I’ve been to many play parties, facilitated a few, and most recently had the privilege to host play parties in communities where connection is more valued than sexual acts. For years I’ve used Reid Mihalko’s Safe Sex Elevator Speech. I found it really effective for vetting people who take care of their sexual health, have clarity about their own desires and limits, and who are part of a culture of de-shaming STDs. I’m incredibly grateful for this tool.
As I enter communities where people are building chosen family over years and desiring long term connections more than short term oxytocin rushes, I’ve expanded the “safer sex elevator speech.” It has become 8 things to share when creating an intimate connection in community. And for those of you who are wondering what is a play party, the definition just got bigger! Often a play party is a space people come to explore sexual desires and connections. There are usually some guidelines, bowls of condoms, gloves, lube, dental dams, and washable surfaces. It’s a place to experiment with voicing your desires and expanding what could be possible. For some people, it’s a powerful place to explore who you are meant to be erotically without having to navigate long term relationship skills. For some people shifting the focus to connection (which may or may not include sex) can feel more aligned. If that’s you, then this list is for you! It has been evolving from a collaboration with ZigZag Panther Peery-Wolf.
- Are you in an altered or distressed state in this moment? Are you clear and present to make aligned choices in this moment? Consider if you are using substances that may impact your choices. Also consider if you are in a life transition, perhaps ending a relationship or just moved or lost a loved one or simply didn’t get much sleep last night. Look and see if this is the moment to make a clear choice about connection. If so, is there something you would like to name about your state of mind that would be valuable for the other person to know before connecting? For example, you might share that you had a recent break up and you’re still grieving and would like to connect with gentleness and a slow pace.
- What’s your intention for connecting? What would it mean to you if we…? Big energy likes clear intentions. Perhaps your intention is to expand your confidence that your body can be turned on and feel safe. Maybe you are looking for a life partner. Or you want to expand your connection with your own eros, or dismantle how you relate to gender or power. Perhaps you are interested in spiritual connection, increasing a sense of possibility and play, finding a friend, bringing a new level of eros to your dancing… What would make this meaningful for you? It really helps to know what intention is motivating each of you. It reframes what success might looks like and it also gives you a heads up if you have incompatible intentions. You might decide not to proceed or to redesign what you’d like to explore. Sometimes simply sharing your vision for the partnership you would love can be deeply vulnerable and intimate.
- What do you desire? What’s on the menu for intimacy that you would enjoy? This is where specificity can be really sexy and gives your playmate a better chance of providing what you desire. You might say, I love my hair pulled, my neck bitten, I like impact play if you start soft… I’m curious about anal penetration but I don’t know if I like it yet so please wait for me to ask for it. Or you may say, I’m a seasoned poly slut and I’m really desiring a deeper heart connection where I feel seen. I’d love to cultivate a long term relationship so I’m desiring to move slowly in the physical realm and really sense into where our life passions intersect because I feel you and I could really be important people in each others’ lives.
- What are your limits? It’s important to name at least one thing you are NO to, this creates trust and demonstrates that you know your limits and can speak them. For example, you might say parts of your body that don’t want touch or names you really don’t want to be called. You might also express your time limit so you are on the same page about when you need to close your connection. You might also have a limit around only playing with people who have a spiritual relationship to their eros or only playing with people who will be available for a follow up conversation the next few days.
- What would you like for integration? Some people call this “aftercare.” Many people are nourished by stillness, embracing, or dropping into a deep peace together before getting verbal. It can be powerful to share gratitude, moments of highlights, new things you discovered you love or you now know you don’t like. You may experience the ripples of the connection over the next few days or weeks and ask to have a follow up conversation to share how you are feeling about each other after you have time to rest, talk about it with your friends, and journal. Sometimes the integration and reflection is the most intimate part!
- What is your health status? When was the last time you were testsed for STDs/STIs? What specifically were you tested for? What were the results? Have you been sexually active since then? (Remember it takes 3 months for most STDs to show up in many tests.) What barriers have you used and do you want to use? This essentially communicates to your playmate that you care about your health and their health enough to have this conversation before intimacy. It’s also a good time to share if you have other injuries that would impact your mobility, or your mental health. Consider if birth control is needed, how you’d like to address it and how you might respond if you conceived. (And hey, if you’re kinky make sure you check in about asthma or pacemakers, any health information that may needs to be considered before diving deep. This article won’t really cover the full scope of kink negotiations.)
- How do you experience gender? Will you introduce me to the body parts you want me to touch and what you’d like me to call them? It’s really awesome to ask this no matter how your playmate presents or appears. It gives them the opportunity to step into a supportive space of no assumptions. I’ve had the delight of witnessing many people explore an energetic cock or energetic pussy for the first time. It’s really liberating to share what experiences you have or would like to have rather than limiting the conversation to your “identity.”
- What relationship agreements do you have? (Here’s a guide to creating relationship agreements with your partner.) Do we overlap in intimate partners or relationships such that we may want to create different choices? Consider the impact on your community of people seeing your connection. Do you know each others’ past lovers, bosses, or clients? Would it be valuable to the community to check in with specific people before connecting? Also consider if there is a power dynamic present given your relationship to the community. For example, is one of you a leader in the community? If so, is there anything to consider about this connection that may impact your leadership? Or is one of you newer to the community. If so, would it support you to arrange for someone else in the community to check in after connecting so your main support person isn’t the one you just went on the ride with?
Consider that you may have a clear and empowering conversation and you still may not enjoy the connection or you still may get an STD. This is not a violation of consent, this is simply a risk you are willing to take if you say YES to exploring together… a well informed risk. Regardless of if you chose to play together from here, simply having this conversation builds intimacy and community.