*TW // sexual harassment, assault and violence.
**All names changed to protect the privacy of the subjects. // All venue names omitted to respect underground spaces.
I’ve only had one negative experience at a sex club. It happened in Berlin while I was having sex in a corner. Noticing a middle-aged guy – with no top on and black trousers pulled halfway down – touching himself on the peripheral, I didn’t think much about it as that club night doesn’t have a policy against solo wanking and voyeurism is a valid kink. But as we continued, every time I looked up, he was a couple of steps closer to the action.
I clearly shook my head, which I felt was an adequate consent cue (usually that’s more than enough) as we didn’t want to invite him in. But, no, he unashamedly continued in a manner that suggested he didn’t care about our boundaries at all. I wagged my finger in the internationally recognised ‘no’ signal. But he was still there, still edging in, still staring. So, we stopped fucking and challenged him.
Getting nowhere, I told the guy to fuck off.
There was a silence.
“But I’m not touching,” he protested, folding his dick away like a child scorned by their teacher. Not the point. The moment had well and truly passed, the situation had become about as sexy as stubbing your toe. So we cleaned the surface* and headed towards the dance floor. “That was hot,” he had the audacity to say as we were leaving.
(*On a side note, alwaysdo this: As sexy as I personally find it when someone is waddling away with cum dribbling down their leg, always clean up first. As much as I miss being drenched in a stranger’s sweat during the horny lockdown months, always clean up when you’re done. After all, you want to choose the sex juices you squelch around in, that’s the reason for the reams of wet wipes scattered across all surfaces.)
Every sex-positive space has a different set of rules, etiquette, protocols and expectations of their guests. Before you rock up to a fetish night, it’s your responsibility to learn and respect the community by acquainting yourselves with the rules of that specific space.
At Klub Verboten (KV), for instance, there’s a “no solo wanking” rule. That means that it’s not cool to masturbate on your own watching a scene unfold. Unless, of course, you have enthusiastic consent from everyone involved, at which point you become part of the scene. Some sex parties allow solo wanking, some explicitly ban it, some have specific zones within the venue where it is allowed in that isolated area.
After my incident with the solo wanker, I felt irritated and turned off, but that wasn’t the case for the person I was getting with. “I felt intimidated, yeah,” she told me when I asked if she’d be willing to talk about it for this article. “And it made me be like, ‘okay, I can’t have sex here now because I feel weirded out’.”
She added: “People have different levels and interpretations of a threat. But if you’re engaged and relaxed and enjoying yourself, then someone else without your consent comes in and thwarts that, that is an issue of consent: my experience is being taken over and changed because someone else thinks they are entitled to do that.”
I asked a bunch of people from the fetish community if they had any experiences or opinions when it comes to solo wankers. A lot of people weighed in, none of the experiences shared were related to KV (you don’t see solo wankers there because of the rules remember) but related to a range of sex parties.
“I was at a big club a few years ago,” Laura told me. “There were loads of solo wankers in the couple’s area, but my strong memory is of one guy who was touching himself through [his] trousers.” She nicknamed him ‘Han Solo’.
“Looking around, he asked an FFM scene if he could play with himself,” she recalls. “The male said ‘no’ and Han Solo made eye contact with me and my partner and mouthed the word “wanker” and gave the hand sign to match. I looked over at the male from the FFM scene whose eyebrows were by now close to the ceiling; the irony was presumably lost on Han Solo.”
She could see the funny side, but for many, solo wankers can be incredibly threatening, especially for a survivor of sexual violence. “I enjoy being watched, and I enjoy watching,” a woman, who believes any non-consensual solo wanking in a club is harassment, told me. “But not without consent!”
“I think it's important that events have clear rules on solo wanking so everyone can decide whether they want to go – making an informed decision is an aspect of consent too. It can be very triggering for those who have experienced sexual abuse or sexual harassment.”
“I've had a man follow me home, look through my windows and started wanking. I felt incredibly threatened – because I was. By disregarding any boundaries, this man communicated ‘you don't know what I will do next’. I do not want to be reminded of that at a fetish party. It should go without saying that nobody should ever put their own desires above someone else's consent.”
This sentiment was echoed by a man who shared his thoughts through direct messaging on Instagram. “I am gay, and this is definitely a problem at some parties where gay men are the majority of guests,” Owen said through a DM. He hasn’t been the victim of a non-consensual solo wanker situation, but his partner has. “I personally disagree with those who believe that this practice is okay because of the context of a [sex] party.”
I spoke to one woman who has spent a lot of time at sex clubs and parties over the years. “I had a few experiences with this,” she told me over the phone. “One was at ****** [a German club]. I was with a couple of friends and we were just like enjoying ourselves and there was this guy who was wanking. He kept following us.”
How did that make her feel? “At the beginning it was alright because if someone is enjoying themselves, I don’t care,” she recalled. “But, after a few times, I kept turning around going somewhere to get a drink or whatever, and he was just walking behind us. It was getting to the point that it made us very uncomfortable.”
“It was what he wanted. If I wanted something, I would show some interest. But I wasn’t. So we kind of ran away.” Conversely, however, there was a time she didn’t feel intimidated by a solo wanker. “It was in ****** [an event in the US] and a guy was wanking,” she told me. “But he was by himself, not bothering anybody, finished off and left. So I was cool about it.”
“To be frank, the only experiences I’ve had or seen have been men doing it,” she says. “I don’t remember any woman ever doing it.” That’s interesting because it’s also my experience: I’ve never seen a female solo wanker.
Until recently, she was okay with solo wanking in a sex club if it was conducted in a way that didn’t invade people’s privacy or space. But she has recently reconsidered her stance. “Up until yesterday I was alright about it, but I’ve thought lots and lots about it and maybe it’s not really alright.
“From what I’ve seen in the past, these people are after something else. They are looking for attention. They’re not just doing it… It’s maybe their fantasy to made someone feel uncomfortable. Then, that is not cool. And generally speaking, maybe it’s not very cool to do it.”
Another woman emailed over an experience she found intimidating which took place in ****** in Berlin. “It was a Wednesday night, I’m there alone,” she explained. “I arrived as soon as it opened and after about an hour and a half into being there, I decided to take a seat on one of the sofas on the elevated bit of the club.”
“I take a look to my left and see a man in a brown leather jacket and a beige shirt. At first glance it didn’t look unusual but then I noticed a fast movement; I had to do a few takes, but this man was completely trouser-less, sat down wanking aggressively over everyone in the nightclub from the elevated platform. Suddenly he looked at me and proceeded to wank a bit harder.”
“This man never stopped wanking for the whole time, but at about 2AM he went missing. I returned back to my original sofa seat at around 5AM. I looked to my right and to my surprise the wanking man was there again, except this time he is propped up on a stall aggressively wanking what I believe to be a flaccid cock behind a group of beautiful women.”
“There's a very good reason we don't have solo wanking at KV,” a Playroom Guardian tells me. “It is directional so involves others which could (and often does) happen in other places without a consent conversation.”
But that doesn’t mean that he is against solo wanking in all circumstances. “Voyeurism is a legitimate kink which is why some clubs allow it,” he adds. “At ****** [a German club], where it is permitted, by attending you are de facto saying you understand it may happen, at a respectful distance.”
“At **** [a small fetish night in London] there is a single room where it is permitted and by going into the room, you consent to it. In Vienna, I went to a club where it is permitted following a verbal or non-verbal clear indication it is consented to. Different places handle the kink in different ways and as organisers we need to make the club’s specific rule clear, just as patrons need to seek out and obey the rules wherever they go.”
And, given the responsibility that comes with his role supervising playspaces, there is a practical reason that he likes working at events with no solo wanking. “I'm personally glad solo wanking is not permitted at KV because it would make my role that much harder,” he explained. “But it's great to appreciate the context of each club without simply panning the practice.”
If an event explicitly allows solo wanking and this is made abundantly clear to all guests before they enter the space, you can rejoice in being a solo wanker. Voyeurism is a valid kink, and nobody should be shamed for that if they aren’t making other people uncomfortable.
But (and it’s a huge fucking whopper of a ‘but’...) the context must be just right; which means you’re in a space that everyone knows has a solo wanking element and they have made an informed and enthusiastic decision to get involved.
Even then though, you’ll still need to get enthusiastic consent to enter someone’s personal space. If not, maintain a respectful distance at all times. In any other circumstance, it’s a non-consensual sex act and therefore totally unacceptable.
Click here to read our rules at Klub Verboten.