By Rita Sapunor
Live in San Francisco long enough, and you’re going to get invited to a sex party. Stay longer and it’s only a matter of time before you’re considering throwing one yourself. When this time comes, you’re going to have a lot of questions to ask yourself, questions like: Which friends would be the least awkward to have sex in front of? Should my sex party be more about spiritual connection or hardcore action? What is the range of this whip, and should I tape off a safety boundary for liability purposes? Unfortunately, there’s no Judy Blume novel to get you through this challenging rite of passage. This is where San Francisco’s Center for Sex and Culture comes in.
CSC’s mission is to provide sex-positive education to diverse communities through informational lectures, experiential classes, and cultural events. Curious and not not horny, I trudged through the rain on a recent Friday night to attend CSC’s panel on group sex, lead by psychologist and sex party enthusiast Reid Mihalko.
With five minutes until curtain call, Mihalko is setting up, adjusting mic volumes and straightening the tablecloth. "Does everyone know where the bathrooms are?" he asks, breaking the silence. I can’t remember a time when a host of any sorts addressed bathroom location so immediately, but then Mihalko is no ordinary host. Blond, six feet five inches tall, and with a strong build, Mihalko is a play-party veteran with the penchant for linen to prove it.
Tonight he and his eight-member panel will reveal the ins-and-outs of what can make and break a play party, which is basically lifestyle community-speak for orgy: planned parties wherein the guests, in some manner, get it on throw pillows optional. All the event’s panelists have not only attended, but have planned and staged play parties, some just for women, some just for men, some for "advanced players" and others for the tantra-inclined. The panelists double as massage therapists, sexologists, writers, teachers, and event planners who fell into the scene and took to it like fish to water.
We, the audience, are just here to watch and listen for tonight, but I get the impression that not everyone’s a novice here, as two long-lost friends recall a wild party from 20 years ago and many others touch and kiss as easily as they speak. One woman leaves her seat just before the show to return with a handful of hard candies. "Who wants something sweet?" she asks, in an Isabella Rosselliniesque accent. She passes them out to the most enthusiastic. "One left!" she announces. "Who wants one?"
"Why not?" postures one older gentleman in a fanny pack.
"Why not??" she asks in mock shock, retracting the cellophane-wrapped candy. "Do you want it or not?"