Sex Parties Are Back. Vaccines Are Optional.
As sex parties resume, expect hand sanitizer and temperature checks at the door. One participant says, “No one wants to be the person who ruins the party by causing an outbreak.”
Welcome aboard the Cancun Boobs Cruise, an adults-only party where nudity is encouraged and topless women dance to club remixes. It’s not a sex party exactly, though some swingers do attend to meet like-minded couples. As the catamaran cuts through the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, people are ready to forget about the pandemic for a few hours. Guests aren’t required to wear masks (but staff do), which makes it easy to relax and unwind.
But then, one moment brings everyone back to reality: the daily clap for essential workers who are vacationing on board. Consider it the X-rated version of New York City’s famous 7 p.m. applause.
“We do a thing where our emcee has people do a little cheer for those working on the frontlines—doctors, nurses, police, things like that,” Steve Wright, the company’s owner, told The Daily Beast. “They’ve been doing their jobs and want a stress release.”
The cruise runs every Monday and Friday. Though it resumed operation after a lockdown lifted last June, interest has skyrocketed in the past month, Wright said. Tickets have sold out for two weeks straight. “I’ve noticed a huge groundswell of returning confidence,” Wright said. He’s had to turn away “30 to 40 people” for certain dates.
Part of the issue: a 60 percent capacity limit imposed by the state of Quintana Roo. This reduces the number of people Wright can allow on his largest boat from 125 people to 75, so there is a little more room for those who wish to socially distance.
But of course, the whole point of this event is to get close to others. “We have always attracted the rebels,” Wright said. “It is a party atmosphere anyway, like the roaring ’20s.”
Welcome to the return of post-COVID sex parties: all that is different from the olden days, really, is that there is more hand sanitizer, and temperature checks at the door. Attending an adult cruise right now looks very similar to going out for lunch.
At least on the Boobs Cruise, there is no vaccine requirement. Wright said that some guests have booked their cruises as a post-jab victory lap. But all are welcome. And most are American.
According to Wright, about “95 percent” of the guests on the Boobs Cruise come from the United States. The rest are Mexican nationals. “There are very few Europeans, and very few South Americans,” Wright added. “We have no Canadians at the moment, and no Brits.” (Canadian airlines suspended travel to Mexico, and national lockdowns are in place across the U.K.)
The CDC released COVID-safe sex guidelines last June to much internet tittering—one of the recommendations was that “close contact with multiple people should be avoided,” and anyone who did find a “crowd” should “pick a larger, more open, and well-ventilated space.” People were also advised to wear face masks and “avoid kissing” while hooking up.
Christina, a 39-year-old stay-at-home mom from New York who asked that her real name not be used, attended the cruise this month. She and her husband, a frontline health-care worker who pushed through the darkest days of the pandemic, booked flights to Cancun as soon as they were vaccinated.
“It was very emotional,” Christina said. “My husband is the only one working right now, and the city is so sad. Feeling some type of normalcy that we are accustomed to is nice.”
Christina bought a whole new outfit for the trip, including a different wig for every night of her stay. She and her husband plan to go again in November.
Mike Walther and Heather Wulf celebrated their engagement on a Boobs Cruise this week. Before the pandemic hit, they would go to a local sex club about an hour from their home in Washington State every two to three months. While in lockdown, they tried to recreate the vibe on Zoom, but it did not feel as intense as the real thing.
“It wasn’t anything close to what we were looking for as far as going to a club and looking at other people, getting that action,” Wulf said.
So the couple sat down together while sheltering in place and opened up about their desires for the future. “We decided to focus in and go a little deeper about our emotions and feelings about it,” Walther said. “We pinned down exactly what what we were looking for to get satisfied.”
Neither Walther nor Wulf is eligible for the vaccine yet. They managed to snag tickets for a Boobs Cruise last Monday, for Wulf’s 40th birthday.
“I felt safe doing that,” Wulf said. “I felt pretty confident knowing that the other people around me were taking the same risks I was. And hopefully they’re washing their hands and taking care of themselves beforehand so they could safely enjoy the other people around them.”
“Everyone is just excited,” Walther said. “It’s at the point where they just can’t handle it anymore.”
Wulf added that she was “a little uncertain” about the experience while making her way up to the marina where the boat was docked.
“We stepped onto the ship, they put a drink in one hand and some hand sanitizer in another,” Wulf said. It took about 20 minutes for the nerves to subside. Then, “it felt like family, like picking up where we left off a year ago.”
“You just need humans in your life.”
One year after the pandemic relegated adult parties to the very unsexy world of Zoom boxes, the events are back. Of course, they never really left—some just kept on in secret, like ones in New York and Los Angeles that got busted for flouting lockdowns. Jozsef Szajer, a Hungarian far-right anti-LGBT diplomat, was infamously caught at an illegal lockdown orgy involving around 20 other men, in Brussels last November.
City sheriffs broke up an 80-person scene at Caligula, a sex club in Queens, in November. Representatives for the club did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment. Neither did anyone at NS-FW, a “private members’ club” in Tribeca that “caters to socially driven troublemakers.”
In January, the co-founder of Hacienda Villa, a communal sex house in Brooklyn, told the New York Post, “I’d give my left testicle to go to an orgy.” A representative for the Bushwick-based polyamorous community also did not respond to an inquiry.
After its 2020 event was canceled, the swingers hotel takeover Podcast-a-Palooza returns in May; its host was not available to comment to The Daily Beast by press time. According to its website, the Miami event will connect sex-positive personalities with ticket-holders for four days “where sex is not just celebrated but embraced with style.”
So, as access to the vaccine grows, people are ready to return to the party.
Killing Kittens, a high-end play party in New York and London, plans to make a big comeback in late spring or early summer. Or whenever restrictions are eased—the United Kingdom, where “KK” is headquartered, remains on lockdown until June 21.
This isn’t to say Killing Kittens has been on hiatus—quite the opposite, in fact. The team holds around four to five virtual events every week and operates an ongoing chat room.
“But no amount of AI or VR will replace that basic human physical interaction and hormonal energy you get from the real thing,” Killing Kittens founder Emma Sayle said. “You just need humans in your life.”
Sayle—who, as tabloids love to remind at every opportunity, is an old friend of Kate Middleton—is looking to hire event planners in both countries. She is also currently in contact with Manhattan venue owners to secure a space for the big comeback.
Sayle understands that Killing Kittens will be “the last thing” to reopen after bars, restaurants, and movie theaters get the green light. It is impossible to socially distance at an orgy, and she would never ask that her clients do so.
“We’re not going to be one of those companies that dictates the rules of what people need to do to come to a party,” she added. “If [the government] does end up saying that you need to be vaccinated in order to attend, then that’s how we’re going to have to do it. But what we’re not going to do is tell people now that we’ll only let them in if they’re vaccinated. We’re just going to follow the rules to open, exist, and operate legally.”
Emma, a 26-year-old student and freelancer in London who asked that her last name not be used, broke up with her longtime, monogamous partner in late 2019. She joined Killing Kittens shortly after. She built up the “courage” to buy a ticket to a party in March 2020. And then… well, it was March 2020. She never went.
But Emma has taken advantage of the virtual offerings, and will attend the first return orgy in July. “I met some of my closest friends in lockdown on Killing Kittens chat groups,” Emma, who identifies as pansexual, said. “I’ve depended on them for my sanity.”
She’s enjoyed the Zoom group sex—“it feels very naughty, since you use Zoom for work”—but agrees that “it’s not meant to be a replacement” for the in-person experience.
Emma has an autoimmune disease and qualifies for the vaccine. She’s already had her first dose and goes back in for her second next week. While she’s not exactly nervous for the first post-pandemic orgy, she understands why some people might be.
“I imagine it’ll be like just before you jump into a cold swimming pool,” Emma said. “At first you think, oh my god, this is crazy. But once you’re in, it’s great.”
She’s not sure if she’ll enter the party and “just go for it,” or take things slow and “not end up taking off my clothes because I’m just catching up with my friends.”
Still, Emma fantasizes about finally meeting up with the people she’s spent the past 12 months sexting with. “I’m really looking forward to meeting someone at a party and recognizing them by their boobs and not their face,” she added.
People who go to orgies are used to the requisite hygiene—testing for STIs before and after each night is a must for Emma. She considers the coronavirus a similar risk.
“I usually come away from a big party with a cold because of the amount of people I come in contact with,” Emma said. “So I’ll probably go home from one and get a COVID test just to be sure. The community is relatively health conscious. No one wants to be the person who ruins the party by causing an outbreak.”
Althea, a 47-year-old Killing Kittens regular who lives in California and works in advertising, agreed that the community she’s met online has helped her throughout the pandemic.
“They’ve been a lifeline for me,” she said. “We refer to each other as ‘sex friends,’ because we get along and make each other laugh, but we like to have sex, too. I really cannot wait to meet them. I feel like I miss people I’ve never even met yet.”
But even though Althea begins her first round of vaccines next week, she has yet to purchase a return ticket. “I’m on the fence,” she said. “I personally feel like I’m going to be slow, maybe prioritize physical bonding that doesn’t go too far. Maybe I’ll get into such great conversations at the bar with people that I won’t end up going upstairs [to have sex]. I think people need a little bit of time to re-establish that we are doing this again.”
Tina Marie, who asked that The Daily Beast not publish her last name, has hosted over 2,000 “lifestyle” parties at a Las Vegas venue. “There are times when I wish people would not call them sex parties, but everyone involved has to admit that this is why people attend,” she wrote in an email.
Tina Marie said that the parties will not reopen until social distancing and mask requirements have been lifted by the state. “A lifestyle party during a pandemic redefines super-spreader,” she wrote in an email.
When things go back to normal, attendance will be limited to members who are local. That means no tourists allowed until “herd immunity exists,” Tina Marie added.
One airline pilot from California named Brian just got vaccinated. So has his wife of 20 years, who works in health care and had a mild but “rough” bout with the coronavirus last summer. They tentatively look forward to a return to swinging.
“The sex part is ancillary,” Brian said. “It’s just a fun thing to do. [My wife’s] TV bores me, our hobbies are different, but this is something we can do together. I miss the socializing and the adventure of it.”
They plan to take a vacation to Reno in April, and are “debating” whether or not to go to a club. “It still seems irresponsible to be in crowds, so we don’t have big parties planned or anything,” Brian said. “I don’t see us jumping into a big, writhing pile of bodies right now. Masks and sanitizers won’t help much when you’re that close.”
Brian says that it seems “more responsible” to meet another couple privately, not in a big party setting, especially if they’ve also been vaccinated. “We’ll probably start turning that on again, in the next month or so.”
But Brian has his insecurities about his return to the scene. “I put on like 20 pounds while in quarantine,” he said. “I was drinking too much and eating well at home, like a lot of people. That’s another thing—oh man, I don’t want to be meeting a ton of strangers right now. I don’t like looking in the mirror right now.”
Though the pandemic gutted her industry, Killing Kittens founder Emma Sayle believes that it will ultimately help “mainstream and normalize” non-monogamous sex. “Now people have that mindset of having one life to live, and we could lose it at any point,” she said. “I imagine there will be an influx of people just going for it—that hedonism mentality.”