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I’ve lived my life in a unique order. Somewhere, mixed in between becoming progressively more chronically ill, finding a steady graphic design job, getting married to my long-term monogamous partner, getting two dogs, and buying a house in the suburbs, I also started teaching sex education, realized I was bisexual, learned that polyamory existed…and then decided to open up a decade-long monogamous relationship, and even co-founded an event business hosting play parties with Rebecca Hiles of The Frisky Fairy. Together, Rebecca and I created Glittergasm Events—inclusive, sex-positive, and consent-focused “choose-your-own-adventure”-style queer play parties, and I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it is to get to be a part of creating events where people feel safe, comfortable, and happy enough to be vulnerable and explore.

(P.S. If you want to attend our Philadelphia-based events click here to learn more! Want to bring us to your town or event, contact us here!)

I’ve also learned a lot, both from personal experiences and as an event organizer about what people should discuss with their partner(s) before attending a play party together. Discussing these topics with your partner(s) prior to the event will help you not only navigate parties more easily together but will also allow you to have more fun with a lot less stress and anxiety.

If you’re new to all of this and don’t know where to start, Fetlife is a great place to find events, especially if you’re looking for kink-focused parties, you can check out Swingers Clubs if that’s more your style, and you can check out articles like this one for further tips on finding a play party that aligns with what you’re looking for.

If you’ve already found a play party to attend, here’s 5 things you should discuss with your partner(s) before you go to make it an easier and more fun experience for all:

1. Take time individually to consider your boundaries, then discuss together 

A lot of people feel like they need to be this cool, nonchalant, happy-go-lucky non-monogamous person or who never experiences jealousy, but the reality is that we all have boundaries and it’s important to know and share what those are. Set aside any preconceived notions of what you think you’re “supposed to be comfortable with” and focus on how where your boundaries actually are right now. The happy-go-lucky ideal so many people strive for doesn’t actually exist—people are complicated and everyone has needs and boundaries and pretending you don’t will only make things more challenging.

Spend some time solo considering how you’re feeling. Whether it’s your first play party or your 150th you’ll likely find that your headspace and boundaries vary depending on a lot of other factors, like what’s going on in your life, the type of party it is, where the party is being held, who will be attending, and your comfort level you have with those folks. Once you’ve had some time to process alone, sit down with your partner(s) and discuss it. Remember to be honest with where your head and boundaries are and don’t pressure yourself or each other.

If one or both of you aren’t sure where your boundaries are or is feeling really nervous or unsure, a good option is to consider making your first play party (or your first trip to this specific event) a recon mission—just go and check it out, meet people, but don’t do anything sexy you aren’t both 110% sure you’re okay with. If you find that you vary in where your comfort zones are, stick to the more conservative boundaries for now rather than someone getting pressured into things they’re not ready for. Trust me, there will be plenty of time to do more exploring in the future.

Everyone has boundaries, and the best thing you can do is to learn what your boundaries are and how to effectively communicate them with the other people in your life. For most people, boundaries often naturally shift as they feel more comfortable—but pushing your comfort zone before you’re ready for it will likely only cause more problems than it solves, for both you and your partner(s). When you agree to things you don’t really feel okay with, you’re setting yourself up for a negative experience, and also making it harder for your partner to trust you to know your own boundaries moving forward. 

2. Talk about your safer sex practices

This isn’t about shaming folks for their STI statuses—STIs are no different than other infections or viruses. That said, it’s important to decide what levels of risk you’re comfortable with, what barriers you’d like to use, and testing practices—all good things to do, whether you attend play parties or not. 

Many folks at play parties will ask about recent testing/STIs you may have, so it’s a great idea to get tested in advance so you can share that information with anyone you may want to play with. I know that our society places a lot of unnecessary shame on folks with STIs, but many folks in sex-positive spaces know that this is a ridiculous stigma and that most STIs are not a big deal and will just adjust their safer sex practices as needed. Either way, being upfront about your STI status is an important part of informed consent.

If you’re considering your safer sex/risk-aware practices for the first time, remember the types of sex you’re having determine your risk more than the number of partners you have. Using sex toys on 10 people with no fluids being exchanged, has a lower risk of STIs than unprotected PIV sex with one person. Scarleteen has this great guide to help you navigate what the STI risks are with various sexual acts. Also, consider if there’s a risk of getting pregnant/getting someone pregnant and how you’d like to navigate that, or if you’re chronically ill or immunocompromised, you may also want to take extra precautions to limit the risk of exposure to STIs too. 

Another great idea is to practice your safer sex elevator pitch before you get to an event. It’s a short speech that explains a bit about risk factors, testing practices, other important tidbits, and a bit about any sexual preferences you have—and it’s a great, low-key way to encourage other people to share that information about themselves with you!

Pro tip: when you’re discussing STI testing results, use words like “positive” and “negative” rather than “clean”/”dirty,” which perpetuate STI stigma

3. Decide what kind of play you’re interested in—and who you plan to play with

This one swings back to your boundaries. While the first point was about what you are comfortable with, now we want to look at how you and the partner(s) your attending want to engage with the space and people around you. If it’s a swingers party, you can also check out this helpful Swingtown’s article here about “Things swinging couples need to know in order to enjoy a swingers club” for even more great things to consider.

Here are some questions to consider to get you started:
• Is this just a recon mission, or do you plan on playing?
• Are you going to play just with each other—or do you want to play with other folks who attend as well?
• Are you going to play separately or together, and what do those terms mean to you:
– Are you and your partner(s) a package deal?
– Are you playing “together” if you’re in the same room but not interacting?
– What about if you’re in the same sexy pile of bodies, but aren’t interacting specifically with each other?
– What counts as playing “together”?
• Do you want to watch each other play with other people, or conversely, do you specifically not want to see your partner(s) with other people?
• Are there sex acts that you don’t want to engage in? Are there sex acts you’d be uncomfortable if your partner(s) engaged in?

4. Decide how to handle it if one of you decides you’d like to leave the event early

Especially if you’re new to play parties, you’re new to attending parties to new to attending this specific event, spend time considering how you’ll handle it if your partner wants to leave and you want to stay or vice versa. 

Also, if you’ll be playing with other people or playing in potentially different rooms, how will you get each other’s attention or notify the other you’re ready to head out? What if they’re in the middle of playing with someone else? 

A few suggestions: 
• Again, making your first event a recon mission to just check things out is a great way to see how you’ll feel in the space and will allow you to plan better for what will make you and your partner(s) feel more comfortable at events going forward. People aren’t always great at predicting how they’ll feel in new situations, so figuring that out first will help you figure out how to navigate play parties.
• If you plan on navigating the event separately, set up times with your partner(s) to check back in and see how they’re feeling.
• If the event runs late, as many play parties do, consider agreeing to a tentative time to leave in advance (especially if either of you tends to get tired early), check-in at that time, and if you’re both want to stay you can always agree to stay later.
• If you don’t want to worry about any of this, discuss that and arrange separate transportation! 

5. Make a Plan for Aftercare & Debriefing About the Event Together 

Regardless of your experience level and how comfortable you feel like you’ll be at a play party, and a lot of times feelings will come up that you weren’t expecting—or maybe you just want to gush to your partner about what an incredible experience you had.

Either way, consider this to be part of your aftercare, for yourselves and each other! This time can be whatever you need it to be: a time to reconnect with each other, to talk about how much you loved it, to ask for reassurance if you’ve found unexpected insecurities popped up, whatever you both need!

Talk in advance about when you’d like this to take place. Some folks want to ride the excitement of the event and talk about it right away, while others might need time to process for a bit before sharing. Make a plan beforehand, and then check-in after the event to see if that plan still works for you and adjust your game plan if needed!

Every play party has its own vibe. Some fit the dungeon or “Eyes Wide Shut” aesthetic, some focus on kink/BDSM, or specific types of play, some focus more on sex, some are meant just for swinger couples, and some, like our Glittergasm Events, are pretty wholesome and designed to accommodate play party newbies, asexual folks, and experienced play party-goers alike.

Figure out what you’re looking for and find a party that fits your needs.

Have other tips or suggestions couples should discuss before attending a play party? Drop them in the comments below.

Thank you again to Swingtowns for sponsoring this article! If you’d like to sponsor an article on Hedonish, contact me here.

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