Shortly before the UK-wide lockdown, I got wind of online kinky parties on a fetish community WhatsApp group. Hosted on video conferencing sites like Zoom, they have a similar format to real-life fetish parties — dressing up, dancing, and getting down and dirty. I knew I was in for a treat the moment I entered the Zoom chat. Everyone was wearing fetish wear for women, lingerie, or nothing. Some had disco lights in the background, and others, like a female-female couple, had come prepared with an assortment of whips and paddles. One woman even made herself a coronavirus-themed latex surgical mask. To break the ice, the group played a game of Never Have I Ever. The questions were sexual from the get-go.
’Never have I ever joined the mile high-club’, one said.
A few people smirked and took a drink.
This was followed by a game of dares, directed at everyone so that no one felt singled-out. They were simple, like make a sex noise. ’Demonstrate your favourite sex position as best you can’, another dared. This was easiest for the couples. I awkwardly tried to manoeuvre myself into the missionary position on my dining room chair. My journey into the fetish scene began three months earlier when an old flame asked me if I’d like to go to a fetish club. Curious, I agreed.
The club was situated at the end of a cobblestoned, dodgy back alley in Central London. The dress code was fetishwear or all black. We’d come in black.
I didn’t know where to look when we stepped inside. People were being spanked, others were locked inside cages, and some were being walked around on leashes. Then there were people like my date, Peter*, and me, who watched on from the bar with a drink. That’s where we met Max* and Stacey*, a couple who’d decided to dip their toes into the fetish scene. After downing a few shots together, they were our friends for the evening.
And it wasn’t long before we realised that fetish clubs aren’t the orgies that you might expect. I saw a shy looking man ask a dominatrix for a hug and others who simply seemed happy to have had the opportunity to dress up. As we watched other people ‘play’, we discussed our sexualities with an openness that wouldn’t have happened in any other environment. A man in a red and white latex outfit tapped Stacey on the shoulder and politely asked if she’d like to be spanked on a piece of equipment provided by the club. Max gave her a nod of approval. By this point, Peter had disappeared. Unlike in many vanilla clubs, consent is of the utmost importance in fetish clubs, and it’s something that a lot of people could learn from. Photography is a no go. After watching Stacey play, a man handed me his lead, while another in a catsuit asked if he could worship my feet. Living for the moment, I agreed.
When Peter eventually returned, his face was covered in lipstick. I couldn’t have been more amused how bizarre and brilliant it was. ’It’s so funny’, I laughed the next morning. We’d spent the night together platonically. ‘We went to a sex club and neither of us had sex!’Peter smiled. ‘Well, actually a girl went down on me in the bathroom.’I laughed. ’It’s not something I’d do every weekend’, he added, ‘but I wouldn’t rule out doing it again’. Online sex parties are a testament to the brilliance of human creativity in a crisis, and for otherwise introverted people to explore their sexuality in real-time in a way that they may have never considered if the pandemic hadn’t happened After that night, I was curious to learn more about the fetish scene and kept in touch with Max and Stacey, who introduced me to the kinky WhatsApp groups they’d joined to meet friends through FetLife (the kinky Facebook).
My first online sex party, in many ways, followed the format of the real-life one I’d attended. Once a few drinks had been consumed, people let loose while the DJs played. One of the best features of Zoom is its ability to spotlight participants, which meant that couples could perform sexual acts for the entertainment of the entire party in a larger window, while others danced in the background. Not every spotlighted participant engaged in anything sexual, that was optional, and the woman who’d made a latex coronavirus mask changed into no less than five different outfits throughout the night, much to the delight of everyone else. This was all happening while people praised each other, whether it was for their outfits, dancing, or the sexual acts that they were performing in the chatbox.Consent was implicit, and the chat was not recorded. As the link had only been shared around members of the fetish community, many people in attendance knew each other, but even I hadn’t expected couples to outright have sex in the party.
While the format of these parties will vary, I imagine rules will be explicit in the professionally organised online sex parties, which some fetish clubs are hosting for a fraction of their typical price so that they can survive forced closures during the pandemic. The only rule in the party I attended was that a water emoji should be sent privately if someone wanted to ‘play’ off-camera, but in practice, people were happy to do so publicly. Online sex parties are a testament to the brilliance of human creativity in a crisis, and for otherwise introverted people to explore their sexuality in real-time in a way that they may have never considered if the pandemic hadn’t happened.
The party attracted people of all ages, sexualities and gender identities. It was a safe space to have kinky fun and experiment with outfits, toys and even dance moves that may never see the light of day at a real party, fetish or otherwise. At home, I was confident enough to play up for the camera and compliment those I didn’t know in the chat. As a shy person, this is not something I’d typically do near enough sober. I only had two drinks, when I typically indulge in more. The coronavirus pandemic has forced people to think outside the box when it comes to many aspects of their day-to-day lives, and sex is no exception. The party did wonders for my mental health, allowing me to meet new people who I’d love to party with in real life when this is all over.