s less of a secret now.’
Polly has always been interested in the sex party scene. Previously a member of FetLife (which she describes as a kinky Facebook), she was always looking for events to attend that weren’t too fetish-heavy, but also weren’t marketed as swingers events, as she was keen to go as a single woman without a partner.
After a friend suggested she attended a Killing Kittens event, Polly decided to give the party a go – where she caught the sex soiree bug.
‘I jumped in at the deep end,’ she confesses. ‘I’m an actor, so I’m very comfortable being naked around people.
‘The moment I arrived, I stripped off and put all my clothes in the cloakroom and walked around naked.
‘Everyone was so chilled. When you put the taboo in front of someone, it is immediately easier to talk about. No one needed to covertly flirt with you. We all knew what we were there for.’
Polly adds the sheer sexiness of the event is what made attending so intoxicating.
‘It’s certainly on the classier side,’ Polly says. ‘People wear nice dresses and make an effort, the parties tend to be grand townhouses with chandeliers and high ceilings.
‘It was like going to a cocktail party where anything goes. Everyone is very tactile and up for anything. It’s nice not to feel inhibited by society’s norms.’
Killing Kittens is certainly one of the more established sex party stalwarts on the scene. Founded in 2005 by Emma Sayle, the parties initially started as small soirees which put the pleasure of the ‘kittens’ – the female party-goers – at the forefront.
The brand’s popularity has since exploded in more recent years, with Killing Kittens’s Senior Events and Education Manager, Kamila Rybankiewicz, reporting a 400% increase in party attendance in the last two years.
We’re in the Roaring Twenties…people want to go out and try new things
‘We’re definitely getting a lot more younger people coming to our parties,’ Kamila, who has been with the brand for eight years, explains. ‘We’ve gone to our biggest events having 200 attendees in 2019, and now we’re easily having 800 guests at parties.
‘Everyone wants to explore to some extent. Whether it’s just going and dancing in their lingerie in front of other people or full sex or a group experience, people realise they need to do it in a safe environment.’
It’s the safety features Killing Kittens offers which may be why its popularity has soared. Partnering with the WeAreX app, the brand insists everyone that attends their parties needs to be approved and verified first. Those who make it on the party’s guestlist are then sent an exhaustive list of rules of conduct and decorum they must abide by at each event.
‘Consent is at the heart of everything we do,’ Kamila explains. ‘We want to create an environment where the kittens, so people who identify as femme, are in charge. Only kittens can approach men, a bit like Bumble, and no man can buy a ticket on his own – he has to be invited by a kitten. We want to create an environment which is empowering for femmes.’
Kamila also attributes the brand’s sharp increase in popularity to a post-pandemic hedonism, where the enforced national lockdowns saw people pondering new experiences.
‘We’re in the roaring twenties,’ Kamila explains. ‘People want to go out, try new things, and do things they wouldn’t have done otherwise. If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that life is too short. We need to live our lives to the fullest.’
The pandemic is what propelled Alicia to attend her boyfriend’s sex party. Having been in a serious relationship through lockdown and a self-described ‘serial monogomist’, she was willing to dive headfirst into the world of sex parties when restrictions lifting finally allowing people space to breathe again.
Polly argues the popularity of sex parties, particularly amongst younger clientele, may stem from the more casual nature of dating and relationships.
‘A sex party is basically an in-person dating app,’ she explains. ‘You can meet someone, instead of swiping, see if you click and see if you have chemistry. If you don’t, you never have to see them again
‘You can do it safely. You don’t have to go home with someone you don’t know. I genuinely feel safer at sex parties than I have at nightclubs, because the rules and boundaries are made very clear. You can go off privately with someone and have sex.’
Now firmly embedded into the sex party scene, Polly has made a large group of close friends from the numerous events she’s attended. The sex parties facilitated a strange sort of inverted courtship between them; starting out with sex and ending up as friends.
‘There’s groups of us where we don’t necessarily have sex with each other but we’re all comfortable in that environment where that happens,’ Polly says. ‘We actually rarely talk about sex. We have really in-depth conversations about life and we’re all open emotionally with each other.
‘We have to be attuned to our own emotions or boundaries and what you need from someone in given moment. If you can communicate that during sex, you can communicate in any other context. It lends itself to much deeper relationships.’
Of course, not everyone’s encounters at sex parties are intended to be so wholesome. For William*, who started going to events when he was 27, the casual sex he has with women helps him improve technique.
‘I’m very aware of the orgasm gap,’ he explains. ‘I like to watch and see what I learn, as it’s important that both parties come.
‘There are some parties I’ve gone to, and it’s like being in a chocolate factory – it’s very visual and there’s so much to see and experience.
‘However, you can’t always go and expect sexual intercourse. There’s a lot more sexual tourists recently – people who just want to see what’s going on.
‘But it’s not always about the sex at a sex party. It’s the spectacle of doing something different.’
Kamila agrees that sex isn’t – and shouldn’t be – a guarantee at a party.
‘Sometimes, only 40% of people who are at the party want to play,’ she explains. ‘And that’s completely fine. It’s about experimenting and feeling comfortable.
‘Sex parties may not be mainstream yet, but we’re seeing baby steps to this being much more acceptable. We’re seeing such huge growth, and I hope it continues. We need these spaces for people of all ages to explore and experiment.’
Alicia and her boyfriend went their separate ways on good terms after she attended his sex party, and she hasn’t attended any since.
‘If I’m honest, I enjoyed it too much,’ she confesses. ‘It was such an adrenaline rush. I think I’d become addicted to it. I have a business to run, work to do, friends and family to see, relationships I’m trying to build. I’d find it too much of a distraction.’
Polly, however, has no plans to put pause on the parties.
‘Sex parties have changed my life,’ she says. ‘People are so friendly and welcoming. Of course, it’s easy to overindulge. But seeing older people at parties reassures me. I will be doing this decades down the line.’
*names have been changed
‘I’m a sex party virgin… here’s what my first time was like’
As a sex party virgin, I wasn’t sure where to start, or which party to go to, when I started researching the numerous offerings available in the capital. Killing Kittens was repeatedly suggested, and they were kind enough to let me attend their annual Summer Ball.
The top-secret location of the ball was released the day before the event, and so I trekked with trepidation to the North East London nightclub with a sick feeling of nerves gnawing at my stomach. I’m certainly no prude, having licked my fair share of peanut butter in my time, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to react at seeing so much sex in such an enclosed, magnified setting. Thankfully, prosecco at the venue was only about £6, so I knocked back a few glasses for dutch courage (despite being warned ‘not to drink and kink’).
After another hastily swallowed drink, I decided to visit the so-called ‘dungeons’. Immediately, I was confronted with a woman performing oral sex on a naked man, who lay spread eagle in a booth. I shuddered at the thought of his raw, potentially unwashed arse on the leather seats. It was a sign of things to come (no pun intended).
The orgy room, at the very back of the venue, saw several couples (and throuples… and more multiples) in a variety of clinches. Soft music played over the room of writing bodies, which had attracted interested onlookers. I accidentally made eye contact with one man, who was balancing a woman on his balls while another squatted over his face. Another man, who was bent over, had a dominatrix run her fingers up his thighs before whipping him with some sort of riding crop…. To continue reading, clickhere.
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