Etiquette and Rules For Your First Swinging Soiree

Bucket lists vary from person to person. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to travel to India, get a tattoo of a Dali painting or see the Golden Gate Bridge. Maybe you’re dying to eat at French Laundry, ride in a hot air balloon or hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Or perhaps your palette is a little saucier, and while all your friends are adding their dream additions to their first homes, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, or eating duck eggs in the Philippines, all you really want to do is go to your first sex party.

Whether you’re a rookie sex-party daydreamer, or an incredible savvy partier who has earned her badges, everyone can benefit from a little orgy etiquette. Unfortunately, in the research I’ve conducted, there doesn’t appear to be an Emily Post of sex and sexuality, so I’m here to hold your hand (yes, just your hand!) and guide you through some dos and don’t of your first encounter.

My first experiences with group sex were completely disastrous. Young, awkward, unsure of myself sexually, and mostly drunk, I was known for a short time as July “walks out of group sex situations” Westhale. There was the time when I was 17, when a night of bad wine and salacious company turned an innocent game of Truth or Dare into a failed orgy, during which I excused myself politely to go downstairs and fall asleep with my head in a bowl of popcorn. I was woken the next day by someone’s (extremely upset, extremely British) housekeeper, yelling at me about what a disgrace we all were. There was another time when I tried really hard to play it cool during a threesome and stepped on someone’s dildo and fell on my ass in front of everyone, then escaped to my car and drove off without saying goodbye (I think this is now affectionately called “ghosting“)

Let me get back up here for a second and tell you about my first time at a sex party. It was a crisp Fall evening one October, on a night when many other folks (and many people my age with children) were out in the world bedecked in horns, wings, glitter, fake blood, and sexualized service costumes of all stripes. Eight months out of a bad relationship that ended terribly, I was casually dating and sleeping with someone who was exceptionally kinky, and together we were exploring the wonderful world of firsts. So the time was ripe for me to be invited to a play party by a friend, whose orgies were so acclaimed that people felt honored even to receive an invitation to one.

“Ez,” I remember saying, trying to stay casual as I called up my kinky date, “What are you doing on Halloween?”

And so it was. We made plans to go to the party, got together festive (but skimpy) costumes, and arranged to have several exit strategies in case the event didn’t work out. Luckily, my first sex party, which happened in my late twenties, was more successful than my teenage sexual grapplings, but only because I followed a very specific set of rules. I ended up having a phenomenal time, having really hot sex, connecting with my date on a deeper level, and making new friends.

If you’re considering going to a sex party – or just want to add it to you list of things to to before you get too old – check out these rules for optimum fun and safety

♀ Have a group talk before the playing begins, just to go over logistics (where the lube, safer sex supplies, water, bathrooms, and toys are all located), that way folks aren’t interrupting their flow in order to locate their favorite dildos and vibrators.

♀ Disclose information about yourself that is relevant to playing. This includes STI/STD status (including date of last check up), relationship status (are you single? In an open relationship? Did you bring someone to the party?), what you want from the evening (for example, if you’re looking for someone to sit on your face, you just want to watch other people play, you only want to play with the person you brought, etc), and what sorts of things turn you off (pain, sex toys, piss play, whatever). That way people have the opportunity to see if they are sexually compatible with you in a low-pressure environment, and you have the opportunity to have your desires heard before the playing even beings.

♀ Ask if you’re unsure. Consent is a huge foundation of safe and enjoyable play parties, so ask before you do, touch, watch, or act in any way towards someone you are unfamiliar with.

♀ Only play with people you are interested in playing with. You are not required to get down with people you don’t want to, and you have every right to firmly (and politely) decline is someone asks to play with you.

The best thing you can do when invited to a sex party, or attending a sex club, is to talk to the host/hostess to see what typically happens at their events. They will also be able to put you in touch with people who have attended other parties they’ve thrown, so you can get a well-rounded perspective on what to expect. The point is to have a good time, experience something that may or may not be familiar to you, check out the wonderful world of exhibitionism and voyeurism, and enjoy yourself. Above all else, remember that you are not required to stay in any situation you feel uncomfortable in. Happy playing!


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July Westhale is a Pushcart & Fulbright-nominated writer living in Oakland, California. She has been awarded residencies from Tin House, Bread Loaf, and the Lambda Literary Foundation for her work in Poetry, and has been nominated for The Best of the Net for her online journalism. She is a featured writer for Slixa Late Night/Under Cover and the Lambda Literary Foundation, and also works as an editor for Copper Canyon Press, Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press, and Narrative Magazine. She is a Count Coordinator for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts.


  1. That is really great advice. My boyfriend and I were looking up sex parties for a while and considering going but we never went to any. They had websites with “rules” but it’s not the same as the advice you gave here. Their rules were much more technical and your advice seems more like etiquette. Thanks for the great article!