The words spilled out of my throat in one long, unchill hairball.
Approximately two hours ago, a guy I had been casually seeing had bailed on our apparently-not-so-concrete-plans. Chris*, cute guy whose DMs I had somersaulted through, had been giving me the freeze and in true miserable, self-loathing fashion, I could feel my fondness for him growing with every 24-hour-communication-freeze he apparently thought appropriate to punctuate our texts with. It was time to deal with the facts: He was ghosting me, hard.
Minutes 1-10 were sad, until I decided to dedicate my life to the church of I'm Actually Incredibly Unbothered. In a moment of manic posturing to prove that one man's actions didn't have the capacity to sock me right in the Honey Nut Feelios, I searched "sex party nyc today" on a social network site for the kink community. Somehow, I convinced my friend Kelsey* (my bravest and best wingwoman) to come along with me.
I settled on a party in Manhattan that kept stressing how okay it was to look but not necessarily participate the first night, which, phew. Kelsey sat on my unmade bed while I applied my eyeliner shakily.
I debated whether or not I wanted to wear fake eyelashes tonight. Because it is the most complicated and frustrating part of my makeup routine, the act of wearing false eyelashes is incredibly significant. If I engage in all the effort of putting them on, then I can't lie to myself like I didn't have high expectations for the night.
There isn't a lot of substance in the sex party fantasy I've mentally hobbled together from sexy movies and whatnot, but there's definitely the concept of me batting my lashes at a stranger. One problem — there's also a part of my fantasy where a stranger puts a silk blindfold on me, which logistically, cannot happen if I am wearing false lashes. I tried to reconcile these two issues, but ultimately decided against the lashes. Maybe I'd rather go into this thing with lower expectations, I thought.
We arrived at a nondescript high-rise in Manhattan's financial district, the steel elevator inside immediately reminding me of a doctor's office.
"If it's bad, we're leaving right away" I said to Kelsey, almost more for me than for her.
Once we arrived on the eighth floor, we cautiously entered the space and saw a concierge desk to our left where two women explained the cover charge ($20) and asked us to write down our emails.
"First time with us?" one of the girls asked.
"Yes first time here" I answered, trying to sound ambiguous enough to suggest that "Um yes, I go to group sex parties all the time! Hello! I am cool and young and adventurous!"
The room was cramped, with low ceilings but an open floor plan and small rooms flanking the front and back. There were a few older men with arms crossed by the front door, chatting and laughing with a lightness that indicated they're probably not there to fuck. Their presence felt like chaperones on the outskirts of the gym at a school dance that I was weirdly grateful for. As a kid you're not exactly thankful for the adult eyes keeping you from getting your grind on, but in this context, I was relieved for the safety net.
Besides them, the whole place looked almost completely empty, just a few couples here and there.
The lights were dimmed as we walked through to the back, hesitant but determined to size up the experience. There were bead curtains separating private rooms, and while I'm typically a nosy person, I was too scared to go through the doors or even try to peer through the curtains.
A dark bedsheet hung up as a makeshift room divider. It read very "Adolescent Boy Hanging Out in His Suburban Basement," and I already felt silly for making Kelsey come here with me. We walked to the refreshments table (if you can even call it that) where there were bottles of Ocean Spray cranberry juice on a black tablecloth and a plate of finger sandwiches. No one felt like eating.
"I need air" I lied to Kelsey and we walked towards the back room where the smokers (and an open window) were. The room was tiny, no more than four people could comfortably stand. I squeezed my way to the window crack and take out my phone. We were accompanied by a couple in there in their own world and another young twentysomething looking guy.
You know how in magazines they'll suggest that looking too closed off with a group of girlfriends might discourage men from hitting on you at the bar? I was trying to do exactly that when the young guy asked us if we were having a good time in a thick Russian accent.
I raised my eyebrows and gave one nod, hoping this would be enough to shut it down.
"What's up? How are you ladie—"
"—I AM HERE FOR WORK" I practically screamed, eager to set my boundaries early on. I'm not like, officially on the job at this point, but I've written exactly one listicle on dildos and this feels like a Legitimate Reason for My Attendance.
Young Russian Guy told us it was his first time here. The only thing keeping me from squeezing my body out the window crack and jumping is the fact that I have a friend with me. I couldn't imagine going to one of these things alone. At least when you go to a bar alone you can lie to yourself like you're waiting for a friend or whatever. If you show up to an orgy alone you're 100% there to fuck and not meeting someone for a drink because "it was the first place that showed up on Yelp" or whatever.
Another young guy walked in with an older woman behind him. The older woman was probably in her 50s or 60s but it was hard to tell because her skin was so wrinkled. She was wearing a strapless tube top and the self-tanner crevices in her neck revealed little slits of pink freckled skin. You can lie to yourself about a lot of things, but it's hard to find a reason to stay at a sex party after running into a woman old enough to be your grandma trying to fuck the same sample of people you took a $35 UberX to meet.
At the embarrassingly early hour of 8:30 PM, Kelsey and I were over it. As we made our way to the front door, one of the chaperone-looking guys asked us if we want to see a gang-bang.
I scoffed but looked at Kelsey, silently begging for permission to be curious.
"I mean…." I paused.
Chaperone Male was friendly and non-threatening, "It's just a mini gang-bang going on in there if you just want to look."
Mini gang-bang? What is that? Like many girls, mini things are extremely appealing to me. I love little erasers, miniatures, whatever, I'm fascinated.
"They won't touch you unless you ask," he explained. "I can walk you in and you can just watch if you want"
Sketchy as it sounded, he was coming from a good place I think.
"Yeah I'll look," I suddenly found myself saying out loud.
The older guy knocked on the door — not so much a I-will-wait-for-your-permission-to-enter-knock, but more of a warning knock, and opens the door. It was dark and there was porn playing on a TV mounted in the corner. An androgynous woman was on all fours on a single bed pushed up against the side of the room, while a guy fucked her from behind. As for the mini gang-bang, it was a circle jerk of men. I never knew the term was more than a metaphor to be flung on internet forums until now. But there they were, a group of men surrounding the bed in a semi-circle all masturbating around the couple in the spotlight.
"Hey guys, she just wanted to check it out. Don't touch her." He kept the door open, flooding the blue tinted room with light. Kelsey stood in the doorway peering in.
I counted the people surrounding her, jerking off around the woman on the bed. She seemed to be into it, licking her lips and turning her head back to look at the men. Some were watching the porn, most watched the couple. Nobody was looking at me, thank god. Some were fully clothed, with just their dicks out. Some had dropped trou. There was one guy with a gut and a fedora, naked from bottom down a la Donald Duck.
Suddenly, I noticed the musical accompaniment. Was that-was that, Carly Rae Jepsen playing on the speakers? It was! "I Really Like You" was actually playing while this quintet of men all had their dicks in their hands. If there was any lingering hope that this night would've suddenly turned into the dark, sensual, lace-filled fantasy I had expected, this surely killed it. Something about such an innocent (and underrated!) pop anthem blaring through the bluetooth speakers just killed me. Carly's saccharine voice glossed through the loudspeakers, like a strawberry kiwi Lip Smacker layered over the sticky sounds of five strangers masturbating together.
"CARINA," Kelsey called out from the doorway.
I snapped back to reality, totally unaware of how long I'd been in that blue tinted room. (Probably like sub 45 seconds, honestly). We said thanks to the Chaperone Dudes and stumble out into the elevator and onto the street where we walked around, trying to process what just happened.
We eventually called a cab to a bar Kelsey said was "good." I never thought I'd be so grateful to hear thumping EDM music and white knuckle a drink in my hand silently in the corner. Straight bars are usually a disaster for my self-esteem. No one talks to me, my friends all pair off with foreign guys, and I'm left to fend for myself, AKA stand in line for the bathroom for 45 minutes refreshing my email to look busy. I'm always stuck watching everyone else.
I thought going to a Lite Orgy™ would turn my shyness into socially acceptable and sexy voyeurism but I guess not. I had wanted to go to this thing so badly to prove to myself that I was cool and Fuckable, even though it was stretching myself way TF out of my comfort zone. But it was for all the wrong reasons. I had placed so much meaning on the night, whether or not I admitted it to myself in the moment. But sometimes a sex party is just a sex party. Sometimes a disappointment is just a disappointment. Just like fake eyelashes, somethings are better in theory, but messy in practice.
*Names have been changed.
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