Fucking! Gyrating against sweaty strangers! Playroom orgasms! It's all legal: Play is now okay, and you can smell the horniness in the air as we reach for the handle on the doorway to freedom. You can dance, bath in perspiration dripping from ceilings again, and indulge in the heady mix of clubs, music and sex.
Some are ready for an unadulterated orgy of debauchery, involving licking honey from the orifices of those they just met. Others, having not been to a party in 17 months, have some reservations. The elation is couched in some anxiety; the allure of group sex tempered by the worry of catching COVID.
Question: Now it's all legal, will people be keen to feverishly swap juices like sex-crazed chimps in a zoo? Or will they be more reserved, opting for a casual flirtation with kink spaces before getting back to being frogtied, fingered and flogged into submission? I spoke to some folks on the scene about how they feel.
Perhaps predictably, most of the responses were from members of the community telling me that the idea of being back at a fetish club evokes robust feelings of euphoria – “ready to feel alive again”, “incredibly excited, incredibly horny”, “so fucking excited”, “looking forward to it tremendously” and so on. They’re ready to forget the floundering dupe that was the past 17 months, ready to reclaim their lives.
“On the one hand, I’m so excited – I’ve felt like a release I relied on [attending play parties] was taken away over lockdown,” a woman told me. “But I’m also nervous about saliva swapping again.” She has tickets to various parties taking place in London in the coming weeks, but she’s not decided if she’ll attend.
“As well as COVID-related worries, I'm genuinely nervous about the shifting social dynamics. Relationships have been made and broken down over the last year and being back in a space where you're with people you haven't been around (maybe out of choice) is going to be interesting,” she said. “I feel like the social landscape has shifted so much over COVID.”
A Verboten regular, who uses the pronouns they/them, told me how the lockdown has shifted what they want out of kink events. “[With] no events to go to, I formed a more meaningful, long-term D/s relationship than I ever imagined possible,” they said. “So I’m looking forward to events but not certain what I’ll be doing there now as I've become less interested in the more random play aspect.”
“There's this immense excitement,” a man called Scott, an ICU nurse who’s been on the scene for years, told me. “I can’t wait to be back in a Verboten space proper. I've missed it so much.”
Despite being double-vaxxed, there’s still some COVID-related anxiety for him: “I've had both doses, but I still worry about the responsibility of passing it on and getting sick myself. Even if I'm less likely to be hospitalised.”
“Given what I and my colleagues have been through professionally over the last 16 months I'm apprehensive, especially as we are now admitting younger people onto ICU (currently, admittedly, lower amounts though)."
"On a more personal level though, I'm confident of my own cleanliness, would be happy to continue wearing a mask if need be, I've had both my vaccinations and fully support ‘vaccine passports’ if this is what is needed to get the scene open again.”
A 31-year-old woman, who’s been on the scene for five years, called me out on my clumsy phraseology when I asked her, ‘How do you feel about play parties after the pandemic?’ “But we’re not after the pandemic by a long shot,” she, quite rightly, retorted.
“This is the problem; more people have caught COVID at the moment than I’ve ever known, so it’s nowhere near ‘after the pandemic’ I have to say. After the pandemic is going to be about three to five years at this rate. That’s my very unqualified opinion.”
She caught COVID “really badly” herself earlier this year, it took her weeks to begin to recover and the process was in her words “quite traumatic”. Nonetheless, despite some concerns, she’s looking forward to getting back to her first play party since the onset of the pandemic. “I’m going to ******** [a femdom party] which I’m actually really looking forward to."
"I have just had COVID so it’s a bit of a weird one. But my boyfriend hasn’t. He’s had two jabs, but I’m nervous for him. I think we’re both pretty wary still. Obviously I can’t get it for a while – but I can probably get it again.”
It’s okay to be excited about going back to a play party and it's okay to be nervous too. Protect yourself and the community by taking some personal precautions (like tests before and after, using hand sanitiser, getting vaccinated, not coming if you feel unwell, etc.) and it's good to ,listen to your body and take it easy if you need to, other than that – it’s time to party like it’s 2019!
*All quotes are anonymous to protect the privacy of subjects.