So there's a club in San Francisco I have always had a soft spot for. It was dark, and a bit grungy, and the floor always felt stickier than it should beneath my heels. There were themed rooms, but they were themed with all the budget and class of a roadside attraction from yesteryear- kind of falling apart, a little off, definitely kitsch. One room had something vaguely representing an Egyptian tomb- another, a medieval feasting hall, complete with a plastic roast turkey on the table. Jail cells were tucked away in one area, and another housed a stage with stripper poles. There was also a tiny sex toy/lingerie shop, though I never bothered with it- even when I was in my early twenties I was a bit of a snob about vibrators and dildos.
But what I loved about this place was that it was within walking distance from one of my favourite bars, which served spicy bloody marys and was patronized by people who'd kick you out for wearing patchouli. New to SF, and certainly newly discovering my interest in sex parties and casual play, this was the perfect combination of a place to preview an online sex date before walking them over to the club, paying the cheaper "couple's price", and then figuring out what we were going to do there. Chatting to a stranger about their interests and fantasies felt easier and safer in a relatively well-lit bar, surrounded by people with ripped patches on their jackets and steel toed boots on their feet- plus a cocktail tended to ease the discussion along.
And so I would take drags on my cigarette and flirt with whomever was my evening's playdate, figure out what our safer sex rules were, whether we wanted to fuck or tie each other up or slap each other around. Usually I would pick up men for these casual encounters, and wouldn't share details about where I lived, my last name, even my phone number. I fancied something more like the gay male cruising I had read about, but was savvy enough to be concerned about STIs and expectations. Not wanting to pay for a hotel room, this seedy sex club was the perfect balance of inexpensive and convenient- plenty of kinky equipment available for use, as long as you wiped it down first.
There was one particular area I played a lot. It didn't have a bed, but the beds in there creeped me out more than the sticky floors or the weird decor. I'd bring my own waterproof sheet and use the slings or spanking benches for whatever we decided on- getting eaten out while I slapped one man's face repeatedly, or pegging guys and pulling their hair so they could see how many blank eyed shadows were watching, silently tugging at their cocks while we played. I liked being watched, so as long as they stayed on their side of the chainlink fences constructed to separate the play spaces, I felt comfortable with the "wanking zombies" as I called them. My casual sex partners were always warned that we would likely draw a crowd, at least!
One of the unique things about this space was that single men paid more- significantly more if they wanted to remain in their clothes, because the venue believed that dressed, these guys would be more problematic. So instead, single men could strip down to a towel, and they would shuffle around the venue, looking for entertainment or, hope beyond hope, a single woman. They didn't tend to get handsy with me, though, probably because I was loud about my boundaries and the people running the space could have you thrown out or even arrested for misbehaviour. Every once in a great while, not having found a play partner but wanting to do something (typically something like spanking/bondage), I would just go to the club on my own. I never lacked for pickup play, and it was fun to introduce people to kink, to see them go from zombie-eyed to engaged and smiling.
Anyway, it moved, and I moved, to London for a few years, then back. I was in a 3 year relationship where casual sex was not an option outside of sex work, and found myself interested in it less and less, more attracted to playing with friends. "One year stands", I'd call them- not quite casual, not quite serious, either- though even those were a hassle when my partner and I couldn't communicate boundaries, and my lack of trust in him led to me deciding to be monogamous outside of sex work for the peace of mind. I'm not monogamous, though, and as I slow down to a near stop with escorting and pro domme work and focus on porn and social media instead, I'm finding myself beginning to browse casual sex ads again. I miss one night stands, how easy they were, how passionate- all the excitement of the beginning of the relationship without any of the burdens that kill the lust. And I'm with a partner now who is more more supportive, and better at communicating. I wonder sometimes... could I? Do I want to? Have I grown out of it, or did I get scared off?
As I ponder all this, and browse personal ads looking for anyone not seeking "females" (it just feels... weird and dehumanizing to call women that, at least before you've negotiated) and who are feminist/queer-inclined, I feel strangely shy at times, irritated at other times. This all seemed so easy when I was younger and more carefree, but now, with a bit of damage behind me, I'm not entirely sure how to flirt when I have a hair trigger reaction to entitlement, patriarchy and capitalism- the casual sex scene seems so often filled with men letching and looking to be indulged while ignoring my interests, while I have standards that demand acknowledgement. And yet I still desire that tumble between the sheets with no string attached- just without the strings of fucked up socialization, either.
Still, I believe that it's possible to enjoy casual sex and kinky play while holding true to myself. It might be harder to find the right people to enjoy it with, but it'll be worth it in the end. At least, I hope so- stay tuned, I guess, to find out!
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