Before I met my ex in 2016, dating made me painfully insecure. I grew up with overly-critical parents and I was unpopular in high school — both experiences that gave me deep-seated body image issues that trickled into my dating life. I took every romantic rejection personally and secretly believed I wasn’t attractive enough to date anyone I actually liked. These insecurities followed me for years, and it wasn’t until I began attending sex parties that I learned to push them away for good.
A lot changed over the three years my ex and I dated. Garnering the desire of someone as attractive as him gave me confidence, but ultimately, I felt our relationship was holding me back. I found myself wanting to explore other connections when I traveled, and I was becoming interested in practices like orgasmic meditation and sexological bodywork. I wanted to explore my sexuality in ways that didn’t fit within our relationship’s monogamous structure, so we parted ways in June 2019.
A few weeks after our breakup, a friend invited me to a sex party, where guests mingle with other sex-positive people and engage in sexual activity if they so choose. It sounded intimidating, but also like the perfect opportunity to learn about myself, as I wanted to do when I broke up with my boyfriend. At first, I was hesitant. I was scared I’d just end up getting rejected if I went. But ultimately, I decided the opportunity was worth facing my fears.
The first party I went to was at a club in New York City called NSFW, and I felt extremely awkward. All those thoughts I used to have about not being desirable flooded back as I began to consider approaching people. I expressed my attraction to one guy who told me he wasn’t looking to participate in the sexual aspect of the event. A surprising number of people do just go to socialize, but I took his rejection personally and left the party shortly after. Part of me wanted to never put myself out there like that again, but I also knew that precisely because I felt that way, sex parties were a huge growth opportunity for me. I consulted a friend, who convinced me that going back would be a good way to break out of my shell.
I returned to NSFW after two weeks. Once again, I couldn’t find anyone to “play” with and I left feeling insecure. But instead of letting it affect my self-esteem like last time, I confronted those feelings head-on, reminding myself of all the reasons the night could have turned out the way it did that were unrelated to my desirability: A lot of people were already coupled up. Many were shy. I probably came off shy.
Figuring I might as well completely throw myself into this new world, I joined another sex club in New York called Hacienda. At my first party there, I saw a guy sitting alone, so I walked over and sat next to him. I felt anxious about striking up a conversation, but it turned out we were kindred spirits — both writers with similar spiritual interests. Though neither of us felt comfortable playing at the party, we ended up going on a few dates after.
As I surveyed the “playroom” where people go to hook up, tears came to my eyes. I felt defeated and left out.
I felt more confident by my third NSFW party, but when someone caught my eye early on, I still assumed he was too hot for me and talked myself out of approaching him. I asked two other people to play instead, and they both also turned me down. As I surveyed the “playroom” where people go to hook up, tears came to my eyes. I felt defeated and left out. Then, just as I was thinking of giving up, a guy started talking to me and introduced me to the first guy I'd spotted earlier.
It was an odd scene: The object of my desire — he looked like Chris Evans, so let’s call him Chris — was pinching the nipple of a woman who was getting flogged by another woman. Unsure how one initiates sexual contact at a sex party, I awkwardly declared to Chris, “I want to participate,” to which he replied, “You want to pinch her nipple?” “No,” I timidly replied. “I want to touch you.” He laughed and asked if I was shy, confessing to my surprise that he was shy, too. We started talking. Next thing I knew, we were kissing, and I asked if he wanted to go back to the playroom with me. He said yes. He fingered me for a bit and asked if I wanted to go further. Since I didn’t know him that well and was still feeling out the situation, I decided to leave it at that, but it was a breakthrough to realize I could’ve had the guy I wanted all along — all I had to do was say something. I was worthy of Chris Evans’ attention just as I was.
A few weeks later, I traveled to London and decided to check out the sex party scene there, so I attended a “couples and ladies night” one Saturday at a club called Le Boudoir. There was a man there whose job was to show people around and help them feel comfortable. I confessed to him that I was feeling nervous. “You’re in high demand here!” he encouraged me. “You’re the unicorn!” (A unicorn is a single person who’s available for threesomes with couples.)
With that knowledge fueling my confidence, I struck up a conversation with an attractive couple, and it turned out they were, in fact, interested in me. At that club, I had my first threesome, and once that experience was under my belt (no pun intended), nothing felt intimidating anymore. I went up to a few people and simply asked, “Can I kiss you?” Each time, I got a yes. And when I met a couple I liked so much I didn’t want to leave them when the club closed, I voiced that, too. They invited me back home with them. I ended up having my second threesome that night as well, and making two new friends.
In total, I attended nine sex parties that summer. By the time I moved to LA in the fall, I felt ready to get on Tinder and start dating again for real. Unlike my experiences on dating apps before my last relationship, it didn’t hurt as much when people didn’t match with me or respond to my messages. After all, I was the woman who’d had a 100% success rate at Le Boudoir, and I was beginning to see that my less-than-perfect success rate at NSFW really wasn’t due to a lack of desirability. It probably had more to do with how much discomfort and insecurity I was projecting at the time, or with other people’s own insecurities and boundaries.
When I carried myself with the belief that people can be attracted to me, I got more attention than I did when I was timid and faced far less rejections than I used to. With fewer insecurities holding me back, I became bold about asking people out and making moves when I wanted to hook up or see them again. I quickly met a few people I began dating simultaneously, and I started feeling like the sex goddess I was always meant to be. I told one guy at a meet-up that I wanted to make out with him. I gave another specific instructions on how to please me in the bedroom. I even chased one down over snail mail when my texts and calls weren’t getting through to him.
Sex parties taught me that you miss out on a lot if you don’t go after what you want. So now, I always do. After all, the greater the fear I overcome, the freer I am to follow my desires.