I have been more or less a part of the alt-erotic party scene, and the swinger/lifestyle nightlife scene specifically, for the past 10 years; during that time I have witnessed a complete shift in attitude and acceptance regarding what is considered “normal sexual behavior”. This change has been so complete in fact that the swinger/lifestyle-scene, at least in the traditional sense, has been rendered almost non-existent.
Now before you jump all over me, I think the more explicit events (e.g. private, where actual sex occurs as part and parcel of the experience) will continue to exist albeit underground (where I am sure those who indulge in such decadence prefer it). No, here I am referring to the parties that gained popularity around 2000 or so, those offering, “swinging light” if you will. These events were held in public venues, semi-private affairs that catered to those:
“Wishing to explore sexuality with their (heretofore) monogamous partner.”
I should add here that attendees were most typically straight couples.
I stumbled upon these events in my late 20’s, always a part of the nightlife scene, they seemed a natural extension and a means to explore what was becoming a very pressing urge to explore my own (bi)sexuality and what, at the time, were considered more deviant expressions of that sexuality (polyamory, exhibitionism/voyeurism, BDSM, pornography, eroticism). These parties were, to my limited knowledge, my only option for such exploration.
And explore I did, I have been: guest, promoter, host, and performer at one time or another throughout the last decade at some of the most of the established “erotic parties” in NYC. And for the most part I can report a positive experience…if not particularly satisfying, as I quickly learned my desires weren’t particularly aligned with any of these mainstream sub-groups (an oxymoron I realize, but apt one). I was not a swinger, a don, or a sub…I was somewhere in between all of these “labels”, which at the time wasn’t readily accepted; however, I think much of that has changed. Actually, I think EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED.
I didn’t notice until I took some time off from the nightlife scene to focus on my career, maybe a year. When I returned to nightlife, I began also promoting in mainstream (“vanilla”) clubs, upon their request, on regular club nights. In the beginning we would be the most outrageous bunch in the club. The “we” mostly being those who like me were comfortable with exploring and expressing their sexuality in the nightlife scene but perhaps not comfortable with any of the established alternative “labeled” events (e.g. swinger, etc.). During the five years or so that I worked for both alt/sex parties and “vanilla” parties…things definitely shifted…most notably, previously unacceptable behaviors became acceptable and even common in these “vanilla” parties…behaviors like:
Expressed bisexuality, homosexuality, polyamory
- You no longer only saw just the “straights” making-out…now it was same-sex, group-sex, the more the merrier!
- I can remember the day when Pastease (brand pasties) would have never been allowed in mainstream clubs, they are now considered a viable outfit-option; not to mention, burlesque is performed and promoted at all the top notch venues!
Alternative sexual practices
- “S&M” themed parties have become the norm…and while they don’t offer perhaps the depth that a “real” BDSM event would, they are by no means tame!
And finally…something else changed, something that I think provides a clue as to the motivation for all of the aforementioned changes:
Photos of all of the above…shared, across social media.
- Ten years ago, cameras were even allowed at these events, such was the stigma associated with those who attended them. At the very best, maybe the promoter would allow you to post photos on MySpace…WITH HER FACE BLURRED OUT.
You only have to peruse the social/entertainment/news media to see that as a culture we are moving toward a less conservative (sexually), albeit more exploitative (see social media), world. And this shift (I believe) is responsible for the move from sexual expression as private to expression as public. In other words, this observed change described here isn’t about us “as a culture” becoming more open and accepting, it’s really about becoming more exhibitionistic in reaction to our recently adapted “need” to over-share our lives through social media and by extension to indulge in others’ lives through that vehicle…lives that were, before MySpace and Facebook, largely private.
This is a case where the end doesn’t directly correlate to the means…however, I will take it…the “end” (being more sexual freedom of expression) is pretty sweet.