Will Virtual Orgies Get Us Off in (and Get Us Through) a Pandemic?

Queer-led businesses are leading the pivot to remote sex parties.

On March 26, roughly two weeks after the isolation mandate forced us in our homes, a total of 3,000 naked men attended an online sex party in the U.K.. The event was hosted by SBN (Stark, Bollock, Naked), a fetish club popular for its weekly nude event, Sexy Sundays, in South London. These events often host around 600 people, but grew exponentially when they went online.

This pivot to digital is becoming common in sex-positive spaces, with predominantly queer-run businesses blazing the trail—since, let’s face it, we always do.

Less than a week into his isolation, Andrew Anderson, 33, attended his first virtual orgy. He was invited by a friend who was connected to a close-knit, sex-positive online community. “There were 40 local Bay Area queer male-identified cis and trans men jerking off on camera,” Anderson describes to NewNowNext. “It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect.”

It was very primitive, with no bells and whistles. You entered, you got off, you left.

Other events are more elevated. Daniel Saynt, 37, the founder of New Society for Wellness (NFSW), a private, members-only sex club in New York City, offers various workshops and play events for all genders, identities, and orientations.

On March 27, NSFW hosted their first Virtual Playdate, an online version of the club’s flagship play event. “NSFW was hosting three to four events a week, but when the outbreak hit NYC, we had to pack up the Clubhouse and say goodbye,” Saynt tells NewNowNext. “While we’re confident we’ll re-open once this is all over, we decided to strike while Zoom was hot and bring our community online.”

Saynt isn’t fond of Zoom’s many windows, and admits it’s been a challenge finding the correct platform for his events. He is currently working with developers to design his own NSFW technology by the summer.

“We’re going to be adding a lot more weekly events as we begin to train people to manage the digital party,” Saynt says. “The goal is to eventually have these events run all the time so that international people in lockdown can still get off.”

Saynt’s virtual events are rather sophisticated. To be considered, users must first fill out a profile and, if approved, can purchase a solo or unlimited pass, which cost $20 and $50, respectively. “We’ve completely gotten rid of our annual membership fee to encourage more members to join in these digital events and to help us all find a little relief,” Saynt says.

“At the start, we invite members to introduce themselves,” he explains, saying the Clubhouse curator is in charge of selecting which members can be seen on one of the four screens available. “The black screens on Zoom creep me out and the internet speeds for users vary so much,” Saynt says of the decision to not feature every member all at once. “At our parties, the screens are filled with members who want to be on stage. They want to perform for others and are encouraged to do so.”

Saynt’s events begin with an icebreaker, where members can introduce themselves and explain why they’re attending. “Many are looking for some sort of connection or a feeling of intimacy,” Saynt explains. “Many members are going through quarantine solo, so it’s good to have an outlet to feel more connected to people.”

NSFW’s online events cap at 69 people and feature live DJ sets, exotic dancers, and workshops on various BDSM performances, like rope play. Eventually, after taking in the erotic ambiance, one person will often start playing themselves, which encourages others to do the same and join in. To offer a sense of familiarity, empty screens feature visuals of the physical clubhouse on empty screens.

“This creates a very naughty viewing experience,” Saynt says. “At the close of the party, we play Sinatra and say our goodbyes.”

Saynt’s premiere event was such a success that they’ve inspired spin-offs. This weekend, NSFW is hosting an online all-male, trans-inclusive event titled FRAT and will follow this man-fest with FLUID, a gender queer and bisexual event, next week.

The online events that Charyn Pfeuffer, 46, attends are equal parts educational and erotic. These sessions are titled Bodysex workshops, and are the lovechild of renowned sex educator Betty Dodson.

Similar to NSFW, Bodysex workshops are often held in physical spaces but went online during the pandemic. It is a women-only, trans-inclusive event about connecting women’s minds and bodies to their orgasms through a series of activities like group share, genital show-and-tell, erotic recess, and guided masturbation.

After analyzing which activities would best transition online via Zoom, Bodysex decided to test genital show-and-tell and erotic recess with a close group of female friends.

During genital show-and-tell, women are encouraged to examine their vulvas up close on webcam. They will use mirrors and lights to explore all the folds and colors, getting excited about different body types and vaginas.

During erotic recess, these women will power on their magic wand, tracing their chakras. After some light penetration, they masturbate. “The sound of oohs, ahhs, and moans, is a huge fucking turn-on, and it’s not uncommon for orgasms to crescendo,” Pfeuffer tells NewNowNext. “Women play with different angles, video perspectives, and solo sex techniques.”

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Right now, it’s been limited to a close-knit group of women who’ve worked with Betty, but if this testing period goes well, there are plans to expand. “We’ve been the test subjects, stunt cunts of sorts, to see how these intimate, in-person workshops can translate to an online landscape,” Pfeuffer says. “It’s going surprisingly well. I get off these Sunday calls feeling strong and inspired—like I can deal with self-isolation and the uncertainty of COVID-19 for a few more days. There is so much power in pleasure.”

If you’re looking for less of an overtly sexual atmosphere, online circuit parties—sex positive dance parties, essentially—are another option.

Not long after his first virtual orgy, Anderson attended his first virtual circuit party. One of the first venues to host such an event, aptly titled, Quarankiki, was Hydrate Nightclub in Chicago. “Hundreds of people had their cameras on,” he remembers. “It was impossible to scroll through them all given that 700-plus people were online.”

Most attendees were stationed in their living rooms wearing typical gay club garb like jock straps, harnesses, and itty-bitty booty shorts. The event features an internationally renowned DJ, gogo boys, and all the trimmings of a circuit party save from a physical venue.

“I was particularly impressed by the folks who seemed to have converted their living rooms into dancefloors complete with disco balls, lights, strobes and glow sticks—people really got into it,” he adds.

Since the first was such a success, Anderson says he’s receiving more and more invites for future events. He plans to attend as the donations support the nightlife staff who’ve been particularly impacted by the quarantine.

If you’re feeling lonely and have the funds, consider supporting these queer-run, sex-positive spaces. While nothing is going to compare to being physically intimate with a sexual partner, we must be responsible and isolate. Thankfully, technology and the collective intelligence of queer people is helping make the best of a bad situation.

Bobby Box is a freelance journalist and editor whose work on sex, relationships, culture, and sexuality has been published in the Daily Beast, Playboy, Them., Into, Women’s Health, Complex, PopSugar, among others.