Now that lockdown mandates have significantly loosened, the world is starting to wake up after a long and socially-restricted slumber. While we’re not fully out of the woods yet, vaccinated people are starting to (cautiously) step outdoors, embracing all of the opportunities that quarantine deprived us of: going to the movies, hanging out with friends closer than six feet apart and embracing a newly-heightened sexuality. I’m calling it now: 2021 will be the summer of sex clubs.
After a full year limited to virtual dating, people are more socially- (and of course, sexually-) charged than ever before. Or, at least since the previous post-pandemic era, the roaring twenties. CNN reports that condom sales have gone up by a whopping 23.4 percent since this past April, which means just one thing: People are ready to have sex again.
“We saw it happen after the Spanish flu. We saw the Roaring Twenties. We saw the birth of jazz and so many types of things that were really a reflection of the shared trauma that the world had at that time or the shared trauma that Americans had at that time,” says Daniel Saynt, former fashion exec turned founder of sex-positive space New Society For Wellness (NSFW). “I think right now, not only leaving COVID, but also leaving this post-Trump world as well, there is going to be a lot more people looking for [sexual reawakening].”
Some people may be DTF for a one-night stand, while others may crave intimacy in any way, shape or form. If you’re feeling especially excited to enter back into the world of sex, there’s one place you should definitely hit up: a sex club.
Open Sex After COVID
I know what you’re thinking: With COVID-19 still in the air, is going to a sex club okay right now? According to Licensed Psychologist and K-Y’s Sex Therapist Dr. Shannon Chavez, absolutely. Chavez notes that, due to new protocols placed on open sex spaces, they’ve become safer than ever before for all participants.
“Sex clubs are probably the cleanest and safest they have been due to COVID,” says Dr. Chavez. “Many are opening up and have new safety guidelines in place to protect others. Most clubs are also at a fraction of the maximum capacity so that the event is not overcrowded and makes for a more intimate and exclusive event.”
So, what exactly are these sex clubs exactly doing to keep their patrons safe? When lockdown restrictions loosened, many sex spaces only allowed 10-20 people per event, enforced temperature checks at the door and asked people to make sure they were quarantining themselves before they came and after they came. They also provided contact tracing for all guests to make sure they could be notified about clients who potentially had COVID, should the worst occur.
“Now this time, reopening again, obviously things have changed, with New York hitting 70 percent right now in terms of vaccinations,” Says Saynt. “We’re excited that people are coming in droves and we actually are selling out a lot of our events earlier than we ever have. Just last week, we launched a new venue and we had 250 guests in two days of promotions. There is a very, very high demand right now, it seems.”
Meanwhile, Beth Sparksfire, co-founder of Hacienda (an open sex space and “The coolest house party you’ve ever gone to that also has sex”) says they chose to take a snail’s-pace approach. After months of hosting virtual hangouts, the club started with smaller in-person events. Now, every attendee has to show proof of vaccination at the door or a negative COVID test and provide contact tracing if necessary.
Hacienda has their first larger-capacity post-lockdown party coming up soon. “It’s just so exciting. I have been waiting since March of 2020 to host another big sex party and the day has finally come,” Sparksfire says. “I’m feeling a lot of emotion tied up with it. I’m really excited. Just from my personal perspective, it is emotional. And there’s a lot of new people, too.”
Staying Safe In Sex Spaces
While owners and employees at sex spaces are going above and beyond to make sure everyone is safe, Dr. Chavez is quick still to warn that you can contract COVID-19 from sexual acts.
“The virus can be spread through oral and anal contact. The virus has been reported to be transmitted through feces,” she says. “Kissing or being in the same space as someone can spread the virus. Also, the personal belongings of someone can carry the virus as it comes in contact with the respiratory droplets. Research shows that the virus is not transmitted through genital fluids but has shown to be present in semen in people recovering from COVID.”
Being safe about COVID is something to consider when going anywhere, but it’s not the only safety concern to consider. When visiting to a sex club, consent and STDs should also be top of mind.
To keep their patrons safe in terms of consent, Saynt says that NSFW has a strict Code of Conduct that everyone must follow. It is available on their website, reminded to attendees at the door and visible on signs scattered all throughout the space. “We talk a lot about enthusiastic consent, the importance of getting verbal confirmation from people and respecting the privacy of members before engaging in any sort of touch,” he says.
If anyone seems to fall out of line, they’ll yet again be reminded of the Code of Conduct by NSFW’s Nymphs, the “guardians” garbed in white who watch over the house. For more severe instances of rule-breaking, members are encouraged to file what they call a Creeper Report. Most members actually take it upon themselves to police unruly visitors, but when necessary, NSFW will blacklist repeat violators and send out their information to other sex-positive communities within the NYC area to notify them of their behavior.
As for Hacienda, they also have a no-nonsense consent policy. If anyone falls out of line, attendees can talk to a Guardian (Hacienda’s version of NSFW’s Nymphs) or fill out a form so the space can reach out to both parties involved and make any decisions from there. “That’s how we make sure that people feel comfortable,” Sparksfire says. “And when they feel comfortable, then they can explore and have fun and be vulnerable and have a really amazing experience. So we tried to drive that consent home.”
In terms of staying safe from STDs, Sparksfire says that they not only encourage people to talk about their sex history and be transparent about anything they’ve contracted, but stand by the notion that the sex-positive community has the idea of honesty embedded within the community at its core, in order to keep everyone safe. During Hacienda’s monthly orientation for newcomers, they also address ways people can be mindful of cross-contamination and how to stay clean.
“That’s one of those topics that a lot of people have a lot of fear about and it’s pretty simple. People in this community are encouraged to communicate to such a degree that there are actually more conversations around sexual health than in the regular bar hookup culture,” Sparksfire says. “So right there, you’ve got people who are used to communicating, and that makes a really big difference.”
But of course, they also provide supplies for everything—seriously, everything—you need for staying safe and keeping the space clean during a night of sexual excursions. “We provide safe sex supplies that we have in our play area,” says Sparksfire. “We have little carts with condoms, dental dams, lube, baby wipes, paper towels, puppy pads, latex gloves, you name it.”
Overall, Sparksfire, Saynt, and Chavez agree on one thing: In order to stay safe, being conscious and stern about your sexual boundaries is key. As Saynt puts it, “Practice enthusiastic consent, hydrate and don’t be a creeper.”
Practice enthusiastic consent, hydrate and don’t be a creeper.
“This is one of the rare spaces where women walk around naked and don’t feel threatened and don’t feel scared of that,” Saynt says. “We want to maintain that and keep that essence. A lot of it does come into having such a great community that cares about what we’re doing and protects it.”
Other recommendations Saynt has are to make sure you’re not drinking too heavily, don’t take drugs offered to you by other members and, most importantly, make sure the space you decide to visit has their own set of rules and regulations. If they don’t have your safety as their top priority, then it may be time to find another space to explore your sexuality.
“There are no safe spaces, there’s only spaces that can be safer, right?” says Saynt. Whenever we are looking at policies around safety at NSFW, it’s really, really important for us to always recognize that we are never done with this job [safety] and we will never be done with this job.”
As for when you do find a sex club or space that is safe and sexy? Plan on visiting all summer long.