“How do you feel about going to a sex party this weekend so I can write about it?” was something I never expected to email my fiancé, and I certainly didn’t expect him to respond with a nonchalant “sure” as though I’d asked if he wanted to try a new beer bar in Gowanus. I’d received a press invitation to the Killing Kittens NYC launch party and was immediately bent on going, having heard about the events through a non-monogamy-practicing London-based male friend and his mate, who’d described them as “some Eyes Wide Shut shit.”
The parties, run by an English woman named Emma Sayle (who people keep trying to link to Kate Middleton but I’m not buying it), started in London in 2005 and are only just arriving in the States. They claim to cater to “the sexual elite,” offering a semi-anonymous place for “attendees from all walks of life, including celebrities, politicians, opinion leaders, the rich and the beautiful” to gather in secret locations and get freaky with fellow sexually liberated folk and non-monogamous couples while wearing masks and drinking champagne. As an opinion leader in the fields of exactly nothing, I was a little honored to have been invited.
The Killing Kittens community (named for the myth that every time you masturbate God kills a kitten, in which case I am responsible for several felineicides a week) purports to be all about “the pursuit of female pleasure” — Sayle told The Guardian “There are loads of platforms for men when it comes to sex, but when we started there was nowhere women could go, feel in control, and explore their sexuality in a safe environment.” Men can only attend the parties as part of a couple while women can attend alone, and men aren’t allowed to approach women unless they know them, while women are allowed to approach anyone they like. It’s on the ladies to initiate any interaction, sexual or otherwise. These policies give the events a feminist bent, acknowledging women as sexually autonomous beings and granting them a measure of sexual power and control in a way that’s very refreshing. If anything about going to this weird party turned me on, it was that.
There was a tacit agreement between me and my fiancé that we were attending this thing as wannabe anthropologists rather than participants, embedding ourselves within this adventurous tribe for a night in order to learn a few things about them and maybe about our own views towards monogamy. Still, we needed to establish some ground rules, just in case we were reading each other wrong. We had this pretty important conversation via iMessage, as you do.
While Fiancé and I definitely acknowledge each other as autonomous sexual beings whose every carnal urge and fantasy doesn’t necessarily involve and belong to each other, it was good to know that we were on the same page here. We were going to this thing as curious voyeurs, not hopeful swingers. Reassured that we would emerge from the evening with our monogamy intact, we prepped for the event by buying masks from Ricky’s (I resisted my perverse urge to go for matching Richard Nixon ones and got some still-funny clearance bin Halloween versions instead), putting on the required cocktail attire, drinking whiskey, and of course listening to Prince on vinyl. I received a text message around 10 p.m. with the address of the secret Manhattan venue, and we were off in an Uber, because you can’t take the N train to an elite sex party.
A doorman checked us off the list and presented us with an extensive NDA (which talked about celebrity sightings, detailed the photo restrictions, and used the word "anus" a lot) to sign, and we were ushered up to the fourth floor. The elevator doors opened onto a dimly-lit loft and adjacent bedroom lined with black couches and exposed brick, with 50 or so masked men and women milling about, sipping champagne, slurping oysters, and wearing black. We obviously beelined for the bar.
I surveyed the scene and noticed that there appeared to be a sort of silent vetting process going on amongst attendees. Men and women walked past making intentional, meaningful eye contact with us as if to say “Are you into this? Are we maybe going to touch each other later? Can I fuck that guy you’re standing with? Can I fuck you?” Each time it happened, we nervously averted our gaze and reengaged with each other, outing ourselves as the prudes in the room.
Around 11:30 p.m., courtesy of alcohol, things stopped resembling a typical cocktail party. A few couples started necking in a way that definitely tested the limits of typical PDA. Two gorgeous women started making out and fiddling with each others nipples while their male partners removed their underwear. A man laid his date out on one of the couches and started going down on her as she looked on with disinterest, hands behind her head. The rest of us sat in pairs, not sure if we wanted to watch but feeling like we weren’t being supportive of the others’ exhibitionism if we didn’t. Other attendees eyed us, but didn’t approach. “I admire this process,” Fiancé said. “We’re giving off a ‘just here to watch’ vibe, and everyone’s respecting that.”
We psyched ourselves up to venture into the back bedroom (“This is definitely where you go if you’re DOWN,” Fiancé observed) where six or so couples and trios had started gleefully banging each other on an expanse of king-sized beds. Women pulled up their dresses or gave enthusiastic blow jobs while men stepped carefully out of their suitpants and socks. There were bare, white, 30-something asses thrusting in every direction. We sat on a windowsill alongside a few other clothed couples, hands on each other’s thighs.
Was he turned on, I asked? We both enjoy watching porn sometimes, but I was surprised to find that I didn’t feel even a tingle of arousal at the buffet of bodies in front of us. I felt like a med student watching a doctor perform a surgery in an operating theater. Frankly, I could hardly imagine anything feeling less sexy, could hardly picture being less inclined to participate. Maybe it's because I can’t conjure sexual attraction to someone unless I’ve had an intelligent conversation with them first. Maybe it's because shared chemistry is the single most important factor in my finding someone sexually appealing, and I could hardly gauge its existence in this setting. Maybe it's because guys just don’t look very good in masks.
Though his sexual proclivities are built differently, Fiancé expressed a similar sentiment — but noted that if we hadn’t had such satisfying sex with each other that morning, he would probably be walking around with a huge erection. We decided that our version of a sexy swingers party would be far less contrived — maybe a bunch of smart, hot hipster types gathering at a local bar, no masks required, to talk about their jobs and lives and hobbies and musical tastes until mutual attractions sparked organically and people started to pair off.
The reason he’d readily agreed to this, Fiancé then admitted, was because he wanted to be supportive and nonjudgemental if this actually was a lifestyle I was interested in exploring for us. We then had the most surprising, enlightening, intimate conversation while sitting there — Did we think about having sex with other people? Would we ever indulge each other’s desire for that if the other party really wanted to explore it? What parameters would be set up if we at any point decided to explore moments of non-monogamy within our marriage? Was our monogamy absolute, or was there a version of our future in which having sex with someone else didn’t necessarily mean betrayal and divorce?
Was our monogamy absolute, or was there a version of our future in which having sex with someone else didn’t necessarily mean betrayal and divorce?
The answer to the first question was yes, being that we are mammals, but the other responses were murkier, less clear cut, to be determined. Still, I so appreciated the opportunity, afforded us by this strange, strange orgy, to talk about things that often go undiscussed or wrongly assumed in serious relationships. When else would we, in the months before our wedding, have taken the opportunity to talk about the sexual implications of our impending marriage? It seems like a crucial thing to examine before binding yourself to someone for life, and yet I don't think Pre-Cana covers all the potential iterations of what a married couple's sex life can look like. The party opened that dialogue for us.
We left the place around 1:00 a.m., having reached our stranger-sex saturation point. We walked the two miles to our apartment, feeling closer than ever and resolute in our monogamy, but with a “we’re not taking anything off the table” caveat that we apply to most of our life decisions. In the morning we had excellent sex, with no one else watching.