A sex party broke my heart

A sex party broke my heart

There were about eight of us on the bed when it started to sink in.  These people don't desire me.

For about a year, Minh and I explored "the lifestyle"; the blanket term for non-monogamous relationships which includes "polyamory" (the love of multiple people simultaneously) and "ethical non-monagamy" (sex with multiple, consenting partners), aka "swinging".  We're not sure exactly whether we're polyamorous or ENM, or both, but we think we have all the traits necessary to make swinging fun.  We love sex.  We're attracted to a wide variety of people.  We don't have to be in love to feel sexual attraction.  And Minh and I feel a lot of compersion for each other (the opposite of jealousy).  For these reasons, we can imagine really enjoying group sex.

Thus far, we've had sex with a few other couples and individuals, we've been to a "hotel takeover", and we've been to a few sex parties.  First, the positives.

Swinger culture is safe and respectful.  Everyone we've met is refreshingly thoughtful about safer sex.  In preparation for the sex parties we attended, for example, the host requested up-to-date STI test results from all participants, and the parties begin with frank discussion and role-play regarding consent and boundaries.  Some people were just there to talk.  For those having sex, condoms are the norm.  Kinks are accepted but not required.  People look out for one anothers' emotions.  You're allowed to change your mind.  In short, everyone we've been with has been nice to hang out with and made us feel safe.

So for many people, the lifestyle may be perfect for safe exploration.  For me, however, it's been a disappointment for two reasons.  I haven't yet found great sexual connections there.  It feels like others think I'm ugly.

Sexual connection

Minh and I were seeking good sex, and for us, that means really feeling good and really enjoying others' pleasure.  At its best, our sex is a kind of improvisation.  The unplanned route is charted by hundreds of tiny attempts to lead the other's pleasure.  It feels like a conversation, and like music.

We've found this kind of love-making hard to come by in the lifestyle.  Instead, group sex feels somewhat formulaic.  "Now we're doing this position, next we do that."  Perhaps it's a problem of "Too many cooks spoil the broth."  Perhaps it feels clumsy because people are coming to the moment with a list of desires, looking to check off a box.  Perhaps "consent" makes sex feel coarse because it requires putting actions into quantifiable chunks, stripping them of nuance and development.  A request like, "Can I touch your breast?", draws a circle around a body part and encourages jumping right to it.  Where's the music in that?

Whatever the reason, the lifestyle hasn't led us to really pleasurable sex.  Maybe instead of "sex positive" we're seeking "pleasure positive" friends.

Looks hierarchy

I've never thought of myself as particularly good looking, but I also didn't consider myself "ugly".  The lifestyle has made me feel ugly.

Swinging culture retains our wider culture's fixation on physical appearance.  Maybe group sex settings emphasize looks, because people are picking partners relatively quickly, like swiping right in real life.  The hotel takeover had cliques of conventionally good looking people.  They were friendly to others, but it was clear that looks led their attractions.  I didn't see cross-clique connections between people sharing similar kinks or fantasies.  Activities and classes were more for "surveying the field" than building connections.  Good looking women would avoid eye contact with me, so as not to encourage me, I suppose.

It was on that bed at the sex party that I realized all this.  The looks hierarchy dawned on me.  Here I was trying to be responsive, trying to follow and encourage someone's pleasure, and I realized none of that mattered.  There were about eight men at the party and David was at the top.  Every woman wanted to have sex with David.  I was third from the bottom.  I slipped off the bed and no one really noticed.

The problem is not with having preferences in our partners, of course.  Everyone is free to feel attracted to whomever they feel attracted to.  And I'm not offended that only some people will be attracted to me in particular.  Attraction is magical.  But for me, looks don't have much to do with good sex.  And from what I've seen of the sex at the hotel takeover and of those women with David, I worry it's true for them too.

I fear it's the result of our society's darker pressures: oppressive superficialities -- the male infatuation with breast size, for example -- and widespread sexual dissatisfaction.  Men, trained on porn to think in search terms, tick off boxes in the lifestyle without feeling nourished.  Really, they just want someone to truly enjoy their pleasure.  Women join the lifestyle bravely stating that they too like sex, only to immediately face an endless lineup of enthusiastic men.  Their sex becomes relegated to choosing. 

So the lifestyle doesn't seem to be the place for Minh and me to find partners.  We've stopped actively dating and exploring swinging culture.  We might go back if something sparks our interest, but at the moment it feels more likely we'll meet good lovers simply waiting, and being open to possibilities.